Chapter 42 – The Answer

5 Hours Later

“Beaming in three… two… one…”

The members of Hero Machina braced themselves as their surroundings spontaneously changed from the interior of the Genesis to the cold, rocky surface of the planet below.

“Whoa…” Davídrius whistled, moving his body around to test the maneuverability of the atmosphereless armor Greant had managed to obtain from a Black Suns ship. “…It’s so light here!”

“We’re at half Nimalian gravity, so of course it’d feel light,” Kevérin replied, using the armor’s built-in communicator to talk with the other members of Hero Machina despite the lack of atmosphere. A moment later, two four-wheel-drive trucks were beamed down next to the group. Each truck seated three — a driver, a passenger, and a gauss turret with a gunner seat mounted on the back. “Alright guys,” the Transfer Captain began, “double-check your equipment before we get going. We don’t want any of the atmosphere units to fail on us while we’re down here…”

“Yeah, that’d be pretty bad, wouldn’t it,” Christeané remarked as he jumped up to seat himself behind the turret on one of the trucks. “Wheels, though? How far behind are the Earthians?”

“Give them a break,” Kaoné replied as she climbed into the passenger seat of the other truck. “They’ve only been on the galactic stage for fifteen years or so, after all.”

“Yeah, yeah, let’s just hurry it up,” Davídrius urged as he looked up at the Riaxen Deathnought wreck. The lifeless husk sat nearly fifteen kilometers away, but still reached high into the sky and blocked the entire horizon. “Oi, Kevérin, Rebehka, hurry up an’ drive already.”

“What? Why do I have to drive?” Rebehka frowned, though the expression was lost under her face mask and helmet.

“No, he’s right,” Kevérin commented as he jumped into the driver seat in front of Christeané. “There’s no atmosphere here, so we’d both be useless in a fight.”

“I’m not useless,” the Cryotechnic countered, “I can still, you know, cool things down.”

“Things are plenty cool here already,” Christeané snorted.

“You know what I mean.”

“Uh huh,” Davídrius deadpanned. “Even that’s only so useful. Can you snap-freeze a movin’ target?”

“Well… I mean, theoretically, I could.”

“I’mma take that as a no. Now get in the truck already, we’re wastin’ time!”

“Hate to say it, but he’s right,” Siyuakén replied as she jumped into the second turret seat. “Just get in!”

Rebehka sighed as she moved to climb into the driver seat of the second truck, while Kievkenalis jumped into the passenger seat of the first. A few moments later, both trucks were revved up and moving toward the wreck in the distance, with Davídrius following casually on foot.

“We should really get equipment from the Black Suns more often,” Davídrius remarked after several moments of silence, “they’ve got some real quality goin’.”

“If by ‘quality’ you mean ‘quantity,’ sure,” Christeané retorted, glancing back at the Velocitechnic’s blade harness. Two sleek Blade Prisms, each holding two blades, were attached to his armor by hinges at his hips; a further four blades were attached his back, the blades crossing each other to form an ‘X’ as two hilts extended up past each shoulder. “Exactly how many swords do you need?”

“Oi, oi! Not my fault blades break so easily at high speeds. Eight is perfect, especially if we end up havin’ to fight stuff with armor.”

“Don’t get overconfident, Davídrius,” Kevérin reminded, “you, Kevken, and Christeané are the only ones who can fight back if we’re attacked on the move. You can’t afford to make mistakes.”

“Nope, I can’t fight here,” Christeané refuted. “I don’t have a battlehammer with this armor. It’s close-range combat only for me.”

“And even if the lack of an atmosphere hampers lightning strikes, I can still short-circuit things from a distance,” Siyuakén claimed. “Well… I can try, at least.”

“The last thing I need is to be accidentally frozen or shocked or boiled while I’m attackin’ shit,” Davídrius countered, “keep your elemental attacks to yourselves and stick with the turrets, I’m sure those can do plenty of damage.”

