At the beginning of every year, Lucy used to sit the whole team down in a circle to discuss their goals for the year. Lucy had already left the team, but that didn’t mean the practice couldn’t continue.
Unfortunately, he remembered too late why he always left everything to Lucy.
“My goal this year is to be a better Fighter,” Thomas said.
“Same,” Vincent said.
“Yeah,” Ezra said.
“Yes,” Eileen said.
Theo hesitated, but the newbie decided to follow his seniors with a, “Me too.”
“Any other goals?” Alan asked.
Oh well. He tried, but he just didn’t share Lucy’s enthusiasm for new year goals.
“Then we’re done. Get up. Time to warm up.”
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.
~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.