A Thoughtful World

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Chapter 2 - Unlawful Justice

It was the second day of the ceremony and preparations were already underway. The biggest hurdle in the process was the catering of every citizen in Emblem. 15,000 hungry mouths to feed. There are those who are assigned their duties but there is one who couldn’t wait and took charge. Even if she technically didn’t have the full authority to boss around the other chefs until midnight after the celebrations.

“I needed those recipes yesterday, people. The Ceremony of Successors only happens once every new generation, so let’s give it our all for tonight.” It’s not like we have to do this every year. Amelia mentally added that last part. She wasn’t officially the senior supervisor of the Court of Agriculture until midnight tonight, but Amelia would work with the kitchen to get the respect from her workers if need be. A goal she was beginning to regret. Come tomorrow, there was going to be some changes around the place regarding the policies that allowed workers to have an original thought. As far as she was concerned her being surrounded by incompetent people who couldn’t follow her simple instructions should just get out of her way. Like that idiot, Ace Loreson. That flop of a presentation was yesterday afternoon but Amelia was still thinking about it well into the next day as she made preparations for the final part of the ceremony which would involve all of Emblem as guests.

The few brave enough to stand up against Amelia’s demanding attitude are the inept codgers, as Amelia identified them as, have been against her becoming the successor for some time now. They formed a group and deemed themselves the council for her parents and have been testing her cooking skills since she’d been announced as their successor. Reginald May-Hughes, their leader, approached Amelia as she checked off items on her clipboard. “Miss Bateman, you’ve kept the day and night shift workers absurdly past their overtime hours in preparations for the celebrations. I suggest that we take a break as it is already six in the morning.” Reginald knew he had the full backing of the building when it came to taking a break. He knew Amelia wouldn’t forbid the workers from leaving if there was a risk of rioting and her parents, the current supervisors, would have to get involved. If that were to happen, Amelia would be humiliated and her succession would be put on hold due to ill favor from the general assembly of the Court of Agriculture.

To this, Amelia strode over to the PA system and stated, “Whoever is too tired and would like to take a break may leave now…and stay gone! I have no problem donning a Sceptre-173 and mass-preparing a three course dinner for all the citizens of Emblem.” To that ridiculous announcement, the workers gave Amelia a half-skeptical half- pity stare before they gathered their cookware and made for the clock-out station. “But know this; whether I succeed or fail, there will be no reprimand on my being. I will still succeed you all because I scored the highest in Sceptre-173 utilization and culinary expertise out of all you. How would you all continue with your careers with the fact that you abandoned a little girl to prepare for a festival all by her lonesome? I don’t know about you, but if I were an entire workforce, I’d be ashamed to be outdone and outworked by one chef. In fact, I wouldn’t show my face here or even pick up a wooden spoon.” Amelia shut off the device as she watched the workers in turmoil. Honestly, the workforce had only been standing around, twiddling their thumbs as the waited for their ingredients. Why would they need a break? Amelia flashed a glare at Reginald, urging him to back down and let her work.

Unfortunately for her, he did not. “Miss Bateman, the tradition of Emblem for such celebrations requires that we serve only authentic dishes from the storage of the House of Politics. When will the delivery transports carrying the meat and produce arrive?“

“I’m aware, Reginald, but the representative from the presentation hasn’t gotten back to me with permission yet and we cannot wait any longer. There will be 15,000 empty plates and the Grand Dinner is in 12 hours. I’ve been trying to ring them all morning, but they’re ignoring me.” Amelia grew angry as she thought of the main suspect that could’ve possibly ruined the celebration for all of Emblem. That obnoxious Ace Loreson. His stand-up routine might’ve put off the House of Politics’ cooperation with the ceremony.

As the royalty of Emblem, the House of Politics controls the main storage department that holds the food reserves from as long ago as 2018. The contents consisted of frozen meat, fruit, and vegetable spices that weren’t artificially created by Sceptre-173. The founders apparently hunted the very last game in their region and preserved it for Emblem and its people for special occasions. “Have some humanity” or “Hope for a better generation” was along the lines when the founders created the storage. Some sickeningly cheerful saying the Forge Division drawls about as they drink themselves into a coma. The last time they opened the main storage was, of course, for the last Ceremony of Successors which Amelia’s parents took part in.

