3 Days Later
“Are we there yet?”
“No,” Siyuakén replied irately, “we’re in the middle of the desert, Kevérin. You’ll know when we’re there.”
“But I don’t have to pay attention to that,” the Pyrotechnic retorted, his attention primarily drawn to the AR game he was playing. “It’s a lot easier to just ask you.”
“Of course,” Siyuakén deadpanned, her grip tightening on the vehicle’s steering device.
“Kevérin…” Kaoné sighed warily. “Can’t you at least switch with Siyuakén every hour or two? She’s been driving for four hours…”
“And I was driving before that.”
“For only two,” Siyuakén stated.
“Hey, I got us out of Nock,” Kevérin protested. “That place was a clusterfuck. I had no idea Treséd was so bad…”
“Well it’s probably time for you to switch back,” Kaoné suggested.
“Hmm…” Kevérin glanced over at her. “…Why can’t you drive?”
“I don’t know how.”
“What kind of Lieutenant doesn’t know how to drive?”
“One who’s used to automatic transportation.”
“…Right,” the Pyrotechnic replied slowly. “Another reason to hate Treséd: we actually have to drive our own damn cars.” He then returned his attention to his game while asking cheekily, “are we there yet?”
“If you ask that question again I’ll make you drive the rest of the way.”
“How far away is it?”
“That’s a more reasonable question,” the Electrotechnic commented. “…I don’t really know. Tresédian compounds do their best to keep their location secret, in order to avoid drawing attention from all the bandits and gangs. It was hard enough trying to figure out what direction to drive in to reach this Velocitechnic you’re looking for.”
“Davídrius,” Kaoné stated, “his name is Davídrius.”
“I’ll try to remember that,” Siyuakén responded flatly. “But really, Treséd is a bitch of a nation to navigate. The whole damn place is desert wasteland, the vehicles are outdated and don’t have built-in GPS or any kind of automation, and there’s no satellite receptors anywhere so neither of you can get GPS to your glasses!”
“Speaking of glasses, why don’t you have any?” Kevérin questioned. “Practically everyone wears them now.”
“Too much trouble. I’ve accidentally fried every pair of glasses I’ve owned within a week of getting them…”
“Oh. Well that’s really too bad,” the Pyrotechnic replied nonchalantly, “there’s tons of great things you can do with glasses. Like play AR games!”
Siyuakén glanced over at Kevérin for a moment before returning her attention to the road. “I’ll pass. I’ve never been one for gaming.”
“Well, you’re missing out.”
“Yep.” He then looked over at Siyuakén. “Hey, are we there yet?”
5 Minutes Later
“Me, a Transfer Captain, getting bullied around by two Lieutenants. It’s ridiculous. How am I supposed to know where we are? I was just sitting there, trying not to annoy everyone with my boredom, and now…”
Siyuakén tuned out Kevérin’s mumblings as he grasped the steering device. She then turned to look at Kaoné in the back seat, who seemed to be preoccupied with staring at the surrounding desert. “Bored?”
“Huh?” Kaoné glanced over at the Electrotechnic.
“I asked if you were bored.”
“Oh. Well, yeah… there’s nothing to do.”
“Why not play Dessert Destruction?” Kevérin suggested, “hell, you introduced it to me!”
“That…” Siyuakén passed Kevérin an incredulous glance. “That sounds like a—”
“Awesome game,” Kevérin interrupted.
Siyuakén nodded patronizingly. “…Yes. That’s totally what I was about to say. …Shouldn’t you be paying attention to the road?”
The Pyrotechnic began grumbling again, but nevertheless turned away from the conversation.
“Aren’t you bored?” Kaoné questioned, “you don’t even have glasses. You couldn’t distract yourself if you wanted to.”
“I’ve never needed to,” the Electrotechnic replied, “I don’t go on road trips. A lot of travel I did back in Relédiaka was through the trees, anyway — you shouldn’t be ‘distracting yourself’ when swinging through the forest.”
There was a moment of silence as the vehicle quietly zoomed through the sandy wastelands.
“Hey, Kaoné… can I ask you a question?”
“Huh? What is it?”
“Is there…” Siyuakén glanced at Kevérin and then frowned. “…Never mind. I’ll ask later.”
Kevérin looked over at her suspiciously. “What, you got a problem with me?”
“Shush. You should pay attention to where you’re going.”
“I am paying attention to where we’re going. Where we’re going is a straight line. There’s not a lot to pay attention to.”
“Well… are we there yet?” Siyuakén asked cheekily.
“Actually… we might be.”
“What—?” She turned to stare out at the horizon. She could see a faint speck in the distance, but as time passed, it seemed to grow. “…Well, I see something,” Siyuakén commented, “but how do you know it’s Davídrius’s compound?”
