1 Day Later
“What? But— he said he’d be here!”
“I’m sorry, but Master Lieutenant Kolstén isn’t available at the moment. He checked out a little over an hour ago.”
“Gah…” Kevérin scowled, and then glanced back at Kaoné. “You called him yesterday, right? He did say that he’d be here, right?”
“Yeah…” The Materiatechnic frowned.
“We’re talking about the same person, right?” Kevérin whipped back around to face the woman sitting behind the desk. “Christeané Kolstén?”
“I wish we weren’t…” The secretary sighed in exasperation. “I’m afraid to say you aren’t the first to come looking for him while he’s… ‘away.’”
“Sounds in line with my experience,” Siyuakén commented in annoyance.
“Do you know where he went?” Kevérin questioned.
“No. But, given the time…” The secretary took a moment to glance at the clock before returning her attention to the Transfer Captain. “He could be taking an early lunch break. You should check the canteens south of here.”
“Oh, no…” Davídrius groaned. “I am not about to start traipsing all over East Nimaliaka just to hunt down this one guy.”
“Not all of East Nimaliaka,” Kaoné corrected, “just Soughcé.”
“This city may as well be the entire continent.” The Velocitechnic gestured out the windows of the office. Even from forty stories up, the East Nimaliakian capital of Soughcé seemed to sprawl toward the horizon in every direction.
“You’re a Velocitechnic, finding Christeané should be easy for you,” Siyuakén remarked.
“Like I’m gonna run around the entire damned city,” Davídrius retorted. “I’ll pass.”
“We still need to find him, though,” Kevérin insisted, “Commander’s orders.”
“And the sooner we start looking, the sooner we can kick his ass and get him in line,” Siyuakén declared.
“Hey, let’s not start any fights,” Kaoné interjected.
“If he ain’t down in the canteens, well…” Davídrius scowled. “No guarantees.”
30 Minutes Later
“Of course he isn’t here.”
“Alright…” Kevérin sighed. “…Did we actually check everywhere?”
“I checked all of the chain restaurants…” Kaoné commented.
“We even checked out that sketchy food parlor down the alley from Check ‘n Fries,” Davídrius remarked. “…Man, I had no idea it was even possible to wear clothes like—”
“Davídrius,” Siyuakén cut in irately.
“What? Gimme a break,” the Velocitechnic replied impatiently, “you don’t get to see shit like that in Treséd. It’s all fuckin’ desert. Everyone’s covered up all the time.”
“O-kaaay, moving on…” Kaoné quickly redirected the conversation.
“So no one saw Christeané…” Kevérin frowned as he held a hand to his chin in thought. “Did anyone at least find a hint as to where he went?”
“We’re dealing with fuckin’ restaurants,” Davídrius retorted. “Where the hell are we gonna find ‘hints?’”
“I’m trying to help direct us to the Master Lieutenant,” Kevérin responded. “Cut the attitude.”
Davídrius crossed his arms and scowled, but said nothing else.
“We could just wait for him, by his office,” Kaoné suggested.
“He won’t be back for hours, if at all,” Siyuakén countered. “I’m not waiting that long for him.”
“I agree, I’ve already done enough sitting around in waiting rooms over the past two weeks.” The Transfer Captain looked down the street toward the East Nimaliakian Military Headquarters. “Hmm… wait here. I’ll go ask some of the other officers and see if they know where Christeané went…”
The remaining three members of Hero Machina watched Kevérin run down the street toward a small group of East Nimaliakian officers. Davídrius then turned his attention to Siyuakén, asking, “seems like you know Christeané. He always like this?”
“…Not always,” the Electrotechnic admitted begrudgingly, “he’s… not actually bad at his job. He’s just hard to work with, because he does stuff like — well, like this.”
“Why were you working with him?” Kaoné asked.
“Nothing big,” Siyuakén replied, “it was about a year ago, I think. Rebehka and I were looking into a metallic infection incident in the Northern Deepsough region, and Christeané was the East Nimaliakian liaison assigned to us.”
“…Northern Deepsough?” Davídrius echoed cluelessly.
“North of the Deepsough Sea? You know, the massive body of water in the middle of East Nimaliaka?” Siyuakén sighed when the Velocitechnic shook his head. “You never learned geography, did you.”
“Do you not remember how shitty it is down in Treséd?”
