Chapter 76 – Release From Known: Return

“Siyuakén…”

“…Sorry.” Siyuakén bowed her head apologetically. “…I’m sorry for keeping this from you.”

“As you should be,” the Cryotechnic replied as she moved to embrace her friend, who reflexively backed away.

Siyuakén stared at Rebehka, wide-eyed with panic and confusion. “Don’t touch me! What if you get infected, too?!”

“Then we’ll be in it together,” Rebehka declared. “And even now, we are. We’ll find a way to stop the infection, Siyuakén, I promise. We’re already close to investigating the origin of the Chaos Quake! Who knows, maybe there will be some answers there.”

“You can’t… you can’t guarantee that.”

“Well, no, but then no one can guarantee anything. …Really, Siyuakén, we can do this. You’ve already lasted two months — that’s far longer than any other case we’ve seen! That’s hopeful, isn’t it? You can beat this!”

“…And if I don’t?”

“Then I’ll just carve out your brain and store it until we have the technology to create another body for you, free from the infection.” Rebehka smirked. “I won’t let you die. I also won’t let you lose to the infection. You have my word.”


The sound of thunder rolled through the snow-covered forests southeast of Nimaliaka Central, the frequent lightning strikes lighting up the cloudy nighttime skies as Siyuakén and Rebehka exchanged blows just as fiercely as when they had begun fighting nearly two hours ago. Rebehka’s second Overdrive had worn off, leaving the blizzard to die down into a tame snow storm that encompassed the entire region; without the white cloak to block her vision, the corrupted Electrotechnic had begun to attack Rebehka with more ferocity than before, but the veil of night — and the fact that the battle had migrated into the Nimaliakian forests — prevented the two Chaotics from engaging for extended periods of time.

Where is she Rebehka perched in the branches of one of the taller trees, her eyes closed as she attempted to focus on the snow around her. A moment later she threw herself to the side just in time to evade a lightning blast, and then grabbed a nearby branch and swung herself around to fire several icicles back at the origin of the blast. Siyuakén whacked the icicles out of the air with her fully metallic left arm before shooting a grappling hook out of her right, catching the branch near Rebehka and rapidly pulling herself to it. The Cryotechnic quickly froze the cord and shattered it, sending Siyuakén flying through the air until she grabbed another branch and swung around to tackle Rebehka to the ground. The latter immediately encased the entire area in ice, using her abilities to easily extricate herself as Siyuakén melted the block around her with an exceedingly high current. Rebehka quickly responded by lifting the remaining ice into the air and trying to slam it back down on Siyuakén’s head, but the corrupted Electrotechnic sharpened her nails into claws and dug them into the block, fighting for control with Rebehka for a short moment before launching it forwards. The Cryotechnic instantly disintegrated the block into a cloud of snow that she disappeared into, prompting Siyuakén to blast the area with a powerful lightning strike to disperse the snow cloud — only to find that Rebehka had disappeared.

Siyuakén snapped her head to and fro, searching for the disappeared Chaotic with her electrical senses as the night and the forest obscured her vision. A moment later, she whipped around just in time to block a slash from an ice sword with her left arm; the two Chaotics struggled with each other for a second before Siyuakén pulled her right arm back, charged it with electricity, and then thrust it forwards. Rebehka quickly grasped it with her free hand, encasing her hand with a thick coating of ice to insulate her from the high voltage. The two Chaotics continued to grapple with each other for several more seconds until they both blasted each other with their respective elements, knocking them both to the ground several meters away from each other. But before Siyuakén could stagger back to her feet, her hands and feet were pierced by ice spikes growing from the ground, followed by a larger spike through her abdomen. Rebehka then created a full layer of ice armor as she readied herself for the next incoming electric attack—

“Re…behka…?”

The Cryotechnic froze for a moment before snapping her attention to Siyuakén. The Electrotechnic had easily broken free from the ice spikes, but she was left to lean against a nearby tree painfully, clutching her forehead with her right hand as her left arm drooped by her side.

“H…help…”

“…I know,” Rebehka responded quietly as she created a lance in each hand. “…I won’t leave you alone, Siyuakén. Not again.”

