The Materiatechnic immediately seized Exdominor’s armor, completely immobilizing the Drakkar. The rest of Hero Machina relaxed slightly, but instantly tensed up again and backed into defensive stances when the faction leader began to chuckle.
((I see you indeed brought a trapper with you.)) His head lowered — his thin, black, beady eyes glaring back at the Nimalians haughtily. ((Your confidence is, perhaps, not completely unfounded. But to not even be aware of your enemy’s equipment before engaging them…)) He suddenly jumped backwards out of his armor as it disintegrated, holding its rough form only because of Kaoné’s continued concentration. ((…Is the very oversight that will see you killed!))
“Everyone, back off!!” Kevérin roared, immediately jumping into the air and blasting himself backwards with flames. Christeané quickly whipped around and launched himself into Kaoné’s steel wall hammer-first, blowing a hole through which Davídrius and Siyuakén vaulted as Rebehka slammed Exdominor with a horizontal column of ice in an attempt to fend him off.
((So now you run!!)) the Drakkar replied gleefully as he smashed the ice column with his bare hands. ((Only now do you realize your errors. But you are too slow!))
“Chaos Assist! Chaos Impact! Chaos Impact!!” Kievkenalis exclaimed, but Exdominor simply crossed his arms in front of himself and took the blows before sliding his foot back and then launching himself forward. Kaoné quickly snapped up the ground below him, knocking him into the sky before Rebehka created a vast array of ice spikes around her and then fired them at Exdominor. She was immediately forced to redirect her attention as two Drakkars leaped over her and Kaoné before whipping around and thrusting their palms forward; the Materiatechnic’s short height allowed her to quickly duck under the incoming hand and rush away, but Rebehka was barely able to move before one of the Drakkars slammed her chest with its fist, immediately knocking out her energy shields. She recoiled in shock, unable to block as the Drakkar rushed in again to steal her Ciei — only to be blown away as Siyuakén barreled into the scene, channeling enough electricity through the air to immediately fry the Drakkar to a crisp.
“You okay?!” the Electrotechnic shouted back as she fired one of her grappling hooks at the second Drakkar and swung him around into another approaching Drakkar squad.
“Y-yeah… thanks a lot.” Rebehka scowled as she looked down at her armor. “Damn it, they blew out my shield unit—!”
“Guys! Get back!” Davídrius suddenly appeared on the scene, breaking one of his blades against a Drakkar’s chest before using its body to rebound backwards, kicking it with such force that it flew back and into the approaching Exdominor. “He’s comin’—!”
“I’ve got it. I’ve got it!” Kaoné responded quickly, tearing out the ground underneath the four of them and lifting it into the air before flying back and away from Exdominor. However she was barely able to retreat ten meters before being knocked off her platform by an unseen Drakkar, her shields failing as her makeshift platforms fell to the ground, sending the three on-board Chaotics tumbling as well. Davídrius quickly rolled to his feet, drew another blade, and engaged three of the nearest Drakkars as Siyuakén took a deep breath and electrically overloaded all of the powered armor in the vicinity, Drakkars and Hero Machina alike. Kaoné immediately used her ability to repair the Nimalians’ armor as Christeané jumped next to her, slamming an approaching Drakkar with such force that he simply obliterated its entire torso. He then grabbed both his battlehammers, shouted “Duck!” and threw them to the left and right; their tether connection to his armor caused them to swing around in a wide arc, flooring any Drakkars still standing after Siyuakén’s attack.
“We need to keep movin’!” Davídrius exclaimed as he caught both hammers before they could wrap around Christeané. “Exdominor’s—!”
“Not following us anymore,” Kievkenalis interrupted. “He stopped after Kaoné created those platforms…”
“Hold on…” Kevérin paused after blasting away the last few Drakkars still within the area. “He’s not? Then what is he—?”
The Pyrotechnic was interrupted as the secondary shield generator exploded spectacularly, sending debris flying through the air and emitting a fierce electromagnetic pulse that knocked out Hero Machina’s armor again.
“…Fuck!” Davídrius leaped back to his feet after Kaoné and Siyuakén quickly repaired the group’s armor. “What the fuck was that?!”
