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End of an era...and a new beginning.
Thu Nov 12, 2009 12:53pm

"Zero..." Maq's voice was deadpan from disbelief.

"That's what I said, Maq. Zero. None," Axel reiterated his earlier statement, then rifled through a banker's box and produced a recent report for her.

Maq accepted the sheet and glanced it over, shaking her head in astonishment, her blond locks flowing with the motion like honey from a pitcher. The two had spent the last hour in the commander's office, going over stacks of papers and facilitating the transfer of command back to Maq. The recent topic was on the subject of fatalities in the mercenary ranks, and although Maq had braced herself for the number, the result had caught her completely off guard.

"We have not had a single fatality in the mercenary ranks since I took over," Axel said again, pride clearly showing in his tone. "We've had several close scrapes and a few are crippled for life, but I made medical supplies the top priority around here."

"Zero," Maq repeated, this time with a hint of giddiness in her voice. "Axel, this is incredible!"

"Giles begs to differ," the Russian said, though it was obvious from his tone that the accountant's objections held no sway over his judgement. "I turned down the most dangerous jobs and diverted a full 40% of our income to the medical wing and field kits."

Maq set the sheet of paper down on the desk--which had now been cleared of everything apart from a pencil holder and the telephone--and merely stood silent. Her hands were on her hips as she gazed around the room. It used to be her office, and Axel had moved in following her disappearance. Now, it would be her office again, and she felt slightly overwhelmed by the experience. Maq had been a better businessperson than Axel had. Under her administration, the Freelance Reploids did show a continual profit...but zero fatalities had never even seemed like an achievable goal.

Axel lifted a few more bankers boxes of archived paperwork and added them to the stack in the corner, granting her the moment of silent contemplation.

"Axel," Maq said slowly and carefully. "Thank you."

That caught the Russian off guard. "Huh?"

"You...did a good job while I was gone," she said with a smile.

"Giles would beg to differ," the two said in unison, and shared a chuckle.

"I hope you don't treat this like some kind of competition," Axel said. "No doubt Damien will want to trim back on medical supplies as a way of balancing the budget."

"That idea probably won't go over too well," Maq remarked.

"No, but it's out of my hands now. And, I must admit, I bid good riddance to it," Axel said firmly. "I have no regrets, and I'm sorry for your loss."

"Loss?" Maq asked, cocking her head in confusion.

"I long ago realized that serving as Commander is a thankless job. If people die, they blame you. If the bottom line is red ink, people blame you. You're the public face for the organization, under constant scrutiny, and can never let your guard down for reasons too numerous to mention," Axel elaborated. "It causes you to lose your freedom, taxes your sanity, and in time can cause you to lose sight of who you are," Axel said. "And I'm sorry for your loss."

Axel clapped a hand on her shoulder, giving her a solmen nod, then departed the office with a small shoebox of personal effects under his arm. Protruding from the box like some kind of grave marker was a placard reading 'Axel Cossack, Commanding Officer'.

Maq watched the Russian depart, not really having words for the occasion, and not really needing any. She took another moment to glance about the office that had become hers again, and felt a strong twinge of unidentifable remorse settle into her soul.

"I know what you mean," she said sadly, into the quiet emptiness.

NRP: No, Axel isn't leaving the FR. I'm just setting Maq back up as CO, for however long that lasts. I know K has plans for her, but I'm not 100% sure what.

  • Non-sequitorDemios, Wed Nov 11 10:03am
    NRP: Yes, I plan to finish the Aurora CD. But I decided to put this in here... RP: -- Earlier -- Axel's large frame all but eclipsed the doorway to the double barracks that Demios had been using for... more
    • End of an era...and a new beginning. — Axel, Thu Nov 12 12:53pm
      • Silent WitnessBenjamin, Fri Nov 13 4:14am
        [Earlier again] Not for the first time, Benjamin found himself regretting his decision to enter the tournament. Setting aside its squandered potential and disastrous finale, the situation he found... more
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