– Watedia, Nimath 22, 8034 –
“Oi oi oi… it ain’t even been a full two days since we got back. The hell are we doin’ halfway across the globe?”
“Something important,” Siyuakén responded. “So, just for the next hour, please watch your words?”
“Watch my words?” Davídrius echoed incredulously. “What for?”
Kevérin sighed irately as he turned to glare at the Velocitechnic. “Did you actually forget what we’re doing here? Or were you just never paying attention in the first place when the Commander explicitly told us?”
“We’re meetin’ some dude named… uh… Allan… Chulan?”
“Pallan Culana. You don’t know who he is, do you.”
“Meh.” Davídrius shrugged. “I’m sure I’d know who he was if he was actually important.”
“He’s the Archoné of Riverana,” Kaoné pointed out, “you know… their ruler?”
“We’re waiting outside the office of the Archoné, in probably the fanciest building in all of Riverana, and when you learn that you’re about to meet said Archoné in less than half an hour, all you have to say is ‘oh’?!” Kevérin exclaimed incredulously. “Tell me that you at least knew that Riverana was one of the six continent-nations!”
“I ain’t stupid,” the Velocitechnic retorted, “and I never signed up for this diplomatic bullshit. If I say somethin’ ‘wrong’—”
“Then I’ll burn your ass for it.”
Davídrius bristled. “…The hell?”
Kevérin straightened his posture and broadened his shoulders in an attempt to appear more intimidating, but the effect was lost on the Velocitechnic, who stood at least half a head taller than the other three members of Hero Machina. Nevertheless, the Transfer Captain didn’t let the height difference deter him. “You heard what the Commander said when we got back from the Earthian Colony,” he stated. “This is a military operation, and I am the Commanding Officer here, so it’s my job to keep everyone in line.”
Kaoné and Siyuakén glanced at each other uneasily before taking a cautious step back. “Oh boy…” the Electrotechnic muttered.
Davídrius, on the other hand, simply stared down at the Pyrotechnic. He then chuckled dismissively before replying, “unless you can catch me, I don’t have to listen to you. I’m here ‘cause I wanna be.”
“No, you’re here because we’re you’re only way of getting and staying away from Treséd.”
“You explicitly said that you joined us to get away from there when we stopped by to help with the Bleeders two weeks ago! Don’t deny it. So if you want to stay out of Treséd, then that means being a part of Hero Machina. And if you want to stay with Hero Machina, you have to follow our rules. Got it?”
“…Look, we just don’t want you to say anything vulgar or stupid—”
“I’m the one who says stupid things?!”
“—for one hour, Davídrius. Is that really so much to ask?”
The two men stared at each other for several moments before the Velocitechnic sighed irately and snapped his gaze away. “Fine. Probably ain’t much for me to say here anyways.”
“You could’ve just said that earlier,” Siyuakén retorted.
“Siyuakén!” Kevérin cut in before Davídrius could respond, “…this doesn’t just apply to Davídrius. We all have to follow the rules, okay? Don’t start fights with each other.”
“Yes, please don’t,” Kaoné added emphatically.
Kevérin took a deep breath and then sighed of relief when Davídrius and Siyuakén turned away from each other. “There we go,” he commented, “now let’s try to stay pleasant when we actually meet with Archoné Culana. We don’t want to give one of Nimalia’s leaders a bad impression of Happy Music.”
Davídrius blinked several times before raising a confused eyebrow. “…Eh what?”
“You’ll have to excuse Kevérin,” Kaoné replied with a roll of her eyes. “He’s not very fond of our current group name.”
“…And ‘Happy Music’ is supposed to be better?” the Velocitechnic questioned flatly.
“Yes,” Kevérin declared. “…Maybe. …No. But c’mon. There has to be something better than ‘Hero Machina.’”
“Not a fan of Commander Nikéyin’s naming techniques, are we?”
The four Chaotics stiffened as two men entered the room in which they were standing.
“Ah… Archoné… Culana,” Kevérin responded stiffly, and then quickly threw out a salute. “Um… if you don’t mind me asking, how much of that conversation did you hear?…”
The Archoné — a bearded man with a slim build, light skin, short graying hair, and a number of wrinkles and age blemishes on his face — glanced between Kevérin and Davídrius before replying cryptically, “enough.” He smiled when he noticed the four Chaotics squirm uneasily. “Do not worry. I consider myself a fair individual. I, too, was a young adult once, and I can understand the difficulty of working in a team so haphazardly slapped together.”
“Um… thank you, sir?” the Transfer Captain responded in confusion.
“Ha!” The Archoné chuckled as he moved forward to unlock the door to his office. He then gestured for Hero Machina to enter, after which he and his companion followed before closing the door. Culana crossed the room and took a seat at his desk while the man with him stood at attention to his side, leaving the four Chaotics to stand in front of the Archoné’s desk.