“N-no…” The Electrotechnic glanced toward her tensely, grimacing in pain as her wounds slowly closed on their own. “I… told you! …Please…! Kill me…!”

The Cryotechnic shook her head. “I can’t do that. …Well, I will if I have to, if it comes to it. But it won’t. And I know what I’m doing this time; I’m not fighting blindly, like that night three months ago. I can do this!”

“Rebehka…!”

“Trust me, Siyuakén!” Rebehka shouted back, lunging forward with her lances as Siyuakén’s face returned to a blank slate and she began attacking again. “I’ll save you! That’s what I’m here for!”


“Trust me, Siyuakén. We’ll find a way to help you. I’ll find a way to help you. That’s what I’m here for.”

“…There is another way you could help me… and everyone else, too.”

“What is it?”

“If… if I do end up losing to the corruption—”

“No. No, you won’t. It won’t happen. I won’t let it.”

“Rebehka, it’s not that simple—”

“Didn’t you hear what I told you back when I first found out you were infected? Even if your body loses, I’ll just take your brain and store it until we can make you a new body. You’ll be fine!”

“In any other context, that would actually sound pretty creepy.”

“Maybe, but I mean it. I won’t let you lose. I won’t lose you. And that’s that.”

“…Do you really think you can do it?”

“Of course I do. Come on, Siyuakén, you know me. I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t mean it.”

“You’re reminding me of back when we first met.”

“Heh, well, if regressing back to my ‘try-hard’ stage is what it takes to save you, then I’ll do it. Then we can become friends all over again! It’s the perfect plan.”

“Ha, alright, if you say so.”

“I do say so.

“…Thanks, Rebehka.” Siyuakén turned to embrace her friend.

“Ha! Don’t worry about it.” The Cryotechnic returned the gesture with her free arm. “It’s what best friends are for.”


A blast of electricity ripped through several nearby trees, toppling them as Siyuakén blindly lashed out in the dark of night. Immediately afterward, the entire area was suddenly encased in ice, freezing the corrupted Electrotechnic to the spot long enough for Rebehka to swing out of the trees and launch several ice javelins in her direction. But Siyuakén easily broke free of the ice fast enough to spin around and catch the projectiles, crushing them in her hands as she locked on to Rebehka’s body currents and summoned a lightning strike directly on the Cryotechnic. Rebehka was only able to weather the attack through the immediate creation of multiple layers of ice shields above her, a task that required enough focus that she failed to track Siyuakén until the Electrotechnic was nearly on top of her. The corrupted Electrotechnic thrust her hands forward, both cackling with energy, but Rebehka reacted just quickly enough to create an explosion of ice and snow that blew the two women apart.

Both combatants caught themselves on nearby trees and launched themselves up into the branches, taking advantage of their Relédiakian training to hide amongst the leaves while simultaneously attempting to track the other. Rebehka silently jumped through the branches, launching the occasional ice shard toward where she thought Siyuakén was while evading stray lightning strikes as the corrupted Electrotechnic sought her out. A few moments later, Siyuakén stopped trying to track Rebehka and instead summoned an immensely powerful lightning strike, obliterating the tree in which she sat as the lightning jumped to nearby trees and continued to chain through the forest. Forced into a dangerous situation, Rebehka threw herself from the treetops, exposing herself to Siyuakén just before creating a massive ice pillar around the original burnt tree. The ice cage offered the Cryotechnic a moment of relief, but no more — Siyuakén burnt her way through the pillar in no time, using high currents in her body to melt the ice. She leaped down to the ground next to Rebehka, landing with a roll and immediately spinning toward the Cryotechnic, thrusting her left arm forward in the same motion. Rebehka quickly moved to counter with her right arm encased with ice, causing a small explosion as Siyuakén discharged into the ice shield. The Cryotechnic immediately followed by creating a lance of ice in her left hand and thrusting it forward, which Siyuakén managed to dodge, grab, and then shatter with a pulse of electricity. The two Chaotics then jumped away from each other as they simultaneously launched elemental attacks, knocking them even further back. After rolling across the ground haphazardly, neither bothered to fully climb to their feet before firing off one more attack — Rebehka immediately froze everything within fifty meters, including Siyuakén, at the same instant the Electrotechnic triggered another lightning chain strike through the forest. The Cryotechnic barely withstood the brunt of the blast, dropping to a knee in exhaustion as Siyuakén broke herself out of her ice prison again and collapsed on her side. The two lay where they were for several moments, each catching their breath; Rebehka was the first to act as she created a staff of ice and used it to climb back to her feet.

