– Watedia, Nimath 13, 8034 –
“I’d forgotten how relay-dependent AR glasses are…”
“Tch,” Davídrius snorted. “Who’d’ve thought the Earthians weren’t even as advanced as Treséd.”
“I don’t think relay points are good indicators of technological advancement,” Siyuakén countered, “they weren’t even all that common in Nimalian space fifty or sixty years ago.”
“But, still…” Kevérin frowned as he glanced around the waiting room they were all sitting in. “Ever since we got here yesterday, I can’t help but notice how completely lacking the information feed is… or how little Relaynet tech there is here.” He sighed as he mulled over Hero Machina’s current situation. Shortly after recruiting Davídrius, they had returned to the military headquarters in Nimaliaka, where Commander Nikéyin briefed them on their next mission: rendering aid to the Earthians. The request for aid had little in the way of specifics, but since it mentioned only a small colony and didn’t appear to be urgent, Nikéyin decided to send Hero Machina. Mere hours later, they traveled through the Interstellar Gate to the Earthian colony of Sunova, where the Earthians had setup a small military installation. But the fact that the Earthians were less technologically advanced than every other race in the galaxy, combined with Sunova being only a small, recently established colony, made for a dreary experience with no access to the technological comforts that the members of Hero Machina were used to — particularly, the galaxy-spanning information network known as the Relaynet.
“There’s not much point in sulking about not being able to access the Relaynet,” Siyuakén remarked, drawing Kevérin’s attention back to his team. “But if you really need to distract yourself, what happened to that game you were playing before we left?”
“Dessert Destruction is just as relay-dependent as everything else,” Kevérin sulked. “Tch. Never thought I’d complain about always-online DRM.”
“We aren’t here to play games, anyways,” Kaoné commented.
“Aw, c’mon. You’re the one who introduced me to it!”
“And I’m starting to regret it…”
“With a name like ‘Dessert Destruction’, I would too.” Davídrius snorted. “Really? I think even the Earthians come up with better names.”
“That’s not even close to true,” Kevérin immediately refuted, “everything from Earth is just a sequel. Or a sequel of a sequel.”
“…Well, you ain’t wrong there. You’d think a series with the word ‘final’ in it would’ve wrapped up before iteration fifty…”
“Guys…” Kaoné frowned as she glanced between Kevérin and Davídrius with disapproval. “We aren’t here to bash the Earthians, either.”
“Keh. Well it ain’t my fault that they’re lackin’ in the creativity department.”
“Who’s lacking in the creativity department?”
“Eh?!” Davídrius spun around as a large, light-skinned man with black hair opened the office door and stepped through. He wore a field uniform with several emblems and insignia attached to various locations on his chest and shoulders. “Uh…” The Velocitechnic stared at the man blankly. “….Who’re you…?”
“You’ll have to excuse Davídrius. He’s a little prone to talking before he thinks,” Siyuakén spoke up, prompting the Velocitechnic to glare at her.
“I… see,” the man responded, glancing between the two Chaotics doubtfully. “…I take it you’re the team from Nimalia?”
“Yes, that’s us.” Kevérin stood up and approached the man. “We’re Hero Machina, the newest Chaotic team of the soon-to-be formed Nimalian Systems Defense. I’m the Commanding Officer, Transfer Captain Kevérin Tyrion.”
“Nice to meet you, Transfer Captain. I’m Captain Matthew Lead of the Space Exploration, Reconnaissance, and Response Command. SERRCom for short.” The man reached his hand out toward Kevérin. The Transfer Captain stared at it uneasily for a second before remembering the standard Earthian greeting, at which point he extended his own hand and awkwardly shook hands with Captain Lead. The Earthian flashed a polite smile and then looked at the three remaining members of Hero Machina. “When we sent word for assistance, though, well… we were expecting someone with…”
“More experience?” Davídrius drawled.
“…You could say that,” Captain Lead replied, “the current situation is unprecedented, if I’m to understand galactic history correctly. I don’t think it’s something that a new group of Chaotics would be able to help with.”
“All we were told was that you had a problem, and we were supposed to go check it out,” Kaoné commented.
“Did you specify the problem when you sent for help?” Kevérin questioned. “If you didn’t, well — we’re what you get. Sorry if we’re not who you wanted.”
“Ah, I apologize. I meant no offense,” Lead responded, “you’re right, of course. We were a little stingy with the details. But we’re dealing with an extraordinary situation; I hope you can understand our secrecy.”
“If you’d explain exactly how this whole thing is ‘extraordinary,’ it’d help me ‘understand your secrecy’ a whole lot better,” Davídrius pointed out.
Lead nodded and gestured for the Chaotics to enter the office he was standing in front of. “Yes, of course. Step inside and I’ll explain the situation to the best of my ability.”