The conversation was cut short as Kevérin came jogging back. “According to those guys, Christeané is probably downtown, either at the Chaotic Range or… somewhere else.”
“Well that’s helpful,” Davídrius snorted.
“What would he be doing at the Chaotic Range?” Siyuakén questioned, “he’s a Forcetechnic. Ranges aren’t built for them.”
“I guess we’re about to find out,” Kevérin responded, “Come on. Let’s go to downtown Soughcé.”
1.5 Hours Later
“So… he ain’t here.”
“Kevérin did say that it was the Chaotic Range or ‘somewhere else’…” Kaoné pointed out.
Davídrius scowled. “We shoulda known that we’d be wastin’ time comin’ down here…”
“Even so…” Siyuakén responded as she slowly looked over a map of the Range at a nearby kiosk, “…this Range is really impressive. They have sections for all of the major Chaotic types… there’s even sections for Intro- and Extratechnics! You’d never see something so impressive in Relédiaka…”
“It’s a place where people run around and attack dummies,” Davídrius deadpanned. “What’s so special about it?”
“You’ve never been to a Range, have you.”
“Do I really need to keep remindin’ you ‘bout how shitty Treséd is?” The Velocitechnic glanced around distastefully. “Besides, it just looks like a glorified gym. Not to mention there’s too many damn people here…”
Siyuakén sighed wearily. “This is a normal amount of people for any city.”
“Then that’s one thing I liked better about Treséd: there’s less people,” Davídrius retorted. “Why’s a Chaotic… thingy open to the public anyways? I thought the lot of you were conscripted into every military ever.”
“Chaotics can retire,” Kaoné pointed out, “and officers on leave can still use the Range if they’d like.”
“So then it’s just one big circlejerk-y military alumni club.” Davídrius snorted in derision. “I still don’t understand the rest of Nimalia. Conscription is ridiculous.”
“You won’t hear us arguing against you there…” Siyuakén muttered just as Kevérin approached the group.
“He’s not here—”
“I could’ve told you that,” Davídrius interjected.
“—but he was supposed to be,” Kevérin continued as he passed the Velocitechnic a brief glare. “According to the front desk, Christeané was scheduled to use the Driving Range about half an hour ago, but he called in at the last second to cancel. Apparently, he claimed that something important came up.”
“Of course he did.”
“I don’t know…” Siyuakén frowned. “He may be bothersome and bad with time, but he doesn’t lie… not in my experience, at least. …Wait a minute, the front desk actually told you all that?”
Kevérin chuckled. “You can get a lot of information when you’re a Transfer Captain. Knowing how to bullshit your way through bureaucracy helps, too.”
“Well if he’s doing something important… that would mean he’s back at the HQ, right?” Kaoné asked.
“Maybe,” Kevérin replied, “based on the reaction of the secretary and the officers I talked to around the food courts, Christeané is known for just going places when he likes… but despite that, no one reaches the rank of Master Lieutenant if they don’t know what they’re doing, not in East Nimaliaka where there’s at least twice as many ranks as everywhere else. I’d bet that he left the headquarters originally in order to check out this ‘important’ business.”
“I think you’re giving him just a little too much credit,” Siyuakén countered.
“And you used a whole lotta words to say that you disagreed with Kaoné,” Davídrius pointed out. “Just tell us where you think he is.”
“Probably the communications center,” the Transfer Captain suggested, “I know that in Soughcé, the communications center and the headquarters are separate buildings. If it’s important business that required that he leave the HQ, but stay in the city, he probably went to communications.”
“And if he didn’t?” the Velocitechnic challenged.
“Then we just go back to the headquarters and sit tight,” Kevérin responded, “no one’s worth more effort than that.”
“Too bad you didn’t think that two hours ago,” Davídrius grumbled. “Well, let’s get goin’, then…”
2 Hours Later
“The Master Lieutenant? Yes, he was here a couple hours ago… with no appointment, might I add. He had the authorization to access the information that he wanted, but — well, that’s just how Kolstén is, I suppose.”
Kevérin nodded. “Thanks. Do you know where he went afterward?”
“I believe he mentioned getting something to eat…” the officer mused, “given the nature of the information, he should really be heading back to headquarters. Who knows how long it’ll be before he’s actually back, though…”
“Hmm, okay… what kind of information did he come for?”
“Uh… I’m afraid you don’t have the proper security clearance to access that information.”