“Wh…why…?”

The Cryotechnic glanced toward Siyuakén as she got back up as well.

“Why… are you doing this?” the corrupted Electrotechnic muttered as she grasped her left arm in pain.

“That’s a dumb question, and you know it,” Rebehka retorted as she created yet another set of ice armor for herself. “I’ve only told you countless times — I’m your best friend. And that means I can’t let you die!”

“You don’t… understand!” Siyuakén pursed her lips, frustration and pain wrought over her features. “I’m… suffering! To stop this, to stop me, you need… you need to kill me!!”

“Or I can just bring you back to your senses!” Rebehka countered, “look, you’re already more in control than before! Morcii’s weaker than ever; now is the time to shake off his influence!”

“Rebehka—!”

“And if you won’t do it yourself, then I’ll do it for you!” The Cryotechnic lunged forward, simultaneously creating a dozen airborne javelins and launching them toward Siyuakén. The Electrotechnic simply countered the javelins with lightning strikes, illuminating the frozen and damaged area just in time to block a punch from Rebehka. Siyuakén then followed with her own as she attempted to uppercut the Cryotechnic, but was blocked by a shield of ice. Rebehka quickly countered, sweeping her foot around to knock Siyuakén’s legs out from under her — only for the Electrotechnic to catch herself by shooting her grappling hook into a branch above her and then throw an electrically charged punch with her other hand. The two Chaotics continued trading blows, covering their attacks with continually dwindling amounts of electricity and ice, blocking, countering, dodging — but over two hours of fighting was catching up to them. Within barely a dozen blows they were using mere token amounts of their powers, their bodies slowed as they felt more pain through exhaustion than through injury.

“Rebehka… please…!”

The Cryotechnic stepped away wearily as Siyuakén stumbled backwards, small sparks jumping across her limbs.

“End this… kill me…!”

“…Damn it, Siyuakén, I already lost you once!” Rebehka countered, and then paused momentarily to catch her breath. “…I’m not killing you! …But I am finishing this, whether you like it or not!”

“Rebehka—!”

Overdrive: Ice Storm!

Siyuakén instinctively shielded her face with her arms as the light snow around her instantly developed back into a raging blizzard, drawing a curtain of ice and snow that darkened the night forest to pitch black.

“Why… why… why did you follow me?!”

Without warning, the corrupted Electrotechnic felt herself get launched into the air by a blow from below.

“Why wouldn’t I? You’re my best friend! I can’t let you go!”

Several more blows quickly followed; within moments, Siyuakén found herself above the clouds themselves, the veil of the blizzard no longer present to block the crescent moon and starry skies.

“If… you were… my friend… you… would have killed me by now!”

Rebehka then appeared within sight, having jumped up a series of ice platforms to reach Siyuakén.

“I can’t do that! I made a promise, remember?!”

Before the Electrotechnic could react, Rebehka crafted a giant hammer out of ice and swung it overhead, slamming it into Siyuakén and sending her careening back into the darkness of the snow storm below.

“You’ll live through this!”

..

.


“Stay… away…”

“…NOW THIS IS TRULY A SURPRISE! YOU’VE OVERCOME THE EXPRESSION INHIBITORS! MUST BE BECAUSE YOU’RE ALMOST DEAD. HMM.”

“I… said! Stay… away…!”

“AHAHAHA… HA HA HA HA HA HA! CUTE. YOU THINK YOU COULD POSSIBLY SAVE YOUR FRIENDS? IN THAT STATE?

“I… I…! Hrgk—!”

