Energia

Chapter 4: Good Luck Charm (Energia: Titans of Verità)

Energia: Titans of Verità
Table of Contents (For Catching Up)

Lucas gently ushered a still-shocked Anna through the door at the end of the hall. Morning sunlight assaulted her senses. The aching in her back had subsided, replaced now by the exhausted burning of her chest. It took her a moment until she could fully take in the sights of the Central Sector.

Whereas the architecture from the German Sector was built to look the same as it would back home, the Central Sector had no such identity. Each building was a simple tower of plain white, gray and black metals, all of which coursed with the same blue energy that coursed through the hallway. The familiar shadows of the walls bathed the entire Sector in a comfortable shade. A gentle crowd of people passed along the gently curving paths, carrying out their daily routines. A man stood in the middle of the street, crying out about the new gods. They had those here too?

“See? Like I told you.” Lucas sighed, waving a hand at the area around them. “Dull.”

Anna ignored him. She took a deep breath of the bitter air in hopes that it would calm her nerves. Was this real? She wondered. Did she really pull that off? Or did she split her skull on the floor, and now she was having a lovely dream that everything had gone right.

A light tap on her shoulder brought her back down to reality. “Hello? Still in there, kid?”

She started. “Y-yes sir!” her arms stiffened into an awkward salute.

His face twisted into a grimace. “Ugh. Don’t do that.” He gestured at her arms vaguely before pushing them down himself. “I’m not the Top Operative. I’m just another guy running around in a mechanical suit of armor, nothing special. Knock that off.” He started down the street. “Now, you’d better get a move on. The test is in an hour, and I’m willing to bet that the German authorities aren’t just going to let you go. Daylight’s going to waste!”

Her legs got the message before her brain did, and she and started after him. “Hey! Hold on a second!”

He turned to face her, still walking as he spoke. “For someone with so little time on your hands, you sure do seem to enjoy wasting time. Frankly, I’d be running right now if I were you.”

“I still have an hour!”

“See the first point: the German police force. As soon as they find out you’re not where you need to be, they’ll be rushing straight through the gate to drag you back. You have no idea how much time you have.”

She knew he was right. If she left now, she’d get to Order HQ in time, and she wouldn’t have to worry about anything until the test started. But a question still burned in her mind. One that would likely eat away at her all day if she didn’t get an answer. “Why are you helping me?” she demanded suddenly, finding herself again. “I mean, you’re basically helping a German criminal! Doesn’t that make you just as guilty?”

Lucas shrugged nonchalantly. “Maybe. But it won’t be a problem so long as you pass.” He turned back to face where he was going, just avoiding bumping into a couple as he did so. “Oh, sorry. My bad. Won’t happen again.” he bowed as they passed. “Now, where was I?”

Anna took a slow breath in a hopeful attempt to calm her frustration. She only succeeded in one of those efforts. Though the temptation to slap the man in front of her still lingered. “You were explaining why you’re helping me.” She reminded him.

“Right!” he snapped his fingers triumphantly as if he were the one who reminded him. “Well, it’s simple: you show promise. To be honest, Order is a little understaffed in Unity. That’s why they had me transferred from the Jupiter colony. We need all the help we can get. I’m confident that you would be an exceptional Operative. Though your luck does seem a little… well, awful. Speaking of which!” he tugged the rabbit’s foot from his neck and tossed it over his shoulder. “Catch.”

If Anna were even a second too slow, the foot would have rolled onto the ground. It was very soft to the touch. She couldn’t help but run her fingers along its surface. “What’s this for?”

“Good luck. Don’t you know what a rabbit’s foot means?”

“A dead rabbit?”

He laughed. “A bit morbid, but I suppose that’s accurate.” They took a turn onto the central street of the city. Traffic flowed slowly down the straight roads, turning onto the slimmer curved paths towards the distant corners of the Sector. Further down the road, a massive building in the shape of a simple dome towered above everything else, save only the walls. Lucas pointed at it. “If you want to work there, then you’ll need everything you can get. Luck included.”

She rolled the fuzzy severed appendage between her fingers. There was something oddly comforting about it. “Are you okay with giving it away? Isn’t it important? Like a gift from a family member or something?

“Nah. To be honest, I just bought it from a flea market for ten credits. Made for a pretty sweet bargain, if you ask me!”

The comfort vanished instantly.

“Just put it in your pocket or something.” Lucas continued. “Trust me, you won’t even notice-”

“IRONCHASE!!” a familiar voice echoed from behind them. It was very loud, equally gruff, and unmistakably German. Anna quickly scanned the crowds behind her; there, pushing through everyone else like a bull in a river, was the German police chief. His eyes were wide and frenzied, and his veins bulged in his forehead. “WHERE ARE YOU?!” he wavered between his native language and English, though he managed to maintain the latter coherently.

“Charming fellow, isn’t he?” Lucas remarked. He pulled Anna back behind him and stepped towards the oncoming human siren. “You seriously need to get going now, kid. I’ll buy you a couple of minutes. Run to the dome, follow the crowd, and fill out the paperwork as quickly as possible. Oh, and make sure you put down that I recommended you! That way, I won’t lose my job when you pass!”

For a moment, Anna hesitated. Things often went wrong during her escapades. But they’ve never turned around and started going right again. This couldn’t be real… could it?

Reality fell on her head like a piano. This was real. Her dream was just down the street. If she could just get there, leave everything and everyone else in her dust, then she would finally have the life her mother had. The life she had always wanted. If she had that, then she’d finally find the truth. All she had to do was run.

