"No," I admitted, a well-practiced laugh escaping me. "But I share your sentiment." Confusion crossed his face only long enough for to open my mouth. He nodded and smiled again; catches on fast. "Please, continue. I'd like to hear your account of what happened. It's very interesting so far."
That touched on his pride. Another good thing to get people to open up. Make them feel more worthy than they really are. Compliments are good for that.
"Well, see, we ended up bein' stationed near the line. It wasn't easy, you know? We all knew that eventually those mutants would break through, destroy the town, then head our way. The lieutenant... he wasn't too good about keepin' secrets like that. He was scared, and let thin's slip."
"Were you scared, Jim?" I had to work to make myself sound as pleasant as possible. Just curious about his story.
"Yeah," he said slowly. "Yeah, I was. But that made me mad, too. I saw guys more scared than me, and they weren't even recitin' the fear incantation. That's what made me mad. I said it out loud once and only once. That's all I needed. The other guys... They didn't know, you know? After that, I set myself to work. I ain't no heretic, and if the guys in charge aren't gonna give me somethin' to do, then by the Emperor, I'm gonna find somethin' myself." He paused for a moment, lookin' like he had just caught himself. "Now, I ain't sayin' that the Commissar wasn't doin' his duty, mind you. He was givin' speeches, marchin' through the ranks, makin' sure everybody knew that we were fightin'. For the Emperor, for our homes, for humanity. Those that looked like they were gonna change their minds about bein' guardsmen... Well, they were found wantin'."
"I understand," I said reassuringly. "There was a report from that Commissar, however, that a young recruit showed an aptitude for defensive fortification."