“Ah, okay. Well, thanks anyways.” The Pyrotechnic turned away from the desk and approached the rest of Hero Machina, who were waiting semi-patiently a couple meters away.
“We’re not lookin’ through every damn restaurant in Soughcé,” Davídrius declared.
“Don’t worry, we won’t,” the Transfer Captain replied, “though I am curious about what this information he’s dealing with is.”
“It must be important enough for him to skip his appointment with us,” Kaoné commented.
“Or he just forgot,” Siyuakén suggested. “I really think he just forgot.”
Davídrius scowled. “He better be worth all the trouble he’s puttin’ us through…”
“Well at least he didn’t make us join an all-out assault on a gang base, huh?” Kevérin retorted. He smirked when the Velocitechnic turned away in a huff.
“Guys, come on,” Kaoné cut in, “stop provoking each other… we need to get going, anyways. It’ll be late once we get back to the HQ.”
“Such urban sprawl,” Siyuakén commented, “cities never take up so much space in Relédiaka. Though I guess building a city on plains is a lot different from building one in the trees.”
“Kaoné has a point though, let’s stop wasting time,” Kevérin spoke up before leading the group out of the building. “If we get to the headquarters too late, we might just miss Christeané entirely…”
2 Hours Later
“Y’know, in this day ‘n age when we have fuckin’ spaceships that can cross the galaxy in weeks, you’d think we could get from planet location A to planet location B in much less time.”
“You really like to complain, don’t you,” Kevérin deadpanned.
Davídrius snorted. “I ain’t complainin’, I’m just pointin’ out things that should be fixed.”
“When done with the frequency that you do it, it’s called complaining,” the Transfer Captain retorted. The four Chaotics then stopped momentarily to check through the headquarters’ security gate before progressing to the interior courtyard.
“There’s barely anyone here…” Kaoné muttered.
“That’s not too surprising, since it’s past six in the evening,” Kevérin commented as he glanced toward the horizon, where the sun was just about to set. “City-based headquarters don’t have as long working hours as more isolated bases… especially in capital cities. You all should know that.”
“You’ve gotta be kiddin’ me.” Davídrius groaned. “Are you sayin’ that we actually missed Christeané?”
“It’s possible,” Kevérin admitted, “but we should still check before jumping to conclusions.”
“Oi oi oi… it would figure that impatience would net us an even longer wait time…”
“Ironic, coming from a Velocitechnic,” Kaoné responded cheekily.
“Shush,” Davídrius replied, “I’ll have you know— …” He suddenly paused and snapped his attention to the top of the headquarters building.
Kevérin immediately directed his gaze in the same direction. “What is it—?”
The Transfer Captain was interrupted as Davídrius whipped his right foot out and upwards just in time to knock aside an incoming assailant from above. The aggressor hit the ground tumbling before jumping back to his feet, allowing Hero Machina a good chance to take note of his features. He stood a couple inches taller than Kevérin, possessed a more athletic build, and had skin that was slightly tanner. His square jaw, glasses, and short black hair lent him a mature appearance, though the cocky expression wrought across his face belied his age of 22 years. Black boots, black slacks, a maroon waist-cloak, a white shirt, and a maroon vest made up his uniform, though most striking about his ensemble was a battlehammer firmly grasped in his right hand. Extending from the hammer’s handle was a long tether that attached to a body harness partially hidden by his vest.
“Not bad!” the newcomer shouted as he dropped the hammer, grabbed its connecting tether, and then began whirling the weapon around so fast it became merely a blur. “Let’s see how long you can last, though!”
“Wait, are you—?” Kevérin tried to ask, but was unable to finish his question before Davídrius dashed forward at the same moment the unknown Chaotic released his hammer toward Hero Machina. Davídrius prepared to sock the Chaotic in the jaw but was surprised when his fist was knocked away, just as the man rocketed away by the momentum of his thrown hammer. He zoomed through the air, narrowly missing the rest of Hero Machina as they dived out of the way haphazardly. Kevérin then looked over at Siyuakén. “Is that—?”
“Yep…” She sighed. “That… is Christeané Kolstén.”
