– Firdia, Skydiath 8, 8034 –
(Monday, February 10, 2110)
“Sir! Blocks 7A and 7B have been compromised! On-board security has been overridden, as well!”
“Those motherfuckers…” Krick tightly gripped the armrest of his chair as he glared up at the information on the hologram display. “I expected them to try something, but this—!”
“Suppression teams Bravo and Delta are trying to cut off the intruders, but the bulkheads won’t respond to their override codes!”
“Lockdown the beaming and weapons systems!” Krick ordered, “set the ship on a stable MEO autopilot path and then lockdown the propulsion systems as well!” He then clenched his teeth as he muttered to himself, “they somehow brought that anti-beaming tech with them… and they have override codes, too… how the hell did they get those?”
“Block 7C has been compromised!”
“They’re going for the secondary bridge! Get team Charlie over there ASAP! Under no circumstances can they be allowed control of the secondary bridge! …How the fuck did they get layout maps? Do we have a mole…? Damn it!” the Captain muttered under his breath, “Zhou had to have planned this from the start. He never wanted to keep his anti-orbital platforms, they were just a means to distract us and allow a team on the ship. Was he gunning for the Genesis this whole time?…” He scowled again before raising his voice to address the rest of the bridge. “Send a burst transmission to SERRCom HQ informing them of our situation and then shut down all non-mission critical comm transmitters! We won’t let those bastards take control of our ship! We need to put them in their place and show them that they have no business messing with SERRCom!”
Krick leaned forward warily as the rest of the bridge let out a short cheer in agreement. “Nimalians…” he muttered, “I hope you didn’t fall victim to this damned trap, too…”
“There it is!”
“The White Ayas…” Kievkenalis stepped forward, staring through a large window of protective glass into a massive chamber. Inside the chamber were a number of machines and rods, and sitting in the middle of it all was none other than the Chaos Ayas. “…Mystryth.”
“Wait, you actually remember its name?” Wilkas glanced at the Chaostechnic in surprise.
“You don’t?” Kievkenalis returned the glance.
“It’s not exactly relevant to our everyday lives,” Vélunis pointed out, “hell, I never expected to actually see one of them. Memorizing their names was just another useless piece of trivia.”
Kievkenalis grunted in response as he turned his attention back to the Ayas. The chamber behind the glass looked much like a repurposed reactor chamber, complete with blast shields and a deep cavity in the middle of the room filled with water. He casually reached forward to place his hands on the glass but withdrew them immediately in alarm. “It’s warm?”
Wilkas frowned. “That’s weird. Why’s it warm? What’s goin’ on in the chamber? If they’re just using the Ayas as a power source, then there shouldn’t be this much heat.”
“…You can’t be serious!” Kievkenalis scowled after taking several more moments to inspect the chamber. “This chamber isn’t just a repurposed reactor — it is a reactor! The Earthians just hooked the Ayas into it!”
Vélunis shook his head in disbelief. “Wow, I knew the Earthians were primitive, but are they actually that stupid?”
“Seems like it…” Kievkenalis began looking all around the chamber, inspecting every rod, wire, and machine from behind the protective glass. “Argh, they’re trying to draw power from the Ayas, but they’re doing it all wrong! There’s no energy regulation, and on top of that, they just chucked it into a reactor! The Earthians clearly have no grasp of the power of Chaos Energy, or how to properly harness it!”
“Well of course you’d say that, you’re a Chaostechnic,” Wilkas replied dismissively.
Kievkenalis glanced toward the Forcetechnic impatiently before returning his attention to the Ayas. “This makes taking the Ayas a little harder…” he muttered.
“I’m more concerned about the lack of resistance, personally,” Vélunis pointed out, “I mean, yeah, we took the elevator shaft all the way down to the bottom floor, but you’d think there’d be more guards protecting the fucking power generator.”
Wilkas shrugged. “Maybe the Earthians really are just that stupid.”
“The whole reason we’re here is to forcefully shut down the anti-orbital platforms because the owners didn’t want to,” Kievkenalis countered, “Vélunis is right. For a place they wanted to protect so badly, there wasn’t much resistance at all.”
“We should probably look around for—?!” Vélunis started, but was interrupted as the facility suddenly shuddered, the unexpected vibrations knocking the three Chaotics to the floor.
“What was that?” Wilkas questioned warily after climbing back to his feet.
Kievkenalis quickly checked the Ayas chamber again and sighed of relief when he saw no signs of damage. He then turned back to Vélunis and Wilkas. “I don’t know, but whatever it is can’t have been good. We need to get the Ayas and then get out of here, quickly.”
