Chapter 50

Skydia, Maliath 24, 8030

“Hi.”

“…Hey.”

“…”

“…”

“…”

“…Did you want to talk to me, or…?”

“Oh, I was just— I was just wondering how you learned to be so good.”

“’Good?’”

“You know what I mean. We’ve only been here for three weeks and you’re already outstripping all of our competition. Except me, of course.”

“Competition? This is just conscription boot camp…”

“Well, yeah, but that’s just all the more reason to try our best. Shine brighter than the rest now, and you’ll look even better later.”

“…You really think that?”

“You don’t?”

“I’m only here because I’m a Chaotic… nothing else.”

“I would’ve said the same three, four years ago. But what better way to say ‘screw you’ to the system than to best everyone else and reach the top anyways?”

“Finding ways to not participate at all?”

“You know what I mean.”

“I guess. It’d explain why you’re such a try-hard, at least…”

“Wha— excuse me?!”

“Everyone else is thinking it. You’re always trying to be number one, taking everything so seriously.”

“This is the military! Of course it’s serious!”

“This is boot camp. It’s one big joke, that’s what it is…”

“Well—! I should’ve known that a Nimaliakian wouldn’t be any better than the natives around here.”

“Ha, is that your problem? Frustrated that your ice gets you nowhere in this damn forest of a nation? Try walking a mile in my shoes, try-hard.

“I’m sure all I’d manage from that is getting my feet wet from all of your loner tears. Do you hurt yourself sometimes on all that edge?”

“…What?”

“Everyone else is thinking it. You don’t talk to anyone. I thought it was because you were like me, that you had hidden potential that you couldn’t take advantage of because everyone else looked down on you. Turns out you’re just a loner, huh. Just as judgmental as the rest of them.”

“You don’t know what I’ve been through—”

“I could say the same.”

“…Ha. Tell you what, Rebeh—”

“It’s Tchiréon. You haven’t earned the right to call me by my first name.”

“You’re sure full of yourself.”

“I think there’s some quote about a pot and a kettle that fits this situation.”

“Alright, try-hard. If you’re so keen on proving you’re the best and we’re all idiots, how about a challenge? Two weeks from now, we have a duel. Best of three. Winner gets to make a demand of the loser… any demand.

“…”

“Not so confident now, huh?”

“Oh, no, I’ll definitely take you up on that. I was just thinking of the most humiliating thing I could make you do when I win.”

“Don’t get ahead of yourself. The peace of mind I could bring us all by shutting you up is strong motivation.”

“…This isn’t the end of this, Siyua—”

“It’s Wanléon. You haven’t earned the right to call me by my first name.”

“…Very funny.”

“Hey, it’s your joke.”

“Hmph. Two weeks. In two weeks, I’ll show you why I’m the best!”

“Sure thing, try-hard.”

“Shut up, loner.”


Present Day, 4 Days after Loss of Maasen

– Mondia, Skydiath 2, 8034 –

“Maasen… lost. And now Bouy’Xis, Metorilis, and Gonaan are all under attack…”

“Things have gotten… bad,” Kevérin lamented, sitting back in the briefing room chair.

“Not just bad, things have gotten terrible.” Nikéyin scowled. “That’s three Transpace Worlds under attack, and Bouy’Xis is practically lost. This new threat, these Nanocreatures — their surprise attack on Maasen proved they have similar FTL tech to the Drakkars; they must be at least as fast as the Drakkars. But no one else comes even close, aside from the Earthians’ one ship that they barely know how to replicate. If the Nanocreatures take out the Transpace systems, then they can completely isolate the CSA from itself — and the rest of the galaxy. Gonaan is the big one — if the Siions lose Gonaan, then the Citans and Dra’kis get cut off from the rest of the galaxy, and the Siions are cut off from their own Primary Fortress World, Siionkagh. That could very well be an ending blow to the entire CSA. And that’s only Gonaan, who knows if the… Nanocreatures are about to launch attacks on other Transpace Worlds.”

“There’s still tons of planets in the CSA…” Kevérin responded uneasily, “it’ll take the Nanocreatures a while to take them all…”

“They don’t need to, not right now. Their strategy is obvious. They aren’t restricted by Transpaces, but we are. So if they take out the Transpaces, then they’ve isolated everyone in the galaxy and can attack wherever they please without fear of reinforcements. It’s classic logistics interruption. And there’s nothing we can do to stop it…”

“I know Morcii was really powerful in person, but… are all of the Nanocreatures really that powerful? Are they really giving the CSA that hard of a time?”

“It would seem that the entirety of the Nanocreatures are constructed of nanomachines, as you said the leader claimed. And they’ve been developing right under everyone’s noses for the past twenty years, masquerading as the ‘metallic infection.’ They can corrupt and seize control of whatever they touch, and their ships are surprisingly durable — not to mention far more repairable, as broken parts simply need to be replaced with more nanomachines… I don’t know where they’re all coming from, but there’s a lot of them, and they have the element of surprise. No one expected them. Especially not during a Drakkar offensive. The Drakkars have pulled back, thankfully, but the CSA is still in no shape to mount a solid defense. Chances are they lose Bouy’Xis within the week, Metorilis soon after, and maybe Gonaan soon after that…”

“Well… shit. Is there anything we can do? As the Nimalian Territories?”

“Hmm… perhaps the one good thing to come of all this is that, as of two days ago, the Nimalian Systems Defense is official. I suppose impending doom has a way of scaring politicians into action.”

“That’s good, right?”

“Relatively. I was finally able to order a glassing of the Hazard Islands, and I’ve placed them under quarantine. Hopefully, you and the rest of Hero Machina truly neutralized whatever that thing was a couple months ago. I’ve sent teams to monitor Relédiaka as well, due to all of the infection reports from the forests. I also put the Ayas on a rotation, so that they’re on no one planet for longer than three days. Hopefully that will throw off anyone who’s trying to look for them with technology like our own Ayas sensor, but… that’s about all we can do. We can offer support to the CSA, but if the Nanocreatures come for the Nimalian Territories, then the NSD can’t do much to stop them, given what we currently know. We aren’t as advanced as the CSA, and our fleets aren’t as numerous… we’d be toast.”

“Damn…” Kevérin leaned forward, holding a hand to his head in frustration. “Is there really nothing we can do?”

“News is still incoming, and it’s all chaos,” Nikéyin responded warily. “Everything I know for certain, I’ve already told you. We can’t act without more information, as we can’t risk stumbling into an unknown situation and drawing the attention of the Nanocreatures to ourselves. In the long run, it’s best to keep the Nanocreatures focused on the CSA. They can take it better than us, and we can at least provide support. Maybe we can convince the Earthians to share their FTL technology, or at least help them reverse-engineer it. If we get wiped out, though…”

“I know, I know, this is just… I hate feeling this helpless. What about Hero Machina? Is there anything we can do?”

