Chapter 77 – Corrupting Chaos

Chaos Form

Kievkenalis shivered as a veil of Chaos Energy covered his body, offering slight protection against the cold atmosphere. A snow storm had expanded from southeast Nimaliaka Central to cover the entire city and the region around it, coating the building tops and streets with a thin layer of snow and ice and forcing the Chaostechnic to progress toward the coast at a slower, more cautious speed. “Chaos… Boost…” he muttered, the pain caused by the use of Chaos Energy numbed by the biting air around him as he dashed forward and then leaped upwards, clearing several stories and landing on the roof of a five-story industrial structure. He paused to look down at the area in front of him: the industrial freight docks of Old Nimaliaka Central. Long ago, before the age of space flight, the docks saw high usage from water-borne freight ships as one of the busiest ports in all of Nimalia — but now it was largely abandoned or repurposed, with nothing but a shell of its former glory left as the only users now were Tresédian ferries and independent merchants who couldn’t afford modern air- or spaceships.

The quay directly in front of Kievkenalis was the main offloading area, featuring a large, wide-open space across which freight rails ran. The platform extended for nearly two hundred meters toward the bay before dropping off into the coastal waters; several kilometers to the north were the clean public beaches, and several kilometers to the south, the coast began turning eastward to follow the Nimaliakian land bridge.

Chaos Energy Detect” Kievkenalis muttered and then turned his attention away from the snow-covered sights to search for the Master Ayas. He scowled with frustration as his search turned up nothing; he had been slow to pursue the Ayas, and its Chaos Energy trail had long since dispersed thanks to time and the chaos of the Nanocreature attacks. The only course of action left was to search for the Ayas manually, an option made worse by the weather conditions and the lateness of the night. Kievkenalis estimated that there were only another three or four hours until sunrise — and the exhaustion from the long night was beginning to catch up to him. Nonetheless, he prepared to look for the Ayas, turning his gaze toward —

what was that?! The Chaostechnic suddenly whipped around, staring into the distance as the colored veil induced by Chaos Energy Detect slowly wore off. He squinted in an effort to see through the snow — and immediately exclaimed “Chaos Deflection!!” just in time to take a massive blow from the back, flinging him off the building top. “Chaos Cancel Form! Chaos Fortified Armor!” he quickly called in succession, dispelling the thin veil of Chaos Energy around his body and replacing it with a sturdy set of armor just in time to absorb the shock of his fall on the ground below. He immediately leaped to his feet and jumped back, narrowly evading Morcii as he slammed into the ground.

“…YOU ALDREDANOIDS NEVER FAIL TO STAND IN MY WAY,” the Nanocreature leader growled as he placed his hand on the building behind him and covered it in a coating of silver metal. “I WILL NOT ALLOW YOU TO CLAIM THE MASTER AYAS BEFORE ME. THE AYAS…” He lifted the entire five-story building into the air and then shattered it into four parts before launching them at Kievkenalis. “…WILL BE MINE!

Chaos Explosion!” the Chaostechnic quickly responded, detonating a remote explosion within one of the building fragments and blowing it to pieces as he dashed to the left to evade the remaining fragments. With a quick call of “Chaos Boost” he sped out of the way just before the debris crashed to the ground; he then followed by twisting back toward Morcii and launching several Chaos Strikes, only to stumble as pain disrupted his concentration. Nigh instantly, the Nanocreature leader was upon him, moving to smash his foot into the Chaostechnic but succeeding only in dispelling the Chaos Armor around Kievkenalis’s body. The Chaostechnic quickly followed with “Chaos Deflection,” flinging Morcii away and giving him the room to climb back to his feet just in time to brace himself and call “Chaos Deflection” again to block the myriad of lasers Morcii fired at him. Kievkenalis prepared to retaliate, stretching his right hand forward and beginning “Chaos—!” but caught a glimpse of motion in the corner of his eye before he could finish, forcing him to instead call out “Deflection!” once more as Morcii slammed the remnants of the building from earlier into the Chaostechnic’s location. While protected from direct damage, the impact of the debris flung Kievkenalis across the quay, sending him tumbling to the ground as he barely managed to stop himself from falling into the bay. “Chaos Teleport,” he quickly muttered, teleporting himself away from the ledge just as Morcii attempted to smash his knee into his face, giving the Chaostechnic a moment to climb back to his feet and launch a handful of Chaos Strikes toward Morcii. The Nanocreature leader took the blows head on as he charged forward, simultaneously firing lasers from his transformed arms and closing the distance between himself and Kievkenalis. The Chaostechnic attempted to maintain the distance by quickly backing away, but he stumbled and fell to the ground; he quickly called “Chaos Armor” mere moments before Morcii was upon him, grabbing Kievkenalis by his arm and swinging him around once and then throwing him at the ground with enough force to shatter the concrete. Kievkenalis grimaced and locked up in pain, unable to block Morcii’s next move as he raised his foot into the air — and was subsequently bowled over as Davídrius rammed into him head-on.

