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Chapter 468 Interviews
"Article 190-11," Monica exclaimed while checking her phone from under the bed's blanket. "Section 7."
"Stored weapons must have the safety engaged and the magazines removed," Khan stated from the bed's edge while his eyes scoured the images on the wall. His flat depicted Lauter's possible targets and reports about the Tainted animals in those areas.
"Article 190-8," Monica continued, adjusting her position to make the pillow more comfortable. "Section 2."
"The detention of captives must abide by the laws described by the interplanetary intelligent beings' rights," Khan responded. "Breaking such laws can result in the enforcement of punishments highlighted in the war crimes' sections."
"Unless," Monica pressed on.
"Unless the captives belong to specific categories," Khan added, "Or their crimes involve customs and traditions the Global Army swore to respect.
"In addition, the Global Army must abide by the laws and customs of the local governments, especially when reckless actions might lead to interplanetary crises or wars."
"That was good," Monica praised.
"I still think it's a bunch of c.r.a.p," Khan commented while using the menus on the floor to change the images on the walls. "All these rules become useless when the commanding officer decides to ignore them."
"They are in the tests," Monica scolded, "So you must memorize them."
"I know," Khan sighed. "I just wish they didn't try to sound so smart when writing them."
A giggle resounded from behind Khan while he kept tinkering with the images. He had isolated one of the largest available territories, and the reports connected to the area were both rea.s.suring and disheartening.
"The archipelago again," Monica voiced when she lifted her gaze to check the images.
"It's the most promising target," Khan explained while zooming in to make the walls highlight a series of islands. "Taking this location would compensate any expense above Lucian's ideal budget."
"It's also the most dangerous location," Monica added, and whooshing noises followed her words.
Khan kept inspecting the reports on the wall while Monica crawled toward him. She left a kiss on his tattoo before hugging him from behind. He dug a hand into her curls when she rested on his shoulder, but his thoughts remained on the mission.
"The missiles should clear the way long enough to place the turrets," Khan suggested.
"You learnt about the missiles two days ago," Monica pointed out.
Khan used the menus to start a simulation. The images changed, transforming into a simple picture of the sky above the archipelago. Many red dots hovered in the area, and a black symbol descended among them before detonating.
A simulation wasn't the best method to describe a weapon's power to Khan. He had a hard time converting the numbers on the images into actual events, but his ignorance didn't make him blind. Even a child would understand how fearsome a missile was from those scenes.
"Are missiles really this powerful?" Khan asked, glancing at the face resting on his shoulder.
"Humans had weapons of ma.s.s destruction even before obtaining mana," Monica revealed. "Now, n.o.bles can terraform planets to turn them into holiday camps. Believe me. The Global Army has scarier things than missiles."
"So, should I trust missiles or not?" Khan wondered.
"There's more to it," Monica sighed. "Some families might think you have aligned yourself with Lucian if you take the archipelago."
"I'm just doing a mission," Khan complained.
"Some might see your willingness to face more risks as a sign of loyalty," Monica explained. "Lucian admitted it openly. He is doing this to garner merits, which opposing factions inside his family might not like."
"Is every family so complicated?" Khan cursed, bringing his gaze back to the images.
"The number of internal conflicts usually matches their wealth," Monica stated. "That's how the political game works, and you can't ignore it anymore."
"What a mess," Khan cursed again.
"It's messier than you think," Monica exclaimed, "But also simpler. Enforcing order remains a priority, and everyone wants to get richer and more influential without creating big waves."
"I'm starting to understand why the Slums are so poor," Khan admitted.
"Many have to starve to allow a few to conquer the stars," Monica voiced. "That's what my father always says."
The tinge of shame that spread inside Monica expanded like a cloud in the bedroom's symphony. She even turned her head to make her hair hide her face.
"You know I don't think so little of you," Khan declared, turning toward Monica again.
"I'm still a piece in the machine that made you starve in the Slums," Monica uttered.
"And I joined that machine when I enlisted," Khan added. "We are together in this."
Khan felt Monica's mouth turning into a smile, but a pout replaced it when the images claimed his attention again.
"Article 111-14," Monica called. "Section 12."
Khan scoured his memory until a frown appeared on his face. "The interplanetary regulations don't have that article."
"Civil regulations," Monica revealed.
"Oh," Khan exclaimed, and laughs tried to escape his mouth when he recalled the article's contents. "Marriage certificates require the bride and groom's signatures on the necessary papers to make the event official."
Monica peeked past her curls to see if her plan had worked, and her hug on Khan's chest tightened when she found him looking at her. Still, Khan wouldn't let her win so easily.
"Article 112-14," Khan announced, "Section 1. Divorces require the appropriate doc.u.mentation and signatures-."
Khan couldn't finish his line since Monica pulled him down and made him explode into a laugh. He ended with his back on Monica, and she tightened her hug again to keep him still.
"You aren't looking at me," Monica complained, even if she was the reason behind those words.
