Nooj continues his story.
The job of introducing the entire team to the concept of military discipline has been finished at last. I have had less trouble with entire brigades than with this group of three misfits. The Recorder is prepared to take instructions although whether she can control her emotions sufficiently to carry them out is another question altogether. Yes, I know women are quite as adequate as men in most of the battlefield positions. I would just like to know more about the temperament of this red-eyed silently watchful female before I trust her to obey me without question when it is required. I think I shall give her some private time in order to gauge her mettle. It seems there will be plenty of time for that as the other two are so engrossed in one another. Bah! Carnal appetites have their place but not in the midst of training for war.
The Al Bhed - I suppose I really should start using his name - may shape up if I can knock some of the arrogance out of him. He thinks because he is the survivor of a race decimated by Sin, he is some sort of expert on the proper techniques for fighting the monster. If his people had possessed any concept of how to battle the creature, he would not be one of the few survivors but would be a general in a triumphant army. I am going to also have to tell him how uncomfortable I am with his constant staring at me. I had thought it was due to his sexual proclivities but with a battle-boy in his clutches it must be something else. I fear he may be one of those with a vulgar interest in how I was resurrected, or something like that. I had thought that would be more the province of the failed priest ... Ah, I shall stop wondering and ask when I next have the opportunity.
As for Baralai, he looks to Gippal whenever I give an order or try to explain the proper way to behave. He will have to be broken of that. I am his commander, his officer; the Cyclops is his lover. He will have to be taught to tell the two apart, instantly and clearly. Or I shall request he be assigned to the chaplain corps and away from my responsibility. I will not be out-ranked by a gunsel under my own command. Not even by implication.
It has been a tiring day so far; I think I will find Paine and begin her individual instruction. No, it will be better to postpone that effort. I am bored having to repeat again - and at the elementary level - all those rules and responses I have to teach neophytes in order to keep them alive long enough to be useful. To be truthful, I miss the professionalism of the Crusaders, the self-assured air of men and women who knew what they must do and how to do it. We are not even given uniforms in this mockery of an army, not even patches to enable us to identify one another in the dust and turmoil of a real skirmish. I am beginning to detect something of the method these Maesters are employing. They impress me as wanting us to fight amongst ourselves and save them the effort of finding the best of us. It would not surprise me to learn they intend to pit us against one another until only the number they need is still standing. They are wasteful bastards.
If this is to be a true record of what happens during the course of this misguided and mistaken adventure in military malfeasance, I suppose I should include my own prejudices lest hiding them should come to be seen as distortion of the truth.
I am a fully trained and disciplined former member of the Crusaders. I was a swordsman of note before a near fatal encounter with Sin spawn cost me my left arm and leg. By rights I should have died as I should have died other times in my career which has been marked, in honesty, by courage and honour. I was known as 'Nooj, the Undying' at the time of my injuries because I took no care to preserve my own life during battles and had escaped both death and serious injury more often than seemed possible to those who took notice of such things. My life has been continued through the offices of Al Bhed engineers and surgeons who implanted into me - without my permission and to my utter disgust - synthetic limbs, prostheses which have transformed me into a cripple fit only for service in this motley and untutored mass of adventurers. I do not belong here.
As a result of my history, I am placed in command of three of the most inept, unlikely recruits in the history of warfare: an outlaw Al Bhed with no talent for obedience, a failed priest who is something less than a man, and a woman from who knows where who might be a Warrior were she a man or had she been trained from infancy in the ways of the warrior. Fah! They are like a handful of pebbles picked up at random and given me to polish into jewels. I shall do my best; I always do but there is scant hope of turning them into anything worthy of the arms they carry.
In addition to the impossible task set before me, I am now resolved to die when I can find a place and time worthy of my death. I will not live in this broken carapace which demeans me with every step. I was a swift and useful Warrior. Now I am halting, dependent upon a cane for my very balance, unable to use a sword and condemned to this absurd cadre of the unfit. Here, in the privacy of my confessions, I declare myself Deathseeker, one who will actively court the embrace of Nothingness. I am alone and shall remain thus until I can manage to rid myself of this loathsome life.