Davídrius, however, was too absorbed in the sudden duel to pay attention to the rest of Hero Machina. He turned on his heel and blasted off toward Christeané as the East Nimaliakian began twirling his hammer. Just before Davídrius reached him, Christeané released the hammer straight down, cratering the ground and sending dirt flying in every direction, which tripped up the Velocitechnic. He tumbled into a roll but quickly leaped out of it, snapping his momentum back toward Christeané, elbow forward. The East Nimaliakian stooped down, grabbed his hammer, and then — surprisingly — parried away Davídrius’s blow. The Velocitechnic flipped backwards and scowled, taking only a moment to glare at his adversary before sprinting off perpendicular to Christeané. Unfazed, the East Nimaliakian began twirling his hammer again before releasing it upwards, yanking him into the air just before Davídrius thought to try landing another blow. But the Tresédian didn’t immediately give up — he leaped into the air after Christeané, prepared to kick him in the guts. The East Nimaliakian responded by yanking his hammer down and then whipping it through the air by its tether, slamming it into Davídrius and sending him rocketing down to the ground. The Velocitechnic impacted the ground with a sickening thud but jumped back to his feet unfazed and dashed off again just as Christeané landed himself, his hammer whirling around once more. The East Nimaliakian released the weapon toward Davídrius, but this time the Velocitechnic side-stepped the hammer and grabbed the connecting tether, at which point he launched himself perpendicular to Christeané. The sudden change in momentum swung the East Nimaliakian in a circle, but instead of blacking out from the g-forces, he yanked on the tether just as he caught himself on the courtyard wall, snapping the weapon — and Davídrius — back toward him. Caught off-guard, the Velocitechnic was little able to react before Christeané slammed his fist into the Tresédian in an uppercut, sending Davídrius flying high into the air. Christeané then whirled his hammer around once more and released it toward the Velocitechnic, yanking himself through the air as he prepared to slam his fists down onto Davídrius — who had managed to whip himself around just in time to slam his foot into Christeané at the same moment the East Nimaliakian smashed his fists down on the Tresédian, sending the both of them rocketing toward the ground. The moment they both hit they immediately recovered and leaped to their feet, glaring at each other from across the courtyard… until Christeané broke into a grin.
“Wow,” he remarked, “you’re pretty good!”
“Tch, ‘pretty good’ my ass.” Davídrius scowled. “The hell did you attack us for?”
“I wanted to see how good you were,” Christeané responded innocently as the rest of Hero Machina cautiously approached. “Hero Machina, right?”
“Yeah…” Kevérin responded slowly, his attention switching between the Master Lieutenant and the damaged courtyard. “You call this ‘seeing how good we are?!’”
“Eh, this is no big deal.” Christeané shrugged. “Just bring in a Geotechnic, maybe a Chlorotechnic, everything’ll be as good as new.”
“Of course…” Siyuakén sighed. “Why is it that Introtechnics, of all people, seem the most overly confident?”
“Oh, hey, Siyuakén!” Christeané greeted her with a nod. “Heh. Long time, no see.”
“I’m starting to wish it had been longer,” she groaned.
“I’m still surprised about that battle!” Kaoné exclaimed, “how did you keep up with Davídrius? How are neither of you hurt?!”
“He’s a Velocitechnic, I’m a Forcetechnic. Of course we’re not hurt.” Christeané snorted. “That’s all I need to say, really. I’m sure you’re a smart girl, you can figure it out.”
“…I’m honestly not sure what my opinion of you is right now,” Davídrius deadpanned.
“All that aside, though — where were you today?” Kevérin cut in, “we were supposed to meet this morning! Remember?”
“Yeah, I know. I wanted to see how far you guys would go to get me.”
“…You ran across Soughcé just to see how far we’d go to get you?” Kevérin echoed incredulously.
“Bullshit,” Siyuakén immediately retorted.
“Yeah, it’s bullshit,” the Master Lieutenant admitted with a smirk, “though that duel was actually me testing you.”
“I’m starting to wonder if I really want you on Hero Machina…” Kevérin scowled.
“He said the same thing about me.” Davídrius passed Christeané a glance.
“Yeah, no, I get you,” the East Nimaliakian replied, “But seriously, I was out today because of some important news. It’s related to you guys, actually.”
Siyuakén crossed her arms impatiently. “This had better be good.”
“It’s really not,” Christeané countered. “Last night the communications center picked up a level 3 distress signal coming from the Hazard Islands.”
“This relates to us, how?” Kevérin questioned.
“Because it was a Relédiakian research team,” Christeané stated, “the ‘metallic infection’ research team, accompanied by Lieutenant Rebehka Tchiréon. They’ve crash-landed on the Hazard Islands.”