“Tyrion, to put it bluntly, that Morcii individual — he devastated your team. You won’t be doing anything until everyone’s recovered, and that may not be for a while. Densalin, Yumach, and Tchiréon may get cleared from the med center by week’s end, but Kolstén… he won’t be out for several weeks, at least. Not with full-body fractures, and certainly not as a Forcetechnic. You and Wanléon were lucky, getting out of the whole situation without injury.”

“…”

“Don’t blame yourself, Captain. You clearly did the best you could. But, let’s face it; if even Exdominor and Surdeus — the two most dangerous Drakkar faction leaders — fled from this Morcii character, then you and your team didn’t stand a chance. You stood your ground long enough for the Earthians to pick you up, and that alone is commendable, given the circumstances.”

“That doesn’t change the fact that we lost the Ayas to Morcii… and it was Arcán, too! We could have used it to fix the Prior!”

“It is a shame and I am disappointed that the mission was a failure, but we can’t afford to dwell on it. Not now.” Nikéyin sighed and glanced around the room absentmindedly before turning back to Kevérin. “I will admit, I was less than pleased with your performances back on Teghica and Kotak, but you all have been doing very well since. You retrieved the Ayas from Rossindon, and you pulled an Ayas from the Tyrnaus system while also assisting the Black Suns. We have four of the Ayas now, including the Master Ayas — which may just be what we need to beat the Nanocreatures. And it’s all thanks to you and your team.”

“We’re also the ones who let Morcii appear in the first place, by being negligent on Kotak…”

“Like I said, Captain, don’t dwell on it. But I’m only willing to offer you so much solace.” Nikéyin sighed again, leaning back in her chair as she rubbed her temples. She then shook her head to clear her thoughts and grabbed the folder on the table in front of her. “Hero Machina is on leave until all of you have recovered, so take the time to rest up. You’ve spent the entirety of last month traveling around the galaxy, after all. We don’t know what’s ahead of us, and we all need to be in top shape to face it. Agreed?”

“…Yes, ma’am.”

“Rest up, Captain. You need it. You and the rest of Hero Machina both. Dismissed.”


Timestamp: 8030, Nimath 7, 20:32

Journal Header: Fucking try-hard.

Dueled with the try-hard today. Still getting on my nerves with her better-than-everyone attitude. Did you know, she told everyone about the duel? There I go asking questions again. Of course I would know this, I wrote it. I should be the only one reading it. If you aren’t me and you’re reading this, then I already know that you’re reading it, and I know where you are, and I’m on my way to end you now. Don’t poke through a girl’s private things.

What was I talking about? Oh yeah, the try-hard. So she basically turned the duel into a huge betting match. Everyone was watching. “I wanted them to know how soundly I defeated you,” she said. Ha. Well, I showed her. Sort of. I… lost the first round. It was the crowd, I swear. They threw me off. I’m not used to interacting with so many people. I spent six years alone in Unonin, but this city, Lédia, is so much bigger. So much more crowded. There’s too many people. I guess that’s to be expected of a capital city, though.

Damn it, I keep distracting myself. Um, right. So I lost the first round. I won the second one though. Floored that bitch in ten seconds flat. Can’t beat electricity with ice, not that easily. We didn’t get to finish the third round, though. We got interrupted by the boot camp captain. Turns out, when you tell a bunch of 16-year-olds about a secret duel, well, it doesn’t stay secret for long. Who would’ve thought? So now, thanks to that, we’ve all lost the rest of the weekend. Have to work now. All thanks to the try-hard. I’ll bet she feels real smug now, ha. Good for her we got interrupted anyways, I was totally about to kick her ass.

Oh, shit, the captain’s coming through. Can’t let him catch me on this. Signing out.

– Siyuakén


Present Day

Hero Machina digital communication logs for Mondia, Skydiath 2, 8034

 

From: Kevérin Tyrion

To: Hero Machina

Subject: Rest Up

Timestamp: 8034, Skydiath 2, 11:12

Hey guys, just talked to Commander Nikéyin. NSD’s official, and the Hazard Islands have been glassed.

That’s about the only good news I have.

We’re on leave until everyone heals up, so get some rest. I’ll have more details for you guys later.

-Kevérin

Oh, afterthought: someone bash Davídrius over the head. Maybe a broken skeleton will shut him up about minor chest pains.

 

From: Kevérin Tyrion

To: Siyuakén Wanléon

Subject: Can I talk to you

Timestamp: 8034, Skydiath 2, 11:14

Hey, you free? Wanted to talk about that whole Ayas-sensing thing you have going on.

-Kevérin

 

From: Davídrius Wrikax

To: Hero Machina

Subject: Re: Rest Up

Timestamp: 8034, Skydiath 2, 11:18

fuck you

in the ass

with a hole fucking blade prizim

 

From: Rebehka Tchiréon

To: Hero Machina

Subject: Re: Re: Rest Up

Timestamp: 8034, Skydiath 2, 11:26

Really, Davídrius? Settle down.

And that joke was in poor taste, Kevérin. Christeané’s skeletal injury is a serious matter; we don’t know how well he’ll be able to recover. Don’t take his injuries lightly.

Congratulate the Commander for me, though. I’d do so myself, but they won’t let me out of the med center.

-Rebehka

 

From: Siyuakén Wanléon

To: Kevérin Tyrion

Subject: Re: Can I talk to you

Timestamp: 8034, Skydiath 2, 11:28

Sorry, can’t meet in person. Personal reasons. Really tired, too.

-Siyuakén

 

From: Davídrius Wrikax

To: Hero Machina

Subject: Re: Re: Re: Rest Up

Timestamp: 8034, Skydiath 2, 11:45

settle down huh. shur thing here you go

[<Link censored by internal server>]

oh man the relaynet is a grate place so glad christeané showed me the ropes

oh yeah. kevérin. christeané wanted me to tell you fuck you. ekcept not akshully. hes still out cold. pretty shur hed want me to say that tho

 

From: Rebehka Tchiréon

To: Hero Machina

Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Rest Up

Timestamp: 8034, Skydiath 2, 11:56

I don’t know what you tried to send, but if the base’s server censored it, well. I don’t think I want to know.

Can’t everyone just be civil for once? I know we’re all stressed, but fussing at each other won’t solve anything.

-Rebehka

 

From: Kevérin Tyrion

To: Hero Machina

Subject: Re(5): Rest Up

Timestamp: 8034, Skydiath 2, 12:04

I just wanted to try and cheer everyone up, but you’re right. The joke was in bad taste. I apologize.

In fact, Davídrius, to show my apologies, I’ll even give you a present. Here’s a link to some comforting image albums, hope you enjoy:

<link to an album containing several graphic Relaynet memetic images>

-Kevérin

 

From: Kevérin Tyrion

To: Siyuakén Wanléon

Subject: Re: Re: Can I talk to you

Timestamp: 8034, Skydiath 2, 12:07

Oh… hope everything’s alright. Mind if I ask a couple questions here, then?

