– Mondia, Ranth 20, 8034 –
“Overdrive: Invisible Hand—”
Commander Krydonin leaped backward, narrowly evading Commander Reginko as she rocketed forward and slammed into a group of Nanocreatures and scattered them like sand. Krydonin sighed irately before knocking away an approaching Nanocreature beast, allowing Reginko to whirl around and blast it with “Chaos Strike!”
“Don’t be so careless!” Krydonin reprimanded her fellow Commander, “I hate to say this, but you’re too valuable to lose to the Nanocreatures, especially here—!”
“You just can’t handle the dust I’m kicking into your face,” Reginko retorted, and then jumped back to fire several Chaos Cannon projectiles at distant Nanocreature attackers. “Oriciid’kas is too crowded for both Sector 1 and 2 — so I’ll show you that 2 is superior!”
“Of course you will,” Krydonin deadpanned before telekinetically grabbing a metallic wyvern out of the air and slamming it into the ground — and then yanking Reginko back just in time to save her from being crushed as a gigantic Nanocreature behemoth fell out of the air.
“I don’t need your help—!”
“Save it for the debriefing,” Krydonin snapped, her eyes trained on the behemoth as it slowly recovered from its fall and began inspecting the urban environment around it. “…This is a problem. Reginko, take your team and try to get its attention. Pull it away from the city if you can—”
“Or we can just kill it now!” The Chaostechnic smirked, completely disregarding Krydonin as she jumped forward and shouted, “Chaos Slam!” She immediately rocketed through the air and into the giant creature’s maw — where, on impact, the entire beast exploded into a massive cloud of shiny silver dust.
“…What…?” Krydonin quickly pulled herself back, keeping a careful eye on her armor’s shielding as the silvery cloud slowly lost its sheen and fell to the ground.
“Ha ha!” Reginko whooped, “see, Krydonin? Maybe if you’d stop being such a pussy you’d get a kill every now and then!”
“No…” the Sector 1 Commander countered as a myriad of messages and alerts began appearing across her AR display, “…I don’t think this was you, Reginko.”
“Huh? …Ha, right, of course you’d say that.”
“I mean it,” Krydonin responded, her lips pursed in confusion. “It wasn’t just that beast. All of the Nanocreatures in local space just… dissolved. Fell apart. Almost like two months ago, but… all at once.”
“What? That doesn’t make any sense,” Reginko snorted. “…The hell are we doing here, then?”
“We do our job. Check on the city and the civilians,” Krydonin ordered, “get your ass in gear. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to get caught off guard if this turns out to be a ruse…”
“Ma’am! The Nanocreatures have broken through the far front! They’re closing into middle orbit over Tau’cen Kii!”
“Launch the On’esstin! We don’t have time for it to complete its repairs, we need its firepower, now! What’s the word on the reserve fleets?”
“The Fifth and Sixth fleets are returning from the neighboring systems, but the Second and Fourth fleets are stuck in the Lis’talra system until the Transpace can be re-locked!”
“Damn it…” System Admiral Ukinon scowled as she stared at the holographic displays in the command center of the military station orbiting Tau’cen Kii. “…Pull the Ninth fleet back from the far front, but leave the Third and Seventh fleets in position. Intercept as many Nanocreature ships on the far front as possible; the First and Ninth fleets can deal with whatever makes it to orbit.”
The Admiral sighed warily as the officers in the command center scrambled to relay her orders. It had been almost two months since the Nanocreatures all disappeared — and then less than a day ago, with no warning at all, massive Nanocreature fleets appeared on the doorsteps of both Oriciid’kas and Tau’cen Kii. The initial strike dealt significant damage, but the CSA had since scrambled to defend the two systems… only to begin losing them even faster than during the Nanocreatures’ first campaign.
Ukinon looked over the status reports as they flew across the displays, taking in the information and processing it in silence. After several minutes she leaned forward and opened her mouth to give another order — only to pause as an alert message appeared directly in front of her face. She drew back and gestured to push the alert away as she quickly scanned it.
“…Is this confirmed?” she questioned, turning her attention to the rest of the command center.
