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Author Topic: [EVENT] To a future out of reach. [Ian/Rico]  (Read 1320 times)

To a future out of reach. [Ian/Rico]
« on: October 28, 2019, 06:42:33 PM »
[ april 847 ]
[ internship event ]

Mara stared at her reflection in a puddle, for once not looking for out-of-place hairs, but looking deep at herself. This internship would show her what it would be like to be part of the Garrison, to meet members who she might one day work under. It was a step from being a merchant's daughter, into becoming a true soldier. She knew that this was what she wanted to do - to defend her home, to defend humanity, and to defend everything she had ever known.

A boot caused ripples to distort her reflection, and she looked quickly up. Standing around staring at herself wasn't going to do anything for her. With a calming breath, the cadet nodded to herself and stood to attention - somebody was approaching the place she'd been sent to wait for the Garrison contact.

She smoothed down the front of her uniform and stood a little straighter, head held high. One thing she'd learned about being a cadet was to always look professional where possible, and to show that she meant business. In this case, it was ensuring that she wasn't seen as some slouching teenager with no respect for the uniform she wore.

Re: To a future out of reach. [Ian/Rico]
« Reply #1 on: October 28, 2019, 07:27:43 PM »
It was fair to say that the years had made Ian somewhat cynical.  As much as he believed in reserving judgement, in allowing actions to speak louder than words, in giving any and every person a chance to prove their worth - an outlook born of his own experience, for there were seldom few who believed that the sharp-featured whoreson of Krolva would ever amount to anything more than a thief and a cheat - it was still difficult to scrape together much hope for his intern.

This internship would take him from his post for two long weeks, in exchange for the slimmest possibility of him shaping the life and drive of a single cadet.  Unfortunately, the odds were not in his favour.  Far too many of those who joined his regiment did so because they were neither the cream of the crop - those shining stars went exclusively to the Military Police - nor were they the bravest or most adventurous of soldiers.  Far too many wanted a comfortable, unremarkable sort of life.  One that allowed them relative comfort and safety, one that permitted the vices of alcohol and promiscuousness.  Not that Ian could judge those who favoured the former  vice - at least not without declaring himself guilty. 
Arriving at the district’s inner gate, he was greeted by the sight of a lone cadet.  She stood tall, her shoulders back, her uniform clean.  All promising signs, though not enough to pull the soldier from his indifference.  “Mara Sonnenschein?” Ian asked dispassionately, noting that their names carried a similar, hard sound to them.  His narrowed gaze was sharp enough to cut, but not unkind.

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Re: To a future out of reach. [Ian/Rico]
« Reply #2 on: October 28, 2019, 07:33:09 PM »
Swallowing as much of her nerves as she could as she set eyes on the man walking towards her, Mara wondered if every day of the next two weeks would be like this, reminding herself that it was only an internship, that she wasn't about to go into battle immediately. Though no coward, she didn't feel ready for that, and could only hope that this time spent with the Garrison went peacefully, or else didn't throw her into a total mess immediately.

As he spoke her name, she blinked and offered a small smile. He didn't look awfully welcoming, though he might have seen things she could never dream of. Things that would only bring about nightmares. It shouldn't matter, but she found it difficult to think of people not liking her. This was work though. She'd get over it. She had to, in order to focus and learn everything she could - whatever happened, that was her goal, and the point of this.

"Yes, sir," she replied, voice calm even if her hands trembled, as she bowed her head respectfully. "I- It's nice to meet... you?" Oh, what did she say? How clumsy did that sound. Not the words of a girl ready to work with the Garrison. Just the words of a young girl out of her depth and struggling to make a good first impression. No amount of grooming her hair or adjusting her uniform was going to make up for that.

Re: To a future out of reach. [Ian/Rico]
« Reply #3 on: October 28, 2019, 07:38:22 PM »
At the sound of her name, the girl blinked, a small and uncertain smile flickering across her young face.  There was something in her wide brown eyes, and in her faltering expression, that gave an air of innocence, even after two long years in the Training Corps.  It stirred memories within Ian, reminding him of his family home, of the young waifs and strays who often drifted into the ramshackle house of sighs.  Furtive, doe-eyed creatures covered in bruises and with broken lies falling from their lips.  Those young girls never stayed sweet for long.

