3 Days Later
– Windia, Skydiath 5, 8034 –
“Oh, Kaoné, Kevken…”
“Hey, Kevérin.” Kievkenalis casually glanced toward the Transfer Captain as he entered the Hero Machina Office with a sullen look on his face. “Is something wrong?”
“No…” Kevérin replied, and then sighed wearily as he trudged over to his desk. “…Yes,” he corrected himself, “yes, something’s wrong.” Kaoné and Kievkenalis looked back at him and then to where he was gesturing: the four empty office desks belonging to the other members of Hero Machina.
The Pyrotechnic crossed his arms as the two other Chaotics turned back to face him. “That’s what’s wrong,” he muttered sullenly, “not even a week after the Nanocreatures show up and we’re already starting to fall apart…”
Kaoné frowned uneasily. “That’s not true…”
“Siyuakén… KIA. Christeané, medical leave. Rebehka, detained until further notice. Davídrius, military leave,” Kevérin replied flatly, though his furrowed brow betrayed his emotionless tone. “I don’t… I don’t know what to do. The Nanocreatures are just too much. With just the three of us — what are we supposed to do? Not even a week after the Nanocreatures show up, and they’ve already disabled half our squad, directly or indirectly. And that’s just us! Bouy’Xis fell almost three days ago, did you know? A Transpace World, lost in just four days. If the Nanocreatures keep this up, the CSA will lose control of all their Transpaces in just a month and a half, and that’s assuming that the Nanocreatures only attack one world at a time! Which they don’t, because two more Transpace Worlds are also under attack right now, and are bound to be lost within the week! What are we supposed to do against that kind of power?!”
“Well, brooding sure won’t get you anywhere.”
“Huh?” Kevérin looked up at the entrance to the office, which had just opened to allow two individuals dressed in RPF uniforms to enter.
“…Vélunis! Wilkas!” Kievkenalis exclaimed, his expression one of both confusion and happiness.
“…Wait…” Kevérin squinted at the two newcomers, who shut the door behind them and casually approached to stand next to Kievkenalis’s desk. “…We’ve met, haven’t we?”
“Don’t even remember us, huh?” Wilkas crossed his arms. “It was, uh, some SFC raid, I think.”
“The raid on Kotak,” Kievkenalis answered.
“Yeah, sounds about right.”
“Well it’s great to see you guys again, but what brings you here?”
“…You don’t know?” Vélunis glanced between Kievkenalis and Kevérin incredulously. “Just when I thought there was some level of competence in this whole organization…”
“In case you haven’t noticed, things have been pretty damn busy lately,” Kevérin replied impatiently. “These past few days haven’t exactly been pleasant for us either, you know. We’re down to three people from a formerly seven-person squad for who knows how long. So please, tell us why you decided to grace us with your presence so we can get back to work figuring out how to stop the entire galaxy from getting destroyed.”
“Like we haven’t heard about the fall of Bouy’Xis either,” Vélunis replied flatly, unfazed by Kevérin’s thinly-veiled irritation. “That’s why we’re here, actually — about you being down to three people. Some of the higher-ups apparently decided we’d be better off helping you than doing hell-knows-what on whatever planet the CSA’s going to lose next.”
Kevérin paused momentarily to process Vélunis’s claim. “Wait… are you saying you’re here to join Hero Machina?”
“Well, I mean, unless you want us to suck your dick or some shit, I don’t know what else ‘helping you’ is supposed to mean.”
The Pyrotechnic scowled. “Did Nikéyin send you here?”
“She’s the NSD Commander, right?” Wilkas shrugged. “That qualifies as ‘higher-ups’ then.”
“…I can’t have this. I won’t have this. Hero Machina is an already-established squad; we don’t need any new members. Recruitment wrapped up months ago.”
“Kevérin…” Kaoné replied with a frown, “you can’t just reject them…”
“And why not?” The Transfer Captain bristled. “You know what this is, right? This is basically the Commander telling us ‘hey, don’t get your hopes up about seeing your friends again. Here’s some replacements.’” He glanced back to Vélunis and Wilkas. “No offense, and nothing personal, but we can’t take this right now.”
“You sure about that?” Vélunis replied incredulously, “we were there for the blackout, you know. In fact, if it weren’t for your Cryotechnic friend being in the way, I could’ve taken out that berserk chick and saved two of your ‘friends’ from getting thrown in the brig for unauthorized off-world travel.”
“Huh?… Wait…” Kevérin squinted again, taking a moment to think back to the short report he had read on the blackout incident. “…Are you saying it was you who managed to shoot Siyuakén’s arm off?”
