“Marcus, are you cheating again?” Lucius asked the burlier man.
The other shook his head in outrage.
“I never cheat—”
“You cheated during our last hand five minutes ago,” Lucius immediately interrupted him.
“Well, you didn’t want to split the deck of cards. It’s not my fault for taking advantage of my good shuffling technique,” Marcus chuckled.
“Sure, if with ‘good shuffling technique’ you mean trying to hog the aces on the bottom of the deck and putting them in your hand,” Lucius groaned.
In response, as it usually happened, Lucius only got a big smile.
Lucius and Marcus had never been that close. They had had very different jobs.
Lucius had been a remote analyst for data systems, choosing to live in St. Peter because his wife was from there. Marcus, instead, had had all sorts of jobs, from truck driver to handyman and plumber, which had been his last one. The man knew how to fix things and was, for all Lucius was reluctant to admit, very ‘street-smart’.
And if Lucius had to point out one incredible quality of Marcus, he was a…
“Leader!” came calling one of Marcus’s recruits who had been waiting in St. Peter while they conducted the extermination expedition.
“Oi! I’m busy, what’s up?” Marcus didn’t even look up from his cards. His subordinate didn’t question the behavior for a second and just spit out what he came for: “We have completed the reckon, no monsters were found in the Black Forest above the Intermediate Stage of the Cockroach realm.”
“Good, good! Now, Jacob needed help with setting up the new Demonic Boar farm! Go help him! He said he will give us the meat first if we do!”
“Sure, leader!” the man saluted Marcus and started running away. Literally running.
Lucius had observed the scene as he had done all the other times. How Marcus could command so much respect was still partially a mystery to him.
It was true that Marcus was courageous and had intervened multiple times to save these people's lives, but that couldn’t possibly be enough to gather all his men’s blind faith.
“Lucius, you are creeping me out,” Marcus shifted on the chair too small for his large size.
“I don’t understand how you do that,” Lucius shook his head.
“Sit?” Marcus looked at the chair, indeed way too small to fit him. “I don’t know, and you have to shift your weight on the legs to avoid cracking the more fragile chairs, you know? It’s not that easy, I’ll tell you that; and it takes practice too! I broke my fair share of chairs. But don’t worry, you are skinny; you shouldn’t be worried about cracking chairs!”
“Marcus, I’m talking about how those subordinates of yours follow your orders like that,” Lucius pointed out.
“Oh! Yeah, I was surprised you would worry about chairs. You are wayyyy too skinny to—”
“I got the point, you oaf. How do you get those people to follow whatever you say like that? You don’t have to repeat yourself twice,” Lucius cut Marcus off.
“Oh!” Marcus scratched his chin. “You just think too much, and you got the worst possible people as subordinates. I would never get those ball-busters, to be honest.”
“What do you mean? My team is made very smart people,” Lucius got offended by Marcus assertion.
“Ball-busters, you mean,” Marcus laughed. “The only trick is that I go to my men, tell them what to do, and they do it. If someone complains, they get a spanking. No one thinks too much once you show you are fair to them. Whenever they ask me for a favor, they get it. And that’s because they behave. And they know that. I know that. If they push it, I kick their asses. No one questions my orders. If I have doubts, I go ask Jacob what to do, and he gives me the ‘smarty-pants’ suggestion. If your subordinates ask questions at every twist and turn, they become unmanageable. It’s like military service. Have you done it?”
“Ah! I knew it! Too much of a softie to be a soldier!” Marcus laughed out loud. “Did you get out with one of those fake foot problems?”
Lucius nodded, embarrassed.
“Well, I got into the place. Whenever someone messed with me, I’d put them against a wall if I could, or I just took it if they were too big of a fish to act tough with. You learn a lot while serving in the military. You are forced to rely on people and speak to them. And if you think I’m dumb, trust me, you just have high standards. I’m Albert Einstein compared to some people I know.”
Lucius kept silent, pondering on what Marcus had just said. It physically hurt him that what the huge man had just said was one of the most intelligent things he had ever even thought of. Lucius was not that good with people, he just got along. Marcus, instead, seemed to have a very instinctive understanding of how to navigate social situations.
“Do you think you could straighten up the three ball-busters under me? What if we merged forces. You take care of the man, I can take care of some of the ‘smarty-pants’ things. I already file down your Contribution Points reports and scouting missions, anyway.”
“Peachy,” Marcus said with a big smile while putting down a poker of aces.
“Well, looks like someone just lost all his next week’s pork, huh?” Marcus added, gloating. They had been playing for food.
Lucius looked at him non-plussed and slowly put down his hand.
“Marcus, how can you have the ace of hearts and spades if I have them in my hand?”
Marcus looked at Lucius’s hand and scratched his head. Well, cheating with his partner wasn’t that easy. He was indeed going to need Lucius for the ‘smarty-pants’ stuff, wasn’t he?