This first impression softened Ian to Mara, tugging at an old sense of duty and protection.  The polite greeting that stammered from her lips was almost out of place in a military setting and, drawn to the movement of her trembling hands, Ian’s steely grey eyes dropped momentarily.  Shit.  Really, he had to try harder to be likeable.  “It’s nice to meet you too,” Ian drawled, injecting a smidge more warmth into his smoky voice.  As he spoke, his gaze flicked back to Mara’s young face, and he offered her his hand; long-fingered, cool to the touch and strong.  “The name’s Ian Dietrich.  Fifteen years with the Garrison and countin’.  I’m normally stationed down in Trost.”

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Re: To a future out of reach. [Ian/Rico]
« Reply #4 on: October 28, 2019, 07:49:36 PM »
He didn't seem too put off by her stumbling greeting and awful way she'd conducted herself, much to her relief. His reaction, his words, made her relax a little. Her fingers wrapped around each other, hands not trembling as she put pressure on to keep them still. She could do this, it wasn't so bad.

Mara managed a smile, one of warmth but hesitance, reaching her eyes with a glint but not one of genuine happiness. Taking hold of his hand, she shook it, her grip not tight enough to be seen as dominant, but not weak either. "Fifteen years?" she blinked, surprised but in a good way. It seemed like such a long time, most of her life in fact. "What's it like? Do you have a lot of work to do every day?"

If he was stationed in Trost, then he probably saw more Titans than districts like Utopia, from what she'd learned in class. But how often did Titans really attack the Wall? Maybe scratch at it a bit, but there couldn't be that much to repair, could there? Maybe they got to cut down some Titans every few days or so, but the main part was in preparing for events like Shiganshina. Rare ones, but it was important to be ready then.

Re: To a future out of reach. [Ian/Rico]
« Reply #5 on: October 28, 2019, 07:59:18 PM »
His years of service seemed to surprise the girl and, it occurred to Ian all of a sudden, that Mara had likely been a baby when he first pulled on his rose-embroidered jacket.  “Fifteen years,” he echoed with a shake of his head.  Where had all that time gone?  “Now I feel old as dirt.”  He clasped her hand firmly, giving it a brief shake, the ghost of a smirk tugging at his lips.  It was too early to say, but the cadet struck him as conscientious - a trait that offered a solid foundation to diligence, which in turn made for a dedicated soldier.

“There’s always work to do,” Ian continued, determined to answer every question asked of him as honestly as possible.  He jerked his head, indicating that Mara should follow him.  “But sometimes you have to go looking for it.”

As they walked, Ian fished his dented, tarnished tobacco tin from his pocket, and began to meticulously prepare a cigarette.  “As for what it's like…” Ian shrugged, his grey gaze trained on his task.  “I know I made the right choice for me.  There mightn’t be glory in it - Roses aren’t admired as much as Wings or Unicorns - but it's good, honourable work.  Hard too, if you apply yourself.”  Ian paused, dipping his head to wet the seam of his cigarette with the tip of his tongue, rolling it together with deft fingers.  It rested, unlit, between his lips as he patted himself down, in search of his matches.  “At its heart, the Garrison exists to guard humanity, to protect those who cannot defend themselves.  Ask yourself, is there anything more worthwhile than that?”  Their destination was clear now, for the lift that would take them to the top of Wall Rose lay ahead.  Having located what he sought, Ian struck a match and ignited his cigarette, its tip a glowing ember as they stood in the shadow of the Wall.  As he enjoyed his first draw, he regarded his intern with characteristic intensity, and held out his tobacco tin in wordless offering.  “So tell me about you, Mara.” « Last Edit: October 28, 2019, 07:59:29 PM by Ian Dietrich »

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Re: To a future out of reach. [Ian/Rico]
« Reply #6 on: October 28, 2019, 08:20:24 PM »
"I think you're a long way from being as old as dirt," Mara said, tilting her head to the side. There were two ways she had taken that saying as meaning - first, literally the age of dirt, which she was sure was many hundreds of years older than he, though she supposed if you counted food decomposing into dirt then maybe it was a few decades older. Then second, becoming dirt, as in dying. It wasn't a thought she liked to think of, but she knew that the odds of reaching a real odd age were probably not the greatest with the Titans plaguing humanity.