“REINFORCEMENTS…?” Morcii muttered, catching himself several meters away and quickly ducking to dodge Christeané’s battlehammer. He immediately reached up and grabbed the hammer’s tether as the weapon flew by, yanking it and whipping Christeané around and into the ground — where the Forcetechnic caught himself and yanked his cord back, ripping Morcii’s arm off and flinging the Nanocreature leader into the air. Instantly, the severed arm split into four pieces, each of which transformed into blades that homed in on Christeané as Morcii himself opened fire with his remaining arm cannon from the opposite direction, forcing the Forcetechnic to take the brunt of the blasts as Davídrius managed to intercept the airborne blades with his own weapons. The Velocitechnic then leaped into the air and moved to smash his foot over Morcii’s head — only for the Nanocreature to dodge backwards and then slam his arms down on Davídrius’s back, spiking him into the platform below. Morcii then moved to fire at Davídrius but was interrupted as Christeané’s hammer slammed into his chest, exploding his body into thousands of fragments as the Forcetechnic flew by and splashed down in the bay.

Davídrius quickly jumped back to his feet and turned toward Morcii as the Nanocreature’s fragments reformed into his full body several tens of meters away. The Velocitechnic was upon him instantly, slashing at the pieces faster than they could reform and forcing Morcii to instead use the fragments themselves to counter, forming numerous daggers that each flew through the air independently and forced Davídrius back. The moment the Velocitechnic let up, each of the daggers flew away and then all converged on his position in a dome formation, effectively trapping him — except he threw himself to the side, twisting his body in just the right way to avoid hitting any of the daggers straight-on and then banking on his Velocitechnic durability to avoid taking damage. Sure enough, he escaped the trap with only a torn jacket and pants; immediately he whipped around and lunged forward, flipping and smashing his foot into the collection of daggers just in time for Christeané to fling himself back on land and follow up with a powerful ground pound, shattering the quay for a hundred meters around. The two Introtechnics then jumped away as the Nanocreature pieces dissolved into a silver cloud that quickly reformed into Morcii, just in time for the Nanocreature leader to stretch his arms forward and slam them into a massive pillar of concrete as it passed by his head. He promptly injected it with millions of nanites, corrupting it and seizing direct control — at which point he launched it back at the Materiatechnic who had thrown it.

Kaoné easily dodged the pillar as she entered the battlefield, distracting Morcii with relatively harmless scraps of concrete and metal as Davídrius and Christeané continually beat him down. The Materiatechnic then rushed over to Kievkenalis, who had yet to fully recover from Morcii’s attack and was merely lying on the pavement in a daze.

“Kevken! What happened?!” she exclaimed, kneeling beside him and helping him into a sitting position.

“…Ungh…” he grunted in pain. “…The Ayas is nearby. We need— agh…!”

Kaoné eyed the Chaostechnic warily as his entire body grew tense. “…You’re in no shape to fight. You should get out of here—!”

“No…” Kievkenalis shook his head. “…Now that you’re here, I can avoid using my abilities. And between you, Davídrius, and Christeané, you can distract Morcii while I look for the Ayas… maybe then we’ll be able to do something about stopping him, instead of allowing him to repeatedly reform his body…”

“Are you sure?” Kaoné questioned as Kievkenalis slowly climbed back to his feet. He paused for a moment to take a deep breath and then nodded.

“It’s the only way,” he declared. “We can’t draw this battle out forever.”

“If you say so,” the Materiatechnic replied, “but don’t push yourself. If you need help, just ask!”