“That’s easy to say,” the Forcetechnic retorted as he glanced around the room. “What’re you gonna do, charge in to all that radiation, just to grab the Ayas? It’s not like you can just shut down a reactor by pressing a button, you know.”
Kievkenalis was about to respond when the ceiling directly above him collapsed. Vélunis immediately dived for the Chaostechnic, knocking him out of the way in time to avoid being crushed by a mound of collapsing metal and wires.
“Kevérin?…” Kievkenalis turned toward the metal mound confusedly just as the Pyrotechnic descended through the hole in the ceiling, using jets of flame underfoot to hold himself in the air before touching down on the ground and carefully laying Kaoné against the wall.
“…What happened?” Vélunis questioned after turning away from the unconscious Materiatechnic.
“This whole thing was a trap,” the Transfer Captain replied with a scowl, “we reached the control room, and I was able to shut down the jamming fields and contact the Earthian Battlecruiser, but something bad is going on up there. And before I could figure out what, one of the anti-orbital guns fired on the control room!” He glanced over at Kaoné warily. “…I barely reacted in time to burn a hole through the floors and all the way down here, but the impact shock still knocked her out.”
“Wait, a trap?” Wilkas responded incredulously, “what makes you say that?”
“The Captain said it himself,” Kevérin replied. “I have a really bad feeling about what’s going on with the Genesis. We need to get the Ayas and get out, now. Did you guys find it?”
Vélunis casually jerked his thumb toward the reactor chamber. “It’s in there.”
“Huh?” The Transfer Captain turned to inspect the chamber, slowly looking it over until his eyes widened in alarm. “This is a reactor?!”
“Looks like it,” Kievkenalis affirmed. “It’s running hot, too. The glass is pretty warm.”
“And you guys have just been standing here, staring at it?!” Kevérin exclaimed.
“I thought our armor would provide adequate protection.”
“You mean the armor that you could feel the reactor’s heat through?!”
The three Chaotics responded with sheepish silence.
“Our armor will provide some protection, sure, but if we stick around too long then we’ll start feeling the effects of radiation poisoning anyways. We need to get the Ayas and get out,” Kevérin continued as he turned toward the reactor chamber. “…We’ll have to cut down the reactor. Luckily, it’s buried in a mountain, so if anything goes wrong, well. Not a problem.” He glanced back at the other Chaotics. “Grab Kaoné and get back to the surface; I’ll take care of the reactor. If I’m fast, Chaos Armor should be plenty of protection…”
“Huh?” The Transfer Captain looked back at the room’s entrance, where a group of four Earthians dressed in protective suits had entered and were now baring bladed weapons. The Pyrotechnic then glanced away dismissively as he addressed the rest of Hero Machina. “Disarm them. I’ll figure out the reactor.”
“Uh, slight problem…” Vélunis scowled. “…We can’t.”
“What—?” Kevérin responded impatiently, but stopped himself when he realized he couldn’t generate any flames. “…A CENT field?!” he exclaimed as he whipped around to face the Earthians, “you guys have a CENT field?!”
“I won’t repeat myself!” one of the Earthians repeated as he stepped ahead of the squad. “If you value your lives, then stop what you’re doing and surrender!”
“We’ve recovered all of the blocks on level 7, but the intruders managed to reach the secondary bridge!”
“What happened to Charlie team?” Krick demanded.
“They were… repulsed. Two casualties, but no deaths. The boarding team appears to have some sort of battle armor with them. Witnesses report it looks much like the armor the Nimalians were wearing…”
“…Did Zhou make a deal with the Black Suns?…” the Captain mused, “that might explain where all their tech is coming from. But the Suns are supposed to recognize only SERRCom as Earth’s representative…” He paused for another moment before raising his voice and asking, “have they activated the secondary access systems?”
“Not yet, but they got past the initial security layer immediately. They must’ve had the override codes, somehow. The only thing keeping them from activating the secondary bridge are the activation fail-safes: that this bridge, the primary one, is still intact, and—”
“And that they don’t have my personal codes,” Krick muttered. “…Alright. I hope none of you needed to use the restroom… lockdown the bridge! No one enters or leaves until this situation is resolved!”
“Yes, sir!” the rest of the bridge replied in unison as the bulkheads sealed shut. The Captain leaned forward wearily, crooking his head up to look at the various holographic displays.
