Helena examined the tundra below from a Hoverfly window. I wish I could have stayed long enough to see Belesis, but it’ll take at least a week for her to heal, even as a Biokinetic. What will she think when she wakes up? Hopefully, she’ll stay at her post and not follow after me … I understand why she’d devote so much attention to me, being from a Branch Family, but this is a different world. So, New Genesis will be my starting place; I should be met by Olivia upon arriving, but Kara was vague about the details. Is this another test?
Holding out her hands, she sent a stream of electricity between them, absorbing the energy through her body to ground it. After waking up … I never dreamed of having this much Focus in reserve, but it’s to be expected since I’ve been near depleted for years. I’m currently capped; thanks to these Espite earrings, I can work on Control. Realistically, I’ll be doing grunt work of some kind at New Genesis which will likely involve killing people that step out of line … I’ll have to prepare myself for that.
Her vision shifted to the closed door leading to the pilot's cabin. I suppose ordinary workers don’t speak to SOP members unless spoken to; I’ve entered an elite force, but I’m at the bottom of the hierarchy. I don’t know what to expect from this point. New Genesis is still such a mystery, but if I want to survive, I need to get stronger.
She spent the next few hours playing around with calculations on magnetic force, trying to bend and straighten a thin steel bar into different designs. Her attention was diverted as she saw a mountain range with fog frothing over the edges. That must be the valley New Genesis is located in.
Stabilizing her feet with magnetic fields as the Hoverfly rose, she watched the fog below swirl slowly. The valley was blanketed in the dense vapor, but one structure stuck out of the milky soup; a massive black tower that seemed to absorb the sun’s rays contrasted the gray below. Is that Sevilla’s base that Booker talked about? It seems that way, which would make it the center of New Genesis.
They entered the fog, and after a time, she could see a landing zone open up. The Hoverfly slowly entered the bay. I couldn’t see anything of the city itself; why create a base in such thick fog? Wouldn’t it be much easier for people to escape? Logically, they’d have some means to prevent that, but what? The Trackers can’t be used for the entire population.
Her eyes shifted to the door as it lowered. Exiting the vehicle, she watched the large overhead doors close, hydraulics hissing before her attention turned to examine several people moving around the Hoverfly bay, working on their individual tasks. The doors on the opposite end of the bay opened to reveal a young man in his late teens; he wore a casual black T-shirt, gray course pants, and soft sole shoes.
When he spotted her, he walked over. “Vix, how was the flight?”
“To be expected,” he shrugged. “My name’s Julius; Olivia wanted me to guide you to her office.”
Helena nodded. “Lead the way.”
They fell silent as Helena followed him through the door; the workers paid them no mind as they went about their business. When they entered the hallway, Helena noticed a few people lined up along the walls, eyeing her. It seems I’m of interest. They passed the group without comment and moved through the branching hallway; she caught a few people in different rooms following their movement, but it seemed only casual interest.
Arriving at a particular door up three levels, Julius stopped. “Wait inside here until Marth tells you Olivia is ready for you.”
Nodding, Helena pressed the button by the door, and it slid open. How does this base receive power? Is it thermal based like the Northern Base? Walking inside, she noticed a big muscular man seated behind a desk, eyes scanning documents before him. He didn’t raise his head to acknowledge her as the door shut and she took a seat by the right wall. This is all very business-like, nothing like the Northern Base; there weren’t many Purist members there though.
Placing her hand across her lap, she brought the cores of her HCID out of sleep; she noticed that it automatically synced to the WiFi signals bouncing around them. That’s convenient. The first page that opened seemed to be a Purist home page. The first thing that caught her interest was a New Recruits icon on the right side of the page. Activating it, she read down the information:
Welcome to the Purists; as a new recruit, you will be assigned to a beginning unit, and the First or Second Lieutenant in that unit will then provide you with a set duty to complete in regards to the unit’s stationed area. You will be trained in a multitude of situations that are expected to be performed within the city and educated to a standard degree in math, science, and combat. The Purists have high standards of conduct, and you will be expected to maintain a dignified presence; everything learned in your Prep SOP training is to be carried out without fault.
Helena’s head tilted slightly. So, how will my exception be taken? I haven’t gone through the Prep SOP training, will that be taken into consideration or is it something Kara thought wasn’t necessary for me? If the regular recruits are kidnapped or enslaved espers, there would be the need for a program to break and educate them to conform with WITCH and Faction standards.
Her attention shifted to Marth as his head lifted to examine her. “Vix, Olivia will see you now.”
Nodding, she rose without comment and pressed the button to open the inner door. Walking through, she entered a large space with many filing cabinets neatly arranged along the walls. The room held no decorations, and no seats beside the one Olivia sat in behind her large oak desk. Olivia’s sharp eyes appraised her as she walked before her, curtsied and waited to raise her head.
