True Deception, Chapter 8

My entire set of limbs filled with dread as I turned around, and their cold expressions did nothing to dissuade my fear from heightening! The short but buff man in the middle stared at me with a very pronounced frown, and I waited for him to deliver the worst… “Can you grab this patient’s tray on your way to the kitchen?” he requested.

            “Oh!” I reacted in complete relief. “Of course!”

            “Kory, you’re awful!” a gaunt, pale-haired woman in the mix guffawed as everyone snickered at his antics. I quickly went into the room he referenced to retrieve the tray, and the woman advised Violet, “Don’t mind him! He always messes with the new people here!”

            Violet gave her a nervous smile, but otherwise, she clammed up. I assumed that she worried about opening her mouth and getting recognized, so as I carried the tray out of the room, I asked, “How did you know we were new here?”

            A tall, stocky man answered sardonically, “Gee, I don’t know! I think it was just the… everything about you!” His cronies all chortled at his quip.

            The guy who may have been considered good-looking if he didn’t bear such a mean expression recommended, “Loosen up! Your job will only get harder if you don’t learn to take things less seriously!”

            I inwardly criticized that concept. First of all, if someone had day one jitters, telling them to just get over it wouldn’t work at all! Secondly, there was a difference between loosening up and putting up with slightly abusive behavior! Thirdly, and most importantly, Violet and I had to take our job seriously! We threw ourselves into this gig to find the person with the power to save the world, so it was quite a sobering occupation for us! I obviously didn’t bring any of this up to them, and under any other circumstances, I would’ve stood up to these thugs, but we didn’t have a minute to spare on this mission! Plus, the first man who spoke to us started eying us suspiciously, so I rapidly came up with an excuse to end this conversation, “Well, we don’t wanna be late, so we gotta go! See you all later!”

            We didn’t wait for them to finish bidding us a good day as we turned back around and returned to heading to our destination. As we got out of earshot of that menacing group, I whispered to Violet, “Were they Fallens?”

            She softly responded to me, “We’ll need to keep an eye on them for sure!” It sounded as though she agreed with my assertion but didn’t want to say anything conclusive in case they were simply a bunch of jerks, and as we neared the cafeteria, I beseeched the universe to prevent us from running into them again during our shift!

            When we entered into the kitchen area, I saw several workers at many different stations hastily preparing food, and I realized that, for a minute, I almost forgot what we came in here to do! I supposed that it may not have been an entirely bad development since I didn’t have the opportunity to overthink my task and make myself nervous, but now that we were in there, I fretted about our odds of success again! It didn’t appear as though there was an assignment we could do, every section seemed to have been occupied! Right as I considered going back and cooking up some other method of skulking around the hospital, a rather obtuse guy in a chef’s apron approached us and inquired, “Did Angela actually hire us some help?”

            “How else would we have gotten here?” Violet chirped. I tried not to crack up as I denoted her practice of implying a response without actually lying. I guessed that the red haired lady we saw in HR may have been Angela, and she definitely had no clue that we were there at that moment…

            “Yes! Thank the heavens! We are so short staffed!” the man rejoiced. “We need this food to go out ASAP!” He indicated to a large, metal rack with wheels and several slots in it. “The room numbers that they go to are on the shelves. Don’t’ chat with the patients unless you have to ‘cause we got more meals that gotta come out! Any questions?” If Violet or I had any queries about our directions, we wouldn’t have had a chance to get them our because he instantly swiveled around and went back to the project he had done prior to our arrival. “Thanks guys!” He preoccupied himself again, so Violet and I gave each other a shrug and headed out of the door.

            Violet and I prioritized the tallest floor before anything else to put as much distance between ourselves and those nasty nursing assistants, and while we wanted to heed that cook’s wishes for us to process with hastiness, we also needed a little bit of time to study the people we encountered. Any one of them could have turned out to be the Arch Deity, and the only way we were going to decipher whether someone held that title or not was to spend a considerable stretch with each individual! I felt guilty about putting the kitchen behind schedule, but once we accomplished our goal, these employees would become better off in the long run, so I reasoned that they would forgive us later, prompting me to accept that our boss for the day may end up chewing us out but that it would prove to be worth it in the end!

