Reality presented her with a group of awkward strangers.
Well, she had been warned that being a captain wouldn’t be easy, but she accepted the role anyway. With the responsibility came power, and with her power, she would pull these fragmented individuals into the team she envisioned.
She clapped her hands once. The sharp sound startled her new members’ attention onto her.
“Welcome, everyone, to Squad 11. It’s our first day together, so we’re starting with a cooking competition. You have two hours. Cook me something delicious. Winner gets to be my vice captain.”
Part of the Defenders of the Wall universe.
Genre: slice of life
Genre: slice of life, fantasy
Features characters from Mission Gone Wrong. A more complete list of the team can be found near the bottom of the fiction navigation page.
Note: The ‘S’ in S Class Fighter refers to superhuman strength.
The thought hit Theo as he stared at the ceiling after getting knocked on his back for the third time in less than an hour.
Why was Ezra his mentor?
“Why do you ask?” Ezra asked above him.
Theo shot up with an embarrassing “Eep!” which of course drew the attention of everyone else in the room.
“Ask what?” Thomas asked. The rest circled closer like vultures.
“Why I’m his mentor,” Ezra said.
“I mean, I’m an S Class Fighter. Wouldn’t I normally get another S Class Fighter as my mentor?” Theo quickly explained before things spiralled out of control.
His seniors exchanged glances.
“You’re his mentor. You can do the honours,” Thomas said to Ezra.
“Well.” Ezra cleared his throat. “I was not given a reason when they assigned you as my mentee, but I believe I was chosen because you don’t need more help to improve your strength. I’m here to help you use it well.”
As expected of Ezra. He knew everything.
“Or,” Thomas said, “They just picked a random person and that person was Ezra.”
Theo’s shoulders slumped. The rest of the team glared at an unrepentantly cheerful Thomas.
“What’s the matter?” Eileen asked.
“Huh? Oh. Nothing. Just a random thought. I didn’t even realise I said it out loud.” Theo rubbed his neck with a nervous laugh.
“You know.” Thomas dropped an arm over Theo’s shoulders. “If you want a new mentor, you just need to ask.”
“Wha… but… Ezra’s perfect.”
The team burst into laughter. Theo’s words caught up to his brain a little too late and he dropped his face into his hands.
“Hear that Ezra? You’re perfect,” Thomas said.
“We’ll see how perfect he thinks I am after I’m done with him. Come on,” Ezra said.
Theo scrambled to his feet.
In the end, Theo decided that it didn’t matter why Ezra was his mentor, only that he was, and Theo would learn everything he could while he still had his amazing mentor.
“Captain hates me.”
“No he doesn’t.”
“He told me to quit the team.”
“We’ve all heard that before. Twice, at least.”
“He tried to kill me during training.”
“He just wants to make sure we’re strong enough to stay alive outside the wall.”
“You! What are you still doing here? Training’s over. Get out.”
“He just kicked me out!”
“You know how emotionally constipated he is. Hidden under that gruff exterior is a tender heart that cares for you.”
The captain approached them, grabbed them by their arms and threw them out of the room.
“He just threw me out. Literally.”
“… The heart is hidden really, really, deep down.”
At the centre of the crater hovered their target, a young girl who glowed faintly. They didn’t know who she was or how she got there, only that they had orders to bring her in alive using any means necessary.
The ‘alive’ part was important, because they weren’t the only ones after the girl, and not everyone cared if she stayed alive.
They raced down the crater and shot anyone who aimed a weapon at the target. Anyone who tried to block them received the same treatment. Despite their training, they weren’t the first ones to reach the girl. That turned out to be a blessing in disguise when the glow around the girl picked up the first group and flung them out of sight.
They reported the glow as another obstacle in their mission and turned their attention to keeping everyone else away while their support team found a way to neutralise the glow. It didn’t matter that they were outnumbered. They had a mission, and they were going to complete it.
The mission had been going well until one of the monsters they were fighting tumbled into another monster’s nest. For a few moments, the two clans fought each other, then they noticed the team of humans among them and shifted their attention accordingly.
The team was already tired after spending most of the day tracking and killing more than half of the monsters from their target clan. With the monsters from the new clan joining in the fight, it was like they were starting their mission all over again, except they didn’t get reinforcements.
“Retreat,” Alan said.
They turned and ran. The monsters chased after them. Ezra duplicated himself and left the copies behind as decoys. A handful of monsters turned their attention to his fragments, but the majority still chased after them. The team was too tired to outrun the monsters, so Ezra could only make more and more copies to slow the monsters down.
By the time they returned to the safety behind the city wall, there were dozens of Ezra’s scattered around the wasteland, with more pieces appearing when a copy shattered into fragments instead of dying.
He was not looking forward to the mammoth task of getting all those pieces back again.
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.
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~