“As long as I’m here and this bridge is intact, they won’t be able to seize control of the entire ship,” Krick declared, outlining the situation to his subordinates. “That means they’ll attempt one of two things: they’ll try to fool the ship’s systems into thinking that the primary bridge has been disabled, or they’ll try to brute force each system one at a time. Either will take a while, and if we keep on our toes, then we can keep it from happening at all. Understood? Don’t let your guard down!”
The Captain smiled to himself as the bridge responded again with a unified “Yes, sir!”
“Our priority is removing the intruders from the secondary bridge,” he continued, “tell the suppression teams to back off! Get them to levels 6 or 8, directly above or below the respective entrances in level 7. Vacate all bridge-airlock paths on level 7 and lock the bulkheads. Be ready to vent the halls on my command!”
“…Sir?” one of the officers turned to the Captain in confusion, “the suppression teams report that the intruders were wearing armor, so venting the level may not be enough to take care of them.”
“No, but it will limit their operating time,” Krick replied. “We can’t beam them out because of their anti-sensor tech, and the suppression teams can’t beat them in a straight fight because of their armor. Starving them out is our best bet—”
“Captain! It’s an emergency!”
“What happened?” he immediately snapped his attention to the left as another officer turned to him in a panic.
“The, the intruders have gained access to the missile control systems!”
“What?! Did I not order for the weapons to be locked down the moment they turned hostile?!”
“Yes, sir, and they were, but the intruders still managed to claim access to several of the launch silos! They’re arming missiles as we speak!”
“Well don’t just sit there, take the damned system back! Damn it! Alright, unlock the point defense subsystems and immediately fire on any missiles that leave the silos!”
“Missile launch sequence has been activated for bombardment silos one through five!” another officer shouted from across the bridge.
“Bombardment silos? Are they insane?!” Krick exclaimed, “do they mean to bombard the fucking planet?! Take down those missiles, no matter the cost!”
The Captain clenched his teeth in frustration as another display appeared amongst the already numerous holographic readouts, showing camera feeds of the five activated silos. A minute later, each silo slowly opened, followed by the internal mass drivers activating and launching the missiles out the silos. Immediately, the ship’s point defense systems locked onto the missiles and began firing, taking out two before their thrusters could activate and puncturing the fuel tank of a third just as its rockets ignited, causing an explosion that sent it spiraling out of control and into the fourth missile, destroying both.
“There’s one more!” Krick shouted, standing up without thinking. “Stop it! At all costs!”
The entire bridge remained tensely silent for several more moments before an officer slowly turned back to the Captain.
“…The missile has left fifty percent accuracy range,” he reported quietly, “and has entered the Earth misfire cone.”
“If we try to fire on it anymore we’ll just be hitting Earth ourselves…” Krick muttered, and then scowled. “…Damn it!” He slammed his fist into his chair’s armrest before falling back into the seat. “Contact SERRCom HQ and inform them of the missile. The moment we can figure out its target, transmit that as well. How long do we have until impact?”
Another holographic display appeared, this one charting the location of the Genesis in relation to Earth, as well as the location and velocity of the bombardment missile.
“We’re twenty-five thousand kilometers out, but this is a bombardment missile, so…”
“…We have an hour,” Krick commented grimly. “…We have no more than an hour.”
“Alright, come on, let’s think this through,” Kevérin responded warily as he raised his hands and turned to face the Earthians. “You may have a CENT field, somehow, but our armor still works. We’re just here for the Ayas, okay?”
The man in charge furrowed his brow in response as the three behind him glanced between each other uneasily.
“…Sergeant,” the commanding officer muttered, “…go get someone who can understand these…” He looked the Chaotics up and down, his eyes lingering on their armor. “…Aliens.”
“Wait, what?” Kievkenalis responded in confusion, “what’s to understand? We just want that white stone—!”
“No, Kevken, I think they actually, literally, can’t understand us,” Kevérin interrupted. “They must not have audio translation implants. To them, we’re just speaking gibberish.”
“That means they haven’t gone through the IID process.” Vélunis smirked. “Maybe we can scare them off with our dangerous alien diseases!”
“The whole point of us going through IID is so that we won’t have any dangerous alien diseases to spread,” Kevérin deadpanned. “Our armor shielding would prevent that anyway—”
“Silence!” the Earthian CO barked, “I know you aliens have tech that allows you to understand me. So sit there in silence until we can get someone who understands you! Got it?”
“…We can bluff it,” Wilkas remarked casually as he turned back to Kevérin. “He doesn’t have any way of proving we can understand him.”
“That doesn’t change the fact that we’re stuck here anyways,” Kievkenalis pointed out. “We still need to get the Ayas!”
