“I feel like we’re sayin’ that a lot, lately,” Davídrius commented, glancing toward Christeané as he jumped out of the hovercar. He then turned back toward the gates to the mountain base as he warily eyed their burnt remains. “…But, uh, not really much else to say, huh?”
“If the gate’s been burned… Kevérin and Kevken should be here, right?” Christeané kicked the gate remnants aside and began briskly walking into the complex. “Something bad must’ve happened if they needed to break in…”
“That’s easy to tell even without the gate,” Davídrius pointed out as he sped to Christeané’s side, “the defensive CENT fields are down. What’s that tell ya?”
The two Chaotics fell silent as they progressed past the unmanned defenses at the front of the complex. Shortly afterward they entered the main courtyard, where they stopped to observe the battle damage before Davídrius blasted forward and inspected the rest of the base. Christeané only had to wait a few moments for the Velocitechnic to return.
“The Commander’s dead,” he declared with a frown. “It looked like she’d been corrupted…”
Christeané scowled. “Shit. What about Kevérin or Kevken? Are they still here?”
“Kevérin’s in the basement with that Prior, workin’ on… somethin’,” Davídrius responded. “You go meet with ‘im and find out what’s goin’ on, I’ll go get our weapons.”
“Got it.” Christeané nodded back as the two began approaching the building again. “Time to see just how bad things are…”
“MORCII… HAS RETURNED.”
“Yes, he’s back,” Kevérin responded irately as he opened a hatch in the wall and began inspecting the underlying wires. “How many times are you going to tell yourself that before you help me fix the damn comms?”
“DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THIS EVENT? UNLESS YOU HAVE FED ME FALSEHOODS, YOU DESTROYED MORCII THROUGH THE USE OF THE MASTER FOURTH TIER CHAOS STATE. YET HE HAS RETURNED!”
“Trust me, Arcán, this is all the damned truth. How about what you’ve told me though, huh? You said destroying Morcii with the Chaos State would be enough!”
“I CLAIMED IT WOULD BE ENOUGH IN LIEU OF BETTER INFORMATION, AND I SAID AS MUCH. IF ONLY YOU HAD JOINED MY CORE WITH THE ARCÁN AYAS, THEN PERHAPS WE WOULD NOT BE IN THIS SITUATION, HMM?”
“You annoying little…” The Transfer Captain growled, slamming the hatch shut as he finished with the cords. He stormed over to a nearby console just as Christeané entered the room. “What are you doing here?” Kevérin questioned as he eyed the Forcetechnic with annoyance, “I thought I told you to check out the Gateport.”
“Dude… chill,” Christeané responded warily, “we were just there; Davídrius and I came back to get our weapons, and then we found the whole place wrecked and the Commander dead… what happened?”
“LACK OF FORESIGHT, THAT IS WHAT HAPPENED.”
“Arcán—!” Kevérin snarled and then stopped himself, taking a deep breath and a moment to calm down. He then resumed working at the console as he addressed Christeané, “…Morcii’s back. He corrupted the Commander to get the location of the Master Ayas out of her. We had to kill her, and now Kevken’s going after the Ayas himself.”
“So he really is back…” Christeané scowled. “Damn it. You should know that Siyuakén’s back, too.”
“What?!” Kevérin and Arcán replied simultaneously. The Pyrotechnic then continued, “but Kaoné said that Morcii killed her!”
“And you have to wonder what that actually means to someone as corrupted as Siyuakén.” Christeané snorted. “If Morcii’s keeping her as close as he has been, then simply ‘killing her’ might not be enough to actually, well, kill her.”
“Just like Morcii himself, apparently…” Kevérin sighed irately as he stood up and approached another wall hatch, before opening it and igniting a small, intense flame on his fingertip as he began cutting wires and attaching others.
“…What are you doing?”
“I’m fixing the comms,” the Transfer Captain responded. “But I’m not an Electrotechnic, so I have to reroute power from other systems in order to boost the comm arrays enough to overcome the jamming.”
“You can do that from here?”
“Not effectively. Doing it this way will cause the systems to burn out after a couple days. But if we haven’t kicked out the Nanocreatures by then…”
“Yeah…” Christeané sighed. “I get it. Damn, this is all fucked up…”
“You’re tellin’ me!” Davídrius exclaimed as he dashed onto the scene, his sword boxes slamming against the door as he barged in. “On the way to the armory, there were… …just how many people did Morcii need to kill, huh? He didn’t even stop to corrupt any of ‘em!”
“There’s no need for him to do that here,” Christeané replied, holding out his hand to catch his battlehammer and its harness as Davídrius tossed them his way. “Not when his forces are out in the city, corrupting everything there.”