Amelia could’ve just as easily made a complaint for the EDS to force the HoP to grant permission to the main storage compartment but the whole ordeal would last way past the deadline to prepare for the Grand Dinner. If Amelia didn’t have the key to the freezer by 10 in the morning, she would prepare the dinner by Sceptre-173. And by the looks of the sheep in her building still internally fighting within themselves, Amelia was ready to back up her threat. I know that Administrator Sceptre-173 is somewhere in my parent’s office…

Ignoring another one of Reginald’s grandstanding suggestions, Amelia noticed a group of EDS escorting a cloaked individual. Moving towards the window pane, Amelia discovered that Krieger was at the lead of the unit, actively avoiding the street lights, and…it couldn’t be. Was that Ace? Moving to the next window pane, her eyes closely watched the group as they strolled down the empty streets of Emblem. The last of the night shift workers passed through the streets an hour ago, so it was strange to see Krieger and his unit keeping so close to the shadows. It was downright abnormal to see Krieger leading a unit on his own before he took the head seat at EDS. And why was Ace walking with him? They didn’t seem close at all in the six years she attended the same school with them. Those two classmates had the least in common.

Now that she thought of it, Amelia had never seen Krieger to be the social type or Ace reel in his outspoken behavior once. For the life of her, Amelia couldn’t think of a plausible reason for them to be together, outside, at that ungodly hour with the EDS unit. For a moment, Amelia entertained the idea of stopping the group of EDS under the guise of filing a complaint against the HoP for the storage permissions. It could work… Amelia thought to herself.

By now, Amelia was so focused on watching the group that her face and hands were pressed up against the glass. She probably looked inelegant. Someone behind her cleared their throat and she jumped away from the glass. “W-what is it?” Amelia composed herself before turning around to whoever wanted her attention. It was Reginald, again. Putting off answering to one of his demands, Amelia excused herself to her parents’, her soon to be, office to make a phone call. Dialing the number, Amelia didn’t have to wait long for the other side to answer her. “Terry, I’m sorry sweetie, did I wake you?”

“You should know more than anyone that a genius never sleeps,” Terry let out a yawn despite himself. “How may I help you, Miss Bateman?” Amelia could hear Terry smiling from the other side of the line. He was already considering her a fellow senior supervisor. Affectionately.

Terry was a friendly rival of Amelia in their school years. He had scored higher than her in history while Amelia dominated in Sceptre-173 utilization. It should be taken into consideration that Terry was destined to be cataloging and accounting for his career, barely using the mind device, while Amelia would be using it every day. Most days, Terry would be typing away commands on the computer. But nonetheless, they became close friends by challenging the others intellect. Terry had been the only person that Amelia became friends with from the grooming academy. Neither Ace nor Krieger were great candidates of friendship as Amelia discovered on the first day when she tried interacting with the two on separate occasions. Ace was immature and Krieger had trust issues, thinking Amelia had cooties while the other thought she was a spy. But it didn’t matter if Amelia only had one best friend in all of Emblem; Terry was supportive and helpful as was Amelia for both of their careers and goals. She couldn’t imagine the connections a Forge delinquent and paranoid EDS officer could possibly yield, thinking back to the sight of them outside moments ago.

“I swear, I’m on my own for this Grand Dinner event. No one is supporting my decisions...” That was half-true. Amelia wished the founders put more effort into highly-trained Panda assistants than what Amelia had to deal with at the moment. If they could create and perfect a product as intricate as the Sceptre-173, Amelia believed that they would have no problem creating a home economics training regimen for the black and white bears.

There was a moment of empty static as Terry excused himself for a moment while he spoke with a worker in his department. “Sorry about that. Anyway, what’s wrong over there? Are the recipes I transferred glitch-y?”

“No, it’s the staff. Everyone is so lazy over here. I wish I had some elves from the South Pole from that old folk story.” Amelia got comfortable in her mother’s chair as she leaned back and set her feet on the desk. “I don’t remember them complaining about breaks…”

“It was the North Pole. From the story of Santa Claus.” Terry stated like the walking history book that he is.

