Energia

Chapter 15: The Perfect Operative (Energia: Titans of Verità)

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

As the judges hoisted her opponent away over a shoulder, Anna slogged back to her place in the stands. Her adrenaline began to fade, giving way for clear thought once again. Though the pounding in her head was eager to deprive her of that.

She noticed that her E-Suit had become more difficult to move in than it was before like she was wearing clothes a few sizes too big. But she dismissed it as her imagination. These things could take a torpedo head-on without a scratch! It couldn’t have been damaged!

Down in the arena, the next fight started, though Anna wouldn’t have noticed if it didn’t send her hair into a frenzy. She wasn’t paying any attention. Between the buzzing in her muscles and the satisfaction of her victory, her mind was somewhere else entirely.

Without thinking, Anna returned to her seat beside Eitan and Tommy. They both regarded her with a nod, though Eitan’s plain expression greatly contrasted with Tommy’s toothy grin. How could someone so handsome be so far away from charming?

“Congratulations!” the American said, peering around Eitan to look at her. “I’d say it was a good match, but I could hardly tell. So I’m just going to assume that it was a nice fight.”

Eitan looked at him and frowned. “You’re an honest one, aren’t you?” he asked.

Tommy shrugged. “It’s part of my charm!”

Part of her wondered if she’d be disqualified if she hit him. But before she could find out, she noticed a figure approach in front of her. There, smiling from ear to ear, stood Alexander Frolov. He towered over her, bathing her in his shadow. His hair whipped at the lashing winds behind him, but he didn’t seem to notice. She couldn’t tell what it was she saw in his eyes. Was that hunger?

Both Tommy and Eitan went quiet when they spotted him. They stared up at him, clear tension in their eyes. They almost seemed ready to pounce him, as if he were holding up a bomb to them. Anna couldn’t blame them. She was ready to do the same thing.

“That was good fight,” he said, struggling to speak in smooth English. “Not impressive. But good.”

Anna frowned. Was he up to something? “Thank you,” she said dryly.

“We will fight next.” He said as he took the empty seat beside her. “I wish to talk before we do.”

“Talk?” she repeated. “That’s surprising. You don’t strike me as a conversationalist.”

He chuckled. “ That is fair. Well, I am here less to talk. More warn.”

Now that is what I was expecting. Anna thought.

“You are clearly good candidate for this job.” he continued. “If anyone here deserves job, it is you. But you will not beat me. I want to tell you that, so you know to look good when I win. That way, you still get job.”

Had he told her that before, she would have been intimidated. But the rush given to her by the E-Suit made her feel invincible. So long as she was in this thing, no threat would be able to frighten her. Now, all she could do was smile. “What makes you so sure you can win? I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’m pretty strong myself! For all you know, you’re the one that-”

“I’m going to win.” He persisted with clear confidence. “There is no doubt.”

“Oh?” she smirked. “Well, you’ll have to forgive me for having reservations. I’ve seen how good you are. But so long as I’m in this thing” she flexed her fingers, letting the buzz of the E-Suit’s power resonate between her and him “I can keep up. I can beat anyone. Even you.”

The battle below came to an end, though she only noticed thanks to the ceasing of the wind. To her right, one of the combatants returned to the stands. Though something made her doubt he was that bruised and tired when he had left.

“You are good.” He repeated again. “But I was born for this. Raised to be this. I train all day for all days to be this. Father has never let me be anything else. You can never beat me.”

She was about to ask what he was talking about, but she froze mid-sentence. Of course, she realized. How did I not see it earlier? He’s from an Operative Family!

Order was well known for its high barrier to entry. Out of all the jobs offered by modern society, this one was easily the hardest to get into. As such, it was one of the highest paying jobs anyone could have. This lure was enough to attract the attention of everyone living in the modern age to the job. But not everyone was good enough to work for Order. So, rather than going for it themselves, they do the next best thing: raise a kid to do it for them.

In these families, the children were raised from birth to work for Order. Often times, they’d be put through excruciating physical training, forced to lose sleep in order to study, and deprived of any social activity. Very rarely did one of these children attend a public school. They spent their whole lives being forged into the greatest Operatives alive. Which they often were.

These Operatives only became stronger as time went on. The success of the first Order child would bring the family great wealth and comfort. Then they’d train their next child to do the same. Thus, the cycle continued with no end in sight.

Anna was well aware that these families existed. Her father had always been paranoid that her mother would have made them into one when she was still alive. But she hadn’t considered that she’d run into a member of these families would stand in her way.

