Chapter 59 – Darkness of the Known

8 Days Later

Firdia, Skydiath 17, 8034 –

Lehmekarid, Gonaan, Siionleh, Egdonikon, Bowiisen.

Citaron, Citici, Metorilis.

Tau’cen Kii, Lis’talra, Y’kisdral, Dramantis, Bouy’Xis.

Oriciid’kas.

3 civilizations, 3 Homeworlds, 14 Transpaces — all belonging to the Core Space Alliance. The three member civilizations of the CSA claim territory tens of thousands of light years across, encircling the galactic core and protecting hundreds of planets. Over a trillion people live under the CSA government. The Homeworld solar systems of Siionleh, Citici, and Y’kisdral alone host tens of billions of people, and the CSA capital world of Oriciid’kas is an economic and cultural juggernaut, featuring such grand engineering feats as terraforming almost every planet in the solar system and constructing enough space stations to allow nearly a hundred billion citizens to reside in that system alone. The Alliance has persevered throughout the millennia, standing up to such threats as the Drakkar factions all while developing their own territory and trade relations with the Nimalians, Syraus, and Black Suns. Their economic and military might is such that, between the three member nations, the CSA possesses a total of six Deathnoughts — giant warships stretching fifty kilometers from bow to stern, the man-made gods of space warfare, capable of tanking supernovas and dishing out enough firepower to obliterate planets. And that’s not even taking into account the massive space fleets of the Alliance, hosting the numbers and strategic prowess to fend off most attacks from even the technologically superior Drakkars. The CSA is truly a force to be reckoned with. And yet…

15 days ago, the Dra’kis border Transpace World of Bouy’Xis was lost.

The initial Nanocreature offensive was overwhelming. In four short days, the metallic newcomers had broken down defenses that the Drakkars had failed to penetrate over the course of thousands of years, devastating the unprepared CSA fleets as the Nanocreatures assimilated the defeated ships into their own ranks and descended upon the frightened and defenseless populace of Bouy’Xis. With the Citan border Transpace World of Metorilis and the Siion Transpace World of Gonaan also falling under Nanocreature attack, the CSA had no choice but to abandon Bouy’Xis, disconnecting its Transpace from the neighboring world of Dramantis in an attempt to slow down the Nanocreatures. But then…

10 days ago, the Siion Homeworld of Siionleh fell under attack.

Aside from being immensely powerful, the Nanocreatures were simply too fast. They had launched simultaneous offenses on Bouy’Xis, Metorilis, and Gonaan, and while the worlds were no more than fifteen thousand light years apart, the fact that they were separated by Dead Space forced the CSA to travel along the galactic arms by Transpace. And even then, the CSA’s fleets were just too slow — whereas it took CSA ships over a month to traverse fifteen thousand light years, it took the Nanocreatures a mere two days, allowing them to hit Siionleh hard before the Siions could begin bringing in reinforcements. Nevertheless, with the assistance of the local Fortress World of Tranis, the Siions put up a fierce fight for their Homeworld, determined to not lose their original home to the new galactic menace. But just as hopes were beginning to rise…

6 days ago, the Citan border Transpace World of Metorilis was lost.

After a full nine days of defending the system, the Citans had lost thousands of ships and billions of people. The Nanocreatures had managed to make Planetfall within six days of attacking the planet, and once they began attacking and assimilating civilians and military strongholds, the Citans quickly began to lose their foothold. As with Bouy’Xis, Metorilis had been attacked before the CSA realized what a threat the Nanocreatures were, and as such it was poorly fortified; in a bid to prevent future losses, the Citans decided to abandon Metorilis and pull their forces back to their Homeworld in order to set up proper defenses and come up with a solid countermeasure to the Nanocreatures. It was a decision that cost billions of lives, but the Citans hoped that they could save many more by sacrificing the system.

On the same day that Metorilis was abandoned, the Nimalians finally entered the war directly. Under Commander Nikéyin’s orders, six full fleets — each a thousand ships strong — were dispatched to assist the Siions, with two of the fleets stopping to garrison the Siion Transpace World of Egdonikon while the remaining four moved on to help the Siions defend Siionleh. Additionally, the Earthian Battlecruiser Genesis arrived at the Nimalian Homeworld, fully repaired and with several prototype Subspace Drives in tow. The Genesis was the sole non-Drakkar ship that could match the speed of the Nanocreatures, and it was quickly put to task assisting the CSA while the Nimalians researched the Subspace Drives and began attempting to mass-produce their own. And then…

4 days ago, the entire galaxy received a burst transmission from none other than Prosusicivious, the leader of the Prolatio Drakkars.

The Prolatio faction held the smallest territory in Drakkar space and were the least well-known of the six factions due to how rarely they ventured outside of their own borders. Whereas Exdominor and Surdeus appeared often enough to become immortalized in legends and stories across the galaxy, Prosusicivious was a virtually unknown name to the galactic public. So when he suddenly appeared on transmission channels the galaxy over, everyone was caught by surprise — and even more so by what he had to say:

((If you wish to defeat the Nanocreatures, you need only defeat their leader, Morcii. If you are able to take him down, then the rest shall follow.))