Khan seized Monica's hands to break her hug. She let him do as he pleased and even welcomed him when he turned. Her wrists remained in his grasp, and a tempting expression bloomed on her face when he trapped her arms above her head.
"You know what happens when I look at you," Khan stated, but Monica was already past words. She tilted her head to prepare for a kiss, and Khan didn't make her wait.
Khan spent the rest of the week attending his usual duties, but a new task joined his already-packed schedule. Both Monica and George believed that Lucian's mission could benefit Khan's future, so he formally accepted it and coordinated with the Headmistress to start interviews.
"Sir, I hope your tenth flight went well," The soldier tasked with picking up Khan announced as soon as the two met in one of the hangars.
"It's the ninth for the Global Army," Khan corrected while eyeing the two stars on the man's right shoulder. "Roger, right? The Headmistress said good things about you."
"I'm flattered," Roger performed a military salute. "Sir, the car is ready for you, and the rest of the team is waiting in the appointed location."
"Let's not waste time," Khan nodded. "Lead the way."
Roger led Khan to a car waiting in an empty area of the hangar, and a short trip began. The vehicle brought the two to the seventh district, before a building with the flat provided by the Headmistress, and the crowd waiting on the sidewalk made Khan sigh.
"The Headmistress released an official warning," Roger revealed in front of Khan's annoyed expression. "However, many soldiers are willing to face punishments to get a chance to join your team."
"They would be among the candidates if they met my requirements," Khan commented. He had used the network, Monica, and George to filter through the many applications, but that still didn't stop the crowd.
"I've contacted the team leader inside," Roger stated while storing his phone. "They are coming down to help with the crowd."
"There is no need," Khan uttered while leaving the car. "Just follow me."
Shouts filled the area as soon as Khan appeared. Two lines of soldiers were keeping the path toward the building open, but the crowd threatened to break through them. The general excitement became palpable, but the arrival of a purple-red light turned everything into gasps and worry.
Khan let his mana flow freely from his shoulders to create a harmless cloud that dispersed above him. He wasn't hurting anyone, but the sight of the chaos element always forced the bystanders to reconsider their behavior, and the current crowd was no exception.
Truth be told, Khan was sticking to the rules for once. The Harbor forbade that behavior, but the Headmistress' involvement overruled those restrictions and gave Khan a lot of freedom. He could even use non-deadly force if necessary.
Roger followed Khan's orders and stuck to his back, even if he was no stranger to the fear of the chaos element. His eyes darted up and down whenever a purple-red flare threatened to get too close. Still, the walk didn't last long, and Khan held back his mana once he entered the building.
Four soldiers hurried out of an elevator in the main hall and showed their surprise when they saw Khan and Roger. They quickly approached the two to perform military salutes, and one of them decided to speak. "Sir, we were on our way to help."
"It's fine," Khan rea.s.sured. "Is everyone here?"
"Yes," The soldier confirmed. "All the candidates are waiting in the appointed flat. We can start as soon as you are ready."
"Good job," Khan praised. "Give me five minutes, then send them over. Start with the Lieutenant."
"Yes, sir!" The soldier exclaimed, and his companions echoed those words.
Roger accompanied Khan to the elevator and led him to the fifth floor. Another hall unfolded in their vision, and the two approached one of the flats, which opened once Khan showed his phone.
The soldiers had already arranged everything. They had turned the bedroom into an office with a few chairs and an interactive desk. The Headmistress had even made them leave a few bottles for Khan.
"I'll wait outside," Roger announced while Khan studied the area. "I hope the interviews go well, sir."
"Thank you," Khan muttered as the door closed behind him. The place was perfect, so he approached the desk to connect his phone before sitting behind it.
A series of reports lit up on the desk when Khan played with it. He had devised a plan, so he knew the requirements his team had to meet. Finding the right people while sticking to Lucian's budget was the only problem.
A notification appeared on the walls exactly five minutes after Khan's order, and he unlocked the flat to make the first candidate come in. A tall and burly man in his thirties with short black hair approached the desk, and the military salute that followed seemed to speak for his stern character.
"Captain, sir," The man called, "It's an honor to meet you."
"Sit, Lieutenant," Khan ordered while highlighting the man's profile on the desk. "My schedule is quite packed, so I hope you won't mind if I keep things short."
"Not at all, sir," The man confirmed.
"So, Lieutenant Clayman," Khan began while fixing his poker face on the man. "Are you related to Captain Jason Clayman?"
"We share some blood, sir," Lieutenant Clayman explained, "But we have rarely interacted. I only know he speaks highly of you."
"And I speak highly of him," Khan responded. "He was good to me on Ecoruta."
"I'm happy to hear it, sir," Lieutenant Clayman added.
"Well, do you know why you are here?" Khan questioned.
"I hope because my profile meets your requirements, sir," Lieutenant Clayman said.
"It definitely does," Khan confirmed while lowering his gaze to scroll through the man's profile. "You are actually too good for my mission. Why are you so cheap then?"
