Without so much as a moment’s notice Morcii lunged forward, crossing the ground between himself and Hero Machina in the blink of an eye. Davídrius immediately reacted, jumping to intercept the Nanocreature leader and block him with his swords, only to have the weapons obliterated under the force of Morcii’s fists. The Velocitechnic quickly followed up by snapping his right knee up into Morcii’s gut, throwing off his trajectory as he flipped over and onto the ground. Kaoné took advantage of the opening to transmute the atmosphere under the holes in the ceiling to a steel ramp which Hero Machina used to flee from the room, with Kaoné constantly forming an aerial walkway toward the outer reaches of the facility as Kevérin and Rebehka knocked away the metallic bugs with their powers.
“There go the Drakkars!” Kevérin exclaimed with a scowl, glancing over as the two faction leaders leaped through the ceiling holes and began fleeing from the scene on their own.
“We need to make like them and get out of here!” Christeané exclaimed, glancing over his shoulder at Davídrius as he attempted to fend off Morcii. “Contact the Earthians already!”
“I’ve tried—!” the Pyrotechnic replied, but found himself interrupted as Davídrius was suddenly flung into the group of Chaotics, knocking them off of Kaoné’s midair platform and to the barren ground below. The seven Chaotics landed scattered across the ground, left to recover from the impact as Morcii landed in the midst of them himself.
“DON’T FOOL YOURSELVES INTO THINKING THAT YOU CAN ESCAPE ME,” he declared, “I AM FULLY AWARE OF YOUR LEVEL OF TECHNOLOGY. THERE IS NOWHERE ON THIS PLANET YOU CAN GO TO EVADE MY FORCES, AND THERE IS NO WAY FOR YOU TO LEAVE THIS PLANET WITHOUT YOUR TRANSPORT CRAFT FALLING INTO MY HANDS!”
“That’s what you think…” Kevérin muttered as he subtly activated his armor’s distress beacon.
“SUCH A BEACON WILL SERVE YOU NO PURPOSE,” Morcii taunted, revealing his ability to detect the signal. “IF YOU SIMPLY HAND ME THE CHAOS AYAS, THEN I WILL MAKE YOUR DEATHS QUICK AND PAINLESS.”
“We’ve been threatened a lot lately, yet here we still are,” Davídrius retorted as he drew and brandished his remaining two blades. “What’ve you got that those Drakkar leaders didn’t, eh?”
Morcii’s eye glinted. “I POSSESS THE ABILITY TO BACK MY WORDS.”
“That’s what they all say—!?” The Velocitechnic snapped his mouth shut as he switched focus to blocking a sudden attack from Morcii. Kievkenalis immediately called out “Chaos Assist” before launching several Chaos attacks at Morcii, forcing him to flip away from Davídrius to evade the attacks. The Nanocreature spun around in the air as he transformed his arms into laser cannons and returned fire, immediately turning the tides on Kievkenalis and forcing him to duck away as Kaoné attempted to block the lasers with a variety of different materials. The moment Morcii returned to the ground, he transformed his cannons back into hands and then summoned several smaller Nanocreatures from within the facility, their metallic bodies zipping through the air until six of them hovered above Morcii’s head. They then transformed into even more laser cannons, targeting and relentlessly firing at the other members of Hero Machina as Morcii himself lunged for Kievkenalis. The Chaostechnic quickly called out “Chaos Fortified Armor,” but was too slow to evade the Nanocreature leader as he smashed his fist into Kievkenalis’s face, instantly dissolving the Chaos Energy aura that the armor consisted of. While the Chaostechnic stumbled back from the attack, Morcii slammed his other fist into his chest, causing Kievkenalis’s powered armor’s shielding to flare up. The Nanocreature leader moved to punch Kievkenalis again but was suddenly flipped backwards as a slab of ice formed under him and snapped upward. Davídrius dashed by just as the laser cannon targeting him fired, causing the laser to instead hit Morcii — only to cause no damage at all. After flipping midair and landing on the ground again, Morcii leaned forward and took off after Davídrius, only to be intercepted and knocked aside by Christeané’s battlehammers. He rolled along the ground before stopping himself and jumping to his feet, ignoring a fire blast as he set his eyes on the nearest Chaotic: Siyuakén. She was still dealing with the floating laser cannons and did not see Morcii coming until he was right on top of her, decking her across the jaw and knocking her to the ground. He immediately jumped on top of her and drew his fist back, prepared to smash it into her face before he suddenly stopped… and grinned sadistically.