Luckily, she hadn’t heard of the Frolov family, which must mean that they were a newer family. If she had to face down one of the more well-known families, like the Kurosaki or Camping families, she’d be in even more trouble. If she had to face one of those families, not even an E-Suit would be able to close the gap between them.

Excitement rose in her chest. An opponent like this was the perfect way to test her new power. This was going to be more fun than she thought! “Sounds like you come from a rough background.” She pointed to the scars that lined her face. “But I’ve had it hard too. Just getting here was a nightmare! So, to be frank, I don’t care where you came from. I’m beating you.”

Alex looked at her, wide-eyed for the first time since they’d met. She could feel the eyes of the other onlookers staring at her. She thought she could hear Tommy and Eitan’s jaws dropping behind her. Don’t worry about them, she told herself. Right now, this guy is your only problem right now.

After a long moment of silence between them, Alex spoke again. “Your confidence is misplaced.” He stood up, chuckling. “But it is admirable. I look forward to testing it.” With that, he returned to his seat and returned his eyes to the arena, where the next match was starting.

Her eyes drifted down to the battlefield. The two beside her said something, but they seemed quiet and distant. The floor of the battlefield had changed dramatically over the course of the last fight. Before, it was a smooth sheen of black lined with blue energy. Now, the metal was scarred with long, deep cuts, several holes, some as small as a boot and others as large as a boulder. The next two fighters, both men armed with metal practice swords, assumedly given to them by the judges for the match, had just started their match. Once again, they quickly became a sightless blur almost as soon as their swords collided.

Hurry up already, she thought, tapping her finger in a quick beat against her forearm. I want to fight again, dammit! Let me beat that smug bastard down!

The next few matches went by in a blur. The two swordsmen went back and forth, rapidly chipping away at each other’s armor. The fight came to an end when one man, a Chinese fellow with a long, dull katana, lost the armpiece of his armor. His opponent, an English man with a long, thin blade, was declared the winner.

After them came another man wielding an Asian blade, though this one was Japanese. His opponent slipped large red gloves onto his armored hands as he walked, giving a nod towards Anna’s direction. To her side, Tommy raised his hand and shouted something. He must have come from the American Sector with him. Their match was just as brief, with the American quickly claiming victory over the swordsman.

“With that, the first round is over!” Melcroft announced from across the room as the judges dragged the loser’s body away. “But don’t think we’re taking a break! We’re going straight into round two!”

Both Eitan and Tommy stiffened beside her. She shot them a glance, nearly asking what was wrong. Then she remembered.

“Contestants Eitan Avidan and Tommy Decker, please make your way down to the ring!” Melcroft stood and clapped, announcing the match as if it were a game show. The other judges shot her a glare beneath their visors. Was she still trying to get under their skin? Anna was starting to think that she was more annoying than she was clever.

Tommy stood up first, then held out a hand to Eitan. “Let’s have a good fight, alright?” he said. It sounded like the most genuine thing he had said to either of them.

Eitan stared at his hand for a moment, then clasped it in his own. “You can focus on the fighting,” he said with a plain expression. “I’ll be focused on winning.”

The American cocked an eyebrow. “Oho! You do have a personality!” His grin widened. “This’ll be more fun than I thought!”

With that, the two men made their way down to the arena and took a stance across from one another. Eitan was just as unprepared as before, with a weak stance that left his chest wide open. Tommy, on the other hand, had a tight defense, using his arms to guard his chest and firmly planting his feet. His grin seemed almost condescending.

Possibilities ran through Anna’s head. Eitan was definitely the weaker and less skilled of the two, but his quick wits could make up for that. On the other hand, Tommy’s free-spirited nature could make him unpredictable, which was a very dangerous boon to have in a fight. Combine that with his clearly greater physical stature, and this fight seemed heavily stacked in the American’s favor.

But she desperately wanted to fight Eitan over Tommy, so she leaned her predictions in Eitan’s favor.

The disappointment she felt when the fight began tasted worse than coffee powder. Tommy bound in on Eitan instantly, forcing him onto the defensive against a silver whirlwind. He tried to slip out from the American’s barrage, doing his best to deflect and roll out of the way with blurred hands. But Tommy didn’t give him even a moment to breath. Eventually, Eitan’s breastplate shattered like glass against Tommy’s fist, sending the man flying across the room. He didn’t get back up.

Anna swallowed the bitter lump of disappointment. Well, at least she’d get to beat up the American. She wondered if breaking the gorgeous art piece that was his face would make her feel bad. Something made her doubt it.

Then, after a deep breath, Melcroft shouted the magic words. “Applicants Alexander Frolov and Anna Ironchase! Step forward for the next match!”

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