“The moment we remove the Ayas from that console… this entire wreck will fall to pieces.”
“The moment?” Davídrius scoffed. “Bullshit. It’s been standin’ for this long, there ain’t no reason one tiny little change will cause the whole thing to instantly collapse.”
“You… don’t understand what Gravity Manipulators do, do you,” Christeané replied flatly. “Okay, look, this is a Deathnought wreck. That means it’s built out of literally billions, maybe trillions of tons of material. There’s a reason Supercaps are built in space, you know — a structure of this size and mass will actually crush itself instantly in any significant gravity well if the Gravity Manipulators are shut off. It’s a miracle already that the crash didn’t cause a catastrophic chain-failure, so yeah, removing the Ayas will cause instantaneous collapse, if it’s the only power source in this whole damn wreck.”
“Even if it doesn’t, the Orbital Bombardment Shields will go down, too,” Kevérin commented, his attention refocused on the console. “And… it looks like the Ayas is powering the comm jammers that are preventing us from contacting the Genesis from within the wreck. Possibly by design, to make it harder for anyone other than the Riaxen to extract the Ayas… anyways, the jammers are going down at the same time as the Shields. The Riaxen will know within moments whether or not it was them who got the Ayas, and once they realize it wasn’t, you can bet that they’ll obliterate the wreck with a rain of hellfire, whether or not the wreck crushes itself.”
“Okay, okay, I get it, we’re fucked.” Davídrius rolled his eyes. “What’re we supposed to do, then?”
“Well… there’s only one solution, really,” Rebehka commented, “either we leave Kaoné behind to take the Ayas and she can save herself with her Materiatechnism, or we leave behind Davídrius and Christeané, the Introtechnics…”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, I don’t think so,” Christeané immediately refuted, shaking his head vigorously. “I’m well aware that I can survive being crushed by more mass than you guys, but in no way does that mean I can survive the whole wreck!”
Kevérin snorted. “Oh come on, we’re practically at the very top of it. You won’t have even close to the entire wreck on top of you!”
“And someone has to clear the way if Davídrius gets stuck,” Rebehka pointed out.
“Wait, how would he even keep up with me?” The Velocitechnic scowled. “Am I supposed to let him ride on my back or some shit?”
“You can carry Siyuakén and Kaoné, why not Christeané?”
“Sure I can carry ‘em — when they ain’t wearin’ armor. Do you know how much these suits weigh?!”
“But they also augment your lifting strength! And we’re in half Nimalian gravity! You can definitely do it.”
“It’s still a ridiculous solution,” Christeané countered, “Kaoné would be more reliable.”
“I don’t know, I’ve never manipulated more than a few tons of mass at once… certainly nothing on the scale of a Capital ship, let alone a Deathnought.” The Materiatechnic frowned. “Even if I activated my Overdrive again, I don’t know if I could clear the wreck…”
“…This is a problem?” Kievkenalis replied meekly.
“No… no, I think we can do this,” Kevérin refuted after a couple moments of thought. “The jammers will go down once the Ayas is removed, so the Genesis can then just beam out whoever’s left! All we need to do is make sure they know and are in position to do so.”
“Alright.” Davídrius crossed his arms. “How do we do that?”
“…Kevken, how long does the boost provided by Chaos Assist last?”
“Well, if I use the ‘Extended’ keyword, then… maybe, five hours? But all of my other abilities will be significantly weaker during that time…”
“That should be fine, I don’t expect to get into too many fights. Now that we know that it’s Gravity Manipulators that are keeping the wreck intact, we have more freedom to manipulate the bulkheads, provided we don’t move too much matter or accidentally destroy one of the Manipulators…”
“I’m not sure I follow…?” Siyuakén responded in confusion.
“Alright. Here’s what we’re going to do,” Kevérin started, “Davídrius, Christeané, the two of you will stay behind—”
“Hold your thoughts until I’m done! That’s an order.”
“You won’t stay behind without help; before we leave, Kevken will use Chaos Assist on you to augment your strengths and durability. The rest of us will follow Kaoné, who will create a tunnel directly through the wreck down to the ground outside. We’ll then get back to the trucks and get clear of the wreck and its jamming range, where I’ll contact the Genesis and tell them to be prepared to beam you two up the moment the Bombardment Shields and jammers go down. You won’t be able to communicate with us until then, though, so we’ll need to coordinate how long you’ll wait to yank the Ayas. If we only need to move on a straight-line path, then that’s… about twenty-seven kilometers. Given the circumstances, we can cover that in four hours. We’ll say four and a half to be safe. Everybody understand that?”