“I would look for the reactor failsafe and activate it and then just snatch the Ayas out of the chamber…” the Transfer Captain grumbled as he glanced back at the Earthians, “…but I’m not sure how they’d react to that.” He sighed. “If only we had a way to draw in the Ayas from a distance.”
“…Hmm…” Kievkenalis looked back to the Ayas in contemplation. “…Huh. That’s a thought. It might actually be close enough to be drawn in by the Chaos State, but, well… hmm. No one knows how to activate it, so I guess that’s pointless to think about.”
“I said silence!” the Earthian demanded again, this time just as two other soldiers entered the room, both of them with guns. “Understand that your presence here can be interpreted as hostile action! We will not hesitate to shoot!”
“…You’re kidding,” Vélunis deadpanned, “are the idiots really going to open fire right outside of a reactor chamber?”
“Wait, Kevken…” Kevérin quickly turned to the Chaostechnic. “Are you sure we’re close enough to activate the Chaos State?”
“Well, I mean… maybe?” Kievkenalis shrugged. “I know there’s some minimum distance at least, and judging by your voice, we’re probably within that range… but even if we are close enough, does it matter? None of us know how to activate the state. …Wait…” He stared at Kevérin in confusion. “…Do you—?”
“We’ve given you enough warnings!” the Earthian barked, “you have one more chance! Now remain! Silent!”
“…If this works,” Kevérin turned back to the rest of Hero Machina, speaking hurriedly as he stepped closer to the reactor. “…It should give us enough distraction to knock out the Earthians!”
“Wait, what are you doing—?” Wilkas started.
“Alright, that’s it!” the CO snapped, “men, open fi—!”
“Chaos State: First Tier!”
A burst of white light filled the room, blinding every inhabitant as the Ayas sitting within the confines of the reactor chamber spontaneously translated through space, phasing through the chamber until it reached Kevérin and disappeared into his body. He gasped and stumbled backward, but he recovered from his disorientation faster than anyone else could recover from the blinding light and stretched his arm forward. A mere moment later, every one of the Earthians’ weapons burst into flames, prompting the wielders to drop them to the floor, where they turned into molten slag on impact.
“Wha… what the hell?!” the Earthian CO stuttered, stunned by Kevérin’s show of force. “B-but, we had a CENT field!”
“Not anymore,” the Transfer Captain remarked as he snapped his fingers, prompting an explosion of light from the hallway behind the Earthians.
“K-Kevérin!” Kievkenalis exclaimed, “you—! You know how to activate the Chaos State?!”
“Arcán told me how…” The Pyrotechnic looked down at his hands, and then rubbed his throat gingerly. His voice itself hadn’t changed, but his past couple statements seemed to literally echo in the air. The effect was so subtle as to be almost imperceptible, but it lent his voice a sort of unnatural presence all the same. “It… feels a lot like an Overdrive. Except… a lot more powerful. It’s hard to describe…” He glanced back at the rest of Hero Machina. “I’m going ahead. I’ll try to contact the Genesis and see what’s going on; the three of you should grab Kaoné and get out of here.”
“What do you mean, going ahead—?” Wilkas began to ask, but by the time he finished his question Kevérin had disappeared through the ceiling, generating enough heat to vaporize everything in his path as he rocketed to the surface.
“Figures he’d leave us behind,” Vélunis snorted before turning his attention to the Earthians, who were beginning to flee the room. “…Let’s get out of here. No point in sticking around anymore.”
“The missile just passed the twenty thousand kilometer mark!”
“Do we have a heading yet?” Krick demanded.
“Factoring in current trajectory and remaining alignment correction fuel… the target is likely somewhere in North America.”
“…Would they really target one of their own cities?” the Captain muttered under his breath, “Zhou personally authorized the boarding team, so I know they’re tied to him… …is this what he was playing at all along? He didn’t want the Genesis either, he just wanted to make it look like we fired on Earth?”
“Sir! Level 7 has been completely vacated!”
“Open every bulkhead on the level! Now!” Krick barked, “suck the bastards into space!”
“Opening bulkheads! …Level venting! Oxygen levels at seventy-five percent… fifty… twenty-five… level 7 has reached vacuum status!”
“Ping level 7 for life signs as often as you can! Are the bastards still there?”
“…Only one life sign in the bridge! Only two other signs are accounted for, the remaining three were sucked into space!”