“Oh yes, with St. Nicholas and all that. Goodness me, I hardly remember the full story.” Amelia thought as she absentmindedly twirled the phone cord in her fingers.

“I’ll tell it to you later. Anyway, you said that last night you were waiting for a callback from the House of Politics regarding the freezer storage keys. How’s that going?”

“It’s going nowhere,” Amelia lowered her voice, “Those pompous, self-centered, pretentious, arrogant…”

“Amelia…” Terry injected wearily, his friend wasn’t even whispering at this point.

“…holier than thou, sorry excuses of human beings still haven’t gotten back to me yet regarding the freezer storage!” Amelia took a moment to take a breath. “According to Reginald aka Mr. High and Haughty, there’s a tradition, which my parents must’ve forgotten to mention to me, regarding the frozen foods in the main storage. Seriously, my parents are only 39 years old; senility shouldn’t have gotten to them yet!”

Terry laughed on his side. He always found it humorous how to anyone else, Amelia held herself up as an elegant young woman. But when she was talking to loved ones and friends, she could really be unforgiving and harsh. “Well, Reginald’s not wrong.” Terry quickly got to his point before Amelia rounded on him. “The representative from yesterday should’ve given you the keys just after the presentation. The HoP’s lack of cooperation could get even them in trouble if it’s disobeying Emblem tradition.”

“Ugh, Ace had something to do with this, I know it. If he would’ve just said what I wrote on those notes, I bet 16 Glass that this whole ceremony would’ve run a lot smoother. Our dear House of Order guest’s intelligence must’ve been offended by Ace’s stupidity.”

“That would seem a bit immature of HoP to refuse cooperation for such a small thing. Excuse me a moment…” There was more empty static followed by someone yelling from Terry’s side. Amelia sat up and waited with worry for Terry to come back. “Just because I don’t sleep as often as the others doesn’t mean I’m a workaholic that loves getting assignments piled onto my desk!”

Amelia strained her ears and heard a tidbit of conversation from the person Terry must’ve been speaking with. She heard, “You ain’t the big boss yet, squirt…” And before she knew it, Terry’s voice came back as he excused himself once more.

“Sorry about the interruptions. If my colleagues don’t pick up the slack, this will be their last day!“ Terry’s threat was met with laughter from his co-workers. A sigh came from the young genius.

“Do you want me to come over and knock some heads?” Amelia offered.

“No, no. You might knock their IQ points down a few and then they’d really be useless.” Terry shared a laugh with Amelia only for the light moment to end with a yawn. “If they’re going to respect me, I’m going to have to be the one to earn it.”

Understanding, Amelia decided to change the subject of responsibility and useless employees. “Hey, guess what I just saw outside?”

“At this hour, I can assume you saw a few drunken night shifters caught in a fight…” Terry guessed.

“Like that’s not newsworthy…” Amelia rolled her eyes. “Get this, Krieger and Ace and some EDS walking down the street. They had this cloaked person in chains in the middle of the formation. Weird, right?”

There was a brief pause from Terry’s end. “Krieger and Ace were strolling down the street at this unforgiving hour?” Terry repeated with disbelief ringing in his voice. When Amelia confirmed it, Terry reclined into his chair. Combing through his hair, Terry asked, “Well, what exactly happened? Was there a fight out on the street? Were there shots fired?!”

“No, nothing that dramatic or anything happened. There might’ve been a confrontation beforehand when they captured the person in robes, but all I saw was them walking towards the EDS Detention Center.”

“Detention Center, huh? Now why would they go there? Isn’t it protocol that any captured suspect is booked for questioning at the EDS main building at the center of town?”

Amelia wouldn’t know what the process was for anything having to do outside of her Court, so she assumed Terry was referencing from memory or looking it up on his computer. “Minor details, Terry. More importantly, why was that cloaked person the only one in handcuffs while that Forge clown was walking freely?”

Terry chuckled at Amelia’s obsession of putting Ace behind bars. Before he could inquire what her problem was with the Forge teenager, yet another stack of files from archive were dropped on his heavily littered desk. Even more information for him to type into the systems. “These people are trying to break me into little itty-bitty pieces…” Terry groaned, dropping his head to the desk with a thud.

