2 Days Later
– Isdia, Skydiath 25, 8034 –
“Exiting Subspace in three… two… one…”
Chief Captain Krick nodded wearily as he watched the gray-scale gradient outside the bridge window dissolve and give way to the deep black of true space. He quickly glanced toward one of the informational bridge displays before leaning forward in his commander’s chair, taking a deep breath, and then snapping his attention to the terra planet below.
“Determine our orbital coordinates,” he ordered, “locate the primary space station immediately and get us within docking request range.”
“Primary station located! Docking radius: two hundred kilometers. Station distance: sixty-three thousand kilometers. Station orbit: geosynchronous.”
“Get us there immediately, maximum safe speed. Contact the station and request an express docking queue, System General clearance; we don’t have time to wait.”
“Yes sir, maximum safe speed!”
“Contacting station to request express docking queue!”
“Good, good…” Krick nodded absentmindedly. “In the meantime, request boarding clearance for all leave parties. The moment we have clearance and locations, begin beaming the leave parties to the station, starting with Captain Bourne and the Nimalian Chaotics.”
“Yes sir! Requesting boarding clearance!”
“…I suppose this is it,” the Earthian Captain muttered to himself, “Tau’cen Kii, the second most important planet in the CSA, behind Oriciid’kas. Here’s hoping we can actually defend it…”
4 Hours Later
“This is one hell of a shore leave.”
“I don’t know if I’d call this leave.” Kievkenalis frowned as he looked around, taking in the station environment around him. The space station as a whole was a massive construct, over fifty kilometers across in every dimension, but Kievkenalis was currently seated around a small table along with Vélunis and Wilkas in a small, vacant cafe. Minimalism and the color of steel gray dominated the walls and decor of the cafe, with the exception of a holographic display that spanned the entirety of one of the side walls. On the display was a clear view of the terra planet of Tau’cen Kii below, as seen through the station’s external cameras. Its blue waters, green lands, and white clouds gave a rather serene impression of a planet soon to be plunged into war.
“Yeah, I have to agree with Kevken,” Vélunis remarked, drawing Kievkenalis’ attention back to his friends. “Just because we get to ‘explore the station’ doesn’t mean it’s shore leave. Hell, we have to remain in uniform and on standby. If you call that leave, then I feel sorry for you.”
“What’s even the point of us being on standby?” Wilkas sulked, turning toward the holographic display of Tau’cen Kii. “What’re we going to do when the system gets attacked? Throw on atmosphereless armor and attack spaceships hundreds of times our size?”
“Just because we can’t do anything on the space front doesn’t mean we can’t do anything at all,” Kievkenalis countered. “We can do the same thing we did back on Siionkagh.”
“Because we certainly helped a lot there.”
“But that’s the point, isn’t it?” The Chaostechnic glanced between Vélunis and Wilkas expectantly. “The whole reason we’re here is to try and come up with a defense plan that actually works, and to do that we need to build on experience. Our experience.”
“Oh, so that’s why we were invited to the strategy meeting that you’re talking about,” Vélunis drawled. “Oh wait! We weren’t.”
“The meeting is with the System General,” Kievkenalis admitted, “I guess it’s a little much to hope that we’d have a meeting with someone of such high rank.”
“Which is exactly why we submitted briefs instead,” Vélunis pointed out. “It’s also why we shouldn’t have to remain on standby. Even if the Nanocreatures attacked right now it’d still be several hours, maybe even days before we were deployed. It’s stupid. Why the hell can’t we just be on leave?”
Wilkas frowned in confusion. “What? You were just arguing against leave.”
“I was arguing against calling it leave, not against being on leave.”
“You were never one for pedantry,” Kievkenalis remarked.
Vélunis snorted. “Yeah, well I was never one for counting on mystical artifacts to defend entire systems on my own against the fucking apocalypse either, yet here I am.”
“Mystical artifacts?… Wait, the Ayas are actually important!”
“That’s what everyone says, but I’ve yet to see them do anything useful. They sure didn’t do shit against Morcii back in the Oriciid’kas system.”
