The dark blue veil, completely obscuring his face and skin; his arched back, hands and feet on the ground; the guttural growling emerging from his throat: all signs of the condition that had befallen Davídrius. All Chaotics hold this potential — the potential to, through either overuse of their powers or emotional breakdown, regress into a feral state in which all higher thought breaks down, and instincts become king. The state is well known, as all Chaotics are made aware of its danger during training, but it still manifests rarely enough that all of Hero Machina fell into stunned silence at the sight — at what had happened to Davídrius.
“He’s gone berserk!!”
Kievkenalis’s shout broke the rest of Hero Machina out of their stupor, but it also drew the attention of Davídrius. The berserk Chaotic dashed forward with amazing speed; Christeané reacted instantly and barely managed to intercept him, smashing him to the ground with one of his battlehammers. He then whirled around and attempted to body slam the Velocitechnic, but Davídrius whipped his foot around, slamming it into Christeané and sending him flying into a nearby tree. Immediately afterward, the berserker leaped back to his feet and sped off into the forest.
“Christeané! Rebehka! Kievkenalis! Stop him!” Kevérin shouted as he began running toward the cave entrance. “Kaoné, Siyuakén, you’re with me! We need to get the Ayas!”
“We’ve got it!” Christeané shouted back at the Transfer Captain before turning his attention to the surrounding forest as he began twirling his hammer. “…Well, this is great. How are we supposed to find him?”
“If we could catch up to him, I could at least slow him down…” Rebehka mused as she glanced around warily.
“Berserkers are drawn to Chaos Energy,” Kievkenalis explained, “and, luckily for us, I happen to be a Chaostechnic. Chaos Assist! Chaos Fortified Armor!” As his limbs and chest became covered in hardened Chaos Energy, Kievkenalis turned toward the forest and braced himself. “Cha… os…!”
Davídrius suddenly leaped down from above, his trajectory set to land him on top of the Chaostechnic. Christeané immediately released his hammer and slammed into the berserker midair, sending the both of them tumbling. The Velocitechnic recovered faster, however, and was on top of Christeané in under a second.
Davídrius froze in place, his berserker claws mere centimeters from Christeané’s throat. The Forcetechnic quickly threw him to the side before jumping to his feet and lunging at the berserker — just in time for him to recover and dash off as Kievkenalis dropped to his knees.
Rebehka quickly covered the entire clearing with ice and rushed over to the Chaostechnic, leaving Christeané to intercept Davídrius as he dashed back into the clearing once more.
“Are you okay?” she questioned hurriedly.
“I… I think I’m fine…” Kievkenalis muttered.
“How did you use ‘Control’? I thought you weren’t a Sabotage type…”
“So did I…” The Chaostechnic looked down at his hands and then back up at the two battling Introtechnics. “…But there’s no time to question this now. Siphon and Negation will be extremely useful here… but we have to get Hastryth off of him first! The Ayas will just endlessly fuel the Chaos Energy dependency of the Berserk State!” He jumped back to his feet. “C’mon!”
“On it!” Rebehka replied, raising a massive ice wall around the entire clearing just before the berserker could dash out again. She and Kievkenalis then dashed toward the fight, intent on stopping the berserk Velocitechnic.
“I knew it… I fucking knew it…”
“I… I don’t think you’re being fair to Davídrius…” Kaoné commented quietly.
“Did you not see what he did to those Black Suns soldiers?” Kevérin countered irately, “there’s not really any leeway to give him.”
“But, you heard Kevken. It was the Ayas…”
“Much as I hate to say it, I’m with Davídrius on this one.” Kevérin scowled. “This light versus dark thing is fiction.”
“I don’t know,” Siyuakén interjected, “in hindsight, he’s been really aggressive and dismissive today, much more so than usual. I never would have pegged him for murderous until… well, until today.”
“He’s a Tresédian who’s spent his whole life killing people. We should’ve seen this coming.”
Kaoné and Siyuakén exchanged uneasy glances.
“I don’t appreciate those racist remarks,” Siyuakén responded, “and you don’t know what Davídrius’s life has been like. As wrong as he was for getting so angry he went berserk, he wasn’t wrong about what he said; none of us really know anything about him. Hell, we barely know anything about each other.”
Kevérin glanced back at her, his eyes narrowed in irritation. He then looked forward again and continued walking through the caves, lighting up the area with a ball of fire in his palm. “…There had better be an Ayas down here.”
“Could it… could it have been on one of the…?” Kaoné questioned softly.