“Another four and a half hours…” Davídrius sighed irately. “You know we’ve already been awake for close to eighteen hours, right?”
“Just hold out for five more hours, alright? Once we’re back on the Genesis, you can sleep to your heart’s content.”
“That’s a fuckin’ tall order…”
Christeané frowned uneasily. “I still don’t like having to stay behind.”
“You won’t be within the wreck long enough to be crushed. And if you are, then the boost provided by Chaos Assist will help,” Kevérin explained. “Worst-case scenario, you have to ride Davídrius’s back as he escapes the ship. We’ll be creating a straight path out; I’m sure you can cover twenty-seven kilometers in no time, right, Davídrius?”
“Well, sure, probably…”
“You’ll be fine.” The Transfer Captain turned back to Christeané. “I’m leaving you both here so you can watch out for each other and don’t lose track of time.”
“This also means that I’m trusting you with the Ayas.”
“I didn’t know that was a big thing now,” Davídrius deadpanned. “You sure didn’t treat the Ayas on Teghica or Kotak with such reverence.”
“Fine,” Christeané replied flatly, “I don’t like it, but I’ll do it. I’ll stay behind.”
“…I might as well too, then.” Davídrius sighed. “Maybe I can get a nap while we wait…”
“Alright!” Kevérin nodded before turning to the rest of Hero Machina. “Do the rest of you understand what we’re doing?” When each of the four Chaotics responded in the affirmative, he clapped his hands resolutely. “Alright. Let’s do this and get out here! Kevken, do the Assist.”
“Huh? Oh, right. Chaos Extended Assist!”
“Alright. Christeané, Davídrius, wait for four and a half hours, and then pull the Ayas. Set a timer on your HUD and an alarm to be safe. Kaoné, plow a path straight back to the point where we entered the wreck! Let’s move!”
2 Hours Later
“Twelve kilometers to go…”
“We aren’t making bad time,” Kevérin remarked, “in fact, we’re going a little faster than I expected.”
“I didn’t expect aspects of my Overdrive to stick around, that’s why,” Kaoné replied as she casually and continuously warped the metal around them into a three-meter-diameter downward-sloping tunnel.
“Wait, what?” Kievkenalis snapped his attention to the Materiatechnic. “What do you mean, stuck around?”
“None of the big parts, just the object-level control. Well, I can do spatial control if I think about it, but my new default is object-level. It’s really useful though, it’s why I can carve this tunnel so quickly.”
“…I still don’t really understand that,” the Chaostechnic muttered. “You were really limited to spatial control? That’s weird.”
“It actually isn’t,” Rebehka refuted, “most Chaotics are limited by spatial control. …Well, a lot of the more advanced techniques, at least. For example, I can control ice that I can see or know is there with just a thought, but if I want to actually modify temperature and such, then I have to think and focus on a specific region of space. I have to actively think about its dimensions, distance from me, direction, the whole works. It’s the same for Siyuakén and Kevérin, I’m sure.”
Kevérin nodded. “She’s right. Chaostechnics are the odd ones out, defaulting to target-level attacks. I mean, c’mon, you should know you’re the odd one out already, with all that complicated type business and having to verbally call your attacks.”
“I guess that’s true,” Kievkenalis mused, “…I just never thought about it. I thought everyone’s powers worked by just thinking about objects themselves…”
“Well, you’d be wrong,” Kaoné commented before suddenly stopping, the floor disappearing in front of her. She glanced down at the huge room whose wall she had just burst through, widening her eyes in surprise when she realized that the light from her helmet headlight simply faded into darkness in front of her.
“Can’t even see the other side of the room,” Siyuakén muttered.
“It must be one of the storage compartments,” Kevérin observed as he stepped beside Kaoné and looked around himself at the huge, vacant expanse. “The room’s surprisingly empty for that, though…”
“Maybe that’s why the Riaxen haven’t retrieved the Ayas yet,” Rebehka suggested, “they’ve been removing the cargo instead?”
“Maybe, but even then—”
“Shh!” Siyuakén interrupted, her attention directed toward the far right, an area swathed in darkness.
“…What?” Kevérin turned to stare in the same direction, focusing his helmet’s headlight on the area. “…You can’t have heard anything, there’s no atmosphere. Why did you—?”
“…Chaos Deflection!” the Chaostechnic exclaimed, just in time to knock away two incoming rockets.
“There’s Riaxen?!” Kevérin scowled. “Why didn’t you say so—?!”
“No time!” Siyuakén interrupted, “Kaoné, get us down to the floor!”