The members of Hero Machina each stepped into the office. Kevérin and Kaoné took the two guest chairs as Lead moved around to sit in the desk chair, leaving Davídrius and Siyuakén to stand in the back. Once the door had closed all of the way, Lead began to address the Chaotics.
“First of all,” he started, his tone uneasy, “…forgive this brief tangent, but… you aren’t actually speaking English, are you?”
“English…?” Kaoné echoed cluelessly. “Is that your language?”
Lead nodded. “It is. Sorry for the silly question, I’m just… not yet accustomed to these real-time translation implants.”
“Ah, right, of course,” Kevérin replied, “yes, we’re speaking our own language, and you’re speaking yours. It’s pretty easy to forget sometimes, since the implants translate in real time, and even make you hear the translation in the proper voice and tone. The tech takes a while to get used to, that’s for sure, since it takes a while to train your brain to ignore the lip sync issue. But the galaxy couldn’t run as well as it does without it.”
“Oh, I don’t doubt the implant’s usefulness. I’m just surprised that it works so well…” The Captain touched his ear gingerly. “It even knows how to differentiate between names and proper speech… speaking of which, I don’t think I got all of your names.”
“Oh, right.” Kaoné perked up. “I’m Lieutenant Kaoné Densalin.”
“I’m Lieutenant Siyuakén Wanléon.”
“An’ I’m Davídrius Wrikax.”
“No rank?” Lead questioned.
“I ain’t a soldier.”
“Then what are you doing here?”
“It’s a long story,” Kevérin quickly cut in. Davídrius scowled, but didn’t attempt to speak over the Pyrotechnic.
“…Alright then,” Lead commented as he glanced over at a clock on his wall. “I’ll have to ask for the story another time, though I trust you have your reasons. Now, as for why you’re here… well, to put it simply: a Battlecruiser recently appeared over this colony, Sunova.”
“A Battlecruiser?” Kaoné echoed with a surprised tone. “Who’s commanding it? Is it hostile?”
“What class is it?” Kevérin added, “what about the racial profile?”
“That’s the thing, we don’t know,” Lead replied. “And when I say appeared — I don’t mean that it jumped here by FTL drive. You should know that Earthian space is isolated from Transpaces.”
“Well, how did it get here, then?”
“That’s the thing. It just… appeared. As if out of thin air.”
There was a moment of silence.
“Wait a minute…” Davídrius gave the Earthian Captain an odd look. “Are you sayin’ that it just…popped into existence?”
“As far as we can tell, yes, it did.”
“Bullshit. Shit don’t just defy the laws of physics like that—”
“Davídrius,” Siyuakén cut him off warningly.
“…Tch.” He scowled again, crossing his arms irately.
“What makes you think it just appeared out of thin air?” Kaoné questioned, pointedly ignoring the Velocitechnic’s comment.
Lead glanced at Davídrius uneasily before turning to Kaoné. “I have to admit, I’m not completely certain myself. We’ve hailed it and received no response. When it first appeared, the shields and life support were offline. Luckily, there was a Frigate in the system, so we sent in a small team to check out the ship. They were able to turn life support on, and since then we’ve had a small squad stationed there.”
“…You managed to turn on the life support… of a ship type that you’ve never seen before?” Kevérin questioned incredulously. “How did you figure out how to control its systems?”
“That’s yet another reason for us to believe that it appeared out of nowhere: the ship is of decidedly Earthian design,” Lead declared. “Everything about it resembles our current ships, even though currently our only ships are Frigates. The mystery ship has the same design aesthetic, a similar layout, similar systems, similar weaponry, and operates in almost the exact fashion I imagined a SERRCom-built Battlecruiser would operate. It even runs on a similar operating system and the same language as our currently existing ships. Yet, we haven’t actually constructed any Battlecruisers.”
“Hmm… it’s not possible that some Earthian organization built the ship without you knowing?” Siyuakén asked.
“Impossible,” Kevérin replied, “the Earthians don’t have interstellar corporations like everyone else. SERRCom and DEDi are the only organizations with authority over their colonies.”
Lead nodded. “He’s correct. There are plans in the works to start leasing extrasolar colonies to private handlers, but for now it’s just SERRCom running the show. Even then, there’s no way a military-grade ship was built without us knowing, using our own technology.”
“Well this is actually kinda interestin’, keheh,” Davídrius remarked, “dunno if we can do anythin’ about it though.”
“No, I’ve learned my fair share about space-grade technology,” Kevérin declared, “I might be able to help with some things.”
“Even if you can’t, there’s still an investigation planetside that the four of you could help with,” Lead replied, “but before we get to that, I want to bring all of you to speak with the lead researcher on the project, Scott MacTavish. I’m certain that he’ll be able to go into far more detail than I can. He’s the one who requested Nimalian aid, after all…”
“If you weren’t the one who requested aid, then why’re we talkin’ to you?” Davídrius questioned as the Earthian Captain stood up and approached the door.