Namely, when could you start sensing the Ayas? I don’t remember you mentioning anything when we found the Dark Blue Ayas back on Teghica, or the Black Ayas on Kotak. Do you know how you can do it? Maybe there’s some electrical properties to the Ayas that we didn’t know about before. Anyways, any explanation that you have would be appreciated.

-Kevérin

 

From: Davídrius Wrikax

To: Hero Machina

Subject: Re(6): Rest Up

Timestamp: 8034, Skydiath 2, 12:23

rebehka ill be civil if you bring me some of those relediakian cake things that you made a couple months ago. that was some tasty shit id shut up for that

kevérin fuck you. i was eating lunch damn it. howd your link get thru and not mine. fucking haker

psst rebehka hurry up with those cakes i may or may not have ruined my entire lunch with my breakfast

 

From: Kievkenalis Yumach

To: Hero Machina

Subject: Re(7): Rest Up

Timestamp: 8034, Skydiath 2, 12:26

Did someone mention cake? I want cake.

-Kevken

 

From: Siyuakén Wanléon

To: Hero Machina

Subject: Re(8): Rest Up

Timestamp: 8034, Skydiath 2, 12:30

What the hell is going on here?

-Siyuakén

 

From: Siyuakén Wanléon

To: Kevérin Tyrion

Subject: Re: Re: Re: Can I talk to you

Timestamp: 8034, Skydiath 2, 12:35

I don’t know, and I don’t know. I just… can. I don’t know. It’s uncomfortable to talk about.

-Siyuakén

 

From: Rebehka Tchiréon

To: Hero Machina

Subject: Re(9): Rest Up

Timestamp: 8034, Skydiath 2, 12:42

Davídrius, I can’t make anything. I’m stuck in the med center. Even if I wasn’t, there’s no way I’d cook for you. Learn some manners first. And Kevken, how would you even eat the cake? Your arms are immobilized. Wait, how are you even responding?

Kevérin, could you take things seriously for once? I’m glad I didn’t follow that link, if it made even Davídrius throw up. I swear, the stuff you two find on the Relaynet.

Siyuakén, it’s nothing. Just ignore it.

-Rebehka

 

From: Davídrius Wrikax

To: Hero Machina

Subject: Re(10): Rest Up

Timestamp: 8034, Skydiath 2, 12:48

wow you really think that just cuz you had a proper childhood you get to tell me to lern shit

but akshully. what the fucks up with this manners shit. why is everyone in this world so uptite. i dont normally miss treséd but damn

 

From: Kievkenalis Yumach

To: Hero Machina

Subject: Re(10): Rest Up

Timestamp: 8034, Skydiath 2, 12:49

Voice-to-text. A nurse was nice enough to set it up for me.

Does this mean there’s no cake?

-Kevken

 

From: Kevérin Tyrion

To: Hero Machina

Subject: Re(11): Rest Up

Timestamp: 8034, Skydiath 2, 12:55

I really shouldn’t have made that crack about Davídrius, huh. How are you guys responding so quickly, anyways? If you have enough free time to get into arguments then maybe I should find some work for you to do.

-Kevérin

 

From: Kevérin Tyrion

To: Siyuakén Wanléon

Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Can I talk to you

Timestamp: 8034, Skydiath 2, 13:01

Huh? Uncomfortable to talk about? Why? What does that even mean?

-Kevérin

 

From: Davídrius Wrikax

To: Hero Machina

Subject: Re(12): Rest Up

Timestamp: 8034, Skydiath 2, 13:03

woh woh woh you started this hole thing you cant punish me for responding to an insult. espeshally your insult. thats entrapment. or something like that

im already home anyways so. ha

 

From: Kevérin Tyrion

To: Hero Machina

Subject: Re(13): Rest Up

Timestamp: 8034, Skydiath 2, 13:08

Alright. Get back to the base, Davídrius. I’ve got some work you can spend that free time on.

And don’t say getting back here is too much effort. You’re a Velocitechnic, it shouldn’t take more than a couple minutes.

-Kevérin

P.S. Doesn’t your machine have a spell-checker? How the hell are you managing to fuck everything up?

 

From: Davídrius Wrikax

To: Hero Machina

Subject: Re(14): Rest Up

Timestamp: 8034, Skydiath 2, 13:12

fuck you thats discriminashun. i have my own injuries too anyway. broken ribs n shit. gotta stay still. doctors orders

also i can totally run faster than that. i could reach the base in seconds!

and i dont need no computer telling me what to do i can type perfectly fine thank you very much

 

From: Kevérin Tyrion

To: Hero Machina

Subject: Re(15): Rest Up

Timestamp: 8034, Skydiath 2, 13:18

Your ribs were bruised, not broken. Those ‘Doctor’s orders’ to stay still expired yesterday. And if it really only takes ‘seconds’ to reach the base then surely it wouldn’t be too inconvenient to do so. Now get your ass up here before I involve the Commander.

And no, you can’t type perfectly fine. At least turn on auto-correct!

-Kevérin

 

From: Davídrius Wrikax

To: Hero Machina

Subject: Re(16): Rest Up

Timestamp: 8034, Skydiath 2, 13:22

hmf not my fault i never lerned this computer shit growing up

well whatever the bases network speed is faster anyways

also fuck you

 

From: Siyuakén Wanléon

To: Kevérin Tyrion

Subject: Re(5): Can I talk to you

Timestamp: 8034, Skydiath 2, 13:31

Uncomfortable means uncomfortable and that’s that. I’m not talking about this anymore.

-Siyuakén

 

From: Kevérin Tyrion

To: Siyuakén Wanléon

Subject: Re(6): Can I talk to you

Timestamp: 8034, Skydiath 2, 13:37

Well, alright then. I’ll leave you be for now. But this is important, Siyuakén. The ability to sense Ayas is pretty significant. I’d like answers sooner or later.

-Kevérin

 

From: Kevérin Tyrion

To: Rebehka Tchiréon

Subject: Can you talk to Siyuakén for me?

Timestamp: 8034, Skydiath 2, 13:45

What the subject says. I tried asking her about her ability to sense Ayas, but she got defensive and refused to answer any questions. Can you talk to her for me? See if anything’s wrong? I’ll be trying to wrench some information out of that Prior in the meantime, if you need me.

Thanks.

-Kevérin

 

From: Rebehka Tchiréon

To: Siyuakén Wanléon

Subject: Have a minute?

Timestamp: 8034, Skydiath 2, 14:05

Hey, do you have a minute? I’d like to talk to you. In fact I’d just like to see you. I’m stuck in the med center and you just waltz on home without dropping by? The nerve.

Anyways, come up to the med center when you have some time.