“Which is all the more reason for us to get goin’,” the Velocitechnic urged, “we need to find Morcii, if he’s here!”
“He is,” Kevérin commented, “but Kevken’s already gone after him.”
“And I can go after him faster,” Davídrius pressed, “where is he?”
“If he’s going after the Master Ayas, then he should be heading to the military Gate Train depot in the Western Peaks.”
Davídrius and Christeané glanced at each other cluelessly. “…Where?” Christeané questioned.
“One moment…” Kevérin responded slowly as he continued to fiddle with the wires in the hatch. “If I can get this right… then you guys can patch into the comm array and get GPS that way.”
“And how long’ll that take?”
“Did you not hear me say ‘one moment?’” the Pyrotechnic retorted. Several seconds later he sighed of relief and approached another console. “…Alright! We have comms again! …Well, shit!”
“What now?” Davídrius questioned apprehensively.
“The orbital fleet seems to have assumed the worst, between the arrival of the Nanocreatures and Nimaliaka Central’s communications blackout,” Kevérin reported, and then looked up at Christeané and Davídrius uneasily. “…They fired an orbital barrage at the facility holding the Master Ayas. It’ll be obliterated within the next ten minutes.”
“Chaos Energy… Detect.”
Kievkenalis winced before focusing on the environment around him and watching the trails of Chaos Energy among the Western Peaks. Through repeated use of Chaos Boost, he had easily crossed the entire city in a quarter of the time it would have taken to use a hovercar, but he had trouble scaling the western mountains on his own. He knew that the Master Ayas was at stake and that Morcii had a head-start on him in reaching the Ayas, so he was pushing himself as hard as he could to scale the mountains regardless of the difficulty — resulting in searing pain wracking his body over and over as he forced himself through multiple activations of Chaos abilities. And yet, even after managing to endure the pain, he still feared the worst: that Morcii may beat him to the Master Ayas in the end.
He shook his head to clear his thoughts before refocusing on the Chaos Energy in the region. One particular point stood out, as all of the Chaos Energy around it seemed to slowly flow outward, like water from a waterfall. “That must be it…” he muttered to himself, and then activated Chaos Boost again to leap high into the air, where he caught himself on a higher cliff-edge — and promptly noticed that he had reached the mountaintop roads. He had decided to scale the mountain himself instead of follow the roads due to how long and windy they were, but when he thought back to how much time he had wasted trying to climb the cliffs…
No good. He shook his head again, attempting to discard the irrelevant thoughts as he dashed down the road, taking the final bend and spotting the Gate Train loading depot. Need to find the Ayas… He stopped momentarily at the entrance gates before speeding through their wrecked frames, reaching the interior of the complex just as Chaos Boost wore off. He slowed to a brisk walk as he approached the main building, inspecting the complex along the way. Much like the base where he and Kevérin had found Morcii the first time, the loading depot was covered in scorch marks, obliterated mechs, and bloodied corpses.
“Chaos Energy Detect,” Kievkenalis muttered again, immediately snapping his head downward to focus on a distant point source of Chaos Energy. “It’s still here… good. Chaos Boost.”
The Chaostechnic rushed into the main building, quickly finding his way to the nearest elevator and smashing through the door to the shaft with Chaos Massive Impact. He then flung himself down the shaft, muttering “Chaos Claws” halfway down and slamming the claws into the shaft walls, thereby slowing his descent. He glanced around warily until spotting the nearest door; wrenching one of his hands from the wall, he directed it toward the door and called “Chaos Massive Impact,” tearing the doors off their tracks and opening the way to the floor. Kievkenalis then released his other hand from the wall and jumped toward the opening, landing with a haphazard roll as the pain from calling multiple Chaos Attacks in quick succession momentarily ruined his ability to concentrate.
The Chaostechnic jumped, his focus lost again as he heard a sudden voice in his ear. He quickly recovered and realized it was coming from the communicator he had picked up at the mountain base. “Kevérin? You got the comms back up?”
“Yeah, and I found out something really really bad,” the Pyrotechnic responded in a hurry, “listen, the orbital fleet launched a bombardment barrage at the Western Peaks base barely half an hour ago! Those rounds will hit within the next five or six minutes and they’ll wipe out anything within a kilometer of the base, so stay back!”
“Stay back?” Kievkenalis echoed wearily as he climbed to his feet and began rushing down the hallway. “But I’m already here. Chaos Massive Impact!” He paused to tear a door off its hinges before finishing, “and so is the Master Ayas!”
“Argh. Fine, but I’m warning you — get the Ayas and get out as quickly as possible!”
