Chapter 70:

Chapter 70 - To Know Thyself


“The first requirement for good teamwork,” Morgan began, “is knowin’ yourself.”

He had returned to his lecturing spot at the midpoint of the foredeck’s railing, his hot pink hair blowing in the wind as he launched into the next phase of his improvised lesson plan. “The second requirement is knowin’ your teammates. If you have a good handle on both those things, you should have no trouble comin’ up with battle plans at a moment’s notice.”

Morgan paused, then, singling out Roulette with a jab of his finger. “Roulette, I want you to pay extra special attention durin’ this exercise, alright?”

She looked up at him blankly. “What? Me? I reckon I’ve got a good head for combat tactics. Why would I have to pay special attention?”

“Simple: you’re used to thinkin’ for yourself in a scrap, but only yourself,” he countered. “You’ll have to unlearn some bad habits if you want to adjust your plans to include others. You’re also a natural leader–more often than not, you’ll probably be the one coordinatin’ our whole approach, so what I’m about to say will be especially useful to you.”

Roulette’s expression softened at that. She stood a little straighter and gave a grudging nod, encouraging him to continue.

“Now, with all that in mind, we’re goin’ to focus on a little theory first. I want each of you to explain what you mean to the group as a combatant: your capabilities, your strengths, your weaknesses, and any recent happenings that may affect your ability to fight. I’ll go first so you all have an example to go by.

“I’m Morgan Sarada, a Gunslinger who specializes in bouncin’ bullets off hard surfaces. Because of that, I’m good at attackin’ indirectly, and my experience as a gunfighter helps me stay cool and decisive under fire. My ability doesn’t work so well without hard surfaces to rely on, though, and I’ve got a… Well, let’s call it a ‘rough’ personality. I’m not the easiest to get along with, and that hurts my ability to work as part of a team.”

Marka and Roulette smirked a little at that last comment but, mercifully, said nothing, allowing him to go on without interruption:

“I’m an amnesiac, but lately my memories and fightin’ experience have been comin’ back little by little, increasin’ my value to the group. Unfortunately I recently suffered a bad injury that leaves my right hand unusable. It’s on the mend, but for the next week or two at least I’ll have to use my left instead, decreasin’ my accuracy and ability to manipulate things on the battlefield.”

To his surprise, Morgan’s detailed overview of his combat traits garnered him some applause. He waved it off with a blush, eager to move ahead with the lesson.

“Yeah, yeah. Get it out of your system, alright?” he said gruffly. “You’re all next, and you can really show me your appreciation by not blowin’ it. Roulette, I want you to go first.”

She nodded again, more enthusiastically this time. “I’m Roulette, and my gun’s name is Lady Luck. It mostly fires weak bullets, but it also fires any type of projectile I’ve ever been hit by. But it’s a blessin’ and a curse; I can’t control when it happens. I pretty much have to spray ‘n’ pray, hopin’ I get what I need out of it at the moment I need it. It’s a bit of a–”

“Less editorializin’ if you please, Roulette,” Morgan interrupted. “Stick to the facts.”

She huffed and rolled her eyes, but ultimately seemed to take his critique to heart. “Fine. I guess my strengths would be determination, the ability to think on my feet, and havin’ an answer to any situation–when Lady Luck decides to give it to me, that is. I’ve also been told I’m a ‘natural leader.’”

Roulette paused to grace him with a mock curtsey, drawing a chuckle or two from her fellow pupils. “My biggest weakness is that I’m inconsistent; you can’t always count on me to deliver. I’m none too strong, either, so if my gun’s not workin’ right I’m basically dead weight. I also… Have some problems when it comes to finishin’ the job. At the end of the day I don’t want to hurt anyone ‘cept the Gun Czars. Luckily my gun’s pretty bad at that anyway, so I’m happy to leave the rough stuff to others when I can.”

She lifted a finger to her lips, plainly at a loss as to how to end things off. “I can’t think of anythin’ recent that would affect the way I fight. Is what I said good enough as-is, Morgan?”

“Yeah, that should do,” he replied. “Nice work. The important part is to keep you and your teammates’ recent history in mind when comin’ up with a game plan, but it won’t always be relevant. Now, do you want to go next Beretta, or do you want to hear your daddy go first?”

“I want Father to go first!” she chirped. Morgan met her exclamation with a smile and turned his attention to Marka.

“I am Marka Moukahla,” he began, hefting up Voidthrower to rest it on his shoulder. “With my twin weapons, Voidthrower and Lifebringer, I can erase anything I wish within a six-foot radius and recreate it whenever, wherever, and at any speed I choose. I see no point in being humble about my strengths; I am the most powerful fighter among us, both in terms of my weapons’ abilities and my physical strength.

“However, I also have the greatest weaknesses. I wield two blunderbusses, which have a limited range, and because of my size, I make a very large target. And, while I am not a stupid man, I have long been known to struggle with complicated things and quick thinking. If I am honest with myself, I do my best work when I have someone who does well with these things to guide me.”

As he prepared to utter his next words, Marka directed a tender glance toward Beretta. “Recently, my daughter has become a part of our group. And while I do love having her here, I also worry about her constantly. So long as she is with us, she will definitely affect the way I fight; I cannot help but work to protect her, and that may lead me to act recklessly.”

Beretta crossed the deck to hug him immediately, burying her face in the fabric of his pants. “I am sorry to make you worry, Father…” she murmured in a small voice.

He smiled down at her and rested a comforting hand on her head. “It is nothing, Beretta. I am only trying to be honest–now, how about you give your speech? I would like to hear it.”

She stepped away and turned back to face Morgan, her hands clasped anxiously behind her back. “Umm… I am Beretta,” she announced, her eyes darting back to Marka in search of reassurance. “I am nine years old, and I have a water gun named Drizzle. It heals people. It is not working right now, though. Whenever I use it I run out of water, and I still do not know why.”

“What are you good at?” Marka coaxed.

“I can run pretty fast!” she exclaimed. Morgan motioned for her to continue, doing his best not to look cross or impatient. “And… I am not big like Father, so it would be hard to hit me. Most people would not want to shoot a child, too, I think.”

Morgan couldn’t help but grin at the purity of her reply. “And what are you bad at, Beretta?”

She sighed, looking down at her empty, translucent water pistol in obvious disappointment. “I am no good at fighting. I wish I were better at it, but I do not know how I could be. I am not big or strong, and I do not know much about it, and my gun cannot do any damage even when it is full…” she admitted.

Then, suddenly, she perked up. “But I will do my best to keep everyone healthy!”

Morgan nodded. “That’s good enough, Berry. I want you to know, though, that every army needs a medic–somebody to patch folks up when they get hurt. Medics don’t do any fightin’ if they can help it, but they’re really important anyway, so don’t worry; we need you and we appreciate you. Okay?”

That handful of kind words got the girl looking about ready to bounce up into the stratosphere. “Okay!” she echoed, furnishing him with yet another salute. “You got it, boss!”

That cracked everyone up, of course. It took Morgan a full half-minute to reestablish order, and he did so by introducing their greatest challenge yet.

“If you’ve all finished yukkin’ it up, we’ve got work to do!” he bellowed over their gales of laughter. “We’ve got a grip on our theory, but now it’s time to put all that to the test:

“We’re going to do a little exercise, now, and it’s entirely possible that not all of you will survive…”
Patreon iconPatreon icon