“I SEE…” He chuckled. “…SO… YOU’RE ALREADY ONE OF MINE…!”
Siyuakén’s eyes widened in alarm before she let out an incredible electric blast, forcing Morcii back and obliterating two of the floating laser cannons. The Electrotechnic quickly jumped back to her feet and stumbled away from Morcii, panting heavily.
“Who…” she muttered, “…what are you?!”
“I HAVE ALREADY INFORMED YOU, ALDREDANOID!” the Nanocreature leader replied condescendingly, pausing for a moment to extend an arm to his right and effortlessly knock away Davídrius, “I AM MORCII, COMMANDER OF THE NANOCREATURES — THE LEADER OF THE FORCE OF NATURE YOU KNOW AS THE ‘METALLIC INFECTION.’”
“That… doesn’t even make sense,” Kevérin countered as he glanced at his glasses’ HUD. Still no sign of the Genesis… might as well try to buy some time… “The infection is… well… an infection. You can’t ‘lead’ that! Not to mention you look nothing like anything metallic.”
“I WILL ADMIT THAT YOU ARE NOT ENTIRELY INCORRECT IN CLASSIFYING IT AS AN INFECTION… THOUGH THAT ALONE INDICATES A SURPRISING DISCONNECTION FROM THE PRIORS IN THIS ERA. THEY WOULD HAVE ASSUREDLY REFERRED TO IT AS ‘CORRUPTION.’”
“YOUR ORGANIC BRAIN MAY BE INFERIOR TO THE LIKES OF MY OWN, BUT I KNOW THAT YOU ARE AT LEAST CAPABLE OF DEDUCTION. DID I NOT CALL MY FORCES NANOCREATURES? DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND THE CONCEPT OF NANOMACHINES?”
“…You’re made out of nanomachines?!”
“CORRECT!” Morcii smirked. “I WILL AT LEAST GIVE YOU THIS, ALDREDANOIDS; I’M SURE THE PRIORS WOULD BE MORE THAN WILLING TO DIVULGE SUCH INFORMATION ANYWAY, SHOULD YOU FIND ONE — AND I KNOW YOU HAVE. I, AND ALL OF MY FORCES, CONSIST OF NANOMACHINES AS OUR BASELINE COMPONENTS. THESE NANOMACHINES ALSO ENABLE ME TO CORRUPT AND SEIZE CONTROL OF ORGANIC AND INORGANIC BEINGS ALIKE… THE ‘METALLIC INFECTION’ AS YOU KNOW IT IS SIMPLY THE PREFACE TO MY APPEARANCE, THE VANGUARD FORCE, MEANT TO COLLECT ENOUGH CHAOS AYAS TO SUPPORT MY APPEARANCE IN THIS REALM!”
“…I’m not sure I follow?”
“YOUR ATTEMPT AT BUYING TIME IS PATHETICALLY TRANSPARENT, BUT I WILL NONETHELESS INDULGE YOU; EVEN SHOULD YOU ESCAPE ME TODAY, YOU WILL ALL FALL INTO MY HANDS EVENTUALLY…” He glanced toward Siyuakén. “SOONER OR LATER… YOU WILL ALL BELONG TO ME.”
“That’s a pretty bold claim to make,” Davídrius retorted, “I’d rather kill myself than let you control me, much less anyone else.”
