It wasn’t the RED Sniper’s business to do anything but his job and the occasional favor that fell outside the terms of his disclaimer-filled contract. And though he pondered the logic of creating advertisements for an organization that valued secrecy to the point of paranoia, he figured the higher-ups had their reasons. So, like the rest of the team, he let the camera man follow him around for a week while he made small talk about what he did for a living and didn’t think much about it afterward—except, of course, nobody on either side of the field would let him live down the fact that his phone calls home weren’t edited out of post processing, and after the video heralding the RED Spy’s exploits became public, his BLU counterpart decided that the Sniper could use a matching scar. Still, until the recruits started pouring in as a result of these videos, life consisted of the same routines.

From his own experience, and what he heard while chatting up the others, RED had approached each member of this particular team on an individual basis, offering them lucrative deals in exchange for lending their services to the company; he didn’t pay much attention to what was going on outside of his assigned locale, but every once in a while one or more of the team—including himself—would be shipped elsewhere to lend support to another group, and the difference in quality both as told in second-hand accounts and seen with his own eyes was obvious. But the other teams at least had some semblance of professional experience even if they didn’t have matching job titles in their resumes. Then the promotional campaigns began running every summer, and they were soon inundated by countless fresh-faced Civilians—kids younger than even the Scout, if the first wave of excited wannabes that spilled out of the train were any indication, being the rule rather than the exception—all of them wanting a chance at becoming what they saw on the telly.

Most of them didn’t last too long. A significant chunk of them threw a hissy fit and stomped right back on the train they came in on when they found out they’d be confined to their own quarters until they passed the rigorous training regimens. Another large percentage wussed out when the physical demands laid on them proved to be too much for physiques that were much more used to the typical American middle class lifestyle. Many of those who managed to pass that hurdle balked at the idea of pointing a weapon at an actual live human being. Precious few ever made it all the way through the gauntlet, and those who did just fell into the same patterns of personality common to each class. Still, with both sides being manned by so many under-qualified members, the Sniper found his workload rising at an exponential rate.

Things got all the worse when policy shifted to allow females onto the team as full-on mercenaries pulling the same income and authority as the men if they could earn it, not just as staff or to satisfy certain desires. The men were split in opinion: some welcomed the change, seeing it as an opportunity to demonstrate their sexual prowess; some fought it every waking moment, considering the presence of women on the battlefield in combat positions a complete affront to their way of life; some were indifferent, carrying on as before. The Sniper tried to be among those who couldn’t give a toss, but whenever he was called in to be the shooting instructor for these new potential teammates he found himself tempted to renounce all women. The ones who weren’t throwing themselves at him, expecting things to proceed like a harlequin novel, were hostile man-haters who considered themselves superior to the male half of the species in every way. To his relief, the harsh realities of what it took to work in the kinds of environments the Sniper had long ago gotten accustomed to eliminated all but the most dedicated potentials, and those had the good sense to treat their employment as actual jobs.

The waves of newcomers continued, and whenever enthusiasm for sign-ups waned some new promotion campaign would start up. It was getting ridiculous what some people were willing to kill and die for—the Sniper heard from one of the trainees that he’d signed up over a giveaway hat, of all things.