Kaoné then turned back to the battle and spontaneously raised the ground beneath Morcii to fling him into the air the moment before he could attack Christeané. The Nanocreature immediately stopped himself midair and then flipped around to counter Davídrius as the Velocitechnic leaped up to meet him. Morcii then split his body into five parts that sped away from each other just in time to evade a steel pillar created in the air above him; the five parts then split several more times to create a myriad of laser cannons and flechettes that each targeted and relentlessly attacked the two Introtechnics. Davídrius and Christeané both were barely able to dodge the quick attacks, each of them slowly taking down the small projectiles until Kaoné deftly snatched the weapons out of the air with a transmuted steel net. As soon as she had gathered all of the Nanocreature fragments, she balled up the steel; she quickly lost control as Morcii corrupted the material, but Christeané immediately slammed his hammer into the ball, smashing it to pieces. Kaoné then gathered the remnants back into a larger sphere that Christeané again shattered; the Materiatechnic then created one more sarcophagus — a multi-meter wide mass of steel and rock that Christeané hoisted into the air and threw over the bay, where Davídrius leaped into the air and spiked it down into the water. Kaoné created a platform in the air for Davídrius to land on and jump back to the quay, but the moment he touched down, the water behind him exploded upwards as dozens of metallic daggers flew into the air and converged on Kaoné’s position.

Overdrive: Unrelenting Flame!

A wave of fire washed over the quay, rolling around Kaoné, Davídrius, and Christeané as it engulfed the flying daggers and burnt them to a crisp. Immediately afterward, Morcii himself exploded from the bay before slamming into the concrete and completely demolishing half of the platform, raising clouds of debris that distracted the Chaotics as he pressed forward. But he was quickly blocked as Kevérin thrust himself into the fray, incinerating the concrete debris with well-controlled yet impossibly hot bursts of flame as Davídrius and Christeané smashed their way toward Morcii. Just as the Introtechnics closed into melee range, the Nanocreature leader leaped into the sky, transforming all four of his limbs into laser cannons which he used to fire haphazardly on the quay below, slicing the platform into pieces and forcing the Chaotics to dodge until Kaoné created a thick shield and then quickly repaired the quay. Morcii immediately smashed through the shield and seized control of the object through nanite injection to hurl it at the Materiatechnic, forcing Christeané to leap into the air and knock it aside as Kevérin and Davídrius closed on either side of the Nanocreature leader. The Velocitechnic flipped, bringing his foot overhead to smash into Morcii — only for the Nanocreature to easily grab the incoming limb and fling Davídrius into the bay just in time to lunge forward and evade a fire blast—

—and fall directly into Christeané’s waiting fist.

The Forcetechnic obliterated Morcii’s chest, thrusting his right arm all the way through the Nanocreature. But Morcii responded immediately; grabbing Christeané’s arms, Morcii then flipped over backwards, slamming the Forcetechnic into the quay headfirst. He then took to the air, but Kaoné instantly encased him in a sphere of diamond before smashing the sphere back down to the ground. Kevérin quickly bathed it in a constant stream of fire, only letting up several moments later so Christeané could turn around and absolutely pulverize the mass with his battlehammer, completely shattering the sphere and launching tiny fragments of diamond and Nanocreature all across the quay.

“…ALL THIS FIGHTING, AND STILL, YOU HAVE YET TO GRASP THE SITUATION…”

“Damn it…” Kevérin scowled, turning to face the Nanocreature leader as his body reformed across the quay. “…Why can’t you just go away?!”

“I WILL TAKE MY LEAVE EVENTUALLY,” Morcii responded with a smirk, observing Davídrius as Kaoné lifted him out of the bay waters and he joined the other three Chaotics. “BUT ONLY ONCE I HAVE DEFEATED YOU AND CLAIMED THE AYAS. YOU SHOULD HAVE LEARNED YOUR LESSON FROM OUR BATTLE ON NETICEN, ALDREDANOIDS… YOU CANNOT DEFEAT ME PHYSICALLY. YOU CANNOT DESTROY ME; YOU CANNOT OBLITERATE MY CONSTITUENT PARTS—”

Chaos VOID!

In the middle of the Nanocreature’s sentence, a sphere as black as the darkest night engulfed his body. It swallowed Morcii up to his neck before dissipating in complete silence, leaving behind absolutely nothing as the Nanocreature’s head dropped to the ground like a brick.