“Huh,” she said with a gruff tone. “Straighten up,” Helena complied silently. Olivia folded her fingers atop her desk. “Good posture, Kara wasn’t exaggerating. You do have the air of a Noble.” The silence stretched as Olivia studied her. After five minutes, she smirked. “No fidgets, perfectly relaxed and awaiting my verdict, at the age of eight no less. You have composure and nerve; I like that.” Sitting back in her chair, she folded her legs and intertwined her fingers atop her lap. “What is ahead of you?”
Helena didn’t hesitate as she recounted what she knew. “Kara told me I would be meeting you, but gave me no indication of my direction. However, from the Faction’s home page, I assume I will be assigned a unit and undergo SOP follow-up training under a First or Second Training Lieutenant.”
Olivia’s smirk didn’t fade. “Resourceful. You’ve been in WITCH for less than a week and already know how to use your HCID; not only that, but looked for information regarding your place in the Faction. Impressive, arriving at the New Recruit page without prompt. Kara said I’d like you, which makes her decision tolerable for me.” Helena waited patiently. “Vix, you will be placed under First Lieutenant Gengler, under the command of Captain Esther, in the Fishing District, Sector Three as a Second Lieutenant in training.”
Helena didn’t let her surprise show. “I will be training to become a Second Lieutenant?”
Shaking her head, Olivia leaned forward. “No, Vix. You are now appointed a Second Lieutenant and must learn your duties quickly. Esther was just assigned to take the place of Booker, and you are taking Gengler’s former place.”
She nodded. “Understood.” This could cause problems … I was the one that killed Booker, but do they know that? Kara took control of my electricity, but it was by my Focus and intent that he was killed. How will this group take it, especially when they recently discovered their Captain was a Purple Faction agent? Then there’s the issue of my age and activity in WITCH; I’m likely overtaking many candidates for a Second Lieutenant seat.
“I’m sure you’re considering all the negative aspects of what this decision means for you and your image. You’ll be surprised though,” Olivia said with a light chuckle. “The President’s competition in the Northern Base was recently displayed; between your exploits, Kara’s display of protecting you from Cassandra, and the information spreading that you’re a Noble from the Vandred Main House—you’ve grown quite popular.”
“Thank you for the information,” Helena curtsied again.
She chuckled. “If only Kara were as proper as you,” she mused. “She can sell the image in public, but she’s such a restless girl—I sent for Gengler to fetch you. He will direct you to their section of the base before introducing you to your unit.”
“I will be over my own unit then?”
“Yes,” Olivia hummed. “A new unit of recent recruits, fresh out of SOP training, small for normal standards; Gengler will give you the rundown of your daily schedule. That will be all.”
Bowing her head, Helena left the room, her passive reception telling her that someone was waiting for her on the other side of the door. Gengler was tall, at least two meters in height, and muscular. He had blonde-hair and brown eyes; he was handsome, but his nose showed evidence of being broken at one point.
“Vix,” he said with a friendly smile. “It’s wonderful to meet you.” He held out his hand, a twitch in his heart drawing Helena’s notice. The first thing he says to me is a lie, that’s wonderful…
Taking his hand, Helena mirrored his smile. “Thank you, First Lieutenant Gengler. I’ll be in your care.”
“Right, please follow me, and please, just call me Gengler.” Another twitch, what about me rubs him the wrong way? I’ll need to change his perception somehow; having a superior that dislikes you is not favorable.
“If you wish it, then I shall; please, Gengler, lead the way.” I’m a Second Lieutenant, which means he is my superior, but not by much. We are both under Captain Esther as our primary supervisor. Gengler is my senior, but not directly over me or my unit, but he could still cause me trouble; especially, since he’s the one in charge of tutoring me. I don’t want to appear a fool, and he could instruct me in just that manner. I’ll need to do my own research into a Second Lieutenant’s duties when I have the time.
Walking slightly behind Gengler, she asked, “I assume you are aware that I’m very new to WITCH and the Purist Faction.”
“Yes, I’m aware. I saw your match in the Northern Base; brilliant on the ground decision making. It’s no wonder you caught Kara and the President’s interest.” That could be it … he feels he deserves the interest I’ve garnered. How to direct that emotion… “By the way, what do you know about a Second Lieutenant?”
“Not a lot; I’ve been told that I’ll be in charge of a small unit and that they are all fairly new SOP recruits. I read that it is a part of the Lieutenant’s duty to train and direct such individuals.”
“Indeed,” Gengler nodded. “I’d expect nothing less from you. My unit is excited to see how you progress.” That’s the truth. Expectations already, that could be bad. If I fail in any way, then my image will be tarnished since they already have such a high opinion of my abilities. He could negatively sway public opinion; if he’s bolstering my reputation, then the slightest failure would be met with criticism, while success would be downplayed since it’s an expectation—not a good position to start in.
“Could you elaborate on my schedule for the day?”
“Of course. First, I’ll show you to your room, second, you’ll meet with your unit and get to know them, third, you’ll have dinner in the Officer Mess Hall, and then you can retire for the night. In the morning I’ll meet you in the Officer Mess Hall for your more scheduled daily routine.”
