1.5 Weeks Later
– Mondia, Beauth 11, 8034 –
“…Eh? What’s goin’ on in here?”
“Oh, hey, Davídrius.” Kevérin turned to face the Velocitechnic as he entered the base’s Chaotic sparring room. “Christeané and I were just checking out our new gear.”
Davídrius crossed his arms as he looked the other two Chaotics up and down, inspecting the layers of blue and silver robing draping down around their legs. “…New clothes?”
“Ha! No, it’s Chaos Armor,” Christeané replied. “There’s armor under the robing. Well, for you guys, at least — I have a specially-made chest plate.” He knocked on the plate proudly. Whereas Kevérin was wearing a variant of his Transfer Captain jacket over the armor, Christeané’s chest plate was on top and had a Battlehammer slot under each armpit, connecting two battlehammers to a cord reel mounted on his back.
“These are prototype armors, work-in-progress pieces made by the Tekdecénian military,” Kevérin explained, “the armor itself is only a skin-tight bodysuit with a couple pieces of armored plating. Gauntlets, greaves, chest plate, codpiece; you know, like usual armors. The clothing is Chaos Robes, provided by the Archoné of Riverana himself, manufactured using the Master Ayas.”
“Oi, Chaos Armor, Chaos Robes…” Davídrius shook his head wearily. “There’s a ‘Chaos’ variant of everythin’, ain’t there. Anyways, so, we’re actually takin’ that one guy’s advice about armor?”
“He had a point,” Kevérin responded, referring to their encounter with the Black Suns Lieutenant General on Teghica. “I mean, you saw how our fight—”
“’Our?’” Davídrius echoed incredulously, “you barely lifted a finger!”
“…Well yeah, there wasn’t much I could do in that situation, you know? Besides, I was injured, remember?”
“Oh, stop crying about it,” Christeané quipped, “you got out fine. Rebehka was worse off than you and even she only had a few bruises and twisted joints.”
Kevérin shot the Master Lieutenant an annoyed glance before shaking his head to clear his thoughts. “Anyways, this armor has actually been under R&D for a couple years, but the Commander pulled a few strings to get us some prototypes.”
“So we’re just guinea pigs for new hardware?” Davídrius deadpanned. “Look, Chaos Armor sounds great and all, but I’m not a big fan of usin’ a prototype. It’s called a prototype for a reason, ya know. If we gotta have battle armor, then just give me some of the regular electrical stuff.”
“You say that,” Christeané responded with a smirk, “but can regular armor stand up to this?” He suddenly threw his fist forward, slamming Kevérin’s chest with massive force and knocking him into the wall behind him. The wall was shielded and received no damage — and neither did the Transfer Captain, who quickly picked himself up and stomped back over to the Forcetechnic.
“The hell was that for?!”
“I was just showing off the armor.” Christeané shrugged nonchalantly. “I knew it wouldn’t hurt you.”
“…Tch.” Kevérin scowled before turning back to Davídrius. “…The other sets of armor are back in shipping and receiving. Make sure you get the set marked specifically for you, ‘cause, well, you won’t really fit into any of the others…”
Davídrius chuckled in self-amusement; the Transfer Captain was right. The Tresédian stood at least half a head taller than everyone else in Hero Machina, except for Kievkenalis — though even the Riveranian was noticeably shorter than Davídrius. “Aight, I guess I’ll at least try it on,” he commented, “but I’ve got a couple important questions, ‘fore I even consider wearin’ this on a mission. For one…” He tugged at the old scarf wrapped around his neck. “Will the shields on those things protect stuff that ain’t part of the armor proper?”
“Uh…” Kevérin gave Davídrius an odd glance. “…I think so, but I’m not really sure. What’s so important about that raggedy scarf, anyways? You’re always wearing it everywhere. You at least wash it, right?”
“’Course I wash it. As for its importance, that’s none of your damn business. But I still got one more question about the armor.”
“How much work do I hafta do to take a piss?”
“Uh.” Kevérin glanced over at Christeané cluelessly before returning his attention to Davídrius and scratching his head. “I, I don’t know. That hadn’t actually occurred to me…”
“He’s got a point,” Christeané pointed out, “I mean, there’s a reason Citan and Black Suns armors have internal waste systems, you know? Even the Earthians have a way to deal with this shit. Literally!”
“The Earthians use the equivalent of a big diaper,” Kevérin deadpanned. “Do you really want to wear a diaper?”
Kevérin shook his head wearily. “To answer your question, Davídrius, I don’t know. I haven’t tried to take the robes or the codpiece off yet, so I don’t know how long it takes.”
Davídrius snorted. “See, this is why I don’t like prototypes.”
“If only we had a Hydrotechnic…” Kevérin mused.