“I think you’re wrong,” Kievkenalis commented as he stepped forward warily with the Master Ayas in hand. “…Void is an ability that actually erases matter from existence. And I just unlocked it. Let’s see you try to reform your body when there’s no matter left to form with! Chaos Void!

A second sphere of darkness appeared around Morcii’s head, swallowing it and consuming a sizable chunk of the quay as well. Once the sphere disappeared, there was nothing left — only a small, impossibly smooth indentation in the concrete platform where Morcii’s head used to rest.

“…Is… …is that it?” Kaoné questioned warily after several moments of tense silence.

“…It seems like it,” Kevérin responded. He then turned to Kievkenalis as a smile spread across his face. “You found the Ayas! Great work!”

A disembodied voice spoke up in response. “YES, GREAT WORK INDEED.”

“He’s still here? Where is he?!” Davídrius glanced around irately. “Morcii, you—!”

“I’M RIGHT HERE.”

“Wha—?!” All five Chaotics jumped back, startled, as a cloud of metallic dust suddenly emerged from Davídrius’s body and formed a perfect clone of him not even a meter away. The Velocitechnic’s eyes widened in shock, but he quickly crouched down, preparing to lunge into an attack — only to freeze in place.

“I… I…!” He glowered at the form in front of him, his body unmoving. “…I can’t… move…!”

“Shit…!” Kevérin scowled, finding his own body frozen as well. All five Chaotics were trapped, stuck where they stood and unable to offer a counterattack as Morcii casually strolled across the quay, still inhabiting the form of Davídrius. He forced Kievkenalis to utter “Chaos Negation,” removing the Chaotics’ ability to use their powers, and then turned to address them directly.

“YOU TRULY DO UNDERESTIMATE THE NANOCREATURES,” he commented with a chuckle. “WE ARE AN ENTITY CREATED ENTIRELY OF NANOMACHINES. NANOMACHINES, WHICH ARE BY DEFINITION FAR SMALLER THAN YOU ALDREDANOIDS COULD POSSIBLY HOPE TO PERCEIVE. WE ARE CAPABLE OF CORRUPTING AND SEIZING CONTROL OF ANY OBJECT, LIVING OR NO, WITH MINIMAL EFFORT.” He stopped walking and turned back to face the Chaotics, his arms crossed as he returned to his original form. “AND YET YOU CHOSE TO BATTLE ME WITHOUT ANY SORT OF ENERGY FIELD PROTECTION?”

“…Fuck,” Kevérin swore. “…Our Chaos Armor…!”

“INDEED.” Morcii nodded as a malicious smirk spread across his face. “YOUR ENERGY SHIELDING PROTECTED YOU IN YOUR PREVIOUS ENCOUNTERS WITH MY FORCES, BUT SEEDING NANITES WITHIN YOUR BODIES DURING OUR BATTLE HERE WAS A TRIVIAL TASK. EVEN MORE SO DUE TO YOUR HEIGHTENED PHYSICAL ACTIVITY. YOU LOST THE MOMENT YOU DECIDED TO ENGAGE ME IN BATTLE!”

“Thanks for tellin’ us, asshat,” Davídrius countered, “we’ll be sure to keep that in mind next time.”

“YOU EXPECT THERE TO BE A ‘NEXT TIME?’”

“There’s always a next time. Like hell I’ll let it end here!”

“Even if it isn’t us,” Christeané added, “someone’ll be sure to put an end to that ugly mug of yours, someday.”

“…YOU STILL FAIL TO REALIZE THE SCOPE OF MY POWER? YOU STILL DO NOT REALIZE ALL THAT I CAN DO THANKS TO MY CONSTITUTION?” Morcii snorted in derision. “I TAKE THIS FORM ONLY AS A COURTESY! I TAKE THIS FORM TO DISTINGUISH MYSELF IN BATTLE, TO PUT A FACE TO THE NANOCREATURE FORCE SO THAT THE GALAXY KNOWS WHO TO FEAR, SO THAT THE GALAXY KNOWS FROM WHOM TO FLEE! I TAKE THIS FORM ONLY BECAUSE THE NANOCREATURES HAVE THE POWER TO SEIZE THE GALAXY THROUGH BRUTE FORCE, WITHOUT RESORTING TO STEALTH AND SUBTERFUGE. BUT THAT DOES NOT MEAN THAT I AM INCAPABLE OF SUCH. I CAN SEIZE CONTROL OF AND INFLUENCE INDIVIDUALS WITHOUT THEM REALIZING IT. I CAN SEIZE CONTROL OF ENTIRE FORCES OR STARSHIPS, WITHOUT MY VICTIMS BEING ANY THE WISER! BUT MOST OVERLOOKED OF ALL…” He suddenly transformed into Kevérin, spreading his arms wide and grinning maliciously as Hero Machina responded with silent apprehension. “…I COULD BE YOU.”