Kevérin snorted. “What else could it be in the middle of nowhere?”
“Unless you’re certain, we should approach carefully. Even if you aren’t certain, we should approach carefully…”
“Carefully? What for? We’re in the middle of a wasteland! I don’t see any potential traps or ambushes.”
“They wouldn’t be traps or ambushes if you could see them.”
“My point is that there’s nowhere to hide in a wasteland.”
“That’s what you think, but Tresédians are born and raised in this environment. They’re bound to have some sort of trap or ambush tactic that works especially well in the wastelands. Especially on unsuspecting outsiders like us…”
“Fine… I’ll be more careful.” Kevérin nodded as he slowed the vehicle to a more manageable speed. “It’ll take longer, but we should still be there soon.”
“Good.” Siyuakén nodded back, and turned to Kaoné. “Make sure to keep watch for traps—”
“Gah—!” Kevérin yelped as the vehicle flipped over due to some unseen explosive. But before it came crashing down to the ground, Kaoné seized control of its constituent matter, froze the vehicle in midair, spun it around upright, and then deposited it back on the ground.
“Uagh—!” Siyuakén doubled over in her seat, the sudden motions of the vehicle catching her by utter surprise. “Ah… Kaoné, you…”
Kaoné and Siyuakén glanced over at Kevérin before slowly looking around themselves. No less than five levitating autoturrets had their guns trained on the three Chaotics, and standing some distance away was a massive humanoid robot, nearly 16 meters tall, staring down at the vehicle as if it were an impassable sentry.
“What the hell is a Tekdecénian Recon Mech doing here?!” Kevérin exclaimed.
“Looks like you were right about the trap thing…” Kaoné admitted quietly.
Siyuakén sighed in irritation. “Of course I am…”
Any further conversation was cut short as the mech’s loudspeakers flipped on. “What’re you doin’ here?”
“Wow, his voice is really deep,” Kaoné commented in response to the pilot’s question.
“He doesn’t know we’re Chaotics,” Kevérin muttered, “well — he could know one of us is, since you righted the vehicle so easily. But — Siyuakén, how quickly would you be able to take out the autoturrets?”
“You want to fight? Already?” the Electrotechnic hissed.
“I don’t want to, but if it comes down to it, better to have a plan than not. Can you?”
“…I could probably fry all five before they open fire. I don’t know if that mech has anything in store, though—”
The hushed conversation was cut short as the mech’s loudspeakers sounded again. “I asked, what are you doing here?”
The three Chaotics looked up at the mech as it removed a large gun from its back and trained it on their vehicle.
“Uh… what should we say?” Kaoné asked hurriedly.
“…Might as well go for the truth,” Kevérin commented. “If things go bad, you two know what to do.”
Siyuakén glanced between the two Chaotics uneasily. “Wait, we do—?”
By the time she asked, however, Kevérin had already jumped out of the vehicle, his hands in the air. “We didn’t come here to attack you!” he shouted, “we’re just looking for someone. Do you know, um… Davídrius… Wrikax?”
A moment of silence passed before the mech pilot responded, “I might. Usually only bandits and thieves lookin’ for that guy though.”
“We aren’t thieves!” Kaoné exclaimed indignantly.
“…All of y’all, out of the vehicle,” the pilot demanded. Kaoné and Siyuakén quickly complied, getting out and standing next to Kevérin. “Now…” the pilot continued, “…what do you want with Davídrius?”
“It’s not something we can tell just anyone,” Kevérin replied, “we have an offer for him, sort of.”
“You ain’t the first to’ve said that. Every other time the dealers turned out to be Bleeders.”
“Bleeders?” Kevérin and Siyuakén snickered.
“The Bleeder gang ain’t nothin’ to laugh about,” the pilot declared, “but of course y’all wouldn’t know that. Foreigners think Treséd’s just a joke, why should they be concerned with how actually dangerous the national gangs are so long as they stay on this shithole continent, am I right?”
“Uh…” Kevérin glanced over at Siyuakén and Kaoné uneasily. They both shrugged in response. Turning back toward the mech, he asked, “by any chance, um… are you Davídrius?”
“…And if I was?”
“You’re not doing a very good job of hiding it,” Siyuakén commented.
Immediately each of the autoturrets began whirring. “I still don’t know who y’all are, and I’m startin’ to think that you really ain’t worth my time. You’ve got ten seconds to come up with a good reason for why I should listen to y’all before you become just another random group of intruders that I caught on a bad day!”
“He’s not going to listen to us…” Kaoné muttered with a frown.
“Time to show him we mean business, then,” Kevérin declared, “Siyuakén, take out the autoturrets. Kaoné, seize the mech. Three, two, one, now!”
