Chapter 29: Into the Wild

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

Anna stared at the job board. The list of jobs was long and varied. ‘Settle a long standing dispute between shop owners in the Chinese sector’. ‘Patrol in the American sector’. ‘Acquire a Ragno-Scimmia’s heart for study’. Beneath each one was a list of details regarding the job, as well as the pay.

She ignored the boring jobs, all the ones that kept her in Unity. Instead, she scanned for rookie-cleared jobs that let her out into Verita. Unfortunately, there weren’t many. In fact, there didn’t seem to be any.

She resisted the urge to punch it. Let me visit the jungle! Is that so much to ask?!

Then, finally, she found one. A simple patrol mission around the jungle. Anna realized immediately why it was clear for rookies. The jungle had been mapped out years ago and all the creatures within it well recorded. All she’d really be able to do was jump from tree to tree and observe her surroundings. ‘Patrol lasts from 12pm to 3pm Earth time. Reward: 1000 Credits’.

A job this easy and it pays this well? Anna thought, staring with wide eyes at the number. No wonder everyone wants this job!

She tapped the job on the holo-board. All the previous text vanished, replaced by a simple prompt asking if she was certain. She tapped yes. The text changed again, this time into a list of instructions.

‘Meet Deployment Officer Paul at the launch pad for instruction at 11. Be equipped and ready. You will receive further orders then.’

Anna rushed to fulfill the order. She was already equipped; ever since she got her suit two weeks prior, she had only left it to charge at nights. Finding the launch pad wasn’t hard, either. Given the massive flat ceiling of the building next door, which was restricted to all non-Operatives, it wasn’t a difficult place to find.

She threw the hood down, flashed security her badge, and shot up the stairs at blinding speed towards the roof. There, she found a large black jet, its engines humming loudly. Standing in front of the bay doors was a tall man with smooth black hair, a pale face, and a distracting mustache that curled upwards in an almost unnatural loop.

The man looked at her with sharp blue eyes. “You’re here for the patrol, are you?” He asked with a faint hint of a French accent.

“Yes sir!” Anna answered, remembering to salute through her excitement. “Anna Ironchase, reporting for duty!”

The man sighed and hung his head. “Great. A rookie.” He waved a dismissive hand. “Drop the formalities, kid. You look stupid.”

Anna blinked. “But-“

“Consider this your first real lesson.” The man said. There was an odd sort of disdain in his voice. “Unless you’re talkin’ to the commander or anyone else ranked too highly to get deployed into the field, then they’re your equal. There’s no seniority in Order, despite what some of the younger hotheads might have you believe. You understand me, girlie?”

She flushed, equally embarrassed and insulted. “Don’t call me girlie.” She growled, forgetting herself.

The man smiled. “You learn quickly. Good.” He offered her a hand. “Paul.”

Still angry, she considered not taking it. Try to make friends. Her dad’s voice reminded her. She took his hand. “Anna.”

“Good. Now, get in.” He jabbed a thumb at the jet, then he started to climb in. “Time’s a wastin’.”

Anna followed after him. Behind her, the bay door rose up noisily, sealing the room in darkness. A moment later, blue power lines came to light. On either side of the chamber were rows of seats, built into the walls. Only one side had straps to secure a passenger to the seat.

“You’re on that side.” Paul said, pointing at the other side as he strapped himself in.

“Won’t I need one of those?” She asked, pointing to the straps.

Paul stared at her for a moment, then howled with laughter. “You’re kiddin’, right? That armor you’re wearing is more durable than the jet!”

“Oh. Right.” She took a seat across from him, feeling naked without something to tie her down.

The chamber shook as the jet took off into the air. Anna looked around, infuriated by the lack of windows. She wanted to see where they were going. To see if her mother’s stories about the jungle, about it’s massive trees and colorful fauna, were all true. Couldn’t they have just put a damn window in?!

“Calm down, wouldja?” Paul said, looking down at a holo-screen laid out on his lap. “You’ll see more than your fair share of jungle in… oh, ten minutes or so.”

Anna hid her embarrassment in silence. Was she really that obvious? “I’m going on patrol, right?” She said to change the subject. “What should I look for?”

Paul shrugged. “Anything big and moving. If you run into any of the locals, shoot ’em dead if you can, run away if ya can’t. If you don’t find anything, great. That’s what we want.”

“What if I run into a Titan?”

He bellowed a laugh at that. The sound reverberated through the chamber. “Kid, if there were one of those bastards near here, we’d know. But if you somehow find one, which you won’t, that’s why you’ve got that.” he pointed at the flare gun, which was holstered beside Anna’s pistol. It was so small in comparison that it was almost impossible to see. “Shoot up a black flare, don’t wake it up, and the higher ups will handle the rest. Not that you’ll need to worry about it.”

So that’s what it’s for. Anna thought, rolling a thumb over the curving surface of the tiny red gun. She checked the small pouch beside it for the first time, finding a small collection of multi-colored cylinders. Indeed, one of them was as black as darkness.

She recalled her brief time in the study hall. She’d had to spend a lot of time there after clearing the obstacle course in order to learn the more boring sides of being an Operative. It was, without a doubt, the most boring thing she had ever sat through. But she could acknowledge the importance of what she had memorized.

Red flares are for emergencies. she remembered. Blues are for marking resource deposits or large monster nests. Greens are for pickup. Blacks are like blues, but only for Titans.

A buzzing suddenly filled the room. It vanished, replaced by a voice. Anna couldn’t tell if it were a man or a woman. “We’ve reached the drop site.” it said, as monotone as a robot.

Paul nodded, then pointed at a large red button near the bay door. “This is your stop, kiddo.”

Anna shot up a little too quickly, briefly losing her balance before the E-Suit corrected her. Trembling with excitement, she bolted over to it, careful not to move so quickly that she flew through it. Slowly, almost nervously, she reached up and pressed the large red button with a thumb.

Warm wind rushed through the chamber as the door slowly fell open. Sunlight poured in after it, momentarily blinding her. Then, when her vision cleared, she was greeted by a vast sea of green. In that moment, staring out at the expansive jungle of Verità, Anna felt her breath escape her.

“What’re you waiting for?” Paul’s voice shouted over the howling wind. “Jump!”

She did so, not even stopping to think about whether or not she had a parachute.

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