“Understood,” the Chaostechnic replied as he turned around a corner. He immediately found himself standing in front of another door and knocked it down as easily as he had the rest, but momentarily froze as pain shot through his body yet again. As soon as he could focus again, he stepped into what appeared to be a long observation room. The longest wall was constructed entirely of glass, offering a clear view of a sizable clean room below, the Master Ayas sitting on a pedestal in the center—
“SO… YOU MANAGED TO CATCH UP.”
—And none other than Morcii standing at the other end of the room.
Kievkenalis immediately backed away defensively as he glanced between Morcii and the Master Ayas. Damn, it’s too far away. I can’t activate the Chaos State, but if I try to break the glass and get closer… Morcii’s too fast, he’ll—
“GIVING ME THE SILENT TREATMENT, ARE WE?”
Kievkenalis focused his attention on the Nanocreature leader uneasily. “…What are you doing here?”
Morcii snorted. “THE SAME THING YOU ARE, I AM SURE. I AM CLAIMING THE AYAS.”
“No, that’s not what I meant,” the Chaostechnic countered. Maybe, if I can stall him…!
“…AH HA HA, YOU WISH TO KNOW HOW I’VE RETURNED TO THE LAND OF THE ‘LIVING’, IS THAT IT?” The Nanocreature offered an arrogant smirk. “THE KEY HERE IS THAT I HAVE NOT ACTUALLY RETURNED, PER SE.”
“…You’re still dead?”
“NO, YOU FOOL. I NEVER DIED! WHAT HAS ALWAYS BEEN LIVING CANNOT ‘RETURN’ TO DOING SO.”
“Then… what happened at Neticen? We destroyed a planet to kill you, how can you still be around to, to cause all this Chaos?”
“HOW CAN I STILL BE AROUND? OH, YOU ALDREDANOIDS NEVER FAIL TO AMUSE ME.” Morcii chuckled derisively. “YOU CONTINUE TO ATTEMPT TO ASSIGN THE CONCEPT OF FORM TO THAT WHICH IS ABOVE IT. AS ALDREDANOIDS — AS BEINGS OF THE FLESH — YOU KNOW A WORLD WHERE EVERY ITEM’S EXISTENCE IS TIED TO ITS PHYSICAL FORM. IT IS INCONCEIVABLE TO YOU THAT SOMETHING COULD EXIST WITHOUT SOME FORM, WITHOUT SOME SORT OF PRESENCE IN WHAT YOU KNOW AS THE PHYSICAL REALM. I ADMIT THIS IS TRUE FOR THE VAST MAJORITY OF THE UNIVERSE… BUT NOT I! YOU MAY DESTROY MY FORCES, YOU MAY DESTROY MY BODY, BUT NEVER WILL YOU DESTROY MY MIND — AND SO LONG AS THAT EXISTS, SO TOO WILL THE NANOCREATURES! AND AS LONG AS THE NANOCREATURES EXIST I WILL RETURN, AND I WILL DO SO AS MANY TIMES AS IT TAKES TO SEIZE ALL OF THE CHAOS AYAS AND FREE THE MORIKAI FROM THEIR PRISON! THIS IS THE GIFT GIVEN TO ME BY THE MORIKAI, THE GIFT THAT WILL ALLOW ME TO RETURN THEM TO THIS REALM — OR, IN LIEU OF SUCH, THE GIFT THAT WILL ALLOW ME TO EXACT THEIR RIGHTEOUS VENGEANCE ON A GALAXY SO PITIFULLY MISGUIDED THAT IT THINKS IT CAN RID ITSELF OF US FOR GOOD!” The Nanocreature paused in self-amusement before dropping his arms to his side and transforming both of his hands into long blades. “BUT I HAVE SAID ENOUGH FOR NOW. THE MASTER AYAS IS MINE, ALDREDANOID, AS ARE ALL OF THE AYAS!”
Morcii then lunged toward Kievkenalis, crossing the entire observation room in a mere second. But a second was all the Chaostechnic needed as he quickly shouted “Teleport!” Instantly, the observation room disappeared and was replaced by a dark, rainy field. Kievkenalis collapsed to his knees from the pain of the drawn-out Chaos Ability; he had counted on Morcii entering into a monologue, and used the silence to boost the power of Chaos Teleport and enable him to teleport over a kilometer away to an empty field at the base of the Western Peaks. But the boost used a significant amount of Chaos Energy, causing him an incredible amount of pain that he found difficult to recover from. However, when the sky lit up brightly as the orbital bombardment barrage slammed into the Gate Train depot and completely demolished the mountain peak, Kievkenalis sighed of relief, pleased to have escaped an untimely death.
“It won’t stop Morcii for long…” he muttered to himself, slowly stumbling to his feet as he stared up at the damaged mountains through the night rain. “…Chaos… Energy Detect!” The Chaostechnic squinted skyward, toward out an incredibly distant trail of Chaos Energy. “…The Master Ayas was flung away…” He tracked the trail of Chaos Energy through the air to the eastern horizon. “…Really far away, too. I hope it didn’t land in the bay… Chaos Boost!”
