Chapter 50: A Struggling Genius

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

Eitan all but ran down the hall, his heart racing almost as quickly as his thoughts. He bit his lower lip to keep himself from cursing. He’d had to develop that habit after he had accidentally taught his younger siblings a rather impactful profanity. It helped more often than one might expect, and not just in avoiding getting your mouth washed out by soap.

Why me? he thought over and over again. Why am I getting sucked into all of this? Why is everyone looking at me?

Even walking down the hall, he could feel their eyes. It didn’t matter if they were dressed in suits or skirts and delivering papers, or if they were stomping about in glowing E-Suits. All of them were looking at him. Weighing him. Judging him. Waiting to see what he would do next.

Now, the Commander had eyes on him. Why? Why did this have to happen? Couldn’t he just be a normal Operative? Someone who lead a boring life taking care of mundane problems in Unity. Or better yet, a researcher that could study all of Verità’s unique inhabitants. Why couldn’t they all just leave him alone?

I could just say no. But how could I deny that offer? Any one request from the Commander himself, and I’m considering turning it down?

He made his way towards the men’s dorms almost in a dead run. He had no idea what he would do in there. Maybe scream into his pillow, if no one was around. Or he could try to lose himself in a book. That sounded nice.

Passing by the training room, he stopped. Someone was in there, tackling the obstacle course. Peering inside, Eitan found Alex racing to the top of the flailing rope, then making a mad dash through the swinging hammers on the platform above. He only made it ten steps before one knocked him back down to the ground floor with a painful sounding thud. Eitan winced, remembering all the times he himself was knocked down in the exact same way.

The Russian cursed loudly in several different languages, only two of which Eitan understood. When he tried to get up and go back to the beginning, his knees buckled and put him right back on the ground. That brought another wave of colorful profanities. Finally, he fell silent and sat still, huffing loudly.

Part of Eitan thought it would be best to simply leave him alone. But the other part was an elder brother who had seen his little siblings struggle with just about everything, from their homework to simple games. Alex may not have been his little brother; Eitan was sure he was actually the elder of the two. Still, he couldn’t deny the old instincts he had built.

Alex had left a towel and a bottle of water on a bench near the entrance. Eitan scooped them both up as he passed. If Alex heard him approach, he made no sign of it. He didn’t even look up until Eitan offered them both to him.

“Thank you,” he huffed. He took long, eager drags from the bottle and sighed in relief.

“Sure, no problem.” Eitan turned to go, then hesitated. Curious, he said, “Can I ask you something?”

Alex shrugged and wiped sweat from his forehead with the towel. “Go ahead.”

“You’re from an ORDER family, right? You were trained for this since you were a kid, weren’t you?”

He nodded.

“So… why are you having such a hard time with this?”

From how he flinched, Eitan may as well have punched him. There was a nervous look in his eye, like a child trying to lie to their parents. Shame flickered across his features in the brief moment before he turned away.

There was a long silence before Alex spoke again. “My mother was hard woman. Strong, strict, determined.” He seemed to struggle with each word, like he was wrestling with a language he wasn’t proficient with. “She would tell me that we were ‘chosen ones’. ‘We are strong, so we protect weak. Families like us are chosen to do this. We must protect common people. Never use strength to hurt others.’”

Eitan nodded, understanding growing in his mind. That would explain the cocky attitude he displayed in the entrance exams, at least a little.

“I was confident,” Alex continued. “Cocky, also. I looked down on others in exam.” He seemed to shrink even further from Eitan. “You, too.”

“I figured as much,” Eitan nodded. Not that you were wrong to do so.

“But Anna was different. She is not from ORDER family, but she was strong and smart. She proved me wrong.” Guilt darkened his face like a black cloud. “And I nearly killed her.”

“So… what? You’re feeling guilty? There’s no need for that, don’t worry. That woman has long since moved on.” She’ll probably kill you if you bring it up, too.

He shook his head. “Not guilty. Confused. How is she so strong when she is a common woman? Was my mother wrong? The more I see, the more I doubt. When I try the course, I am thinking too much to focus. Too many doubts.” He muttered something in Russian that Eitan couldn’t understand. “You are thinking me a fool, I think.”

Eitan shook his head, though he couldn’t claim he understood. Is this how a genius struggles? One blow to their pride and they collapse? Instead of saying that, he said, “I don’t think she was entirely wrong. Just… kind of wrong.”

“Is… this word puzzle? I don’t understand.”

Neither do I. If there was one thing Eitan had learned taking care of his little siblings, it was how to make up a moral on the fly. “No. It’s… well, your mother sounds like an old-fashioned kind of lady. I think her heart is in the right place, but she seems stuck in the past. Back in the days when most Operatives came from ORDER families.

“So the others are tougher than you thought. How’s that a bad thing? It’ll make your life easier in the long run. Rather than comparing yourself to them and feeling bad about your own inadequacies, why not rely on them? Work with them?”

Alex looked at him with pure confusion on his face. It was then that Eitan realized who he was really talking to. I’m trying to give him advice, not me! Dammit!

Sighing, Eitan stood. “I’d better let you get back to it.” With that, he started back towards the door. Behind him, he could hear Alex muttering something to himself in his native language, then start again on the obstacle course.


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