“Uh, right!” The Materiatechnic pulled the floor under them out into the room and quickly lowered it to the ground as Kievkenalis exchanged shots with their unseen aggressors. The Materiatechnic then erected a steel shield against the Riaxen as Siyuakén attempted to pinpoint their location and overload their weapons.
The Electrotechnic scowled. “It’s too dark, I can’t see them…”
“Chaos Detect,” Kievkenalis muttered. “…A squad of seven. Five hundred meters away… they’re using storage containers as cover.”
“What are we going to do?” Rebehka glanced toward Kevérin. “We can’t fight at that range, not in this environment.”
“Should we just leave?” Kaoné suggested, “I can keep tunneling from here. It might throw Davídrius off, but there’s no real reason for us to fight them…”
“I’m more concerned about how they spotted us,” Kievkenalis stated. “They can’t have heard us enter. And they can’t have seen us, either, not in this darkness. They either have a specialized Chaotic on their side, or specialized sensors.”
“It probably isn’t too far-fetched to assume they have IR sensors or something similar,” Kevérin replied. “…I’m actually surprised that we don’t, really. But Kaoné’s right, there’s no need to actually engage. Keep tunneling, but connect the tunnel to the one you made into the room, and make the material bulletproof.”
“Well that goes without saying,” Kaoné remarked as she began molding the metal around her into more tunnel wall.
“Wait!” Kievkenalis suddenly exclaimed, causing Kaoné to pause mid-motion. “An eighth figure just appeared—!”
He was interrupted as an explosion erupted from the far side of the room, illuminating the entire storage space for a split second before everything faded back to black. The rest of Hero Machina recoiled in surprise and confusion while Kievkenalis continued to stare forward, dumbfounded.
“…Kevken?” Kaoné glanced up at him confusedly.
“…They’re all dead,” the Chaostechnic replied slowly. “The explosion happened, and then a couple seconds later… only the eighth person is still alive.”
“A Velocitechnic?” Kevérin suggested.
“Must be— they’re running over! They’re—!”
“Agh—!” Kievkenalis jumped and twirled around on his heel just as a cloaked figure dropped in the middle of Hero Machina and slammed his palm into the Chaostechnic’s chest. The figure then simply stood in place, unmoving, as Kievkenalis uneasily stumbled backwards.
“…You must be a Chaostechnic, if that didn’t work on you.”
“I… I mean, yes, I am,” Kievkenalis muttered in response, his gaze slowly drawn to the blade in the figure’s off-hand. “…Wait, how are you on our comm channel?!”
The figure — male, judging by the pitch and timber of his voice — panned his view down to the rest of Kievkenalis’s armor before turning to inspect the rest of Hero Machina. “You’re on the standard Black Suns public comm channel with standard Black Suns encryption. That’s how,” he replied. “Given that you didn’t know that, you must not be Black Suns personnel. And yet you’re wearing some of our Class-Delta Atmosphereless armor, and you speak Nimalian, so you aren’t Riaxen. Identify yourselves.”
“Ah… right,” Kevérin spoke up. “Um, you’re right, we aren’t Black Suns. We’re Nimalians. We’re, uh, we’re Hero Machina, of the Nimalian Systems Defense. I’m the squad leader, Transfer Captain Kevérin Tyrion.”
“Hero Machina?” The man sheathed his blade and lowered his hood, revealing only his heavy-duty helmet. “So it’s the lot of you Bitincher kept bitching about. I don’t know what he felt so intimidated by… at least you’re Nimalian.”
“Um, you’ve heard of us…?”
“I have, and I’m sure you’ve heard of me as well. Sector 2 Master General Sike Regek, at your service.”
Kevérin gasped. “Oh… Oh.”
“We heard that you went down with the Deathnought…” Rebehka commented.
“That’s not completely incorrect,” Regek replied. “Both Commander Jeran and I were stuck aboard as the ship crashed. She, unfortunately, died during the crash. I was knocked out for several hours, myself. I was able to raid some of the remaining life-support pockets before I began looking for the Ayas. I assume that’s why you’re here, as well — to find the Chaos Ayas? Yet…” He looked up at the hole in the wall and then down to the floor below Kaoné, which she had already been deformed. “You’re traveling to the outside of the wreck? Have you found the Ayas?”
“No, no, we, uh, haven’t.”
The rest of Hero Machina turned toward Siyuakén in confusion.
“We… haven’t?” Kevérin questioned, momentarily switching the group over to a Hero Machina-only communication channel.
“Just, go with me, guys,” Siyuakén responded hurriedly, “I— I have a really bad feeling about this guy. Just… don’t tell him we found the Ayas. Don’t tell that other Black Suns General when we get back, either.”
