Rebehka sighed as she casually leaned on the guardrail in front of her, a cool breeze brushing her hair to the side as she looked out over the sprawling expanse of Nimaliaka Central, the capital city of Nimaliaka. The medical center was the tallest building on the base — which itself was built high into the cliffs and mountains to the west of Nimaliaka Central — so the view from the roof of the medical center extended for tens of kilometers in every direction. The night was young, but still dark enough to obscure Rebehka’s vision of the city docks to the east or any other significant landmarks — except for the Interstellar Gateport Facility, which was cozily built into a narrow valley to the south a mere twenty kilometers away. The Gateport was easily the busiest and most highly utilized structure in all of Nimaliaka; all of the traffic through Nimalia’s Interstellar Gate had to go through the Gateport, after all. The complex was built like a fortress and lit like the day at all times, and even had its own military regiment stationed on-site as security.
Rebehka’s eyes lingered on the Gateport for some time before tracing a web of steel tracks from the Gateport to a train yard in the distant north. Thanks to CSA standardization of Interstellar Gate Network travel, every Interstellar Gate on a Tier 3 or greater world was meticulously anchored to the ground around a pair of railway tracks of standardized width, allowing for two sets of trains — one incoming, one outgoing — to travel through an active Gate. The CSA had, for all intents and purposes, created an interstellar railway network, all for the purpose of increasing the amount of freight and passengers that could be shuffled through the two-hour stable window of an open Interstellar Gate connection.
As the Cryotechnic slowly panned her eyes across the city, the lights of the Gateport and the railways began to fade from her attention. The sights of Nimaliaka Central were not new to her; she had been stationed there for over three months. Her mind was occupied with other thoughts; between the memory of Hero Machina’s defeat at the hands of Morcii, the pain from her injured knee, and thoughts of her best friend’s struggle with the metallic infection — now known as corruption on the behalf of the Nanocreatures — Rebehka had lost much of her optimistic outlook that initially inspired her to join Hero Machina. Before, she was simply investigating the metallic infection, looking for clues on the Chaos Energy Quake, or hunting down the Chaos Ayas. But now?
“Now we have a galactic war on our hands…” she muttered wearily. How are we supposed to defeat the Nanocreatures? Is outgunning them even an option? And if it is, then why is the CSA doing so terribly against them? Her expression deepened further into a frown. If I’m to understand the Relaynet correctly, two independent CSA fleets of three thousand ships each have already gone down while defending Bouy’Xis alone. How are we supposed to stand up to that? She wearily turned her gaze to the north, the direction toward the apartment she shared with Siyuakén. I wonder how she’s doing… she didn’t sound too well this afternoon, but hopefully she’ll be doing better tomorrow…
Rebehka sighed again before pulling away from the guardrail and standing up straight. She yawned and stretched, prepared to return to her bed in the medical center for a night’s sleep — until she opened her eyes and realized that the entire city had been plunged into darkness. “What?!” she exclaimed, immediately stepping back up to the guardrail and quickly sweeping her eyes across the cityscape. The entire valley had transformed into a pool of blackness; the only lights she could make out were the ones from the Gateport facility and the base on which she stood.
“…Command: connect to Hero Machina channel,” she muttered, and then paused for a moment as her glasses processed and executed the command. “Hello? Is anyone there?”
“…Yeah, I’m here,” Kevérin responded after several seconds of communications silence. “Let me guess, this is about the city-wide blackout?”
“Yeah,” Rebehka replied, “have you seen it, too?”
“I haven’t seen it, but I noticed the chatter on the command channels increase significantly.”
“Yeah, the comm channels for the commanders of the units stationed here in Nimaliaka Central. Good thing I haven’t left the base yet, or I wouldn’t be able to connect.”
“You have access to that?”
“Well, yeah. I am the Commanding Officer of Hero Machina. You haven’t forgotten, have you?”
“…What are they saying?”
“You forgot, didn’t you.”
“Just tell me what’s going on, Kevérin.”
“That’s ‘please tell me what’s going on, sir.’”
“Alright, alright. Hmm… sounds like… someone disabled the region’s power plant.”