“What? No! That’s disgusting!” Christeané grimaced. “Did you actually just suggest that?”
“There you guys are!”
The three Chaotics turned toward the entrance of the room, through which Siyuakén quickly stepped. “What are you guys doing? You’ve been gone for hours!”
“Hey, whoa, I just got here,” Davídrius replied defensively.
“Relax,” Christeané remarked, “we’re just checking out our new armor.”
Siyuakén glanced between Kevérin and Christeané before asking, “will I still be able to use my swinging gear?”
“Not the gear you’re wearing right now,” Kevérin answered, “but your armor set has built-in gear of its own.”
“Wait, these things are personalized?” Davídrius questioned. “…Personalized… prototypes?”
Kevérin shrugged. “I didn’t make these. They just got here yesterday — great timing, too; this is a great birthday present.”
“Oh, it’s your birthday?” Siyuakén questioned.
“Well, two days ago. It’s actually on the ninth.”
“Happy belated birthday, then!”
“…Huh? People say that?” Davídrius responded with confusion.
“Say what, ‘happy birthday?’” Christeané smirked amusedly. “Well, yeah. The Dra’kis and Earthians do it, too, from what I hear.”
“Weren’t you paying attention last month when either mine or Kaoné’s birthdays came around?” Siyuakén crossed her arms.
“Uh… no?” Davídrius scratched his head. “…People keep track of this stuff?”
“All I know is that I was born durin’ the Quake, probably this month. I think. …It’s not really a priority back in Treséd.”
“Oh… right,” Kevérin responded uneasily, “I guess you were probably busy protecting yourself and your compound or something, right—?” The Pyrotechnic froze when he caught the cold glare Davídrius passed his way.
“…So, Kevérin!” Siyuakén spoke up, “wasn’t there some important data analysis you were supposed to do today?”
“Not quite yet. The raw data still has to finish processing before I can start trying to get anything useful out of — oh wait.” He paused as an alert popped up on his glasses display. “…Well would you look at that, the processing just completed! …Uh.” He glanced down at himself and the robes he was wearing. “…Guess I get to see now how long it takes to take everything off, eheh.”
Siyuakén watched him leave before turning back to Christeané and Davídrius. “Three hours…?”
“This stuff takes a long time to put on,” Christeané replied, “between the bodysuit, and the armor pieces, and all these robes…” He glanced down at the layers of robing that fell around his legs. “Takes a while, you know?”
“If it takes that long, is it really worth it?” Davídrius questioned.
“Maybe not for you and me, but we’re the only Introtechnics here so yeah, it’s probably worth it in the long run,” Christeané answered, “I mean, you saw what that Black Suns officer did to Kevérin and Rebehka.”
“I’m actually surprised they weren’t hurt worse,” Siyuakén commented with a frown, “’Slam’ is supposed to be one of the more brutal Directed-type Chaostechnic moves… speaking of Rebehka.” She turned to face Davídrius. “She’s a little irritated that you skipped the last two of your fencing lessons.”
Davídrius shrugged. “Eh, there’s not really any point anymore. I have a new weapon now! And it’s nothin’ like a sword.”
“You mean that Ayas weapon?” Christeané snorted. “I can’t believe the Commander actually agreed to let you keep it.”
“No, I can’t keep it. I can only use it on missions.”
“Regardless, you should’ve at least told Rebehka that you were canceling,” Siyuakén pointed out. “You know, instead of letting her waste her time.”
“…Uh. Sorry?” Davídrius responded uneasily.
Siyuakén shook her head and sighed. “I’m with Christeané on this one. Why you? And a Dark Ayas, no less.”
“Just ‘cause a Riveranian claims the Dark Ayas have some sort of ‘dark influence’ don’t mean they actually do,” Davídrius shot back. “That’s all up with the Oraculm nonsense. It’s bullshit. The Ayas are just massive Chaos Energy generators, nothing more.”
“If that’s true, then what’s with the weapon that comes with it?”
“Beats me. But there’s no ‘dark influence.’ I felt no different when I used the Ayas back on Teghica, and I won’t in the future — and even if there does happen to be some sort of weird influence, I won’t let it get the better of me. It won’t happen.”
Christeané and Siyuakén exchanged uneasy glances. “You seem really sure about something you know very little about,” the Master Lieutenant commented.
“I’ll be fine,” Davídrius insisted. “…Hmph, you wanna get on me about mental stability? How ‘bout that Overdrive unlock, eh?”
“What? My Overdrive is cool as fuck man, how is it not a good thing that I unlocked it?”
“I’d be impressed if you had, I dunno, saved the lot of us from being utterly obliterated. But from what I hear you just got pressed into sand and then suddenly, Overdrive.”
“Says the guy who was knocked unconscious by a security mech while wielding an Ayas weapon.”