“…Yes ma’am,” an officer replied a moment later. “Every fleet is reporting the same. The Nanocreatures have just…”
“…Dissolved,” the Admiral finished, “just like two months ago… no, they dissolved all at once this time? …Scan for energy usage, or any other signs of activity. We can’t let our guard down just yet.” She drew back again, watching the command center before turning her gaze to the holographic displays of the space outside the station. I wonder… does this have anything to do with those Nimalians…?
((CHAOS KILO BLAST!!))
A gigantic sphere of red energy nearly fifty kilometers in radius exploded outward from Surdeus, carving a huge crater in the ground and exposing a portion of the planet’s mantle. He quickly called out ((Chaos Teleport)) to teleport to the crater’s edge, ignoring the spewing lava as he glared upwards at the large numbers of Nanocreature ships.
((…How dare they encroach on my territory,)) he muttered, ((…not once, but twice! Have you no sense, Morcii?! Chaos Explosion— Chaos Void!)) Dozens of Nanocreature ships disappeared as two fifty-meter blasts of Chaos Energy obliterated everything within remote areas of space, leaving Surdeus to charge forward toward the metallic beasts on the ground. ((You believe me to be this easy a target?! I would destroy this very planet before I allowed you to seize my territory! Be gone, you filthy, irritating excuses for an army!! Chaos Deflection!!))
A spinning orb of energy burst outward from his body, knocking away all of the Nanocreatures within five meters as the Drakkar Faction leader leaped into the air, shouting, ((CHA…OS…!!)) But before he could unleash his next attack, all of the Nanocreatures in the vicinity suddenly ceased all movement. Surdeus quickly finished with ((Detect)) as he caught himself on the ground below, cautiously surveying the environment around him as every Nanocreature simply collapsed into mounds of dust.
((…Again…?)) he muttered, and then turned around to stare at the horizon. ((…No. This is… hmph.)) He snorted, crossing his arms irately as he began looking around the damaged yet conspicuously silent battlefield. ((So someone managed to defeat Morcii before I had the chance…))
“Commencing bombing run in five minutes!”
“Roger that,” Captain Krick acknowledged, leaning forward in his captain’s chair as he quickly scanned the various status readouts aboard the bridge of the Genesis. “Watch yourselves, Commander. The Nanocreatures have let up since they first attacked, but we can’t afford to underestimate them!”
“Never fear, Chief Captain. The First Frigate Squad are used to dealing with superior forces.”
“You got that damn right,” Krick muttered as the comm line closed. He returned his attention to the wide bridge windows, through which a number of Nanocreature ships could be seen in the distance. Below the battlefield was the planet of Eana, the Earthians’ first and only true Fortress World — and the site where four of the Ayas were formerly stored. The Nanocreatures had appeared out of nowhere and seized the four gemstones before anyone could react, destroying two of the Frigates stationed there as well as one of the planet’s outposts in the process. The Genesis was quickly dispatched to protect the planet and had been engaged with the Nanocreatures since, serving as the Earthians’ only true line of defense against such a vastly superior foe.
“Status report,” Krick ordered, ignoring a rumble as the ship’s shields took a hit.
“Shields are holding at seventy-three percent,” Captain Bourne replied from her seat at a console further down the bridge, “we are wearing down the enemy ships, but at the current rate, it will take over a week to destroy them all.”
“Hopefully Commander Reimers can change that,” Krick muttered, eying a countdown as the numbers dipped bellow one minute. “Time to see how those reverse-engineered railguns do… begin target acquisition! Lock onto the largest and weakest ships and relay targeting data to the Frigates!”
“Bombing run in thirty seconds… prepare for a light show!” Krick smirked. “…Ten seconds! …Five! Four! Three! Two! One!”
Five Earthian Frigates rocketed out of Subspace five hundred kilometers in front of the Genesis, each one equipped with a massive railgun reverse-engineered from the Battlecruiser’s own weaponry. A split-second later, five sabots were flying through space at relativistic speeds, smashing into five different Nanocreature ships and utterly obliterating them as the Frigates zoomed past and entered Subspace again.
“Ha ha! Five down!” Krick whooped, “let’s keep this up—!”
“Uh, sir… that’s not all,” Bourne interjected as she glanced back at the Captain in confusion. “…It’s not just the five targets that were destroyed.”