“Command: Contact E.S.C. Genesis!” Kevérin called, opening a comm channel to the Earthian ship. “Beam us up, now!”
“Already on it! Get ready!”
A second passed and Hero Machina found themselves back on the bridge of the Genesis, Captain Krick leaning forward in his chair expectantly.
“What the hell happened down there?” he questioned, “it hasn’t even been half an hour, and we already lost the secondary shield generator?”
“Exdominor showed up…” Kevérin answered uneasily. “There was nothing we could do.”
“…It would figure,” Krick muttered, staring up through the bridge window at the continuing engagement with the Drakkar ships as he rubbed his chin in thought.
“At least, this probably means that there really is an Ayas here?” Kaoné suggested.
“Which is worse, because now he’s likely to find it,” Rebehka pointed out. “We didn’t even get a chance to look for the Ayas.”
“That Siion that Exdominor attacked was about to tell us where it was,” Davídrius commented. “Did Exdominor steal his Ciei or whatever? Would he know where it is from that?”
Kevérin shook his head. “Ciei doesn’t include memories… but it does include thought processes. If that Colonel knew how the Siions picked the Ayas location, then Exdominor does now, too. All he has to do is cause some significant change in the status quo and then look at how the Siions react…”
“Is that why he destroyed the generator?” Siyuakén suggested.
“Maybe, but he could also have just destroyed it because he could…”
“That’s certainly a consideration, but there is a surprising amount of information you can learn about a shield array just from destroying one of the generators,” Krick countered. “If you inspect how the array adjusts itself to redistribute the load and cover the new hole, then you can determine things like where the primary arrays are, or where the primary power source is. So, say, if the Siions had hooked the Ayas into Maasen’s shield array…”
“Then Exdominor could find where it is by destroying a generator!” Kevérin exclaimed.
“Exactly.” Krick nodded, and then ordered, “check the array scanner backlogs! Trace the power flow. Is there any indication of an Ayas — higher than expected power spikes, a primary shield generator with significantly more output, any part of the array with higher load?”
“There is, sir!” one of the bridge crew quickly replied, “all signs point to the primary shield facility directly under us!”
Krick shook his head warily. “…We should have expected as much.”
“But wait…” Kaoné frowned. “The Ayas scanner didn’t pinpoint the primary shield as a possible location…”
“That doesn’t mean anything. There’s several factors that could have interfered with the scanner results,” Kevérin pointed out. “A primary generator, though predictable, makes a certain level of sense; I’m sure the Siions have it heavily fortified…”
“But no level of fortification can stop Exdominor,” Krick lamented.
“Not quite true. Exdominor’s power is ranged Ciei theft. He does have some telekinetic powers, and when it comes to breaking through obstacles, he’s stronger than most, but he doesn’t really have enough power to break through military fortification on his own,” Kievkenalis countered. “The generator is likely to have CSA beam-scrambling tech, too, even if it only works half the time… the point is, they might stand a chance against Exdominor. Surdeus, on the other hand…”
“Damn it, don’t jinx us.” Davídrius scowled. “Do you want another faction leader to show up?”
“We didn’t see any Sursum Drakkars groundside, so I think we’ll be fine,” Christeané retorted.
“Can the seven of you handle going back to look for the Ayas?” Krick questioned.
Kevérin nodded. “Yeah, we should be fine. Like you said, we haven’t even been in combat for half an hour.”
“Good.” Krick nodded back. “…Now as you said, the Siions seem to be employing some level of beam-scrambling tech around the primary generator facility, so I’ll have to beam you down a kilometer out. Can you handle that?”
“As I said: we’ll be fine.”
“Ha! Well, if you say so. Prepare for beaming in three… two… one…!”
5 Minutes Later
“Alright, just up this next ramp, the main entrance should be over… the… railing…”
“…Fuck.” Christeané scowled as the two Earthian trucks screeched to a halt next to a metal railing. Nearly ten meters down and twenty forward was the main entrance to the primary shield facility — or rather, where it should have been. In its place was a large hole, the metal all around the entryway torn and shredded to bits. The only remaining signs of Siion fortification or resistance were several scorch marks and craters scattered around the metal courtyard.
