The aetherrail glid to a stop, and there was a rustle as commuters rose to their feet and departed. Kara stepped off the carriage, slinging her kit bag over one shoulder, and took a deep breath. In the distance, raised slightly above the rest of the district, she could see The Bastion, her destination.
It was only a few minutes walk, but the garrison’s presence loomed large over her, and every moment felt like ten. Without noticing, she found herself outside the fortress’s gates. Two legionaries stood outside, and she approached.
“Hi. I, uh, I’m a new recruit. I’m here for final briefing.”
The two legionaries looked at one another, before one grunted and turned to pull a bell behind him. There was a delay before the heavy steel portcullis began to rise up into the heavy stone walls.
“Captain’s in the courtyard,” he said.
From within, Kara could see a bustle of legionaries moving to and fro, their faces each covered by the Legion’s iconic helmet. Even just this opening compound of the Bastion was massive and imposing, and she couldn’t begin to imagine what lay within the myriad buildings in the compound’s distance. She stopped on the other side of the gate to take it all in, until her reverie was interrupted by a shout.
Kara immediately stood to attention, saluting before she had time to identify the voice’s source. A heavy set man strode up to her, helmet tucked under one arm, revealing short hair above a grim, heavily stubbled face. A thin scar ran across one pale, milky eye.
“Sir!” Kara yelled, “reporting for final briefing, sir!”
The man stopped inches from Kara’s face. “What’s your name, soldier?”
“Kara Cartwright, sir. Ten years in Estrath Territorial, graduated top of my class in Verium, awarded the Republic Star last year, sir.”
The captain didn’t respond, staring the young woman down. His breath was stale on her face, and his gaze intense. She maintained eye contact with him for an uncomfortably long silence, before he finally spoke in a quiet, sinister voice, little more than a whisper.
“I didn’t ask your life story, soldier, I asked your name. Do you know why that is?”
Kara was taken aback. “No, sir.”
The man’s quiet whisper gave way to a forceful bellow. “Because who you were before don’t mean shit here! Estrath Territorial, Verium, Republic fuckin’ Star, they’re nothing! You’re Legion now — all that? That’s the training wheels! This is the real deal! Ain’t no legionary gonna be trusting you to have their back because you’ve got a Republic Star or you passed Military History — they’re gonna trust you because you proved yourself to them, soldier, do you understand?”
The other legionaries in the courtyard turned and watched the new recruit.
“Yes, sir,” Kara said somberly.
“I said do you understand, soldier?”
“Yes, sir! I understand, sir!”
“What is this, recruit?!”
Kara paused, unclear of the expected response.
“I said, what is this, recruit?!”
“This is the Iron Legion, sir!”