“Why not get some sleep, we can talk later.”

“To be perfectly honest, talking with you is the only thing keeping me awake right now. If I had a right mind, I’d retire for the night, but my brain has been reduced to pudding with from all this work, so I don’t have any choice but to catalog.”

Amelia suddenly stood from her chair, causing the chair to clatter behind her. “That’s it; I’m going to bake your favorite sugary pastries and bring them over. If you’re not going to sleep, then I’m just gonna have to come over there and help you get it done.” Amelia placed the phone to her chest and moved to open the door to the office. “Regi-Butthead, I’m going out. Make sure these slackers at least prepare some appetizers for tonight.” At the rate this day was going, it could very well be the only dish they could serve. Amelia mentally added.

“It would be best if everyone had a chance to sleep and come back recharged-“ Amelia had already slammed the door mid-sentence. Reginald huffed, “Well then!”

Raising the phone back to her head, Amelia continued, “And while I’m over there, I’m gonna beat some sense into those good-for-nothing associates of yours!” Amelia breathed and straightened herself. “You still like milk with your treats, right? I’ll bring a 2% low-fat gallon.” Amelia spoke sweetly despite her earlier threat.

Terry didn’t know whether to be happy that his favorite treats would be coming soon or to pity his co-workers’ impending doom. It didn’t seem to matter, though; Amelia had already hung up the phone before he could protest.

There were rows and rows of desks lined up in the massive Scientific Catalog building. The workers manning the consoles were positioned in a circular pattern surrounding the Main Hub. Surprisingly, the Catalog building and sub-branch office blocks were the most open of all districts. Every structure was built to have plexiglass panes as the walls, floor levels, and ceilings. And in every pane, a circuit stream connected to another as the intricate design came from their source, the Main Hub. The entire building was like a transparent circuit board. Currently, none of the workers were at their posts, instead they themselves had been lined up in front of an irritated heir.

“There are going to be some changes around here…” Amelia tapped the end of her rolling pin to her palm, eyeing each and every one of the catalogers. She scanned the mass of individuals for the one named ‘Derek’ whom Terry told her was giving him the most trouble.

Terry, himself, was off to the side, munching on his treats as he watched the potential firing squad that consisted solely of Amelia Bateman. Terry noticed Derek giving him a dirty look to which Terry responded with a pitiful expression. Amelia caught Derek and followed the man’s line of sight.

“So you must be Derek…” Amelia asked with an intimidating tone. The question was answered by Derek’s co-workers shoving him up front to avoid her wrath.

“What’s it to you, Court dork?” Derek sneered. But once he noticed Amelia’s ‘crown’, his composure faltered.

Terry didn’t know how or when Amelia got ahold of the gold-banded Administrator Sceptre-173 (standard Sceptres had grey bands), but she could do some real damage with it. Nothing serious like neural harm, but she could assign a workload that could overwhelm a normal person’s mind. This was sort of the same as brain damage depending on how you look at it. The repercussions of not keeping up your assigned quota involved getting assigned more work and less vacation days. This system kept everyone from lazing around on their computers all day when they should be working.

“Court dork, hmm? I’d say that little remark deserves a month in the Archives. What do you think, Terry?”

Terry coughed while drinking his milk. The Archives were infamous for being the most technology depraved room in the building. If anyone was unlucky enough to get assigned there, they’d have to pull out old dusty documents, copy down its content by hand, and try not to choke on the collective dust that blows up into the air at the slightest movement.

Setting aside his milk and cookies, Terry raised his hands and slowly approached his friend. “Amelia, let’s not get too crazy here… That much time in the Archives is inhumane. The stress levels would kill a normal person.”

At the very act of Terry reasoning with the blonde, Derek stared at his soon to be boss as if he were his new personal hero.

“Name and state of business?” A guard, named Steve, asked, scanning the multiple televisions in front of him without even looking at the person that rung the bell. Each monitor displayed a section of the Detention Center. The guard was tasked with logging in the actions and rounds of the prisoners and their guards. But like every night since Steve got assigned, nothing exciting ever happened.

“That requested information is classified, guardsman.”