“So you are the Quakeborn Chaotics…” Culana mused, “hmm, let me see if I have your names right… Transfer Captain Kevérin Tyrion from Tekdecé, Lieutenant Kaoné Densalin from Nimaliaka, Lieutenant Siyuakén Wanléon from Relédiaka, and Davídrius Wrikax from Treséd.”
“Wow,” Kaoné replied, astounded. “You know that much? From memory?”
“Knowledge is a Riveranian’s best friend and memory is our best trait — this holds especially true for an Archoné, such as myself.” Culana glanced toward the stout, tan-skinned man standing behind him before turning back to the Chaotics. “Allow me to introduce General Sulan Rantéin of the Riveranian Protection Force.”
The General bowed his head. “Nice to meet you.”
Kevérin saluted in response. “Sir!” he exclaimed, and then cocked his head. “…Permission to speak freely?”
“Permission granted until further notice,” Rantéin replied.
“We were here to meet with Archoné Culana,” the Pyrotechnic explained, “I understand him having a bodyguard, but is there any reason that you, the General of the RPF, are here?”
“Plans are in the works to absorb the RPF into the NSD,” the General answered, “the decision has been all but finalized, but I still wished to see the first Chaotic squad of the Nimalian Systems Defense and evaluate them myself.”
Kevérin, Kaoné, and Siyuakén straightened up even more after the General’s remark; even Davídrius stopped slouching as much.
“But you are right, your task here is to speak with Pallan,” Rantéin commented, “so I will remain quiet unless my input is necessary.”
“Thank you, Sulan.” Culana nodded. “Now, to business. I believe you are here to discuss the Master Ayas?”
“We are,” Kevérin replied, “what do you know about the current situation?”
“That the ancient stone was discovered by the Earthians in a cave on the Tier 5 World of Sunova, one of their newest colonies. They believe it spawned a Battlecruiser, all on its own, but were still willing to hand it over to you. As I understand it, the Ayas is currently sitting in a high-security Nimaliakian holding center, though as part of the RPF’s agreement to join the NSD, I will soon be able to investigate the Ayas on my own and offer proper advice.”
“Is there anything about it that you could tell us now? Or about any of the Chaos Ayas? We don’t know very much at all…”
“Unfortunately, I know little more than you about the Ayas specifically. You should know that the CSA has not been up front with their Ayas research, even with the highest echelons of Nimalian government. If even Sidonté Perion cannot get a word from the CSA, then I doubt there is a body on this planet who could.”
“Wait wait wait… did we actually just come here so you could tell us that you don’t know anything?” Davídrius scowled.
“Davídrius—!” Kevérin started, but Culana cut him off.
“No, the boy has a point,” the Archoné stated. “…Though if you listened closely, you would note that I said I knew little about the Ayas. There is a reason that Commander Nikéyin arranged for you to meet with me, the Riveranian Archoné, in person. And I doubted from the start that it was to learn more about the Chaos Ayas.”
“…Oooh,” Kaoné responded as recognition dawned on her features. “You’re talking about the Oraculm.”
Culana grinned. “Well, it certainly pleases me to know that at least one of you is culturally aware.” He chuckled when Kevérin scowled and Davídrius bristled. “But I will not fault you for not asking about it. Its legitimacy in the eyes of the average Nimalian has been slowly decreasing over the ages, even here in Riverana. As the Archoné, however, I must — and will — retain faith in the Oraculm. It has yet to speak incorrectly.”
“It’s yet to speak at all,” Davídrius snorted.
“…An expected response, from a Tresédian,” Culana replied, “but you are incorrect. The Oraculm, despite being a prophetic tome — in fact, because it is a prophetic tome — is not predictable. It will not predict every event. No Archoné has ever claimed that the Oraculm was omniscient — just that it has failed to be completely incorrect. Even in its inaccuracies or unforetold events, there is a small sliver of truth that fits into a larger prophecy down the line.”
“Why are we here, again?” Siyuakén whispered to Kevérin.
“…Just… give him a chance.” Kevérin sighed warily. “We might still learn something.” He then addressed the Archoné directly. “The Oraculm hasn’t predicted anything since the Chaos Quake, and even then it offered only a few vague words. What’s there to learn now?”
Culana chuckled again. “You seem to think that the Quake was an isolated event. Is it, though? Only seven Chaotics were born on this planet during the year of the Quake, four of which were present to investigate the reappearance of the Master Ayas and deal with its consequences.”
“Coincidence,” Davídrius retorted.
“The Oraculm claims otherwise.”
Kevérin frowned. “I thought the last thing it talked about was the Chaos Quake.”
