“Overdrive: Speed Break!!”
Davídrius blasted forward, easily breaking Mach 10 as he dashed and leaped across the terrain underfoot. Siyuakén tightened her grip on him and clamped her eyes shut in unease as the Velocitechnic covered over two kilometers of ground per second, seeking out the cavern entrance that Arcán had mentioned. Within half a minute he laid eyes on a hole in a hillside — and standing guard were no less than three behemoth Nanocreatures, each a hundred meters longs and similar in appearance to the base-wrecker that had appeared on Neticen. But the Velocitechnic remained undeterred — closing to within a kilometer of the beasts, he leaped into the air and twisted around to thrust his foot forward, using his incredible speed to tear through one of the Nanocreature beasts and obliterate it with sheer kinetic energy. He hit the ground running, not even bothering to attack the remaining two behemoths as he slowed to a more manageable Mach five and entered the caverns.
The only light to be found within the caves was the dim ever-present glow of Chaos Matter, but it still provided enough light for Davídrius to see and react to incoming obstacles. Darting around corners and dashing through corridors, he covered more ground in mere seconds than any of the other members of Hero Machina could have covered in half an hour, all while retaining a tight grasp on Siyuakén. Then, just as he rounded another corner — he and Siyuakén both were blinded by an intense flash of dark green light.
“Gah!” Davídrius clamped his eyes shut reflexively, slamming his feet into the ground to slow himself to a stop — only to feel the ground suddenly disappear from under him. He immediately snapped his eyes open and found that he had careened off an edge… and that there was nothing but darkness below. “What the… what in the—?!”
“Hang on!” Siyuakén shouted, directing her attention up at the ceiling as she reached toward it with her left arm and fired her grappling hook. A second later it caught against the stone walls, transferring the Chaotics’ downward momentum into a forward swing. The Electrotechnic released the hook at the apex of the swing and fired it forward again, allowing her to sail through the air while Davídrius clung to her torso.
“What the fuck…” The Velocitechnic scowled as he glanced down uneasily. “Where’d the fuckin’ ground go?!”
“What, you scared?”
“Look, I ain’t scared of heights, but not bein’ able to see the ground is just fuckin’ ridiculous!”
“Oh, relax—!” Siyuakén fired her grappling hook again, but stopped mid-sentence when another flash of light — this time pinkish red — filled her vision. The distraction lasted for only a second, but it still delayed the Electrotechnic’s realization that her hook failed to catch on anything. She then snapped her attention upwards — only to see that the ceiling had disappeared as well.
“QUICK, THE MATERIATECHNIC!”
“Uh, uh, right!” Davídrius responded quickly, summoning the Syn Scythe as he and Siyuakén began to fall. He slashed through the air, releasing Kaoné from Subspace.
“What—? Where…?” she questioned, looking about uneasily.
“Your turn!” Davídrius interrupted, tossing her the Master Ayas as the three Chaotics began to enter free fall. Kaoné reached out to catch it, missed, and then crafted a platform midair to catch both the Ayas and the three Chaotics. She tossed the Ayas to herself with a small springboard before summoning the Syn Scythe and Subspatially storing Davídrius.
“FORWARD, TO THE DISTANT LIGHT!”
“To the what?…” Kaoné glanced toward Siyuakén.
“Over there.” The Electrotechnic pointed into the distance toward a tiny light in the darkness. “…I think that’s where we need to go. It’s in the same direction we were heading, anyways.”
“Alright…” Kaoné nodded as she began moving the platform through the air. Siyuakén fired her grappling hook down at the platform to secure herself and began slowly inspecting the abyss below, wary of any further threats.
“That ringing again—!” Kaoné winced as a bright flash of white light briefly filled her vision.