The girl followed, supposing they were either going to the Wall or some sort of Garrison hold in which to settle in or take the tour. With each answer to her questions, her brown eyes widened, fascinated with the entire idea of the organisation and structure of the Garrison. There must be so much of the Wall to watch and defend, so perhaps on slow days that was when they had to seek out work to do. She knew not all had the greatest opinion of the soldiers, from some not seeming to do their work especially, but Ian appeared to be the most determined Garrison soldier she'd ever met.

To protect those who cannot defend themselves... those words stuck in her head, and the question - rhetorical, she was sure - planted it deeper. Yes, that was the most worthwhile. It was exactly why she sought to join the Garrison. Her eyes travelled up the wall, then noticed the lift. Going on top of the Wall already! A brief anxiety clutched her stomach, then faded. This was going to be the greatest start to the internship ever. "Thank you," she said, looking back at the soldier. "That's why I want to join the Garrison, to defend others who cannot. I come from Utopia District - my father's a merchant - and my brother is a cadet too. My sister was too young... We thought becoming soldiers was the best choice because of the lack of resources since Wall Maria fell. I didn't expect to ever seriously want to become a soldier, but..." Her voice trailed, then hardened with determination. "I know now that this is what I want to do. I'm never going to be an exceptional soldier, but everybody plays their part, and I want to play mine. The Wall is the most important defence against the Titans, and I want to be there, making sure another never falls. I don't want anybody else to suffer because they were driven from their homes."

Re: To a future out of reach. [Ian/Rico]
« Reply #7 on: October 28, 2019, 08:49:40 PM »
I think you’re a long way from being as old as dirt. 

If Ian had suspected the cadet of flattery, he might have responded with rebuke, or at least a level warning that he was immune to false praise.  As it was, she seemed sincere in her statement, so he gladly took it at face value.  Arriving at the lift that would bear them to the top of Wall Rose, he slid the gate open and gestured for Mara to step onto the wooden surface ahead of him.  “No need to thank me, Sonnenschein.  My duty is not only to show you how the Garrison operates, but to answer your questions.  If there’s anything you want to know, all you need do is ask.”

Ian quieted, breathing deep from his cigarette, watching and listening closely to Mara as the lift creaked into life.  Determination laced the cadet’s voice, stirring something in Ian and, by the time she lapsed into silence, he had every confidence: this was a girl the Garrison needed, a girl filled with resolve and driven by good intention.  As far as he was concerned, those traits were far more valuable than any natural aptitude for military life. 

“That’s music to my ears, cadet,” responded, tapping the butt of his cigarette with his thumb, fat flakes of ash beginning their long freefall to solid ground.  “I appreciate your honesty.  Quite frankly, I didn’t want to be a soldier either.  Not in the beginning, anyway.  I only joined the military because I was out of options.  It was learn to serve, or eventually swing from the hangman’s noose.”  He quirked his head, dirty-blond hair shifting with the movement.  He wondered, vaguely, if he had said too much, but quickly snuffed that notion out.  There was no point in keeping secrets, he had always preferred to operate on a policy of transparency.  “But you know, enlisting was the best damn thing I ever did.  Could be you’ll think the same thing someday too.  Your family must be proud.”

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Re: To a future out of reach. [Ian/Rico]
« Reply #8 on: October 28, 2019, 09:06:06 PM »
A tentative boot placed itself on the wooden floor of the lift, then a second, and then she was in. Mara swallowed her nerves and looked forwards, certain that, given all the use, lifts were safe to use, and there was no likelihood of anything going wrong with them. "I do need to thank you - just because it's your duty doesn't mean I'm not going to show you gratitude," she murmured.

