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be sacrificed, if need be, so that others may live on. I
am vigilant while worlds sleep. I am a guardian of borders and an upholder of
laws. I am, and will always be, a faithful servant of Thaere and its
protectorates."

The rifle bounced on the bunk when Kulkis dropped it and stood, spinning,
to face the enlisted man.

"How do you defend?" he snapped. "You protect, you serve, you watch, you
guard - - all of these things you do, how are they different than nothing at
all?" He leaned closer. His breath stank of rotten meat and sour milk. "How do
you defend?"

Nightwing didn't blink. "I defend by actively pursuing those who would
harm others." He swallowed. "May I speak freely?"

"I am soldier, like you. Say what you want, soldier."

He took a deep breath. "If you know someone wants to kill you, you don't
wait for them to try. You kill them first. If you know someone wants to harm
the people or the place you're sworn to protect, you take the fight to them.
It's very simple. You defend what you must defend by actively pursuing those
who would do it harm." That was what they'd taught him in the Academy, and it
made sense. If you could identify a threat, you dealt with it. The best
defense was always offense. Always.

Kulkis tapped a thick-soled boot on the floor. "I wait," he said.

"For what?" He regretted the question almost immediately as he saw anger
flash through the Nikto's black eyes.

"I wait," Kulkis growled, "for you to speak truth." He jabbed a finger
into Nightwing's shoulder. "You parrot words you hear from officers, from
instructors. You know what instructors know?" He poked again. Nightwing took a
step back. "Instructors know to teach. This is all.
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