“THEN YOU’D BEST DO SO NOW, BEFORE I REVEAL THAT IT WAS, IN FACT, ALL THANKS TO YOU THAT I WAS ABLE TO MANIFEST IN THIS FORM!”
The Velocitechnic scowled as he tightened his grip on his swords. “What?”
“I’M SURE YOU REMEMBER THE EVENT WELL.” Morcii’s smirk deepened into a malicious grin. “AN OUTBREAK ON THE PLANET YOU KNOW AS KOTAK…”
“…Where we lost the Ayas Hastryth to the metallic infection!” Kievkenalis finished, realization dawning on his features.
“…What’s that got to do with you, uh, manifesting?” Davídrius questioned warily.
“MY VANGUARD FORCES MUST COLLECT THREE OF THE CHAOS AYAS BEFORE THEY CAN ANCHOR MY BEING TO THIS REALM OF EXISTENCE. THEY WERE ABLE TO FIND TWO ON THEIR OWN, BUT THE REST HAD BEEN CLAIMED BY THE DRAKKARS OR VARIOUS ALDREDANOID FACTIONS… WITHOUT YOUR UTTER INABILITY TO CONTROL THE NATURE OF THE DARK AYAS HASTHRYTH, WITHOUT YOUR FLAWED EMOTIONS CAUSING YOU TO THROW IT AWAY, LEADING TO MY FORCES SUCCESSFULLY CLAIMING IT… I WOULD NOT BE HERE RIGHT NOW!”
“IT IS THE TRUTH, AND YOU KNOW IT, ALDREDANOID! I STAND HERE BECAUSE OF YOUR OWN INCOMPETENCE; THE RETURN OF THE MORIKAI AND OUR REVENGE ON THIS PITIFUL GALAXY RESTS ENTIRELY IN YOUR HANDS!”
“You…! Fuck that, we’ll destroy you here!!” Davídrius roared, charging forward haphazardly and slashing at Morcii’s position faster than the rest of Hero Machina could have reacted. The Nanocreature leader took the slashes, two gashes appearing across his torso, before he turned to retaliate and blew Davídrius away by launching his fists as missiles at the Velocitechnic. The Nanocreature quickly reached his arms up and called two of the floating laser cannons back to him, where they attached to his arm stumps and formed a new set of hands. He then leaped straight up into the air just in time to avoid a simultaneous fire blast, ice pillar, and lightning strike. Kaoné immediately transformed the air surrounding Morcii into reinforced steel and attempted to smash the encasing into the ground, but the Nanocreature leader simply tore his way out of the metal sarcophagus before diving toward Kaoné, missing only because Kievkenalis jumped in the way and shouted, “Chaos Deflection!!”
Flung to the side, Morcii flipped through the air several times before slamming his feet into the ground, thereby stopping all of his momentum. He then launched himself forward at Christeané, who quickly began countering with his battlehammers. Davídrius immediately joined and began attacking Morcii from the opposite side of Christeané, but despite being beset by both Introtechnics, the Nanocreature leader easily countered all of their attacks before suddenly snapping his arms out with enough force to shatter one of Davídrius’s swords and sever the tether of one of Christeané’s battlehammers. Before he could attack again, Siyuakén fired both of her grappling hooks at him, catching him by his shoulders and then forcing an immense current through the new circuit. Morcii was momentarily stunned just long enough for Kievkenalis to hit him with a Chaos Impact right as Siyuakén disengaged her grappling hooks, sending the Nanocreature leader tumbling along the ground. He quickly stopped himself and leaped back to his feet before lunging back at Hero Machina, but not before Kievkenalis jumped toward him, shouting, “Chaos BLAST!”
The ensuing blast of energy created a fifty-meter crater that the Chaostechnic promptly dropped into. He quickly began looking for any sign of Morcii immediately after hitting the ground — only to be suddenly forced face-down into the dirt as he felt a foot on his back.