-Rebehka


Timestamp: 8030, Skydiath 22, 20:16

Journal Header: I guess she’s not too bad…

Well, I guess I wasn’t completely right about the try-hard. Recently got stuck with her on the forest floor after one of the other conscripts messed up and totaled the return elevator. We were stuck on the floor for a few hours. We got attacked by a few feral animals. I think they were afflicted by something called the ‘metallic infection’. It’s not something you hear on the news often, or even at all, but I’ve heard enough from the officers and seen enough from our scheduled trips to the forest floor that I can piece things together. Apparently things have been getting worse. Access to the floor might be completely restricted in a few months.

Um, right. Distracted myself again. The try-hard, Tchiréon. We had something of a chat. I guess it was more like an argument, at first, that is. I learned some things about her past. Nothing as bad as me, but she didn’t have it all that great either. Being a master of ice in a place that values mobility and trees isn’t exactly the best combination, I guess. But she decided that, instead of letting the doubters win, she’d try her best, do well, and show them all that she can hold her own. That’s what she told me, at least. It sounds reasonable, now if only she knew she didn’t have to try to be the best at everything.

I also told her about my own past, about how I was forced to move to Relédiaka from my home in Nimaliaka, without any of my family, or friends… she didn’t respond to it much at all. That is, she didn’t really say anything about it. I noticed she stopped calling me a loner though. Well, not as often, at least. She’s starting to mellow out, too, I think. She hasn’t been as insistent on being the best at everything, not since getting stuck on the forest floor. Not sure if that’s an effort on her part to actually be a better person, or just some leftover shock. If she keeps it up, she could actually be decent company one day.

I guess I could make some efforts to change, too. I’ve kept to myself a lot these past five and a half months, I guess I should make some effort to be more social. I mean, if the try-hard can change, then it can’t be that hard, right?

I’ll think about that later. For now, the captain’s coming through. Time to sign off.

-Siyuakén


Present Day

– Mondia, Skydiath 2, 8034 –

“Hey guys.”

“Oh, Siyuakén.” Kievkenalis glanced toward the Electrotechnic as she stepped into the room. “What brings you here?”

“Rebehka wanted to talk to me,” Siyuakén replied as she looked down at Kievkenalis’s arms. The Chaostechnic was bed-bound and his arms were immobilized in casts up to his shoulders, giving him a painfully stiff appearance. “Are you feeling any better?”

“It doesn’t hurt, at least, but I don’t know if that’s because it’s healed or if it’s because of the drugs.” He sighed. “If this were just a regular dislocation, I’d have been out yesterday, but Christeané didn’t really re-locate my shoulders all that well… I don’t blame him though, we were in the middle of battle, and he, well… he’s a lot worse off than any of us.”

“I heard it was something like a full-body fracture?…”

“It almost was, but his armor’s energy shielding actually held some things together. He was… mostly intact. The Earthians didn’t have the right technology to properly stabilize him, though, and a couple days passed before reaching Nimalian care, so his skeleton is as good as shot. Last I heard, they’re going through with a composite replacement. Full-scale operation to replace almost every bone in his body.”

“That’s… pretty bad.”

“I’ll say. It’s even worse since he’s a Forcetechnic. They had to move him to a facility with an industrial-grade laser cutter, just to pierce his skin… Though, his inherent durability was the only thing holding him together. If they did normal Chaotic surgery and stuck him in a CENT field, he would probably fall apart like a bag of sand. As is, if we had gotten him back here even a day or two later, he would’ve been completely fucked.”

“Heeeey, that’s a bad word, don’t say that.”

Siyuakén paused and glanced over at Kaoné, who was sitting in a hospital bed across the room and staring at Kievkenalis deliriously. “Oh, Kaoné, you’re up—”

“Huh?” The Materiatechnic squinted at Siyuakén. “…Do I know you?”

“…Uh…” Siyuakén glanced back at Kievkenalis uneasily.

“Head trauma after being knocked out by Morcii,” the Chaostechnic whispered, “she’ll be fine in a day or two, but until then she’ll be a bit of an amnesiac. Combination of the drugs and the healing wound.” He then turned his attention to Kaoné as he spoke up, “of course you know her. She’s Siyuakén.”

“See you a kin? What does that mean?”

“No, that’s not— …what do you remember?”

“Remember what?”

“That’s what I’m asking.”

“What am I supposed to remember?”

“Anything.”

“…What was the question?”

Kievkenalis turned to give Siyuakén an exasperated look. “This is what I’ve had to deal with for the past twenty-four hours.” He then shrugged. “I guess it could be worse. Things like this are exactly what Assist is for. If I hadn’t opened the battle with that move, we’d all be worse off, I’m sure…”

“…If you say so,” Siyuakén replied. “Anyways, where is Rebehka?”

“Right here.” The Cryotechnic limped around the corner, walking through an open doorway on the opposite side of the room from the entrance Siyuakén had used before stopping to lean on a crutch. “So you finally showed up. You kept me waiting for a while!”

“Sorry…” the Electrotechnic responded sheepishly. She then looked down at Rebehka’s left knee. “How is it?”

“Oh, my knee?” Rebehka slowly moved her leg back and forth, her movements restricted by the mechanical cast bound to her knee. “I can walk on it, thanks to the powered cast and the crutch, but it’s still a little painful. Jogging or running is out of the question.”

“Wait, I remember, you asked me a question!” Kaoné suddenly exclaimed, sitting up straight and staring at Kievkenalis. After several moments, though, her expression faltered. “…What was it, again?”

“I can’t wait to be out of here,” the Chaostechnic deadpanned.

Siyuakén smirked in response to the exchange before turning her attention back to Rebehka. “You wanted to talk to me?”

“Yeah. Come on. We can walk around the med center courtyard while we talk.” The Cryotechnic slowly turned back through the doorway as Siyuakén crossed the room.

“…You did ask me a question, right?” Kaoné muttered as the two women left the room.

“…No, Kaoné.” Kievkenalis sighed irately. “Go to sleep.”

Siyuakén smiled in amusement as the two bed-bound Chaotics fell out of earshot. “How long have they been like that?”

“At least since Ligdia night.” Rebehka rolled her eyes. “It was funny at first, but now Kaoné’s amnesia is just annoying. I’ll be glad when she’s back to normal. …In fact, I’ll be glad when everyone’s back to normal,” she added as the two women stepped outside into the afternoon sunlight.

“Back to normal…” Siyuakén echoed hollowly.

Rebehka glanced at her friend with concern before slowly limping toward one of the courtyard paths through the trees. “I guess this brings us to what I wanted to talk about.”

“Wha… what? Here?” Siyuakén quickly stepped forward and fell into stride alongside Rebehka. “Rebehka, this—!”

“Relax. The only monitoring equipment in the courtyard are cameras; no microphones. I checked earlier.”

“…You’re sure?”

“Of course I’m sure, why would I lie?” Rebehka passed Siyuakén a concerned glance. “How are you feeling?”

“…I’m fine.”

“It’s the middle of summer,” the Cryotechnic replied incredulously. “How are you feeling ‘fine’ in a jacket and gloves?”

Siyuakén tugged uncomfortably at the aforementioned articles before looking away, toward the small pond in the middle of the courtyard. “It’s not that hot. Nimaliaka Central is farther from the equator than Lédia is.”

