B2 — 2. A New Challenge
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Helena opened the door, reception active; the room was large with a few square tables.  Other than the tables, the room was relatively bare. She got her first look at the four people she was in charge of; two boys and two girls sat around a table.  Her eyes were instantly drawn to the metal each of them wore; both boys had steel chain necklaces, the brown haired girl had steel bracelets, and the black-haired girl had steel studs in her ears and a nose ring.  The four turned to look at her with deep frowns.

“So, this is Vix?”  The boy sitting to the left of the table said with an unimpressed tone.  He looked to be around eleven and was blonde with blue eyes.

A black-haired girl with dark green eyes hummed as she appraised Helena, she looked to be ten.  “She sure looks like a Noble…”

The brown haired, blue eyed girl to her right snorted.  “Like she’s better than us.” She was a little taller than the black-haired girl and looked twelve.  The final boy had black hair, brown eyed, and was shorter than the girls; he smirked at her statement but didn’t comment.  This just keeps getting better.  Examples need to be made; this is a power hierarchy, but restraint is a measure of power and defining of Nobility.  Reflect dignity at all times. Each of them are wearing metal too … they know I’m an Electro Master from the video. If they intended to act this way, why give me an advantage if provoked?

She resisted a sigh.  “Salutations,” shutting the door behind her, Helena walked up to the table, features neutral.  “I will allow the rude manners this once; I am not only a Lieutenant but your Lieutenant. That said, I understand your circumstance; you were taught to respect power.  I offer this once,” her green eyes shifted to each member of her new unit. “Attempt to kill me now if you wish to take my position.”

The atmosphere chilled as the four took a hard swallow.  “She really just said that…” The blonde-boy muttered. They averted their eyes as Helena stared down each one.

“Respect is an expectation as your superior; pretend if you must,” Helena stated.  “If you will not challenge me then…”

“Challenge?”  The black-haired boy spat with a dark grin.  “I’m not going to kill you, but I’ll challenge you!”  What a naive statement … is he trying to drop my guard?  Without the resolve to kill, they will not survive WITCH.  Getting out of his seat, he puffed out his chest as the other three smirked with nods.  I see, he’s earned respect from the other three.  He’s likely the strongest or simply the most outspoken; is it ability, intelligence, or both.  Perhaps charisma … no, that wouldn’t characterize his confidence in combat.

He walked around the table to stand five feet from her.  “I’ve seen your footage from the arena…” And he’s wearing metal?  There has to be some kind of scheme, but I can’t detect it...

Helena’s eyes narrowed.  “Is that so? Then are you prepared to die?”  She felt his fear through her reception. Is he just idealistic?  If this is what they’re giving me to work with … how are they SOP material?  This makes no logical sense. He has seen me kill before, yet still resolves to beat me without the same commitment … it’s a grounding method of advancement in WITCH.  His statement is an insult at best, horrifyingly naive at worst; not the kind of person I want watching my back.

“I have Audiokinesis!  Do you really think you can beat me, knowing that?  I could rattle your brain until it bursts!” Okay … he’s an idiot … a complete moron.  Please … please! I hope this is a ploy to redirect me from his actual ability.

She ionized the particles around her ears, dampening vibrations as Kara had taught her, and prepared the calculations to dart to the ceiling and electrify him while keeping her active reception.  “Act or sit back down,” Helena stated coldly.

“I warned you!”  The boy said before taking a deep breath; Helena’s mind kicking into overdrive.  Is he going to spit something out at me?  A Biokinetic? We’re too close for an airborne virus like Belesis uses, it’ll affect his friends.  He could be callous enough and wants to take this opportunity to advance even at the cost of their lives.  It could be acidic chemicals as well, it could even be mixed with a resistant virus to infect my body. Water vapor could be condensed from the lungs and used to form sharp projectiles as well.  He could also cause focused vibrations to knock me out. It would be best to get out of the direct path and get a better grasp of his combat strengths.

An electromagnetic field launched her upward as she charged her static field; G-forces slamming against her body as she rose.  Cushioning her landing and clinging to the steel reinforced concrete, she sensed the three observers below close their hands over their ears.  No … he can’t really be an Audiokinetic.

He opened his mouth, and she heard the dampened sound as she adjusted the ionized particles.  It’s not even close to Booker, and he could do it with a snap of his fingers.  So … he really is just a fool. What kind of training is Pre-SOP training? Surely it should produce smarter espers than this; the OP’s groups in the Northern Base were much more organized and disciplined.  Is this another test or prank? This must be a prank they’re playing on the new Lieutenant … I just don’t want to think about the alternative, but I can’t help it … why give me such brain dead subordinates? Klen would have eaten them alive...

Helena took a deep breath, before puffing it out in exasperation.  She extended her electrostatic field; charging the metal chain around his neck, she polarized the chain and her field.  The chain lifted, closing around his throat. His eyes bulged as he rose to his toes, choking, hands lifting to his neck.  Helena charged the back of the chain, clamping it.