Before the mech pilot had a chance to say anything else, Siyuakén raised her arm into the air and simultaneously zapped all five autoturrets, frying and permanently shutting them down. Kevérin then set to incinerating their remains as Kaoné obliterated the mech’s gun before forcing it to stand stock still.
“Do you want to listen to us now?” Kevérin shouted triumphantly.
The pilot didn’t respond. Instead, the members of Hero Machina heard a distant clanging noise, and then saw a metal plate fall to the ground behind the mech, followed by what appeared to be the pilot. After rolling to a stop on the ground, he stood up, turned around to stare at the Chaotics… and then disappeared, leaving behind a cloud of dust.
“Wait, he’s—!” Siyuakén exclaimed, but was unable to finish her sentence. All three Chaotics were unable to properly respond before a virtually unseen force bashed them all along the back of their heads, knocking them unconscious.
“Oooooh… my head…”
Kaoné slowly and painfully pulled herself up into a sitting position. She rubbed her head tenderly as she began looking around at her surroundings: a small cell, partitioned off from a slightly larger room by several metal bars. With her in the cell were Kevérin and Siyuakén, both of whom appeared to be coming to as well… and sitting on a bench outside the cell, next to a solid metal door, was a young man with a slim build and a dark complexion. His coarse, long black hair was both held back by a headband and tied back near the base of his head in a puffy ponytail, but even then, much of it escaped over his headband to frame his glasses and brown eyes. His chin was hidden behind a short beard, accompanied by a tuft of hair just below his bottom lip and a mustache. His outfit consisted of a pair of heavy-duty brown boots that extended halfway up his thighs, white pants and desert-tan chaps, a white shirt, and a thick desert-tan jacket with a breast pocket on both sides. On top of that was a dirty old scarf on the verge of turning threadbare, yet still wrapped securely around his neck. And at his sides were two large metal boxes with two handles extending out the front. The boxes seemed to be attached to him through a series of straps and buckles, like a hilt that was designed to hold multiple different swords.
Eventually the man noticed the three Chaotics coming to, at which point he stood up, causing the two metal boxes strapped to his sides to rattle and then bang on the bench. He stopped momentarily to glare at the boxes before placing his hands cautiously on the handles extending out them, and then turning to face the cell — where he nearly seemed to tower over the three Chaotics at an easy six feet tall.
“…Davídrius?” Kaoné questioned.
“…That’s me, aye,” he eventually responded.
“Pretty short-sighted, just throwing us in here without any bounds, even while knowing we’re Chaotics,” Kevérin stated.
“I assume you ain’t actually tried usin’ your powers,” Davídrius deadpanned.
“…He’s right,” Siyuakén admitted. “I can’t do anything.”
“Well… shit.” Kevérin scowled as he attempted to create a fireball in his palm but failed. He turned back to glare at Davídrius. “Is this a CENT field? How the hell did you get your hands on negation tech?!”
Their captor crossed his arms and smirked condescendingly. “It’s just one of the pieces of ‘junk’ that you Tekdecénians decided to dump off the coast somewhere. One of the Bleeders picked it up, and then I… acquired it from them.”
“What?…” Kevérin frowned. “But… Tekdecé doesn’t—”
“Hah! As if you know what you’re talkin’ about. You’re from Tekdecé yourself, ain’t you, Transfer Captain.”
“You know who we are?” Siyuakén asked uneasily.
“No, but I can recognize your uniforms and rank symbols,” Davídrius stated. “The two of you are Lieutenants. He outranks y’all, so I’m guessin’ he’s the leader of whatever retarded little troupe y’all are runnin’.”
Kaoné and Siyuakén glanced at each other. “It’s debatable whether or not he’s actually leading us…” Kaoné commented, ignoring the quick glare Kevérin threw in her direction.
“Well ain’t this just grand. Three Chaotics, each from a different nation, travellin’ in the middle of Treséd, and the guy who’s the highest rank by international military law ain’t even leadin’? What, are y’all AWOL or somethin’?”
“I was getting the idea you didn’t like Tekdecénians. Now you’re complaining that I’m not in charge?” Kevérin scowled. “Which is it?”
Davídrius turned toward Kevérin, his face stoically condescending… until he broke into a self-amused smirk. “Aw, I’m just screwin’ with you, keheheh.” Then he frowned. “Well, sort of. I do have issues with Tekdecé, but I’d assume mister Transfer Captain here is too green behind the ears to be a part of that.”
“We’re all the same age here…” Kaoné commented.
“Don’t mean shit,” Davídrius growled. “I’ll bet the three of you have lived nice, sheltered li’l lives. Well, try growin’ up in Treséd. This place don’t give a shit how old you are. I was hittin’ Mach 2 and practicin’ with Sword Boxes ‘fore the lot of you had even hit puberty, ‘cause I had to. You laugh at the damned Bleeders, but to Tresédians, they’re an actual threat. What’s more, is they’re only a threat ‘cause the rest of Nimalia just doesn’t give a shit about this hellhole of a continent.”