“Don’t turn this on me. I’ve been through much worse back on Treséd and I still don’t have my Overdrive, so what’s up with you unlocking yours?”
“You’re trivializing the moment. The sand on Teghica wasn’t that soft shit you have in Treséd; I was almost crushed to death, you know? I’d say that counts as a life-threatening situation!”
“A life-threatening situation isn’t the only criteria for an Overdrive unlock,” Siyuakén pointed out, “it’s said that it’s somehow linked to one of your deepest fears…”
Christeané crossed his arms irately. “What, I can’t just be scared of death?”
“Maybe before you start getting on other people’s cases you should sort out your own problems, huh? What’s up with you and Kaoné?”
“I— what?” Siyuakén drew back, a pained expression on her face. “There—! …Nothing’s ‘up’ with me and Kaoné.”
“You sure got defensive real quick,” Davídrius snorted, addressing the Forcetechnic.
Christeané turned away from the other two Chaotics and took several deep breaths before turning back. “…Sorry. I didn’t mean to snap like that. I just need some air, that’s all. I should probably take off this armor, too, heh.” He promptly exited the room before either Davídrius or Siyuakén could question him further.
Davídrius whistled out of mild amazement before glancing over at Siyuakén. “Somethin’ goin’ on between you and Kaoné?”
“No. The two of us fine.” Siyuakén quickly made for the exit herself. “Don’t spend too long in here. You have work to do.”
“…Tch. And they think I’m the one with problems,” Davídrius snorted. He shook his head and began walking back to the Hero Machina office, leaving the sparring room emptier than when he had entered.
“Oh, hey, Kevérin.”
“Hey,” the Transfer Captain responded as he passed Rebehka’s desk on the way to his own. As he sat down he glanced around the room, surprised to see that Rebehka was the only other person present. “Where’d everyone go?”
“I thought you’d know.” Rebehka turned to glance back at him. “Christeané left with you this morning, and Siyuakén left to check on you. I don’t know about the others, though.”
Kevérin frowned. “There’s never a moment when all seven of us are actually working, is there…”
“Not to be rude, but I have to agree with Davídrius on that point,” Rebehka replied, “there’s not really enough ‘work’ to warrant all seven of us being here at the same time.”
“So you all just decide on your own that you can take breaks like this, is that it?”
“What? …Kevérin, is something wrong?”
The Transfer Captain sighed as he slowly began looking over the data his computer had just finished processing. “It’s… maybe. I dunno. I mean, it’s not like anyone actually cares.”
Kevérin looked up to find Rebehka staring curiously at him.
“If you need someone to talk to, I’m here,” she replied.
The Transfer Captain sighed again. “…How do you see me?”
“What? …Uuuhh,” the Cryotechnic responded uneasily, “…look, when I said someone to talk to, I didn’t mean—”
“No, not like that.” Kevérin shook his head. “I mean… am I your co-worker? A friend? A leader?”
“…All of the above, I suppose.”
“What about the others, what do you think they think?”
“I think they’d say the same. …What’s this about, Kevérin?”
“I don’t know, it just… it feels like no one ever listens to me. I’m a Transfer Captain, I’m the highest ranking member of Hero Machina. I’m supposed to be the Commanding Officer, but no one ever listens.”
“Well, I wouldn’t say that…”
“You just said yourself that everyone’s not here because they think they can decide for themselves whether or not to skip work.”
“That’s not what I said. And even if it was, that isn’t insubordination, is it? And you can’t really deny that you aren’t here all the time, either.”
“…I guess so.”
“If it’s being viewed as a leader that you’re worried about, well, you shouldn’t worry so much,” Rebehka commented, “only Davídrius, and maybe Christeané, are resistant to being ordered around, and that’s just how they are. I think they’ll listen to you once you know each other better, as long as you make good points.”
“We’ve been working together for over a month. This isn’t how the military is supposed to work anyways, I shouldn’t have to wait for them to get used to me.”
“Then… I don’t know what you want me to do. This is a problem between you and them. The only immediate solution is to just go to the Commander about it.”
“Hn… I guess so…” Kevérin responded reluctantly, his gaze focused directly on the monitor in front of him. Rebehka watched him for a few moments before slowly turning back to her own computer, still somewhat wary about the Transfer Captain’s well-being. It was barely a minute later before she was interrupted from her work again, however, as the Pyrotechnic suddenly leaped to his feet, exclaiming, “ha, that’s it!”
“What now?” Rebehka turned back to face him.
“Thanks to the data I pulled from Teghica, I was able to locate the hypocenter of the Chaos Energy Quake!” Kevérin replied, “though… it’s in Black Suns space. Specifically, the Sector 2, Tier 4 World of Rossindon.”