Blinking up at him, she listened carefully. She was glad that he had had similar feelings as herself at the beginning, though a frown briefly graced her face at the idea of his choice being the military or hanging. Not that it coloured her perception of him, but she'd never thought of that before. How many others had joined the military to potentially avoid the same fate? As a child, one of the girls down the street had been threatened with being enlisted by her parents for all the trouble she caused, because they'd 'straighten her out'. At the time she had been terrified. Now she wondered if such a thing could help set somebody on track for life.

"You must be proud, looking back, if that was your choice," she said, with some uncertainty. "I think I will, because I'll be doing more for people than I could doing anything else. I think my family are proud - I never wanted to stay at home all the time, and I didn't find anything else I was really good at. Or, that I wanted to be good at." This was it - Garrison soldier was what she wanted to be good at. And she had somebody to look up to now who was an active part of that life, who could show her what to expect. Nothing was going to change her mind from this.

Re: To a future out of reach. [Ian/Rico]
« Reply #9 on: October 28, 2019, 09:24:51 PM »
Mara’s polite insistence that she did need to express her gratitude caught Ian off-guard, but in a pleasant way.  He didn’t push the point; good manners were hardly a requirement in the military but they were undeniably refreshing.  With any luck, the girl would retain her courteousness after graduation so that, even in giving orders and commanding respect, she might endear her comrades to her.  And if the young, hopeful cadet now saw him as being less worthy of the uniform he wore - there were plenty who believed that wickedness could imbue itself in the soul, passing even from mother to unborn child - it didn’t show.  Not in her expression and certainly not in the words that followed.

Ian shrugged his narrow shoulders, tilting his head back to exhale bluish smoke skyward.  “Proud…?  Ah, I suppose so, but I’d say I’m more grateful than anything.  I’m glad that the cards I was dealt led me here, that I have been able to serve a greater purpose.”  His gaze landed on the cadet again, grey irises scrutinising the doe-eyed girl who, unknowingly, was about to meet a silver-haired lioness.  Beneath them, the buildings and cobble streets of Utopia lay stretched out in miniature. 

“I ought to have said sooner, but I didn’t travel here alone.  Squad Leader Brzenska will be waiting for us, up on the Wall.  We were cadets together, so you’ll know the weight of my words when I say she is one of the finest soldiers in the Garrison Regiment.  If you want to excel, as you imply, then there is no better person to guide you.”  Somewhere beneath the impassive facade, a note of admiration - fondness, even - wrought itself into Ian’s smoky tones.  “You be sure to mind her now, Sonnenschein, and listen carefully to what she says.  Just… just know that her bark is usually worse than her bite.”

With that, the lift clicked decisively into place.  Dropping his cigarette to the wooden-slatted floor, Ian stamped it out with the heel of his boot, and kicked the newly-extinguished butt over the edge.  The wind was picking up as he slid the gate open, the rising breeze ruffling his dirty-blond hair as he extended a hand, once again signalling Mara out ahead of him.

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Re: To a future out of reach. [Ian/Rico]
« Reply #10 on: November 03, 2019, 09:31:28 PM »
The chill in the air was enough that Rico tucked her chin against her chest - her breath puffing up and fogging her glasses. Sighing, she wiped them on her coat and rubbed her eyes. Rico was not overly pleased with this assignment. Oh, she bore no ill will towards the cadet she and Ian were assigned to mentor. Rico just...had so much other shit to do. Both her and Ian’s squads had been left in the capable hands of their seconds - with Mitabi ready to step in to help as needed. It was just...Rico was not sure she saw the point in all of this.

Of course, she wanted good soldiers for the Garrison. Rico was acutely aware of the Garrison's reputation and she did want to change that...but...was it worth it to focus on one cadet? She took a few deep breaths through her nose and watched her exhale mist out in front of her. It did not really matter. Not what she thought. Rico would follow her orders. She was genuinely curious about the cadet though. What kind of person was she? What kind of soldier would she be? They would certainly need more than a few weeks to find that all out.