The fact that a Drakkar was offering advice failed to baffle no one and quickly gave rise to rumors regarding the nature of the Nanocreatures and how the Drakkars were faring. It was certainly true that the Drakkars had quickly abandoned their attacks on Siion space soon after the Nanocreatures appeared, so there was little doubt that the Nanocreatures were attacking the Drakkars and forcing their attention away from the CSA. Under that light, many found it unsurprising that a Drakkar would offer advice on how to defeat the Nanocreatures, as their downfall would be beneficial to the entire galaxy. Yet many more were confused by the utter lack of malice or condescension in Prosusicivious’s words, a stark contrast from every line of communication with the Drakkars that anyone ever knew; and even more, how could he know that stopping Morcii would stop the Nanocreatures as a whole? How could that even be true? The Drakkar’s advice spawned hope where there was none previously, but the doubt that he was wrong still lingered even in the minds of the most optimistic. Then…

3 days ago, the Siion Transpace World of Lehmekarid fell under attack.

1 day ago, the Dra’kis Transpace World of Dramantis fell under attack.

The CSA was spread thin. They had already lost two worlds and a further four, spread over tens of thousands of light years, were under heavy attack. The Nanocreatures had yet to attack any non-Transpace Worlds, but instead of relieving the CSA, this fact stressed them even more — the Nanocreatures were clearly aiming to capture every Transpace, which would force the CSA to spend months traveling distances that could have otherwise been crossed in a few days. If the CSA lost control of their Transpaces, then their ability to defend their territory would be severely hampered, allowing the Nanocreatures to run amok at their own desire. And while the Nanocreature strategy allowed the CSA to focus their entire might on defending the Transpace Worlds, it still wasn’t enough. The loss of the Transpaces was a fate that no one could allow… yet, it was a fate that appeared to be inevitable.

The Nanocreatures were nigh unstoppable, having already destroyed thousands upon thousands of ships, assimilated many more, and taken countless lives in the process. The longer and harder the CSA resisted, the stronger the Nanocreatures grew, and on top of that — whenever Morcii appeared on a battlefield, all of his opponents were doomed to death or corruption. After only twenty days and countless battle encounters, only six Chaotics remained who had entered battle with Morcii and survived to tell the tale… but even they were doubtful that they could last through a second encounter.

The only hope of defeating the Nanocreatures lay with defeating Morcii. Yet, no one alive could possibly match his absolute power. With each passing day, the galaxy’s fate grew darker, and there was little to suggest even the existence of a light at the end of the tunnel.


“I SEE YOU HAVE RE-ENABLED AUDIO COMMUNICATION.”

“Yep,” Kevérin replied, glancing back at Kievkenalis before taking a seat in front of the computer that was hooked up to Arcán’s core. “Talking like this, instead of typing, will be much easier when there’s more than two people trying to converse.”

“MORE THAN TWO?”

“I’m here, as well,” Kievkenalis spoke up. “I’m Captain Kievkenalis Yumach, of the RPF. Well… formerly of the RPF.”

“YES, I HAVE BEEN INFORMED OF RECENT EVENTS, INCLUDING THE OFFICIAL FORMATION OF THE NIMALIAN SYSTEMS DEFENSE,” Arcán responded curtly. “I DO STILL HAVE SOME RECORDS ON THE RPF THAT I SAVED DURING MY TIME IN THE HANDS OF THE SFC. IS THERE SOMETHING YOU WISH TO SPEAK TO ME ABOUT IN THAT REGARD?”

Kevérin nodded. “Not relating to the RPF, but we have some more questions for you, yes. First off, and I know I’ve asked before, but I wanted to know if you know of any way to stop the Nanocreatures. Anything would help.”

“I HAVE NOTHING MORE TO ADD, ASIDE FROM AFFIRMING PROSUSICIVIOUS’S CLAIM. MORCII AND THE AYAS HE CONTROLS ARE IMPERATIVE TO THE OPERATIONAL ABILITIES OF THE NANOCREATURES AS A WHOLE. EACH AYAS MORCII HOLDS ALLOWS HIM TO CONTROL EXPONENTIALLY MORE NANOCREATURES, AND MORCII’S VERY EXISTENCE AS THE HEAD OF THE NANOCREATURES ALLOWS THEM TO COORDINATE IN A HIGHLY EFFECTIVE MANNER.”

“Wait, so you’re saying that the Nanocreatures aren’t even close to their full potential?!” Kievkenalis exclaimed.

“THAT IS CORRECT. IF MORCII WERE TO GET HIS HANDS ON THE AYAS YOU CURRENTLY POSSESS, HE WOULD BECOME COMPLETELY UNSTOPPABLE. THE DRAKKARS AND ALDREDAS WERE ONLY ABLE TO STAND UP TO THE NANOCREATURES BECAUSE THEY WERE ABLE TO HOLD ON TO SOME OF THE AYAS; ONLY THE MORIKAI ARE EVEN REMOTELY CAPABLE OF OPPOSING THE NANOCREATURES WITH ALL THE AYAS, BUT AS YOU KNOW, MORCII WORKS FOR THE MORIKAI THEMSELVES.”