“They what? How’s that possible?”
“I don’t know, I’m just relaying what I’m hearing… whatever happened, it almost took out the Gateport’s backup generator. The Gateport’s going into full lockdown… but they can’t shut down the Gate itself. Ironically, the fail safes are preventing them from reaching the Gate and manually disconnecting. Ha.”
“This isn’t a laughing matter, Kevérin.”
“It’ll be fine. The Gate’s block was initiated as part of the lockdown. Nothing can come through. We just need to fix things on our side…”
“Damn right we needa fix things.”
“Davídrius?” Rebehka questioned, momentarily surprised by the new voice on the channel. “Where are you?”
“I’d say I was home,” the Velocitechnic replied irately, “but it’s so damn dark that I couldn’t say for sure. Everything’s gone dark. What the fuck happened? Even my compound back in Treséd didn’t get blackouts. Well, not unless I forgot to fuel the damn generator, but there’s no way that’d be an issue here. Right?”
“I hope that’s all it is…” Kevérin muttered.
“Do you know how long this will take to fix?” Rebehka questioned.
“Not really,” the Transfer Captain responded, “I’m somewhat familiar with Tekdecénian reactor design, which should be what the Nimaliakians have based their own reactors on, but I’m not really qualified to say. Hmm… wait, Siyuakén’s an Electrotechnic. She would’ve been trained in reactor and power grid setups.”
“Relédiakian ones, sure. I’m not sure about Nimaliakian reactors, though…”
“She likely knows more than we do, at least. There aren’t many Electrotechnics stationed here in Nimaliaka Central anyways, not with the doomsday trifecta of the Riaxen scare, Drakkar attacks, and Nanocreature invasion… we should get in touch with her.”
“She doesn’t have AR glasses, though. She always fries them. She’s probably asleep now, anyway…”
“I knew it was gonna come to this. You want me to go check on Siyuakén, don’t you?”
“Can you? She might be able to figure out what caused the blackout, or at least help fix it.”
“Oi, oi, oi. Alright, don’t worry. I’m on it.”
“Thanks. Now, Rebehka, where are you? Aren’t you supposed to be confined to the med center?”
“I’m on the roof.”
“You’re on the roof?”
“Look, I wanted some space to think, okay? You don’t really have much of that in the building itself.”
“Well, whatever. I’m coming up there. I kinda want to see blackout Nimaliaka Central myself.”
“Kevérin, this is serious.”
“I know, I know… but, might as well get some cool pics out of it, right?”
Rebehka’s only response was an irritated sigh as she continued to stare down at the city bathed in darkness below.
Davídrius cautiously leaped from rooftop to rooftop, attempting to find his way through the darkness with a small flashlight. The little light was too weak to be truly useful, however, forcing Velocitechnic to navigate the city primarily using the GPS built into his glasses.
“’Course this all has to be during the new moon,” he grumbled as he jumped from a five-story roof to the ground below, hitting the pavement with a roll before leaping back to his feet and dashing off. “I hate trustin’ the GPS like this. It’s a visual aid, not a replacer…”
He continued to run through the back streets, stopping only when he came across a major thoroughfare. The road was backed up with vehicles and the air was filled with the shouts and complaints of confused and irritated citizens; Davídrius quickly backed down the alleyway and wall-jumped up to the rooftops, where he continued to make his way toward Siyuakén’s apartment.
About a minute later, he finally arrived at the housing complex where he jumped down to ground level and then slowed to a stop. The entrance to the complex had been barricaded and several police officers and soldiers were inspecting the floodlight-lit grounds — the grounds that had been burnt black in several different locations.
“The fuck happened here?” Davídrius questioned, turning toward the nearest soldier.
“This area is off-limits,” the soldier replied as he approached the Velocitechnic menacingly. “Civilians should stay away.”
“Civilians? Tch.” Davídrius scowled. “I ain’t a civilian, I’m a Lieutenant. I’m with the military. NSD.”