“I doubt it,” Kevérin replied, “if any of them had the Ayas on them, then it would’ve reinforced their Chaos Armor enough to prevent Davídrius from slaughtering them. As it stands, the only reason I can see that he was able to pierce Chaos Shielding was because he himself had an Ayas.”
Kaoné shuddered. “…This is another off-world disaster, huh.”
Kevérin sighed irately. “No, not… not quite. I’ll make sure to kick Davídrius’s ass real hard for completely ignoring my orders, but… the Black Suns did attack first. The SFC did attack first. The way the brass would see it, everything he’s done is… technically defensible.”
“But he killed everyone!”
“I think you’re misunderstanding the situation,” Siyuakén cut in, “Davídrius is in the wrong because of how he killed them, not quite because he did so.”
Kevérin chuckled ironically. “Suddenly it sounds like we’re siding with him.”
“But…” Kaoné frowned. “Even if it wasn’t entirely his fault, for all of this to just be accepted so easily… this isn’t right.”
“Ethically? Probably not. Technically? You can bet your ass it is,” Kevérin responded, “I… really hate to keep siding with Davídrius, but this is what being a soldier is about, you know.”
“…It’s not fair. I never wanted this.”
“Maybe you should’ve come to that conclusion before moving to Nimaliaka, hmm?”
Kaoné froze in her tracks and stared after Siyuakén, dumbfounded. She eventually jogged back up to the two other Chaotics. “But that, I, that was— …that was over ten years ago, I couldn’t…”
Kevérin snorted. “Man, aren’t we a close little troupe here. I’d be glad that we at least lasted two months before everything went to shit, but I’m too irritated that everything’s going to shit.”
“Hey, whoa,” Siyuakén countered, “now that’s a little extreme. Things aren’t that bad.”
“Explain Davídrius going berserk, Kievkenalis insisting on this Riveranian Chaos Theory crap, and your little comment to Kaoné a few seconds ago, and then maybe I’ll believe you,” Kevérin drawled. “And even then, I almost wonder if we aren’t too diverse a group. What was Nikéyin even thinking, trying to pull a Chaotic from every nation…”
“Well,” Siyuakén huffed. “Typical that the Tekdecénian looks down on other nations.”
“Ha, and you accused me of racism.”
“Guys, there’s no need to argue…” Kaoné whimpered.
Kevérin and Siyuakén both glanced at the Materiatechnic and then to each other.
“She’s right,” the Pyrotechnic admitted as he turned back down the caves. “We have an Ayas to find, especially before some ‘menace’ comes and claims it. Heh.”
Davídrius reeled back, momentarily stunned as Kievkenalis began drawing Chaos Energy away. The berserker immediately switched targets to the Chaostechnic, digging his aura claws into the ice and using them to blast off toward the Riveranian. Kievkenalis immediately crossed his arms in front of him just in time to block the charge, but he was still thrown backwards as the Velocitechnic flipped away, whirling his foot around midair to smash down on Christeané right as he came flying by. The Forcetechnic tumbled to the ground as the berserker landed on all fours — after which Rebehka immediately froze his hands and feet to the ground. She then created two swords out of ice and dashed forward, aiming to cut off the satchel containing the Ayas Hastryth — but the berserk Velocitechnic broke his bounds with a shockwave, sending the Cryotechnic tumbling. He instantly dashed over to her but she managed to whack him away with one of her ice swords, sending him careening across the ice and into the clearing’s ice wall.
Immediately Christeané spun his hammer around twice to gain momentum before letting it smash into the ice floor two meters away. The force cracked the entire clearing floor and flipped a large chunk, sending Davídrius flying through the air. Rebehka quickly froze the cracks over and then intercepted the berserker midair with a mound of ice, snatching him by his torso. Before she could attempt to freeze the rest of his body, though, he smashed his knees into the mound, shattering it and freeing him.
“And here I thought that containing a berserk Introtechnic wasn’t supposed to be this annoying,” Rebehka grumbled.
“We’re more persistent than you’d think!” Christeané remarked, right as he intercepted the berserk Velocitechnic with a powerful uppercut. The berserker wasn’t completely stunned, however; as he was flipping backwards through the air, he lashed out with both feet and nailed Christeané in his stomach, sending him flying through the nearby ice wall.
“Chaos Impact!” Kievkenalis flung Davídrius away as Christeané jumped back into the ice arena and Rebehka quickly repaired the ice wall.