“It doesn’t matter if it’s different, what matters is that the Ayas aren’t helping at all,” Vélunis countered. “…Really, Kevken? You’re doing the same thing every Chaostechnic ever has done. Just because the Ayas are Chaos Energy generators or some shit doesn’t make them this super-powerful end-all-be-all of Chaotic existence.”
“Yeah, gotta agree with Vélunis on this one.”
“Wait, Davídrius—?” Kievkenalis spun around in surprise, stopping to face the aforementioned Velocitechnic as he approached the three sitting Chaotics with Kaoné in tow.
“Yo.” Davídrius smirked and casually raised his hand in greeting.
“Where did—? …How did you find us?”
“Through your glasses.” Kaoné gestured toward Vélunis and Wilkas. “Since we’re all in Hero Machina, we can track each other.”
“Wait, but doesn’t that give an alert to the person being tracked?”
“What?” Kievkenalis whipped around to face Vélunis and Wilkas. “Why didn’t either of you say anything?”
Vélunis shrugged. “I don’t get why it’s so important.”
“We haven’t seen them—!” The Chaostechnic turned back to Kaoné and Davídrius. “We haven’t seen or heard from you since before you left for Oriciid’kas days ago! Since the Gate was compromised, and Morcii attacked the polar generator, I thought…”
Davídrius snorted. “Thought we were dead?”
“Well… it had crossed my mind, yes. How did you escape the planet, then? And manage to beat us here, too?”
“Davídrius here thought it would be a good idea to try out ‘Subspatial Storage.’” Kaoné threw the Velocitechnic a disapproving glance.
“What, was savin’ your life a bad idea?” he retorted.
“No, but what if it hadn’t worked? What if you could never figure out how to retrieve stuff that you stored?”
“Well, I did, so it’s a moot point.”
“But what if—!”
“Oi, enough with the ‘what if’s, you sound just like Kevérin.”
Kaoné stopped with her mouth half open before clamping it shut and crossing her arms irately. “You should still be more careful.”
“What’s this ‘Subspatial Storage’ that you’re talking about?” Wilkas spoke up.
“According to Arcán — uh, the Prior we have — uh…” Kievkenalis trailed off when he realized neither Vélunis nor Wilkas seemed to be following him. “…Alright, so it’s basically an ability that the Ayas Weapons have. They can, well, store things in Subspace, apparently.” The Chaostechnic then turned back to face Davídrius. “How do you even trigger it? And how’d you figure out how to pull stuff back out?”
“Whaddya mean, how do you trigger it? You just think ‘I wanna store that shit,’ and then it works.” Davídrius shrugged. “It ain’t that hard. Pullin’ shit out ain’t hard either, you just think it. ‘I want that thing back’ and then you swing the weapon and hey, look, your shit’s back. Simple.”
“You still had to ask Arcán about it,” Kaoné interjected.
“Look, I said simple, not intuitive.”
“That still doesn’t explain how you got off of Oriciid’kas,” Kievkenalis pointed out.
“It was pretty simple after that,” Davídrius replied. “I stored Kaoné and Kevérin and then ran for the Gate, and managed to dial out immediately after the previous connection timed out. I guess the Nanocreatures don’t have any Velocitechnics on their side to dial Gates, heh. Well from there I went back to Nimalia, asked Arcán how to unstore shit and how to drop out of the Chaos State, and then Nikéyin sent us straight to Tau’cen Kii with the Ayas ‘cause of a defense meeting or some shit. Which was pretty pointless ‘cause Kevérin’s the only one actually goin’ to the meeting…”
“What’d you have to use the Chaos State for?” Vélunis questioned, “did you try fighting Morcii head-on, too?”
Kaoné’s eyes widened in worry. “You fought him?”
“Yeah, but he ran off after a while…” Kievkenalis responded with an uneasy frown. “He said something about a surprise at Tau’cen Kii…”
Davídrius scowled. “This guy’s power is all over the place! He’s powerful enough to break through planetary shields, but he runs away from a bunch of Chaotics?”
“Oh, he didn’t run because we chased him off, believe me,” Kievkenalis quickly added. “I was even using the Chaos State and he was still holding his own against us. Easily.”
