Chapter 17 – Hazardous Material

2 Days Later

Finally! We’re here!”

“Siyuakén, wait—!” Kevérin started, but the Electrotechnic had leaped out of the air transport before he could finish, using her new set of swinging gear to lower herself to the floor of the dense forest.

“Wow. She’s impatient,” Christeané remarked, and then nodded at the Transfer Captain. “See you groundside.”

“What—?” the Pyrotechnic stuttered as the Master Lieutenant casually jumped from the transport, followed immediately by Davídrius. Kevérin stared on, speechless, as Kaoné stepped up beside him, shrugged, and jumped down herself. The Transfer Captain sighed irately, signaled to the transport pilot to leave, and then jumped from the vehicle himself, using carefully timed bursts of flame to slow his descent. He prepared himself to begin leading Hero Machina through the undergrowth of the Hazard Islands, but by the time he reached the ground there was already another discussion going on.

“Hey, calm down.”

“’Calm down?’ It’s been two days since they crashed here! At least two days! Who knows what could’ve happened to the research team in the time you were screwing around in Soughcé!”

“We were hardly screwin’ around,” Davídrius cut in harshly, “if nothin’ else, we were busier yesterday than usual. And that’s sayin’ somethin’!”

“Yes, it’s saying that you need to be less incompetent with your weapons!” Siyuakén snapped.

“As if it’s my fault every fucking blade on Nimalia is made like shit. I’m not the only one at fault here, either, you know! You broke your own damn gear on Sunova!”

“Hey, hey, settle down…” Christeané stepped in between Davídrius and Siyuakén, holding his hands up in an attempt to calm them.

The Electrotechnic bristled, her glare shifting from Davídrius to Christeané. “I can’t. The research team is still out there. And you know who’s with them? My best friend. And because of the two of you, she’s spent at least one day longer on this god-forsaken island than she’s had to!”

“I’m sure she can take care of herself,” Christeané insisted. “Besides, there’s a reason the Hazard Islands are named that way. It would’ve been suicide to rush here unprepared. And Davídrius is right, you don’t have much room to take pot shots at him for needing new Sword Boxes when you needed new swinging gear yourself.”

“What’s going on?” Kevérin questioned as he approached the three Chaotics.

“We took too long to get here,” Siyuakén snapped.

“Maybe we could’ve gotten here faster, but Christeané is right,” Kaoné spoke up, “rushing here would’ve been just as bad.”

“I mean, Rebehka’s a Cryotechnic, right? I’m sure she’s fine on her own,” Christeané declared. “…Unless you don’t actually trust her skills.”

“What? No, I… well…” The Electrotechnic pursed her lips, and then sighed. “…Alright, fine, you have a point. But even then, she can only last so long.”

“Cryotechnics are usually pretty hardy,” Kaoné offered.

“Yeah…” Siyuakén muttered before closing her eyes and taking several deep breaths. “Okay…” She glanced back at Christeané and then turned her attention to Kevérin. “Alright. I think… I think I’m fine now. But I’d still like to find the research team as fast as possible.”

“We have one day…” Kevérin commented, “that’s one day until the transport comes back and we need to pull out, regardless of whether we found anything or not.”

“Then what’re we waitin’ for?” Davídrius replied, “shouldn’t we be lookin’?”

“We need to be careful though,” the Transfer Captain insisted, “these are the Hazard Islands. They say the local wildlife can even take out unprepared Chaostechnics… so splitting up isn’t an option.”

“Maybe, if we’re lucky, one of us’ll unlock our Overdrive,” Christeané quipped.

“I wouldn’t call that lucky,” Kaoné responded warily.

“And it doesn’t matter anyways!” Kevérin cut in, “stick together and watch your surroundings. According to the distress beacon data, the research team should’ve crash-landed about ten kilometers inland… so we have a lot of ground to cover.”

“And it’s already past noon,” Davídrius remarked as he whirled around on his heel, “let’s move… out…? …Huh…?”

At the same moment the Velocitechnic turned around, a monkey-like creature dropped down in front of him, hanging upside-down by its tail from the tree branches above. It stared at Davídrius for a moment before opening its mouth — and then flying off into the distance after Christeané slammed his Battlehammer into it from below.