“But whatever you do — and I guess this applies to me, too — try not to hit that wreck,” Christeané warned, “I have a bad feeling about its integrity… a wreck of that size should have collapsed on itself by now.”

“If we’re lucky, the Riaxen will miss us and we won’t have to fight them,” Kaoné muttered.

Kevérin jumped as a HUD element inside his helmet flashed once. After briefly checking the information he replied, “So much for being lucky — we’ve been spotted. There’s a full armored squadron coming to intercept us!”

Davídrius glanced to the left, where a handful of gunships were coming into view. “Gunships? Oh boy. Hmm, wonder if I could accidentally launch myself into orbit if I jump too hard…”

“Leave the gunships to me!” Kievkenalis shouted, “you take care of the armor they drop!”

“Sure thing!” the Velocitechnic exclaimed as he gleefully drew two blades from his hip-mounted sheaths. “A real fight. Haven’t had one of these in a while!”

“Watch yourself!” Kevérin warned, “if you get too active, your atmosphere unit won’t be able to keep up! You’ll asphyxiate yourself!”

“Hah, as if I’d let myself die like that,” Davídrius snorted. “Don’t worry about me. I’ve got this!”

“You’d better,” Siyuakén responded as she swiveled the turret around to face the gunships. “They’re almost in range!”

“Three… two… one…!” Christeané exclaimed, followed by the turrets whirring into action. Nigh-immediately, hundreds of metal projectiles were launched into the air toward the gunships, only to be deflected by the aircrafts’ shielding.

Chaos Mach Three Piercing Cannon!” Kievkenalis shouted, launching a Chaos Energy projectile at high speeds towards the nearest gunship. The projectile shattered the shielding and pierced straight through the gunship, ripping out two of its engines and sending it careening ground-ward — but not before two mechs ejected, hitting the ground feet-first and sprinting toward Hero Machina.

“Here we go!!” Davídrius grinned, spontaneously dashing to the side. He cleared the kilometer between the trucks and the mechs in the blink of an eye before slashing at their ankle joints, only for his blades to simply bounce off as the space around the ankles shimmered — a sign of energy shielding. As soon as he paused to observe the shimmer, one of the mechs whipped around and launched a salvo of rockets at him, which he easily dodged by jumping into the air. Forgetting that he was in a low-gravity environment, however, the Velocitechnic accidentally launched himself far higher than he had intended and soon found himself a free-falling target for both mechs. Scowling, he quickly sheathed his blades and then drew one of the back-mounted swords just in time to begin rapidly deflecting the bullet barrage the mechs sent his way. Just before he touched back down on the ground, another Chaos Energy projectile ripped through one of the mechs; the second one turned to search for the origin of the attack, creating an opening that Davídrius immediately seized. Slamming his blade back into its sheath and drawing two other back-mounted swords, he dashed forward and stabbed both blades into the mech’s ankle, piercing the energy shielding and forcing it to topple over. He then jumped over the mech and stabbed its energy core; he followed the stab by ripping the swords out, taking much of the machinery with them. He then blasted off back toward the trucks, leaving the mech to detonate behind him.

Chaos… Deflection!!

A sphere of Chaos Energy exploded outward, surrounding the trucks just in time to deflect a rocket salvo launched by the nearest gunships. Kievkenalis immediately followed it with several Chaos Cannon shots but only successfully hit one of the gunships, destabilizing it and causing it to go spinning to the ground. The remaining three gunships quickly followed the attack with another rocket salvo as they dropped two heavy tanks and three mechs, all of which immediately opened fire.

“Ahh!!” Rebehka yelped as several tank rounds fell around the truck, sending it into a swerve that she barely managed to correct. “They’re getting too close!”

“We aren’t equipped to deal with heavy tanks,” Christeané growled. “Mechs, we can deal with, but tanks—!”

“No, we can do this!” Kievkenalis insisted, “Chaos Assist! Chaos… Massive Impact!