Oh, boy, here we go again. Steve thought to himself with an eye roll. He remembered back to a time he dreamed of joining the EDS and looking cool in the uniform. But the reality of it was that he was posted on the night shift with nothing to do but log the monitors and shoo away the drunken night shifters. “Look, buddy, if ya don’t have business here, I’m gonna hafta ask you and your pals to keep walking- Hngh!“ It was then that Steve turned to whom he was regarding and choked on his spit. I’m so fired… Steve thought as the heir of EDS leveled his staring. Come tomorrow, the day after the ceremony, the teenager would be his boss.

“My visit to this center will be off the books…Steve,” Krieger didn’t break eye contact but managed to steal a glance at the guard’s nametag at some point. “No one is to know that I was here, understood?”

“Uh-huh, oh, yes sir!” Steve fumbled his hands and gave the teenager an EDS salute. An EDS salute involved placing the left-handed index and middle finger to the temple while the right hand rested on the chest above the heart. ‘With Mind and Power, I protect and serve with my Utmost Ability’.

“We were never here…” Ace popped up beside Krieger and waved his hands mysteriously. When Steve nodded at the order, Ace couldn’t help but milk the experience of bossing others around with the authority of the EDS. “Quick! What’s his name?!”

“Krieger Maverick, soon to be successor of the EDS. His chair will be claimed by midnight of today after the Ceremony of the Successors, sir!”

“And what is his business here?!”

“He looks to be taking a small unit and suspect into the building, sir! His business is classified and will be treated as if he were never here, sir!”

Ace was staring at the man intently, willing to do so until the man starting sweating. “You have failed the test, Steve, for revealing K-Man’s whereabouts and stuff to a civilian.” Ace shook his head when Steve appeared confused. “Come on, man. I don’t even have a uniform on. That should’ve been your first clue. Anyway, turn in your badge and wait for further shaming by the exit of Emblem!”

Steve looked as if his career, his life was over. Becoming pale, his eyes as wide as dinner plates, Steve started bawling his eyes out in front of his superior officer.

Having enough of Ace’s antics, Krieger tasered him and ordered a member of his team to reassure Steve that his career was to continue despite the test.

The short successor then cuffed Ace and shoved him to the middle of the formation, along with the cloaked figure. The prime suspect laughed at Ace’s expense until the large door of the detention center opened and they were both shoved forward. Krieger retrieved a few Glasses and bribed the warden waiting at the entrance. Next, his group detained the cloaked figure. Krieger had a right mind to throw Ace in as well, if not for their shared successor status.

“Dasher,” Krieger called for his second in command, “I want you and the unit to retrieve these tools for our prisoner.” Passing a note to the eldest EDS soldier, Krieger dismissed them.

Officially, there were no such tools used in interrogation. It was simply an intimidation tactic to frighten the criminal. Krieger’s unit was really going to the surveillance room to commandeer the feed while they dealt with the cloaked figure. Krieger turned to Ace, who was currently trying to sneak away towards the exit. “Lest you join this criminal in the cell, you will not interrupt my interrogation. Understood?”

“Should I be the good cop or the bad cop-“ Ace dropped to the ground in a twitching mess. He had been stunned yet again and now Krieger was tossing his prone body into the cell along with the stranger.

“I am not authorized to even be in this building so I don’t have time for your games, Ace Loreson.” Krieger set the device to maintain Ace at a safe but effective level. Turning to the stranger, Krieger glared at him until his laughter stopped. “Why were you in the Forge Division during the night shift?”

“No comment.”

“Where did you get such a crude weapon?”

“No comment.” His grin grew wider.

“What business do you have an Emblem, orphan.”

“That’s not what we’re called!”

Krieger’s brow rose when he finally received a reaction from the cloaked boy.

The robed teenager saw the small triumphant look on Krieger’s otherwise blank face and growled. “Because my people had a voice, you villains hunted us down and exiled us to the edge of Emblem…” The stranger was breathing unevenly, his body stance hostile. Then he started laughing, quiet at first, until it became an outburst of laughter. “It’s alright, my friends have told me that the younger generation would parrot the lies the HoP feeds to you. But it’s fine, really. Our cause will always have open arms for those who don’t want to act like robots and see the true beauty of our Earth. It’s not too late…” With that automated tone, the boy sounded like a parrot himself.