“…Do the Ayas really mean anything against this guy?”
“That’s what I said,” Vélunis interjected.
“He’s explicitly looking for them, so they must be important, somehow…” Kievkenalis sighed. “But what about Subspatial Storage? Did you try that against Morcii?”
Davídrius shook his head. “Didn’t work. Just like everythin’ else. I knew it sounded too convenient to start with, anyways.”
“You know, if you think about it,” Kaoné commented, “it almost seems like all of Morcii’s traits are meant to explicitly counter all of our options…”
“…There has to be something we can do,” Kievkenalis responded warily after several moments of silence, “…right?”
“Well, that’s what we’re here to find out, innit?” Davídrius shrugged. “Ain’t much else we can do right now, I guess. Just hope that the CSA can actually figure somethin’ out…”
“…Ah, Transfer Captain Tyrion, I presume? From the Nimalian ‘Hero Machina’ Chaotic squad?”
“Uh— yes, sir! I apologize for my tardiness!”
“Apology accepted. But we don’t have time for pleasantries; take a seat so we can get started.”
Kevérin saluted stiffly before turning toward the arc-shaped table in the middle of the conference room. Sitting on the side closest to the room’s entrance were Chief Captain Krick and another Earthian that Kevérin recognized as the researcher he had met on the Earthian Colony of Sunova — as the Pyrotechnic stepped past the bearded man, his glasses conveniently reminded him that the researcher’s name was Scott MacTavish. Three seats down from Scott sat Black Suns Commander Sinstis Krydonin, the officer who had accompanied Hero Machina during their brief excursion to the Black Suns world of Rossindon. She offered Kevérin a curt nod of acknowledgment as he sat down directly in between her and the Earthians. He then glanced toward the other end of the table where a tan-skinned Siion woman stood, her double-kneed legs bent down so far that she looked to be sitting anyways. She wore a black and maroon uniform with a number of gold and silver decals along her upper chest and shoulders, and her short, silver hair exposed an angular, hardened face, which seemed to be entirely focused on her glasses. Kevérin stiffened when his own glasses informed him that she was none other than Trissom Ukinon, the System Admiral in charge of all of the space fleets in the Tau’cen Kii system. He then glanced back at the large, dark-skinned Dra’kis man who had greeted him upon entering the room. He wore a uniform in a similar style to that of Ukinon’s, but navy blue instead of maroon. His long, black hair was tied back into three ponytails, and his face was completely void of hair (aside from his thin eyebrows) or imperfections. On first glance, he looked much like a young adult fashion model, but Kevérin stiffened even further with unease when he realized that the large man was actually Gin’zin Frath, the System General in command of all military forces in the Tau’cen Kii system — one of the highest and most important positions in all of CSA space.
Hearing that I was going to meet with them was one thing… the Pyrotechnic thought to himself uneasily, actually seeing them in person, though…
“I’m sure greetings are unnecessary given the situation,” Frath spoke up after ensuring that the room’s entrance was locked shut. He then stepped up to the front of the room, tapping the wall once to dim the lights and display a hologram of the Tau’cen Kii solar system before turning to face everyone else. “So allow me to get to the point: we. Need. A plan. Reports from the Oriciid’kas system are… discouraging, at best, and if I’m given to understand the level of technology of the Nanocreatures correctly, they might arrive in this system at any moment. It is clear, from Oriciid’kas, that attempting to simply overwhelm the enemy with numbers is not a valid solution, nor is engaging them in space combat in any capacity. Any attempts at direct combat can only be viewed as a delay tactic, because effectively, that is all they are.”
“That said,” Ukinon spoke up, extending her legs into a proper standing posture and moving up to the display wall across from Frath. She tapped her glasses twice and then slid her finger down the display, creating a box that listed various numbers and data on the fleets in the system. “We do have a variety of ships and fleets at our disposal. Direct combat may only be a delay tactic, but we can delay the Nanocreatures for a hell of a long time.”