“That makes using the Ayas against Morcii sound even more dangerous,” Kevérin muttered, “if we were to lose them…”

“IT IS TRUE THAT USING THE AYAS COMES WITH DANGER, BUT IT IS ALSO TRUE THAT THE ONLY WAY TO DEFEAT MORCII IS TO USE THE AYAS AGAINST HIM. THE ONLY OBJECTS IN THIS GALAXY CAPABLE OF OPPOSING THE POWER OF A CHAOS AYAS ARE THE OTHER CHAOS AYAS. THEREFORE, THE CHAOS STATE IS AN ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY COUNTERMEASURE TO MORCII.”

“Which brings us to the other thing we wanted to talk about,” Kievkenalis cut in, “the Chaos State. What can you tell us about it?”

“…YOU ALDREDANOIDS ARE INDEED AN ODD GROUP. WHAT MAKES YOU THINK THAT ASKING THE SAME QUESTION OVER AND OVER WILL YIELD DIFFERENT ANSWERS? I BELIEVE I HAVE ALREADY SPOKEN AT LENGTH ABOUT THE CHAOS STATE.”

“That’s not entirely true,” Kevérin refuted. “When I asked you about the Chaos State, you told me how to activate it, and then deferred to Mystryth on everything else. It’s possible that Mystryth didn’t actually tell us everything you think she told us, so I want to know what you know.”

“PERCEPTIVE. VERY WELL, I WILL INDULGE YOU. YOU ALREADY KNOW HOW TO ACTIVATE AND, SUBSEQUENTLY, DEACTIVATE THE STATE, YES?”

“’Chaos State: Ordinal Tier,’ and ‘Chaos State: Disengage,’ yeah.” Kevérin nodded. “You told me that much.”

“CORRECT. OF ADDITIONAL RELEVANCE TO THE ACTIVATION OF THE STATE IS THE PROXIMITY OF THE AYAS YOU ARE USING. NO MATTER THE TIER, ALL OF THE AYAS YOU ARE USING MUST BE WITHIN TEN METERS OF YOUR CENTER OF GRAVITY.”

“Ten meters, huh?…” Kievkenalis mused, thinking back to when Kevérin activated the Chaos State on Earth. “…That was pretty close, then. The Ayas the Earthians had was almost ten meters away from us.”

“I guess we got lucky in that regard,” Kevérin replied before turning back to Arcán’s console. “I also noticed that the Ayas Weapon got a massive power boost, more so than I did. Is that actually the case, or was I just not using my own full potential?”

“WHICH AYAS WERE YOU USING?”

“Mystryth,” Kievkenalis answered after Kevérin threw him a confused glance.

“AH. YES, THE AYAS WEAPONS DO RECEIVE A SIGNIFICANT POWER BOOST IN THE CHAOS STATE — THE RANGED WEAPONS MORE SO THAN THE REST.”

“What are the Ayas Weapons?” Kievkenalis questioned, “I remember that Hastryth was a chain weapon, and that Mystryth is a bow. What’s the rest?”

“SYN IS A SCYTHE; ARCÁN, A CLAYMORE; TANIVAS, A STAFF; MATLÉS, A PAIR OF GAUNTLETS; SENDOUS, A PAIR OF CHAKRAMS; ALDRACE, A GLAIVE; AND TSERN, A SPEAR.”

Kevérin snorted in derision. “Sounds like a medieval gallery. What’s the actual benefit of using the Ayas Weapons if they’re all just melee?”

“EACH WEAPON IS CONSTRUCTED ON THE SPOT FROM CHAOS ENERGY ITSELF EACH TIME THEY ARE USED, HENCE THE SEEMING ABILITY TO SUMMON AND DISMISS THEM AT WILL. THIS ALSO MAKES THEM COMPLETELY UNBREAKABLE AND, FURTHERMORE, THEY WILL NEVER DULL. THERE IS ALSO THE SUBSPATIAL STORAGE ABILITY, WHICH I HAVE MENTIONED TO YOU BEFORE.”

“Can multiple weapons be used at the same time?”

“IF YOU POSSESS THE SKILL TO DUAL-WIELD, THEN YES. YOU WILL, OF COURSE, NEED BOTH AYAS ON YOUR PERSON. HOWEVER, USING MULTIPLE AYAS WEAPONS AT ONCE IS ONLY TRULY A BOON WHILE INHABITING THE CHAOS STATE. HIGHER TIERS BESTOW THE SKILL AND ABILITY TO NIGH-EFFORTLESSLY WIELD MULTIPLE AYAS WEAPONS AT ONCE.”

“Will the weapons even be useful at the higher tiers?” Kievkenalis questioned with a doubtful frown. “If the higher tiers are powerful enough, then it seems like they’d just render the weapons obsolete.”