“’Managed?’ That was a damn good shot, man. I was a whole kilometer away.”
“How is the fact that you fired on one of my friends supposed to get you on my good side?”
“Because, unlike your ‘friends,’ we can actually do what we set out to do.”
“…You’re treading on real thin ice, buddy.”
“Well, he’s not entirely wrong,” Kievkenalis spoke up, standing and moving to place himself in between Kevérin and Vélunis. “If Rebehka or Siyuakén had told us about the corruption before, then we might’ve been able to do something about it, instead of… well… instead of what happened.”
The Transfer Captain glared at Kievkenalis before tearing his gaze away and sighing wearily. “Fine. Fine… you have a point. I guess we could use your help.” He then turned back to face the two newcomers. “But only if you stop insulting our friends.”
“…Whatever, sure.” Vélunis casually shrugged in response.
Kevérin’s eyes narrowed at the response, but he didn’t directly address it. Instead he moved around to the front of his desk and leaned back on it, his arms crossed. “Alright, then. Let’s have a formal introduction, if you’re really going to join Hero Machina.”
“I dunno, I’m starting to have second thoughts.”
“C’mon, guys,” Kievkenalis urged, “it’ll be fun—!”
The Chaostechnic stopped himself as everyone in the room turned to stare at him blankly.
“…I mean, well…” he continued uneasily, “you know… fighting Nanocreatures… defending planets… finding Ayas… that’s fun, right?…”
“…So are you in or not?” Kevérin questioned flatly, ignoring Kievkenalis as he turned back to Vélunis and Wilkas. The two glanced at each other and shrugged.
“Sure,” Wilkas spoke for the both of them.
The Pyrotechnic nodded. “Alright. Well, I’m Transfer Captain Kevérin Tyrion, and I’m the Commanding Officer of Hero Machina, so you’ll be taking orders from me, got it?”
“Sure thing, Cap’n.”
Kevérin sighed impatiently before continuing, “anyways. We’re all Chaotics, here. I’m a Pyrotechnic. Kaoné there is a Materiatechnic. I assume you already know that Kevken is a Chaostechnic…”
“’Kevken?’” Vélunis echoed with an amused snort before glancing over at the Chaostechnic. “Everyone calls you that here, too, huh?”
“Seems like it.” Kievkenalis shrugged. “I don’t mind, though.”
“Nicknames aside,” Kevérin interjected, “I assume the both of you are Chaotics? What types?”
“Forcetechnic,” Wilkas declared as he flexed proudly, though his attempt at showing off his muscles was ruined by the thick jacket that covered them.
“I’m actually a double type,” Vélunis answered nonchalantly, “Sub-Mach Velocitechnic, and Weapons-Specialist Formtechnic.”
“Really?” Kevérin whistled in awe. “That’s actually pretty impressive. A Weapons-Specialist Formtechnic, huh? That means you can create weapons out of thin air, right?”
“Hey, I’m pretty powerful too,” Wilkas interjected, “I can lift a couple thousand kilograms, you know. At least.”
“So can Christeané,” Kevérin replied flatly, and then continued, ignoring Wilkas’s scowl. “If you don’t mind me asking, how old are you guys?”
“Same age as you,” Vélunis responded, “21.”
“21…?” Kevérin frowned as he did some quick mental math. “…So you were born in 8012?”
“Oh boy, here we go…”
“No, 8013,” Wilkas corrected as Vélunis glanced away impatiently.
“Huh? But… that means you were born during the Chaos Quake,” Kevérin replied in confusion.
“…But you’re Chaotics.”
“But only seven Chaotics were born during the Quake…”
“On Nimalia, yeah.”
Kevérin blinked, staring at the two Chaotics blankly until realization dawned on his features. “Oh, neither of you were born on Nimalia?”
Wilkas shook his head. “Nope.”
“I’m from Chiníka,” Vélunis replied. “Wilkas is from Shekafte.”
“Tier 3 and 4 Worlds, huh?” Kevérin crossed his arms. “Were you guys the only Chaotics born on those planets during the Quake, then?”
“Wait, what?” Kaoné spoke up, her brow furrowed in confusion. “You mean… we weren’t the only ones born during the Quake?”
“No, of course not.” Kevérin passed the Materiatechnic an incredulous glance. “You should know that. Almost every Tier 1 World had between five and ten Chaotics born during the Quake. There’s at least hundreds, maybe thousands of us ‘Quakeborn’ Chaotics out in the galaxy, you know. We aren’t even the only Chaotic squad to consist entirely of Chaotics born during the Quake — the CSA has a whole program for them.”