“Hey!”  The boy and two girls rose with alarm, and Helena lifted each of their metal pieces.

“Hey, stop, please!”  The black-haired girl pleaded as her earrings and nose piercing forced her up on her toes.

“My wrists!  It hurts! Stop, please!”  The brown haired girl cried as she rose into the air.  The blonde-haired boy was choking with the other boy, chain closed around his neck.

Helena rubbed between her eyes, feeling a heavy weight against her shoulders.  She dropped to the ground, landing with magnetic fields. Releasing her magnetic fields, she watched them recover with a tad bit of hope, but the black-haired boy just opened his mouth again and tried the same attack.

She shook her head, his attack completely nullified as she continued shielding her ears.  “This is my unit?” She groaned. She breathed out another sigh, trying to release her building tension.  I haven’t felt this annoyed in some time … I’m losing composure.  Deep breaths. She sent a bolt of energy to strike at the boy’s throat; only enough energy to tense his muscles, making him choke again.

“Please, stop…”  The blonde-haired boy had tears in his eyes as he clutched at his throat, trying to remove the metal.

Helena rubbed her neck.  Composure, stay composed.  If this was Olivia’s intent, to test my patience, she hit the nail on the head.  I’ve never had to deal with incompetent subjects. Everyone in the Branch Families are well trained and educated.  “Everyone, take your seats.”  They trembled on the floor; after a few seconds, Helena pursed her lips.  “Very well.” She magnetized their metal again and forced them up and back to their seats, causing them to cry out again.  Releasing the fields, she pulled over a chair and sat before them, crossing her legs; they each watched her with red cheeks and wide eyes.

Folding her hands across her lap, Helena looked at each one of them with cold eyes.  “No forethought, no discipline, grossly cretinous, and unable to react to a stressful situation, breaking down into tears and begging the enemy … how can I—is this even fixable?”  She sighed. You can’t fix stupid, but they’re still young … still, by eleven and twelve, they should have much more sense than this.  They were all kidnapped; their educational background should be a factor.

The brown haired girl sniffed back her tears.  “Umm, Vix?” She flinched as Helena’s lime green eyes shifted to her.  “Wh—what are you going to—to do with us?”

“Are—are you go—going to throw us away—k—kill us?”  The black-haired girl’s chest heaved a few times.

Helena licked her lips, expression pacifying as she breathed for a moment.  They fidgeted as they waited for her response. “Honestly—I’m feeling extremely disappointed and frustrated, right now.”  Their quakes increased, eyes widening. “Your display is pathetic—do you understand the position you are in?” Looking at the floor, they nodded.  Her jaw locked for a moment, feeling the heat rising in her chest. “Look at me when I’m talking to you.” They twitched at her sharp tone but lifted their eyes to comply.

“Good.  My name is Helena Vandred, and my handle is Vix, you may call me by either.  I am a Second Lieutenant, and I have been placed in charge of this unit. In essence, that means I own you; depending on your background, that may be hard to swallow, but it is a reality in WITCH.  Understand?” They tried to keep their lips from trembling; silent tears fell down their cheeks, but they kept eye contact. “Tell me each of your names, ability, and where you’re from.”

Swallowing, the brown haired girl began.  “My—my name is Adara Andreaou, and—and I can help trees grow.  I’m from—Merveilles.” Trees grow … it seems they don’t know how to distinguish between different kinetic abilities.  She’s likely at the beginning stages of Ligneokinesis. Powerful if properly used; Hawthorn utilized it reasonably well, but she was high ranking SOP.  If she’s from Merveilles then helping trees grow would be a great help; I believe seeing it on the continental map. It should be a farming village in the mid-southeast of Elestveeve.  The steel bracelets make sense too, steel is a lower class fashion statement that could be converted to practical use if needed.

The black-haired boy was massaging his throat; he coughed before saying, “My name’s—it’s Chance Bisgaard … you know what I,” his voice cracked at Helena’s glare.  “I’m an Audiokinetic. I’m from Andreaou too.”

Helena frowned.  “Did you two know each other before being kidnapped?”

They both shook their heads.  Adara was getting control of her sniffles.  “No—I saw him around a few times, but we weren’t close.”

Nodding, Helena turned to the black-haired girl with the piercings.  “Umm—I’m from the Palma Islands—my name—I’m Viera Bechett ... Koloka Village.  I can move water a little; I was in charge of mixing herbal brews in my village.”  Hydrokinesis can be extremely powerful if she’s able to manipulate the water in someone’s body.  By her reaction and downplaying her ability … she’s not very skilled with it. Palma Islands as well, how did that happen?  She’s not dark skinned … well, I can learn more about their pasts later. For now, baby steps.

Finally, she turned to the black-haired boy.  He flinched for a moment before saying, “I—my, “he stuttered, “I’m J—Jaiden K—Kolkis.  I—I’m—move things around with m—my mind. G—grew up, n—near G—Goglix.” He has a speech impediment; it’s overcomeable.  He’s likely a Telekinetic and near Goglix … it’s just outside of Deity territory.

