They didn’t fulfil the mission objective of finding the Beauris heir, but everyone who went out came back unharmed.
The two extra people stood side by side before the team. The sound of a chair scraping over the floor made Darius turn his head to find his housemate on his feet.
“Esther?” The name left Wilfredo’s mouth like a gasp.
“That’s me,” a familiar voice said.
Darius turned his head back to face the two new faces. Was that…
“Hello, Beauris. I am Esther Turnery. This is my husband, Roger.” She gestured at the man beside her. “Thank you for your help. As promised, I will tell you where the Sharoon heirloom is. But first, I need some time with my son, Darius.”
That was the same voice as the person who made a deal with his housemate. So this woman was his mother. And the man beside her…
His breath caught at his throat. Darkness crept in at the edges of his vision. His fingers shook.
A hand clapped his shoulder. He jumped, but it was only his housemate.
“Something wrong?” Wilfredo asked.
The shroud of unexplained panic pulled back. Darius shook his head, not trusting himself to speak. His housemate didn’t look convinced, but didn’t press the issue.
Wilfredo led the family of three to an empty room. Darius kept his distance from his father. He didn’t remember his father at all, but his body did. The reaction didn’t bode well for his relationship with his father.
His mother broke through his thoughts with a gentle hand around his.
“Sit here.” She sat on a sofa and pulled him down beside her. When he sat stiffly at the edge, she pushed him until his back rested against the cushioned back of the sofa.
“Relax.” She hooked her fingers under his jaw and tilted his head back until it also rested against the sofa back. Her palms passed gently over his eyes and he closed them automatically.
“You have amnesia,” she said, “I can bring your memories back, but it might be uncomfortable, and no matter what, you can’t fight me. We can both get seriously hurt. Understand?”
“You are my son. I won’t harm you, so trust me and let me in.”
“The easiest way is to sleep. Let go of your fears and let me do all the work.”
Darius released a short laugh that was equal parts nervous and bitter. “Easier said than done.”
“I’m your mother. I know you more than you know yourself. Just trust me.” Her hands moved to run through his hair. She hummed a tune that he had never heard before but tugged at the forgotten corners in his mind.
He forced his body to relax and emptied his mind of all thoughts but the wordless song. The rest of the room faded away until it was just him on the sofa with his mother. Eventually, even that faded away as he slipped into a daze.
~To be continued~
When Alan told Theo to think about why he wanted to stay and why he was struggling in the team, he hadn’t meant to make it sound so urgent that Ronald, their usually hands-off supervisor, felt compelled to attend the meeting. It would have been better if Ronald stayed away. Things were awkward enough for Theo without an extra person the newbie had only met once.
The meeting continued downhill from there. Despite their best efforts, they only uncovered what they already knew. Theo wanted to stay because he liked the team (which they could tell) and he didn’t know why he was struggling (which put him on the same level as everyone else).
Unpacking yesterday’s mission didn’t help. Theo ran away because he panicked (obviously), didn’t return to the group because he got lost (no surprise there), attacked the monsters so they didn’t attack him first (the only surprising fact), and climbed the tree because he thought he could do it (everyone did that all the time).
Alan rubbed his temples (something he didn’t think he would do this often after Lucy left). This was going nowhere. Lucy always had a dozen different ways to squeeze answers out of people. If analysing the mission didn’t work, he needed to try something else.
Intimidation wouldn’t work. Theo was terrified enough as it was.
Pranks wasn’t his thing. And would just scare the newbie even more.
Flattery also wasn’t his thing, but honesty… He could do honesty. There were things that Theo had actually done well. A little well-earned praise might do the trick.
“You are strong,” Alan said before he second thought himself, “In terms of strength, you have the potential to be the strongest on our team. That’s why I can’t understand why you’re still struggling.”
Theo stared at him for a few moments. His mouth opened and closed as he struggled with his words.
“But…” he finally said, “I’ve never won against anyone before. Not even Ezra.” Theo’s gaze slid to Ezra. “No offense.”
“I’m not strong,” Ezra said, “But I’m good. We all are. Including you. I watched you face two monsters at the same time. You can do it. You just need to think less and do more.”
The words slowly sunk in.
Theo looked around the group. If there were any disagreements or hesitation, everyone hid them well. Theo straightened unconsciously in his seat.
“I’ll do anything. I’ll get better. Please, let me stay.”
Alan pretended to ponder, then come to a solemn decision. “One more month, and we’ll review your place on this team.”
For the first time since Theo walked into the training room that day, his face lit up in a smile.
“Thank you, Captain!”
It was too early to tell if Theo’s crippling self-confidence issues was the root of all his struggles, but it was a start. They could work with that.