“…If you say so,” Kevérin muttered as he tuned Hero Machina back to the normal comm channel. The Transfer Captain exhaled wearily and stated, “we couldn’t find the Ayas, but, uh, while looking around, we discovered that the Gravity Manipulators are running out of power. We then, you know, we decided to get out of here as fast as possible. Wouldn’t want to be crushed, you know. Haha.”
“…Right. Understandable. The Manipulators shutting down is indeed a serious issue,” Regek mused, “how much longer do we have?”
“Um… three hours? Tops?”
“And you believe you can escape the wreck in that time?”
“We were making good progress until we were stopped here,” Kievkenalis remarked.
Regek glanced toward the Chaostechnic, his gaze lingering for a few moments before he simply shrugged. “Very well. I hope you don’t mind if tag along, then.”
“Uh, sure, not at all,” Kevérin responded, and then turned to Kaoné. “You heard him… let’s keep going. We can’t waste any more time…”
“Damn it, I wouldn’t be if you’d stop askin’!”
Christeané snorted. “So you can’t fall asleep as fast as you can run?”
“Just ‘cause I’ve got damned super speed doesn’t mean everythin’ I do is instantaneous,” Davídrius replied irately. “You should know that! You’re an Introtechnic yourself!”
“Hey, chill out. I was just trying to start a conversation.”
“You’ve been tryin’ to do that for the past hour an’ a half. Has it not occurred to you that maybe I don’t want to have a conversation?”
“If that was actually true, you’d shut off your suit’s comms.”
“…Bah. If I did that, there’d be no way for you to wake me up if we were suddenly attacked or some shit.”
“But you’re not sleeping.”
“Because you’re keepin’ me awake!!”
“Wow, you get even more irritable when you’re tired.”
“No fuckin’ shit! Damn it, man, is just half an hour of silence too much to ask?!”
“You had half an hour. That was an hour and a half ago, you said so yourself.”
At that moment Davídrius sat up and turned toward the other Introtechnic. With the armored helmets, neither Chaotic could see the face of the other, but Christeané was still easily able to tell that Davídrius was glaring.
“…You’re not usually this much of a pain in the ass,” Davídrius stated bluntly.
“I’m a pain in the ass?”
“Pot, kettle, black, whatever. Look, is somethin’ wrong?”
“If there is, then spit it out. Maybe once you’ve said it out loud, you can calm down and leave me alone long enough to take a fuckin’ nap.”
“Well that’s certainly going to motivate me to share all my troubles with you. Man, aren’t I glad I have you to share all my problems with!”
“I’m tryin’ to help.”
“You could try harder, buddy.”
“…Tch.” Davídrius crossed his arms irately. “Does this have to do with the whole wreck-crushin’-itself thing?”
“What makes you think that?”
“You sure didn’t like the idea of stayin’ behind. Not to mention how much you talked about the wreck crushin’ itself. I’ve no doubt it will, but ‘instantaneous’ my ass, it’ll take at least a few seconds. Long enough to escape down Kaoné’s tunnel, I’d bet.”
“You don’t know that. What if you’re too slow?”
“Me? Too slow?”
“Dammit, Davídrius, you know what I meant—”
“Hit a nerve, eh? So it is about the crushing, then? Figured.”
“Well ain’t this a reversal. What’re you so worried about? You’re a Forcetechnic. If any one of us could survive being crushed by a billion tons of steel, it’d be you!”
“There’s no way I’d survive that.”
“Up here, maybe you would. You’d at least be more likely to survive, if that means anythin’—”
“It doesn’t. It really doesn’t. Crushed is crushed, that’s that. No two ways about it.”
Davídrius paused for a moment as he stared at the other Introtechnic in confusion. “…Wait, is this connected to Teghica? How you unlocked your Overdrive so easily?”
“I thought we went over this. I almost died, that was a legitimate Overdrive-unlocking situation.”
“Bein’ crushed is one of your phobias, ain’t it.”
“That’s not—! …Damn it, when did you become so perceptive?”
“When you live in a shithole like Treséd for as long as I have, you learn how to pick up on shit like this. Everyone’s scared of somethin’, and everyone’s got a reason.”
“So how’d this happen? A Forcetechnic, scared of bein’ crushed? You’re the most resistant to it, ain’t you?”
“That’s exactly the problem! If anyone else got crushed it’d just be over, but me—”
“You could just lift it off?”
“Not that simple.” Christeané scowled. “…Alright, look. Have you heard of the Northern Deepsough Bridge collapse, back in 8020?”