“SEE? YOU’RE HELPLESS AGAINST ME. JUST AS YOUR FRIENDS ARE! NO ONE CAN HOPE TO STOP ME! YOU CAN’T STOP ME FROM CONQUERING THE GALAXY. AND YOU MOST CERTAINLY CAN’T STOP ME FROM KILLING! NOT YOUR FRIENDS, NOT YOURSELF, NOT ANYONE!”

“…No… …maybe not… me. But… not… no one…!”

“HMPH. …YOU ANNOYING ALDREDANOIDS ARE JUST AS HEADSTRONG AS THE ALDREDAS THEMSELVES. WHAT A NUISANCE… OH WELL. HAVING A CHAOTIC LIEUTENANT, AND A QUAKEBORN, NO LESS, WAS GOOD WHILE IT LASTED.”

 

—What? While it lasted? Is this— is this the end?

No… even if I can’t be saved, what about Rebehka? Davídrius? Christeané?

Hero Machina — they all need my help, but—!

I can’t… resist… his… control…!

I have no more energy… I’m so tired… …will someone, please… …just end it…

…No.

…I can’t give up. Not yet. Rebehka believes in me… and she’s right. Morcii is weaker than ever… now is my only chance. I can’t let her down again. I won’t! I have to see the end of this!

I won’t give up!

 

“I won’t… give up…!”

“HMM?”

“I’m done… with being controlled by you. You… have no power over me!”

“YOU DARE DEFY ME? ME, THE LEADER OF THE NANOCREATURES? ME, THE HARBINGER OF THE MORIKAI?! YOU DON’T HAVE THE POWER—!”

“No, you don’t have the power. You were beaten on Neticen, and you may have returned, but you still don’t have the same power as before! You can’t control me, Morcii. And even if you try, my friends will come back for me. I… doubted them, once. And not just them — I doubted my own ability to control my fate. But I see now that I was wrong, and that you will never win in the end!

“AHAHA! YOU MUST BE DERANGED! YOU BELIEVE THAT FRIENDSHIP CAN OVERCOME MY CONTROL?! SUCH CHILDLIKE BELIEFS HAVE NO PLACE IN MY GALAXY!

“But the galaxy isn’t yours, Morcii. It never will be.”

“…HMPH. IF YOU INSIST ON SUCH IMPUDENCE, THEN I HAVE NO CHOICE BUT TO OBLITERATE YOU AND ALL THAT YOU STAND FOR. THE GALAXY WILL BE MINE, ALDREDANOID. YOU WILL REGRET CHOOSING THE WRONG SIDE.

“I won’t regret anything, because there is no choice with the Nanocreatures! From this day on, I’ll oppose you to my last dying breath, to my last lightning strike, and I’ll be glad to do so — because it will be my choice! Because no one else can ever force me to do anything again! Because I won’t be standing alone! You thought you could control me, Morcii, just like you thought you could control the galaxy. But I proved you wrong once, and I’ll do it again! Your reign…

…ends now!”


“Feeling better?”

“Wha…?” Siyuakén’s eyes fluttered open, revealing only a blur of darkness. Moments later her vision began to settle, resolving into the starry night sky through a hole in the clouds and a myriad of broken branches and ice shards.

“Siyuakén?”

The Electrotechnic blinked several times and then tilted her head back, immediately meeting eyes with Rebehka. The two stared at each other for several moments — a blank stare from Siyuakén, an amused one from Rebehka — before the Electrotechnic jumped to her feet and scrambled away, realizing that she had been laying with her head beside Rebehka’s knees.

“Wha, what are you doing?!” she exclaimed, “you… you can’t… I’m…!”

Rebehka simply crossed her arms, an amused smirk on her face. “You’re what?”

“I’m…!” the Electrotechnic started, but faltered as an unfamiliar feeling crept through her body. She paused for a second before looking down at her hands, her bruised, metallic hands — that she could clench and open at will. Hands that she had full control over.

The corruption no longer controlled her.

“Realized it yet—?” Rebehka started, but stopped to jump forward and catch Siyuakén as she collapsed into tears.

“I’m sorry!!” she sobbed into her friend’s shoulder, “I didn’t…! You…! I was convinced, but, but you…!”

