The Next Morning
Kaoné watched as a streak of purple energy leaped from Kievkenalis’s fingers to the shielded wall in front of him. She sighed impatiently and leaned forward, activating the testing room’s microphone as she did so. “Didn’t you already know that you’re a Directed type? Why bother testing those moves?”
The Chaostechnic glanced up at her through the large window and energy shield that stood in between them. “It can’t hurt,” he replied, “I’ve never heard of a Chaostechnic suddenly picking up a new type. It could’ve been possible that I lost a type along the way.”
“You’ve been through all the key moves in the Directed, Defensive, and Support groups; I think you’re fine.”
“Well that’s what I was checking to make sure of.”
“If you say so…” Kaoné shrugged. “What’s next, then?”
“Explosive, Void, and Sabotage can all be dangerous to test for…” Kievkenalis frowned as he mused over the issue. “Hmm… Chaos Blade! …Chaos Sword? Chaos Bow.” When nothing happened, he shrugged. “Well, looks like I don’t have the Weapon type.” He then clenched his eyes shut, as if preparing to be hit by something. “Chaos… Teleport?”
“That’s a strike for Movement, then,” Kaoné observed.
“I don’t know about the rest…” Kievkenalis shifted uncomfortably. “…Do you think this room could hold up to Blast?”
“It’s isolated from the rest of the base for a reason,” Kaoné replied, “but, uh… I don’t know if I’d use Blast in here… maybe if you said it really quietly?”
“Even then, it might still do a lot of damage, assuming I can use it,” the Chaostechnic mused. “Eh… oh, I know.” He stretched his arms out sideways as he called out, “Chaos Shockwave!”
“Aaaand that’s a strike for Explosive,” Kaoné commented flatly.
“You don’t have to watch if you’re bored…” Kievkenalis glanced back at her.
“It’s better than sitting back in the office and being bored…” The Materiatechnic sighed. “Davídrius and Siyuakén aren’t here, either…”
“I know Davídrius has been hard on you, but what’s Siyuakén done?”
“…Nothing, it’s nothing.” Kaoné shook her head. “You don’t have to worry about it.”
“If you say so.” Kievkenalis turned away warily. “…Alright… uh, Kaoné, would you mind if I tried using Nullify on you?”
“If it works, it won’t hurt you, it’ll just prevent you from using your powers for a short time. It’s the safest way to test the Void type. The Void move itself is too destructive.”
“Ha, thanks.” The Chaostechnic then turned back to Kaoné and extended his right hand toward her. “Chaos Targeted Nullify! …Alright, the voice modulation didn’t carry over, and I didn’t really feel anything, but try to do something anyway.”
The Materiatechnic glanced around the observation room she was standing in. The only loose object was a stool in the corner of the room — which she promptly and easily lifted up into the air with her powers.
Kievkenalis nodded in acknowledgment of the levitating stool. “So I’m not a Void type either, huh… I suppose I really did only pick up the Sabotage type. Now I wonder if I can use every one of the abilities…”
“Is this how all Chaostechnics do things?” Kaoné responded in exasperation.
“Well, yeah. Being a Chaostechnic isn’t like being any other Chaotic, we can’t just think of something and do it. All of our attacks are preset and we have to call them out loud, so to be effective in battle, we have to know exactly what abilities are at our disposal.” He paused for a moment to stretch. “Hmm… I guess the most dangerous move to test is Oblivion…” He glanced up at Kaoné for a moment, and then shrugged. “I think we’ll be fine…”
“Whoa whoa whoa, wait, what?” Kaoné interrupted, “you are not just going to use Oblivion right here, right now.”
“Ah, don’t worry, you won’t go berserk,” Kievkenalis replied airily, “your berserk resistance is probably pretty high. You’d only have to worry about me, and I’m sure you could knock me out easily if I went berserk.”
“’Probably’ pretty high? Knock you out easily?!”
“Oblivion doesn’t just instantly send everyone berserk, you know. Think of it like this: every Chaotic has a Chaos Energy capacitor, and when that capacitor reaches capacity, they go berserk. The capacitor discharges slowly with time, and fills every time the Chaotic uses Chaos Energy. The fill rate is determined by the type of Chaotic and their mood. Well, what Oblivion does is it instantly fills that capacitor by some amount, dependent on the Chaotic. So if someone has a really high berserk resistance, they can take a hit from Oblivion and not go berserk, and only have to take a moment to cool down.”
“…I still think I’ll pass,” Kaoné commented warily, “I’d prefer not to put this to the test.”