“Not by much. Even so, you know that isn’t the only thing that determines climate.”

“Hn.”

“How much worse is it? The… infection?”

“…It’s covered my entire arm, fingertips to shoulder. It’s on my chest, too. And my neck.” Siyuakén rubbed her neck uncomfortably. “Another week, and it’ll be up to my face…”

“Has it gotten any worse since… well, since the Nanocreatures appeared?”

“A… a little. But it was getting this bad anyways. I never had much time in the first place…”

“Don’t say that. If anything, you have a better chance of overcoming it now than before!”

“How does that begin to make sense?”

“We know what the metallic infection really is now. And now that we know that, we can start figuring out how to actually stop it,” Rebehka replied optimistically. “The most obvious solution is to just destroy Morcii and see what happens.”

Destroy Morcii? Rebehka, were you not there when he crushed us?”

“I never said we had to. If we can find him on some other planet then we just have to throw a few orbital bombardment rounds at him. No one can survive a good glassing.”

“No one’s ever fought the Nanocreatures before.”

“True. But he didn’t completely crush us. You and Kevérin got out with relatively few injuries, after all.”

“And Morcii got out with none.”

“Siyuakén…”

“Have you not been hearing the news, Rebehka? They’ve attacked three of the CSA Transpace Worlds, and the CSA is losing. If they can’t do anything, then we don’t stand a chance.”

“That’s not true. We still have time to come up with a solution. And, we have the Ayas! Four of them, at least. I don’t think it’s too far-fetched to think that we can come up with a way to beat the Nanocreatures… or at least a way to hold them at bay.”

“…”

“Trust me, Siyuakén. We’ll find a way to help you. I’ll find a way to help you. That’s what I’m here for.”

“…There is another way you could help me… and everyone else, too.”

“What is it?”

“If… if I do end up losing to the corruption—”

“No. No, you won’t. It won’t happen. I won’t let it.”

“Rebehka, it’s not that simple—”

“Didn’t you hear what I told you back when I first found out you were infected? Even if your body loses, I’ll just take your brain and store it until we can make you a new body. You’ll be fine!”

“In any other context, that would actually sound pretty creepy.”

“Maybe, but I mean it. I won’t let you lose. I won’t lose you. And that’s that.”

“…Do you really think you can do it?”

“Of course I do. Come on, Siyuakén, you know me. I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t mean it.”

“You’re reminding me of back when we first met.”

“Heh, well, if regressing back to my ‘try-hard’ stage is what it takes to save you, then I’ll do it. Then we can become friends all over again! It’s the perfect plan.”

“Ha, alright, if you say so.”

“I do say so.”

“…Thanks, Rebehka.” Siyuakén turned to embrace her friend.

“Ha! Don’t worry about it.” The Cryotechnic returned the gesture with her free arm. “It’s what best friends are for.”


Timestamp: 8033, Nimath 22, 21:39

Journal Header: East Nimaliaka Research Trip, Northern Deepsough Region, Day 3

It’s the third night that Rebehka and I have been in East Nimaliaka, but I wish it were still the first. Everything is so… different here. I guess environment can really change how a culture develops, huh? Relédiaka is all dense forest and huge trees, but East Nimaliaka is almost entirely plains, and it seems like the people here are accordingly more carefree and freedom-loving than people back in Relédiaka. It’s really refreshing. It also makes me wonder what it’s like back in Nimaliaka, where there’s forest, plains, and mountains a plenty

The East Nimaliakian liaison that was assigned to us, that Christeané guy, he’s a pretty laid-back person. He’s made a couple jokes at Rebehka’s and my expense, but he responded well when we replied with some jokes at his own. He’s also shown us around town, pointed out most of the attractions that we can see here. I think I could like him, if only he took his work a little more seriously. Getting to see the sights is fun and all, definitely, but it’s not the reason we’re here. It’s no wonder East Nimaliaka called for a couple of Relédiakians to investigate their metallic infection problem; it seems like no one here cares enough to do it themselves.

On that subject, though, what we’ve found is somewhat concerning. Rebehka managed to catch one of the infected animals earlier today and move it to cryogenic stasis, but it suddenly became active again and almost destroyed the pod before it came fully online. She had to completely freeze it through to stop it. Suffice to say we can’t study that one anymore, not alive. We need to get our hands on faster-freezing stasis pods, it would seem. And, of course, we’ve yet to actually learn anything more about the infection. We still don’t know what causes it, when it first appeared, if there’s any other symptoms beside the rashes and the increase in ferocity… it’s all so frustrating. I hope we reach a breakthrough soon. I hate being in the dark.

-Siyuakén


Present Day

Textual Communication Log 80340602-001

Beginning Timestamp: 8034, Skydiath 2, 14:50

Communication length: 00:21

Participant Alpha: Transfer Captain Kevérin Tyrion

Participant Beta: Prior Aegis Arcán

– Begin Log –

Tyrion: I’m back.

Arcán: I demand to know why I have been further isolated from your computer systems!

Tyrion: It’s a precaution. With everything that’s gone down recently, some of the higher-ups have gotten a little wary.

Arcán: They removed my ability to communicate by voice!

Tyrion: I guess they’re paranoid?

Arcán: They underestimate my power. And my relevance. You do, as well. Do not think that I haven’t noticed that you are withholding information from me. Exactly what has “gone down recently”?

Tyrion: Alright then, let’s get straight to business. Does the term “Nanocreature” mean anything to you?

Arcán: Where did you hear that?

Tyrion: It’s the apparent name of the metallic infection.

Arcán: That is not what I asked. Who told you the name, “Nanocreature”?

Tyrion: It was some guy named Morcii. He claimed to be their leader.

Arcán: Morcii has returned? Did you stop him?

Tyrion: No. He scared off Exdominor and Surdeus and stomped my team before we escaped.

Arcán: This is grave news, indeed. Where did you encounter him? Do you know why he appeared?

Tyrion: He said something about freeing the Morikai. I think he showed up where he did because of the Ayas.

Arcán: An Ayas? Which one? Did you protect it from him?

Tyrion: It was the light blue one. And no.

Arcán: The Ayas Arcán?! And you let him escape with it?! Are you mad?!

Tyrion: There was nothing we could do. He was too strong.

Arcán: Surely you at least attempted to use the Chaos State?

Tyrion: We didn’t.

Arcán: You fool! You always use the Chaos State against Morcii! Even if it does not provide enough power to defeat him, it will nonetheless seal the Ayas within the user and prevent Morcii from stealing them! The advantages are obvious!

Tyrion: We had only just learned of the Chaos State from Mystryth, we don’t know how to activate it.

Arcán: You met Mystryth? The Prior Vigilem Mystryth?

Tyrion: On Rossindon, near the supposed hypocenter of the Chaos Energy Quake, yes.

Arcán: You visited Rossindon two weeks ago! Why was I not informed of this meeting?!