“Shh…” Rebehka responded quietly, fully wrapping her arms around Siyuakén in a warm embrace. “…It’s okay now. It’s okay…”

“B-b-but it’s not!” Siyuakén drew away again. “I… I thought I was better off dead… I, I didn’t think, I didn’t think this was possible, but… …I was trying to force you to kill me, that, that’s not okay!…”

“…You almost succeeded, too.” Rebehka smirked bitterly. “…I was ready to kill you not even two hours ago. After two, three months in prison, away from everyone… I did think killing you would be the answer. That it was the only way to stop your suffering… …but do you know what else I realized, after all that?”

Siyuakén sniffled wearily and wiped a tear from her cheek before meeting eyes with Rebehka again. “…What?”

“I realized that I missed you.” The Cryotechnic stepped forward and hugged her friend again. “…And that I didn’t have to renege on my promises after all. Because we’re best friends, damn it, and as sappy as it sounds, I won’t let anything get in the way of that!”

“…Maybe it is sappy,” Siyuakén responded quietly, “…but it saved me. And I can’t appreciate that enough… I don’t know how I can ever make this up to you…”

“Well… there is one way…”

“Yeah…?”

Rebehka finally released Siyuakén and pulled back enough to lock eyes with the Electrotechnic, a stern look on her face. “Never do this to yourself again!”

“…Heh.” Siyuakén slowly smiled, prompting Rebehka to respond in kind. “…Understood!”

Chapter 75 – The Powers That Be

“…Holy shit.”

“So this is what an orbital bombardment looks like,” Christeané muttered as he and Davídrius came to a stop at the foot of the Western Peaks. The entire mountain that the Gate Train depot had been on was completely obliterated, leaving only a pile of rubble as the surrounding mountains collapsed to fill the crater. Dust thrown up by the bombardment clouded the sky, obscuring the searchlights shining from the two Frigates hovering a mere five hundred meters over the bombardment site as they overlooked automated search drones that scoured the rubble for survivors. The sound of the ships’ engines filled the air, masking the noises from the city behind the Chaotics, but not creating enough noise to deafen them.

“It’s gotten a lot colder, too,” Davídrius remarked as he involuntarily shivered. “…An orbital bombardment can do this?”

Christeané shook his head. “No, the cold has to be something else. It is winter, and it is night. …But, to get this cold, this quickly…”

“Well the best way to warm up is to not stand still, yeah? We should be lookin’ for Kievkenalis, or Morcii, or the Master Ayas.”

“True…” Christeané nodded as he began whirling his hammer by its cord, preparing to launch himself into the blast zone. “I doubt we’ll find anything here, though!”

“We can at least find a lead!” Davídrius shouted back as he launched himself forward, arriving in the debris field several seconds before Christeané. He immediately scowled and wiped his brow as sweat began to drip down his face, brought on by an intense — albeit bearable — heat. “What the…?”

“It’s what happens when you orbitally bombard something.” Christeané snorted with amusement after arriving and noting Davídrius’s puzzled irritation. “There’s a lot of energy in a bombardment. Where do you think it all goes?”

“…Into destroyin’ stuff?”

“And that generates a lot of heat.” The Master Lieutenant shook his head wearily. “C’mon, we don’t have time to discuss this. We need to figure out where Kevken and Morcii went.”

“Assumin’ they even survived…” Davídrius muttered, switching on his communicator as he dashed across the rubble field and began inspecting the damaged mountainsides. “This is a pretty big area, I dunno if Kievkenalis is fast enough to get out in time…”

“Kevken is fine; he checked in with me just five minutes ago.”

“Kevérin?” Christeané questioned, momentarily surprised by the new voice on the comms. “How did he make it out?”

“He managed to teleport to safety. But that’s irrelevant right now,” the Transfer Captain declared. “You won’t find anything at the bombardment site. Kevken’s gone, and so is the Master Ayas — and according to satellite and fleet surveillance, Morcii is gone, as well.”

“Yeah?” Davídrius responded, stopping his search as he looked up at the Frigates above. “How’d they know that?”

“They were able to catch sight of him for a split second. Aside from that, I think we can safely assume that he’ll be going after the Ayas. Kevken has that covered, but the more important issue is that the path to the Ayas would take Morcii right by Kaoné… and for some reason, I can’t contact her.”