“You are?…” The soldier paused for a moment, turning his flashlight toward the Tresédian to get a better look at his face. Davídrius crossed his arms and tapped his foot impatiently as the soldier’s glasses lit up, scanning the Velocitechnic. “Oh… I apologize,” he commented moments later, “I didn’t realize—”
“Yeah yeah, whatever.” Davídrius waved him off. “Now what happened here? What’s with all the burns? Somethin’ explode?”
“No, sir. These are electrical burns.”
“Electrical burns? But this is concrete! Metal an’ concrete!”
“Don’t ask me, that’s just what the forensic investigators concluded.”
“…Shit.” Davídrius’s scowl deepened as he replaced his flashlight with one of the stronger flashlights laying around and started off towards the complex.
“Wait, sir! It’s even worse in there—!”
The Velocitechnic had left before he could hear the entire warning, navigating the tight walkways to Rebehka and Siyuakén’s apartment building. Upon reaching it, he glanced up and whistled in awe — the entire front face of the twenty-story building had been blown off. A moment later he realized what that could mean for the residents.
“Shit, Siyuakén—!” He immediately leaped up the side of the building, easily clearing ten stories in the first leap and jumping between the debris to climb higher up to the fifteenth floor. He alighted in an exposed hallway before quickly rushing down it, stopping in front of apartment 1504 — the only apartment lacking a door.
“Siyuakén!” He shouted as he barged in to search the apartment — only to find the entire place empty and completely wrecked. The furniture was shredded, the living room window overlooking the rest of the complex was blown out, doors were ajar, kitchenware was embedded into the living room wall —
“Wait a minute…” Davídrius squinted as he directed his flashlight at the wall next to the kitchenware. He paused for a moment and then scowled again as he processed the message sloppily scrawled into the wall with burn marks:
Sunova scratch — STOP ME
“Damn it, Siyuakén!” He immediately leaped out the broken window to the ground below, rolling on the landing, and immediately taking off at supersonic speeds. “Don’t tell me this is what you meant…!”
“This really is quite the sight.”
“Relax.” The Pyrotechnic glanced toward Rebehka. “It’s just a blackout. It’ll get taken care of.”
Rebehka frowned. “I don’t know… I have a bad feeling about this.”
“Even so, there’s nothing we can do about it.” Kevérin shrugged. “All we can do is sit tight, and wait for Davídrius to get in touch with Siyuakén.”
“Look, as long as the Gateport is online, there’s nothing to be afraid of. If this was some sort of attack, then they would’ve targeted this base, or any of the anti-orbital cannons to the north and west.”
“As long as the Gateport is online, huh?” Rebehka echoed as she stared out at the massive facility — just as it went dark. “…You mean, like it isn’t right now?”
“Well… shit,” Kevérin replied tensely, his grip on the guardrail tightening in apprehension. “That’s not a good sign.”
“We should still be fine, though… the Gate’s block was activated the moment the blackout occurred. Nothing’s coming or going through it.”
“Just… keep an eye on the command channels. I don’t like this at all…”
“You aren’t the only one,” Kevérin muttered, “but don’t get too worked up. If anything happens, you won’t be part of it. Not with that knee.”
Rebehka glanced down at her left knee, encased in a robotic cast, before looking up at the city again.
“Wait… something else is happening…”
“What is it?” The Cryotechnic glanced toward Kevérin.
“Apparently…” the Transfer Captain responded slowly, his attention half-focused on the information coming in over the command channels, “one of the Gate Trains just… activated. All on its own.”
“No one’s heard anything from the Train Yard, just… one of the trains turned on and started moving. The rails are switching themselves to put it on the mainline… sounds like its headed straight for the Gateport.”
“What…?” Rebehka stared at Kevérin in confusion. “Did someone orchestrate all this… just so they could hijack a Gate Train?”
“Well, whoever it is, or whatever their plan, it won’t work. The Gateport’s locked down. That Train should derail long before it comes close to the Gate. Even if it somehow does get through the Gate, it’ll derail on the other side. The planet we’re connected to doesn’t have its own rails.”
“What’s goin’ on?”
“Davídrius?” Rebehka perked up, immediately staring out at the city toward her apartment. “How’s Siyuakén?”
“Yeah, about that…”
“What happened?” Kevérin questioned.