Rico wrinkled her nose at the scent of smoke. It was something she never liked. Cigarette smoke. Some pipe smoke smelled rather nice. Pixis's smelled like an old library mixed with something sweet. Her father's smelled like warm honey. Cigarette smoke was acrid and lingered too long.  She heard the lift click and clack into place and turned - peering through the gate. She recognized Ian's tall and lanky figure. The other figure must be their new...intern. Rico strode forward as the gate opened the young lady walked out. Did she ever look that young? It seemed to her the cadets just kept getting younger and younger. Or she was getting older and that made the cadets look all that much younger. She held the girl's eyes for a moment before looking at Ian. While Ian...could aggravate her at times - Rico always felt comfort looking at his thin and angular face.  "Everything all set?" she asked, waiting for Ian to introduce the girl.

"Papers?" she asked. Rico was a diligent file keeper and already had a folder ready for the girl.


“Together we shared a bond not even death would violate.”

Re: To a future out of reach. [Ian/Rico]
« Reply #11 on: November 11, 2019, 06:24:34 PM »
Mara dipped her head, considering the difference between pride and gratitude. She wondered how difficult it had been, but her thoughts were quickly pushed aside in favour of listening to his next words. So she'd get to meet somebody else imminently - another squad leader at that. On hearing that they'd trained together, her thoughts drifted to those she trained with - Axel was interning with the scouts, and others had split to the Garrison with others, she thought. Would she one day stand aside them, fifteen years on, reflecting on their time training together as she guided a cadet to the top of a Wall?

"I understand," the girl smiled, "and I promise, not a word said is going to leave my mind for a very long time. I'll remember everything, and train harder than ever thinking of what you both tell me." Her words could not have been more sincere, a heart full of determination behind them. She was thrilled to be shadowing two great members of the Garrison. It was a chance like no other.

As they reached the top, her eyes glittered as she looked out beyond the Wall, briefly mesmerised before stepping from the lift. She turned back, watching him open the gate, and stepped out at his direction. Immediately she was captivated by the appearance of the other soldier. Mara might not have recognised her, but she assumed the question shot at Ian meant this was Squad Leader Brzenska. The thought briefly crossed her mind that it was... odd she wasn't with any Garrison soldiers from Utopia, because she was sure she would have remembered the name, or at least recognised her a little. But maybe it was because she was from Utopia that she was paired up with those unfamiliar to her.

She was certain her father wasn't one of those ugly, conniving merchants who swindled money and hurt people, but maybe they were trying to be safe, in case he asked any of the Garrison to be nicer to her.

"Ma'am," she intoned, bowing her head a little as she saluted, which made swallowing her nerves a little uncomfortable. Her hands were trembling again, and she balled up her fingers to keep better control over herself. Was she meant to know about papers? Had she forgotten something? Oh, Walls.

Re: To a future out of reach. [Ian/Rico]
« Reply #12 on: November 19, 2019, 10:46:34 PM »
Stepping onto the Wall, the pair were greeted by Rico’s appraising gaze.  Bright, wintery eyes roved over him – Ian found there was something comfortable and familiar in their weight – before shifting to assess the intern.  He considered it a stroke of good fortune that they had been paired together for this task, even it had sent them both far from the familiar streets of Trost.  “All set,” Ian answered, the rising wind ruffling his sandy hair.

“Mara Sonnenschein, Utopia born and bred, and aspiring to join the Garrison – naturally,” Ian’s gaze followed Rico’s own, settling on the saluting cadet.  The girl’s dark head was bowed slightly, in apparent deference, her words from only a minute earlier echoing in his head:  I’ll remember everything, and train harder than ever thinking of what you both tell me.  Such sentiments might have sounded disingenuous if not for the obvious sincerity that had laced Mara’s young voice.  “As you may have guessed, Sonnenschein, this is Squad Leader Brzenska.”

