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the long, pale
scar on his face.

"You speak?"

"Sir, yes sir, I do. Sir, I apologize for not noticing you came in, sir."

"You focus. I like focus. You try to fix blaster, yes?"

Nightwing glanced at his bunk. It hadn't looked that messy before an
officer arrived. Had it?

"Yes, sir. My rifle and I were having a conversation, sir."

An eyebrow went up. "You talk to weapon. Is interesting." He held up a
hand. "No more with the 'sir.' I am not come here to have you grovel. Is
uninteresting, groveling. I come here because man who stays in quarters when
squad on leave, he is not normal man."

Something about the Nikto's tone caught Nightwing off-balance, or if not
off-balance, then at least unprepared. "Sir, I - - I apologize." Seconds. It
had been just seconds since the Nikto told him not to call him "sir," and the
first word out of his mouth had been exactly that.

"No apologies. No grovel. Just speak to me about your conversation. Why
you speak to your rifle?"

Was this some sort of test? It had to be. Commanders didn't show up in
the enlisted barracks without reason. He had to think quickly. What kind of
test could this be?

"My weapon has been malfunctioning. When a weapon malfunctions, it's
because there is something wrong with the man who carries it almost as often
as the weapon itself." That didn't come out quite right. Sergeant Brik said it
better. Of course, Sergeant Brik would have married his rifle had the Navy
allowed such things.

"What is malfunction?"

Nightwing had to bite back the urge to say "sir" again. "The trigger has
been jamming."

The Commander nodded. "You have cleaned the guard? Oiled the action?
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