Did the boy expect Krieger to feel inspired and free him? Krieger spared the young revolutionary a bored stare. “What is your name?”

“My name is…Justus!”

There was a collection of reactions, none to which ‘Justus’ expected or wanted. Even with voltage going through his body, Ace broke out in laughter. The EDS unit that arrived with Dasher stared at the boy with mixtures of astonishment and skepticism. Finally, Krieger was entertaining the thought of immediate execution. “You cannot be serious…”

“I’m as serious as the corruption in the EDS!”

Krieger snorted derisively at that. The attempt to rile him up by trying to insult his department wouldn’t work. “I’m to believe that your name is ‘Justice’. The self-proclaimed title of a revolutionary orphan, I assume?”

Several members of Krieger’s unit chuckled amongst themselves at Justus’s indignant expression. They couldn’t take the kid seriously as he would’ve liked.

“Regardless of how you react to my name, my cause will-“

“Your cause is to disrupt the peace in Emblem by fabricating unnecessary panic in the public masses. Conspiracy and protest rallies about life outside of Emblem… Am I in the ballpark?” Krieger would be leading the interrogation.

Justus appeared apprehensive to respond to the knowledgeable answer. The conversation wasn’t going in the direction he was promised when he was briefed on his mission. He was supposed to be preaching to the ignorant and easily swaying them all to join the cause.

“Your people speak of how the Earth has regrown itself and is now ready for humanity to come back to nurture it back to its full potential. This is moronic because our hands are the very reason that the earth is ripped asunder.” Krieger began pacing in front of the cell, keeping eye contact with the disorganized criminal.

“Three generations ago, our founders, the last of the surviving humanity, knew that it was only a matter of time before they’d go extinct if they kept relying on the Earth to sustain them all. It wasn’t a grand war that left the world scarred and barring no crops, it was the overestimation we had that the earth would provide for us forever.”

“It can provide for us! I’ve seen it up close. The earth just needed the interrupted time to take root and get through the process or regrowth. It’s been three generations, and we can finally go back…” Justus was going through the motions of his organization’s discovery.

Like some bad interpretive dance about nature, an EDS agent, Comet, thought to herself.

“But the higher-ups in Emblem don’t want to lose control of the masses! That’s why they’ve shunned anyone who dares speak out about the progress the earth is showing. We can finally go back-“

“Well, what’s stopping you?”

“Huh?” Justus’ momentum was interrupted yet again and he lost his train of thought.

“What exactly is stopping you and your organization from leaving Emblem peacefully?”

“Uh, well, they don’t really tell me someone like me who is low in the ranks?”

“Ranks? Isn’t your group supposed to be compiled of…? What’s the word I’m thinking of, Blitzen?”

Blitzen donned his issued Sceptre-173, pulled up a Scientific Catalog page, offered the word he thought Krieger was thinking of to the thesaurus, and said, “Hippies, sir,” in a matter of seconds.

Krieger nodded thanks to the agent and turned back to Justus. “Ah, yes, hippies. Now why would a group of hippies require permission from their leader to make their own choices, such as leaving Emblem without fuss?”

“It’s not that simple-“

“What’s so confusing? Pack up your things and leave. Why is that so difficult?”

“W-we would have to get word around to see if anyone else wants to come with us-“

“Your group spreads rumors of political mutiny and coups? How are your people getting the message out that earth is ready to go back to amongst all the false gossip?”

“There will always be members of an organization that are very passionate about the cause-”

“So your leadership lets it go unpunished until Emblem property damage rises and its people are terrified to leave their homes because there are a few passionate individuals who want to shove their ideals down the collective throat of innocents-“

“No! We’re the good guys! Stop demonizing my people!” Frowning at the line of questioning, Justus let his temper get the better of him. “We fight for justice for all!”

“Fight? Why would you resort to fighting those who simply don’t want to uproot their lives and follow you blindly into a ravaged world? Why would you want to rebel against EDS and the HoP who only want their citizens to live in peace and order?”

Justus didn’t immediately respond.