“Understood,” Helena said.
They walked in silence for a moment, going up another flight of stairs before Gengler cleared his throat. “So, something caught my interest in the fight…” Helena’s lime green eyes shifted toward him as he spoke. “You were able to kill two of your opponents, and it looked like you didn’t hesitate in the least. It usually takes a while before espers not born into New Genesis to accomplish that. How was it?” Is he speaking from experience? Perhaps he hasn’t been able to deal with his first kill.
“It was simple; fight or die. The Vice-President had stated that it was a death match, which meant it was either them or me. That’s all there is to it. I wouldn’t have killed them if given the option; they could have been used for other purposes, but I acknowledge the wisdom in WITCH for such a competition. Normally, I wouldn’t have been able to participate in that contest, but I was forced into it by the President’s decision. To have a competition to weed out those that do not have the resolve to survive above all else in positions of power is wise in a power-based tyrannical hierarchy. Especially when the power structure has such a weight on public order.”
“Huh,” Gengler muttered. “I haven’t heard someone talk like that since Booker … he talked about the hard to swallow stuff…” Wonderful, now he’s linking me to a traitor; consciously or not, it’s a bad connection for my image.
“Yes, I was rather horrified by what Booker did; particularly since he was one of the few people that seemed so straight forward and trustworthy since I was kidnapped by WITCH. He fooled us all.”
“That, he did,” Gengler sighed, but his nose was twisted with contempt. I guess he really was well liked around the Purists; that love opens a big space for hate to fill when betrayed. Phantasm planted quite the bomb; there will be question among all Purist members, conscious or not, that the person next to them might stab them in the back.
They stopped outside of a room. “This is your room; used to be a storage area, but for some reason Kara had the entire room gutted to put your stuff inside.” That bordered on a question; few would know about Kara’s creative arts, and as Eizea mentioned, the room itself is a part of the equation. I have so much to learn … Kara was even holding back against Fatchna. Her comment at the end … how can anyone be that powerful? Yet, it’s true, and my parents and the other Heads of the Great Houses must hold equivalent or greater power to keep their position. I have to get even stronger than Kara to match my parents…
The room was the exact same as the Northern Base, down to the purple automatic overhead lights. “Thank you; I’ve memorized the path we’ve taken so far. I can identify it on the map.”
“Really, do you have a perfect memory?”
“Something like that,” Helena said as she examined a few of the rugs. Kara hinted at the mats being an excellent starting place. I’ll need to study those tonight.
Gengler shook his head with a slight sigh. “You keep surprising me, but there is something that’s bugging me.” He said with a scrutinizing eye.
“If I can answer you, I will,” Helena said, turning to him.
“You didn’t show much strength in ability during the competition; true, that was one of the amazing feats about it, but it just got me wondering. Are you hiding your true power or are you just really good at maximizing what you can do?” It’s an honest question but could expose me to danger if answered correctly. I doubt the raw power I showed in the arena would qualify as a Lieutenant and that must have him wondering why I was appointed. I need to give him an answer though.
Helena kept a straight face. “I didn’t show everything I could do in the contest, but I was trying to maximize my abilities to a certain extent.”
“That’s a vague but acceptable response,” Gengler said with a slight smile.
He tilted his head, signifying for them to get moving again. “The group you’ve been set up with are—to be frank, not the best of their class.” So, I’ve been given the trouble kids? Not the best in a structure of power means they’re weaker than the rest. “They aren’t much older than you; most of them come from outside of New Genesis, kidnapped kids that went through the program. They’ve passed, but still, they have some issues.” He doesn’t try to hide the fact that they were kidnapped; he was likely in that category at one point anyway. So, the troubled group. Olivia said I’d grown popular, but that doesn’t mean in a positive light; however, she did hint that it was positive.
“So, I’ll be expected to shape them up? How many are inside of a unit?”
“You could say that,” Gengler shrugged. “Normally, in a small, unit there are five espers, excluding the Officer. You’ll only have four as of now.”
“I see. So, I have the possibility of gaining one more at a later date?”
“Probably, the reason why you’re one short is because he was killed in an attempted escape.”
Helena frowned. “Understood.” There could be lingering feelings of resentment and loss in the group if any of them were close. Individuals can bond in hostile conditions like WITCH.
Stopping before a door, Gengler grimaced. “On the other side is your unit. I need to go check on one of my own units and give my Directing Officer some orders.”
“Directing Officer?” Helena asked, looking up at him.
“Yes, it’s a position the Lieutenant issues to a member of each team to direct things when they are away; I am over three units; therefore, I have a Directing Officer in each one. They hold no power in WITCH, other than the Lieutenant’s name; so, be careful who you give the title because you could be roped in with any misbehavior your Directing Officer causes.” Helena nodded before he walked off. Well, let’s see this new unit of mine.