He transformed into Commander Nikéyin. “I COULD BE YOUR COMMANDING OFFICER.”

He transformed into Archoné Culana. “I COULD BE YOUR SOCIETY’S RULER!”

He transformed into a Nimaliakian space-certified fightercraft. “I COULD BE YOUR TRANSPORTATION, THE VERY GROUND BENEATH YOUR FEET!”

He transformed into a set of Chaos Armor. “I COULD BE YOUR WEAPONS, YOUR ARMOR! BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY…”

He transformed into Vélunis, grinning as Kaoné released a surprised gasp.

“I…”

He transformed into Wilkas, smashing his hands together with glee.

“…COULD BE…”

He finally transformed into Siyuakén, taking on her pre-corrupted appearance as he looked down on Hero Machina haughtily.

“…ANYONE!

“You…!” Davídrius snarled.

“There is nothing you can do,” Morcii retorted, remaining in the form of Siyuakén and taking on her voice as he turned toward Kievkenalis, casually approached, and plucked the Master Ayas from his hands. “And what makes that even more pathetic is that you should be prepared for this! Transtechnics exist. Shape-shifting Chaotics exist! Yet there is nothing you can do to counter me, should I infiltrate your ranks, impersonate your leaders, and tear your very civilization asunder like the poorly constructed house of cards that it is! I have no need to see battle, to fight the galaxy’s Chaotics in direct combat. My goals could be easily achieved through subterfuge alone! I have no lifespan as you do, so time is of no concern to me; stealth and war both achieve the same result. And yet, while I handicap myself by choosing all-out war, by choosing to engage you directly, you still cannot defeat me! You can never defeat me! You were never able to and you will never be able to! The Aldredas and the Drakkars fought me to a stalemate, but you have not achieved even that!

Hero Machina responded with silence, unable to conjure up any sort of reply to the Nanocreature’s claims.

“It is as I said when we first met,” Morcii declared. “I am better than you in every way. Faster… stronger… more durable when I need to be, and more flexible when I want to be! And beyond my passive abilities lie those skills that come with my very nature, the nature that defined our relationship from the very beginning: I! Am! A! God! My mind is indestructible; my body, infinite! You cannot destroy my body, for each time you do I merely reform it! You cannot destroy my mind, for you do not possess even one iota of the understanding required to even reach my ability! Yet when faced with me and my forces as we scour the galaxy to bring back the Morikai, our masters, those even more powerful than I — you still believe yourselves able to defeat me?! Your claims are utterly meaningless! Your madness is insufferable! Even with all that you have to throw at me, my defeat is impossible. My victory is inevitable! Nothing can possibly stand in my way as I claim the Chaos Ayas and free the Morikai, and when that day comes, the universe as you know it will truly end! And absolutely no one in this galaxy, or any galaxy, can possibly hope to stop me!”

“And that’s where you’re wrong, Morcii!”

“Hmm—?” The Nanocreature turned his head upwards just in time to take the brunt of a powerful lightning strike. He collapsed to his knees as Rebehka and Siyuakén dropped down onto the quay, having arrived on a levitating ice platform from the forests many kilometers to the south. Rebehka quickly scooped the Master Ayas out of Morcii’s hands from a distance with a bowl fashioned out of ice, and then tossed it through the air to Siyuakén.

“Siyuakén?” Kaoné questioned warily, noting the corrupted Electrotechnic’s arrival. “…What are you doing here…?”

“It’s fine!” Siyuakén declared, “or rather, I’m fine! I’m in control now!”