I am having continual trouble with the machina leg. Debris keeps sifting into the joints and hindering their smooth workings. I am forced to spend a disproportionate amount of time with small improvised tools cleaning the areas of cable and pulley which comprise the knee and ankle. There is no discernible reason why these sensitive spots could not have been sealed in the same manner the chest was sealed. Ran out of money, I expect or got bored with the project. Al Bhed are not the most intellectually acute race on this planet. They are inclined toward short attention spans and a taste for novelty over competence. Another nuisance is the tendency of the internal connections to get clogged with small particles attracted by the oil used to keep them moving. It is necessary for me to renew the lubrication at inconveniently frequent intervals. All this is time consuming and worse, makes me feel unclean. Sometimes I lie awake in the night and think I can feel the dust adhering to the bits and pieces which go to make up my left leg. Then I would like to tear it off and disassemble it into its components and dip them in acid to clean them once and for all. Ugh!
While I am airing my grievances, if only to my own ears, I might also mention the pain. This damnable leg was affixed to what remained of my living thigh with rods sunk through the flesh and attached to the bone. Any awkward movement, of which there are many, or twist of the limb - which occurs whenever I step clumsily on a stone or slip on sand - wrenches those rods and causes acute pain, almost like breaking the bone. Naturally, I do not permit a cry or expression of discomfort to pass my lips or appear on my face. However, the experience alone is exhausting and contributes to my difficulties in preparing myself for full service again.
Ah - this is ridiculous. I should erase the last section of this recording; it is nothing but a catalogue of complaints and unworthy of a man. No. Let it stay to remind me not to whine and whimper in public. Let it remind me of my imperfections. It has, if nothing else, diverted me from brooding about that new recruit. I cannot understand why she is invading my thoughts like this. I am not a callow youth with no experience with women. She is no beauty but ... there is something.
Well, I am not certain just what I accomplished during the past several hours. Gippal and Baralai were off together on some sort of private exploration. (I will not trouble myself with speculation about who was exploring whom and in what manner.) In line with my intentions earlier in the week, I decided to take the opportunity to learn more about the talents of our newest member, the Recorder, Paine. She is a quiet one who does not volunteer much information and before I lead a squad into battle, I prefer to know as much as possible about their individual abilities.
The woman came willingly enough at my call and we found a private place where we would not be interrupted no matter how long the conversation. I inquired into her experiences both with weapons and recorders and she answered with no apparent hesitation. It seems she is an orphan, like so many others in this world, one who has chosen to fight back against the force which took her family rather than to indulge in perpetual grieving. I applaud that; it shows a toughness of mind I always seek in my troops. She says she is skilled with the sword and to a lesser extent with the lighter fire-arms and, barring any evidence of falsehood, I must take her at her word. I have advised her to carry a projectile rifle since that will be the most universally useful weapon she can bear and the scarcity of arms will prevent her from having a sword as well. She listens intently and I can almost see her making mental notes of what I am saying to her. She is, by far, the best of the three I now command. With proper discipline, she will make a more than adequate Warrior.
As I said, she does not talk much and so I was surprised when she began to question me about my past. I don't like to talk about it and was astonished to hear my own voice telling her things I have never mentioned save in the confessional of my own head. I confess I do not know how things progressed to the point where I permitted her to touch me, to enlace her fingers with the rods of my gloved left hand. Or how my right hand found its place in her pewter hair, stroking through the short strands and caressing the elegant shape of her skull. Naturally, I drew back at once and apologized. I caught a quickly hidden smile on her lips but she could not hide the glitter in her red-brown eyes. I have never seen eyes that color before. Enough!
I had not thought to have faced this problem so soon. I have not lain with a woman since my encounter with Sin spawn, the encounter which left me as I am. The physicians have assured me there is no reason to think my capacity in that arena should be impaired, but ... There are the deep, disgusting scars on my body from the wounds, places where the flesh looks as though it has been melted and re-hardened into a discolored waxy state. And the machina which are now a permanent part of me. What woman would want to find all that in her bed? I suppose I could have recourse to the whores who are always present where armies are or the battle boys if the physical needs grow too pressing. I am fortunate in that I have great control over the appetites of my body and that the control extends over all the appetites. Still ... No more thought. From the brooding comes the desire. I think I will go down to that pond and wash. The water is refreshingly cold and I can be alone there.