Of all the different parts/chapters of Mission Gone Wrong, this was the hardest to write. The version posted here is my third attempt, which is very different from the second attempt, which also differs greatly from my first try.
It was probably so difficult because this chapter had the very important job of tying together what had happened before in the mission and presenting the breakthrough the team needed to grow in the future.
So that’s it for this multipart story. I hope you enjoyed it. If you would like to check out more stories of this monster hunting team, check out Defenders of the Wall.
They returned to the city without any dramas and sent Theo straight to Hillary’s office. Shadow, left after finishing her job, so it was just the five of them in Hillary’s waiting room.
Perfect for an impromptu team meeting.
“Captain, I think Theo should try a different team,” Ezra said.
“Is that what everyone else thinks?” Alan asked.
Everyone nodded. That wasn’t surprising. He wanted to nod too.
“I agree,” Alan said, “But Lucy asked me to keep Theo in the team.”
“What does Lucy have to do with this?”
“Do you know why Lucy left?” Alan cut in before the team broke out into full shock mode.
“Wasn’t it because of her new job?”
“It was for Theo,” Alan said.
The team exploded again.
“Anyway.” Alan raised his voice to be heard. “She thinks Theo should stay with us, and I trust her. Do you?”
Everyone replied as one with no hesitation.
Ah, Lucy. She was so worried people would forget her when she left. As if that would ever happen.
“Well, I do. And this time, I’m pulling rank. Theo stays with us.”
Lucy took advantage of her captain status all the time, but this was his first time doing it himself. Would pulling rank actually work for non-Lucys?
The door opened and Theo stepped through. The newbie froze as all eyes zoomed in on him, but the P rank Fighter beside him didn’t.
“You’re next,” Hillary said and pointed at Ezra, “Come on.”
Ezra hobbled after Hillary into her office. The door closed behind them and the team meeting continued.
Or rather, it started afresh.
“Please, let me stay on the team,” Theo blurted out. Fidgeting like a jelly worm, he said, “I’ll work hard. I’ll do anything you want me to do. I’ll get better.”
Now all eyes turned to Alan, but no one said a word. Well, if no one disagreed, he would go ahead with his decision. But first, some questions for the newbie.
“Why? You’ve been with us for three months. If you’re still struggling now, you shouldn’t be here.”
Theo flinched. His mouth opened and closed, but he remained silent and curled in on himself instead. That didn’t help anyone at all.
Alan rubbed circles into his temples. He would keep his promise, but he still needed to figure out why Lucy’s cousin was still struggling after three months.
“Think about why you want to stay on this team and why you’re struggling. Tomorrow, we’ll have a team meeting during training and discuss your future with this team. Understand?”
“That’s it for today. Dismissed.”
He wasn’t going to watch Theo float around for another three months. Tomorrow, they had to get to the bottom of Theo’s issues or he might need to break his promise to Lucy after all.
~To be continued~
I wasn’t sure if I should end the story here or in the next part, but I hesitated so long that the next prompt came out, and I think another part should be enough to wrap up Mission Gone Wrong. I hope the conclusion meets expectations.
Theo woke to an open sky and the whole team around him. Plus one. That was fast. They hadn’t even waited to kick him out before bringing in the new member.
“How do you feel?” Eileen started checking him once she realised he was awake. He thought he was fine, but something he said must have scared her, because when he tried to get up, she stopped him.
“Just in case, don’t move until we get back,” she said.
The new person, Shadow, tapped him on the shoulder and made him float above the ground. Beside them, the vice-captain lifted Ezra into his arms. Why did Ezra need to be carried?
“I’ll get better.”
“Just give me more time.”
He looked at Ezra’s legs, but Ezra’s clothes covered any injuries he might have. Did he… panic and break something? That was why his senior couldn’t walk? Now they really would kick him out of the team.
“What’s wrong?” Shadow asked.
Theo couldn’t meet her gaze. “Nothing.”
The new girl watched him for a few more moments. When he didn’t continue, she returned her attention to Thomas, who was asking her all kinds of questions to get to know her better.
Theo closed his eyes.
They had already replaced him.
But he didn’t want to leave.
~Next: Team Meeting~
The main plot finally continues. The other detour chapters weren’t that bad though. They’ve led me to some interesting characters and perspectives that I wouldn’t otherwise uncover if I kept to just Theo and Ezra’s point of view.
Thomas didn’t consider himself a very competitive person, but it was hard not to compare himself to the girl beside him who could flick away chunks of earth like it was just dust mites.
Every group had their own superstar. Theirs was Shadow.
Most Fighters came in one of two types: those born with superhuman strength, and those born with special powers. The rest were normal people or the rare few blessed with both strength and power.
Or should he say cursed?