“THAT IS THE FOURTH AYAS TO BE LOCKED,” Arcán declared. “EVEN IF MORCII DOES NOT POSSESS THE MASTER AYAS, EIGHT LOCKED AYAS CAN STILL BE A THREAT. WE MUST HURRY—”
The moment before Arcán could finish his sentence, the platform exploded upwards, flinging the two Chaotics aside as a massive dragon not unlike the beast found on Sunova smashed its way through the air. Siyuakén immediately latched on to the metallic beast with her grappling hook as Kaoné created another platform to catch herself, struggling to shield herself against the many sharp projectiles the dragon was launching from its tail and back. The Materiatechnic attempted to catch each flechette, but stumbled as she began to feel an increasing pressure from the Chaos Energy around her, resulting in several of the metallic darts scoring near hits. Spotting this in the corner of her eye, Siyuakén quickly reeled in her grappling tether and then released the hook the moment she reached it, using her momentum to catapult herself through the air and toward Kaoné. The dragon responded with a roar as it turned back toward the Chaotics, but the Electrotechnic simply shocked it with an incredibly powerful lightning strike before turning her attention back to Kaoné — and slashing her with the Arcán Claymore mere moments after she went berserk.
“Damn it!…” Siyuakén scowled as they both began to fall into the abyss, with Kaoné unconscious despite her exceedingly short berserk episode. Desperate to reach the distant light in the wall — which she took to be an opening to another cave — the Electrotechnic haphazardly latched onto Kaoné’s clothes with her grappling hook, yanked the Materiatechnic toward herself, and grabbed the Master Ayas. She summoned the Syn Scythe, Subspatially stored Kaoné, and then released Rebehka — who quickly assessed the situation and promptly created a platform of ice.
“Take this, and go that way!” Siyuakén tossed the Master Ayas to the Cryotechnic and pointed toward the light in the distant wall. “I’ll deal with this dragon!”
“What dragon—?” Rebehka began to ask, but froze as the beast’s roar reached her, followed by dozens of flechettes that Siyuakén managed to deflect with an intense electric field.
“That dragon!” the Electrotechnic retorted, “Now go!”
“Going! Brace yourself!” Rebehka shouted back as she crouched down and then jerked the ice platform up and at an angle to launch both herself and Siyuakén through the air. She then created a massive shield of ice to block the dragon’s next several projectiles and distracted it just long enough for the two Chaotics to come tumbling to a stop at the lip of the cave in the cavern wall. The two quickly climbed back to their feet, with Rebehka stumbling down the tunnel as Siyuakén triggered a cave-in at the entrance with a blast of lightning. She winced as a flash of blackness suddenly filled her vision, prompting her to turn back to Rebehka as she questioned irately, “hey Arcán, I thought you said the Nanocreatures wouldn’t attack us!”
“NOT IF LEFT ON THEIR OWN, BUT IF MORCII IMPARTS ANY LEVEL OF DIRECT CONTROL, THEN HE CAN FORCE THEM TO RECOGNIZE YOU AS FOES.”
“That would’ve been nice to know sooner—!” Rebehka began, but was interrupted as the cave behind them exploded forward, launching the two Chaotics into a large cavern at the other end of the tunnel where they fell several meters and then tumbled to a stop. They glanced up at the cave as the dragon’s snout peeked through, as though the beast were struggling to slip through the opening and give chase.
“Huh? …Oh.” The Electrotechnic glanced toward Rebehka and then where she was looking — at a veritable army of Nanocreature units in front of them. “…Ha. We can totally take this!”
“Maybe… but I’m… about to go berserk.” The Cryotechnic closed an eye as every muscle in her body tensed in an effort to maintain control. “…Sorry!…”
“It’s fine,” Siyuakén responded coolly as Rebehka summoned Syn and slashed through the air, releasing Kevérin from Subspace. The Pyrotechnic immediately turned toward Rebehka as she handed him the Ayas; he promptly used the Scythe to return her to Subspace before glancing over at the Nanocreature army.
“…You guys had trouble with this?” he responded incredulously.
“Oh shut up,” Siyuakén retorted as she began walking forward, casually blasting the Nanocreature units left and right with electricity.
“Overdrive: Unrelenting Flame,” Kevérin muttered and then joined in the assault as he bathed entire swathes of the cavern in flames and fused Nanocreatures to the floor. As the two continued forward, he glanced up at the cavern ceiling and walls. “…They’re… reddish-purple? Not blue?”
“WE ARE PROGRESSING INTO THE DEPTHS OF THE PLANET’S CRUST. THE DENSITY OF CHAOS ENERGY AND CHAOS MATTER IS INCREASING.”