"Sir, my priority was to work with you," Lieutenant Clayman explained. "I thought accepting a lower pay might give me more chances."
Khan didn't admit it, but Lieutenant Clayman's plan had worked. He was actually the only Lieutenant among the candidates, and his profile also shone compared to the others. Getting him at that price was almost too good to be true.
"I'm flattered," Khan casually stated as his eyes returned to the Lieutenant, "But you must understand that your behavior makes you suspicious. How do I know you don't have a hidden agenda?"
Khan had to ask those questions since the mission involved a wealthy descendant. He had to be sure before hiring someone so qualified.
"I'm afraid you can't know, sir," Lieutenant Clayman bluntly declared. "You can check my recommendations, but nothing after that."
Khan allowed himself to show his surprise. Lieutenant Clayman's bluntness was refreshing, and his mana confirmed his honesty. The man was a second-level warrior, so Khan had no problem reading and acknowledging him.
"Alright," Khan exclaimed while taking out a different menu. "You have experience on the field. Tell me what you think about this."
Lieutenant Clayman lowered his gaze to inspect the menu. Khan was showing him an incomplete version of his plan, but he still took his time to study it. He raised his head only after ten entire minutes had pa.s.sed.
"Sir, I don't see how this is possible," Lieutenant Clayman stated. "We can't get the island with such a small team and a single missile."
Khan had eventually opted against attacking the archipelago, but the budget problem returned at that point. He had to cut expenses, limiting the number of weapons and teammates the mission would have.
"We will," Khan declared. "I won't share every detail, so you'll have to take me at my word."
Lieutenant Clayman browsed through the plan again before showing his stern face. Strangely enough, he had already decided to trust Khan.
"So, are you in?" Khan asked.
"Yes, sir," Lieutenant Clayman uttered.
"Sign this and come on the other side of the table," Khan ordered while pulling up another menu. "You can take your time to read through it."
Lieutenant Clayman didn't look at the contract on the interactive table. Instead, he kept his stern face on Khan to voice another issue. "Captain, from what I read, you don't need me. I wouldn't cover any specific role."
The honest gesture improved Lieutenant Clayman's image and made Khan speak openly. "I need a ranking officer to keep things in check. That's your role."
"I understand, sir," Lieutenant Clayman said before pressing his thumb on the contract. He placed his genetic signature without even reading it.
The Lieutenant complied with Khan's remaining order once the contract business ended. He lifted his chair and reached for the other side of the table before sitting at Khan's side. He also made sure to stay slightly behind him to highlight his authority.
"This is the list of candidates with their profiles," Khan explained after tapping on the interactive desk. "Tell me what you think."
Lieutenant Clayman dived into the list without saying anything, and Khan used that time to enjoy one of the bottles. The man's dedication and seriousness were rea.s.suring to watch, and Khan couldn't help but see the mission in a more positive light because of that.
"Sir, the pilot is unqualified for the task," Lieutenant Clayman eventually announced. "He has done poorly in the simulations, and his only real flight almost ended in tragedy. I can't advise against hiring him enough."
"He is pretty bad," Khan agreed while pulling up a copy of the pilot's profile, "But he is incredibly cheap."
The pilot's profile had nothing but critiques. Apparently, the man panicked easily, which prevented him from getting more flight experience. He was a terrible choice, but Khan could make it work.
"Sir, the pilot probably is the most important member in these kinds of missions," Lieutenant Clayman pressed on. "Instead, this man is a liability who can endanger everyone's life."
"He only needs to keep the ship afloat," Khan explained. "He won't have to do any maneuver. He won't even need to land."
"Sir, he might panic once the situation gets rough," Lieutenant Clayman continued. "Actually, according to his profile, he will likely panic."
"It will be your job to keep him in check," Khan laughed. "Look, the autopilot could fly this mission, but the Global Army's regulations force me to hire a pilot. If things get bad, you'll be able to remove the manual control."
"I understand, sir," Lieutenant Clayman nodded.
"What do you think about the others?" Khan wondered.
"They look good, sir," Lieutenant Clayman stated. "Two gunners stand out from the others, which is the number the mission wants. This tech expert also has decent qualifications."
Khan agreed with the Lieutenant's opinion. He had also identified those promising candidates, but the interviews remained mandatory. A profile wasn't enough to convince him.
"Are you ready to start with one of them?" Khan wondered while emptying his drink. "I want you to take the lead in these interviews."
"Anything you need, sir," Lieutenant Clayman uttered. "Though, I must mention the main issue again. This team is too small, especially if you plan to use a single ship and missile."
"What would you suggest?" Khan asked.
"Ideally, sir," Lieutenant Clayman stated, "Three pilots accompanied by a main ship and two secondary ones, four to six gunners, two tech experts, and two missiles."
"We'll get it done with less than half of that," Khan rea.s.sured. "I'll fill the other roles."
"Sir, no soldier can replace ships," Lieutenant Clayman pointed out. "The secondary ones would be ideal for scouting the area."
"I can," Khan declared. "I'll personally handle that part of the mission."