Such was their intern’s earnestness that he sensed a ripple of tension roll through her at the mention of papers.  “Relax, cadet, I’ve got them right here,” Ian was quick to reassure, unconsciously moving to stand between Rico and the cold breeze.  Long, strong fingers reached into a pocket on the inside of his jacket, pulling free the short dossier that had been sent to him.  The small collection of documents outlined basic information about their intern, including her attitude towards and general performance in the Training Corps.  He held the paperwork out to Rico, the faintest ghost of a smile on his lips.  “Everything seems to be in order.”  Or so his hasty read-through had told him.  Rico was much more diligent and meticulous than he. 

As he was relieved of the papers, his colourless eyes snagged on Mara’s bio – specifically, her date of birth.  She was set to celebrate her sixteenth birthday interned with the Garrison.  Stowing that detail away for the time being, Ian’s focus shifted back to his comrade and long-time friend, an almost imperceptible shift in his expression softening his hard features.  “I’m thinking we begin with a tour of the Wall,” he suggested, although it was almost posed as a question.  Not only would it give Mara an opportunity to explore the domain of Garrison soldiers, it would also have the benefit of further familiarizing he and Rico with the northern fortifications.  All that said, he would gladly defer to his companion.

From this lofty height, the great divide the Wall provided was made clear.  To one side, humanity made its home.  Somewhere below them, a bell was ringing.  Smoke spiralled lazily from innumerable chimneys, while a handful of small skiffs bobbed and glided on the river.  All of mankind could be found on those dusty, cobbled streets.  Yet, on the other side of the Wall, there stretched a lost, uninhabited landscape that was now the domain of Titans.  Perched on the rampart, the trio were easily able to see how close the populace were to death and destruction.

“I don’t suppose you’ve had a birdseye view of Utopia before,” Ian mused, slipping his hands into his pockets.  The wind was blowing colder than he had anticipated, and he felt its nip in his fingers.  Grey eyes picked over the streets below them, the people peppering the plazas and roads so small as to be indistinguishable.  After a pause, those same colourless eyes half-glanced towards Mara.  “Can you see your home?”

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Re: To a future out of reach. [Ian/Rico]
« Reply #13 on: November 24, 2019, 09:22:24 PM »
“At ease cadet. I’m not going to bite you.” She let her eyes rest on the girl for a long moment. She held the girl’s gaze as Ian handed her the papers - breaking it only to skim over the cadet’s file. “Alright, Sonnenschein. Everything does look to be in order.” By the Walls, Rico thought, not even sixteen. Really just a girl. Though...she and Ian...Mitabi...Gustav...Anka...they had been around her age when they donned their rose jackets and taken their place on the Wall. The world they lived in did not have much time for childhood. Except for the very privileged.

“Mara Sonnenschein, Utopia born and bred, and aspiring to join the Garrison – naturally.”

"The Garrison needs devoted soldiers. The people deserve to be protected by those who actually care and want to do well by them. I hope you prove to that sort of soldier."

“I’m thinking we begin with a tour of the Wall."

Rico nodded. It was a solid idea. She'd wandered a little bit while she was waiting for the other two, but not far. The view was impressive. For a moment, Rico's mind wandered back to her childhood where her father had given her a bunch of toy houses and shops to play with. She had assigned each house a family and each shop an owner. She had lined up neat and tidy streets and everyone went about their day in an orderly fashion. Of course, the streets below were not the perfectly straight lines of Rico's pretend town - but from up here...the world was just a little better. For a precious moment at least.

"I wish you wouldn't smoke in uniform," Rico murmured to Ian as the walked along. "Should be against regulations." She sighed and shook her head. Ian was someone who meant the world to her...though she'd be hard-pressed to admit that to anyone...especially him. "Pixis mentioned wanting to meet her by the way," Rico added in a whisper. "I don't know if he'll have time...but...Mother Rose help her." The corners of her mouth turned up just slightly at the thought.

“Can you see your home?”

That was a kind question. The sort of kindness Rico had come to expect from Ian over the years they had known each other. Earning Ian's kindness said a lot about the person.