“Ha, perfect!” Krick smirked to himself. “Finally, something goes our way. Seal the bulkheads and shut all of the air vents in level 7! Maintain the vacuum state until all of the life signs have disappeared. With only one of them remaining on the secondary bridge, we can afford to wait them out. One man is nothing against an entire crew.” His smirk quickly disappeared as he turned his attention back to the screen displaying the status of the bombardment missile. “Still, I can’t trust unlocking the beaming systems. Even if it’s only one man, one man in charge of the beaming would be a disaster, which is a damned shame… we could beam the missile away, if only the ship weren’t compromised…”
The nearest bridge officers glanced at the Captain uneasily. “Sir?…”
“…Our shields can sustain a hit from a bombardment missile, right?”
“Um… yes,” one of the officers spoke up uneasily, “the exact depletion amount could vary, but the shields should be able to take it.”
“Then that’s exactly what we’re going to do,” Krick declared. “Unlock the propulsion systems and set an intercept course for that missile! I’ll be damned if we just let it hit Earth without trying to stop it!”
A moment of silence passed as the bridge officers glanced at each other in surprise and confusion; it wasn’t often that a ship would intentionally seek to be hit, much less by a high-tonnage orbital bombardment weapon. But a moment later they turned back toward Krick to offer him a curt salute and a unified response: “Yes, sir!”
Krick smirked in response. “Good! Keep a careful eye on the propulsion systems. There may only be one man left in the secondary bridge, and it may be a vacuum, but we still can’t let our guard down.”
“Sir! Incoming transmission! It’s one of the Nimalians!”
“Put them through!” The Captain leaned forward, watching the various bridge displays until the comm channel opened. “Chief Captain Krick here.”
“It’s Transfer Captain Tyrion! We just retrieved the Ayas, but before we did, one of the anti-orbital cannons fired on the control room! What’s the situation up there?!”
“This was all a trap,” Krick responded irately, “we were boarded by a hostile team, and they managed to hack into the weapons system long enough to fire a bombardment missile.”
“A bombardment missile? As in, orbital bombardment?!”
“Yes, but we’re on an intercept course. We were far enough out when the missile launched that we should be able to overtake it and absorb the blast with our own shields.”
“Why not just beam it away?”
The Captain glanced up at the life signs monitor and scowled when he noted that the single sign in the secondary bridge still remained. They must have atmosphereless armor. Damn! “I locked the beaming systems when we were boarded and we can’t risk unlocking them until all of the intruders are captured or eradicated. That means that we won’t be able to pick up you or your team until this has all blown over, either.”
The rest of Kevérin’s statement was lost as the communication line suddenly filled with static, causing Krick to reflexively flinch. “What happened?” he questioned as he turned to the communications officer.
“The line is still intact…” the officer replied, “something must be interfering with it.”
“Interference… are the jamming fields still online?” Krick frowned, but his thoughts were cut short as the static slowly began to fade.
“––apta–– ––ou there? Captain––? Can you hear me?”
“Yes, I can hear you now,” Krick replied. “What happened? There was some strong interference there for a moment.”
“It was a missile launch! A missile just launched from the base! It was huge! Ah— sending footage now!”
“What?!” The Captain froze as the missile launch footage appeared amongst the many displays at the front of the bridge. “…An ICBM? They had a fucking ICBM stored there? Complete with a hidden launchpad?!” He immediately turned to the rest of the bridge. “Scan the base location around the Nimalians! Find that missile!”
“…The scanners aren’t finding anything, sir!” one of the officers replied.
“It might be equipped with the jamming field tech!” Kevérin exclaimed, “that might explain the earlier interference!”
“Damn it!” Krick scowled. “We can’t do anything if we can’t see it! …Shit, this was part of Zhou’s plan too, wasn’t it?! This missile is just to guarantee a hit somewhere on the planet. He thinks that he doesn’t even need our bombardment missile to hit anything, he can just use the fact that we launched a missile to blame us for whatever he just fucking launched on his own! There’s no way anyone would believe that, but… to actually try? Shit! Zhou, you insane bastard…!”
The bridge and the comm line fell to wary silence.
“…I can stop it.”
“You what?” Krick spluttered, surprised by Kevérin’s declaration. “You— …can you really do that?”
“I didn’t engage the Chaos State for nothing. I have to try!”
“We’re talking about what seems like an ICBM here, likely with a MIRV warhead — that is, it should be capable of hitting multiple targets. Can you really destroy that?”
“I have to at least try. You said it yourself, you can’t do anything if you can’t see it— but I can.”
“…Ha!” The Captain smirked despite himself. “…Very well. I’m entrusting that missile to you, Nimalian. Don’t let us down!”
