B2 — 3. Calculated Action
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Helena passed by several people as she continued to the mess hall. I have four members within my team, and I assume I’ll have a time designated for training them; however, it stands to reason they’d still put us to use in some other manner. Olivia seems like the efficient type and would run the Purists in that manner. It would need to be something worth an SOP squad, but nothing requiring a massive operation, especially with how incompetent my team is. Olivia will more than likely test how quickly I can bring them up to standards, but I don’t know enough about Purist activities in New Genesis to make an educated guess. I’ll need to study what new SOP team assignments entail.

She turned down a branching hallway, descending stairs to the second level. My team is comprised of a Telekinetic, Hydrokinetic, Audiokinetic, and Ligneokinetic. What an odd assortment of abilities; is it chance Olivia gave them to me? I have to assume there was a reason and I need to puzzle it out. Each of them never grew up around espers and have a very rough understanding of their abilities. Olivia must have heard what happened with Kara and me … Booker was an Audiokinetic and Hawthorn was a Ligneokinetic; I’ve seen both of them use their abilities to deadly means, and Olivia herself is a Telekinetic, but Hydrokinesis … perhaps I’m overthinking this.

Stepping onto the second floor, she continued toward her destination. I need to refocus. What is of primary concern? My elevated position, how I achieved it, and the consequences that brings; they’re connected. I will have expectations placed upon me and the pressure to accomplish those goals with high marks. This is a power-based hierarchy; if I don’t meet those expectations, then I’ll fall behind and be trampled underfoot. I must obtain knowledge of what is expected of me with this new unit and the snakes hiding in the bushes. It will be key to identify how much time I can devote to my own growth while also training my team to learn self-improvement habits; if I can teach them to improve on their ability and thinking habits on their own, then it will free up time for me to advance as well.

She turned into the Officer Mess Hall and stopped in her tracks; ahead of her, sitting at a table with a passive expression, sat Peter. He wore a turquoise and black striped shirt with black pants and shoes. This is the Purist Officer Dining Area … can other factions eat here? Her eyes swept the room, taking note of the other Purist Officers. No, this is abnormal. The atmosphere is tense; it seems it’s not banned or there’d already be trouble. If he’s here, it means he’s at least an officer as well. He’d obviously be here for me; this was not the meeting I expected.

Gengler was sitting a few tables away from Peter with a blonde haired girl, glaring in his direction; however, she caught Gengler’s face wrinkle as he noticed Peter staring directly at her. Wonderful … does Peter know the position he’s placed me in? Either way, he’s here for for a reason, and if I, a new member to the Purists, talks to Peter, an Officer of Shimmering Fiend, right after Booker’s betrayal … it’s going to give me a very bad image. Of course, the same could be said for him … if he came to the Purist district of New Genesis, then he’d have gained permission from a higher governing body. It can’t be anyone here … I don’t see how he could have gotten into contact with Olivia or gained her permission, but that is a question for later.

Helena kept her face passive as her eyes slid back to Peter. I don’t think I can avoid this; if he came all the way here then he’d approach me at another table, but that might be preferred. If he wishes to talk to me, then he’ll have to initiate which will be a little brighter on my image for the rest of the Purists. I’ll let him approach me. Peter knows how I think much better than most within my faction; he would guess my reasons.

Turning away from Peter, she walked toward Gengler’s table; the room was fairly quiet, a few people looking away from her to glare at Peter. Taking a seat by Gengler, she looked at the blonde haired girl next to him; she sat casually, blue eyes cold. She seemed to be in her late teens and was dressed in a modest way with a black dress that fell to her upper shins and black two-inch heels adorned her feet. She didn’t wear any jewelry, but there was evidence of a little makeup to redden her cheeks and darken her lips. How does she connect to Gengler? She could be Esther, which would make sense if she wanted to meet one of her new Second Lieutenants. If that’s the case … what a terrible time for Peter to show up. Since I’m the lowest ranking person in the room, it would be prudent to wait to be addressed.

The girl hummed as she turned to watch Helena sit. “So, Helena Vandred … what was it like being a high ranking Noble?”

Helena folded her hands across her lap. “For me, normal life.”

She huffed with a light smile. “Not going to ask who I am?”

“That would be rude since I am likely of inferior status.”

Gengler smirked, leaning to raise his eyebrows at the girl. “What did I say? She’s got an interesting way of speaking.”

The girl nodded. “I’d expect nothing less from a Noble girl. I suspect you’ve already guessed my identity, Olivia seems to have high regard of your mind. I’m Esther, your Captain.” Her eyes narrowed as she looked up; Helena followed her gaze. Everyone in the room followed Peter as he rose and walked toward their table. “Hmm?”

Glaring at him, Gengler’s nose twisted. “What do you want, fiend.”

Peter’s tone was respectful and low. “Hello, Helena, I know this is an inconvenient time, but I need to speak privately with you.”