Siyuakén stumbled through the snow-blurred streets, unable to see more than half a meter in front of her face due to the blizzard caused by Rebehka’s Overdrive. The Electrotechnic glanced about herself quickly yet cautiously as she continuously ran enough current through her body to counteract the cold.
Rebehka observed from a distance as she gauged Siyuakén’s position through her connection to the snow all around her. The two Chaotics had been fighting for nearly an hour at this point, long enough for her Overdrive to wear off once and allow the Cryotechnic to call it again. Through the blizzard, Rebehka could easily track Siyuakén, but the advantage was countered by the corrupted Electrotechnic’s ability to sense nearby currents — including the minute currents present in living creatures. Neither Chaotic had yet to land any kind of significant blow on the other.
…’Yet’ being the key word, Rebehka amended mentally, before finally jumping forwards and creating several tens of ice javelins that she then hurled at Siyuakén. Two of the javelins sliced into the Electrotechnic’s back and leg before she quickly hardened her entire skin with her nanomachines, weathering the frozen onslaught before retaliating with a powerful lightning blast that Rebehka just barely managed to dodge. The Cryotechnic quickly disappeared into the blizzard again, using the snow and wind as cover as she continued to barrage Siyuakén with attacks. Shortly after she managed to land one, the Electrotechnic let out a massive electric pulse that stunned Rebehka, throwing off her next attacks. Siyuakén then summoned an immensely powerful lightning bolt from the sky, imparting enough force and energy to the ground to blow back the snow and ice for tens of meters around her — which was just enough to lay eyes on Rebehka. The two Chaotics immediately locked eyes, but Siyuakén moved her hands faster than Rebehka could move her body — and fired off another powerful lightning bolt directly at the Cryotechnic. Rebehka managed to create several ice barriers to help absorb the blow, but she was still thrown violently into a nearby building, slamming into its walls and collapsing to the ground in a daze.
Several moments passed before the Cryotechnic could recover from the blow and scramble back to her feet, leaping away from her location to evade any potential follow-up attacks. As no lightning came, however, a thought crossed her mind:
I was open. She could have attacked, she could’ve killed me… why didn’t she?
Rebehka faltered for a moment, unsure of what to do next. She then furrowed her brow as she created a long spear of ice and dashed toward Siyuakén’s location before thrusting the weapon forward. The Electrotechnic began to dodge at the last second, barely evading the tip of the spear as she whirled around and slammed her right hand into Rebehka’s chest plate of ice, imparting enough energy to shatter the chest plate and knock the Cryotechnic back. Rebehka quickly rolled away as soon as she hit the ground, jumping back to her feet and rushing off as an electrical blast hit her previous location a second later.
She’s slow… she’s barely fighting me at all… Rebehka frowned as she increased the distance between herself and Siyuakén and then circled around. …But why? According to everyone else, she was able to hold her own against both Kaoné and Wilkas, on two different occasions… I may have trained with her, but how have I drawn blood, and she hasn’t?
The Cryotechnic suddenly flinched away as Siyuakén summoned another skyward lightning blast, creating a brief opening in the blizzard through which she could see Rebehka. The Cryotechnic immediately lunged backwards through the snow curtain just in time to evade several lightning strikes on her position, all of them missing by a hair.
…She’s had several chances to hit me with a killing blow, but never has. She doesn’t seem to be fighting to kill. She’s just fighting to intimidate… it’s like she doesn’t want to actually kill me. Rebehka stared through the blizzard, dumbfounded. She then felt the hair on her neck rise, prompting her to create a shield of ice just in time to block another electrical blast. Is she… is she resisting…? She did manage to overcome the corruption on Neticen, even if she was near death, but… can she do it again?
The Cryotechnic stopped in her tracks and turned to look at her friend through the snow storm. A second later, the air in front of her lit up as she felt the warmth of lightning pass straight in front of her face; a second strike hit her squarely in the chest, but only with enough energy to melt half of her ice armor and stagger her.
…That must be it! She still has the ability to influence her own actions. Is it because Morcii just recently returned? Maybe because he no longer has any of the Ayas, he can’t control her as completely as before…? Rebehka’s expression hardened as she repaired her ice armor and prepared even more projectiles. If that’s the case, then now’s my only opening. If I don’t get through to her now, then I never will! “Siyuakén!” she shouted into the wind, unsure if her voice would be lost in the storm but nonetheless certain of her course of action. “…I’m sorry to go against your wishes again, Siyuakén, but— forget everything I said earlier! I swear to you! I lost you once, but this time… I’ll bring you back!”