Energia: Titans of Verità
Table of Contents (For Catching Up)
Tommy walked slowly through the twisting corridors of ORDER HQ, deep in thought. Men and women in suits passed him by, muttering to themselves or talking with someone on their holo-phones. He didn’t pay any of them any attention. He was too busy strategizing.
Anna and Eitan weren’t a concern. He was sure they’d come around. But how was he going to convince Hinata to join their team? The woman seemed even colder and more distant than Ironchase, if a little less hostile. What could he do to win over the Shinobi?
A gruff laugh shook him out of his thoughts. “Is that Tiny Tommy I see?”
Oh, god dammit.
The speaker was a large man, standing a full head taller than Tommy with shoulders nearly twice as wide. A thick brown beard dangled from his pale, square features like some wild animal. Beneath that, teeth as white and straight as arrows were bared in a wide grin. Dark blue eyes glistened beneath a hairless scalp. He wore a fine black and blue suit, although he had discarded the tie in favor of leaving the top two buttons open.
“John,” Tommy said, turning to face his older brother. “Weren’t you off-world? Something about a mission on the Mars colony?”
“I was,” John said in a deep, booming voice. “But then I heard what happened here. How was I supposed to stay away when my little brother is making such a stir?” Laughing, he threw an arm around Tommy, then ground his knuckle into the younger man’s head. “Barely an Operative for two months, and you’re already a celebrity! I’m gonna have to start pulling more weight if I want to win that bet!”
Tommy fought to escape John’s grasp, but it was no use. Tommy Decker was strong, but John Decker was a black bear wearing human skin. Thankfully, his older brother decided to have mercy and released him after only a few seconds of playful torment. Not that he hadn’t made those few seconds count; Tommy’s head would be burning for hours, maybe even a few days.
“I’ve heard about your E-Suit, too,” John continued. “Couldn’t stand being called Tiny Tommy anymore, eh? From what I heard, you might have overcompensated just a bit.”
“It’s big because of its weapons,” Tommy explained, trying not to blush. “No other reason.”
John rolled his eyes. “Sure. And a Ragno hits like a little girl.”
“You don’t need to tell me. My ribs still ache from the beating it gave me.”
“Ha! Well, you won! That’s all that matters, in the end.” His lips twisted into a sneer. “But you didn’t do it alone. Does it hurt? Having to share the glory?”
Tommy stifled a smile. He couldn’t let his brothers find out about his plans. Not yet, at least.
“It’s less sharing the glory,” said a small, cold voice, “and more them stealing the glory. Tiny Tommy didn’t get much of it himself.”
God. Damn. It.
If John Decker was a bear, then Carl Decker was a snake. As lanky as he was tall, he towered over even John. The rest of his body didn’t seem able to keep up with his height; his skin was tight around his face, his cheek bones threatening to poke out at any moment. His pale green eyes were alight with mischief. Black hair tumbled over his shoulders in loose curls.
“Well, look at this,” he said, smiling. “Why didn’t anyone tell me there was a family reunion today?”
“I wish they had,” Tommy said between his teeth. “I’d have thrown away the invitation.”
“Aw, what’s wrong, Tiny Tommy? Not happy to see us?” Carl shook his head, exasperated. “And we came all this way to check up on you. It is nice to be off of the Orion Colony, though. I’ve missed solid ground and fresh air.”
“Verità’s air isn’t fresh,” John said, “it’s highly filtered through the shield wall. If it were fresh, we’d all be dead.”
“It’s still better than that stuff they keep in tanks. Besides, gravity is nice. That artificial stuff they use is nauseating.”
Tommy tried to take the opportunity to escape. One brother was annoying enough, but both of them? He’d sooner stick his head into a working guillotine. Unfortunately, both of them caught him by the arms before he could make it more than a few steps. There’d be no getting out of this one.
“I don’t think you guys know just how good you have it,” Carl continued with a sigh. “Although I guess you have to deal with giant alien monsters here. I’m kind of jealous of you, Tiny Tommy.”
“Are we really going with that again?” Tommy asked. From how both of his brothers sneered, he immediately wanted the words back.
“We are now,” Carl said. “Tiny Tommy.”
“Tiny Tommy,” John echoed.
Tommy let out a long, suffering sigh. “I brought this on myself, didn’t I?”
“That you did,” John confirmed. “We can’t have you getting a big head, can we? Only the winner of the bet can get one of those.”
“I look forward to lording mine over both of you losers,” Carl chuckled. “We should arrange something. A competitive shared mission, maybe? Since we’re all Operatives now, we may as well start taking the bet a bit more seriously. We can see who can hunt the biggest beast.”
“Maybe not that,” John said. “Tommy has an advantage in that field.”
Carl scowled so deeply at John that his skin looked ready to tear. “As if you and I haven’t murdered our fair share of those. Besides, Tiny Tommy needed two girls and a nerdy sniper to help him out. All he did was get tossed around.” He waved a dismissive hand. “He was just in the right place at the right time.”
That was true. Tommy didn’t like it, but he wouldn’t deny it. Still, he disliked the tone his older brother used. He felt the sudden urge to punch him. But then he remembered what would happen if either Anna or Hinata caught wind of this. He may not like his older brother, but he didn’t want him dead, either.
“Well, we’ll figure something out,” John said, ignoring Carl’s tone. “Later, though. I should go turn in my report.” He pat Tommy on the back, though it felt more like a slap. “Later, Tiny Tommy.”
“Oh, right. Reports.” Carl let out a long sigh. “I should do that, too. Later, Tiny.”
When both were out of sight, Tommy let out a long breath. Just one of them coming back was a pain. But both? His life just got a whole lot harder. And likely a ton more embarrassing.
Tommy pushed that out of his mind. For now, he needed to focus on one thing: recruiting the Shinobi.