“YOUR ARMOR CAN PROTECT YOU FROM DIRECT TRAUMA…” Morcii muttered as he reached down and grabbed Kievkenalis’s wrists, “BUT CAN IT PROTECT YOU… FROM THIS?”
The Nanocreature leader suddenly yanked on the Chaostechnic’s arms, snapping them out of his shoulder sockets before the armor shielding flared up and prevented his arms from deforming further.
“AAAGH!” Kievkenalis screamed in pain, instinctively attempting to curl away from Morcii as the Nanocreature’s grin widened. He raised his foot, prepared to stomp the Chaostechnic’s back before Davídrius bowled into him and knocked him away. Rebehka immediately followed up by encasing Morcii in ice and then dropping a massive ice pillar on him as Christeané rushed to Kievkenalis’s side.
“Arm… arms—!” the Chaostechnic muttered through clenched teeth.
“I know, I know, sit still!” Christeané responded urgently before grasping Kievkenalis’s left arm and shoulder and then snapping them back into place, eliciting a painful yelp. The Forcetechnic quickly snapped the right arm back into place as Kevérin rushed up behind him.
“Kevken!” the Transfer Captain shouted, “you need to pull back!”
“Chaos Heal…” Kievkenalis muttered, and then paused for a moment to take a deep breath before climbing back to his feet. He looked down at his hands and moved his fingers, and then clenched his fists as he glanced at the Ayas Arcán, stooping to pick it up after dropping it while calling Chaos Blast. “No… no, we need to stop that… that thing. Here and now. We can’t afford to allow him to leave this planet!”
“Easier said than done…” Kevérin replied warily as he watched Kievkenalis and Christeané dash off toward Morcii. “If this keeps up, he won’t be the one to lose…”
“Haaaaah!!” Davídrius roared, his foot slamming into Morcii and completely obliterating his left shoulder. The Nanocreature’s left arm collapsed to the ground but quickly split into two parts that both transformed into levitating blades, both of which began harassing the Velocitechnic and forced him to turn his attention away from Morcii. The Nanocreature leader lunged for Davídrius but instantly changed his course just in time to avoid being frozen in a chunk of ice; in the blink of an eye, he fired his right arm at Rebehka and simultaneously opened his chest cavity, exposing a large laser cannon which he used to sweep across the terrain and knock out the shields of Kaoné and Christeané. The Materiatechnic quickly repaired the shield units, but doing so distracted her from Morcii just long enough for him to leap at her and punch her in the gut, flinging her backwards and knocking out her shields again. She quickly retaliated by raising chunks of metal up and around Morcii’s legs, stopping him just long enough for Kevérin to charge in and blast him with high-temperature plumes of flame. Morcii simply took the attack, but the blasts superheated the metal bindings that Kaoné had raised — Rebehka immediately cooled the bindings and then rose thick ice pillars around them, anchoring Morcii to the ground.
“YOU FIGHT A LOSING BATTLE, ALDREDANOIDS!” Morcii taunted as he effortlessly deflected incoming attacks from Davídrius and Christeané. “YOUR URGENCY BETRAYS YOUR INABILITY. THE MERE FACT THAT YOU THINK YOU CAN BIND ME…” He easily broke out of his binds, shattering the pillars around his legs as he lunged toward Kievkenalis. “…IS THE SUREST SIGN THAT YOU GROSSLY UNDERESTIMATE ME—!”
“Overdrive: Unrelenting Flame!!”
The Nanocreature leader was suddenly blown back by three white-hot streams of fire, each fusing together the nanomachines at his elbow, left knee, and stomach. Kevérin charged forward, bathing the entire atmosphere around Morcii with searing flame before creating two fireballs in his hands and smashing them into Morcii’s face, blasting him backward several meters.
“YOU—!” the Nanocreature’s voice crackled as he stumbled back to his feet.
“…Ha, that’s it — you aren’t like the Drakkars at all,” the Transfer Captain remarked confidently, “you’re completely vulnerable. We can beat you!”