“…Sounds… pretty bad,” Siyuakén replied.
Davídrius glared at her. “Don’t patronize me.” He then took a deep breath and exhaled wearily before turning back to Kevérin. “…Aight, I think we got off on the wrong foot. Let’s start from the top. I’m Davídrius Wrikax. Y’all are…?”
“I’m Siyuakén Wanléon.”
“Kevérin… Kaoné… Siyuakén… ‘k. Alright then. What was this ‘deal’ you wanted to offer me?”
Kevérin frowned. “We’re still behind bars…”
“And you’ll stay there until I’ve decided that you aren’t actually Bleeders or crazies,” Davídrius asserted.
“You’re still not sure?” Kevérin scowled again. “You sounded certain that we were from the continent-nations before!”
“You— just shut up and tell me about this deal of yours.”
“I’m beginning to wonder if it’s still open to you.”
“Kevérin,” Kaoné cut in, “maybe if we explain who we are and what we’re doing, he’ll change his mind.”
“Now there’s an idea.” Davídrius nodded in agreement. “I’m a Velocitechnic. I don’t got much patience.”
Kevérin glanced over at Kaoné and Siyuakén before sighing. “Alright, fine. So, we’re part of a group called Hipster Memorandum—”
“Kevérin.” Kaoné glared at him.
“—Hero Machina,” he corrected himself before throwing the two women a quick glare. “Anyways, Nimaliaka and Tekdecé are joining together to form the Nimalian Systems Defense, a non-national organization that will take over all extrasolar activity.”
“And you want me to join to be your token little Tresédian, is that it?”
“You really do have a chip on your shoulder, don’t you,” Siyuakén deadpanned.
“…Tch.” Davídrius scowled and crossed his arms. “Y’all ain’t doin’ a very good job of convincin’ me to join you.”
“The NSD is only just getting off the ground!” Kevérin exclaimed, “just think — if you join us, you could say you’ve been around since its inception!”
“I’m not gonna join your little circus show if the only reason I’m wanted is so I can be trotted in front of the galactic community as an ‘example’ of how non-discriminatory the NSD is.” Davídrius snorted. “Give me a real reason and I’ll think about it.”
“Our mission is to investigate the Chaos Energy Quake,” Kaoné offered.
“…See, now that’s interestin’, you could’ve just said that.” Davídrius glanced at Kevérin; when the Pyrotechnic turned away in annoyance, the Tresédian simply turned back to Kaoné. “I guess that’s why you came to look for me, then, huh.”
“That’s it exactly,” Kaoné replied.
“So the three of you were born during the Quake, too?”
They all nodded in response.
“Hmm, not bad…” Davídrius mused. “Your Chaotic types ain’t too shabby either… Pyrotechnic… Electrotechnic… Manipulator Psychotechnic.”
“Actually, I’m a Materiatechnic,” Kaoné corrected.
Davídrius stared at her, dumbfounded. “…No way. Really? Why the hell’d you let someone like me get the drop on you, then—?”
He was interrupted as a man stormed into the room. He immediately turned his attention to Davídrius, exclaiming, “the Bleeders are outside!”
“What!?” The Velocitechnic spun on his heel to face the man in the doorway. “Is Strén leading them?”
“Damn.” Davídrius snapped his fingers in frustration. “…Alright. I’ll be up there in a bit. Head up the defenses, make sure everything’s primed and everyone who ain’t a fighter stays inside.”
The three imprisoned members of Hero Machina watched as the man dashed out as quickly as he had entered, leaving Davídrius to begin rummaging around in his pocket.
“What’s going on?…” Siyuakén asked.
“What’s it sound like?” the Velocitechnic retorted, “the Bleeders have shown up. They’re led by the most dangerous Chaotic on this shithole continent. Barring myself, of course.”
“…So you’re letting us go?” Kaoné questioned as Davídrius stepped up to the cell door and unlocked it with the keys he just found.
“No, I’m bringin’ you to help out,” he corrected. “If y’all can help push back the Bleeders, maybe even follow ‘em back to their base and crush ‘em once and for all, I’ll consider joinin’ you. Otherwise, I got a compound to protect, and as interestin’ as this Quake investigation sounds, my home takes priority.” He then stopped to glance back at the three Chaotics. “Y’all gonna help?”
“Yes,” Siyuakén cut Kevérin off, “…we’ll help. For now.”
“Good.” Davídrius adopted an impatient expression and cracked his knuckles. “Follow me. Let’s see what the bastard spouts out this time…”