“Uh, I’m sorry,” Scott interrupted timidly, “I’m afraid that we Earthians don’t have AR technology, so…”
“…Right,” Ukinon responded slowly before glancing back at the display. “I’ll lay it out, then. We have twenty-five fleets stationed in this system; five Siion fleets, ten Citan fleets, three Dra’ks, and seven mixed. Together they represent over ninety thousand ships, with over ten thousand Dreadnoughts, close to nine thousand Carriers, and twenty Motherships sitting a system or two over. Additionally, the Citan Deathnought Abroshem is stationed around the local Fortress World of Gu’Dan, which is just a little farther away from the sun than Tau’cen Kii. Furthermore, the two Deathnoughts that were stationed in Oriciid’kas, the Dakonis Raath and the On’esstin, retreated to this system over a day ago via Transpace. So we have a total of three Deathnoughts in this system — I believe that’s the highest number in a single system since the United Drakkar Offensive nearly five hundred years ago.” She glanced back at the display and then to Frath. “In short, we have more than enough firepower to hold the system for quite some time.”
“Can you be sure of that?” Krick leaned back in his chair as he crossed his arms. “I don’t know if you read this in the Oriciid’kas reports, but Morcii’s capable of obliterating entire fleets within seconds.”
“Hold that thought,” Frath interrupted Scott just as the researcher began to speak. The General then continued, “I recognize Morcii as a threat, and I have ideas on how to deal with him. But let us plan against his fleets first.”
Krick frowned. “I don’t think you can adequately plan against the fleets without accounting for Morcii.”
“Reports from the past several weeks indicate that Morcii rarely participates in the space engagements,” Ukinon commented, “and even if he does, we have counters here that weren’t present in any of the other systems we’ve fought the Nanocreatures in. Namely, your Battlecruiser’s technology.”
Scott nodded understandingly. “Ah, so that’s why I’m here.”
“I can agree that the Genesis is a very advanced ship, and surprisingly effective against the Nanocreatures to boot,” Krick responded, “but it’s still only one ship.” The Earthian Captain suddenly narrowed his eyes as he glanced between the two CSA commanders. “…Don’t tell me you mean to seize it and then tear it apart so you can claim its tech for yourself.”
“…I must admit, in the name of honesty, that the thought had crossed my mind,” Frath replied slowly, ignoring Krick’s glare as it deepened. “But as you say, it is only one ship — and the relevant technology, I believe, has already been gifted to us.”
“You mean the prototype Subspace Drive?” Scott questioned.
Ukinon nodded. “Yes. It’s an amazing transportation device to be sure, but it can also make for an amazing weapon, if weaponized properly.”
“…How do you plan to weaponize transportation technology?” Kevérin asked in confusion.
“No, no… that makes sense.” Scott stroked his beard in thought. “Hmm, you’re right. As I understand it, your current FTL tech inserts the ship into, er, a ‘shadow’ of our dimension, to put it shallowly, that’s cast by the presence of Chaos Energy itself. Which is why you can’t travel through Dead Space, and why the tech can’t be weaponized, because it’s a local effect. But our Subspace Drive… hmm…”
“…What’s different about our Drive?” Krick prodded the researcher after a second of silence.
“Oh, right. Right, our Subspace Drive works completely differently. It uses Subspace, as its name suggests. I’m still uncertain as to the properties of this ‘Subspace,’ but what I can tell you is how the Drive works — basically, it opens a window into Subspace, which the ship accelerates through. The acceleration boosts the ship to many, many times light-speed, and the ship is able to maintain that constant speed through Subspace until reaching its destination, where the Drive opens a window back to real space that the ship decelerates through, so that once it re-enters real space it is traveling below light-speed.”
“How can we turn that into a weapon?”
“Simple physics, really. If we were to spontaneously introduce an object traveling at speeds orders of magnitude higher than c into real space, then there would be a spectacular release of energy.”
“…I assume you know how to do this?” Krydonin glanced toward Ukinon warily.
“In theory,” the Siion replied, “given the researcher’s notes, the stability of the window the Drive creates can be modified, and the stability of the window is what determines how much it accelerates the ship. Attempting to actually modify the stability is still outside of our grasp, but if we were to rig the Drive in such a way that the window stabilizers fail on exiting Subspace, then we’ll have created a crude, yet highly effective weapon.”