“Treséd don’t get much news from the outside world.”
“Well it was all over the news everywhere. There used to be a major bridge over the Deepsough lake before flight became cheap and easy, and then it was basically abandoned. No one left to take care of it, except for super basic shit. Anyways, back when I was 8, my sister had just turned 10, and was about to be inducted into the national Chaotic program. You know, like all Chaotics. So my family decided to take a trip around the nation, kinda like a parting gift, or something—”
“And y’all decided to check out the bridge.”
“Yeah. Civilian vehicles were banned from the bridge, save for certain types of hovercraft. There were parts of the bridge that had been set up so you could walk around, which was supposed to be safe since there were so few people. That’s what the officials said, at least.”
“I see where this is goin’. The bridge collapsed while y’all were on it, didn’t it?”
“Yeah. Over a hundred dead.”
“The bridge was hundreds of kilometers long, passed over some of the deepest parts of the lake, and it was in disrepair. I’m surprised there weren’t more deaths. The bridge should never have been open to the public in the state that it was.”
“Typical shitty cheap-ass governments. But how’s what’s this got to do with your fear…?”
“My family survived, so that’s good, but I got pinned by some of the wreckage against the shore. I was a late-bloomer Chaotic, too; at the time, I hadn’t yet shown any Chaotic potential. So everyone assumed I had died, either drowned in the lake or crushed by the wreckage. Except I wasn’t. I was on the shore, pinned, saved only because my body suddenly decided it wanted to be a Forcetechnic.”
“Well… couldn’t you have just lifted the wreckage off?”
“Can you run or kick if your legs are pinned?”
“Not if there’s enough weight…”
“Exactly. If my arms are pinned by enough weight, then I can’t leverage them. I can’t exert enough force to free myself — I’d be trapped. And that’s exactly what happened back in Deepsough; I was stuck under that wreckage for what seemed like forever before a couple clean-up workers realized I was still alive and managed to free me. It was, by far, the worst experience in my life.”
“And because of that, you developed a phobia of bein’ crushed.”
“Well… yeah. Basically.”
“…Damn,” Davídrius remarked warily, “…gotta say, wasn’t expectin’ that.”
“No one does,” Christeané responded flatly, “but there you go. That’s why my Overdrive unlocked ‘so early.’”
“Ah… uh, sorry for, uh, being so persistent about that…”
“It’s fine. You couldn’t have known.”
“Oh. Okay, then.”
“So, uh… you gonna keep pesterin’ me about bein’ awake?”
2 Hours Later
“…And that’s four hours!”
“Alright.” Kevérin nodded contentedly, his hands on the steering wheel as he guided one of the trucks away from the Deathnought wreck. “We made even better time than I expected!”
General Regek glanced back at the wreck from his seat at one of the defunct truck turrets. “That certainly was simpler than I expected,” he remarked. “If what you said is indeed true, then we still have an hour.” He turned to face forward again, his attention directed toward the Transfer Captain. “So, now that we’ve escaped the wreck, how do you intend to escape the planet?”
“That’s the easy part. There’s an Earthian ship waiting in orbit for us. It can beam us up.”
“…’Beam,’ you say?”
“Yeah. ‘Instantaneous Subspace Transfer,’ I think is the technical term. You’ll see it in action soon.”
“So you say…” the General muttered, glancing from side to side as several Riaxen armored squads began approaching, “but I have a feeling we may end up sidetracked.”
“No, I’ve got us covered,” Kaoné commented nonchalantly. “Uh… I hope you weren’t too attached to that sword.”
“What do you—?”
“Overdrive: Conflict’s Judge!”
“…Well,” Regek deadpanned as the aforementioned blade fell to pieces, “…that’s certainly an interesting Overdrive.”
“It’ll disable the Riaxen weapons, too. We should be safe for the next ten minutes or so.”
“Is that really enough time?”
“It’s plenty of time,” Kevérin replied. “We just cleared fifteen kilometers. Rebehka, let’s keep driving, just to be safe. In the meantime, I’ll contact the Genesis.”
Rebehka nodded. “Understood.”
“Good.” The Transfer Captain nodded back. “Alright, let’s get out of here. Open channel: E.S.C. Genesis. …Transfer Captain Tyrion to Genesis, come in! …Transfer Captain Tyrion to Genesis!…”
Kievkenalis glanced over at Kevérin warily. “Something wrong?”
“…We’re outside the jammers’ range, right?”
“Considering that we’re farther from the wreck than we were when we first beamed in,” Rebehka responded, “…Yes, yes we should be.”