The moment the comm channel closed, Kevérin rocketed into the sky, using his flame jets to propel him upwards at speeds unprecedented. But it was too little, too late — the missile had long since accelerated past his top speed and was racing ahead into the stratosphere. The Pyrotechnic attempted to follow, but the thinning atmosphere made it difficult to breath or to reliably continue his flame jets, so he was forced to fall back to lower altitudes.
“I guess the legendary feats of unaided flight and vacuum survival don’t apply to the First Tier Chaos State,” he muttered, his glasses visually tracking the missile as it shrunk with distance. “I can’t attack it from here… so I need to intercept it when it comes back down!”
Kevérin immediately took off laterally in the same direction the missile was beginning to curve toward. It soon fell out of visual range, forcing him to use his glasses’ sensors to track it, but when the missile began to level out, he quickly realized that a single major obstacle stood in his way: he was simply too slow.
I can’t even break the sound barrier! He scowled deeply. …There’s no way I can catch up to it. If only I had a weapon! If I could reliably carry people while using my flame jets in a battle scenario I could carry Vélunis up here and have him summon something anti-missile, but— wait! The Ayas weapons! …But aren’t they all melee weapons? …Damn it, it’s all I’ve got! Let’s see what weapon belongs to the White Ayas! The Transfer Captain maintained his aerial speed as he attempted to focus on the Ayas he used to enter the Chaos State and summon its weapon. This can’t be hard; if Davídrius could do it, so can I!
Mere moments later, a light appeared in Kevérin’s hand before transforming into the silhouette of a bow and then solidifying into one. The Pyrotechnic grinned, pleased to find himself with a long-range weapon — and then immediately frowned when he realized that, in the context of archery, ‘long-range’ meant little more than tens or hundreds of meters. And to shoot down that missile… He glanced upwards uneasily. …I need kilometers. Hundreds of them… He then looked back at the bow, his frustration with the situation growing. What the hell am I supposed to use for arrows, anyways? Argh— useless weapon! He irately plucked at the bowstring, flinching back as an arrow appeared out of thin air the moment the string was displaced and then launched itself at the terrain below. Kevérin blinked, his expression blank as the arrow streaked through the sky and instantly hit the mountains below, impacting with a flash of light and creating a small crater visible from even several kilometers high.
“Holy shit…!” The Transfer Captain stared down in awe, almost forgetting to continue fueling his flame jets before correcting his flight path and returning his attention to the situation at hand. “So this thing definitely has more range than an actual bow… question is, exactly what is its range…” He quickly scanned the horizon before turning his attention back up to the skies. Due to its jamming field, his glasses were barely capable of tracking the missile while it flew through the high atmosphere, but his recent communication with the Genesis allowed his glasses to accurately track the Battlecruiser’s location, even in middle Earth orbit. “…Little optimistic for a range test,” he muttered, but he nonetheless turned the bow upwards, halting his forward momentum to instead hold himself in one place as he aimed toward the Earthian ship, bowstring stretched back to his ear. As with the earlier misfire, an arrow appeared, stretching and altering its length such that its tip was always notched, and its tail was always against the string. After making note of this fact, Kevérin returned his attention to aiming the arrow — and then fired. The arrow transformed into a streak of light, flying away with such force that the Pyrotechnic was suddenly flung downward and spent the next several seconds re-orienting himself.
“…You’ve gotta be kidding me,” Kevérin muttered before responding to the sudden contact. “Captain Krick? Is something wrong?”
“Did you see anything fire down there? A gun we somehow can’t spot?”
“Why? What did you see?”
“…A streak of light, almost like a laser. It almost hit us. I doubt it would have done any damage if it did, but if you have any idea what it was—”
“That was me.”
“Thanks for telling me. I know exactly what I need to know!” The Pyrotechnic grinned. “I can take down that missile now!”
“What are you—?!”
Kevérin cut the communication short and returned his attention to speeding through the air. Ha! So even if I don’t get super boosts myself, the Chaos State definitely boosts the Ayas Weapons to crazy levels of effectiveness. Hmm, now that I think about it, it must boost my ability to use the weapon as well, since there’s no way in hell I’d normally be able to aim a bow that well. Maybe the Ayas really are the answer to stopping the Nanocreatures… He glanced up again, spotting a small light in the high skies that hadn’t been there moments before. But for now… I’ve got a different target!