“…YOU BROKE FREE OF MY INFLUENCE, ONCE AGAIN,” Morcii muttered as he returned to his original form and erased all signs of electrical damage in the process. “…I ADMIT, THIS IS BOTHERSOME. BUT YOU CANNOT DEFY ME FOR LONG…” The Nanocreature trailed off, his previous air of arrogance transforming into irritation as a scowl formed on his face. “…YOU…! INTERRUPTING MY CONTROL LIKE THIS, HOW COULD YOU POSSIBLY—?”

“You aren’t as powerful as you think you are, Morcii,” the Electrotechnic countered. “Your abilities aren’t as absolute as you seem to think. Your power is entirely tied to the Ayas, and to how many of them you have — why else were you so close to defeat just before I got here?”

“TO SUGGEST THAT I COULD LOSE—”

“But you were,” Siyuakén cut in, glancing toward the other Chaotics of Hero Machina with a slight smile as they all relaxed, once again able to move of their own accord. “I could sense it from a distance. The battle here wasn’t nearly as one-sided as when we first ran into you on Maasen. And that’s evident from what you had to resort to. Before, you could win through brute force; now, you can’t, because all of your Ayas are gone, and you’ve been reduced to our level. And then you tried to compensate by corrupting your enemies. Which might have worked… if you hadn’t underestimated us!”

ME? UNDERESTIMATING YOU ALDREDANOID IMBECILES?”

“How else would you explain this? I’m free of your control, and along with that, I have some ability to control Nanocreatures myself! I won’t claim to know how that is, but what I do know is that this means you aren’t in nearly as complete control as you like to say that you are! It is very possible to defeat you, Morcii, and we’re going to be the ones to do it!”

“YOU COULDN’T POSSIBLY,” Morcii scoffed. “YOU MAY HAVE OVERRIDDEN MY CONTROL FOR NOW, BUT THE FACT REMAINS THAT YOU CANNOT DEFEAT ME — NOT PERMANENTLY. FIGHTING OUT OF SOME SENSE OF PERSONAL REVENGE WILL NOT CHANGE THAT.”

“’Personal revenge?’” Siyuakén echoed, and then dropped her hands to her sides as they slowly began to cackle with electricity. “…You’re right. You destroyed my life, just so you could have a toy to mock the galaxy with, so of course I’m a little mad at you. But that’s not all. You didn’t just destroy my life; you’ve destroyed millions, no, billions? Billions of lives, Morcii, that you discarded, all to, what, bring back your ‘masters?’ You trampled lives, planets, attacked entire civilizations just to achieve your goal, which isn’t even conquest of the galaxy, but to allow someone else to conquer it? So you haven’t even ruined all those lives for yourself, you did it because you’re just someone else’s bitch!”

Sparks began to fly from her arms as the voltage in her body rose in proportion with her anger.

“So of course I’m mad! All those lives, thrown away for nothing! But that isn’t it, either! Because, as selfish as it may sound, you ruined the lives of my friends as well, and that’s even worse! It’d be one thing if you just waged war, and all the galaxy’s casualties were a result of conventional warfare. You’d still be a little shit, but at least it wouldn’t be unexpected.”

Lightning began to arc from her arms to the ground around her.

“But that’s not what you did! You made a distinct effort to take control of me, and to do so in the most painful way possible, forcing me to put up with this damned corruption for months and then forcing two of my friends to fight and kill me, and even that didn’t work because you then used me against them on Tau’cen Dii and Neticen for the shock value alone! And then when you finally decide to kill someone, you have to do so in the most brutal way possible! So of course I’m really mad!”

Lightning and sparks wreathed Siyuakén’s body, the volatile electrical currents stirring up the air around her into violent winds.

“You are in no way a god, Morcii — you’re just a malicious psychopath, the Morikai’s bitch, some pathetic idiot who gets off on murder and destroying people’s lives! I’ll be damned if you claim that we can’t defeat you, because we’ll find a way! We will win, no matter how hard you want us to believe that we can’t! Because you cannot be allowed to win, and for as long as I live, you will not!” She then clenched her fists and slammed them together, lightning jumping from her body as she shouted, “Overdrive: SHOCK AND AWE!