Krieger nodded, his interrogation didn’t yield any suspicious or outstanding motives, but he did wipe that annoying smirk off Justus’ face. Perhaps a day in the cell with no rations will shake him up. Krieger concluded, waving his team to gather a few feet away from the cell door. “Prancer, did you catch anything from your analysis?”

Prancer, the team’s psychologist, shook his head. “No, sir, the boy is telling the truth with the regards of his rank in their revolutionary group. He didn’t show any signs of withholding information nor did his facial features deem that he could be lying.”

“You don’t need to be a psychology specialist to see that this kid has been brainwashed by the rebellions’ poison.” Cupid supplied, to which Prancer nodded in agreement. The other members of Krieger’s unit thought so as well.

Krieger saw that he and his team had the same thoughts with nothing worth mentioning. “For now, our guest will be held here until after the celebration. No rations until midnight.”

“Sir?” Vixen started. “Don’t you think that’s a bit inhumane?” Vixen suggested out loud, growing more and more unease when none of his teammates jumped to back him up. It’s like there was some unspoken rule not to voice your opinion. Vixen hadn’t really known a whole lot about the young heir, except that he wasn’t as hard-nosed as some of the other high-ranking officers. Vixen was the newest recruit of EDS, pulled from his lax guards post by Krieger for a top-secret mission. It would be bad if he got booted because he didn’t keep his mouth shut. “I’m just saying…”

“And I hear you, Vixen, loud and clear.” Krieger stated, earning a cringe from Vixen.

Shaking his head, Krieger thought back to a time when his mother told him he was too serious all the time. She said it would cause uneasiness on his team which would lead to fear instead of the respect that a leader should have. When Krieger plainly responded that fear would overrule respect any day, his father laughed in agreement before getting reprimanded by his wife. In the end, Krieger needed to learn to be less intimidating and to be more understanding. Krieger supposed he’d start when he took over EDS, but it turns out he needed to try it out sooner than he thought. It wouldn’t do to have one of his team members leak out their secret mission to Krieger’s parents later on.

“But it is our duty, as EDS officers, to treat all threats to Emblem and its people with strict rules and policies. We currently don’t know if this person is a diversion to a much bigger plot. What if his people are going to come for him and liberate their fed ally and ready to invade? Or if he’s been sent as a ticking time bomb by his leaders?”

Vixen was started to feel like an idiot and the stares he got from his colleagues wasn’t helping. He jumped when a hand rested on his shoulder.

“I am not trying to patronize you, Vixen. But I want you to know that we have to be the ones to shoulder the heavy conscience of what is right and wrong. We serve for the security and order of Emblem. I may be the next in line for head supervisor, but I’ll need each and every one of you all to help with the burden that comes with absolute justice… For Emblem!” Krieger gave his team the traditional EDS salute. The other members of the unit returned the gesture immediately.

Vixen stood up straighter and returned the salute proudly. When he was given permission to be at ease, Vixen was surprised by the nudges and words of encouragement from his fellow agents.

Krieger dismissed his team to write their reports and rest up for the Ceremony later that day. Making his way over to the jail cell, Krieger waited until his team left to unlock the door and open it. With the use of his taser, Krieger discouraged Justus from trying to escape. Krieger walked over to Ace and unclasped the taser pricks from the Forge delinquent’s shirt.

“Before you say anything, listen. I get why you had to stun me.” Ace announced when Krieger began working on undoing his handcuffs.

Krieger paused from working on Ace’s restraints. This should be good.

“You were losing face when my alpha personality was overshadowing your authority. And I get that you need to break ground with the whole ‘Respect my authority’ shtick. So, what I’m trying to say is…” Ace laid a hand on Krieger’s shoulder. “I forgive you, K-Man. No hard feelings.”

Krieger’s brow twitched in utter annoyance at Ace’s gall. He didn’t think it was possible to be so dense. K-Man didn’t feel any regret when he knocked Ace unconscious with the taser. Radioing a cruiser over, Krieger gave the officer the instructions to tell Ace’s family that he had joined some night-shifters for a round after they punched out. It was a solid alias for someone that was from the Division that worked the Night Shift for two reasons. One, those who worked the night shift always goes to the bar to grumble on about the day shift workers and such. Two, those who went to the bar got so drunk, they came out convinced that they were a long-lost heir to the House of Politics.