“Aren’t you supposed to have better reflexes than the lot of us?” the Master Lieutenant chided with a smirk.

“Sh… shush,” Davídrius muttered, “I’ve never had to deal with animals before.”

“Well it’s best to assume everything’s hostile here, because everything is hostile,” Christeané commented, “like that little fucker I just whacked across the island. That was a Deathtail. It can whip its tail around with enough force to shatter even Introtechnic skulls.”

“Its tail was still hanging from the branch…”

“It can also shoot poison barbs from its mouth.”

“…You’re bullshitting,” Davídrius countered uneasily.

“I could be.” Christeané smirked grimly before turning around and moving cautiously through the undergrowth. “Or, I could just have experience with this kinda thing. Now try to be quiet once we get to the thick underbrush. You could accidentally awaken a Thrallbear, or a Chaos Tisan.”

“Wha… what’re those—?”

“Shh! …I think I hear another Deathtail…”

“What? Where?!”

“Shit, behind you!”

“Agh!” Davídrius unsheathed a saber and whipped it through the air as he spun around, only to see nothing but tree branches and shrubbery. “…You’re fuckin’ with me, ain’t you,” he growled as he turned to pass Christeané a glare.

“Christeané, cut the bullshit,” Kevérin ordered, his tone that of exasperation.

“Alright, alright,” the Master Lieutenant replied, “…but actually, do try to be quiet. You never know what nasty surprises this island has in store…”


5 Hours Later

“Alright, this ain’t workin’.”

“Huh?…” Kaoné questioned as Davídrius stopped at the edge of a small clearing.

“This whole not-splittin’-up thing,” he replied, scowling. “We’ve all got vastly different movement speeds and styles, yet we’re forced to move at the speed of the slowest person in the group?”

Kaoné frowned. “Hey…”

“That was rude,” Siyuakén pointed out.

“And it’s totally true,” Davídrius insisted, “on my own I could’ve zigzagged the entire island ‘bout ten times by now, at least! And you can swing through the trees pretty well, if your skill with that gear is even half of what I saw back on Sunova. And then Christeané has that insane hammer-momentum-flight bullshit.”

“It’s not bullshit, it totally makes physical sense,” Christeané replied defensively.

“So what’s your point, Davídrius?” Kevérin crossed his arms impatiently. “You want to split up, then? How will we contact each other once we’re apart?”

“Uuuhh…” The Velocitechnic frowned. “…Oh hey, there’s no relay access here…”

“You only just noticed the lack of an info feed?” Christeané replied incredulously.

“Hey, I’ve been more focused on the ‘super-deadly fauna’ than I’ve been on my glasses,” Davídrius retorted. “And on that note, you made the islands sound like the depths of animal hell, but we’ve only come across, like, five Deathtails! And I took care of all of ‘em with no issue.”

“You know, that’s actually somewhat worrying…” Siyuakén muttered.

“What, that I’ve got no issue with killing an animal called a fucking ‘Deathtail?’”

“No, that we’ve only seen five of them, and no other animals,” the Electrotechnic countered, “this is nothing like what I’ve heard about these islands. Where are all the deathtraps?”

“You’re complaining about the lack of deathtraps?” Kevérin deadpanned.

“Yes!” Christeané butted in, “and you should be, too! Because something had to have taken out all of the animals.”

“Maybe… all the stories about the islands are just exaggerated?” Kaoné suggested.

“Hah! I wish they were,” Christeané scoffed. “As an East Nimaliakian, I’ve heard tons of present-day stories that have all been substantiated by both East Nimaliakian and Riveranian intel. …Though, now that I think about it, those stories did suddenly stop flooding in about a year ago…”

“Sounds like something you should’ve told us earlier,” Davídrius responded crossly.

“I’ve never thought about the Hazard Islands this much until two days ago,” the Master Lieutenant retorted, “give me a break.”

“Alright, alright, let’s calm down…” Kevérin spoke up, “so it looks like we have two objectives now: find the research team, and look for whatever cleaned up all of the island’s traps.”

