Energia, Web Novel

Chapter 32: The Goals of Men

*Quick aside: new chapters will now be releasing bi-weekly rather than weekly. Apologies for the inconvenience. I hope you enjoy this week’s chapter!*

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

Eitan didn’t know what to expect when he finally cleared the course and got into the classroom. He had hoped to be taught some hidden secret of the known inhabitants of Verità kept away from the public. Or maybe for some useful advice on how to pick jobs to make the most money. He’d have even taken basic weapons training or advice on maintaining an E-Suit.

Then, when the classes started, he was thoroughly disappointed.

Everything they taught him, he already knew. All the basic tools, signals, and procedures that an Operative would need to know. The multitudes of known aliens and how to manage them. How to calm down disputes within the city without violence.

As the days passed, Eitan felt his patience growing short. He found his leg bouncing violently beneath his desk. Why weren’t they telling him how to get into the research division? Or how to properly dissect a Cervelo-Mignolo? Why in the hell weren’t they talking about how to properly organize an expedition?! All of that was what Eitan didn’t know, what he desperately wanted to-

None of those are quick money makers. He reminded himself. Don’t get excited.

He nodded to himself. Right. He didn’t go through that hellish entrance exam and clear that damn obstacle course for the fun of it. This was a job. He had to go where the money was. They were all counting on him. He could be selfish when they were all back on their feet.

Whenever that may be. At the rate it was going now, he wouldn’t even be able to get to work for some time. He wasn’t allowed to design his E-Suit until he had finished these classes. After that, god only knew if he’d be able to get work that paid well enough. If something didn’t speed up, it would take him another two Earth years to pay off all the debts.

He bit his lower lip, frustrated by the thought. He didn’t have that kind of time. His mind flew away from the class, consumed by his anxieties. What would happen if he failed? Would they be able to last long enough for him to pick them back up? Would he even have the opportunity? What would happen to-

Stop it! He jolted upright in his seat, suddenly aware that he hadn’t been paying attention for a long while. The beginnings of a sweat were forming on his brow. It took him several minutes to steady his breath. There’s no point worrying about that. Just fix it. Like you always do.

The thought echoed in his mind. Right. Like you always do. It’s not like anyone else can.

It was a lonely feeling. Having so many people rely on him. He didn’t mind, of course. His responsibility was an honorable one. Still, it was awfully exhausting. When everyone was leaning on you, who could you rely on to carry you?

No one, of course. Eitan thought with a tinge of bitterness. Remember what dad taught you? That was until he remembered. Oh, right. He left.

******

Tommy kicked back in his chair, planting his boots atop the desk. He wondered how long it would take for the professor, a tired-looking old man who was reading off of the holo-board, to reprimand him. He wondered if they would at all. Not many people would anymore.

He had his brothers and father to thank for that. The reputation they’d earned over the years had more or less given him a launching platform. That was why he already had an E-Suit waiting for him, even before he cleared the obstacle course. He was so pampered so often in his life that he was shocked to learn that they didn’t already have a job lined up for him once he graduated classes.

That’s where the handholding oughta stop. Tommy thought. This is a competition, after all.

It was clear that they were underestimating his abilities. If they respected him as a rival, they wouldn’t have forced him to have his hand held for so long. That, or they were trying to make him dependant on them. Or they were trying to soften him up so he wouldn’t be able to keep up.

Unfortunately for them, none of that wouldn’t work. He had been preparing for this since their contest started, way back when his oldest brother had become an Operative. He had a plan. Well, not a plan, per say. More like the loose outline of one. But if it came together, and he was sure that it would, then he had no doubt he would win.

The only real problem was getting it off the ground in the first place. But that was a problem for after class.

The days seemed to pass by in a slog. He’d show up to class, kick his feet up, pay half an ear to the lesson itself, and work on his ‘plan’. His eyes would lazily scan the classroom’s other inhabitants. Who should I bring in on it? He’d wonder.

He almost immediately wrote Cara off. Sure, she was spunky and certainly talented. But she was way too loud, not to mention how frequently she was drunk. Sal, then? No, he didn’t know him well enough yet. Plus, it was clear that the two of them shared a similar approach to problems, that being to just go straight through. Only that Sal was far better at it. Couldn’t risk anyone stealing his spotlight.

Tommy’s thoughts turned to Alex. His performance in the entrance exam was certainly impressive. But then he looked around the class again and realized that Alex was the only one from their group who wasn’t present. That was enough to make him dismiss the idea. Part of him wondered what had happened to the seemingly unstoppable man?

Eitan, then? he thought, eying the back of the smaller man’s head. His interactions with Eitan were limited, but he liked him decently enough. Sure, his physical abilities were a bit lacking; he was easily the slowest and weakest out of everyone in the class. But when he was in an E-Suit, that likely wouldn’t be an issue. Plus, he seemed smart enough to help him out. The only question was: would he agree to it?

There was one person that he knew he wanted. Even if she hadn’t graduated well before any of them, given her head start, he knew that she would be of great help to him. She might even be the only person he needed. All he had to do was convince her. That should be easy enough. He was nothing if not charming. Once he was done in the classroom, that would be his first order of business.

Then, at last, the day arrived. The final exam came and went, no less than a speed bump in his path. No sooner than it was over, Tommy made his way to the dining hall; as easy as the test was, it had worked up his appetite. But when he arrived, the visions of meat dancing in his mind suddenly retreated.

There she was. Anna Ironchase. Sitting in the far corner, closest to the dessert end of the table, like she always had. She had a spoonful of what looked like pudding in her mouth. The scowl furrowing her brow betrayed the delight such a treat ought to bring.

Grinning, opportunity shining like a star before him, Tommy approached. She looked up at him as he approached, raising an eyebrow. “Something you want?” she asked, which Tommy had learned was her way of saying hello. At least on a good day.

“You could say that.” Tommy said, taking the seat across from hers. “I have a proposition for you.” he leaned forward, smiling with as much charisma and excitement as he could. “How would you like to squad up with me?”

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