Swamped Chapter 17 Page 7

“Look, I know I didn’t handle myself well when you cut me off.”

“You threatened me with a knife.”

“…yeah, and that was because I was too wasted to hold my pike straight. Believe me, I remember. I remember every harebrained scheme I came up with. And if I ever forget any, you can bet Sieve will be all too happy to remind me. Look, the point is, that’s not who I am any more.”

“How many times have I heard that from your type?”

“It’s true. Look, maybe it’s that Rider put me in charge of a squad… or maybe it’s that I still have a sore spot on my back from when you caught me trying to steal Doc’s keys. But at some point, I realized, I can’t go around getting drunk off my arse any more. It’s my own damn fault I made it on your little list, and all those schemes were just my way of pretending it wasn’t. You could pour me a glass of your best stuff right now, and I’d just toss it on the floor, because I know I don’t deserve it.”

You get so caught up in your words that you actually grab your glass and pour out your plain swampbrew onto the floor. Good thing you already drank two-thirds of it.

“Don’t expect me to clean that up,” Keeper snarls.

“Sorry. Got carried away. Where’s the mop, I’ll take care of it.”

“You think we have a mop around here?” He grins and hands you a dishrag. With a sigh, you stoop down and start cleaning.

“Well, even if this is a trick to get at my stash, it’s a better effort than you’ve tried before.” Keeper laughs hoarsely again. “Got to give you some credit. So why are you taking such an interest in my affairs now, if it’s not for the booze?”

“I told you. Leadership messed up big last night. Figured I should start taking the composition of the Council more seriously, before they mess up again. If you’re so desperate for an advocate that you’ll take Requiem, I imagine you feel much the same way.”

“Might quibble with the details here and there, but I suppose you’ve got that much right. So what? You got someone better in mind?”

“Not yet! I only just found out the seat’s open. But there’s got to be someone. Have you even tried looking?”

“Told you. You’re the only one who’s ever given a damn about my opinion. Aside from Doc, but she’s got her hands full as it is. And Sieve asks piles of questions, but only so he gets new stories.”

“Yeah, well, maybe you should just try complaining whether someone wants to hear it or not. Worked surprisingly well when I had a problem with what Rider was saying to me.”

Keeper’s eyes widen.

“You talked back to Rider?”

“When he was blaming me for something I didn’t do? You bet I did. I had enough screw-ups to start with. And at least half the time, he agreed! Even told me my smart mouth was one of my biggest assets – yeah, I didn’t expect that either.”

“Maybe you’ve got a point there,” Keeper muses. “Maybe I’ve been so convinced there’s nothing that can be done, I’ve stopped trying to do it. Worth some time to think, anyhow.”

“So what is so rough about being a support officer, anyhow? I mean, compared to other jobs around here.”

“We don’t get prioritized,” Keeper snarls. “When new supplies come in? If there’s a combat unit that wants something, they get it over us. Even if we really need it. And there’s little effort to get things for us through our outside contacts. Meanwhile, new mudpikes come in every shipment, even if we haven’t lost any. Because you never know when we might.”

“And you and Doc still get drafted into patrol duty, too,” you muse. “Even though there’d be big trouble if we lost either of you.”

“I wasn’t going to gripe about that, but yes, it would be nice not having the burden of the whole base on our shoulders. If the Bogknights lose a cook or medic, they’ve got plenty of people who can pick up the slack while they send someone back to civilization to look for a replacement. Us? We’re out of luck. We only get whoever’s desperate enough to come here.”

“And with all the focus on combat, it’s not like you get much chance to find someone else you could train to help.”

“Especially someone I can trust with the booze,” he growls. “Same goes for Doc. This whole base is being held up on our shoulders, and nobody gives a damn.”

“Yeah, I’ve seen what happens to merchants who run their businesses like that. Never ends well.” You shake your head sadly. “Had no idea it was so bad… I suppose folks like me are part of the problem. We don’t care what’s going wrong for you, we just want our drinks.”

“And that’s why I recommended Requiem. They’re not much better, but they know enough to realize the roost needs more than it gets.”

“Don’t suppose there’s anyone else you’d give consideration?”

“No one’s come to mind so far. But I do know a few other names the council’s thinking of. If you’re so eager to change my mind, why don’t you see if one of them can offer me better?”

Seems fair. He gives you a short list. Gray-maw and Crosswinds are on it, of course, but there’s a few more names. Not your own, but maybe it just hasn’t made its way to him.

Or maybe the Council isn’t taking you seriously as a candidate. Can’t really blame them for that.

So who are you going to pay a visit to now?

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doc, let’s make this a whistlestop tour


Doc will be a tougher sell than Keeper. You were a roudy drunk to Keeper but you were a straight up asshole to doc. For a while, you were one of the only folks at the base that could crack her tough exterior and get her to smile once in a while – but honestly, it was all for the booze.

She knows you’ve changed, or at least she’s heard you have, but some wounds don’t heal, they just leave scars.

Maybe Mudviper has had a chance to soften things up with he–goddamnit Crosswinds when did you show up??

Actually, Crosswinds will probably have heard that you’ve been recommended for the council. They were one of Rider’s supporters, and they know they might be in line for the same seat. You doubt they’d want to give up their freedom to move about for a council seat, but they won’t give it up to you unless you could convince them that you’re a viable choice.