“Huh?” The Captain snapped his attention back to the bridge displays — sure enough, all of the Nanocreature ship signatures had disappeared from the sensors, replaced by shiny metallic clouds that the Earthians could barely see through the bridge windows. A new display soon appeared, showing a magnified camera feed of the Nanocreature remains.
“It’s two months ago, all over again…” Bourne muttered warily.
“…I’ll take it,” Krick replied, “maybe someone found a way to get rid of them for good this time. Now, we don’t have time to waste! Begin check-ins with all of the planetary outposts! And get the Frigate squad back here!…”
“The target has taken the bait!”
“Don’t let off, draw it as far from the surface as possible!” Commander Rantéin ordered, his eyes snapping from AR display to AR display as he attempted to manage every facet of Nimalia’s defense. “That Deathnought is the single greatest threat to this planet! Disregard the rest of the Nanocreature fleets until we can draw away that ship!”
“Easier said than done, I’m afraid,” General Acknos of Tekdecé commented, approaching Rantéin and standing beside him as he glanced between the status readouts in the command bunker. “Morale is low. Not only did the Nanocreatures deal a swift blow to Nimaliaka Central, but they also took out Nikéyin.”
“Which is why we’re in command now, I know.”
“That’s beside the point. She was the commander, and for her to fall so quickly is a devastating blow, even more so when facing an enemy against which organization is most paramount.”
“And what would you have us do?” Rantéin eyed the Tekdecénian General warily. “Our fleets are stretched thin and Nimaliaka is almost overrun with those metallic bastards. There isn’t exactly any time for morale-boosting exercises!”
“I’m well aware…” Acknos sighed regretfully. “…Even if the Nanocreatures were to simply disappear now… the damage to Nimalia and the NSD is significant. I can only hope that the participating nations don’t fall to squabbling.”
Rantéin grunted in irritation. “Now’s not the time for your politicking. We have an enemy Deathnought to take care of—”
“Hmm?” Both men turned their attention toward an officer as he dashed up to them.
“The Nanocreature ships, they… they’ve all disintegrated!”
“They what?” Acknos snapped his attention back to the status displays. “…Well, I’ll be… again, huh? What caused it this time…?”
“Hmm?” The General glanced toward Rantéin. “What was that?”
“The Chaotic Squad that Nikéyin put together half a year ago. They were the ones largely responsible for retrieving the Ayas and defeating the Nanocreatures the first time around. I had heard that they left Nimalia several hours ago, but…” Rantéin frowned, and then chuckled to himself. “Well, we can’t rest now. Acknos, you should return to Tekdecé immediately and help with reconstruction from there.”
“Will do.” The Tekdecénian nodded as he turned toward the exit. “Be wary, though. Who knows if this is just a ruse.”
“Ha. I’m sure Culana would say otherwise,” Rantéin muttered to himself, “…and I’m inclined to agree. Hero Machina, huh… you’ve done it again!”
“Holy shit… we killed Morcii.”
“Fuck yeah we did!” Davídrius whooped as he pumped both his fists in glee, “we kicked his ass real good!”
“’We?’” Siyuakén smirked in amusement, turning toward the rest of Hero Machina as the Arcán Ayas dislodged itself from her hip and fell to the ground. She stooped down to pick it up, only to wince as pain shot up her left arm and through her chest.
“Are you okay…?” Christeané questioned, having caught the slight motion in the corner of his eye.
“Yeah, what’s with the Ayas?” Kevérin added, oblivious to Christeané’s observation as he instead focused on the Arcán Ayas in Siyuakén’s hand.
“THE AYAS PRIOR STATE WILL AUTOMATICALLY DE-POWER INTO THE NORMAL PRIOR STATE AFTER THE SUCCESSFUL USE OF A LINK DRIVE,” Arcán responded as Siyuakén winced again, this time in a much more visible fashion. “…BUT THAT IS A TANGENTIAL ISSUE, I’M AFRAID.”
“…What?” Kaoné questioned uneasily, “what are you talking about…?”
“I can tell them, Arcán,” Siyuakén interjected as she grasped her left arm in pain. “…But you won’t be with me much longer, will you?”
“…THAT IS CORRECT.”