“WHILE IT IS TRUE THAT THE FINAL TIER POSSESSES ENOUGH POWER TO POTENTIALLY DESTROY THE GALAXY ITSELF, THERE IS ALWAYS—”

“Whoa whoa whoa, wait, hold on a minute,” Kevérin interrupted, furrowing his brow before staring at Arcán’s console incredulously. “I almost thought that you said that the Final Tier Chaos State could destroy the whole fucking galaxy.”

“I DID INDEED SAY THAT.”

“…What?!”

“YES. FURTHERMORE, THE EIGHTH TIER IS CAPABLE OF DESTROYING SOLAR SYSTEMS, AND THE FOURTH TIER POSSESSES ENOUGH POWER TO DESTROY PLANETS. ACCORDINGLY, THE THIRD TIER AND ABOVE GRANT THE ABILITY OF UNAIDED FLIGHT, AND THE FIFTH TIER AND ABOVE GRANT THE ABILITY OF UNAIDED VACUUM SURVIVAL. SUCH IS THE POWER OF THE AYAS AND THE CHAOS STATE.”

“…We have four Ayas…” Kievkenalis muttered in awe, “…we have more than four Ayas!”

“YES, BUT KEEP IN MIND THAT EACH AYAS CAN ONLY BE USED BY A SINGLE INDIVIDUAL. IF ONE CHAOTIC USES ALL OF THE AYAS TO ENGAGE THE FINAL TIER, THEN NO OTHER CHAOTIC CAN USE THE CHAOS STATE. IT IS OFTEN MORE USEFUL TO HAVE SEVERAL CHAOTICS IN LOWER TIER CHAOS STATES THAN A SINGLE CHAOTIC IN A HIGHER TIER.”

“But still… shit,” Kevérin responded incredulously, “when Mystryth said that the Chaos State could destroy planets or solar systems, I didn’t… I never thought that we’d actually have that potential. I could just get the Ayas locations from the Commander right now and go on a planet destruction spree within the next week, do you understand how terrifying that is?!”

“Doesn’t Morcii have four Ayas?” Kievkenalis questioned, a frown rapidly forming on his features. “Doesn’t that mean…?”

“FORTUNATELY, MORCII CANNOT ACTIVATE THE CHAOS STATE. HIS… VERY NATURE PREVENTS HIM FROM ACCESSING IT, SO HE DOES NOT YET POSSESS PLANET-DESTROYING POWER — NOT ON HIS OWN. AND EVEN IF HE COULD, PURE DESTRUCTION IS NOT IN HIS NATURE. MORCII WOULD MUCH RATHER CAPTURE AND CORRUPT A PLANET AND ITS POPULACE THAN OUTRIGHT DESTROY IT.”

“Our course of action sounds rather simple then, doesn’t it?” Kevérin crossed his arms. “We use the Fourth Tier Chaos State and whoop Morcii’s ass.”

“I don’t think it’s that simple,” Kievkenalis refuted, “I trust Arcán, but we have no proof that what he’s saying is true. I doubt we’ll be able to convince Nikéyin or any of the other top brass to give us access to all the Ayas and then wave them under Morcii’s nose. It’s too risky.”

“On the other hand, it’s the only way to stop him…”

“DO NOT GET CARRIED AWAY, ALDREDANOIDS. DO NOT FORGET ABOUT THE AYAS SCATTERING FACTOR OF THE CHAOS STATE — UPON DISENGAGING IT, THE AYAS WILL SCATTER ACROSS SOME DISTANCE RELATIVE TO THE NUMBER OF AYAS USED IN THE STATE, FORCING YOU TO SEARCH FOR AND COLLECT THEM AGAIN. ENGAGING THE CHAOS STATE CAN BE A USEFUL TOOL TO KEEP THE AYAS OUT OF MORCII’S POSSESSION, AS IT ABSORBS THE AYAS INTO YOUR PERSON. BUT IF MORCII MANAGES TO ESCAPE YOUR GRASP ONCE YOU HAVE ENGAGED THE STATE, THEN THERE IS CERTAINLY THE RISK OF HIM BEATING YOU TO THE AYAS ONCE YOU DISENGAGE AND THEY SCATTER. AND SIMPLY REMAINING IN THE CHAOS STATE INDEFINITELY IS NOT POSSIBLE EITHER, AS EVENTUALLY THE STRESS PLACED ON YOUR BODY WILL KILL YOU. WHILE THE CHAOS STATE IS THE ONLY WAY TO DEFEAT MORCII FOR CERTAIN, DO NOT USE IT UNLESS YOU ARE CERTAIN YOU CAN DEFEAT HIM. UNTIL THEN, RESTRICT YOURSELVES TO USING THE FIRST TIER, AS IT IS THE ONLY TIER THAT WILL SIMPLY RETURN THE AYAS TO YOUR POSSESSION UPON DISENGAGING.”

“…Got it.” Kevérin sighed. “…Damn, this’ll take some time to sink in. Who knew we had such a trump card in our back pocket? This is just… too much.”

“This is all information that we could have used weeks ago,” Kievkenalis stated. “Why didn’t you tell us until now?”

“YOU DID NOT ASK.”