“…Can we really do that?” Krick turned back to Scott.
“Maybe,” the researcher responded, “I’ll hafta look at the Drive more closely, but if it’s possible I can probably figure it out and then rig up the prototype.”
“So… a ‘Drive bomb,’ huh?” Kevérin mused, “…how big will the blast be, though? When will we use it?”
“It’ll be a pretty big blast,” Scott remarked, “I’ll hafta fine-tune it a bit to make sure the Drive doesn’t blow up the whole system, but—”
“Blow up the whole system? Is that actually possible? Is that risk worth it?!”
“Given the circumstances, anything is worth stopping the Nanocreatures,” Frath stated. “…That said, I’d rather not sacrifice the system all the same. This ‘Drive bomb’ is but one tactic we have considered against the Nanocreature fleets, and it is the only one relevant to any of you.”
“That can’t be all you called us here for,” Krick immediately countered. “What’s the deal?”
“You said it yourself earlier, Earthian: you have but one ship,” Frath replied slowly. “We do not plan for you to join the main fleets — that would be a waste of both your ship, and the Ayas you possess. You mentioned Morcii earlier, and now is the time to consider him again. He will be your primary target.”
“Um, excuse me for being blunt, but, uh…” Kevérin responded uneasily, “…have you read the reports concerning Morcii? What makes you think we could handle him any better now than before?”
“Planning, boy, it’s all about planning.” Frath tapped his forehead. “Among other things, we need to draw Morcii away from the fleets, and your ship has displayed a surprising ability to resist him.”
Krick snorted in disbelief. “He broke through Teraton-grade Planetary Shielding, twice. And both were reinforced by an Ayas at the time! I think those are more reliable data points than the anomaly of him failing to destroy the Genesis.”
“Not quite,” Scott refuted, “I had some time to look at the Oriciid’kas battle logs, and an important thing to note is that the shields didn’t fail until the generator had been destroyed.”
“…That is what happens when you destroy shield generators,” Kevérin deadpanned.
Scott shook his head. “No, you don’t understand. You’re forgettin’ that the shield generator is protected by its own shield. To reach the generator, you’d have to bypass the shields, usually by overloadin’ them. But Morcii didn’t do that — the shields didn’t fail until he destroyed the generator itself. The same seems to be the case with the ships he destroyed, or at least, of the ships that managed to transmit damage data before they were completely obliterated.”
“Are you saying that Morcii… what, phased through the shields?” Frath questioned.
“I believe so, yes.” Scott nodded firmly. “I also believe that the reason he failed to do the same with the Genesis lies in its structurally and technically different shielding system. …I can’t easily explain why, but it does fit with the trend of the Genesis being surprisingly effective against the Nanocreatures.”
“Which is exactly why I need you to deal with Morcii,” Frath asserted. “I have two plans — let us call them plan A, and plan B. A is simple, and uses your beaming technology to dispatch Morcii.”
“If you’re going to suggest we beam him into the sun, it won’t work,” Krick deadpanned. “The beaming systems don’t have that kind of range. They can only reach a couple hundred thousand kilometers, maybe, and that’s really pushing it.”
“No one said that you have to beam Morcii into the sun with a single action,” Ukinon countered. “Can you not, shall we say, ‘chain beam’ him? That is, beam him closer to the sun, all while your ship is moving toward the sun itself, and simply repeatedly beam him closer to the sun until he’s actually in it?”
“…Now that’s an idea I wish I had thought of earlier.” Krick smirked. “Though I wouldn’t be surprised at all if this plan backfired somehow. Hell, some Earthians figured out how to block our beaming sensors, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Morcii could do the same.” He then turned back to Frath. “I assume you’ve anticipated this, or you wouldn’t have mentioned a plan B.”
“You assume correctly,” the General responded, “but you won’t like it.”
“I haven’t liked any situation I’ve found myself in over the past several weeks,” Krick retorted. “Just lay it out and I’ll decide if it’s something I can get behind.”