Watching the cruiser taking Ace back home drive away, Krieger got to work sweeping the Detention Center of any evidence leading their newest prisoner back to him. Afterwards, he headed back to his district to have a word with his father. While his actions were illegal, Krieger knew that it would better for the truth to come from him to his father rather than from someone else. Krieger also wanted his father’s advice on the subject of how Justus got his hands on a 19th century flintlock weapon.

Krieger stood in place for a full minute in thought. He didn’t know how to get back to his district with using his resources. If he hailed a cruiser and requested to be taken back, he knew there would be suspicion and questions of his whereabouts and his business at the Detention Center so early in the morning. Krieger still hadn’t reported back to his parents of the latest development.

When the call came in of an intrusion at the Division, Krieger’s father, Draco Maverick, assigned him to scope it out. Krieger had just walked in on his parents discussing a confidential conversation involving the revolutionaries that have been causing mischief in the city as of late. When Krieger made his presence known, his parents swept their clattered desks clear and immediately questioned how long Krieger had been in the room and how much he might’ve heard. The moment the call came in, Draco counted it as a blessing and shooed his son away.

Now it was early morning and Krieger only had one choice. If he took a cruiser home and word got back to his parents, Krieger would have to inform them that he performed an illegal detainment and interrogation. But if he wanted to keep it under wraps, Krieger would have to walk all the way back to the EDS district that held the barracks residence. With a set goal, Krieger stuffed his pants back into his coat pockets, nodded a farewell to Steve, and made for the path home.

It took two hours to even get to the Detention Center from the Forge Division undetected. But the Division was near the center of town while the Center was at Emblem’s edge. The EDS barracks was on the opposite edge of Emblem. There were three other barracks but Krieger’s family was located in the North edge of the city whereas the Center is located at the South.

It was going to be a long morning…

Waking up with a wince, Ace hands flew up to nurse his aching head. But his motor functions protested and Ace lost his balance, falling into a heap in the backseat.

“Aye, sounds like you’re awake, kid.” The officer in the front seat chuckled when a groan answered his assumption. The aged veteran had silver hair and brilliant blue eyes. “Yeah, so let me bring you up to speed with what’s happening. Mr. Maverick requested that I give ya a lift to the Forge Division district. But don’t worry about your folks, he told me to tell ‘em that you were at the bar with ya buddies.” The officer laughed and adopted a thoughtful look. “Ah, look, I’m getting all nostalgic about the good ole days with my crew. I remember it like it was yesterday…”

As much as I’d like to hear your charming tale, old man… At the first sign of the cruiser slowing down, Ace bailed and bolted before the officer knew what was going on. Rounding a corner and jumping a few fences, Ace landed and crouched behind the hedges. Taking a breather to check out his surroundings, Ace cursed his luck. From the look of neatly cut hedge bushes, brick walls encircling the settlement, and EDS guard posts everywhere told Ace that he was near the main building of the House of Politics. Located at the epicenter of Emblem; the beacon of our great city. The last place needed to be to avoid law enforcement. He needed to get out now before he got caught, tagged, and shipped to his furious mother. Not only was he interfering with EDS/Krieger’s business, but he also got himself detained, and then spent a few hours walking, in jail, and then he was unconscious toward the ride home in the EDS cruiser. The ‘sun’ was already rising and Ace didn’t want to add curfew-breaking to the long list.

Ace was about to vault back over the fence when he saw his two other classmates climbing the stairs to the HoP’s main building. Amelia Bateman of CoA and Terry Quinn of SC. What are the two eggheads doing at the HoP headquarters?

Amelia was stomping up the stairs to the HoP main building with Terry in tow, protesting that her plan might not end well for any party. Amelia wasn’t paying attention to him, though. The only thing on her mind right now is to get the storage key and make it back to Court before it was too late. It’s 8:30 AM and she still hasn’t received any word from the House of Order representative from yesterday’s presentation. If Rhys wasn’t going to cooperate, then Amelia would go to the top and get the ordeal over with.

Throwing caution to the wind, Ace stalked towards the staircase leading up to the entrance.

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