“Eh?” The Velocitechnic turned around just in time for Kevérin to barge up and glare at him.
The Transfer Captain gestured at the hall behind him, marred with the remains of the barricade Davídrius had broken through. “The hell is this?!”
“…Heheh,” Davídrius chuckled in self-amusement after he caught a glimpse of Kaoné coming around the corner and immediately backing away in disgust. “I’m just securin’ the place, like you said.”
“Did I not say no killing if you can help it?!”
“They attacked me—!”
“They attacked you?” Kevérin echoed in disbelief. “Then why are they the ones smeared all over the walls?!”
Davídrius snorted in derision. “What, d’ya expect me to just rap everyone up the backside of their head?”
“I expect you not to leave behind a mess worthy of the Riaxen!”
“Everything okay, Davídrius…?” Christeané asked warily as he approached the two arguing Chaotics. “You’ve been a little… off, ever since we boarded the shuttle.”
“Off?” Davídrius smirked. “Ha! I’ve been feelin’ pretty damn great, actually!”
“Eh?” The Velocitechnic crossed his arms as Kievkenalis walked up. “What’s that?”
“It’s the Dark Ayas Hastryth,” the Riveranian repeated, “I told you, it’s not one of the ‘Dark Ayas’ without reason!”
“This bullshit again,” Davídrius snarled, “if you’re tryin’ to say that it’s corruptin’ me, or somethin’, well, you’re wrong. Nothing controls me. Certainly not some damn stone!”
“…Davídrius,” Kevérin addressed him warningly, “calm down—”
“Don’t tell me to ‘calm down.’” The Velocitechnic shoved Kevérin away. “You can’t tell me shit—!”
Everyone froze where they stood, startled by the booming voice over the intercom.
“WE HAVE NO TIME FOR PETTY SQUABBLES, QUAKEBORN!”
“…Who’re you?” Kevérin responded apprehensively.
“The base’s computer or some shit,” Davídrius replied nonchalantly. “That’s what it was sayin’ before you got all up in my face, at least.”
“WITH LUCK, THAT WILL NOT REMAIN THE CASE FOR LONG. WE ARE LOSING TIME; YOU NEED—”
“You’re the base’s computer?” Kevérin frowned. “…You’re saying you’re an AI?”
“IN A SENSE, YES.”
“Bullshit,” the Pyrotechnic scoffed. “Even the Syraus don’t have fully-functional AI. There’s no way the SFC could’ve created one.” He glanced over at Kievkenalis. “Right?”
“It’s technically possible, but I highly doubt it,” the Chaostechnic responded, “I’m sure the RPF would’ve picked up on something like a self-governing Artificial Intelligence.”
“THE ‘SFC’ DID NOT CREATE ME. THEY MERELY FOUND ME.”
“Are you saying you’re an Aldredas artifact?” Kievkenalis suddenly seemed very intrigued.
“This smells all kinds of wrong,” Kevérin commented, “for all we know, it’s just the SFC trying to throw us off…”
“DO NOT GROUP ME WITH THESE FOOLS! YOU MAY NOT BE THE KEYS, BUT I WOULD NOT DARE LIE TO THE QUAKEBORN!”
“Keys? Quakeborn? What?” Christeané scratched his head cluelessly.
“I SPEAK OF TOPICS YOU NEED NOT KNOW, NOT AT THE MOMENT. FOR NOW, YOU NEED ONLY KNOW MY IDENTITY. I AM ARCÁN, AN AEGIS PRIOR.”
“Arcán?” Kievkenalis’s intrigue piqued even further. “That’s… the name of one of the light Ayas. Is there a connection?”
“THERE IS LITTLE TIME FOR THIS NOW! THIS INFORMATION IS NOT IMMEDIATELY RELEVANT AND I CAN EXPLAIN ONCE WE ARE ALL FAR REMOVED FROM THE KOTAK MENACE.”
Kevérin rolled his eyes. “A likely story. We’ve wasted enough time here—”
“THERE IS AN AYAS IN THE CAVES TWO KILOMETERS EAST OF THIS COMPOUND.”
The four Chaotics froze again.
“…You’re lying,” the Transfer Captain replied flatly.
“THINK RATIONALLY. I AM NOT OF THIS MODERN GALAXY, BUT I HAVE HEARD AND PROCESSED MUCH DATA RELATED TO IT. THE PEOPLE OF THIS BASE, THOSE OF THE STEALTH AND FORCE CORP, ARE NO MATCH FOR THIS ONGOING RAID. I HAVE NOTHING TO GAIN FROM DISTRACTING AND DIVERTING SEVEN CHAOTICS OUT OF MANY. YOU, ON THE OTHER HAND, HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE, BAR TIME, AND EVEN THEN YOUR ABSENCE WOULD NOT BE TRULY NOTICED. YET YOU HAVE THE POSSIBILITY OF OBTAINING ANOTHER AYAS. THERE IS LITTLE REASON FOR YOU TO NOT AT LEAST INVESTIGATE.”