“Eh, whatever.” Kievkenalis shrugged. “I guess I don’t really see why I’d ever use Oblivion, anyways. I already know I can do Control and Siphon, so the last useful one is… Chaos Negation!” He spontaneously shuddered. “Whoa! There goes all of the local Chaos Energy. I guess that worked!”
“I guess it did,” Kaoné deadpanned as she tried to manipulate the stool and failed. “Is that it, then?”
“Looks like it,” Kievkenalis responded as he headed towards the room’s exit. Kaoné quickly left the observation room and met the Chaostechnic outside the small building. The two then began walking across the base toward the main building.
“Looks like the only thing that really changed was me getting access to Sabotage-type abilities,” Kievkenalis commented. “It’s still really weird, though. There’s no precedent for this.”
“Why are you worrying about it?” Kaoné glanced at him incredulously. “Anyone else would be glad.”
“This might actually be a bad thing, though! There’s an inverse — albeit minor — correlation between number of ability types a Chaostechnic can use and the age of Chaotic Self-Destruction…”
“Oh…” Kaoné frowned. “I didn’t know that… but you’re still only twenty! You still have another… twenty or thirty years, right?…”
“Reaching forty is really generous, even for a two-type. Chaostechnics use way too much Chaos Energy to stave off Self-Destruction for that long. I’ll probably be dead by the time I turn thirty.”
“…You don’t seem too distraught about it…”
“Eh, Chaostechnics are taught to expect it. I know it’s coming, and I don’t mind too much. But if I suddenly have five less years to live than I originally thought, then, well, I’d like to know, you know?”
“I guess so…”
“At least I’m not an Explosive type after all. They use so much Chaos Energy that even single-types die by thirty, if they aren’t so reckless that they get killed before then.”
“I… didn’t realize Chaostechnics had it so bad…”
“It’s the curse of power. On one hand, we’re resistant to virtually every other Chaotic and can deal far more damage in a single strike… on the other hand, our attacks are incredibly predictable, and we die a lot earlier.” He shrugged. “Eh, what’re you gonna do.”
“That doesn’t make it any better…” Kaoné frowned as the two entered the main building and began navigating their way to the Hero Machina office space. “How— how can you even deal with that, knowing that you won’t live as long as everyone you know?”
“I’d say living longer than everyone you know is worse,” Kievkenalis countered, “but death is death. It happens. I just don’t have as much time as everyone else to make an impact on the world, and I feel that helping out as Hero Machina is doing a lot. I’m satisfied. Happy, even.”
Kaoné paused for some time to think about what the Chaostechnic had said, and then shook her head wearily. “I don’t think I’ll ever understand you…”
“That’s not the first time you’ve said that,” Kievkenalis remarked as he opened the office door and stepped inside. He nodded toward Siyuakén — the only other inhabitant of the room at that moment — before turning back to Kaoné. “You know, now that I think about it, you haven’t said much about yourself.”
“Uh, well, that’s… there’s not a lot to say, really, eheh,” Kaoné responded. She covertly glanced toward Siyuakén but immediately looked away when the Electrotechnic met her gaze.
“It’d still be nice to hear your life story sometime,” Kievkenalis remarked as he approached his desk, oblivious to the exchange between the two women. “Oh, I know! Sometime we should all sit together as a group and share our life stories! It’d be like story time!”
“That doesn’t sound like a very good idea, actually…”
“Huh? Why not—?” the Chaostechnic began to ask, but suddenly stopped as he glanced down at his monitor. “Oh, whoops, the Archoné wanted to see me ten minutes ago! I better go, sorry!” He nodded toward Kaoné apologetically as he rushed out of the office. The Materiatechnic watched him leave and then turned to her own desk.
“’Not a lot to say,’ huh?”
“Uh…” Kaoné paused uneasily before looking over at Siyuakén, who had turned around in her chair to glare at the Materiatechnic. “I’m… sorry?”
“You do realize that I’m the Chaotic who had to drop everything and move to Relédiaka because you were moved to Nimaliaka, right?”
“I… I know that…”
“Do you?” Siyuakén pressed, her lips pursed in anger. “I had to leave behind my entire family and start a whole new life on a completely different continent, all so you could, what, move to Nimaliaka and start whining about everything?”
“Don’t get me wrong, I… I do somewhat appreciate the move, since I got to meet Rebehka.” Siyuakén furrowed her brow and looked away for a moment. She then turned back to Kaoné, her eyes narrowed. “But that doesn’t negate the fact that for six years I was stuck in a place that didn’t welcome me, learning how to fight and use tools for people who looked down on me just because I wasn’t a native! I could almost accept all of this if you were at least making something of the trade, but as far as I can tell, you’ve done nothing, and you continue to do nothing! And on top of that you lied to me, to make it seem like you had done even less!”