All the Fighters he knew with both strength and power paid a price. Take Kimon from Team 6 as an example. He had the strength of an S rank Fighter and the ability to create spikes out of any solid substance, but his strength weakened when he slept and grew the longer he stayed awake. The result was a Fighter with the most micromanaged sleep schedule ever.
It made him wonder. The stronger they were, the greater the price they had to pay. No Fighter held a candle to Shadow in strength or power, so what was her price?
Their tunnel joined with the underground tunnel the other Ezra was in. A few waves of her hand, and the earth around the new space was shored up.
Despite being their very own superstar, no one knew much about Shadow. She wasn’t on any team, but she would turn up to missions when she was needed. Outside of those handful of missions, it was as if she didn’t exist.
Now was his chance. If he remembered right, Charlie from Team 9 was offering to pay for information on Shadow’s favourite food.
He would start there.
~Next: New Member~
~Just Keep Walking~
Ezra finally knew what was at the other side of the tunnel.
A dead end.
Just another hiccup on the most disastrous mission they’d had since they switched captains.
Going back wasn’t ideal, not with those monsters settling down to nap by the stream.
“That is fine. Just keep walking. We will get you,” Shadow said.
“So, more walking?” Vincent asked.
“More walking,” Ezra said, “Unless you’re too tired to continue?”
“I’m fine. He’s not heavy, just difficult to carry,” Vincent said as the two S class Fighters rose to their feet, lifting the still slumbering newbie between them in a way that would aggravate his injuries as little as possible.
Ezra tapped Vincent’s shoulder. “Hang in there Vice-Captain. Don’t let the lady do all the work.”
Hands occupied, Vincent kicked Ezra’s leg. Ezra’s copy blocked the half-hearted attack.
“What are they doing at the other end?” Eileen cut in.
He watched the captain’s side through his other self.
“They’re making a new tunnel.”
“How?” Vincent shifted Theo’s weight.
“Their bare hands.”
“Sounds like a party,” Eileen said.
“Vice-Captain, would you rather dig a tunnel or carry dead weight?” Ezra asked.
“Carry dead weight,” Eileen answered for Vincent, “Because dirt is dirty, right?”
Their vice-captain scowled, but didn’t deny the answer.
“Do I still lose points if you’re the one to jump in and answer?” Ezra said.
“Double points. Since it’s so obvious that someone else can answer,” Eileen said.
Vincent kicked him again. This time, the hit connected and Ezra’s injured ankle collapsed beneath him.
“What the. Vice-Captain!”
Vincent’s cheeks heated.
“Sorry. Didn’t expect to actually hit you,” he mumbled.
Ezra tested his ankle. It refused to take his weight. He sighed.
This mission just got better and better.
~Read on in Cursed Blessing~
It was pretty difficult to incorporate clumsy into this piece. The easy way out would be to make someone clumsy, but that wouldn’t fit with how the characters have been portrayed previously. The best connection I could come up with was clumsy as in ‘difficult to handle/use, unwieldy’, referring to Theo.
Tomorrow’s prompt is even worse. We’ll see how that goes.
This is part of the Mission Gone Wrong story.
~Promise Me This~
Before Alan was team captain, he was vice-captain to the original captain who created the team. The original captain was a small lady half his size with a mischievous streak a mile wide.
But under all the pranks and giggles was someone who took her job very seriously. So seriously, in fact, that when she learnt that her cousin would join her team, she applied for a transfer.
“Why?” he asked her after training when everyone else had left.
“Because my cousin’s a shy boy,” she said with a cheeky grin.
“Then put him on another team. Why should you be the one to leave?”
“Because my cousin’s a shy boy.”
His fingers twitched, but he didn’t throttle her. His parents had brought him up to be better than a thug who only knew how to throw his strength around.
Lucy’s grin softened into a smile. She rested a small hand on his arm.
“This team will be good for him, but not if I’m here. He needs his own space. Anyway, Lavi’s been bugging me to start a new team for a few months, so the timing is amazing.”
He didn’t know how much of the excitement was feigned, but the least he could do was play along and let her go.
“It wouldn’t be the same without you.”
“I hope not. This is your team now. Choose your own vice-captain, have as many or as little members as you want, train with bubblegum if that’s your style. It’s up to you. Just promise me this. Keep my cousin in the team until he becomes a full Fighter.”
It was that promise that stopped him whenever he thought of filing for a transfer for Lucy’s cousin. Shuffling newbies around different teams until they found one that fit was standard procedure. In fact, it was a great way to expose newbies to different combat styles and group strategy they wouldn’t otherwise get by sticking to just one team.
But Lucy had always had great insight into what people really needed, and if she thought sticking to one team was what her cousin needed, he just had to do his best to support her cousin.
He snapped out of his thoughts to the girl beside him.