“I dropped by the apartment complex, and the whole place was covered in electrical burns. Like there had been some sort of massive lightnin’ storm or some shit. And, uh, Rebehka, your building was practically demolished. I checked your apartment, but Siyuakén wasn’t there.”
“What…?” Kevérin scowled. “What happened? Does Siyuakén have anything to do with this…? Wait, Rebehka—!” He reached out as the Cryotechnic suddenly leaped from the rooftop, catching herself with a levitating patch of ice and then skating off toward the rail lines that led to the Gateport. “Damn it, Rebehka!!”
“What happened? What’s goin’ on?”
“I don’t know. Rebehka just suddenly left for the Gateport…”
“Shit… so this is really it, then…”
“Davídrius? Do you know what’s going on?”
“Sorry, no time to talk! I’ll explain everythin’ afterward. Hopefully, I’m wrong…”
“Wha, what? No, Davídrius—! …Damn!” Kevérin scowled as he found himself the only one still on the Hero Machina channel. He leaned against the guardrail again and stared out over the dark city. “What the hell is going on…?”
Gate Train F-616 began to accelerate even further, having reached the main line several minutes ago. After checking that everything was in order, Siyuakén slammed the driving lever with enough force to jam it into place before disabling the dead man’s switch circuit and turning to open the cabin window. With a single, swift motion she jumped out the window, grabbing the top bar to swing around and onto the top of the engine cabin. She paused for a moment to demolish two derailing devices with incredible electric shocks before crouching down on top of the train, where she anchored herself with the metallic claws on her left hand and stared down the rail line at the distant Gateport.
The Electrotechnic slowly turned around as Rebehka jumped down from the sky, landing with a roll on one of the cars behind the engine. She winced as pain shot through her knee, but she quickly put it out of mind and turned to look Siyuakén in the eye.
“What are you doing?” the Cryotechnic shouted over the winds generated by the fast-moving train, “Siyuakén, what’s wrong—?!”
She was interrupted as Siyuakén launched a lightning strike in her direction, nailing her shoulder and blowing her backwards. She almost tumbled off of the train car but caught herself with ice and quickly righted herself while fashioning full-body armor out of ice.
“Siyuakén, what are you doing?!” Rebehka exclaimed as she slowly approached the engine, “you can tell me! Is it the infection? Siyuakén—!”
The Electrotechnic’s only response was to dash towards her, generating several more lightning strikes in the process. Rebehka quickly shielded against all of them with multiple shields of ice; she had sparred with Siyuakén before, and knew how to block her attacks. But apprehension set in as Rebehka realized that, while she had succeeded in blocking the attacks, her ice shields hadn’t merely been shattered — they had been completely vaporized. When did she get so powerful?! Immediately, Rebehka jumped forwards, thickening her ice armor before freezing the air around Siyuakén’s legs and arms, immobilizing her. The Electrotechnic shivered and began to struggle as Rebehka slowly approached.
“What’s going on?” the Cryotechnic questioned, and then gestured at the dark buildings that the train was barreling past. “…Did you do this?”
Siyuakén ceased struggling, but did not respond to Rebehka’s inquiry.
“Siyuakén, answer me!”
Rebehka squinted and then leaned forward in an attempt to hear more clearly. “What?”
“Stop… me!” Siyuakén exclaimed through clenched teeth, running such a massive current through her body and the train that her ice bonds melted. Rebehka quickly crossed her arms in front of her to guard against Siyuakén’s subsequent lightning strike, though it struck with enough power to knock her off her feet and send her flying backwards. She landed on the top of the train six cars back from the engine, her ice armor cracking from the impact before she could scramble back to her feet — just in time for Siyuakén to send more current down the body of the train cars, disengaging the couplings. Rebehka quickly sprinted forwards, vaulting over the gaps in the cars in an attempt to close the distance between her and Siyuakén and try to immobilize her again, but just before she could reach the engine she froze in place, eyes fixated on Siyuakén’s body. She was now close enough to clearly make out Siyuakén’s body — close enough to tell that the corruption was no longer limited to just her arm.
It covered over half her body.