“I’m with the computer on this one,” Christeané stated, “another Ayas? Definitely worth checking out.”
“And if it’s a trap then we’ll just blow right through it!” Davídrius declared, “nothing can stop me!”
Kevérin hesitated for a moment before turning to his side and bringing up a tactical display of the compound on his glasses. After a few moments of investigating the location pings for the other raid teams, he closed the display and sighed as he turned back to the other three Chaotics. “Alright… we’ll go for it.”
“I AM GLAD YOU SAW REASON.”
“Can it,” Kevérin shot back, “when we get back, you’d better have proof that you’re actually an AI. And if there’s no Ayas, then I’ll be sure to format your core and use it to store my porn stash!”
“Porn?” Davídrius cocked his head cluelessly. “What’s that?”
Silence fell for a couple moments.
“Dude,” Christeané commented woefully, “I am so sorry.”
“THIS IS ALL BESIDE THE POINT. THERE IS AN AYAS THERE, I ASSURE YOU. AND UPON YOUR RETURN I WILL HAVE FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS AND INFORMATION; YOUR DESIRE FOR PROOF WILL NOT GO UNSATED. NOW GO! RETRIEVE THE AYAS BEFORE THE MENACE CLAIMS IT!”
“This had better all make since soon…” Kevérin grumbled as he turned back down the hallway. “Everyone, we’re moving out. To the east!”
“Caves again? I have a bad feeling about this…”
“We’ve only ever had one bad experience with caves,” Davídrius retorted.
“And that one ‘bad experience’ resulted in the loss of an entire colony,” Siyuakén countered. “I think I’m right to be somewhat worried…”
“On Sunova, we didn’t have an Ayas to help us out. But now we do.” The Velocitechnic grinned as he gestured toward his satchel. “There’s nothin’ to worry about! I can take care of it!”
“That’s exactly what we have to worry about…” Kaoné muttered.
“Quiet,” Kevérin ordered as he gestured for the rest of Hero Machina to hide in the underbrush. The caves may have only been two kilometers from the SFC compound, but those two kilometers were filled with dense forest and had taken them almost twenty minutes to clear. They were now at the edge of a small clearing, at the end of which was the entrance to a cave.
“…Is it… blocked?” Rebehka questioned, referring to the cave entrance.
“It looks like a steel door… probably something the SFC installed.” Kevérin stood up and stepped out of the underbrush, gesturing for the rest of the Chaotic squad to follow suit. “We don’t know what’s behind that door,” he commented, “so be careful. Kaoné, Kievkenalis, see if you can sense any presence. And once we’re close enough that you’re comfortable, tear down the door.”
“I can do that from here!” Kaoné remarked, promptly tearing down the steel door and tossing it to the side after transmuting it into dust.
As soon as she had removed the door, a full squad of six armored soldiers sprung forth, guns blazing. Kaoné and Rebehka reflexively raised shields to block the bullets and lasers, but before anyone else could react, Davídrius had vaulted over the barriers and lunged forward, ignoring the weaponry and simply allowing his armor to soak up the damage. The moment he was within arm’s reach of the front-most soldier, he whirled his right foot around and cartwheel kicked the soldier, slamming him straight down to the ground. The Velocitechnic then launched Hastryth’s blade end at the next nearest soldier before dashing toward him, running several circles around him until Hastryth’s tether bound his arms. Davídrius then grabbed the soldier by his head and back flipped, ramming his foot into the soldier’s chin and snapping his head back far further than the body would naturally allow. The moment the Velocitechnic had both feet planted on the ground again, he tossed Hastryth’s handle into the air and spun around, catching the handle with his foot and swinging the tethered corpse around in a circle, toppling two of the soldiers who had attempted to get in close. He then yanked on the cord, unraveling the corpse and sending it flying into a third soldier as Hastryth’s blade was flung backwards into a fourth. The Velocitechnic quickly drew his sword and flung it into the air; the moment it had fallen down tip-first, he whipped around in another cartwheel kick and drove the blade with his foot into the soldier he had floored earlier — piercing even the soldier’s Chaos Armor.
