Energia, Web Novel

Chapter 18: A Stiff Good-Bye

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

Packing her things took Anna longer than she’d admit. Not because she had a lot of stuff. Aside from her small stack of clothes, an old family photo, and her mother’s old notes, scrawled across hundreds of sheets of paper, she had little to take with her. If she hadn’t stopped to check her pocket every five minutes, she likely would’ve been done within an hour. But she had to keep checking. An overwhelming, illogical paranoia drove her to. She had to make sure that her new badge was still there.

She still couldn’t believe it. After everything that had happened, she’d managed to become an official Order Operative! It felt like she was in a dream, one that she could wake up from inside a jail cell. Each time she ran her fingers over the gentle curves of the golden Order emblem in her pocket, she feared that it would somehow vanish. But it stayed, sitting right next to the rabbit’s foot, firmly reminding her that this was reality. Maybe that little charm really was good luck.

A knock came at her door. It was very soft, almost inaudible, but it was still enough to make her jump. She hadn’t heard anyone come in. “Anna?” a soft, tired voice said from the hallway, muffled by the wooden barrier between them. “Are you in there?”

When she finally got her heart rate back under control, Anna felt herself smile. She dashed over to the door and flung it open. Standing in the hall was a tall, spindly man dressed in a white and red suit. His head was covered by a thick mop of unruly black hair, which descended low enough to cover his forehead. He clearly hadn’t shaved for several days. Dark rings outlined his dark brown eyes. Still, messy as he was, it made her happy to see him. Her father wasn’t home very often anymore.

He smiled down at her. “Oh, good!” he said with a sigh of relief. “Knowing you, I thought you’d be gone already! Or spending the night in a jail cell.”

Well I thought you’d be spending the next week behind a desk. Anna thought, annoyed with that last comment. You don’t hear me saying it! “Thanks for the confidence, Dad.” She said, crossing her arms. “Glad to know you were rooting for me.”

Her father chuckled. “C’mon! I knew you would pass!” he frowned. “You did pass, right?”

It was her turn to smile. She reached into her pocket and, with a dramatic flash, presented her badge. His jaw dropped at the sight of it. There was a gleam in his eyes that seemed to dispel his exhaustion. She could feel her chest inflate. That gaze of pride alone made it all worth it.

Just as quickly as it brightened, her father’s face became dark. “Just like your mother… So, you’re one of them now?”

Anna deflated. You should have seen this coming. She thought bitterly, stomping out the last bit of her excitement. She pulled the badge back and hid it in her pocket, then turned back to her packing. All she had left to pack were a few shirts, which she had carefully chosen from her drawer of favorites. The sooner she was out of there, the better; she knew all too well where this was going.

“You’re sure about this?” her father asked. “You’re sure you’re sure about this?”

Here it comes. She considered staying quiet and waiting for the storm to pass, but she knew that wouldn’t work. Now that he was on the topic, he wouldn’t drop it. May as well speak her mind. “I’m sure.” She said, trying not to sound annoyed or angry and likely failing in the effort. I know what the story is about Mom, but I don’t believe it. If no one is going to tell me the truth, then I’ll just find it myself! The words formed on her lips, but she swallowed them back down. That would only make things worse.

“I mean, I can respect going into public service!” her father said. “But I feel like there are better-”

Safer.

“-jobs that you could go into! Have you ever considered maintenance? That one would be good! You get to see the other Sectors, help people out, and get paid! Oh! If you really want some action, you could join the police!” he paused. “I guess that wouldn’t work out, huh?”

Anna stuffed her last piece into her suitcase and snapped it shut. “You forgot that I had a criminal record, didn’t you?” she couldn’t help but ask.

“Maybe.” He admitted, rubbing his eyes with a sigh. “Listen, sweetie, would you please reconsider? I don’t like the idea of you going outside the walls and fighting those monsters! Remember what it did to your mother?” her father froze, his eyes going wide as he realized his mistake. “Sorry.”

A familiar bubble of heat grew in Anna’s stomach. She bit her lip. How could she forget? She wanted to yell at him, to explain that this is the only way to get the closure they never gave her. But when she saw the fear in his sleepless, apologetic eyes, the rage cooled down inside her. She could never bring herself to yell at him. As frustrated as it made her, she knew why he always brought this up.

Her father rubbed his eyes again. “I can’t change your mind, can I?”

She shook her head. She wanted to say something to comfort him, but the words died on her lips. At this point, she’d only make him feel worse.

He let out a long sigh. “Fine. But promise me something, okay?” he met her gaze with large, concerned eyes. “Don’t make enemies. Make as many friends as you can. Put a team together, just like your mother did. Make sure there are people watching your back. Think you can do that for me?”

Anna pursed her lips. It wasn’t an unreasonable request. Most Order Operatives would team up and tackle various missions together back in the day. But times had changed. Nowadays, a single E-Suit was more than powerful enough to handle most tasks, so being part of a team became almost detrimental. As far as she knew, there wasn’t a single organized squad left in Order. People didn’t like having to divide pay for a job they could easily do themselves.

Anna knew that she didn’t need a team. She’d be just fine on her own. But she didn’t want to upset her father any further. He already lost enough sleep over the years because of her. “Fine.” She gave in. “I’ll try.” She had no intention of doing so, but at least this would make him feel better. Still, it made her feel sick to lie to him. Even if it was for his own benefit.

His face lit up. It seemed as though a weight had been lifted, or at least lessened, from his shoulders. Anna felt the pressure on her own shoulders grow heavier. “Thank you, sweetie.” Her father huffed like he had just finished a marathon. His eyes ran over her luggage. “I guess you should be going now, huh?”

She started. Until then, she was eager to leave. But when he said the words, she found herself suddenly reluctant. What’s wrong with me? “I guess so.” She pulled her suitcase up to her leg. “Well, I’ll-”

Before she could object, her father pulled her close and wrapped her in a hug. His grip was tight to the point of being suffocating. But it was soft. Warm. Familiar. Suddenly, she found it very hard to break away from him. If he didn’t do it himself a few moments later, she likely would have stayed there. She felt tears prickling at her eyes, but she forced them back. Now was not the time to be crying.

“Go on.” He smiled, then pushed her toward the door. “From what your mother told me, they didn’t much appreciate people being late on the first day. Something about putting a new kid on wash duty for a month?”

The image made Anna shudder. Without another word, she ran down the hall and bolted out the door, waving her father goodbye as she left. She dashed across the German Sector towards the train station, then took the nearest one straight to the Central Sector. Heart thumping and smiling, she made her way back into Order HQ.

When she entered, Suzanne Melcroft looked up at her from behind the front desk. A wide, mischievous grin spread across her cheeks. “Cutting it a bit close aren’t’ you, new girl?” she asked, tapping her wrist. “A few minutes later and you’d have been late! You gonna make a habit of that?”

Anna returned her smile. Then, like raising a banner for victory, she held up her badge. “No, ma’am!” she huffed. “Operative Anna Ironchase, on time and reporting for duty!”

Melcroft shook her head, pushed away from her desk, and stood up. “You might just be the most starry-eyed out of all the newbies.” she practically cackled as she spoke. “This is going to be fun!”

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