“Yeah…” Kevérin winced as a flash of dark red light filled his vision. “I can really tell…”
“Kevérin…” Siyuakén muttered warningly as she glanced back at the Pyrotechnic, “if you’re about to go berserk…”
“Ha, I can last longer than this,” he declared as the two finally reached the other end of the cavern. “It’ll take more than just a bunch of Nanocreatures to make me go berserk—!”
An explosion of stone and Chaos Matter from the other side of the cavern drew the Chaotics’ attention just in time to see the metallic dragon tear down the entire cavern wall and lunge forward. Siyuakén immediately drew in the destroyed Nanocreature units littered around the cavern with electric fields, fusing them together and then launching them at incredible speeds in an attempt to slow the beast’s approach. Head, feet, shoulders, even its chest — she pierced them all, but still it charged forward, closing to within fifty meters. Kevérin then jumped forward and sent a wave of fire across the cavern floor, incinerating the destroyed Nanocreature units and burning the dragon’s feet to a crisp — only for it to take to the air as a pair of arms exploded out from its neck and grabbed the two Chaotics. Each of them quickly broke free with incredible blasts of elemental power, sending them tumbling to the ground as the dragon lifted higher into the air.
“Ungh…” Kevérin groaned, unable to climb back to his feet as he was forced to focus on preventing himself from going berserk. Siyuakén wordlessly stepped forward to cover him, blasting the dragon with lightning and redirecting its attacks with electric fields as the Pyrotechnic finally calmed down, summoned the Syn Scythe, and released Christeané from Subspace. The Forcetechnic took only a moment to observe the situation before grabbing the Master Ayas from Kevérin and subsequently storing him; he then dismissed the Scythe and slammed his fists into the ground, shattering the stone for meters around and freeing several chunks of Chaos Matter that he rapidly began lobbing at the corrupted beast. It deftly dodged the pieces of debris as it launched volley after volley of flechettes at the Chaotics, with Siyuakén easily deflecting them all. After several moments of this standoff, the dragon withdrew its arms into its body and let loose a massive roar before turning back to the Chaotics and opening its mouth wide. Sensing a build-up in energy, Siyuakén immediately drew in the masses of discarded flechettes, fusing them together into one large sheet of metal and inserting the sheet directly between the dragon and herself just as it fired a laser from its mouth. The shield immediately blew into dozens of pieces that rained down on the two Chaotics, who instinctively raised their arms to shield their faces; Christeané quickly withdrew his arms just in time to see the beast diving toward him. He immediately drew back his fist and then threw it upwards, obliterating the beast’s jaw and upper neck. Stunned, the metallic creature crashed to the ground to the side of the Forcetechnic; he immediately seized the opportunity to grab the beast’s tail, yanking on it once to confirm his grip before whirling the dragon around his body and then launching it at the nearby wall. At the very moment of impact a flash of pale green obscured the Chaotics’ vision — and once it faded away, the dragon was nowhere to be seen or heard, while a dark red cave had opened up in the cavern wall.
“…Where’d it go?” Siyuakén questioned warily as she and Christeané cautiously approached the new cave.
“SPACETIME SHIFTING. EACH TIME AN AYAS IS LOCKED INTO PLACE, THE SURROUNDING SPACETIME IS SHIFTED CLOSER TO THE STATE IT WAS IN WHEN THE SEAL WAS ACTIVATED. THIS IS LIKELY WHAT PRODUCED THE SEEMINGLY BOTTOMLESS AND CEILING-LESS PIT YOU ENCOUNTERED EARLIER.”
“That doesn’t make any sense!”
“Things stopped making sense a long time ago…” Christeané scowled as he took a shallow breath and clutched at his chest painfully. “…Fuck. There’s so much Chaos Energy…”
“…Get Kevken,” Siyuakén muttered as she warily glanced between the Forcetechnic and the red cave. “I have a feeling that caution is more important than speed at this point…”
“I think… I agree with you there.” Christeané smirked as he summoned the Syn Scythe and released Kievkenalis. He then tossed the Master Ayas to the Chaostechnic. “Take it from here. Be careful.”