“Siyuakén, what are you—?” Kevérin began, but the Electrotechnic cut him off.
“You need to know how to get off this planet, right?” she commented, her breath turning ragged. “Arcán, there’s a Gate here, right? Where is it?”
“THIRTY KILOMETERS TO THE NORTHEAST. IT RESTS IN A LARGE, RECESSED AREA, BUT IS STILL EXPOSED TO THE SKY. THE VELOCITECHNIC SHOULD BE ABLE TO FIND IT EASILY.”
“There.” Siyuakén nodded toward Kevérin. “Now… you know how to leave.”
“Why are you using ‘you’ instead of ‘we’?…” Kaoné responded warily.
“…This is it, isn’t it?” Rebehka replied forlornly.
“Ha, yep.” The Electrotechnic smirked painfully. “Arcán, can you—?”
“I AM SORRY, BUT I’M AFRAID I WILL NOT BE ABLE TO STAY WITH YOU MUCH LONGER,” Arcán commented, his voice growing faint. “I MUST RETURN TO MY PLATFORM… I CONGRATULATE YOU, ALDREDANOIDS, SIYUAKÉN. DEFEATING MORCII IS NO SMALL FEAT. BUT FOR NOW… FAREWELL.”
A brief flash of light blinded the Chaotics of Hero Machina as the blue robing, armor plating, and long ponytail disappeared from Siyuakén’s body, replaced by the maroon waist-cloak and navy blue breastplate that she wore while corrupted. She then collapsed as Rebehka jumped forward to catch her friend and keep her from falling to the ground.
“…Alright, the fuck’s goin’ on here?” Davídrius questioned impatiently, “why’re you—?”
The rest of Hero Machina froze as they all turned toward Rebehka.
“…Bullshit.” Christeané scowled. “Just because Morcii said it doesn’t mean it’s true—”
“No… she’s right,” Siyuakén interrupted before breaking into a coughing fit as Rebehka carefully lowered her to the ground. She leaned against a nearby chunk of Chaos Matter and looked up at the other Chaotics, flashing them a brief but pained smile. “Hey, it’s not so bad. *cough* I mean… we killed Morcii… right?”
“But… why?” Kievkenalis responded in confusion. “If Morcii’s gone… you shouldn’t be corrupted anymore, right?”
“Ah, haha— ow—! …See…” The Electrotechnic fell into another coughing fit before continuing, “…that’s the problem, you see? Morcii… is the controller of every Nanocreature. Without him, or… any of the Ayas… every nanite stops working. …No exceptions.”
“Wait, if that’s the problem— I can fix that!” Kaoné quickly kneeled next to Siyuakén, desperation wrought across her features. “I can— I can do this, I’ve already removed corruption from myself before, I can, I can do this…!”
But the Electrotechnic simply shook her head in response. “I’m too far gone,” she countered, “…the corruption… went too far. Even… my brain…”
“It’s okay…” Siyuakén smiled again. “…I appreciate the thought. I really do.”
“…So that’s it, huh?” Davídrius furrowed his brow in frustration. “You expect us to just watch you die—?”
Siyuakén glanced up as the Velocitechnic paused mid-sentence. She followed his gaze down to her left arm — down to her hand that was slowly losing its metallic sheen and turning a dirty gray.
“Consider it the price of saving the galaxy,” she responded. “Not… not everyone can have a happy ending… you know?”
Christeané turned toward Rebehka. “And you’re fine with this? Just… letting her die?”
“Don’t think I’m taking this easily,” the Cryotechnic countered, “…but I’ve had time to think about this. We…” She glanced toward Siyuakén, who nodded back. “…I knew about this since before we left Arcán’s Platform.”
“And you thought not telling us was a good idea?”
“And distract us all during the most important battle of our entire lives?”
Christeané opened his mouth to respond, but paused and eventually drew back. “I guess you have a point…” he responded uneasily.
“…I’m happy, though…” Siyuakén muttered, her voice hoarse as her waist-cloak began fading to gray along with her arm. “…To have… met you all, worked with… you all… …to know that… I have you guys as friends…” She turned toward Kevérin. “You make… a good CO, you know…?”
“Oh… thanks,” he replied stiffly, “and you… you’re a good fighter. Probably better than I could ever be.”