Frath took a deep breath before turning back to the solar system display. He reached over and tapped one of the system’s four terra planets, causing the display to zoom in on the planet. “This is Tau’cen Dii,” he explained as he turned back to face the rest of the room. “It’s an isolated, semi-militarized planet sitting even farther out from the sun than both Gu’Dan and Tau’cen Kii. It is so isolated, in fact, that evacuating non-essential personnel was a trivial task, and the only individuals remaining on the entire planet are those manning a mountain base in the northern hemisphere. It is, I believe, the perfect location for an all-out battle between Chaotics.”
“…And you want us to lure Morcii there.” Krick pursed his lips warily.
Frath nodded. “Yes. As we all know, the Ayas did little to help the shielding situation of either Oriciid’kas or Siionkagh, but we also know that the Ayas were the first things Morcii targeted within the system, not to mention that his stated goal itself is to claim all of them. Given this, I believe we can forgo using the Ayas to boost any of our technology — as it would be a useless effort, anyways — and instead use them to lure Morcii away from the main fight. Once isolated, we can attempt to subdue him, or in the very least discern his true strength and abilities for future plans.”
“I assume this is why you’ve brought me here,” Krydonin commented.
“You assume correctly. Should Morcii prove resistant to beaming, use the Ayas to lure him to Tau’cen Dii, where the Black Suns Chaotic Squads and Hero Machina can engage Morcii. With your numbers, skill, and varied abilities, I believe you stand a decent chance against him.”
“You’re right,” Krick responded flatly, “I don’t like this plan.” He then sighed wearily as he rubbed his forehead. “…But I don’t see any other solution to the matter.”
“I still don’t like the idea of facing Morcii head-on, though,” Kevérin interjected. “He was easily able to counter the First Tier Chaos State. He’s even immune to Subspatial Storage! Not to mention how fast he is. I’m not as confident as you that a bunch of Chaotics could stand up to him.”
“While I appreciate your caution, I think you underestimate the Black Suns,” Krydonin countered. “As I understand it, you’ve seen little of how we operate, and your encounter with Sector 2 back on Teghica is in no way representative of the whole organization. You may not have been able to see me in action when I accompanied you on Rossindon, but I assure you, the Black Suns can hold our own.”
“…If you say so.”
“I understand that this plan is far from optimal,” Frath commented, giving Ukinon a quick glance as she hurriedly left the room before returning his attention to everyone else. “But, given our current information and ability, I believe it is the best way to prolong our fight with the Nanocreature fleets, evacuate as many civilians to safety as possible, and, in the end, obtain a proper assessment of Morcii’s abilities in order to come up with a plan to dispatch him in the future.”
“You’re not wrong…” Krick sighed. “Doesn’t mean I like it. But you’re not wrong.”
“I have one question, however,” Krydonin addressed Frath directly, “the garrison I brought with me to this system was meant to guard the Gate on Tau’cen Kii, to prevent a similar situation to the loss of control on Oriciid’kas. Do you mean to move that garrison to Tau’cen Dii entirely? What about the Gate?”
“The Gate is being lifted into space, blocked, and locked in a vacuum container as an absolute countermeasure to just that scenario,” Frath stated. “I don’t mean to say that I distrust the Black Suns, Commander, but just as I must be wary of corruption amongst my own soldiers, so too must I be wary of corruption amongst yours. Lifting the Gate prevents all attempts to control it and frees your garrison for commitment to Tau’cen Dii.”
Krydonin nodded. “Understandable.”
“Is that it, then?” Krick questioned, “I understand the plan and what you need me and the Genesis to do. Is there anything else?”
“No, that’s it for now,” Frath replied, double-tapping the display and then swiping down with three fingers to shut off the display and brighten the room’s lights. “Further details will be transmitted to your ship and we will keep you updated as to the state of the fleet engagements. But for now, I need all of you to prepare to execute the plan, and as quickly as possible. The Nanocreatures could show up at any moment.”
“You don’t know how true that is,” Ukinon remarked as she stepped back into the room. “Long-range sensors began picking up incoming fleets five minutes ago. The Nanocreatures are here.”