“The Drakkars beat us here!” Kevérin exclaimed, leaping out of the truck and over the railing to the ground below. “C’mon! We need to get to the Ayas before they do!”
“Easier said than done!” Davídrius shouted back as he landed with a roll next to the Pyrotechnic. “How the fuck do you expect to find it? Just search every square inch? Sure, this ain’t no Deathnought wreck, but still—!”
“I think… I think I may be able to sense it,” Siyuakén commented as she jumped down from the ice platform Rebehka had created. “I have the same feeling here as I did at the Deathnought wreck…”
Kevérin turned to Kievkenalis. “Can you sense anything?”
“Uh… Chaos Detect. …I can see some Drakkars in the building, but I can’t sense the Ayas itself.”
“Then for now, we’ll follow Siyuakén,” the Transfer Captain ordered, and then glanced toward Siyuakén suspiciously. “But once we’re done here on Maasen, I want to figure out what’s going on with you and sensing Ayas. That’s not exactly an Electrotechnic skill.”
“Look, I agree with you for once, but we’re also a little low on time here!” Davídrius pointed out as he impatiently brandished two of his blades, “we need to get goin’. Now!”
“Davídrius is right,” Christeané insisted, grasping one of his battlehammers before twirling it in preparation for battle. “Siyuakén, lead on!”
“Right! Right. Um. This way…” The Electrotechnic stepped forward, quickly yet cautiously entering the shield facility through the large hole. “…It’s in that direction.” She pointed up and to the left. “I think… maybe a hundred or so meters away?”
((So you know where the Ayas is.))
“What—?” Kevérin turned to face the new speaker, only to be surprised as upwards of ten Drakkars suddenly surrounded Hero Machina. “Where’d they come from?!”
“I— I don’t know!” Kievkenalis frowned, uneasily snapping his attention from Drakkar to Drakkar, their faction identity obscured by their unusually heavy armor. “I didn’t detect any Drakkars this close to the entrance… which could mean—!”
((That your ignorance has caused your doom!)) a Drakkar interrupted before the entire group rushed Hero Machina. Davídrius immediately reacted by roundhouse-kicking the first Drakkar who got too close, knocking it across the room. He then dashed forward, attempting to find weak points in the Drakkars’ armor as Christeané simply began smashing through them, his fists and hammers flying about him in a haphazard whirl of devastation.
Almost immediately after the Introtechnics began fighting, the rest of Hero Machina engaged as well, with Kievkenalis calling out “Chaos Assist!” before attempting to force the Drakkars away and into ranged combat with several uses of Impact and Deflection. Kaoné also did her best to keep the Drakkars at bay, seizing two or three at once by their armor and thrusting them backwards, allowing Kevérin and Siyuakén to issue high-energy blasts of flame and electricity to the helpless Drakkars. Rebehka quickly worked to freeze the Drakkars’ weapons, forcing them into using melee tactics — which then failed spectacularly as she froze the very floor beneath their feet.
“…And that’s… that!” Christeané exclaimed some time later after obliterating the last Drakkar underfoot with his battlehammers.
“I thought Drakkars were supposed to be harder to deal with than this,” Davídrius remarked.
Kevérin nodded. “I agree, this is really odd… I mean, sure, infantry combat isn’t exactly one of their strengths, but still…”
“Well I’m not complaining,” Christeané declared, “I mean, even if they’re easy to fight off, they’ve still delayed us. Siyuakén, let’s get going!”
“You don’t have to keep telling me!” the Electrotechnic retorted as she turned in the direction she had initially pointed. “…How do we get there?”
“Forget trying to save the base, we need to save time and plow right through it!” Kevérin exclaimed, “Kaoné! Forge a tunnel— gah?!”
The Transfer Captain stumbled backwards in surprise as a massive electrical pulse wiped out the shields of Hero Machina’s Chaos Armor. He blinked confusedly and quickly attempted to regain his bearings — but not before a Drakkar jumped down from above and immediately thrust its palm forward, smashing through Kevérin’s chest plate and then slamming his sternum. The Pyrotechnic’s eyes instantly went wide in shock before he collapsed to the ground, the Drakkar withdrawing its hand from his chest.