“I am Shadow,” the girl introduced herself, “I am ready to leave whenever you are.”
He rose to his feet and checked his gear. Whatever misgivings he had about Theo’s place in the team could wait. It was time to bring their newbie back home.
“Good. Let’s go. Ezra, lead the way.”
~Continue to the next part: Just Keep Walking~
If you have been keeping up with my posts in the past few days, you would have noticed that unlike my usual one-shots, these posts are all parts of the same, continuous story.
There’s a reason for that.
One of my goals for October is to create a multi-chapter story. I didn’t have anything planned when I set that goal. I just thought that I had a whole month to think about it.
At the same time, to help me post something every day, I’ve been writing posts inspired by daily prompts.
So, what has happened so far this month is that I, in the process of responding to these prompts, am crafting a longer story than usual. I have a general idea of what kind of story I want to write, but I don’t know exactly what would happen until I’ve seen the prompt of the day.
It’s pretty exciting.
As of this writing, I am nine posts into the story, which is enough for me to finally give this cluster of posts a title: Mission Gone Wrong.
Navigating the different posts could be pretty confusing, so here’s a list for easy reference.
- Collecting Duty
- Leap of Faith
- Good News, Bad News
- Foolish Boy
- Unrealised Potential
- Questions and Reasons
- Injured Parties
- Flattery for Hillary
- Promise Me This
- Just Keep Walking
- Cursed Blessing
- New Member
- Team Meeting
- Troubleshooting Theo
And that’s a wrap. Hope you enjoy the story 🙂
Written in response to the prompt flattery.
~Flattery for Hillary~
As long as the heart continued to beat, she could bring them back to complete health. That was Hillary’s power.
Unlike other Fighters, Hillary wasn’t assigned to a team, not did she go on missions outside the wall. No one wanted to risk losing such an important power to a mission gone wrong, so it became the patient’s job to stay alive and go to her, not the other way around.
But she had ventured out to heal before, and for the sake of the newest member on the team, he had to at least try to make it happen again.
From what he had heard, bribery and flattery had the highest chances of success. Both options had never sat well with him, but at least flattery didn’t cost him anything.
“Captain, I can do it,” Thomas offered.
It was tempting to accept the offer, but both of them knew Thomas’ brutal honesty was more likely to offend the healer instead. Between the three of them, Ezra was best for the job, but he wasn’t so good that he could do it with his attention split between so many places.
So really, it all came back to him.
Alan walked into Hillary’s office fully prepared to say anything to make her happy. Instead, Hillary easily pushed away his empty words until all he had left was the truth.
“He sounds like he’ll be fine,” Hillary said, “But if it helps, I can ask Shadow to go with you and bring him back.”
It wasn’t the best option, but it was a very close second.
“Thank me by bringing everyone back alive.”
~Next up: Promise Me This~
My response to the prompt careful.
Ezra hissed as Eileen prodded his swelling ankle. In his panic, Theo hadn’t held back his strength. If Eileen hadn’t sedated him when she did, the newbie would have crushed his ankle completely.
“It doesn’t look like it’s broken, but try not to put any weight on it. I’ll make a cold compress.” Eileen picked out a compressed towel from the field kit. “Be right back.”
She headed over to the small stream that bubbled at one corner of the cavern. Unfortunately, she wasn’t the only one looking for water. A monster colony was walking towards them through one of the tunnels. Their leisurely pace suggested that they didn’t know there were humans nearby, but that would change if they didn’t leave before the monsters arrived.
“We need to move,” Ezra said when Eileen returned.
“What happened?” Eileen asked as she wrapped the cold compress around his ankle.
“A colony of eleven monsters will arrive here in roughly fifteen minutes.”
“Where do you suggest we go?” Vincent asked.
“We can risk it and go up, or risk it and go to the other tunnel, or risk it and ambush the colony first. Your decision, Vice-Captain.”
Vincent looked longingly up at the exposed sky before turning his attention back to the ground.
“Have you figured out where the other tunnel goes?” the vice-captain asked.
“No, but it looks clear so far.”
“Then we’ll go there. Can you walk?”
“If I have to.”
“Eileen, we’ll carry Theo. Ezra, let us know if you need help. Let’s go.”
Eileen pulled him to his feet. He tested his injured ankle. Putting his weight on it sent waves of pain up his leg, the kind of pain that warned of broken bones if he kept pushing it beyond its limit.
For the fourth time that day, Ezra duplicated himself. This time, he created a physical copy that was just an empty shell and didn’t share his injured ankle. That should do as a crutch for now. It would be better if he didn’t need to split himself again, but the newbie, who shouldn’t be moved at all, needed the extra attention.
He would just need to be extra careful.
~Next: Flattery for Hillary~