"So cadet...what are you thinking will happen over the next few weeks? I'm just curious as to what you're expecting from us."

« Last Edit: November 25, 2019, 09:24:55 PM by Rico Brzenska »

“Together we shared a bond not even death would violate.”

Re: To a future out of reach. [Ian/Rico]
« Reply #14 on: December 20, 2019, 10:11:12 PM »
Introductions given, Mara relaxed a little at Rico's assurance, then more so at Ian's words. She couldn't be sure of what it would all entail, and hearing them both being... well, human, in a way, it reassured her more than anything. The instructors seemed tougher and scarier in comparison, but then she supposed they were meant to be.

Rico's words on what sort of soldier the Garrison needed warmed her. She really did care, as much as she could - though she would have much rather never gone into the military, she was glad she had. The sacrifice made for her sister ensured that their family was better off, that there was less stress. And as much as she knew her skills weren't top-notch, she thought she did well enough. Axel was always going on about how some soldiers could be so cruel, but she was the very opposite. Too soft.

She gave a sharp nod in agreement to Rico's words, but words failed her. Mara couldn't think of anything to say at all. Could she agree? Yes, but then what if she let them down?

At Ian's question, the silent cadet looked across from atop the Wall, gazing down across civilisation, where she would otherwise be. In an ordinary life, plodding along the cobbled streets she had raced down with friends, visiting shops she had hung about on her tiptoes to peer into baskets, and dropping by the homes of her friends all bulging with life and laughter. It was too high to truly see anything minute, but she could imagine so many people doing such things. Memories danced in her mind, entwining as ribbons. Even if she'd never seen it before from such a great height, she could pick out landmarks. A house with colourful plants hanging in the garden stuck out, reminding her of a time she'd tried to jump over a low wall and scraped her knee when she'd fell.

And as much as she searched for her home, she couldn't see it. Instead, curiosity about what she saw out of the corner of her eye brought her to look on the other side. What had been Wall Maria, not a wasteland but a land of forgotten life. A wild place, where farms once grew all sorts of produce, where people had lived in small villages, nothing like the sprawling expanse of Utopia District. From what friends and cadets had told her, she could picture panic spreading across blades of grass, when it seemed all might be lost. She thought of some of those she'd trained with, driven from their homes, determined to get it back - others, wanting to fight to reclaim it for them.

"I don't see my home," she finally answered softly, looking back to Utopia, shunning the horror of her imagination. "We live a few streets from the outer gate though," she added. She couldn't picture the roof, what the windowsills might look like, whether they still grew flowers. And with the fresh, first look at the lost Wall in her mind, she didn't want to. She was just glad she had a home.

Her voice felt shaky as she answered Rico, turning back to look at them both. "I don't know," she admitted. She had signed up for this, shouldn't she know? "I know it won't be anything like training. But I've never seen soldiers really work before--" That sounded horrid. The implication wasn't what she had meant, but the wording she'd given reminded her of others' derogatory statements. Mara broke off, eyes widening briefly, before she tried again. "In Utopia, we don't-- didn't have many soldiers on the ground," she said, a little desperately; as much as it was the truth, she still felt anxious to assure that she didn't believe what they said. Hadn't Axel said a lot of the Garrison in Trost had been good, but after the fall they'd gotten better? Maybe it had changed in Utopia too.

The connection of the two squad leaders before her to Trost had completely passed her by.

Once more, she tried to explain her answer properly. "My family have never been soldiers either. So I want to learn what the Garrison does - properly. I've heard a lot about it, all three branches of the military, but it's different to experiencing it, isn't it? So... I guess I'm expecting to see what it's really like. I just want to do my best and help people, and that's what the Garrison does best too, isn't it?" They were the most grounded, the ones with less expertise in a way. Which just meant they did a lot of different work - she was sure the Survey Corps and Military Police did too, but there were so many members of the Garrison, and they must be seen the most. Even if they hadn't been in Utopia so much before she'd trained, that didn't mean they didn't still have important jobs, and plenty of them.


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