Energia: Titans of Verità
Table of Contents (For Catching Up)
Anna found her father sitting on a park bench near the market. Two bratwursts sat on his lap, still warm. He looked haggard, like he hadn’t slept in days. The rings around his eyes were so dark they could have been confused for eye liner.
His eyes lit up when he saw her. “Hungry?” he asked, offering one of the brats to her.
It was an effort to keep from salivating. “Starving.”
The two sat in silence for a time, eating and watching their surroundings. It had only been a few months since Anna had last been in the German Sector, but it felt like she had been away for years. She had missed all the white buildings with their many windows and peaked rooftops. What she didn’t miss were all the suspicious glares and upturned noses. I guess they haven’t forgotten my reputation.
Finally, her father wiped his lips clean and cleared his throat. “How are things at ORDER?” he asked.
She shrugged nonchalantly. Better that he didn’t see how badly she was rattled by it all. “It’s fine.”
He nodded, but she could tell he didn’t believe it. “Are you still looking into your mother’s death?”
“Yes, I am,” Anna said, more than a little harshly. Had he brought her out here just to try and make her quit again?
“Have you found anything?”
Her only response was silence. That was enough for him.
Sighing, he shook his head. “And you still won’t give it up. Honestly. You’re even more stubborn than she was.” He eyed the passing populace with a wary gaze. “You’re not nearly as popular, though.”
“Could have fooled me,” Anna muttered. “People at HQ can’t stop talking about me. Even the Commander himself.”
“What?” he gaped at her, a scowl on his face. “The Commander? What are you talking about?”
She told him all of it then. The upcoming competition and the Commander’s offer to her and the others. If any of it was classified, she didn’t care. It was the Commander’s fault for not telling her if it was. Not that she had to worry about that; her father wasn’t much of a talker.
When she finished, he leaned back on the bench and stared up at the shield blanketing the city sky. Artificial daylight cast it in blue and white light. It would be night on Verità now, but the people in Unity still went by Earth time. Better that than the long days and nights of this alien world.
“What game are you playing, Milldrew?” he muttered beneath his breath. To Anna’s shock, she thought she could see rage burning behind his eyes. More surprising was how he used the Commander’s name. It almost sounded like he knew him. When he looked at her, all that fury vanished. “You’re not going to take his deal, are you?”
“I… was hoping for your advice on that, actually,” she said reluctantly.
His response was immediate and cold. “No. Don’t trust him, Anna. He’ll use you like a rag, then toss you aside once you’re dry and useless to him. Just like-” he broke off, like he was only just realizing what he was saying. “You shouldn’t do it, that’s all. If the others find out, you’ll have every man and woman in ORDER trying to kick you down.”
If they’re not already, Anna thought. They’ll get jealous of my ‘fame’ sooner or later. “But it’s such an incredible opportunity,” she argued. “If I do it, he’ll fulfill one request. Isn’t that worth the risk?”
“What? You think he’ll tell you the ‘truth’ about her? Do you think you’ll get what you want to hear?” Her father didn’t seem to realize he was shouting. “You’ll only hear what you heard a thousand times before! Why can’t you just accept it?!”
Anna gaped at him. He hadn’t yelled at her like this in years. Why had this set him off? Soon, her shock gave way to anger. “Why can’t you just support me for once?!” she snapped. Heat crept into her face and she felt herself trembling, but she didn’t care. “Why do you always have to get on my case about this?!”
Everyone was staring at them now, but she refused to look at them. Instead, she glowered at her father with all the fury she could muster. The rage vanished from his eyes, replaced by wide-eyed shock and fright. He opened his mouth to speak, but no words came out.
A thin needle of guilt pierced through her fury. What the hell was she doing? This was her father. The only family she had left. But that guilt was small and vanished in the heat of her anger.
Biting back a curse, Anna stormed away, shoving through the crowd. Her father didn’t say anything after her. That was fine with her.
In a way, his advice was great. Thanks to that, Anna now knew exactly what she was going to do.