Chapter 20:

Interlude Six: Thaddeus


Wednesday – 11:00

Thaddeus lay in his bed, desperately trying to fall asleep, though being unable to as usual. He had accepted his condition for his entire life and had never pitied himself. However, after the accident forced him into a slumber a couple of days ago, he finally realized what he had been missing. While he now would have preferred sleeping over reading all night, he was a realist and wouldn't go through life-threatening incidents on the off chance it would knock him unconscious again.

He could always go back to the file room where TRUCK-KUN kept the records of all the missions, but after the scare Tobias had given him last time, he was hesitant to attempt it again, despite his trainer saying that it was allowed. Besides, he already found the answer to his most pressing question.

After rolling over another dozen times, his boredom eventually became too great, and he wandered out to go over more of the records. The main building wasn't locked, and he got in with less hassle than he expected. He was curious about Tobias' history, so he decided that he would start from the beginning. He started from the first drawer and skimmed through the reports until he found one marked with Tobias' name. It was dated twenty-five years back, and it labeled him as a trainee.

He continued through the records and discovered the tale. Tobias had been promoted quickly to C-rank. He spent less than two years there before moving on to U-rank. For the next five years, Tobias climbed the ranks until he became an R-ranked agent. It then took him eleven years to reach T-rank. After that, he spent four years in T-rank before becoming the top-ranked agent and had been the top-ranked ever since, for the last five years. 

He spent hours combing through all of Tobias' missions to try to understand him better. However, the reports were pretty sterile and didn't provide much information about Tobias. Thaddeus could tell that his trainer was organized and determined, but he still couldn't read his intentions from them.

Thaddeus determined that there was nothing else he could learn from further digging and turned to leave. He was on his way out when he remembered something. Thaddeus went to the last folder he read on his first day in this room and tucked it under his shirt. He read all of it already, but perhaps he had missed something that could shed more light on Tobias' character. Hopefully, nobody would discover that a file was missing, though he planned to return it the following night, so it was improbable that would happen.

Thaddeus casually left the building and returned to his room. There were still a couple of hours until breakfast for him to find something to do.

So he took out the file from his jacket and reread it over and over until breakfast.

* * *

Thursday – 8:15

Thaddeus was in the middle of eating scrambled eggs when Tobias came to his table with an excited look on his face.

"I have good news," Tobias told him. "Since I will be retiring soon, I have decided to graduate you to C-rank before I do so. Congratulations! You have obliterated the previous record."

Thaddeus' mouth hung open in shock, and some of the food in his mouth fell back down towards his plate. "W-w-w-what? W-w-why though? I don't understand."

Tobias smirked, obviously glad at the reaction that he got. "It is highly irregular, yes. However, it's my decision, and after your help with my mission yesterday, I think you are already capable enough. Or would you instead rather that I transfer you to another agent?"

"That isn't n-n-n-necessary," Thaddeus said. "I gladly accept."

"Good," Tobias said. "Your new uniform and tools are waiting for you in Terry's office. You can pick them up later when we depart on the mission."

"You are trying again so soon?" Thaddeus asked worryingly. "Perhaps you should wait a little longer before attempting another mission. That way, it will be more likely that you will succeed."

Tobias shook his head. "Normally, you would be right. But I am left with no other choice. I need to finish things up as soon as possible, and there's no time like the present."

They ate for a while longer in silence, and when they finished, Tobias spoke once again. "Thaddeus, I need to take care of some last-minute preparations before the mission, so you are free until the mission starts. Meet me at the garage at precisely 10:30. Got it?"

"Sure thing," Thaddeus said and watched as Tobias left with a confident stride.

Alone and finished with his meal, Thaddeus was about to return to his room when he saw Teresa eating alone. He had never seen her without Tamari at her side, so he went over to talk to her.

"Hey, Teresa. We never talked before, but I am Thaddeus, but you probably knew that already."

"Yeah," Teresa said. Thaddeus waited for more, but she didn't seem like she would be saying more.

"So....Where is your trainer?" he asked, hoping for something to start a conversation.

"Tamari said that she had important things to do," she said robotically.

Well, that didn't seem to work—time to try a different method. "Like leaving her pupil alone in order to get some free time?"

"How dare you?!" she shouted. "Tamari would never do something like that."

Thaddeus' suspicion was correct. Teresa was extremely defensive of her trainer. Now he should be able to have a lengthy discussion with her.

"She would never do something so irresponsible," Teresa continued. "If she says that she had important things to do, then that's what she is doing."

"I am sorry," Thaddeus said apologetically. "P-p-please forgive what I said."

Teresa grunted but didn't confirm whether or not she forgave him. Well, he needed to move forward to find out. "So how is your training going so far?"

"It's going well," she said. "Tamari is a fantastic teacher and I bet that she will get me to C-rank before you get there."

If only she knew.

But Thaddeus couldn't tell her anything. "You don't mind the job itself? I threw up after my first mission. You didn't?"

"Of course not," she said. "Why would I?"

Tobias had told him they were all explicitly picked, so he shouldn't have been surprised that they picked agents who wouldn't mind this type of job. Therefore, it made sense that some of them would have grown up in environments that would lead to people not being perturbed by the violence.

"You don't have any moral qualms with running people over with trucks to send their soul to a fantasy world?" he asked.

"Their body isn't damaged, and it's just a copy of their soul," she answered. It isn't like they will miss it."

"Technically, that would still be theft," he said. "Think about it. We are using another person's soul to make a copy without their permission in order to use it for profit. That's pretty much the same thing as a copyright violation."

"So what?" she said. "It isn't like this is a legally accepted business, so whether or not it's legal doesn't matter. Plus, if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? It's the same thing here. If a person's soul is copied temporarily and used without them knowing about it, but there are no negative effects, would it be considered theft? No."

"Actually, the tree would make a sound," Thaddeus argued. "And therefore, yes. It would be considered theft."

"You know what I meant," Teresa said, looking annoyed at the way the conversation was going.

Well, at least we are talking now.

The two of them debated the subject back and forth for a long while until Thaddeus looked at the clock and saw that he would need to meet up with Tobias soon. He cut the debate short with an apology and started heading towards the basement. However, while making his way down, he remembered the file from before and figured that it was probably best if he kept it on him in case somebody snooped in his room and saw that he took a file. It probably wasn't a violation of any kind, but better safe than sorry.

He got to his room and tucked the file under his shirt once again. Afterward, he rushed downstairs for his final assignment with Tobias, excited about the new C-rank position.

Thaddeus just hoped that nothing would go wrong this time.