            Our first customer was a frail and very old man who sat up in his bed forlornly watching the holographic television set across from him. When I spotted the retro flick he had on, I exclaimed, “I love this movie!”

            “You do?” The elderly gentleman glanced up in surprise. “I didn’t think youngsters like you had any interest in these ancient movies!”

            “Are you kidding? I’m obsessed with eighties’ stuff!” I joyfully relayed to him. “The storytelling was amazing! Especially for this Galactic Battles series! It’s got such an intense plotline!”

            The old man grinned as he reminisced, “You should have seen it in theatres! It was so exciting!”

            With a bit of incredulity, I posed to him, “Wait, you were young in that decade? Oh, you’re so lucky! I would give anything to have had that experience!”

            “Yeah, it was an awesome era to be young in!” The elderly gentleman beamed as he recalled the fond memories of the past.

            “Jack, before you get a detailed account of this man’s childhood, let him eat! We don’t want his food to get cold!” Violet kindly directed me as she set a tray on his bedside table. My spirits deflated a little due to my thorough enjoyment of this chat, but when I espied the look in her eyes, I got the hint that she didn’t believe that he was who we were searching for, which was pretty disappointing! I would have really enjoyed it if I had the chance to talk with him further!

            The man gazed at his tray in awe as he commented, “Wow! They’re serving us on silver platters?”

            Violet explained, “Recycled metal turned out to be more cost effective than plastic.”

            “Well, isn’t that something!” the old man remarked. “Technology may have gotten better since I was young, but I’ll always miss living in the twentieth century!” I chuckled slightly as we began wheeling our cart out of the room. It was unfortunate that this guy wasn’t the Arch Deity, and I didn’t relish leaving him when he clearly needed some support, but I noticed that his mood definitely got elevated after our brief visit, so I ultimately left with a feeling of fulfillment.

            “Finally! I’m starving!” a woman around our age cried out jubilantly as she sat up in her bed and eagerly waited for the arrival of her repast. When Violet set down the tray, the woman articulated, “Wow, it’s real food? I was expecting some New Food!”

            Violet genially addressed her, “That certainly would be easier for us to carry!” They both laughed, and then Violet elaborated, “I’m guessing that they have to prepare fresh stuff for purity reasons.”

            As the woman dug into her soup first, she queried, “Didn’t they explain all that to you in your training?”

            “Actually, they’re so short staffed that they kinda just threw us out here!” Violet conversed. “Our training was basically just two sentences!”

            “Really?” The woman raised an eyebrow at that.

            As the two of them interacted, I considered repeating the same line that Violet had used on me about the patient’s food getting cold, but the woman had already started to eat a little. I considered coming up with a new way to point out to Violet that we needed to keep moving, but then I assessed that perhaps her prolonged stay here signified that she had a suspicion that this woman could have been beneficial to us in some way, so I zipped my lips and let myself get distracted by the television show that she had on. I never really cared much for soap operas, but with all of the chaos that we dealt with recently, a little melodrama didn’t seem like such a terrible ordeal to endure! I was prepared to make my peace with this selection until it went to commercial…

            The woman in the hospital bed merrily noted, “Oh, it’s Nancy Nox! Don’t you just love her?”

            Violet’s face soured as she eyeballed “Nancy Nox” promoting some sort of anti-aging serum, and I fully expected her to spout out something sarcastic, but instead, she truthfully stated, “If I didn’t like her, I definitely wouldn’t say it out loud! The public adores her!” This woman giggled as if Violet had delivered a comedic punchline, and as she continued to watch the advertisement in delight, Violet and I walked away.