“I wish I knew myself…” Lead sighed, opening the door and gesturing for the Chaotics to follow him outside. “I’m just the middleman here, it seems.”
“You’re not in charge?” Kaoné asked.
“Ha! I’m only a Captain. I’ve got a long ways to go before I’m a General. It sounds nice though… ‘General Lead.’” He shook his head to clear his thoughts. “Never mind that. I’ll take you to MacTavish.”
“Augh!!” The researcher jolted into an upright sitting posture, accidentally shoving his chair away from his desk in the process and ramming into a briefcase behind him, knocking it over and spilling all sorts of books and papers to the floor. He glanced down at the mess in dismay before looking up at Captain Lead. “O… oh, Cap’n. I was’n expectin’ ya here this early.”
“It’s mid-afternoon,” Lead responded flatly.
The researcher glanced over at the monitor sitting in front of where his head had previously laid. “Well, I’ll be damned. Trust me, Cap’n, I did’n sleep in on purpose. It’s just that…” he trailed off as he realized that a group of four was standing behind Lead. “…Um, who’re you?”
“We’re Hero Machina, of the Nimalian Systems Defense.” Kevérin stepped forward. “We’re here to—”
“Oh! You’re here for the Battlecruiser!” The researcher’s face lit up. “…I did’n know that Nimalian spacecraft technicians were so young!”
“They’re not actually technicians,” Lead corrected.
“But I do know some things about spacecraft,” Kevérin cut in.
The researcher stroked his scruffy beard for a moment. “…Eh, I suppose I was’n very specific when I requested aid. Some knowledge is better than none, though.” He extended his hand toward Kevérin. “Guess I should introduce myself. I’m a SERRCom researcher and engineer, Scott MacTavish. You can call me Scott.”
The four members of Hero Machina went on to introduce themselves, followed by Scott offering a brief explanation of his knowledge of space technology while Davídrius speedily collected the books and papers laying around on the floor. By the time the Velocitechnic re-entered the conversation, Lead was explaining to Scott what he had already told the Nimalians.
“So they know about the Battlecruiser, then.” Scott stroked his beard again. “…Eh, guess there’s not much more to actually explain. It’s all investigation from here on out.”
“You said that there’s a team up on the ship, right?” Kaoné glanced at Lead, and then over at Scott. “What are they doing right now?”
“For now they’re just mappin’ the ship and tryin’ to gain access to all of the systems,” Scott replied. “I was about to join ‘em, start lookin’ into the technology an see just how similar to our systems they really are. I suppose Captain Tyrion can join me there. Maybe you’ll be able to recognize somethin’ that I don’t, eh?”
“Maybe.” Kevérin shrugged. “But I’ll try my best to help.”
“I’ll go with you,” Kaoné volunteered, “I don’t know as much as you about space ships, but I know my fair share. Tekdecé isn’t the only Nimalian nation on the galactic stage, you know.”
“Well I’ll take all the help I can get!” Scott grinned, and then turned to look at Davídrius and Siyuakén. “What about—?”
“I know jack shit about space ships,” the Velocitechnic declared.
“…Crudeness aside, I’m in the same boat,” Siyuakén stated.
“The two of you can help with Captain Shepherd, then,” Lead suggested.
“What’s he doin’?” Davídrius questioned.
“Eh?” Scott turned to Lead in surprise. “You did’n tell ‘em about Shepherd?”
“What, is what he’s doing related to the Battlecruiser?” the Captain responded in confusion, “…I knew there was some investigation going on that he’s a part of, but he never said it was related to the ship.”
“Ah, well then, you’re all missin’ an important piece of the puzzle.” Scott moved toward the back of the room and began rummaging through several of the lock boxes. “Accordin’ to Shepherd’s report, that Battlecruiser appeared at almost exactly the moment he touched one of the artifacts found down in the caves.”
“Artifact?…” Siyuakén echoed incredulously. “…What did it look like?”
“Er, like a silver sphere,” Scott replied, “hold on just a moment… ah, here we go!” He spun around with a flair and slammed a solid silver sphere, roughly the size of his palm, onto the table in the middle of the room. “It’s a pretty interestin’ artifact, I hafta say. It actually seems to be—”
“Generating Chaos Energy?”
“…Uh, yeah, exactly,” Scott finished as he glanced at Kaoné curiously. “D’ya recognize it?”
“It’d be hard not to, if you’re a Chaotic,” the Materiatechnic replied, reaching for and grabbing the silver sphere. After inspecting it for a couple moments she nodded resolutely. “Yep, even though I’ve never seen it before, there’s no doubt about it. This is the Master Ayas!”