“Wait… what?!” Christeané spluttered, slowly realizing that the same fate had befallen Siyuakén and Kievkenalis. “Shit, they—!”
In the middle of his exclamation Davídrius burst forward, slamming his two blades into one of the Drakkars with enough force to simultaneously shatter both blades and overload the Drakkar’s shields. He then blocked the Drakkar’s incoming palms with his own before grabbing the Drakkar’s head, forcing it down, and then kneeing its face so hard that its skull imploded. He tossed the corpse away and dashed over to the second Drakkar, flooring it with a single kick as Rebehka mercilessly flash-froze the third Drakkar, instantly killing it. She then froze the remaining Drakkar to the floor, immobilizing it just in time for Davídrius to stomp it and demolish its spine.
Kaoné quickly repaired the armor of the attacked Nimalians as Christeané and Davídrius warily kept an eye out for more Drakkars. A couple seconds passed before any of the victims came to, with Kevérin moving first as he sat up uneasily and held a hand to his head.
“Urgh…” he groaned, squeezing his eyes shut momentarily before glancing around the room. “Shit… what the hell?…”
“What happened?” Kievkenalis frowned as he jumped back to his feet. “All I… all I saw was a Drakkar drop down in front of me, and then… what happened?”
“Some Drakkars tried to steal your Ciei, it seems,” Rebehka answered as she helped Siyuakén up, “they were surprisingly fast… if the ambush group had been that quick, I don’t know if we would have stood a chance…”
“Wait, what?” Davídrius glanced at the three victims in confusion. “Wait, wasn’t your Ciei stolen?”
“It gets returned if you kill the Drakkar who stole it…” Kevérin muttered, “…but, damn, that was a shock. I didn’t know it was so, uh… sudden.”
“Look, this is interesting and all, but this is all just more delays,” Christeané responded impatiently. “The longer we stand around, the more likely it is we’ll be attacked again! We need to find the Ayas!”
Kaoné glanced at Siyuakén. “Give me a direction, and I can get us there.”
“Uh, right. That way.”
“Got it!” the Materiatechnic exclaimed as she turned to face the direction Siyuakén had pointed. Without any further ado she began manipulating the building’s walls, folding the metal out to form a tunnel through the entire facility. She rushed forward, haphazardly creating the tunnel around her as the rest of Hero Machina followed on her heels, all of them wary of further Drakkar attack.
Several moments later, the tunnel opened up to a large room. Hero Machina jumped down to the floor below and took a moment to inspect their surroundings: a massive room of steel, nearly a hundred meters on a side and mostly empty, save for a sizable cylindrical structure built into the back wall.
“It’s the primary maintenance unit,” Kevérin remarked after his glasses identified it as such. “We must be in one of the maintenance rooms.”
“Does it really need to be so big an’ empty?” Davídrius questioned incredulously.
“We can question Siion design decisions later,” Christeané insisted, “we still need to find the Ayas.”
“It’s here, actually…” Siyuakén began approaching the back wall. “…I think it’s hooked into the main generator from here.”
“She’s right,” Kievkenalis affirmed, “I can sense the Ayas from here. Definitely the Ayas.”
“So we got to it before the Drakkars?” Kaoné asked uneasily as the rest of Hero Machina followed Siyuakén up to the back wall.
“Looks that way,” Kevérin responded as he stepped up beside Siyuakén to work with the maintenance interface. “…Yeah, it’s definitely here. Right…” He entered a couple commands and then pressed a final button before stepping back, pausing for several moments as a wall panel opened up and a mechanical apparatus extended outward, revealing a pale blue diamond-shaped gemstone. “There.”
“It’s the Ayas Arcán!” Kievkenalis exclaimed, “this is what we need to fix the Prior!”
“Well, great, let’s take it and get out of here,” Davídrius replied, “no need to stick around any longer.”
“No, it’s not that simple…” Kevérin frowned. “We can’t just take the Ayas.”