This time the Archoné burst into all-out laughter. His guffawing continued for several seconds, prompting the members of Hero Machina to glance at each other uneasily before Culana could collect himself and offer a proper response. “Once again, the ignorance of foreigners presents itself.” He smirked. “Or should I say, the ignorance of the new generation? …Regardless, the Oraculm is a living document. Surely you’ve heard of how it can modify its contents to account for unforeseen outcomes? Or have such events fallen to simple children’s stories? No matter. As the keeper of the Oraculm, I know what it does, and it knows that we have yet to feel the full ramifications of the Chaos Energy Quake of 8012.”
“Then help us, please,” Kaoné responded, “what can you tell us? What can we do?”
The Archoné turned toward Siyuakén. “…I can offer little in the way of substantive proof, but the metallic infection that you have been investigating is indeed related to the Chaos Quake.”
“Okay…” the Electrotechnic replied slowly, “what about the bugs we ran into on Sunova?”
Culana shook his head. “The Oraculm has not spoken of the metal bugs — or, if it has, I have not managed to decipher such clues. If it ever provides more relevant information, I will forward it to you.”
“Ah… thanks.” Siyuakén nodded as she rubbed her bandaged left arm.
“…Anything else?” Davídrius questioned flatly.
“As I said, the metallic infection is connected to the Chaos Quake, which also connects it to the Chaos Ayas and Chaos Energy itself. Investigating the infection should lead you to answers about the Quake or the Ayas — or both. But I would not dawdle, were I you. The appearance of the bugs shortly after the Master Ayas is worrisome, and the Oraculm does indeed hint at the return of an ancient menace… though I have no idea what the menace could be, aside from the Drakkars. Regardless, the other Chaos Ayas should be reappearing around the galaxy now that the Master Ayas has, and we cannot allow them to fall into the hands of evil, be it current or ancient. So, in short, my advice to you is to continue what you are doing, and recruit the last three of the Quakeborn Chaotics. Then investigate the infection to the best of your ability. Being born during the Quake may be more of a boon than you expect.”
“…Then, on the subject of recruitment,” Kevérin started, “I think one of us ‘Quakeborn’ lives here in Riverana?”
“Yes, Captain Kievkenalis Yumach,” General Rantéin spoke up. “He’s one of the RPF’s most powerful Chaotics. It’s a shame that his Chaostechnic abilities all fall into the Directed, Defense, or Support categories, or he would be a remarkable powerhouse… He’s currently unavailable, however. I recently sent him off on a mission, the security clearance for which you do not have. When he returns, I will be sure to refer him to you, Transfer Captain.”
“Thanks… sir,” Kevérin quickly appended when he remembered he was speaking to a General. Rantéin smirked in response, but said nothing.
“I apologize if you have not learned as much as you would have liked,” Culana spoke up, “but I have offered all of the relevant information that I know. If I learn anything else, I will be sure to tell you. In the meantime, I have something to discuss with the General in private, so please excuse yourselves.”
“Of course.” Kevérin nodded once. “Thank you for having us, Archoné Culana.” He and the rest of Hero Machina then left the room, closing the door on the two Riveranian leaders.
“Well that was just great,” Davídrius muttered once the group had stepped outside of the Archoné’s building, “we sure learned a lot.”
“Let’s not start arguing about our opinions on the Oraculm, please,” Kaoné interjected, “regardless of the source, the Archoné’s advice wasn’t bad.”
“I agree with Kaoné on this,” Kevérin commented, “we’re back to what Nikéyin told us to do before sending us off to meet with Culana: finish recruiting, and investigate the metallic infection.”
“Our best lead on the infection is the research team up on the Continental Glacier,” Siyuakén pointed out, “Rebehka’s there, too! We could wipe out two birds with one stone.”
“Ha! Forget it,” Davídrius snorted. “I’d rather go back to living in Treséd than visit that frozen hell-hole. Why not just go get Christeané? He’s the only one left who hasn’t disappeared to the middle of nowhere or some secret mission.”
“We also contacted him over two weeks ago…” Kaoné frowned. “He hasn’t responded yet.”
“Not surprised,” Siyuakén replied.
“We should go see what’s up with Christeané, then,” Kevérin mused, “we can’t get Kievkenalis just yet, and I don’t want to go up to the Glacier either. So Christeané it is. Time to find a transport to East Nimaliaka…”
“Wait, what?” Davídrius responded incredulously, “wait, we’re goin’ now? Does ‘downtime’ mean anything to you military types?!”
“’Downtime’ means weekends, and even then, maybe not. And last I checked, today is still Watedia. There’s still three days until the weekend.”
“So then we just have to redefine when the week starts. I declare that the week starts on Isdia. Bam, it’s now the weekend!”
“Doesn’t work that way.”
“Of course it don’t.” Davídrius sighed irately. “Fine. Might as well get a look at the so-called ‘Great Plains.’”
“Then we’re headed out.” Kevérin whipped around and began walking into the city. “To East Nimaliaka we go!”