“Interesting,” Esther frowned. “Helena, do you know this boy from the Turquoise Faction?”

“Yes,” Helena looked at Peter, hiding any emotion. “I was initiated into WITCH in the Northern Base, and Peter was a part of my first trial. He was recently initiated into the Turquoise Faction, and it seems he was promoted to an Officer’s rank.”

Gengler’s teeth ground together for a moment. “Tsk, what did you do to get that promotion? The Shimmering Fiend doesn’t just hand those out.”

Peter’s gaze slid to Gengler. “I killed someone for it.” I see, if he was going to survive in that kind of a faction, then it was a necessity. It could also be argued that I put him in that position. Has he come to collect that debt? If I can, I will, but it is a rather inconvenient time; however, if I’m to uphold the standard I’ve set for myself, I repay my debts. That’s the kind of image I want the Vandred House to represent. He must know my own position, and he isn’t dumb, which means he thinks I can accomplish it. It could also be argued it’s time sensitive if he’s willing to go to these lengths.

“I’d expect nothing less from the Fiends,” Esther said without bite. “It’s how they operate. So, who did you get permission from to propose this kind of meeting? You couldn’t get in here without someone’s support.”

“General Olivia,” he stated, taking a folded piece of paper out of his pocket to show her. I see … if that’s the case then there’s nothing anyone can do; the only person above her is Kara. Was she just interested in his request? It also begs the question how he was able to get a meeting with her at all? He must have done a lot to make this happen.

Glancing over the paper, Esther hummed. “It’s genuine.” Her eyes narrowed as she glanced toward Helena. “What will you do?”

The mess hall had grown silent as everyone listened to the conversation. “May I read the paper?” Helena asked. A small smiled grew on Esther’s lips as she handed it over. Reading the short letter, she noticed a specific seal imprinted in the paper with white wax. So, he has permission to be within key facilities inside the Purist Faction Base until he has accomplished meeting me and making his request. I can refuse this … however, Olivia would have already officiated this request before I arrived. She didn’t tell me about it, meaning this could also be a test. How many trials must I overcome? I could refuse Peter’s request, but I do owe him a bit of debt. I need to hear him out while also keeping my image with my superior positive.

She handed the paper back to Peter. “I will first eat with Captain Esther and First Lieutenant Gengler. Once I finish my time with them, I will humor your request.” Both Gengler and Esther’s brow rose with a hint of approval.

“I understand,” Peter stated, putting the paper away. “I will wait for you in the nearest meeting room.” He nodded toward Esther and left without a second glance.

“You handled that with skill,” Esther complimented, eyes sparkling. “Do you have any idea what he wants?”

Helena shook her head. “I don’t; however, I assume it must be of importance if he went through such means to obtain this meeting. Especially in regards to General Olivia.”

“Indeed,” Esther muttered.

“He has some nerve though,” Gengler huffed. “I can’t remember a time when any Purist voluntarily went to the Shimmering Fiend to request a meeting. Maybe to resolve a fight, but nothing else.”

“The interesting part is that he received permission from Olivia,” Esther said, leaning back to stare at the exit. “If it caught Olivia’s eye, then it must be worth pursuing. Olivia didn’t order you to do anything either,” her focus returned to Helena. “She’s interested to see what decision you make. I’d like to know what is decided.”

Helena nodded. “When would you like a report?”

“When everything is decided,” Esther’s elbows rested on the table as her fingers intertwined. “Now, why don’t we get something to eat.”

Helena ordered a balanced meal; chicken marsala with red potatoes and green beans. While waiting for their food to arrive, Gengler reported to Esther about a few of his teams. I see—since we are Special Operations, we take care of specific targets and operations within the city. Spying in the streets, meeting with different section bosses to receive reports, making sure production is on schedule … we’re basically management. In a power-based system, I guess you’d need powerful individuals to accomplish those potentially dangerous tasks. Just going into the streets is life-threatening. It’s to be expected that you’ll have to make examples, especially if you’re new to an area; the espers inside the districts will test you to see how far they can push it.

After hearing the report, Esther nodded and turned to Helena. “So, what are your thoughts after hearing that?”

“Honestly,” Helena said, repressing a sigh. “I feel as if my team is ill-prepared for such tasks. I will need to teach them a great many things and expose them to a few threatening encounters to prepare them to handle New Genesis.”

She chuckled. “So, what was your impression of your team?” So, this is Esther’s test. She’s digging to identify my personality and how I responded to the lackluster situation I’ve been placed in. Transparency will be important with her.

“First impression,” Helena’s tone turned cold. “Frustration.”

“How did it go after I left?” Gengler asked with amusement; he accepted a plate of food as a server set their plates across the table.

Helena neatly placed her napkin across her lap. “They were rebellious, unrefined, and asinine. I offered them a choice; kill me now or listen and obey.”