By then, the remaining four soldiers had become wary of Davídrius, and were slowly backing off while maintaining gunfire. Their actions did nothing but egg the Velocitechnic on, however — now confident that none of them were Chaotics, he blasted forward at full speed before shooting his foot out just in time to ram it through one of the soldiers and then used Hastryth to snag the soldier standing right next to him and yank him to the ground. He pulled Hastryth back and slammed the blade end through the corpse stuck on his leg, causing it to suddenly disappear in a cloud of blue mist. Without so much as stopping to give the odd occurrence any thought, Davídrius dashed toward the farther two soldiers and clothes-lined them before slamming his foot into the back of one of their necks, and through the crotch of the other. He then jumped away and spun around, launching Hastryth one more time toward the final remaining soldier and completely impaling him.
The rest of Hero Machina watched on in dead silence, frozen in awe of Davídrius’s ruthless display of speed and strength. They were slowly shaken out of their stupor by the sound of laughing — by the sound of Davídrius laughing.
“Ahahahaha!!” The Velocitechnic grinned gleefully. “Those guys weren’t even a match!!”
“Looks like they were Black Suns soldiers…” Kevérin muttered, “I guess that’s why the SFC resisted. They didn’t want us to know of their ties to the Black Suns…” He then turned his attention to the perpetrator of the brief massacre. “Davídrius! What the hell are you doing?!”
“Winning!” the Velocitechnic shouted back, “they attacked. So I retaliated!”
“They didn’t deserve this!” Rebehka countered, “there was no need to… to… to slaughter them!”
“Eh, looks like they’re just a bunch of Black Suns cannon fodder,” Davídrius remarked. “No one’ll miss ‘em.”
“I knew recruiting a Tresédian wouldn’t work out in the end.” Kevérin scowled. “Davídrius, stand down! Drop the Ayas!”
“Whaaat?” The Velocitechnic dismissed the Hastryth weapon and crossed his arms impatiently. “You’re tryin’ to give me orders again?”
“I’m temporarily relieving you of military standing!” the Transfer Captain barked, “you’re in no way fit to keep fighting!”
“Not fit for fightin’?!” Davídrius laughed again. “Bullshit! I feel better than ever!”
“It really is Hastryth,” Kievkenalis commented, and then stepped forward. “Davídrius, the Ayas is controlling you! Let it go!”
“No! Your bullshit is exactly that: bullshit,” the Velocitechnic countered irately. “Nothin’s controllin’ me! You think I’d actually lose myself to this fuckin’ stone here? You’ve got the master-servant relationship backwards, pal!”
“No, Davídrius! It’s blinding you!” Kievkenalis stood his ground. “You aren’t thinking straight!”
“Even if I wasn’t, do you really think I’d come around just ‘cause you said so?” Davídrius snorted derisively. “I took care of our attackers. That’s that. Now are we just gonna stand around here, or are we gonna go get the Ayas?”
“You’ve become a danger in your own right,” Kevérin declared, “we’re not going anywhere until you stand down and hand over the Ayas you have!”
Davídrius smirked. “Keheheh. I’m the danger. C’mon, stop bullshittin’. We needa get the next Ayas. Right, guys?” He turned toward the rest of Hero Machina.
“No, Kevérin’s right.” Christeané gripped his battlehammers defensively. “Something’s up with you.”
“’Up’ with me,” Davídrius echoed, “’up’ with me, you say. These are just some Black Suns soldiers! The Black Suns are mercenaries! Who gives a shit?”
“It’s one thing to kill them — it’s another to do so as brutally as you did!” Siyuakén exclaimed, “you’ve crossed a line!”
“This isn’t you, Davídrius!” Kaoné added, “even you never did something like this back in Treséd, or on Sunova, or Teghica!”
“’This isn’t me’…” the Velocitechnic muttered, and then suddenly exploded. “’This isn’t me?!’ Like hell you know me! You pacifistic little shit, you think you can tell me who I am?!” He snapped his attention to the rest of Hero Machina, all of whom had entered defensive stances. “Y’all think you know me better than I do?! You don’t know me! You don’t know my history! You don’t know shit! And you think you can just give me orders, tell me to ‘stand down,’ to drop the Ayas?! Like hell I will!!”
“Davídrius…!” Kievkenalis muttered warningly.
“No! Fuck off! If you think you can tell me what to do, then— then I’ll— I’ll show you—!! Haaugh!!”
“…What’s going on?” Kevérin questioned apprehensively as Davídrius collapsed to his hands and knees, his back arched.
“…The local Chaos Energy…” Kievkenalis muttered, and then widened his eyes in shock. “I’ve never seen it so excited before—!”
He was interrupted as a shockwave exploded outward from Davídrius, blowing each of the Chaotics of Hero Machina back several meters. By the time any of them could look back to the Velocitechnic, his entire body was covered in a dark blue aura, thick enough to obscure all of his features — as well as his entire armor.
“…Shit.” Kievkenalis scowled. “He’s gone berserk!!”