Swamped Chapter 23 Page 2

Well, as far as Crook goes, it’s probably easiest if you seem to get caught up in talking to Rivers. You’ll get a chewing-out for that, but hopefully it will give Marshall time to hide.

Although, Mudviper might get in trouble if they have that conversation. That’s a headache you won’t enjoy dealing with.

That leaves actually talking to Rivers. Maybe you’re being too direct about it, maybe it would be easier to hold a lighter conversation.

“Rivers,” you say. “Do you actually like anything?”

“What are you talking about?”

“Every time I see you, you seem upset. And it’s not just me, I hear the same from a lot of people. Then again, maybe it’s just that you’re missing something from outside the swamp; hard to take up, say, painting as a hobby in here. It’s pretty low-priority on the supply list. And it’s not as if you can just go out to the theater…”

“Enough!”

That’s the same tone she uses when someone mentions family to her. Something you said must have set her off. You’ve really messed this one up.

“All right, all right! I won’t make guesses. I’m just wondering if there’s anything you enjoy. Even if you can’t get it out here in the swamp.”

“That’s none of your damn business.”

“Actually, in a way it is. Keeping morale up is one of the responsibilities of a squad leader.” A thought strikes you. “Tell me, Rivers, do you have any interest in leading a squad someday?”

She just blinks.

“What the hell kind of a question is that? What does it even matter, I’m years away from having a chance at leading.”

“But if it’s what you want to do, it’s best to learn what you can now. You’ll do a lot better than if you have to wing it like I did.”

She just growls.

“Aren’t we supposed to be looking for Crook?”

“I haven’t forgotten,” you say, a little defensively.

“Then why are you wasting time on all this? Shouldn’t we focus on the job?”

You smirk a little.

“Don’t give me that look!”

“I was just thinking that you sound a lot like a squad leader right now. So how about it? How would you suggest we track down Crook?”

“For a start, let’s not play games by pretending to put me in charge! Are you even taking this seriously?”

“My only idea is running around asking people which way he went. If you’ve got something better, I’d love to hear it.”

She lets out a defeated sigh.

“Well, I do have one thought,” she says.

“And what is that?”

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