“Can’t you make the wall sturdier?” Christeané glanced at Rebehka.
“Ice is ice. It can only withstand so much force—!” The Cryotechnic was interrupted when the berserk Velocitechnic appeared and head-butted her in the chest. Kievkenalis immediately flung the berserker away with another Chaos Impact as Christeané lunged after him, using both of his armor’s battlehammers to fling himself forwards.
“…I’ve had enough of this.” Rebehka sighed in irritation before shouting, “Christeané! Get back!”
The Forcetechnic barely had time to hear and process her command before the air all around Davídrius suddenly took a dive in temperature. The berserker perked up and then made to flee, but Christeané managed to floor him with his battlehammers first. A mere second later, the two Introtechnics were half-trapped in an ice cube — the berserk Velocitechnic from his torso up, and the other way around for Christeané.
“What the—?!” The Forcetechnic quickly slammed his hammers into the ice around him, shattering it and freeing himself. He jumped out just in time for the berserker to achieve the same with his powerful legs — but before he could eject himself, Christeané had slammed both hammers into him from below, sending him flying upwards. Rebehka then smashed several ice blocks into him, sending him higher still.
“Oh, wait, this is our chance!” Christeané exclaimed, and quickly began twirling one of his battlehammers. After a couple seconds he released it upwards, flinging himself into the air with enough speed that both he and Davídrius rapidly turned into mere specks in the sky.
“…What is he…?” Rebehka squinted, attempting to make out what was happening in the air. Almost as soon as she did, though, Davídrius came rocketing down into the ground, Christeané following shortly afterward.
“I’ve got it!” the Forcetechnic shouted, jumping out of the ice crater he created and holding up a broken satchel. He reached inside and pulled out the Ayas Hastryth, which he tossed to Rebehka — who then tossed it backwards and promptly encased it in a pillar of ice.
“Now that’s done…” Christeané wiped his hands. “It’s just a matter of time now.”
“We still can’t let our guard down,” Kievkenalis insisted. “We still have to negate him before he does significant damage to himself. That cloak of Chaos Energy is dangerous enough.” Shortly after he spoke, another shockwave exploded from the berserker’s location, blowing away all of the ice within five meters and cracking the rest of the arena. “Here we go. Chaos Siphon!”
“For a cave, this is awfully linear…”
“I was just thinking the same thing.” Kevérin glanced back at Siyuakén. “It’s… really odd.”
“At least we won’t get lost,” Kaoné pointed out.
“Or we could be walking into a trap,” the Transfer Captain countered bitterly.
“I’d really appreciate it if that weren’t the case,” Siyuakén muttered, “I don’t want to do Sunova all over again.”
“You keep saying that,” Kevérin replied, “it won’t happen. The Sunova incident was a one-off thing; the Earthians had barely been there for a few years. But as I understand it, the SFC has had an outpost here for much longer. There’s no way they’d let something like the Sunova metallic infection get as far as it did, not in a cave two kilometers away from the main… compound…”
The trio stopped after rounding a corner, confronted with the sight of a small room. In the center of the room stood a simple steel pedestal, devoid of any significant markings. And sitting on top of the pedestal was a black triangle-cut gemstone, nearly the size of a fist.
Kevérin sighed. “It would figure we’d find another Dark Ayas.”
“I thought you didn’t believe the ‘Dark versus Light’ thing.”
“…Shut it.” The Transfer Captain shot Siyuakén a quick glare. “Anyways, at least that AI was telling the truth. Now let’s get back outside to help with Davídrius…”
“Whoa, wait—!” Kaoné exclaimed, but Kevérin only paused the moment after he had grabbed the Ayas and removed it from the pedestal.
He stared at the Materiatechnic cluelessly. “What?”
“What if the Ayas was there for a reason?”
Kevérin growled in irritation. “Again with the ‘Ayas have a purpose’ thing—”
A loud, muffled growling sound interrupted his thought. He froze before slowly turning to face the cave wall behind him — just in time for the entire cave to shudder under the force of a massive impact, causing the three Chaotics to tumble to the ground as much of the nearby stone collapsed…
…and revealed a large, metal-laced beast staring at them from the other side of the wall.
“You’ve gotta be kidding me,” Kevérin deadpanned.
“I told you!” Siyuakén exclaimed as she quickly jumped back to her feet. “We need to get out of here! Kaoné, seal the caves behind us!” The Electrotechnic dashed back through the caves, Kaoné and Kevérin hard on her heels. “Let’s go!!”