“Don’t give us that shit.” Kevérin scowled. “…Damn. Alright, I’m going to report this to Nikéyin. Maybe the research teams can verify some of it with the Ayas and come up with something before the CSA loses another world…” He turned to readdress Arcán. “You said previously that your memory banks were damaged, but you still seem to know a lot…”

“ARE YOU SUGGESTING THAT I HAVE MIS-DIAGNOSED MY OWN PROBLEM? OR ARE YOU DARING TO SUGGEST THAT I AM LYING TO YOU?”

“Well, no, but…”

“I ASSURE YOU, ALDREDANOID, THAT EVERYTHING I HAVE JUST TOLD YOU IS CORRECT INFORMATION. I ALSO ASSURE YOU THAT I HAVE NOT LIED TO YOU.”

“All we have on that is your word.”

“HAS ANYTHING I’VE SAID PREVIOUSLY BEEN PROVED INCORRECT?”

“Most of the things you’ve said haven’t even been proved correct. It goes both ways.”

“I UNDERSTAND YOUR SKEPTICISM, BUT IT IS UNNECESSARY. NEVERTHELESS, I MUST INDULGE YOU… BUT DO NOT TAKE TOO LONG TO MAKE UP YOUR MINDS, ALDREDANOIDS, AS BEFORE LONG IT MAY BECOME TOO LATE TO OPPOSE MORCII.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Kevérin muttered as he stood up and turned toward the room’s exit. “I’ll be back later with whatever we can figure out about the Ayas. Kevken, let’s go.”


“Aw, Vélunis—!”

“What?” The Lieutenant glanced lazily toward Kaoné.

“What do you mean, ‘what?’” the Materiatechnic huffed, turning her attention away from her desk computer to give Vélunis a highly ineffectual glare. “I stepped out of the room for five minutes and you somehow messed with all my stuff!”

“Suuure, just blame me right off the bat,” he drawled. “You really shouldn’t jump to conclusions, you know.”

“Yeah? Well who else would it be?”

Vélunis glanced around the Hero Machina office, which was currently inhabited by Kaoné and Vélunis alone — until the door opened a moment later as Wilkas casually strolled in.

“He wasn’t here before,” Kaoné declared adamantly when Vélunis turned back to her.

“Whoa, you don’t know that,” Wilkas immediately countered, stepping forward to stand next to Vélunis’s makeshift desk. “I was totally here earlier. I was even here before you were here.”

Vélunis smirked. “See Kaoné, you shouldn’t jump to conclusions.”

“Guys…” she groaned warily.

“Don’t blame us, we aren’t the ones who started randomly blaming people for shit.”

“But I’m not… hey, I’m trying to be serious here!”

“Well maybe you should try harder,” Wilkas replied nonchalantly.

“Aw…” Kaoné scowled, though her attempt to do so conveyed very little in the way of intimidation or irritation. “Seriously guys, we’re at work.”

“Oh, c’mon.” Vélunis rolled his eyes. “Name one time I messed with anything actually important.”

“What—! …Well, I mean, you’ve only been here for a week, so that argument doesn’t really mean anything.”

“Wow, did you hear that?” Wilkas glanced toward Vélunis as he moved over to his own desk. “She thinks we’re criminals!”

“Wow Kaoné, why are you so prejudiced?” Vélunis smirked in self-amusement. “Is it ‘cause we’re from lower tier worlds? Huh?”

“That’s not—! Argh,” Kaoné responded impatiently. “…How can the two of you be like this when the whole galaxy’s at war?”

“Meh, the galaxy’s the galaxy, and here is here.” Wilkas shrugged. “Why bother thinkin’ about it? It’s not like there’s anything we can do.”

“I guess…”

“Everyone here needs to lighten up,” Vélunis declared, “nothing’ll get done if everyone’s just depressed all the time. Hell, Davídrius was walkin’ around earlier looking all doom ‘n gloom and I swear he just about made the walls themselves start crying. Damn.”

“He’s not completely unjustified, he did just lose his home…”

“Sure, but the last thing we need around here is a depressed Velocitechnic with a hair-trigger temper. Dude needs to chill.”

“That’s easy to say…” Kaoné replied with an uneasy frown.

“Well of course it’s easy to say.” Vélunis rolled his eyes again. “Everything’s easy to say.”

“…Is this what everyone from the RPF is like?”

“Wow, did you just stereotype us?” Wilkas glanced toward Kaoné incredulously.

“No, I—! Gah, you guys are so hard to work with!”

“Whoa, Kaoné, slow down!” Vélunis threw up his hands defensively. “We’ve only known each other for a week, I don’t think we’re ready for that kind of a relationship yet.”

“What…?” The Materiatechnic stared at him blankly for several seconds before realizing the joke. She then pulled a face as she turned her attention back to her computer. “Haha, very funny.”

“Oh shit, Wilkas, she knows sarcasm!”

“Oh dude, that’s great, I heard it’s one of the highest forms of humor or something.”

Kaoné sighed warily as she shook her head, choosing to ignore Vélunis and Wilkas’s never-ending teasing as she got back to work.