Which is exactly what she did. Her legs once again flew into auto-pilot mode, carrying her towards the distant, growing dome. Behind her, she could hear the fading shouts of the Chief’s fury, as well as the loud, obviously sarcastic attempts at distraction given by Lucas. She pushed past several people on her way there, some who simply grunted and others who gave loud cries of protest. They all reached her ears, then disappeared with the roaring winds. Of all the words that whipped past her, only one sentence stuck with her. “Chief!” it called in a German accent. “I see her! She’s on the move!”

Cursing, Anna willed her legs to run faster. She could hear them all around her now, slowly closing her into a noose. One man suddenly tried to grab her, locking his fingers around her jacket. Losing no momentum, Anna simply let the jacket slip off of her, leaving a still and confused officer with an empty frame of leather. It was fine enough weather for a tank top and jeans anyways.

A sliver of her thinking returned to her, and she began weaving a quick and desperate plan. She lowered her head, hiding her head in the swarm of people. Behind her, she could hear her pursuers arguing among themselves, debating as to where she had gone. But she had little time to listen in.

The dome building grew larger as Anna approached. From this distance, she could make out more of its details. Curved pathways lined the outside of the glass, carrying several distant figures on their ways to their work. Everything further in was hidden by a light blue veil. She was eager to tear it away.

“WHERE ARE YOU, IRONCHASE?!” the Chief’s voice hollered over the crowd again.

She bolted out of the crowds, coming out into a wide-open plaza. Ignoring her weeping lungs, which painfully begged for a moment of respite, Anna dashed past a pair of fountains, past a small flight of stairs, and straight through the doors of Order HQ.

The front room was filled to the brim with other would-be candidates for the exams, leaving only enough space for Anna to slip in at the very edge. They all moved intently around the front desk into a wide, open area behind it. A young woman stood atop the desk, waving in both directions and shouting in a British accent. Her blonde hair was tied in a large bun behind her. Her emerald green eyes darted all over the place as if trying to keep track of everyone in the room. “No pushing! There’s plenty of space for all of you!” she assured the eager youths. “The written portion isn’t going anywhere!”

Anna bit her lower lip. Even if she waited for the closest possible table, which still had seven people waiting in front of her, she may not have the time to fill out the forms. She eyed the glass doors warily. At any moment, her pursuers could burst through them, shouting her name over the excited murmurs of the other candidates. Her fate was completely out of her hands now; all she could do was hope. The thought drove her up the wall.

Her eyes darted around the room nervously. Large metal doors locked them all from the rest of the building on either side, and a pair of similar roadblocks waited at the top of the spiraling stairs, which there were two of in each corner of the room. Crowded benches lined each wall of the room, carrying dozens of potential Operatives who had already finished their digital paperwork.

On the second floor, walkways ringed the room, leaving a wide-open gap from which a casual observer could watch those beneath them. She thought she could see someone doing just that. But the lights obscured whoever it was from her vision. All she could make out was a dark silhouette.

She slowly shifted forward in the line. When only one person remained in front of her, she felt her heart soar again. Just a little longer, she thought. But just as quickly as it had taken off, it came crashing back down in a ball of fire. The Chief, along with four other boys in blue, came storming into the room. “IRONCHASE!!” screamed the Chief in a course, exhausted voice.

The buzz in the hall died. Anna felt her hopes sink in her chest. There were only a few heads between her and a pair of handcuffs. She considered shoving ahead and taking the desk for herself, regardless of who was left in her way but dismissed the thought. That would only sign her death warrant. At the very least, she wanted to delay the inevitable.

The person in front of her swiped forward on the holo-screen, sending his digital forms away, and he stepped off. A sudden flame filled the hollow space left behind by her sinking organs. She darted forward, briefly scanned over the digital sheet of information and rapidly began filling in the blanks. All she needed was one minute. Sweat slickened her fingers, and her shaking hands made typing difficult, even on the holographic keys. But she continued to persevere, even as the officers pushed through the sea of youths and into the testing hall. She filled in the empty space for ‘references’ with Lucas’s name, and…

A powerful grip dug into her arm as she slid the form away from her. “There you are!” the Chief’s coarse voice hissed in her ear. “Do you get off on breaking the law, or are you just stupid?!” he threw a familiar piece of black leather onto the table, grabbed her other arm, and pushed her onto the table with a painful thud! He reached to his belt and withdrew a simple pair of handcuffs.

Anna flailed against his grasp, desperately trying to find a way out. She screamed, demanded him to let go, and even went so far as to try kicking him and reducing his already slim chances of having another kid to nothing. But his grip was firm, and her aim was far. At her side, she could see another officer readying his taser. Tears stung the corners of her eyes. She was so close…

“Excuse me, gentlemen.” A refined Russian voice spoke beside her and the Chief. “Is there a problem here?”

Everything in the room came to a stop. People turned to watch the scene, and a collective gasp rippled through the crowd. Anna turned her head on the table to see what the commotion was about. She too let out a small gasp.

The man was tall, lean and sharp in stature. He was clad in thin white armor, the gaps of which glowed with a yellow light. The sigil of Order was etched in gold on his right shoulder and shone with a dim aura of the same color. He had a thin face with a long, pointed nose. His hair was short, well combed and black as night. His eyes gleamed with a crystal blue glow. His gaze was firm, powerful, cold, and locked firmly on her and the Chief.

Any aspiring Order Operative knew who this was, and Anna was no exception. This man was Jakob Milldrew. The greatest Operative to ever live, and Order’s current head in command.

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