“Uh, sure…?” Kievkenalis responded uneasily, but nonetheless used the Scythe to Subspatially store the Forcetechnic. He then turned toward Siyuakén. “What’s going on?”
“We need to get going,” she responded as she approached the cave again and gestured for Kievkenalis to follow. “I think we’ve almost reached Morcii…”
“Oh…” The Chaostechnic glanced toward the cave and shuddered. “There’s… so much Chaos—?!” He froze as the mere utterance of the word sent a small wake through the air, knocking Siyuakén off her feet and cracking the nearby walls.
“What the hell…?” she muttered, quickly jumping back to her feet and turning toward Kievkenalis.
“I, I didn’t mean—!”
“I DID NOT LIE WHEN I SAID THAT CHAOS ENERGY WOULD BE INCREDIBLY DENSE. HOWEVER, I DID NOT THINK THAT IT WOULD BE QUITE SO DENSE THAT SUCH MINOR MANIPULATIONS WOULD HAVE PHYSICAL EFFECTS…”
“There’s so much Energy, I feel like I’m underwater…” Kievkenalis muttered, “…how is it possible to have this much Energy in one place?”
“THAT IS A QUESTION BEST SAVED FOR LATER. YOU WERE CORRECT; YOU ARE ALMOST UPON MORCII. BUT THAT IS NO REASON TO DAWDLE.”
“…He’s right.” Siyuakén nodded as she spun around on her heel and launched into a sprint. “Come on! We don’t have any time to waste!”
“Uh, right!” Kievkenalis responded hastily as he quickly followed. The two Chaotics proceeded through the dark tunnel, Siyuakén using electricity and the Arcán Claymore to light the way as they took turn after turn, descending even further into the caves. Kievkenalis eyed the deep red stone around him as they dashed by; instead of the wonder he had felt upon seeing the vast fields of blue Chaos Matter on the surface of Elecal, the red matter he faced now instilled only a sense of foreboding.
“I see… light…”
The Chaostechnic glanced past Siyuakén, toward the end of the tunnel. The two Chaotics rapidly approached, slowing to a fast walk as they exited the cave into a massive cavern. Every last inch of the walls, ground, and ceiling glowed a deep red color, providing enough light to see without aid. A large, flat area in front of the Chaotics led into a peculiarly well-preserved set of stone stairs that wound back and forth and then further back into the cavern, ending at a massive platform over fifty meters in the air. The platform extended almost to either side of the cavern and all the way to the back; it was too high for either Chaotic to see what was on it, except for the presence of several tall pillars that reached almost as high as the cavern ceiling itself.
“WE HAVE ARRIVED,” Arcán declared. “THE MORIKAI SEAL LIES ON THAT VERY PLATFORM.”
“Then that’s where Morcii is…” Siyuakén muttered grimly as she gripped the Claymore tightly, wincing as one more flash of light — this one dark blue — temporarily obscured her vision.
“THAT WAS THE EIGHTH. MORCII HAS NOW LOCKED ALL OF THE AYAS INTO PLACE…”
“Of course he has,” Siyuakén responded warily. She then glanced back at Kievkenalis. “…Release everyone else.”
The Chaostechnic nodded as he summoned the Syn Scythe and swung it through the air, spawning five clouds of blue mist that quickly resolved into the remaining members of Hero Machina. “Chaos Negation,” he immediately declared; the effect lasted for no longer than a fraction of a second due to the incredible density of Chaos Energy, but it was just enough to clear the Chaos Energy reserves of the other Chaotics and thus give them more time before going Berserk.
“…I take it this is our stop,” Christeané commented tensely after taking in the environment around him.
“INDEED IT IS.”
The Chaotics of Hero Machina reflexively backed into battle stances as the ground far in front of them exploded from impact. The dust cloud rapidly faded, revealing the form of the Nanocreature leader as he glared haughtily at his opponents.
“I DO APPRECIATE YOU MAKING IT THIS FAR,” he continued, the corners of his mouth raising into a dangerous grin. “BUT YOU ARE TOO LATE. THE MORIKAI WILL BE RELEASED… WHETHER YOU LIVE TO SEE IT, OR NOT.”