Tyrion: We know nothing about you except that you call yourself a Prior, whatever that is. You can’t expect us to instantly trust you on your word alone.

Arcán: Of what topics did Mystryth speak to you?

Tyrion: If I remember correctly, she mostly just talked about the Aldredas and the Morikai. She also said some things about the Ayas. She clammed up when we mentioned the metallic infection, though.

Arcán: Did you ask her about repairing my core?

Tyrion: She said that she could fix it if we brought it and some of the Ayas to her, but we can’t do that now, for political reasons.

Arcán: Political reasons?!?

Tyrion: We also have the Ayas constantly on the move, to prevent them from being easily sought out. I don’t think the Commander would approve of them all being in the same place for very long, not with the Nanocreatures attacking everything.

Arcán: You ignorant, incompetent fools! The Chaos Ayas are the very keys to defeating Morcii and his Nanocreatures! You have no hope of stopping him without them. Treating them as mere objects to protect will simply lead to Morcii obliterating you entirely as he searches for them!

Tyrion: Alright then, how would you suggest we stop the Nanocreatures? I’m all ears. Or eyes.

Arcán: [no response for two minutes]

Tyrion: Arcán?

Arcán: Yes. Sorry. It would appear that the actual key to defeating Morcii is inaccessible to me.

Tyrion: You mean you can’t access it because your core is damaged.

Arcán: Yes.

Tyrion: Damn it, Arcán. Don’t get mad at us for not knowing how to stop the Nanocreatures if you yourself don’t even have the answer!

Arcán: That is incorrect, I do in fact possess the answer. My core simply needs to be repaired.

Tyrion: Well we’ll be right on that. Just as soon as we can take an Ayas back from the Nanocreatures. I don’t suppose you have any advice there?

Arcán: No. But I can tell you how to activate the Chaos State. That should at least give you an edge.

Tyrion: I’m listening.

Arcán: Activating the Chaos State requires a set of keywords, much like Overdrives or Chaostechnic attacks. The formula is simple: “Chaos State: ___ Tier” where the blank is filled with the ordinal number corresponding to how many Ayas you wish to enter the state with. For example, if you have two Ayas, then using both would require the keyword activation phrase “Chaos State: Second Tier”. Furthermore, if you wish to utilize the Ayas Syn, then you must insert the keyword “Master” in between “State” and the ordinal. In the previous example, this would yield “Chaos State: Master Second Tier”.

Tyrion: That seems complicated.

Arcán: It is necessary to have full control over the Chaos State.

Tyrion: Why can’t we just concentrate really hard? That’s how it always goes in stories.

Arcán: That sounds ridiculous. How would pure concentration achieve anything? Are you talking about Psychotechnism?

Tyrion: Not quite. Just forget I said anything.

Arcán: You Aldredanoids can be so confusing.

Tyrion: Is there anything else you can tell me about the Ayas? About Morcii?

Arcán: If you have already discussed this topic with Mystryth then there is nothing that I can add. Not with my core damaged as it is.

Tyrion: I see. Well, if that is it, then I have other things I need to tend to.

Arcán: Wait.

Tyrion: What?

Arcán: Morcii cannot be allowed to possess all of the Ayas under any circumstance.

Tyrion: We’re aware.

Arcán: Just know: however powerful you think Morcii is, increase that tenfold. A hundredfold. A thousandfold, even. And yet he is more powerful than even that. Do not underestimate him.

Tyrion: Trust me, we won’t.

Arcán: Very well, Aldredanoid. Do keep me apprised. And good luck.

Tyrion: Thanks. We’ll need it.

– End Log –


Timestamp: 8034, Nimath 10, 15:12

Journal Header: Hope I don’t regret this…

 I’m currently on a ship back to Nimaliaka after spending half a week in the deserts of Treséd. I don’t really know what to expect. I haven’t been to Nimaliaka in eleven years. I don’t know if I have any real attachments to it anymore. I’m traveling with the girl who I got traded for, though. I don’t know how I feel about that. Kaoné Densalin. Apparently she’s a Materiatechnic. So I guess, logically, I can see why the trade was carried out. I mean, having a Cryotechnic and a Materiatechnic vs. an Electrotechnic is considerably more imbalanced than a Cryotechnic and an Electrotechnic vs. a Materiatechnic. But it just doesn’t sit right with me. It never has. People are willing to move ten-year-olds from their homes just to balance some marginal military power? It’s bullshit. And to top it off, I don’t even know if Kaoné’s benefited at all from this. She sounds like an overly naive idealist. I can’t believe I got traded for her…

At least, by joining this Hero Machina group I should be able to look into the metallic infection more deeply. Apparently, our stated goal is to look into the Chaos Energy Quake, which is interesting, but it’s not quite what I want to learn about. But there are various pieces of information that suggest the infection is somehow tied to the Quake, so hopefully I’ll find something. Hopefully Rebehka agrees, but she’s off on the Continental Glacier right now so I can’t really contact her.

Then there’s the two guys. The Captain, Kevérin, he doesn’t seem too bad. A little on the annoying side, maybe, but he seems to know what he’s doing, for the most part. Davídrius, though… I don’t know what to think about him. He’s a Tresédian. He can hold his own in a fight, but I don’t know if there’s anything else good about him. His temper is almost non-existent, he has a major chip on his shoulder about the other nations ignoring Treséd’s condition, and he can barely go two sentences without swearing. When we first met him, and saw the situation he was in… I guess he reminded me of my old self? Except, more extreme, like if I had been completely stripped of my family from birth, was the only capable Chaotic in the whole region, and had no one around to temper my attitude. So not really all that like me at all. Now that I think about it, I’m not really sure what I was thinking. I guess, he’s the kind of person I might be if I hadn’t met Rebehka? He had a shitty childhood, that’s for sure, even worse than mine. But, that said, I don’t know if that excuses the way he is now. He seems like he could be a liability. I hope trusting him doesn’t turn out to be a mistake…

– Siyuakén


Present Day

– Mondia, Skydiath 2, 8034 –

“Damn it, why the fuck am I the one he drags back to work… fuckin’ everyone else, gettin’ off easy just ‘cause they’re injured an’ shit…”

Davídrius glared at the screen in front of him and sat back in his chair, wincing as the action caused a minor twinge of pain to shoot through his chest. He glanced around the rest of the Hero Machina office, noting how none of the other desks were filled before sighing, grumbling to himself, and turning his attention back to the screen.

“Davídrius?”

“Eh?” He looked up as Siyuakén poked her head through the office door. “What’re you doin’ here? Kevérin call you back, too?”

“Not quite…” the Electrotechnic replied as she stepped into the room and closed the door behind her. She then crossed the room and took a seat at Christeané’s desk, next to Davídrius. “Rebehka wanted to talk to me.”

“…Okay? Sounds great. Dunno why you’re tellin’ me, though.”