“What?” Davídrius turned to stare at the Pyrotechnic incredulously. “Why the fuck not?”
“It’s hooked into the planetary shield array, that’s why! If we just disengage it with no warning then who knows what could happen. I already took enough risks to expose the Ayas, just so we could see which one it was.”
((And indeed, I must thank you for your efforts!))
“What—?!” All seven Chaotics immediately spun around. Davídrius drew his remaining sword and had already leaped forward before realizing just who had spoken, at which point he quickly backpedaled and grasped his blade defensively. He then scowled as he looked over the newcomer. The numerous hair-like spikes on his head extended downward and then bent upwards halfway, and all over his exposed dark brown body were red markings. In fact, the figure’s only clothing was a dark cloak and a black and silver belt, from which several knee-length pieces of cloth extended, all hosting odd yet intricate black-and-red geometric designs. With no armor or energy shielding to speak of, he actually looked rather lithe and weak… but when combined with his markings and arrogant stance, it was easy to determine his identity.
“Surdeus…” Kevérin hissed.
The faction leader of the Sursum Drakkars crossed his arms and heaved his chest, as if sighing — though without a mouth to accompany the expression. ((It truly is a shame that your record and observation technology has advanced to the point of instantly recognizing me… interactions with you Aldredanoids becomes so dull when introductions are no longer necessary.))
“…What do we do?” Kaoné whispered to Kevérin.
“At the first opportunity, we run. Until then, play it cool… don’t try to excite him.”
((As if you could be capable of such a feat! I would be surprised if the lot of you could cause me to expend much more energy than I did trashing that regiment out front.))
Kevérin scowled. “You could hear that?”
Surdeus chuckled slowly and purposefully. ((You dare assume I could not?))
“There’s gotta be somethin’ you can’t do,” Davídrius retorted, “there’s no way you faction leaders can be as perfect as everyone says. The rest of your forces were pieces of cake, how hard can you be to deal with?”
The Drakkar stared at Davídrius for a moment before holding a hand to his face as he broke out into laughter. ((AHAHAHAHAHAHA!! Comparing me to any of those grunts you encountered in the field. The very thought makes me laugh!)) He calmed down and extended an arm forward, pointing directly at the Ayas. ((I certainly appreciate your sense of humor, but I would suggest you hand me the Chaos Ayas before I grow bored.))
“We can’t do that,” Kevérin responded firmly as he signaled for Kievkenalis to grab the Ayas. “If you want it, you’ll have to beat us. And to do that, you’ll have to catch us, first!”
((Hahaha… catch you, you say? Beat you, you say?)) The faction leader chuckled softly, and then suddenly stretched his arms out to the side, launching several Chaos Strikes — without calling them — into the walls and collapsing all of the room’s entrances. ((You dare taunt me? You, a group of mere, pathetic little Aldredanoids think you could beat me?)) He gestured to himself with a slow and large gesture, as though beholding a king. ((The commander of this entire invasion force? The leader of the Sursum Drakkars? The galaxy’s sole Chaos Conduit?! You dare assume you know more about being a Chaotic, more about Chaos Energy itself to beat not just any Chaostechnic but the eldest, most powerful, most knowledgeable Chaos Conduit who ever lived?! You know nothing! Just as you have no grasp of the true power of the Ayas, so too, do you have no grasp of the true power that comes with being a Chaotic! You cannot possibly comprehend the full power of Chaos Energy! Your disgusting ignorance flies in the face of your words and demonstrates just how unfit you are to hold any of the Ayas you so tightly cling to! You Aldredanoids do not know how well you have had it until now… but now, now, I will take back that which rightly belongs to the Drakkars — I will remove all those unworthy of the Ayas from the face of the galaxy, even if it takes millennia to do so! Ahahaha… how ironic it must be, for the Aldredas to once hold the same view. ‘The night is darkest before the dawn’ indeed…)) He grasped his cloak in hand. ((And so, now, everything… will fall to darkness!)) He ripped his cloak off and discarded it in one smooth motion, revealing his armor-less body as he stood up straight and clenched his fists tightly. ((Everything… will fall to CHAOS! OBLIVION!!))