“…Then we have a problem,” Kevérin replied uneasily, “…I can’t contact the Genesis.”
30 Minutes Later
“It’s about time.”
“Zzzz… eh… huh…?”
“Wake up.” Christeané shoved Davídrius, knocking the Velocitechnic off of the console he was sitting on. He hit the ground hard before springing to his feet, fists clenched and knees bent in a fighting stance.
“What’s goin’ on?! What’s— where are the— …oh.” He slowly lowered his fists as he realized where he was. “…Shit, I actually fell asleep?”
“About an hour and a half ago, yeah,” Christeané replied. “Thought I’d let you keep napping. But it’s time to take the Ayas out now.”
“…So it is, so it is,” Davídrius remarked after glancing at his HUD timer. He casually turned toward the glass protrusion on the back wall in which the Ayas sat. “So, how are we doin’ this?”
“I break the glass and yank the Ayas out, and then we run for it.”
“We shouldn’t need to run. The whole point of the plan is that the Earthians’ll beam us out once the jammers go down.”
“Yeah, but what if they don’t?”
“…Still, with the crushin’…”
“Davídrius, come on. It’s actually a serious concern. I don’t think you’re giving the pure massiveness of Supercapital ships its due recognition.”
“Alright, fine. So we yank the Ayas, wait a second or two to be beamed up, and if we aren’t, then… what, you jump on my back and we high-tail it out of here?”
“Damn it, I hate runnin’ with cargo…”
“…’Running with cargo?’”
“Treséd expression. Shut up.”
“You run with those Sword Box things all the time!”
“That’s not even close to havin’ a person on my back. And in full armor, too. You’re fuckin’ heavy.”
“You only have to carry me for the half-minute it takes to exit the ship…”
“That’s a fuckin’ long half-minute. That’s a whole damn thirty seconds. Velocitechnics usually don’t operate on those kinds of time scales. It won’t take me a whole half-minute anyways, but it’ll still be more than a couple seconds, and that’s tirin’, man.”
“Now you just sound pathetic.”
“Bah, just yank the damn Ayas already.”
“If you say so.” Christeané stepped over to the Ayas casing and stretched. “You ready?”
Davídrius sighed impatiently. “Damn it, Christeané…”
“Alright, alright. Three… two…” A second later, he smashed the casing with his fist and then shoved his hand into the wall, scooping out the Ayas along with all of the machinery it was attached to. He tossed it to his other hand and shook away the loose wires and metal pieces before warily glancing around the environment. “…We haven’t been beamed up…”
“Yeah, but nothin’s happenin’ either—!” Davídrius was interrupted as the entire structure shuddered — and the room they were standing in tilted thirty degrees in the blink of an eye, catapulting both Chaotics through the air.
“Whoa—!” Christeané barely caught himself against the far wall, but dropped the Ayas in the process. “Shit, Davídrius—!”
The Velocitechnic scowled. “Damn, you weren’t wrong.” In a split second he jumped over to the Ayas, snatched it up off the ground, and then dashed back to Christeané, who quickly jumped on his back. “Oof!” Davídrius reflexively yelped, and then shifted his weight to deal with carrying Christeané. “This is gonna be fun…”
The next second, he shoved off with his foot and blasted down the passageway Kaoné had created, just in time to escape the room as the ceiling collapsed.
“Whoa—! Shit!” Christeané whooped as Davídrius sped down the tunnel. “How the fuck can you react while going this fast?!”
“By you shuttin’ up!!” the Tresédian snapped, “now hold tight!!”
“Whoa—!” Christeané yelped as Davídrius side-stepped to the left to avoid a portion of the wall that had snapped inward. He then flipped over a crumpling patch of steel before hitting the ground and taking off again, bowling through loose debris haphazardly while managing to keep his footing with markedly inhuman reaction speeds.
“Shit,” Davídrius growled. “Hope you don’t throw up easily.”
“Huh—?!” Christeané had no time at all to react before Davídrius leaped forwards, spun halfway around midair to plant his feet against the far wall, and then launched himself downward, where he immediately caught himself on the platform below before blasting off again down the continuing tunnel.
“They said they were gonna make a damned straight path!”
Davídrius quickly put his right foot forward and slammed it into the ground, tearing the steel floor as he screeched to a quick halt directly in front of a completely blocked passage.
“…Well, fuck,” Christeané muttered. “The path’s blocked.”
“Shit. Shit, shit…” Davídrius scowled as he glanced left and right and then backward. “The tunnels behind us are already collapsin’. What now?!”