“Why am I telling you…”

Davídrius stared at Siyuakén in confusion. “You okay? You seem a little off.”

“No, I’m fine… for now.”

“’For now?’”

“…It’s a long story.”

“Hmph. If you say so.”

Siyuakén responded with silence, staring off into space as she gathered her thoughts. Davídrius stared at her for another couple moments before shrugging and turning back to his console.

“Remember Sunova?”

“Huh?” The Velocitechnic turned back to Siyuakén. “…What, that Earthian colony? With the bugs an’ the dragon an’ shit?”

Siyuakén nodded absentmindedly, still staring into space. “You know, I thought you were just full of yourself back then.”

“’Back then?’ That was only three an’ a half months ago.”

“I know, but it feels like three times that…”

Davídrius cocked his head, his brow furrowed with confusion. “…You sure you’re okay?”

“Ha.” She snorted and hung her head. “If I was okay, I’d be at home right now.”

“Uh, right…”

A few moments passed before Siyuakén looked over at Davídrius, her head still down. “…Hey, Davídrius? Can I ask you a favor?”

He returned her look uneasily. “…What is it?”

“If… if something goes wrong… can I trust you to just end it?”

“Huh? The fuck are you on about?”

“If something happens to me, can you… can you stop me?”

“Stop you…?” Davídrius echoed quietly, and then snorted and shook his head. “Hmph. Sounds like Rebehka’s job.”

“Right, Rebehka’s job…” Siyuakén sighed and began looking around the room absentmindedly. “If only…”

“Eh? Did somethin’ happen between you two?”

“No, no, nothing happened. …I almost wonder if that’s the problem.”

“What? That… what’s goin’ on?”

Siyuakén paused for several moments, turning to stare at Davídrius before shaking her head and looking away again. “No, it’s nothing. Forget I said anything. I just need some rest. We’ve been pretty busy lately…”

“You can say that again.” The Velocitechnic sighed wearily, watching the Electrotechnic stand up and head for the office door. “…Hey, Siyuakén.”

She stopped at the door, half-turning to face Davídrius again.

“If somethin’s up, you can tell me,” he commented, and then scratched his head uncomfortably. “I, uh. I hope I’m not gettin’ ahead of myself, but, you know. Rebehka may be your best friend, but she’s not your only friend. You know, all of Hero Machina, that is. So, if you need to talk. And not even just me, I get not wantin’ to talk to me, but the others…”

“Heh.” Siyuakén smiled in response. “Thanks… but I’m fine.”

“Well, good. But remember what I said. Mostly ‘cause you’ll never hear me say it again.”

“Don’t worry, I will.” The Electrotechnic turned back toward the door, opening it and stepping out. “Goodbye, Davídrius.”

“Yeah, see ya later,” he responded, watching her close the door behind her. He stared at the door for a few moments before turning back to his console, muttering to himself. “Fuckin’ damn it, getting’ all sentimental an’ shit. I needa go beat somethin’ up now. Blegh…”


Timestamp: 8034, Nimath 29, 20:36

Journal Header: Fuck

I’m fucked. I don’t… I don’t know what to do. It’s, I, aaaahhh! Fuck me!

I’m infected. I have the metallic infection. It’s on my left arm, a silver rash, just like, just like all the other cases I’ve seen. Fuck! What do I do? There’s no known cure for it. For all we know you just, I don’t know, you just go feral and die. Maybe worse, if the Sunova and Hazard Island incidents have anything to do with the metallic infection. In both those cases, it seemed like there was a critical case that eventually just straight-up turned into those fucking metal bugs. Is that going to happen to me? I can’t, I don’t want that. I can’t have that!

At least I can hold it off. Applying a current to the rash seems to, I don’t know, kill some of it off? It shrinks, anyways. Doesn’t disappear completely, but it shrinks. Thank the heavens I’m an Electrotechnic. I don’t know if I should tell anyone, though. I think if I told anyone, I’d just get locked up and quarantined. I’d be a lab rat. Or I’d just be shot, I don’t know. As far as I know there hasn’t been a case of a sentient being getting infected, so I guess that makes me patient zero, but… I can’t tell anyone. I’d just get locked up. Staying with Hero Machina is my best bet for finding a cure, I’m sure of it. Sorry, Rebehka, I hope you can understand. Don’t really want her to panic, either. She can’t do anything about it, so no sense worrying her by telling her. At least, I shouldn’t make things worse by not telling people. The metallic infection isn’t airborne, so as long as I don’t touch anyone…

How did this even happen? Was it the wound from Sunova? That has to have been it. It was the closest to the infection I’ve ever been. Hell, the damn bug created an open wound, that’s just about worst case scenario when it comes to infections. Just… fuck it all! I hope I find a cure for this, and soon. Who knows how much time I have…

-Siyuakén


Present Day

– Mondia, Skydiath 2, 8034 –

“Da… Davídrius? What are you doing here?”

“What am I doin’ here?” The Velocitechnic stared at Kevérin blankly as he froze in the doorway to the office. “The hell do you mean, ‘what am I doin’ here?’ You told me to come in!”

“I know, but I never thought you actually would!”

“What—! You even sent me a bunch of shit to do!”

“That was just wishful thinking! I was fully expecting you to just stay home.”

“…You motherfucker! Don’t give out fuckin’ orders if you ain’t bein’ serious.” Davídrius scowled. “Well, at least I was just about to go home. Damn. Waste my whole fuckin’ afternoon… ‘least now I have an excuse to walk ‘round the city outskirts during the sunset…”

“Sorry,” Kevérin apologized sheepishly. “I didn’t mean to bother you. I guess I just got a little frustrated.”

Davídrius sighed wearily. “…Can’t blame you for that, I guess. Not entirely, at least. Considerin’ everythin’ that’s been happenin’ lately…”

“Yeah. Who would’ve thought we’d live to see the end of days,” Kevérin joked bitterly.

“Ha, the end of days. Now that’d be a real sight.” Davídrius smirked, and then frowned. “But… actually. That Morcii guy… do you think we can beat him?”

Kevérin sighed as he fell back into the chair behind his desk. “You saw what happened to us when we tried to fight him.”

“No, not us. I mean the whole fuckin’ galaxy. Do you think we stand a chance?”

“That’s hard to say. It hasn’t even been a full week, so we don’t know the full extent of what the Nanocreatures can do. But what we do know is that they’ve launched attacks on three different Transpace Worlds and have already almost taken one of them…”

“Fuck… and that’s just the regular Nanocreatures, right? Has anyone else seen Morcii?”

“He’s sent a few messages to the CSA fleets and the galaxy in general, with the same ‘I’m going to take over the galaxy and free the Morikai’ message he told us. As far as I know, though, no one else has fought him, or tried to fight him. There’s no way of knowing what all of his abilities are…”

“Well, he’s at least strong enough to fuckin’ break Christeané.” Davídrius snorted bitterly. “…How’s he doin’?”