“…Y-Y-Y-YOU CAN-CANNOT-OT-OT-OT-OT POSSIB-POSSIBLY-Y-Y…”
“Hah! You villains are all words. So much for backin’ ‘em up, eh?” Davídrius retorted.
Morcii glared at Davídrius and Kevérin as he attempted to straighten himself up, though was unable to do so as his knee was fused at a bad angle. “AL-AL-AL-AL-ALDREDA-A-A-ANOIDS…” he muttered, his voice skipping like a broken record, “I-I WILL WI-WI-WI-WIPE YOU FROM THE FACE O-O-O-OF THE GALAX-AX-AX-AXY-Y-Y-Y-!”
“C’mon, Hero Machina, this is it! Get him while he’s down!” Kevérin shouted, issuing forth another several streams of fire to fuse Morcii’s feet to the ground. Rebehka immediately flash-froze the Nanocreature before Kaoné suddenly snapped the ground under him upward, smashing into the frozen Nanocreature leader and snapping his upper body off of his legs and flinging him up into the air. Rebehka slammed another several pieces of ice into him, launching him further upwards as Kievkenalis fired several Chaos Strikes at him before uttering “Chaos Charge!” The entire battlefield became charged with an incredible amount of electrical energy, the ground itself cackling with sparks as Siyuakén jumped directly under Morcii and pulled all of the energy to herself, triggering a massive lightning strike between her and Morcii, frying her armor but also dealing significant damage to the Nanocreature leader. Morcii began to fall back toward the ground, stunned, unable to counter as Kevérin rocketed up to him and then flipped through the air, issuing a flame-powered punch to the Nanocreature’s back that launched him ground-ward, where Kaoné quickly rose his tattered body to eye-level by hanging it from a steel pillar.
“We’ve got him now!” Davídrius smirked as he planted himself fifty meters from Morcii, Christeané doing the same on the opposite side of the Nanocreature leader. “Ready!”
“Set!” The Forcetechnic shouted back as he began twirling his remaining intact battlehammer at high speeds.
“Mark!!” they both shouted, simultaneously launching themselves at the incapacitated Nanocreature leader, weapons forward, prepared to deal the final blow and smash his body to smithereens—
—when Morcii took on his intact form in the blink of an eye and snapped his arms outward to deflect and completely reverse the Introtechnics’ momentum before either even realized what was happening.
“Wha— what?!” Kevérin exclaimed, frozen in place as the Introtechnics tumbled along the ground and failed to recover.
“AHAHAHA!” Morcii turned to glare haughtily at the rest of Hero Machina. “WATCHING YOUR HOPES SOAR THE MOMENT YOU SAW WHAT YOU PERCEIVED AS AN OPENING… YOU ARE SO PREDICTABLE!”
He launched himself forward, reaching Kaoné in a split second and smashing his knee into her face, instantly knocking her out.
“DO YOU NOT REMEMBER WHAT I SAID EARLIER?”
He appeared in front of Kievkenalis, issued a one-two punch to his shoulders, kneed him in his gut, and then grabbed his head before slamming him to the ground.
“ABOUT HOW I WAS ANCHORED TO THIS REALM OF EXISTENCE?”
He stooped over and grabbed the Ayas Arcán.
“DID IT NOT OCCUR TO YOU TO THINK ABOUT WHAT THAT COULD MEAN?”
A cavity opened in his chest and he casually placed the Ayas within it, after which the cavity closed and it disappeared from sight.
“DID IT NOT OCCUR TO YOU THAT I AM NOT OF THIS WORLD?!”
He sped over to Rebehka, grabbed her arm, and yanked her to the ground before stomping her left knee, snapping it out of place.
“YOUR CONVENTIONAL BATTLE TACTICS MEAN NOTHING AGAINST ME! YOU STUMBLE AROUND, THINKING THAT YOU CAN CONTROL CHAOS ENERGY, THAT YOU CAN BEND IT TO YOUR WILL, BUT YOU DO NOT EVEN ENGAGE THE CHAOS STATE AGAINST ME?!”