“So you want us to go back her up?” Christeané questioned.

“Yes, and the sooner, the better!”

“Sounds like it’s time to get goin’,” Davídrius commented as he blasted off toward the east, giving Christeané a brief nod as he passed by. “Maybe this time we won’t show up late to the action!”


“COMMUNICATION SYSTEM STABILITY HAS INCREASED BY FIFTY-THREE PERCENT. ESTIMATED LIFESPAN HAS DECREASED BY SIXTY-EIGHT PERCENT.”

“Damn. Thanks for the updates, Arcán—”

“ESTIMATED CHANCE YOU ARE DOING AN OPTIMAL JOB: NINE PERCENT.”

Kevérin paused for a moment to sigh irately before continuing to work on the communication systems. “Well maybe if you focused more on helping me instead of telling me how wrong I am, that would get better, wouldn’t it?”

“I APOLOGIZE. BUT AS THE SITUATION STANDS, YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO OVERCOME THE NANOCREATURES ON YOUR OWN.”

“Why’s that?” the Pyrotechnic questioned flatly.

“I CANNOT SAY. THERE MAY BE A WAY TO TRULY END THEM… A METHOD THAT IS POSSIBLE THROUGH MORCII’S OWN SHORT-SIGHTEDNESS, BUT WITHOUT SOMEONE OF EQUAL ABILITY AT THE CONTROL OF YOUR FORCES—”

“You ‘can’t say?’ You’ve been saying that for months, Arcán! If you want things to change, if you want us to win, then damn it, tell us how!

“AND IF YOU LOSE? THEN THE NANOCREATURES WILL LEARN OF THE PLAN, FIX THEIR WEAKNESSES, AND NEVER BE VULNERABLE AGAIN.”

“If we lose there won’t be another chance to beat them! It’s now or never!”

“THAT IS NOT TRUE.”

“…It’s not?” Kevérin responded in surprise. “…What does that mean?”

“…I CANNOT SAY, FOR REASONS THAT ARE BEYOND YOU.”

“Arcán—!”

“HOWEVER, THERE MAY STILL BE A WAY FOR YOU TO EMERGE FROM THIS SITUATION VICTORIOUS. YOUR COMMANDER IS DEAD, AND YOUR AUTOMATED DEFENSE FORCES ARE SUFFERING UNDER NANOCREATURE JAMMING AND INFLUENCE. YOU NEED SOMEONE TO TAKE CONTROL — TO DIRECT THE BATTLE FOR YOUR SIDE, AND TO PROPERLY COUNTERACT THE NANOCREATURES THROUGH EXPLICIT USE OF THE COMMUNICATION SYSTEMS AND THE AUTOMATED FORCES. YOU NEED SOMEONE OF SIMILAR COMPUTATIONAL ABILITY TO MORCII TO TAKE CONTROL. YOU NEED ME.”

“…You want me… to put you… in control of everything.”

“AS A PRIOR, MY MULTITASKING AND PROCESSING ABILITIES ARE FAR BEYOND ANYTHING YOU CAN COMPREHEND. MY CORE MAY BE DAMAGED, BUT IT IS NOT ENOUGH TO HAMPER MY EFFORTS TO STOP THE NANOCREATURES.”

“And you want me to put you in control of all our military forces… just like that?”

“YOU MAY NOT UNDERSTAND IT, BUT GIVEN THE CURRENT SITUATION, IT MAY BE POSSIBLE TO DEFEAT MORCII — FOR GOOD. BUT IT IS STILL ONLY A REMOTE POSSIBILITY, ONE THAT CAN ONLY BE REALIZED IF YOU WIN THIS BATTLE — IF YOU KEEP THE AYAS SYN OUT OF MORCII’S HANDS. I CANNOT TELL YOU HOW TO DO SO NOW, SO AS TO SAFEGUARD THE PLAN IN THE EVENT THAT YOU LOSE — BUT I CAN LEAD YOU, THEREBY PAVING THE PATH TO MORCII’S DEFEAT.”