“Davídrius? What are you doing here?”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” the Velocitechnic drawled, crossing his arms as he casually stepped up to the hospital bed. “I didn’t know I was interruptin’ anythin’. I can leave if you want.”

“No, no, it’s fine.” Christeané smirked weakly, craning his head slightly in an attempt to better meet Davídrius’s gaze. “I just wasn’t expecting to see you. None of the nurses told me anyone was coming.”

“Not surprised. Didn’t exactly call ahead.”

“Oh, please.” Christeané snorted, and then winced as he attempted to adjust his body brace. “We’re across the ocean from Nimaliaka. Don’t tell me you decided to run thousands of kilometers over the water on a whim or something.”

Davídrius responded with a blank stare.

“…Really? You could’ve taken a transport and been here just as fast, but you decided to run across the ocean?”

“Ocean runnin’ is actually pretty calmin’, I’ll have you know.”

“Tch. I’ll take your word for it. I bet it’s not as calming as laying on a hospital bed for weeks on end, though,” Christeané joked bitterly.

Weeks?” Davídrius echoed incredulously. “Your operations finished a week ago. You’ve only been here for one week.”

“And I will be here for several more.” Christeané scowled as he allowed his head to fall back onto his pillow. “Do you know how restrictive this brace is? I haven’t moved at all since the operations.”

“Sounds utterly terrible.”

“Don’t patronize me. Why don’t you try to take a piss when you can’t even move your body.”

Davídrius grimaced. “…I did not need that image in my head.”

“Well it’s what you get for being inconsiderate.”

“Tch,” the Velocitechnic snorted. He then glanced down at Christeané’s body brace, which held his arms fixed by his sides. “…So, uh… how did the operation go?”

“I’m still alive, in case you couldn’t tell.” Christeané smirked bitterly. “…Barely feels like that, though. I’ve been hopped up on pain meds ever since I got out, it’s what almost makes not being able to move bearable since half the time I’m too delirious to notice. Doc says my body will have adjusted to the skeletal implants by the end of next week, and a week after that it’ll be safe to start physical therapy…”

“Shit… well, ‘least it sounds like you’ll be back to normal after that, right?”

“For normal-person normal, sure. But not Chaotic normal. I mean — I’m far from the first person to have a majority-skeletal replacement, and I’m definitely not the first Chaotic to get it, but I am the first Introtechnic. Well, one of the first.”

“Oh…”

“Yeah. No one knows what the skeletal replacement will do to my ability to withstand force, because no one even knows exactly what gives a Chaotic their abilities in the first place, you know? So I might not even be able to go back to Hero Machina, or even the NSD…”

Davídrius pursed his lips before sighing wearily and crossing his arms. “Well, don’t worry. I’ll be sure to knock Morcii around for ya.”

“Can you really say that after what happened on Maasen?” Christeané raised a weary eyebrow. “I mean, just fucking look at me. What if this happens to you?”

“…”

“…That said, I’ve got a bone to pick with you. …Pun unintended.”

“Some dark humor, right there.”

“Shush. Anyways, I at least convinced one of the nurses to get me the mission reports for the two weeks I’ve been out — you know, to pass the time — and one of them wasn’t very encouraging.” He furrowed his brow before continuing, “so… Siyuakén’s dead?”

Davídrius winced visibly and immediately looked away. “…Yeah.”

“And you killed her?”

“Look, it was either that or lose her to Morcii, alright? Don’t get on my ass about this.”

“No, I’m not… I’m not saying that you’re wrong. I probably would have done the same thing. I just wanted to know why you did it.”

Why?” Davídrius bristled. “What, do you want a reason to interrogate me, too? Is ‘I didn’t wanna lose her to Morcii’ not reason enough?”

“What? No, I never said that. Why would you think that?”

“…”

“Davídrius…?”

“I had to, okay? I ain’t gonna let another one of my friends lose her mind and be forced to kill her own friends. I ain’t gonna fight one of my friends again. I don’t care what you or Rebehka or anyone says, I’m not doin’ that shit again.”

“Why are you getting so defensive all of a sudden? I never said I’d disagree, or even blame you.”

“You say that. It’s easy to say anythin’. It’s easy to do anythin’, too. Thinkin about it, though…”

Christeané narrowed his eyes. “Are you trying to say you’re having second thoughts about this?”

Davídrius sighed wearily as he glanced around the small room in search of a chair. Upon finding one, he stepped over to it and took a seat, his gaze pointedly focused away from Christeané the whole time. “…Maybe. I don’t know. I guess, less second thoughts, and more… I dunno. Regret, maybe.”

“You regret killing Siyuakén?”

“No, not— …I don’t know. I regret not bein’ able to do anythin’ about it. I coulda stopped it. It was on Sunova, you know, I think, and if I had just been payin’ attention— argh, damn it. First Selind, now you. Why’s everyone gotta get all up in my shit?”

Christeané frowned. “Because this doesn’t affect just you. Siyuakén was my friend too, you know, and the last thing I want to hear is that she died for nothing.”