“I— I lied to you?!”
“Back in Treséd, you told me you were conscripted as a Lieutenant. But that’s not true. Kevérin said it first, but I looked it up, and he’s right — you were conscripted as a lower rank and had to get promoted like everyone else. Why hide that? Was it not a legitimate accomplishment? Did someone take pity on you and just give you an honorary promotion?”
“Then what’s going on, Kaoné? Don’t tell me you’ve just wasted the past ten years, or I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forgive you. What happened?”
“I…” Kaoné looked down before sighing in resignation. “I guess I’d have to tell someone, eventually…”
Siyuakén crossed her arms impatiently. “Do tell.”
“It’s…” the Materiatechnic began slowly, “I… I don’t know how much this has to do with why the Chaotic trade happened, with why you and I were exchanged, but — it’s important to know, to know why I believe what I do, that is, I mean…” She paused to take a deep breath. “When I was six, when I first discovered that I was a Materiatechnic… I accidentally… killed my parents.”
Siyuakén’s hardened expression crumbled instantly. “O-oh…”
“There was no way you could have known,” Kaoné quickly responded, “I mean… as soon as it happened, the Relédiakian government covered it up and moved me to Diaska, an isolated military watch town in the deep south. They kept me there for the next four years, under watch, no adoptive parents, no contact with the rest of my family… it was like they were trying to seal me away, keep me from, I don’t know… doing any more damage, I guess.
“Then the trade happened, and I was moved to Nimaliaka, where I got help and proper care for the first time. I wasn’t even ready to start learning how to properly use my powers until I was thirteen, since I hadn’t used them at all since… since I was six. It was hard, you know? For seven years, to me, being a Materiatechnic only meant accidents — it meant death. It was hard to get over that. But I did, I think, and I was able to start using my powers for more useful things. But it was then that I decided that I wouldn’t kill. I still remember that feeling of loss, back when… when I was six. And, even if I don’t have any personal connection to some soldier I meet on the battlefield, someone does, you know? And I can’t… I don’t wish that pain on anyone. The pain of separation… it’s not worth what could possibly be gained by killing someone. Territory? Technology? The Chaos Ayas? None of it. It’s just not worth killing.” She sighed wearily. “I’m… I’m sorry for the long speech. But… that’s how I feel. That’s what’s happened to me over the past ten years, and I’m sorry I didn’t accomplish more… I really didn’t mean to trivialize your sacrifice. Honest.”
“That… I…” Siyuakén responded dumbfoundedly, her anger completely deflated. “I… had no idea…”
“It’s not a story I share often… I haven’t told anyone else in Hero Machina.”
“I… can understand why.” The Electrotechnic rubbed the back of her neck uneasily. “…I guess I was wrong about you. I still don’t completely agree with your pacifism, but I can see why you think that way… but, why lie to me? Why did you say you were conscripted as a Lieutenant, instead of a Chaotic?”
“I, I don’t know… I guess, it was just easier than trying to explain everything that’s happened to me. Easier than trying to explain how a pacifist got promoted in the military, at least. Just like with you, or Davídrius… most people don’t agree with me, thinking that killing is inherently bad. And back when I was just the rank of Chaotic, I was put on a bunch of missions against, you know, against low-key rebels and such, like most low-rank Chaotic squads. And I had to make it through those missions, and watch as a bunch of people were killed, just because they viewed things a little differently… and then I got promoted for not being able to do anything, because the squads I were on were so ‘successful!’ I don’t agree with it at all. I’d honestly resign from the military if I could. But, I can’t… So, I guess that’s why I lied to you. I don’t like to think about the past few years of my life, if I can help it… I’m sorry I lied.”
“I… wow.” Siyuakén shook her head wearily. “I… apology accepted, I guess. I… I never expected… I’m sorry, for jumping to conclusions about you. It was just… well, obviously I didn’t have it as bad as you, but the exchange is still a sore spot for me, so I guess I got a little short-sighted about it…”
“No no, it’s fine, I’d probably react the same way, haha,” Kaoné laughed uneasily.
“Well… good that we got that cleared up?” Siyuakén smiled awkwardly.
“Yeah,” Kaoné responded in kind. “…Friends?”
“…Sure, why not. Friends.”
“Heh, we got off on a bit of a rocky start, huh.”
“Nah, it only took us, what, three months to clear things up? That’s not terrible, I mean, I’ve held grudges for longer.”
“…Well, it’s past noon, now,” Siyuakén remarked, glancing at a clock on the office wall. “Lunch?”
“Ha, sure.” Kaoné grinned. “Let’s go!”