An invisible force slammed into the armored vehicles, toppling the mechs — but merely stalling the tanks.

“Er…” Kievkenalis added sheepishly, “…maybe we can’t.”

“Their main cannons are aiming this way—!” Siyuakén warned, but was cut off as the cannons flashed, signaling cannon fire. Christeané immediately released the turret’s firing mechanism and spun the whole device around, sweeping his fist past the side of the truck just in time to intercept and knock away one of the tank shells — just as Davídrius blew past and knocked away the other.

“…Tch!” Davídrius scowled, glaring at the hilt of the sword he had just broken against the shell. “Should’ve kicked it…!” He discarded the hilt and drew two blades from his hip sheaths before dashing toward the mechs a hundred meters away.

“We’re eight kilometers out!” Rebehka shouted.

“I’m not sure I can block a shell like that again…” Christeané muttered.

“Kaoné, we need your help!” Davídrius exclaimed, his suit’s communicator transmitting his declaration from a distance.

“Wha-what—!?”

“It’s just blocking shit, c’mon!” Christeané insisted, “not like we’re asking you to kill anyone—!?”

He was interrupted as several devices suddenly leaped into the air several meters in front of the trucks.

“Mines!!” Siyuakén shouted.

“I’ve got it!!” Davídrius immediately redirected his attention from the mechs and dashed over to the mines, two swords in hand. But just before he could reach them, they detonated, sending him flying backwards and flipping Kevérin’s truck on its side.

“Kevérin!” Rebehka exclaimed as she slammed on the brakes. Kaoné jumped out and ran over to the flipped vehicle as Siyuakén attempted to offer sufficient cover fire from the turret.

“Hah!” Christeané grunted as he smashed the back of the truck, freeing himself and creating an exit for Kevérin and Kievkenalis.

The Transfer Captain scowled. “They got us…”

Chaos Strike! Chaos Strike! Chaos Impact!” Kievkenalis called out, launching several Chaos attacks to force back their attackers. He then glanced back at the Pyrotechnic. “We’re just going to have to destroy them all before we… can… …uh oh.”

“What is—? …Well, damn,” Kevérin growled after glancing over his shoulder and spotting another six incoming gunships.

“Well, if we’re no longer on the move, then I can finally contribute!” Christeané grinned before dashing toward the approaching heavy tanks. “Kievkenalis, Siyuakén, take down those gunships! Davídrius and I can take care of anything on the ground!” Then, the moment that he was several meters clear of the truck wreck and the rest of Hero Machina, he shouted, “Overdrive: Omni Crush!

Kevérin watched the Forcetechnic smash his way into battle before turning around, where Siyuakén and Kievkenalis were relentlessly firing away at the incoming gunships. “Kaoné… prepare yourself,” he warned, “be ready to erect shields whenever possible. And if it comes down to it, I need you to destroy the enemy armor.”

“But—!”

“It’s us or them, Kaoné. Think about that.”

A hundred meters away, Davídrius shattered another one of his blades by jamming it into a mech’s core, causing it to detonate and leaving only one more of the mechs. He immediately drew another sword to replace it before leaping into the air just in time to intercept a tank shell, kicking it away at just the right angle to knock it into a second shell, thereby knocking both off-course. The moment he landed, he glanced back at the toppled truck and spotted Christeané running towards the battle; the Velocitechnic immediately blasted off toward him, clearing the distance almost instantly before slamming his foot into Christeané’s back and launching him forwards. Initially startled, the Forcetechnic quickly calmed himself and then smashed his fist into the ground as he flew into a tank. The force created a ten-meter crater and destabilized both tanks, allowing Christeané to easily pulverize them both — even through their energy shielding.

“And that’s that,” Davídrius remarked as the third mech detonated behind him, its core slashed to pieces.

“We have to get back to the trucks…” Christeané declared as he glanced back — and noticed a third gunship squadron approaching from the direction of the Deathnought wreck. “Well, fuck!”