            While we were pushing our cart out of her room, I unintentionally caught a glimpse of the television set again, and under my breath, I muttered, “If she wants to look younger, she can save some money and take her off her stupid mask!”

            Violet smirked in amusement, and she quietly asked, “Did I break the spell she had over you?”

            “No. I never really liked her,” I answered her. Violet peered at me in disbelief, so I insisted, “I mean it! She acts all sweet and harmless, but I always found her behavior so phony! She has wrinkles around her eyes that had to have gotten there from constantly glaring at people, and it reminds me of this neighbor we had from a place I lived at when I was a kid. She was constantly spying on what me and my friends were doing, and when we started ignoring her lectures, she called the cops on us for every dumb complaint she had! Once, she actually sent the police to our house ‘cause my friends and I were playing basketball in my family’s driveway! She claimed that we could throw the ball into her yard and disturb her precious rose bushes, and I’m guessing she believed that the officer who showed up would be on her side, but they ended up filing a nuisance report on her! If she knew that my dad used to be a cop, she probably wouldn’t have bothered!” Violet tittered heartily at that, and it was hard to not get mesmerized by her laughter! I pulled myself out of the reverie pretty fast and went back to the original topic, “So, yeah, I never really trusted Nancy Nox! But I had no idea she was a-.”

            “No!” Violet blurted out in revulsion. Initially, I took that gesture as a cue for me to omit the assertion of her true nature as a Fallen, but when I saw that she was staring at the television set in shock, I figured out that my word choice hadn’t upset her. She appeared seriously troubled by what she beheld, so naturally, I had to see what had caused this distress for her. The screen featured a deeply stern female with dark makeup painted on so straight that the lines looked razor sharp! She had the extremely faint skin of a person who never basked in any sunlight, and her pronounced jawline conveyed an air of unceasing authority. She had beady eyes too, which reminded me of…

            I questioned, “Is that-?”

            She confirmed, “Yes!” As we darted away from that area, Violet griped, “Unbelievable! She used her own image in one of her ads!” She halted in front of the next room, and her stirred-up emotions addled her for a second as she tried to locate this patient’s meal. “Where is it?” She spotted a note in the corresponding slot and huffed, “Oh, they’re going in for surgery and can’t eat anything! Great! That’s just great!”

            “Hey!” I gently grabbed her by the shoulder and reminded her, “She can’t hurt you right now!”

            “I know that!” she snapped. After she spoke, she recognized how forceful she had come across, so she apologized, “Sorry! It made me remember…” She trailed off as a cautionary measure in the event that we were overheard, and when she caught my concerned expression, she assured me, “I’ll be fine! I gotta get used to the idea of facing her again! I just didn’t expect to confront her in her actual form this soon!” She mulled it over for an instance and then pondered, “Why would she take a risk like that?”

            I shrugged. “Maybe she’s trying to intimidate us. She knows we’re on the run, and so she probably thought she should find subtle ways to-.” I cut myself off when I caught sight of the aides we ran into earlier entering into a room down the hall, and I instantly regretted the time we spent discussing this subject! “We gotta go!” I declared.

            She concurred, and we speedily moved to the next door. It threw us off when we could see that we hadn’t come to an ordinary ICU room- it was a smaller space with a plaque on the door that donned the label “Doctor Raphael Canenta!” It bewildered me to stand before the office of a soul who had accomplished so much, and with the vast amount of good he did for humanity, I began to contemplate the possibility of him turning out to be the Arch Deity! I felt certain that it was at least viable for him to be a Guardian, but I didn’t think that it was advisable to observe him right then. We had already delayed our duty to the cafeteria long enough, we couldn’t risk giving that possibly Fallen crew a motive to accost us! I told myself that we could return to this spot later, and right as we were about to carry on with our project, they came back into the hallway and started to head in our direction! We tried to ignore them as we pursued our route, but then suddenly, I saw something that made me freeze in my tracks! Violet turned to me in bafflement, but when I showed her what got my attention like that, she totally understood my actions…

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