The Transfer Captain continued to stare at the small light as his glasses scanned it and confirmed it as rocket exhaust. That thing must be hundreds of kilometers away, but it’s already on a return path? That’s incredibly short-ranged for an ICBM… but no time to think about that! He flipped through the air, stopping his flame jets and initiating two short bursts in front of him to slow himself to a standstill before hovering in the air casually. Taking the bow in his left hand, he lifted it up toward the distant missile and drew the bowstring back, using his glasses to magnify and trace the light — until it suddenly sparked, creating enough light to reveal the missile just long enough for the Pyrotechnic to see it split into multiple pieces. “It broke up…?” he muttered, and then scowled. “Shit — this is that MIRV thing the Captain was talking about, isn’t it?!”
Without hesitating further he fired at the falling warheads, sniping two of them out of space. He immediately drew the bowstring back again, arming the bow with another arrow before firing once more and taking out three more of the warheads — the arrow merely grazed each of them, but even that was enough to obliterate them. The Pyrotechnic smirked to himself but suddenly frowned as the HUD on his glasses began to fuzz.
Even without a proper detonation, those warheads are giving off a strong enough EMP to overpower my Armor’s EM shielding?… Kevérin scowled. Just how powerful is a proper detonation, then? Hmph. Let’s not find out!
The Transfer Captain immediately notched another arrow and took careful aim before simply deciding to fire arrows from the bow as quickly as he could draw back the string. The resulting “machine gun” spray of light arrows was a messy tactic, but it worked — in no time at all he had knocked out another five warheads, leaving only two remaining. His glasses zoomed in on each individually, creating HUD elements to follow each warhead as Kevérin carefully tracked them with the bow. With another shot, he knocked out another warhead and began preparing to shoot down the final one — only for his glasses and armor to suddenly short out.
“What?! Agh—!” He grimaced in pain as the disabled armor weighed down on his body, its lack of power preventing it from supporting itself. The dead weight forced his arms down to his sides, causing him to drop the bow as he enveloped himself in fire, flaring the flames to high enough temperatures to expand the metal plating and tear it off of his body. As soon as all of the plating fell off, he cooled his surroundings and looked himself over with unease. …If not for the Chaos State, I would’ve just fused the underarmor to my skin… He scowled. This will be difficult to remove. …Now, for the final warhead… He turned back to the west, re-summoned the bow, and notched another arrow, preparing to track the final warhead — but froze when he noticed one crucial fact:
When he burned away his armor, he had incinerated his glasses, as well — and with them, his only method of tracking the warheads.
“Fuck!” he shouted irately, glaring up at the skies in a desperate attempt to locate the final warhead. I can’t even contact the Genesis now! I’m on my own… and at the worst possible time! He began machine gunning the bow again, firing off a reckless stream of arrows into the skies above in an attempt to score a lucky hit. Where is it? A missile like that would at least go above the stratosphere, wouldn’t it? Maybe I can spot it if the heat shields flare up!… There!
Sure enough, the final warhead had begun to glow a slight red due to reentry. Kevérin immediately began aiming for it and fired several arrows, only for each to miss without his glasses HUD to help perform aim correction. “I can’t hit it like this…! Damn it! It’s useless without the computer corrections—!” The Pyrotechnic paused as an odd sensation slowly swept across his hands, as though he were holding them over a warm stove. I’m not generating any flames from my hands, but I’m still sensing a new heat source… He glanced downward, and then back up at the glowing warhead curiously. …A new… heat source… shit, from this far away? That’s impossible—! Agh, well it can’t hurt to try! He quickly reached out with his right hand toward the warhead, dismissing the Ayas weapon as he attempted to judge the warhead’s distance through a combination of sight and heat sensing. And then, a moment later… he snapped his fingers.
Immediately, a flash of light enveloped the warhead before disappearing, leaving behind nothing that Kevérin could see from such a long distance.
The Pyrotechnic stared forward in shock before turning his attention down to his hands. “…Holy shit!” he exclaimed as a grin slowly spread across his face, “…I did it! Shit, I actually did it! I just single-handedly stopped an ICBM!!”
1 Day Later
“Do you understand the utter stupidity of the actions you have taken over the past several months, Zhou?”
Kevérin froze as soon as he stepped foot on the bridge of the Genesis. In front of him sat Captain Krick in the commanders’ chair, and in front of the Captain stood a blond-haired woman of tall stature. Both Earthians were staring forward at a video display at the front of the bridge that displayed a stout man with greying hair, a wrinkled face, and old, narrow eyes.
“…I’m afraid you have me at a disadvantage, General,” the man replied, ignoring the new bridge occupant.