“I don’t— look out!!” Christeané leaped off of Davídrius’s back, planting his feet solidly on the ground before raising his fists just in time to hold up the collapsing ceiling.
“…Shit. We’re fucked,” Davídrius muttered as he crawled into the open space Christeané had managed to preserve.
“Ye…ah… I’d… fuckin’ say so,” the Forcetechnic growled, “this… fuckin’… heavy!… …Huh?”
A brief flash of light filled the Introtechnics’ visions before fading away, revealing the drab gray of the Genesis’ bridge instead of the dark Deathnought interior.
Davídrius stared at his new surroundings, processing them for a half a second before leaping into the air and pumping his fists. “WE LIVED!”
“Phew…” Christeané collapsed backwards onto his bottom as he disengaged his armor’s shielding and removed the helmet. “…Oh, man! Fresh air!”
“Well, the two of you sure look exhausted,” Kevérin remarked, approaching from the rear of the bridge.
“Well no shit!” Davídrius turned to glare at the Transfer Captain. “We only had to run for our fuckin’ lives ‘cause you were half a minute late!”
“That’s a quick turn to hostility,” Rebehka interjected as she stepped up next to Kevérin. “Do you have the Ayas?”
“Oh sure, ask about the Ayas before you ask about us…”
“You’re clearly fine.”
“Yeah well you’re clearly… uh… stupid.”
The Velocitechnic scowled. “Fuck it.” He tossed the Ayas to Kevérin as he stepped past and began walking toward the bridge exit. “Imma eat a huge fuckin’ lunch and spend the next eighteen hours sleepin’. Don’t disturb me or I’ll fuckin’ neuter you.”
Kevérin and Rebehka turned to watch him leave, their expressions a combination of amusement and irritation.
“But actually, though,” Christeané spoke up, drawing their attention to him. “What was with the delay? Two seconds later and the both of us would’ve been crushed.”
“We were forced to engage a small Riaxen squadron,” Captain Krick explained as he stepped forward in between Kevérin and Rebehka. “They drew us out of position. We defeated them, handily, but we weren’t able to return until a few minutes ago. Luckily, we were just in time to beam up the rest of your group and hear out the Transfer Captain’s plan. Barely had time to prep our beaming sensors. I’m sorry we couldn’t pull you out sooner.”
Christeané sighed. “…Well, better than dead, I guess.”
“Better than dead, indeed!” Krick smirked. “Now go get washed and rested up, all of you. I’ve a couple more things to take care of with the allied fleet, and then it’s back to Nimalia to report on the situation.” The Captain then turned his eye to the light green gemstone in Kevérin’s hands. “A Chaos Ayas, huh… I’m glad we got something valuable from this whole ordeal.”
“Yeah,” Christeané snorted. “Now here’s hoping it was worth it…”
2 Days Later
“General Regek! I’m surprised that this is the first I’ve seen of you this whole time!”
“…Greetings, Greant,” Regek replied, turning away from the Genesis’s bridge window to face the large, dark-skinned Citan man. “I didn’t mean to avoid you, of course. I was just spending the time resting up. Taking down a Deathnought is a tiresome task, after all.”
“And I must commend you for that. I’d never have been able to do that myself!” Greant exclaimed. His expression then turned solemn. “And what of Commander Jeran? Did she truly perish in the wreck?”
Regek paused for a moment before turning back to the bridge window, staring at the star background and the planet of Nimalia below. “…I’m sorry, Greant. There was little I could do.”
“I see, I see…” The Sector 1 General heaved a lofty sigh. “That is… unfortunate. We’ve lost a valuable woman, and a valuable leader… and, valuable time.”
“She knew what she was getting into, Greant,” Regek replied, “she already had the leadership transfer documents prepared before embarking on the Tyrnaus operation, in preparation for a situation such as this. She transferred the data to my suit before she passed.”
“Even in death, she had her wits about her.” Greant smiled forlornly. “That will definitely expedite the process. I’ll need to find a replacement, though…”
“There’ll be no need for that, General. She recommended myself as the next Supreme Commander… not you.”
“…Really.” Greant glanced down at Regek. “…I mean no offense when I say this, Regek, but quite frankly, I’m surprised.”
Regek sighed. “As am I. I’d be the first to admit that you’re more qualified for the position than I. It was certainly a surprising turn of events.” He turned around as the bridge door opened, revealing Chief Captain Krick. “…But let us discuss this later. It’s unbecoming to talk of such matters in front of our hosts.”
“Aha! Yes, of course. Couldn’t have said it better myself!”