Instantly, Morcii was struck by lightning so fierce and intense that it lit up the docks and the bay as though dawn had just broke while utterly obliterating the entire quay. Kaoné immediately moved to create shields and platforms for the other Chaotics of Hero Machina as Siyuakén repeatedly struck Morcii with similarly incredible lightning strikes, parting the very clouds themselves as she forced all of the energy out of the snow storm into the single point that was Morcii’s body — repeatedly. Within seconds, the Nanocreature leader had disintegrated into nothing as Siyuakén’s lightning destroyed him and she seized control of any Nanocreatures for kilometers around, completely preventing any sort of recovery. Yet she did not cease her attacks until nearly a minute later, finally relenting and allowing the darkness of night to return to the pier as nothing was left of Morcii in any way.

“…SO THIS IS HOW IT IS, HMM?”

“Of course he’s still around…” Kevérin muttered as he glanced around in an attempt to find the Nanocreature leader. But his search returned nothing — Morcii’s voice seemed  to emerge from the air itself, coming from no particular direction, or from any physical body.

“…I ACKNOWLEDGE THAT I HAVE SEVERELY UNDERESTIMATED YOU. BUT THAT MISTAKE IS EASILY REMEDIED!”

As soon as his sentence finished, the water in the bay began to swell; mere moments later, a gigantic silver ship several kilometers long rose out of the coastal waters, slowly ascending into the sky as it effortlessly destroyed the dozen Frigates hovering over the city with a hail of laser fire.

“YOUR PLANET HOLDS LITTLE VALUE TO ME; AS I SAID BEFORE, I CAN WAIT. MY FORCES ARE CLAIMING THE OTHER CHAOS AYAS AS WE SPEAK. THE MASTER AYAS WILL RETURN TO ME EVENTUALLY… UNTIL THAT DAY… FAREWELL!”

Immediately, several of the ship’s guns swiveled around toward the quay and fired. Kaoné quickly jumped forward, shouting “Overdrive: Conflict’s Judge!” and then erecting a massive dome over the quay to protect everyone from the bombardment, but she was forced to maintain her concentration on the barrier as the ship failed to relent in its attack.

“Welp.” Davídrius scowled as he turned toward Siyuakén. “…Glad to have you back and all, and I really appreciated the light show, but, uh… what exactly was that supposed to accomplish? …Siyuakén?!”

The Electrotechnic suddenly collapsed, falling to the ground haphazardly. Rebehka quickly stooped down to help her up, but Siyuakén responded lethargically, turning toward her friend with half-lidded eyes.

“…Hah…” she muttered, “…I wondered… how long that would last…”

“Siyuakén…?” Rebehka questioned, worry rapidly clouding her features as the Electrotechnic fell limp. “…Siyuakén!! …No…!”

“Wait…” Christeané frowned as he watched in disbelief. “Is… she…?”

“NO. THERE STILL REMAINS TIME TO SAVE HER.”

“Arcán?” Kevérin questioned, adjusting his glasses to change his communicator to speaker mode to allow the rest of Hero Machina to hear the Prior. “What do you mean?”

“SHE IS NOT YET DEAD; THE EXHAUSTION FROM OVERWHELMING MORCII’S CONTROL, COUPLED WITH A LONG NIGHT OF FIGHTING, HAS SIMPLY CAUGHT UP WITH HER. HOWEVER, IF WE DO NOT TEND TO HER SOON, THEN SHE WILL EITHER EXPIRE, OR RETURN TO NANOCREATURE CONTROL. WE MUST ACT NOW.”

“What do— what do we do?” Rebehka pressed.

“IT IS NOT SIMPLE, BUT IT IS ALSO TIED TO DEFEATING MORCII. UNFORTUNATELY, BOTH SAVING YOUR FRIEND AND STOPPING MORCII REQUIRES LEAVING THIS WORLD POSTHASTE.”

“You want us to leave Nimalia?” Christeané frowned. “You want us to leave when we’re needed most? In the middle of Nanocreature attack?!”

“And what’s that got to do with savin’ Siyuakén?” Davídrius questioned.

“Yeah, this isn’t quite so simple, Arcán,” Kevérin commented, “this is a bigger leap of faith than handing you control of Nimaliaka Central’s automated systems. You’re actually asking us to leave our Homeworld, in the middle of the biggest battle its seen in centuries, for reasons that we currently don’t know!”

“…I WILL BE UPFRONT WITH YOU. I HAVE NOT BEEN ENTIRELY HONEST WITH YOU THESE PAST SEVERAL MONTHS REGARDING METHODS OF RESTORING MY CORE.”

“No shit!”