“Heh, I wonder,” she snorted, and then coughed painfully as her eyes swept toward Kaoné. “…We didn’t really… get off on the right foot, but… I was the same with Rebehka, once, so…”
“Yeah, we…” The Materiatechnic turned away as she stifled a sniffle. “…I’m glad we could meet, and get to know each other.”
Siyuakén smiled briefly in response before glancing toward Kievkenalis. “Ah… …sorry… about your friends…”
“No, it’s— it’s fine.” The Chaostechnic shook his head vigorously. “That wasn’t your fault, that was all Morcii. I’m just glad that we could avenge them… I don’t blame you at all.”
“I’m glad… you think that,” Siyuakén responded, and then launched into another coughing fit, uncontrollably coughing up blood as her left fingertips began to crumble. Rebehka moved to steady her, but the Electrotechnic waved her off with her good arm as she recovered from the fit and looked up at Christeané.
“Now that I think about it, we never really got a chance to catch up, did we?” The Forcetechnic smirked forlornly. “Since we first met, I mean.”
Siyuakén responded in kind. “…Ha, I guess not. …But that was a… fun week, way back… then.”
“’Way back?’ That was only a year and a half ago.”
The Electrotechnic shot him an unamused glance before wincing again, the sudden jerk causing even more of her arm to crumble. “…You know what I mean.”
“Ha,” Christeané chuckled. “I know, I know. I had a fun time, too. Both then, and now!”
“I’ll bet you did…” Siyuakén replied and then turned toward Davídrius.
He pursed his lips in irritation. “My turn, huh? Wait so long ‘cause you couldn’t think of anythin’ good to say?”
“Just as irritating and… impatient as ever.”
“And I’d have it… no other way,” Siyuakén finished. “…You don’t show it… but I know you care. And I’m glad.”
“Ah… fuck.” Davídrius looked away uneasily. “Uh… sure. Thanks, I guess.”
“…And that leaves…” The Electrotechnic warily glanced over at Rebehka, who was kneeling by her side. “…The best… for last…”
“…I don’t think… I need to say any… more,” Siyuakén responded in between ragged breaths as her arm dissolved past her elbow, while the rest of her body had turned a faded gray. “…Said everything… before…”
“I know.” Rebehka moved to embrace her friend tightly. “I promised earlier, but I’ll say it again. I’ll never forget you… no matter what happens.”
“Thanks…” Siyuakén closed her eyes, a warm smile spreading across her face as she brought her right arm up to pat Rebehka’s back. “Thanks… to all… of… you… …”
Her arm went limp, falling to the ground with a soft thud.
Silence filled the air. A moment later, Rebehka took a deep breath and released her friend, backing away and revealing that her entire left arm had disappeared. The Cryotechnic looked her over before climbing back to her feet as Kevérin slowly approached.
“Kaoné…” He glanced toward the Materiatechnic. “Can you…?”
She simply nodded in response before entombing Siyuakén’s body in stone and lifting it into the air.
“…We lost a friend, today,” Kevérin began as he turned toward the other Chaotics of Hero Machina, “…I would say ‘again,’ but there’s no making light of this. This time… this time, it’s real. There’s no coming back. But there’s at least one thing we can do for her…” He nodded toward Rebehka. “Right?”
“…Never forget…” the Cryotechnic responded quietly, “that’s what she said… as long as we remember her…”
“Like hell we’ll forget her,” Davídrius retorted, “she saved our asses from that Ikirom guy and then went on to kill Morcii. She’ll be in the damned history books, I’ll see to that!”
“He’s right,” Christeané declared with a nod as he flashed Rebehka a grin. “Don’t worry. I— we won’t be forgetting Siyuakén anytime soon.”
“Exactly.” Kevérin smiled in response before stooping to pick up the Arcán Ayas. “…We need to get back to Nimalia, but for now, we can be happy. Yes, Siyuakén died… but she died surrounded by her friends, and what’s more, she died to save the entire galaxy! We all owe her our lives, so let’s not put them to waste. Got it?” He smirked forlornly as the rest of Hero Machina responded with firm nods. “Alright, then…” He turned toward the northeast. “…It’s time to get out of here. Hero Machina…