“I see the two of you are getting along fine,” Krick remarked as he approached the two Black Suns Generals. “Anyways, sorry for the wait. I had a couple things to take care of. If you have nothing left to do here, then I can beam you down to the Nimalian Gateport. They’ll have you back to wherever you need to be in no time, I’m sure.”
“Thank you for allowing us to ride on your ship.” Regek nodded politely. “I’m glad someone as capable as you was sent to investigate Tyrnaus.”
“Ha! I appreciate the compliment, but you ought to be thanking those Nimalians, not me.” Krick smirked. “Anyways, if that’s all…”
“…Actually,” Greant spoke up after eying Hero Machina slowly filter onto the bridge, “I wish to speak with the Nimalians for a moment. Regek, you can go on ahead.”
“Very well.” Regek turned toward Krick. “I’m ready.” Moments later he was replaced with a brief flash of light, and then nothing.
“Nimalians!” Greant called, “do an old man a favor and come speak to me for a moment!”
“…Oi, oi, this better be good.” Davídrius scowled as he walked down the gently sloped bridge aisle.
“It’s certainly worth a few words,” the General commented, waiting until all seven Chaotics had stepped within earshot. He then lowered his voice, muttering, “I know you found the Ayas.”
“…Wha… what? What are you talking about?” Kevérin responded uneasily.
“I know that, for some reason, you decided to hide the Ayas from Regek. And you decided to hide it from me as well, presumably since we’re both Black Suns Generals. That’s not unreasonable. It certainly wasn’t difficult to attempt, given that neither I nor Regek were on the bridge when you returned with the Ayas.”
“…You’re not making any sense,” Siyuakén mumbled.
“If there’s anything you need to work on, it’s your capability for subterfuge.” Greant smirked knowingly. “I don’t know for what reasons you chose to hide the Ayas from Regek, but you should know that he is not a stupid man. If he did not see through your lie completely, he at least strongly suspects that something is amiss. That, I can guarantee.”
Kevérin crossed his arms as he regarded the General with a wary glance. “…Why are you telling us this?”
“Just a friendly warning,” Greant replied. “I don’t entirely disagree with what you’ve done, albeit for different reasons, I’m sure. Anyways, if you ever need help — just throw me a line. Sector 1 will always be willing to assist the Nimalians!”
“But…” Rebehka glanced at Kevérin uneasily before turning back to Greant. “We… didn’t really do anything for you.”
“Nonsense! You rescued Master General Regek, and with him, a whole slew of documents and data that are important to the Black Suns!” The General then turned around to look out the bridge window again, his back to Hero Machina. “Besides… I would recommend against turning down help, either now or in the future. I suspect it’s something we will all soon need…” He glanced back over his shoulder at Captain Krick. “Captain! I’m ready to go!”
“Alright. It was a pleasure to meet you, General!”
“Likewise, Earthian! I never expected you to be such a cheery bunch! I hope to one day see you again!” A moment later Greant disappeared, beamed down to Nimalia below.
“It’s just us, then,” Kaoné commented.
“The fuck did he mean?” Davídrius scowled. “Why’s everyone gotta be so cryptic all the time?”
Kevérin sighed warily. “We can figure it out later. Let’s just get home, already. Between Rossindon and Tyrnaus… I’m exhausted.”
“Speak for yourself,” Christeané snorted.
“…Right.” Kevérin glanced back at Captain Krick. “Uh, Captain, we’re ready to go.”
“Alright—! Wait, wait a moment…” Krick’s attention was suddenly drawn to a nearby console. “…It’s an incoming comm message. From Commander Nikéyin.”
“What?” Kevérin frowned. “Why’s she calling the ship? We were about to be planetside.”
“Well, let’s see,” Krick commented, and then ordered, “open the comm line!”
“Opening comm line, sir! …Line open!”
“This is the E.S.C. Genesis reporting,” Krick called out, “Commander Nikéyin, are you there?”
“Yes, this is she. And you’re Chief Captain Krick, correct?”
“That’s correct.” Krick nodded in acknowledgment, though the gesture was lost over the audio-only call. “Let’s get straight to the point — why the call?”
“Some very significant developments transpired while you were away on the Tyrnaus operation,” Nikéyin replied hurriedly, “and I wanted to make sure you stuck around. This is something we could really use you and your ship’s assistance for.”
“Oh?” Krick crossed his arms warily. “What’s happened?”
“Well, in short…” Nikéyin replied apprehensively, “four days ago, the Exemplar and Sursum Drakkars launched a full-frontal assault on CSA space.”
“Shit.” Krick scowled. “You don’t mean—?”
“Unfortunately, I do. The galaxy has officially fallen into all-out war.”