“LISTEN. I DID NOT TELL YOU THEN, BECAUSE WHAT I AM ABOUT TO TELL YOU NOW MUST REMAIN A SECRET TO THE ENTIRE GALAXY, LEST THE NANOCREATURES LEARN HOW TO CONTROL THE PRIORS THEMSELVES!”

The six conscious members of Hero Machina glanced at each other uneasily.

“Continue…” Kevérin prompted warily.

“LOCATED AT HIDDEN POSITIONS JUST OUTSIDE THE GALAXY ARE NINE PLATFORMS — IMMENSELY LARGE STRUCTURES SUSPENDED IN SPACE, ONE FOR EACH AYAS, FOR EACH PRIOR, THAT SERVE AS EACH PRIOR’S BASE OF OPERATIONS, SO TO SPEAK. THESE PLATFORMS HOLD THE INFINITE MEMORY OF EACH PRIOR, SERVE AS A RE-STAGING AREA FOR THE PRIORS, AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, ALLOW FOR INSTANTANEOUS TRANSPORTATION TO ANYWHERE IN THE GALAXY. THIS CAN ONLY BE ACHIEVED WHILE BOTH THE PRIOR’S CORE AND THEIR RESPECTIVE AYAS ARE PRESENT… OR IF THE AYAS SYN IS PRESENT.”

“The Ayas Syn…?” Kievkenalis repeated. “…So if we bring the Master Ayas and your core back to this, er, ‘platform’… then what?”

“THEN MY CORE CAN BE REPAIRED, AND I WILL BECOME ABLE TO BOTH SAVE YOUR FRIEND, AND OUTFIT YOU WITH THE KNOWLEDGE AND ABILITIES REQUIRED TO DEFEAT MORCII ONCE AND FOR ALL — GOALS THAT ARE NOT INDEPENDENT OF EACH OTHER, I SHOULD NOTE.”

The six Chaotics responded with tense silence, unsure of how to take Arcán’s claims.

Eventually Rebehka spoke up, still cradling Siyuakén as she glanced between the other members of Hero Machina. “I don’t know about the rest of you,” she began, “…but Siyuakén’s finally back with us. She managed to survive corruption, all that hardship, and returned to save us from Morcii… so I’m more than willing to take this chance to save her! And if there’s a chance to take out Morcii as well, then all the better!”

Christeané nodded in affirmation. “She’s right. I don’t like leaving Nimalia behind… but a Dreadnought’s out of our scope. And it’s pretty hard to pass up a chance to kick Morcii’s ass!”

“I don’t like how you didn’t tell us this shit ‘til right now,” Davídrius addressed the Prior with a scowl. “…But, fuck it, I’ll take this chance. Not really anythin’ else we can do, now, is there? I kinda owe Siyuakén anyways…”

“A chance to stop Morcii is worth a lot,” Kievkenalis added, “and the chance to learn more about the Priors, about the Nanocreatures, about the situation we’re in… that’s worth even more.”

“Siyuakén’s our friend, so of course we’d want to save her!” Kaoné remarked, and then grimaced as she strained under the Dreadnought’s continued barrage. “But whatever we do, let’s do it quick!”

“…Alright.” Kevérin smiled grimly in response. “I’m in agreement with all of you. Sounds like we have a course of action.”

“EVEN CONSIDERING MY ADMISSION OF DISHONESTY? ARE YOU TRULY WILLING TO TRUST ME SO QUICKLY?”

“We don’t have a choice,” Rebehka countered. “It’s plain as day that we can’t beat Morcii the conventional way… so your words right now are our only hope. Our only hope to save Siyuakén, and to stop Morcii. He’s been allowed to run around for too long; we need to stop him, at any cost!”

“…VERY WELL. I WILL TRANSPORT MY OWN CORE TO THE INTERSTELLAR GATE USING THE AUTOMATED UNITS. HURRY TO THE GATE YOURSELVES, AND WE WILL BE ON OUR WAY TO VICTORY.”

“Got it!” Kevérin nodded, and then turned back to the rest of Hero Machina. “…I have no idea what we’re about to face, or the risks we’re about to take, but if Arcán’s right — we have a chance to stop Morcii now, all thanks to Siyuakén! So let’s not let this chance go to waste!” He turned toward the south and jumped into the air, using his flame jets to hover for a second before flying off. “Let’s go!!”

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