Esther smiled at her statement while Gengler licked his lips, a slightly nervous edge in his tone. “Oh? What did they do?”

Waiting for Esther to begin eating, Helena sat straight, tone cold. “They froze, and then one worked up the courage, with the emotional support of the others, to face me. He idealistically stated that he would not kill me but fight to show his superiority—it was painfully obvious that he lacked the resolve. I hoped that the group was leading me on, that they had some hidden motive, or killing intent, but I was utterly disappointed. I easily subdued all of them at once, and they broke into tears, begging for their lives.”

Gengler swallowed as she recounted the incident. “Seriously? All of that happened when I left? I wasn’t expecting that.” He muttered.

Esther rested her chin on her interlaced fingers for a moment before lifting it. “How did their response make you feel?”

Helena calmly locked eyes with Esther. “Odious.”

“Odious … explain.” Esther ordered before preparing to eat.

“A team in WITCH is linked to your life, at least to a certain extent; it is imperative to trust someone to make up for something you lack. It could be intelligence, ability, skills, or a host of other things, but you must be able to put at least a degree of faith in others. This sets up a problem with a power-based hierarchy; it requires unquestionable loyalty. This, I think, is why Booker’s betrayal hit Purist so heavily and why I feel this way toward my team.”

Gengler cleared his throat at her statement, but Esther nodded with pursed lips before taking a drink. “Go on.”

“I do not feel like I can put my trust in my team members to accomplish a task; at least, not at this point.”

Esther finished swallowing before asking, “Not at this point?”

Helena nodded. “It is true; I feel odious about the members of my team; they are ignorant, cowards, and essentially worthless as they are. However, a soldier isn’t built overnight. They haven’t been introduced to the right program to cultivate their utility and are therefore unrefined. It means I have a lot more work to do, but they can be refined, pressed, and developed into proper weapons. Upon reflection, my frustration is with my expectation, not the product. I was under the impression that I’d be handed soldiers, but instead, I was given raw materials to build them—I just need the forge.”

Esther leaned back, folding her legs; she looked around at the other officers with a small smile before her gaze returned to Helena. “You really are something else; you presented a request without directly asking it. I planned on dumping you into the fire, but you’ve really caught my interest—okay, I’ll give you some time at the forge. I’m interested to see what you can mold; I’ll send a message to you later tonight with the details on your required duties.” She examined her for a few seconds. “It’s hard to see you as an eight-year-old, Helena. Even for an esper, examining your words and actions … no wonder Kara is interested in you.”

Plate half finished, she rose. “When your business with Peter is finished, you can find me in the Faction Library. I’m eager to learn what the request is and your response.” With that, she left the hall.

Gengler took a deep breath. “Wow, you’re deadly with words. It isn’t easy to impress Esther—I guess you impressed Olivia and Kara though.” He shook his head as Helena began eating. “You really are a Noble, eh?”

She took it as a statement and continued to eat; the mess hall began to build with low conversation as they ate. Once finished, Helena left the hall with Gengler. He joined her as she made her way toward the nearest meeting room, seemingly deep in thought. I’ve gained a bit of leniency with my daily activities, but there will be duties I still need to perform. I’ve also tightened the noose around my neck if I fail, but it was necessary. The unknown factor is Peter; what does he want with me? Before I meet him, I should probably use the washroom; I don’t know how long this will take. There’s one down the next hall; will Gengler voice what he’s been thinking before or after I finish?

Making it to the washroom, she turned to him. “I will only be a moment.” He nodded, posting up against the wall, eyes low. She relieved herself, washing up before exiting.

He cleared his throat. “It’s easy to see … you’re pretty smart—when did you realize Booker was a traitor?” It was bound to come up; he was directly under Booker.

Helena frowned. “Not until the moment he stabbed his blade through Klen’s chest. There were things that puzzled me about him, but I didn’t think he was a traitor; his mask was so well placed that even Kara was blindsided … that, I believe, was his true skill. How he was able to pull that over on her … I don’t know; it baffles me.”

He nodded, downcast. “Yeah … we’re all baffled.” He smirked, staring down at her. “Well, from what I’ve heard so far, I think you can handle that fiend without a problem. Good luck,” he reached down, shaking her hand before departing.

Helena watched him go, face unreadable. I don’t know … Peter’s a completely unknown factor. I don’t know his goals at all; I can’t even guess his motives. That unknown factor is what sparks trepidation. He hasn’t revealed anything yet which is a sign of his intelligence … I can’t plan for something I don’t know. At least it’s something Olivia wouldn’t be opposed to; there’s at least that. Standing in front of the door, she took a deep breath before opening the meeting room.

Author Note:  You've reached the current release.  D=  I usually try to release a new chapter Friday Morning MST.  If you enjoyed the series, then try out A Tail's Misfortune or The Oscillation synopsis to see if it'll be your cup of tea!  ^_^7