“Do you believe in the Deity Faith?”  He shook his head. “Alright,” Helena said evenly.  She stared at each one of them. “Jaiden, Chance, Adara, and Viera.  You each have much to learn in a very short time if you’re going to survive WITCH and not embarrass me.  I will try to teach each of you to the best of my ability, and hopefully, we’ll all survive our first assignment.”

Adara raised her hand, fidgeting as Helena nodded.  “Umm—what will we be doing?”

“Likely, each of you will need to kill people and maintain order within the city.”  They tensed at her words. “How long have each of you been with WITCH?”

Chance scratched the back of his head, looking at Viera with a slight frown.  “I’ve been here for like—three weeks, I think … it’s hard to tell time in the fog.”

Helena’s eyes narrowed.  Passed SOP pre-training in three weeks after being kidnapped?  They have no reliable skills or experience … what kind of game am I dancing to?  This can’t be normal.

“You have a lot more to learn than I originally thought,” Helena resisted a sigh.  “I want each of you to really ponder on my words, they are very simple. Will you kill or will you die?”  They were silent; she watched their hearts flutter in distress. Her eyes moved to Chance. “Your statement about challenging me without the intent to kill … foolish, extremely foolish.”  He flinched at her tone. “This is not a game; you will be pushed into life and death situations. The only way you can possibly win without killing someone is by being vastly more powerful and you four, from what I’ve seen, don’t even match the normal operation teams.  In other words, you’re weak.”

Chance and Adara’s faces turned red.  “Not like I can help it,” Adara huffed.  “I’ve never fought before in my life.”

“Not my problem,” Helena stated coldly.  The four froze at her response, trying to work through her statement.  This is tiresome.  I have to teach them how to think…  “It is not my problem that you have never fought to survive; it is my problem that now I’m supposed to rely on you to fulfill a task I’ve been given.”  I guess it’s time for a thought exercise; I used to hate these when Drake would do it to me.  “Adara, I’ve been given the assignment to guard a fish stall against anyone without the proper tickets from accessing.  A starving kid in rags crawls to the stall; what do you do?”

Adara’s brow creased.  “Well, I look to see if anyone’s around to see and if I don’t see anyone, then I hand him a fish.”  How naive can she get; can’t she tell it’s not so straight forward?

“The boy pulls a knife and stabs you.”

“What!”  Adara’s teeth snapped shut as she growled.  “Why? That doesn’t make any sense. I just gave him food, why would he stab me?”

“You’ll never know,” Helena stated coldly.  “You’re dead.” She looked between Chance, Viera, and Jaiden.  “The three of you are still alive. Why did the boy stab Adara?”

“She didn’t check for a knife?”  Chance asked.

“That isn’t the reason; that’s the cause of her negligence.  Why did he stab her?”

“I—I think, s—she, h—he wanted all the f—fish.”  Jaiden stammered. A simple and obvious answer, but a train of thought that’s not so careless.

Helena smiled a little.  “That’s scratching the surface and raises one option.”

“The surface…”  Viera muttered. “So, the object of your question is to address the reasons not to approach the boy?”

“An astute observation, but there is still more facets to be examined, cross-examined, and reevaluated.  I see that none of you have an HCID; were you trained to use one?”

“What’s an HCID?”  Adara asked, voice still reflecting her embarrassment.  How could I sink further into depression?  The amount of work that these four needs are … wait, Kara … wow, I can’t believe I didn’t catch that.  This is a reflection of Kara’s perspective to me; I thought I was patient, but this proves I still have a ways to go.  The comparison escaped my notice too; Kara couldn’t have read me this easily, could she? Well, she has in the past, it would be wise to consider she is this intelligent considering her feats.  So, this is another form of growth for me and also a challenge in the full sight of the Purists. Another public trial where I will be judged based on my unit’s advancement; this is a big bite to swallow, but packed full of protein.

“Vix?”  Viera mumbled.

Vision rising, she met their eyes.  “I’m going to leave with an assignment.”  She held up her wrist. “This is an HCID; I am going to send in a request for you to go receive one.  The one you will pick up is only a placeholder. I will have a specific design made for each of you; your assignment tonight is to get one, learn how to use it, and send me a message detailing what you’ve learned by tomorrow morning.  Understood?”

They were silent for a moment as they thought about her words.  Licking her lips, Viera wiped at her cheeks before nodding. “Understood.”  The other three nodded slowly.

“Also, do not talk about escaping; it is impossible.”  Before they could respond, she added, “Do you think I or even the Primes wish to be here?”  Well, there are exceptions with the Felorne Great House.  “No, just about every person in WITCH does not wish to be here, but it is a reality, and you cannot escape.  Put it out of your mind, listen to me, learn, think, and maybe you’ll survive.”

With that, she left the room.  This will be more of a task than I expected.  I’ll need to start from the ground up. Pulling up the base designs, she found the Officer Mess Hall.  Along the way, she sent a message to the base Admins about her unit.  I assume I’ll be approached by someone in the mess hall, but for what purpose?

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