“Whoa whoa whoa, hold on there!” Davídrius countered, “You wanna go look for the thing?!”

Someone has to figure out what’s going on here,” the Transfer Captain reasoned.

“We should really find the research team first,” Siyuakén insisted, “if there really is something extra-dangerous out here, well… Rebehka’s good, but she’s only so good.”

“Relax,” Christeané responded, “she can always just do that freeze-yourself-in-an-ice-block thing, right?”

“That’s a last resort and you know it,” Siyuakén argued, “only another Cryotechnic or a very skilled Pyrotechnic can clear out the ice and, no offense, Kevérin, but I don’t consider you skilled enough to properly melt down an ice prison.”

“No offense taken,” the Pyrotechnic replied. “I don’t think I’d trust myself to melt down an ice prison.”

“What about Materiatechnics?” Kaoné offered, “I think I could help in that situation.”

“Maybe…” Siyuakén frowned. “Temperature is a factor, though. Not just the ice itself…”

“And even then, this is all just a bunch of damned ‘what-ifs,’” Davídrius cut in, “what we know is that somethin weird seems to be goin’ on here, and I’d like to get off this island as soon as fuckin’ possible. On top of that…” He glanced up at the cloudy sky. “…Not only is it almost one hour from sunset, I think we’re about to be rained on. Man, this is just great.”

Kevérin glanced upwards himself and sighed. “Let’s try pushing on a little longer, then we can have Kaoné make us a shelter for the night—?!”

An intense tremor interrupted the Transfer Captain, shaking the underbrush ferociously and even toppling several of the surrounding trees. Kaoné quickly created a small steel dome to protect Hero Machina from falling debris until the tremors subsided.

CRACK!

“The hell…?” Davídrius scowled just as the tremors stopped. “…That was a really loud crack…”

“What is there to crack?” Kevérin questioned as Kaoné slowly and cautiously dissolved the protective dome. “We’re on islands… there aren’t even any nearby fault lines. Any solid rock should be far below ground…”

“That didn’t sound like rock,” Siyuakén commented, “it sounded more like…”

“Ice.”

The rest of Hero Machina turned to look at Kaoné.
“Ice?” Christeané echoed.

Kaoné nodded resolutely. “Yeah… it was definitely ice. I can tell from the ground density… there’s a huge mass of ice just east of here.”

“How far east?” Siyuakén questioned urgently.

“…Less than a kilometer?”

“Hey, wait—!” Kevérin immediately spoke up as the Electrotechnic spun around and launched herself into the trees, swinging gear in full use. “Siyuakén! …Damn it! Everyone, after her! And be careful—!”

The Transfer Captain was interrupted as Davídrius blasted off into the underbrush and Christeané whipped his hammer — and shortly after, himself — through the air. “Those three…” Kevérin scowled. “They’re going to get themselves into a lot of trouble one day…”

“Well there’s only one thing for us to do now,” Kaoné replied as she crafted a stone platform and then lifted it into the air. “Go after them and make sure they don’t get hurt.”

“Tch,” the Pyrotechnic snorted as he watched her take off on her own. He sighed irately before launching himself above the tree-tops with a single fire burst and then entering flight by igniting continuous fire blasts under his palms and feet. As he wasn’t sure about the full breadth of threats presented by the islands, he remained fairly low to the tree-tops, though still high enough to be able to react to any sudden projectiles thrown his way — and from this height, after a mere couple minutes he could see what appeared to be a long gap in the forest. Less than a minute later, he caught a glimpse of a reflective surface, which he fully recognized as ice once he had cleared the forest and began hovering over the huge mass. He looked down and found Davídrius and Christeané standing just beside the ice; the Transfer Captain carefully lowered himself down to the ground next to the two Introtechnics just as Siyuakén and Kaoné burst out of the trees themselves.

“Well this is really something,” Christeané mused, “a huge crevice, filled with ice…”

“No… it’s not just ice,” Kaoné countered as she ventured a step onto the surface. “At the very bottom of the crevice, under all of the ice… it’s the wreck.”

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