“She didn’t—”

“I’m not saying that I disagree with what you did, I’m saying I have an issue with your response to it. How do you think Siyuakén would feel if she knew that you were getting all wishy-washy and hung-up over what you could have done to keep her alive?”

“…Huh?”

“You’re trivializing her death. It happened, now deal with it. Do you know how disrespectful you’re being? You of all people should know that, because you’re the one who fucking offed her. It may have been the only course of action, but doubting it now makes you little better than a murderer who kills for no reason.”

“What the hell—? You think I don’t know that? What the fuck gives you the right to say that anyway?”

“Because I’m your friend, too, and that gives me the right to call you out on your bullshit.”

“…”

“Look, do you really think Siyuakén would want to see you drowning in regret instead of tearing Morcii a new asshole in her name?”

“…No…”

“Exactly. Keep doing what you’re doing and you’re just insulting her memory and her wishes. Not to mention insulting Rebehka and her attempt to save Siyuakén, since you’re the one who told her to stop trying.”

Davídrius stared at Christeané for several moments, lips pursed, before he smirked bitterly and looked away. “Guess you’re right…” He sighed wearily. “…Shit, feelings are hard.”

“Welcome to life in the adult world,” Christeané quipped.

“Says the guy who needs a nurse’s help every time he needs to take a piss.”

“…Come two months from now, I’m going to kick your ass, got it?”

“I don’t know, might look bad if I beat up a cripple.”

“Ha!” Christeané snorted, and then returned to a neutral expression. “But really, Davídrius. I meant everything I said. Don’t forget it.”

“Yeah, yeah…” The Velocitechnic waved him off. “I know, I know. …Hope you aren’t expectin’ me to thank you, though.”

“If you thanked me then I’d really know that something’s up,” Christeané responded cheekily.

“Tch. Everyone always assumes I’m an ungrateful bastard.”

“It’s because you are an ungrateful bastard. But don’t change, it’s what we all love you for.”

“Keh—! ‘Course you’d say that. Have fun on the hospital bed while I rack up all the glory from beatin’ Morcii.”

“I’ll be sure to save a seat for when you come back in worse condition than I did.”

“Fuck you,” Davídrius responded with a smirk. He then got back to his feet and approached the room’s exit. “Anyways, I’ve spent enough time here. Should probably get back to Nimaliaka before the Commander or Kevérin throws a fit.”

“Sure thing,” Christeané replied. “Thanks for dropping by. And do us all a favor and actually figure out a way to stop Morcii, alright?”

“Aye, definitely.” Davídrius raised his right hand in a casual wave as he left the room. “We’re on it.”


“Come in!”

Nikéyin glanced away from her computer screen for just a moment as Archoné Culana stepped into her office. She quickly returned her attention to the screen and finished what she was typing as Culana silently took a seat across the desk from her.

“…Sorry, I’ve been very busy lately,” the NSD Commander apologized a moment later as she fully turned away from the computer and addressed the Archoné directly. “It’s nice to see you again, but I have to say, if I didn’t know any better I’d think you were our own Archoné due to how often I’ve seen you here in Nimaliaka.”

“I don’t think Sonwé would be very pleased to hear that,” Culana chuckled.

“He also doesn’t request an audience with me nearly as often as you do,” Nikéyin replied. “You are aware that long-distance communication technology exists, right?”

“Yes, but nothing can replicate the personal feeling of meeting in, well, person,” the Archoné countered. “Call me old-fashioned, but I would much rather speak with someone face-to-face than through a screen or an AR interface.”

“I’m surprised you have the time for all the travel that would entail.”

“I’m only the head of a single nation, Commander. You’re the one in charge of the military across the entire Nimalian Territories, and in wartime, no less. It’s no wonder you would be busy. Speaking of, how are you acclimating to the NSD?”

“I’ve had no time to acclimate at all — the Nanocreatures forced me to dive in head-long. Fortunately, Rantéin and Acknos are being extraordinarily helpful when it comes to organizing the fleets… but I doubt that’s what you’ve come here to talk about, is it?”

“Straight to business, I see.”

“I’d love to chat, Culana, really. But I don’t have that sort of time.”

“Fair enough.” The Archoné shifted in his chair to a more comfortable position before continuing, “I’m here to discuss the Quakeborn and the Chaos Ayas.”

“I’m not surprised.”

“In your possession are currently five of the Ayas, one of which is the Master Ayas itself, yes?” Culana held up his hand and began counting off on his fingers. “Syn, Aldrace, Matlés, Tanivas, and Mystryth. That leaves the Nanocreatures with Arcán, Hastryth, Sendous, and Tsern.”

“I’m sorry?”

“Each of the Ayas possess a name, Commander, and you would do well to remember them. The Ayas are more than simple generators of Chaos Energy.”

“Then what are they?”

“They are the keys to defeating Morcii and the Nanocreatures.”

Nikéyin sighed and leaned back in her chair, already exasperated at the Archoné’s speech. “I already know that the Ayas can be useful in that regard, Culana. You didn’t have to come all the way out here to tell me that.”