“It’s time you stopped feigning ignorance,” the woman shot back, “I would have preferred continued American support for the future, but given your outrageous decision-making ability, I think forcing you completely out of the SERRCom effort will be far more beneficial for everyone involved.”
The old man frowned. “You wouldn’t dare. And even if you would, you have no proof that I am in any way related to the unfortunate events that transpired yesterday.”
“Don’t patronize me. And don’t underestimate SERRCom’s connections, either. If you truly believe that no one on Earth knows of your actions, then you are terribly mistaken.” The woman paused for a moment to sigh before continuing, “in order to protect Earth and prevent future incidents, SERRCom is ordering that you hand over the Interstellar Gate. Furthermore, you have one year to completely disarm every single nuclear warhead you own and hand them over before we move in and force you to.”
“You cannot possibly—!”
“Oh we can, Zhou, and we have the proof to get the rest of the world on our side, if need be. If you want to resist, feel free, but this isn’t the twenty-first century anymore. On the other hand… you could prevent all of this if you simply step down as President.”
“Pick one, Zhou! Or I’ll pick for you.”
“I will send you more detailed orders tomorrow. Until then, sit tight, and do. Not. Do. Anything. This order has the weight of the General of the Space Forces behind it.” The woman nodded curtly. “Dowley out.”
The video connection cut out, at which point the entire bridge let out a collective sigh. Kevérin finally began approaching Krick and the woman called Dowley as the former turned to the latter with a smirk on his face.
“You really showed him, ma’am,” Krick commented gleefully, “I never thought I would enjoy seeing Zhou put in his place so much.”
“It needed to happen,” Dowley responded flatly. “Before, he was just jockeying for power. But the moment he put innocent lives on the line to gain that power, he had to be dealt with.” She glanced back at Krick and then to Kevérin, who stood stiffly next to the commanders’ chair. “…Excuse me,” she addressed him, “who might you be?”
“Ha, this is Transfer Captain Tyrion,” Krick answered proudly. “He’s the CO of the Nimalian team that retrieved the Ayas. He’s also the one who single-handedly stopped that missile from hitting anything.”
“Ah, I’ve heard nothing but praise about you from the Captain.” Dowley smiled warmly before saluting Kevérin. “And I must thank you, myself. As both the General of the Space Forces, and personally. Were it not for your assistance, I’m sure Earth would be descending into a massive war right now.”
“Well, uh, thanks, I mean, you’re welcome,” the Transfer Captain responded sheepishly. “But it wasn’t, well, I had some help, sort of. …A-anyways, I’m glad everything’s fine.”
“I wouldn’t say ‘fine’…” The General sighed. “…Not yet. But things are looking up. This Battlecruiser was truly a godsend; I’m not sure what we would have done without it. It may very well single-handedly carry SERRCom into the future.”
“Haha, that’s asking a lot of it,” Krick remarked.
“It might be… but the future is the future.” Dowley turned back to Kevérin. “I understand the rest of the galaxy has its own problems at the moment?”
“Um…” Kevérin replied uneasily, “the Nanocreatures are a threat to you, too…”
“Yes, but unlike the rest of the galaxy, we can’t do anything against them. We barely have a fleet, and as you’ve personally demonstrated, our defensive technology can’t even stand up to a handful of Chaotics. That’s why I’m entrusting the Genesis and its crew to you for the time being — I’m sure you Nimalians will be able to put it to far better use than we ever could.”
“I don’t think I can thank you enough,” the Transfer Captain commented. “Even the beaming systems alone could be invaluable. Between it and the Ayas, I’m sure we can find a way to stop the Nanocreatures, or at least seriously impair them.”
“I’m glad you think so, Captain.”
“I appreciate the praise you’re heaping on the Genesis,” Krick spoke up, “but I’m afraid that the intruding team did a number on the ship. We’ll need to stop for some repairs and re-staging, but after that I can set a course for Nimalia.”
“How long will that take?” Kevérin glanced toward the Captain.
“No longer than a couple days, hopefully. Don’t worry, Transfer Captain — I was there for the Maasen incident. I know what the Nanocreatures are capable of, and I won’t underestimate them. I won’t let you down. You can count on us Earthians!”
“Don’t get carried away now, Captain,” Dowley interjected, “…but that should be it for now. I’ll return to SERRCom HQ to iron out the fine details of Zhou’s situation; in the meantime, I entrust the Genesis to the two of you.” She saluted. “Good luck.”
Kevérin returned the gesture. “Thank you, ma’am. I’m sure we’ll need it.”