Half of her face, her entire left arm, both shoulders, her whole chest, and then down the left side of her torso to her hips, where the rest of the metallic rashes were covered up by the ragged pants attached to her waist that had somehow managed to avoid disintegration under the massive currents Siyuakén was employing.
Rebehka faltered, startled by the realization of the true scope of Siyuakén’s infection. She then braced herself, prepared to take another lightning strike due to her momentary lapse in judgment — only to feel no such pain. She slowly looked up at Siyuakén, who had abandoned the accelerating engine and was standing over the Cryotechnic with her palm outstretched, though quivering uncontrollably. “Siyuakén…?”
“P…please…” the Electrotechnic’s eyes were squeezed shut, tears running down her non-corrupted cheek. “Stop… me—!”
Before Rebehka could respond to the comment, Siyuakén’s shoulder was suddenly blown apart, completely severing her left arm from her body and flinging her off the top of the train.
“SIYUAKÉN—!” the Cryotechnic quickly jumped to her feet and rushed to the edge of the train car just as the entire rail well flashed with light. Rebehka reflexively covered her eyes; by the time she had opened them, Siyuakén had somehow reattached her arm to her shoulder as well as developed a version of her swinging gear on her corrupted forearm, which she used to catch the ever-accelerating engine and drag herself back to its top.
I’m going to lose her! Rebehka looked around frantically; the car she was on was constantly slowing down, and the engine was still accelerating. There was no way she could cross the growing distance between the two before the engine reached the Gateport. Wait, when is that—? She looked up, searching the sides of the tracks right as the car rolled past the one kilometer marker. That close? Then that means—!
A distant explosion interrupted her thoughts — the Gateport wall lit up so brilliantly that Rebehka could spot the engine from a kilometer away as it somehow survived the security explosives and smashed into the Gateport train entrance. The Cryotechnic immediately jumped into the air, freezing an ice path toward the entrance as she quickly skated along it. Siyuakén! Please… wait for me!
10 Minutes Later
The Electrotechnic faltered, pausing mere meters from the Interstellar Gate itself. The pause was all Rebehka needed; she immediately blanketed the entire area in ice, freezing Siyuakén in place and covering the Gate’s control panel with a solid chunk of ice.
“What… are you… doing?!” the Electrotechnic growled, seeming to struggle with her words.
“I was always faster than you on foot,” Rebehka replied. “I knew I could catch you once you had to abandon the train. But that was three layers of security that you broke through! What do you think you’re doing? Stop this!”
“You don’t… think… I’m trying?!” Siyuakén responded through clenched teeth, her frustration manifesting in stray electrical strikes in the surrounding environment. “I’ve… lost! You have… to stop me!”
“I am! I’m trying! But I can’t do this without your help, you need to focus—!”
“No! You— …don’t… under… stand…!” The Electrotechnic grasped her head in her hands, her eyes clenched shut in pain. “Stop… means… kill!”
“But I can’t—!” Rebehka stopped as Siyuakén stretched her left palm toward her, the entire length of her left arm sparkling with charged energy.
“I can’t… control myself! Damn it— Rebehka!” The Electrotechnic collapsed to her knees, her left arm still stretched toward her friend. “Kill me! Before… …before I… kill you…!”
“I don’t need to kill you to stop you!” Rebehka responded, quickly moving to encase Siyuakén entirely in ice — only for no ice to manifest. “…Wait… no, a CENT field?!”
Immediately, Siyuakén discharged the energy in her left arm through a massive electrical blast that shattered the ice all around her. She then turned toward the Gate and sent out several electrical pulses that destroyed the ice around the Gate’s controls and then disabled the travel block. Before Rebehka could say anything more to her, she had disappeared through the Gate’s event horizon.
“No!” Rebehka stumbled toward the Gate before pausing momentarily. Wait— she—! I have to go after her! But— where is the Gate connected to? Where did she go? Will we be able to come back? Even if we do, unauthorized use of the Gate is punishable by—! Oh, what am I saying?! I know exactly what to do! The Cryotechnic took a deep breath and then bolted forward, crossing the Gate’s event horizon mere moments before several security teams burst into the large yard around the Gate.
I have to save Siyuakén!