You poor kid. “I’m sorry,” Janet said softly. “You knew them?” Fourteen out of forty-eight, what the heck is a raid – oh god. She just lost a third of her friends. Damn it, kid, go ahead and cry.
Asuna swallowed, and jerked her head in a too-familiar nod.
“I had to know that, and you had to tell me.” That’s not a friend. That’s… it can’t be what it looks like. She’s too young to be commanding anyone!
“Most of the clearers know each other,” Asuna said, voice almost steady. She glanced at the redhead, and nodded.
He gave Asuna a sympathetic smile, then stuck fingers in his mouth for a chaos-piercing whistle. “Oi! Min’na-san! Find your party members, let’s get a headcount! Then check in with your guild. Make sure nobody’s still stuck.” He nodded toward the black man. “Merchants on Agil. Knights, your vice-commander’s deputized me for right now. Fuurinkazan… eh, what’m I saying, can’t lose you guys if I tried, we have got to get a pizza later-”
That drew grins from the five young men who’d held the perimeter. Interesting. Atsugi? Janet wondered. Does he mean Japan, or our base there? I think there were a couple Marines who got caught in the game… oh. I think we just found them.
Which made things even more bewildering, if they had. What was a Marine doing letting a girl take the lead?
“Everybody who wasn’t in the raid….” The redhead shrugged. “Eh, stuff happened, we’ll go over the details later.” He bounced a little in place. “And in case anybody missed that-”
“Japanese,” Daniel blurted out, as the redhead broke into a swift staccato of words. “That’s why it sounded so weird! The vocabulary’s Abydonian, I think… but the grammar’s Japanese.” He hesitated. “Sort of?”
“Stuff happened?” Sam exclaimed. “Fourteen people are dead. How can you say that?”
“We knew the raid was going to be dangerous. Thirty-eight hundred people have died, ma’am.” Agil crossed his arms with a grim finality. “It’s been a long two years.”
Asuna took a step forward, focused on their archaeologist. “What is Abydonian?”
“Better question,” Jack put in, relaxed as if he dealt with thousands of confused people every day. “Where’d your friend Kirigaya go?”