“Aw…” The Materiatechnic pouted. “And I thought we were special…”
“We still are, just not that special,” Kievkenalis remarked.
“I’d certainly say that you all are very special,” Vélunis quipped.
“Right,” Kevérin responded flatly, unamused by the jab. “Anyways… welcome to Hero Machina, I suppose. I don’t know what to do about desk space for you guys, but, uh, I can ask the Commander and we’ll figure something out.” Almost as soon as the Transfer Captain finished his statement, his glasses lit up with a notification indicating a new message from Nikéyin. “Well, speak of the devil.”
“What is it?” Kaoné questioned.
“A message from the Commander…” Kevérin quickly read through the message and then relayed its contents. “She wants us all to meet in the briefing room in ten minutes… I wonder what this is about.”
“Oh man, we got here just in time for a mission. Yay,” Vélunis deadpanned.
“Don’t be upset, this could be important.” The Transfer Captain pushed his way between the two Chaotics as he made his way toward the door. “C’mon, guys. Let’s go see what the Commander has for us.”
“Good, you’re all here.”
Kevérin quickly stood as Nikéyin rushed into the briefing room, giving the Transfer Captain a brief nod before taking her seat at the head of the table.
“What’s the rush?” Kaoné questioned uneasily.
“Organizing fleets, planning defenses, trying to hold everyone together while the Nanocreatures are out there raising hell,” the Commander responded with a sigh. She rubbed her cheeks tiredly, drawing Kevérin’s attention to the bags under her eyes.
“Uh, Commander…” He frowned. “When was the last time you slept…?”
“Don’t talk about sleep. I don’t have time for sleep. You’ll just make me remember that I need it.” Nikéyin shook her head and cracked her knuckles before leaning forwards, her elbows on the table. “Anyways, to business. I’m sorry I couldn’t tell you about Lieutenants Húnon and Icard before they arrived, Tyrion. I’ve been busy with… more pressing matters.”
“No, it’s… fine.” Kevérin glanced over at the two newcomers. “But what about the rest of Hero Machina? What does this mean for them?”
“Kolstén and Wrikax will return to service eventually. But Kolstén still has at least half a week before his operations are even complete, so don’t expect him to be battle-ready until the beginning of next month at the absolute earliest. Wrikax and Tchiréon are both on leave for the stunt they pulled a few days ago… given the galactic circumstances, and the circumstances of the situation involving Wanléon, I can pull Wrikax back in a week or two, but for now he’s not allowed on base. Tchiréon, though… I don’t know what to do with her. She knew about Wanléon’s corruption, and willingly chose to keep it hidden. Whether she realizes it or not, that was an egregious mistake. Who knows what could happen now? Wrikax and Tchiréon both claim that Wanléon was taken care of, but who’s to say that Tchiréon isn’t corrupted? That anyone or anything else Wanléon has touched isn’t corrupted? It’s been almost four months since the Sunova mission; that’s a lot of time, a lot of space to investigate. She seems to have at least had the good sense to cover herself up, but we still don’t know the full extent of the Nanocreatures’ abilities. Worst case scenario, Tchiréon and Wanléon have unknowingly doomed us all.”
“That’s barely fair,” Kaoné responded quietly, “no one knew what the infection really was until Morcii showed up. How could they have known it would blow up like this?”
“I realize that they had no way of knowing, but ignorance is no excuse.” Nikéyin sighed. “The Nanocreatures are formidable. They’re already overpowering the CSA by conventional means, so we can’t allow them to take full advantage of their corruption and assimilation techniques. Tchiréon will remain detained until I can be certain that Nimalia is safe. Until then, don’t expect to work with her.”
“…Alright, then,” Kevérin eventually replied, choosing not to argue the issue farther. “Are there any updates on the fighting between the CSA and the Nanocreatures? Aside from the loss of Bouy’Xis?”
“…Luckily, no additional Transpace Worlds have fallen under attack. It’s only Gonaan and Metorilis for now. But the Nanocreatures have practically obliterated several CSA fleets already; it would seem that for every enemy ship we can destroy, we lose fifty. Fifty to one is a terrible ratio, and it’s made worse by the fact that the Nanocreatures can turn our defunct ships against us. We’re feeding their fleets, and there’s nothing we can do about it.” Nikéyin paused for a moment to remove her glasses and rub her temples warily. “I’m starting to think, more and more, than any possible chances for victory might lie with the Ayas, even if the only feats we know them to be capable of are legends. Which brings me to why we’re here.” She replaced her glasses on her face and looked up at the five present members of Hero Machina. “The Earthians want our help… and they’re willing to loan us their new Battlecruiser and an Ayas to get it.”