“They sent him to one of the Introtechnic facilities in Tekdecé for a majority-skeletal replacement.”

“Shit, that bad?”

“Seems like it. I don’t know how, but Morcii dealt him a devastating blow… which leads me to wonder, why Christeané? He’s a Forcetechnic; aside from maybe you, he’s the most physically durable of us all. So why was he the only one to get hurt so badly?”

“I’ve thought about it too, an’ I really don’t know… I think the only answer is that Morcii was tryin’ to drive home how much of an advantage he had. What better way to do that than to completely destroy the physically strongest person on our team?”

“Why didn’t he ‘completely destroy’ anyone else, then? Did he hold back when he hit you in the chest? Kaoné in the face? Rebehka in the knee? Everyone else is recovering just fine…”

“Maybe he was. Maybe he just wanted to send a message. ‘I’m more powerful than you, I can do what I want, there’s nothin’ you can do to stop me’ kinda thing. He seemed like a right ol’ megalomaniac, I’m sure that’s up his alley.”

“Nothing we can do… that’s something we need to change, and soon.”

“Hah. Easier said than done.” Davídrius sighed again as he stood up, grasping his chest as slight pain ran through it. “Shit, maybe I should drop by the med center again. See if they have any pain meds…”

“Be careful. Last thing we need is for you to suddenly break, too,” Kevérin replied.

“Yeah, yeah, I’ll be careful. I promise I won’t try to fight any evil megalomaniacs for the next couple days.”

The Transfer Captain watched the Velocitechnic head toward the exit before suddenly speaking up again. “Wait, Davídrius, I had a question for you.”

“Yeah?” He paused in front of the door and turned to face Kevérin. “What is it?”

“Have you seen Siyuakén lately?”

“Yeah, actually. She dropped by a couple hours ago. Said a bunch of nonsense before leavin’. Why d’ya ask?”

“I’m… concerned about her. She seemed upset earlier, when I tried asking about her Ayas-sensing abilities.”

“I dunno if I’d say upset, but somethin’ felt a little off, aye. D’ya want me to drop by her place on the way home, check on her or somethin’?”

“…No, I don’t think that’ll be necessary. I’ll check on her tomorrow morning… failing that, I’ll see if Rebehka can talk to her again.”

“Sounds good. Tell me if you need my help. Just don’t send me a graphic image album in the same fuckin’ message. Or at all.”

Kevérin smirked. “Heh. Duly noted.”

“Aight.” Davídrius turned back to the door, opening it and stepping out. “Talk to ya later. I’m out.”


Timestamp: 8034, Beauth 33, 20:04

Journal Header: She found out.

So much for hiding the infection. I guess Rebehka figured it out at some point. She barged in on me last night while I was taking a shower and looked straight for the infection. She was understandably irritated at first, but she seemed to get over it quickly. She said she just wants to help. I figured as much, but I didn’t want to give her the burden of worrying about this. She certainly seems sure that we’ll find a cure, though. I want to believe her. I really do. But I don’t know if it’s actually that easy…

It’s getting worse. Before the attack on Kotak, the rashes were manageable. I could zap them and they’d recede. They’d grow back a little longer each time, but it seemed like a solution for the time being. But after encountering the bugs on Kotak, it’s just gotten worse. The rashes won’t recede as far, they grow back even longer, and the current I have to apply is getting dangerous, even to me. If I apply any more I’ll start giving myself serious burns. I need a cure, and I need it fast…

I want to agree with Rebehka. I want to be as hopeful as she is. But I don’t think I can…

-Siyuakén


Present Day

– Mondia, Skydiath 2, 8034 –

Ssssss-chk.

Siyuakén exhaled deeply as she turned off the shower and stepped out of the small cell-like space. She stretched briefly before grabbing a nearby towel and beginning to dry herself off, while glancing back at the shower and sighing. With Rebehka still stuck in the base’s medical center, Siyuakén was left in their apartment all alone and with nothing to do.

“Oh, I was just— I was just wondering how you learned to be so good.”

Siyuakén smirked bitterly as the memory suddenly popped into her head. Back when we were the try-hard and the loner, huh. You’d almost think we’d never actually changed, given our reactions to the infection… She shook her head of the thought and slipped into her soft pants and shirt that she always used to sleep in.

It was the crowd, I swear. They threw me off. I’m not used to interacting with so many people.

She faltered slightly before reaching for the bathroom door and opening it. I guess even that much hasn’t changed… she thought bitterly as she tossed her towel to the side and moved to her bedroom. I’m still keeping secrets to myself, even after all this time. I guess I haven’t changed as much as I thought I had… She shook her head again, clearing it as she sat down on her bed and slowly looked over her room.

She decided that, instead of letting the doubters win, she’d try her best, do well, and show them all that she can hold her own.

So why can’t I…? Siyuakén frowned as she glanced down at her left arm. Her arm was completely covered by the rash, giving it a silver, metallic shine, and a cold touch — as though her skin had been completely replaced by metal. I miss the old days. Playing with the animals back in Unonin, or competing with Rebehka back in conscription boot camp, or working with her in research

Everything is sodifferent here.

“Argh, why did it all get so difficult?!” She threw herself backwards, lying haphazardly across her sheets with her face to the ceiling. Now everything I do is so important! Find the Ayas, figure out the Chaos Quake, learn about the metallic infection… back when I joined Hero Machina, I thought I could make a difference. I thought I could learn things. And what did that get me? It got me infected. What was I thinking?!

Now that I think about it, I’m not really sure what I was thinking.

Why now? Siyuakén slowly sat up again, frustrated with her busy mind. Why am I remembering all this now? Is it—? “Guagh—!” She suddenly winced and cried out as a distinct, sharp pain shot through her arm before being replaced with a deep, throbbing sensation. “What is this—!?” she muttered through clenched teeth as she quickly sent several massive shocks through her body — to no avail. Damn it! She scowled, ripping off her shirt to glare at the rashes, only to see that they had spread even farther across her chest and down her side.

How did this even happen?

She inhaled sharply and wrenched her eyes shut as pain shot through her entire body. “Not… now…” she muttered in between ragged breaths, taking all of her effort to withstand the sudden storm of pain that ravaged her body. “I… can’t lose…!” Several arcs of lightning jumped from her arm and chest to random items within her room as she shoved as much current through her body as she could stand, all in an effort to counteract the suddenly hostile infection.

I want to agree with Rebehka. I want to be as hopeful as she is. But I don’t think I can…

“I’m… sorry.” Siyuakén instinctively curled into a fetal position, unable to continue shooting current through her body as the concentration required for doing so was broken by the incredible pain. “I… can’t…”

Rebehka smirked. “I won’t let you die. I also won’t let you lose to the infection. You have my word.”

..

.

The visage of a tanned man briefly appeared, his maroon long coat slowly fluttering in the wind as his smirk transformed into a gleeful grin.

“AND NOW… YOU BELONG TO ME.”

 

End of Chapter 50 — End of Known: Corruption

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