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Hook Swords (Recruiting)

Blair looks every bit of his 38 years of age. His face is lined with the start of soft wrinkles, his green eyes sit atop slight bags, and his short, well-groomed black hair and beard are starting to show a hint of graying.

He is incredibly fit, but who isn't this day and age?

He’s usually well dressed, in business attire or upscale casual wear. It’s not uncommon to see him in a suit.

He is polite, and often reserved, but not always quiet. He’s seen many things, pleasant and terrifying, so he is not easily shaken or provoked.

If you look carefully though, when Blair thinks no one is watching, you may catch a glimpse of a world-weary face and shaky hands. Never for long, and never when he knows someone is watching, but the ticks are there.

The dreams came randomly, but always were the same. A jumbled, out-of-order series of events from the past. When dreaming, it was like Blair had become unstuck from time.

One moment he was entering Stanford, the next he was graduating high school in the top of his class. Then he was in basic training, performing surgery, enlisting in the Army, graduating from USU School of Medicine, earning praise for his marksmanship, drinking whisky, becoming a field medic. Back and forth, jumping around. Happy times, good times. Nice dreams of family, of friends, of a life that seemed long forgotten.

Some were bad dreams, killing, war, the death of his mother when he was a child. Breakups, fights, lost friends, old flames, dreams of a life that seemed so far away.

And some were just dreams. Events neither good nor bad. Special assignments, covert operations, the life of a man who no longer existed.

Sometimes there were many of these snippets, sometimes a few. But there was always one dream. A terrifying dream, a dream of an event that “never happened.”

Of an event meant to be forgotten.

Crying, the stench of death, of blood, shouting in multiple languages, the sound of bones being crushed by stone. The feeling of despair, of powerlessness, of guilt. The death of friends, comrades.

In this dream he remembers. He remembers ignoring orders, taking cover while his squad advanced on the small desert town. He remembers the sounds of their screams, of their bodies being broken. He remembers saving James, patching him up while they hid, alone in the desert, just two of six.

Waiting for rescue.

Waiting to die.

Dreaming of vengeance.

Then nothing … Just darkness. No memories, just the smell of fire, shouting, crying and the tip-tapping of something wet and warm dripping from his hands. His eyes open, greeted by the sight of a burning, ruined town. He looks down, starts to realize …

Blair sat up suddenly, choking and sweating. The radio blared with news about a disaster in Tokyo.

The dreams always ended this way, him waking up looking at his hands, awash with guilt.

But that night was different, there was a buzzing in his head and the taste of machine oil in his mouth …

That night, he stopped being powerless.

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