He shook his head.  “No, it is because you think that that I had to. You understand that the Ayas have value, but you gravely underestimate that value. To you, they are little more than tools, reserve batteries to attach to weapons and machinery in an attempt to overpower the Nanocreatures, but that is not what they are. The Ayas themselves are tied directly to Morcii, and only the Ayas themselves can stop him.”

“…Mmhmm,” Nikéyin deadpanned, “is this all in the Oraculm?”

“I would not be so sure of it if it wasn’t.”

“So you’re telling me to put the Ayas on the front lines against the greatest threat this galaxy has ever known… because a book said so?”

“The Oraculm is more than a book, Commander—”

“No, that’s exactly what it is, Culana. It’s a book. It’s a lucky book, alright, and I’ll even agree that it can seem prophetic at times, but in the end it’s just a book. Can it account for the tens of millions of lives that are lost each day against the Nanocreatures? Can it account for the fall of two Transpace Worlds? Can it account for the ever-growing fleet of Nanocreature ships that continues to attack and endanger the entire galaxy?”

“It can.”

“Culana—”

“Listen to me, Commander! I understand your reluctance to field the Ayas. I understand that you fear losing them to Morcii and allowing him to grow even more powerful. But without them, we stand no chance of victory! You read the Quakeborns’ report from their time on Earth, correct? Do you not realize the power of the Chaos State?”

“Tyrion’s feat was indeed impressive, yes, but the Nanocreatures are incomparable to a single ICBM! You read the report from Maasen, didn’t you? Then you know what Morcii can do on his own, without even trying. Hero Machina are, quite literally, the only individuals in the entire galaxy to have come face-to-face with Morcii and survive the encounter, and that’s only because of the Earthians’ beaming tech. The ‘Chaos State’ is not enough to beat the Nanocreatures.”

“And that’s where you’re wrong, Commander.” Culana shook his head again. “The Quakeborn did not survive only because of the beaming technology. They survived because they are the Quakeborn of Nimalia, and it is their fate to survive. This much, I know for certain.”

“How? How can you possibly believe that?”

“Because I have faith in the Oraculm, Commander. It has yet to fail me, and I do not doubt its words. I did not take an interest in the Quakeborn for no reason and, furthermore, it is no coincidence that they were the ones to recover every Ayas that you now possess. If you help them, they can retrieve the rest of the Ayas and stop Morcii. But if you hold them back — if you refuse to allow them to use the Ayas to their full potential — then you will doom yourself and the rest of the galaxy to a slow, hopeless death, incapable of fighting back against a force which itself has already fully grasped and embraced the power of Chaos Energy.”

Nikéyin stared at Culana silently for several moments before finally replying, “do you have anything to back up what you’re saying, besides the Oraculm?”

“I have no need. The Oraculm is more than enough.”

“No, Culana… it’s not.” The Commander sighed irately. “I can’t entrust the galaxy’s fate to claims that have no evidence to back them. We’re talking about billions, no, trillions of lives, here, all depending on me and the CSA and the Black Suns to make the right calls. Dangling the Ayas in front of the Nanocreatures like you’re suggesting is too dangerous. It’s too risky.”

“…Answer me this, Commander.” Culana leaned forward, his eyes focused directly on Nikéyin. “…Do you foresee a future on your current path? Can you possibly continue as you are and still beat back the Nanocreatures?”

“We have to,” Nikéyin declared. “I’ve had research teams working diligently on the Ayas for the past two weeks, and construction of Subspace Drives based on the Earthian prototypes began days ago. Between those and finding a way to reverse engineer the Earthians’ beaming tech, we can find a way to beat the Nanocreatures. It’ll be hard, and it’ll take time, but it’s the only sure-fire way to see the end of this.”

“That’s not entirely correct,” Culana refuted, “we will all see the end of this, one way or another. Whether or not it’s a good end is the question.” The Archoné slowly stood up and stretched as Nikéyin eyed him warily. “…Very well, Commander,” he eventually commented, “I’ve said what I have to say. It’s clear that you are convinced of your own path, and I cannot blame you for it. However, do not say I didn’t warn you. If you do not take proper advantage of the Ayas soon, then you will lose the ability to take advantage of them at all.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Nikéyin replied flatly, watching as the Archoné made his way toward the office door. “…I’m sorry that we can’t see eye-to-eye.”

“As am I,” Culana replied, opening the door and then suddenly stopping in his tracks to avoid running into Kevérin.

“Oh! Uh, sorry.” The Pyrotechnic quickly stepped away from the door, just as surprised to see Culana as the Archoné was to see him.

“Transfer Captain?” Nikéyin called, prompting Kevérin to turn toward the Commander. “What are you doing here?”

“We just got a message from the CSA,” he reported, “…they’re officially regrouping at and reinforcing the Oriciid’kas system, and they want our help.”

“…That’s to be expected,” the Commander responded as she eyed Kevérin wearily. “…Did they say anything else?”

“No, that’s not quite what I meant.” The Transfer Captain shook his head. “I don’t mean they want the NSD’s help — I mean, they do, but they also want our help. They asked for Hero Machina… explicitly.”

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