“Can’t give up yet!” Davídrius exclaimed, “brace yourself!”

“Huh?!” Christeané barely had time to respond before Davídrius kicked him again, sending him tumbling across the ground all the way back to the trucks.

Chaos Deflection!!” Kievkenalis jumped in front of the remaining intact truck in time to deflect several rockets, but the deflection field wasn’t large enough to block them all — two rockets got past and exploded against the ground just next to the truck, flipping it into the air.

“Shit—!” Davídrius scowled, dashing forward and leaping up to snatch Rebehka out of the vehicle as Christeané managed to grab the turret and yank the whole contraption — Siyuakén included — to the ground with relative safety. The two Introtechnics deposited the women on the ground haphazardly before sprinting forwards to deal with the mech squad the gunships had just dropped off, ignoring the wrecked truck as it tumbled to the ground just in front of Kievkenalis.

Chaos Cannon! Chaos Cannon! Chaos Cannon! Chaos Cannon!” the Chaostechnic repeated rapidly, firing off several projectiles in quick succession in an attempt to take down the remaining gunships. But with the attacks called quickly and hurriedly, they weren’t as powerful as his initial salvos and failed to pierce the gunships’ shielding. Siyuakén instead stepped forward and held her hand out, targeting each gunship and attempting to interfere with their electronics — but her interference was dampened by their shields.

“Haaah-gah!” Davídrius spluttered, flung backwards in the middle of a dash by a railgun-wielding mech. He tumbled to a stop next to the trucks and then jumped to his feet just in time to quickly slash an incoming rocket salvo to bits and then step out of the way as Christeané came flying back as well.

“Davídrius, Christeané, watch yourselves!” Kevérin warned, “Your armor’s shielding—!”

“I know it’s low,” Christeané growled, “what do you want us to do about it? Stop attacking?”

“Kaoné, I know you don’t want to,” Siyuakén urged, “but you have to do something!”

“I—!I can’t just kill them! The, the pilots—!”

“Expectin’ her to pull her weight will get you nowhere,” Davídrius snarled. “It’s been known for literally millennia that the Riaxen don’t take prisoners! And still she hasn’t raised a hand to help. What’s that tell you, huh?!”

“I’m not—! I’m not siding with them!”

“Well you don’t seem to be sidin’ with us! It’s us or them, Kaoné!” The Velocitechnic took off again, his blades directed at the approaching mechs. Christeané sprinted after him to join the battle as Kievkenalis turned his attention to the gunships approaching from the wreck and launched off several more Chaos attacks.

“…Shit.” Kevérin scowled as his HUD lit up even further. “There’s more units approaching! How the hell can the Riaxen devote so much attention to us?!”

“We can’t hold out here… and we’re too close to the wreck at this point for the Genesis to beam us back up,” Rebehka commented apprehensively, “Kaoné, isn’t there something you can do?”

“I…” the Materiatechnic stuttered, “but, what if I—!”

“If you don’t kill them, they’ll kill us!” Davídrius exclaimed, “get your head out of your ass! There’s only one way to survive this!”

“He’s not wrong,” Kevérin added tensely, “you’re a Lieutenant. You’re part of Hero Machina. You’re in the middle of a war zone! And you still think you can get away without fighting!?”

“I—!” Kaoné was cut off as two incapacitated gunships swooped down overhead and smashed into the ground behind her — just as Davídrius was flung clear over the truck wrecks and several hundred meters further, landing at the feet of another approaching mech squad. He was quickly followed by Christeané as three mechs slowly approached Hero Machina, weapons drawn… and rockets primed. The next moment, the rockets all fired — and then suddenly froze in midair.

“You—?” Kevérin exclaimed, snapping his gaze to Kaoné.

“I still disagree with all of you!” she declared, momentarily switching her attention to the side to halt the advance of a heavy tank, “maybe, we can’t get away without fighting. But killing… is never the answer!”

“Kaoné—?!”

Overdrive: Conflict’s Judge!!

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