"Dude," Hunk says, as Lance pulls him into line. "You've been to like, seven of these things already."
"Twelve," Lance corrects. "A few times each."
Lance grins up at his friend. "I'm getting better though. And they don't care so long as it's a different person at the desk every time. They don't know how many times I've been."
"They take your name down," Hunk points out.
"Yeah, but like, they don't check it or anything. They're not keeping track."
"I'm... pretty sure they are," Hunk says uncomfortably, but he falls in line behind Lance anyway.
"Gonna try it too, then?" Lance says as he cranes up over the line, trying to get a look at the tent at the head of the line—and, more importantly, the simulator next to it.
"Nope. The first three times were plenty for me, thanks."
"You don't have to stick around, you know," he says, turning back with a tiny pang of guilt.
Hunk shrugs. "Lance, you're my friend, and I support you and your life decisions, even if one of those decisions is climbing into one of those death machines for the thirtieth time."
Lance grins. "Thanks man."
The line moves agonizingly slowly. Lance and Hunk creep forward with it, Hunk prodding at his phone and Lance squinting at the screens half-hidden in the tent. As he gets closer he can finally see the displays; one screen on the simulator pilot, the other two on what they're seeing.
"These things are just excuses for military recruiters to send you junk mail, you know," Hunk mutters as they finally get to the front of the line.
"Dude, I don't even care," Lance mutters back. "I'm so ready to punch some aliens."
"And if they pull you aside? No one knows where those people end up, you know."
"Because it involves top-secret alien punching! Obviously!"
And then the girl ahead stumbles out of the simulator, and it's Lance's turn.
"Been in one of these before?" the assistant asks him with a chuckle when he rattles off his info and bounces on his heels, ready to go.
"Yeah," he says, trying to keep his voice even. The assistant gestures him in with a smile that makes him think it hasn't worked, but it doesn't matter—he's in. He straps himself down eagerly and waits as a computerized voice rattles off instructions, gripping the controls.
"Start!" the voice blares, and off he goes.
The simulator shakes beneath him, simulating heavy footfalls as he pilots his imaginary mecha through a deserted city. The simulations are randomized, so he doesn't know where the kaiju will come from—but he does know what to look for, and more importantly, what to listen for. So when a roar sounds behind him, he turns fast enough to face its source before it reaches him.
"Let's go!" he yells, and meets the kaiju head on.
"So, Hunk," the intern at the table in the tent says quietly, as Hunk watches his friend enthusiastically defeat CG monsters. "How many times are you gonna bring your friend around?"
"It was his idea," he says. "Believe me, I have tried to discourage him."
She chuckles. "So he's not a good candidate?"
"No, he is! I just... don't want him to get involved."
Her voice lowers to a whisper. "He's caught their attention, you know. I mean, he's on the record as trying the simulator thirty-two times. If you don't want him to join up, I can pretend I didn't notice, let him slip by this time..."
Hunk swallows, and shakes his head. "He really wants this. I'm not gonna stand in his way."
"Alright." She smiles, and starts gathering up the proper forms, and something heavy settles in Hunk's stomach as he wonders if he's made the right decision.
By the time the SIMULATION OVER screen displays, Lance has defeated four kaiju, only to be defeated by the fifth—a new record for him. He slips out of the machine proudly, to a smattering of applause; the line claps for everyone, it's just what you do for these things, but it still feels good.
"Hunk!" he exclaims. "Did you see that! That right hook I pulled, the one that knocked the thing back—"
"I saw," Hunk interrupts, then nods to the girl at the desk as the other assistant briefs the next person in line.
"Lance, is it?" she says with a smile. "Why don't you come with me?" She stands with a handful of papers in her hands, and Lance freezes. It's happening? It's really happening?
"Dude, go," Hunk whispers in his ear, giving him a little push, and Lance realizes he's been staring.
"Right!" he says, and follows the girl into the back of the tent.