He practically warped to Davídrius, slamming his palm into the Velocitechnic’s chest before he could react and throwing him over onto his back.
“I AM FASTER THAN YOU!”
He lunged toward Christeané, slamming his fists down on the Forcetechnic’s head with enough force to shatter his ankles and bury him halfway in the ground.
“I AM STRONGER THAN YOU!”
He turned toward Siyuakén, ignoring her electrical strikes before returning them with far greater magnitude, completely shutting down her armor and forcing her to her knees.
“I CONTROL YOU!”
He then rested his gaze on Kevérin, who stood frozen in place, unable to move an inch out of pure, terrified awe.
“YOU CANNOT GRASP WHO I AM, EVEN AFTER I HAVE TOLD YOU!”
“I, I… wha…” Kevérin spluttered, “what… what are…?”
“I AM A GOD!” Morcii suddenly appeared in front of the Transfer Captain, grabbed him by his throat, and hoisted him into the air. “HEAR MY WORDS AND LISTEN WELL, ALDREDANOID! I AM A GOD, UNSTOPPABLE, CAPABLE OF OBLITERATING ALL THAT YOU THROW AT ME! BUT I AM ALSO A HARBINGER — THE MESSENGER, THE VANGUARD OF THOSE FAR STRONGER THAN I! I WILL CONQUER THIS GALAXY AND CLAIM THE CHAOS AYAS, CLEARING WAY FOR THE MORIKAI, WHO WILL DESCEND UPON YOU PESKY INSECTS AND CLEANSE THE ENTIRE GALAXY OF YOUR PRESENCE!” He slammed Kevérin into the ground, almost knocking out the Pyrotechnic. “SEND THIS MESSAGE TO YOUR UNWORTHY BRETHREN, CREATURE: I. AM. MORCII! MY DEFEAT IS IMPOSSIBLE — MY VICTORY, INEVITABLE! FOR IF YOU SUCCEED IN DRIVING ME OFF NOW, I WILL MERELY MANIFEST ELSEWHERE, EVEN STRONGER THAN BEFORE! I AM AS IMMORTAL AND TIMELESS AS THE UNIVERSE ITSELF, AND DESTROYING ME IS TANTAMOUNT TO DESTROYING ALL THAT WHICH YOU KNOW! NOW, I WILL REPEAT MYSELF ONCE MORE, SO THAT PERHAPS THIS TIME IT WILL SINK INTO YOUR HEAD: NO ONE IN THIS GALAXY…” He pressed Kevérin further into the ground. “OR ANY GALAXY…” He began choking the Pyrotechnic, despite the flaring energy shields that attempted to prevent him from doing so. “…CAN HOPE TO STOP ME!”
The Nanocreature leader then completely closed his fist, only to find that he was simply grasping at air. He backed away slowly, staring at the ground which Kevérin had occupied a mere moment before, at which point he inspected his environment — and discovered that the rest of Hero Machina was nowhere to be found. “…SO THE ALDREDANOIDS HAVE DISCOVERED THEIR OWN BEAMING TECHNOLOGY… HA! THIS WILL BE INTERESTING, THEN. BUT STILL… THEY HOLD NO CHANCE AGAINST ME!”
“…Captain! Transfer Captain!”
“Nnngh…” Kevérin blinked several times, his vision blurry; he was only able to discern who was talking to him through the sound of their voice. “Captain… Krick…?”
“You’re awake!” the Earthian Captain exclaimed.
“Where… am I?”
“You’re being wheeled to the ship’s infirmary. You and your entire team were in terrible shape when we beamed you up… what the hell happened down there? Where’s the Ayas?”
“Where’s the Ayas?…” Kevérin smirked bitterly and then chuckled deliriously as he closed his eyes again, exhaustion overtaking him. “Hah, what happened… we got fucked, that’s what… haaah… we’re all… fucked…”