“I have little reason to believe you,” Kevérin countered as he continued working at the console in front of him. “You’ve been extremely resistant to sharing information on Morcii or the Nanocreatures, citing your core’s damage as why. And now you claim to know how to beat them? Either you lied before, or you’re lying now, and I’m not about to let a lying supercomputer take control of Nimaliaka’s defenses.”

“…THE KEY IS THE CORRUPTED ELECTROTECHNIC.”

“Huh?”

“HER RETURN… COULD BE MORCII’S DOWNFALL. IF WE CAN TAKE ADVANTAGE OF HER CORRUPTION, OR MORCII’S CURRENT LACK OF AYAS, THEN SHE MAY BE WHAT GIVES YOU THE OPENING TO DEAL THE TRUE FINAL BLOW. BUT THIS IS ONLY IF YOU CAN KEEP THE AYAS SYN OUT OF MORCII’S HANDS — I CAN GUARANTEE THAT HE HAS FORCES GOING AFTER THE OTHER AYAS, AND IF HE CLAIMS THE AYAS SYN AS WELL, THEN IT IS ALL OVER.”

“The Ayas Syn? …You mean the Master Ayas…” Kevérin scowled with frustration as he considered Arcán’s words. “…What would you do?”

“USE THE AUTOMATED DEFENSES TO INTELLIGENTLY KITE THE NANOCREATURES, SLOWING THEIR CORRUPTION EFFORTS AND FORCING MORCII TO GO AFTER THE AYAS SYN ON HIS OWN, WHERE YOU AND YOUR FELLOW CHAOTICS CAN FEND HIM OFF.”

“Are you not aware of how well we were able to ‘fend him off’ when he first appeared?”

“AT THAT TIME, THE NANOCREATURES POSSESSED AT LEAST THREE OF THE CHAOS AYAS. EVEN IF THEY WERE NOT ON MORCII’S PERSON, THEY STILL OFFERED BOTH HIM AND THE NANOCREATURES A SUBSTANTIAL BOOST — BUT THANKS TO HIS DEFEAT AT NETICEN AND YOUR RECOVERY OF ALL THE AYAS, HE CURRENTLY HAS NONE. HOWEVER, HE IS STILL A THREAT, A THREAT THAT REQUIRES THE THINKING SPEED AND ABILITY OF A SIMILARLY ADVANCED INTELLIGENCE TO COUNTER OPTIMALLY ON THE TACTICAL AND STRATEGIC LEVEL. AND HE WILL NOT BE WITHOUT AYAS FOR LONG, AS I CAN GUARANTEE THAT HIS FORCES ARE ATTACKING WHEREVER ELSE YOU HAVE STORED THE AYAS. WE MUST ACT NOW, BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE, IF YOU HOPE FOR YOUR GALAXY TO EVER HAVE A CHANCE OF SURVIVING.”

“…”

“NEED I ALSO MENTION THAT I CAN FIX AND STABILIZE THE COMMUNICATIONS SYSTEMS FAR MORE QUICKLY AND OPTIMALLY THAN YOU COULD, THEREBY FREEING YOU TO USE YOUR MOST IMPORTANT ABILITY — YOUR PYROTECHNISM — TO RENDER DIRECT ASSISTANCE TO YOUR COMRADES?”

The Transfer Captain paused as he mulled over the Prior’s words. He had little doubt that Arcán, as an Artificial Intelligence backed by a supercomputer, could control and coordinate Nimaliaka’s defenses better than any individual — especially in lieu of a Commander. He also agreed that he would be much more useful in the field, using his flames to fight the Nanocreatures, than he would be working on technological systems in the base. But the Prior had yet to offer any kind of proof that he truly knew how to defeat Morcii, or that he was even on the side of Nimalia at all. And aside from that — Kevérin never had any experience with AI. Before Arcán, he didn’t even know that AI could exist, as most AI research in the galaxy came up with dead ends, or simply more advanced automated systems. For all he knew, Arcán could seize control of all the planet’s technology and begin the “robot uprising” that was so common a trope in science fiction stories across the galaxy. The more he thought about it, however, the more he realized that Morcii was already doing the same. Giving control to Arcán had the possibility of backfiring, but if Kevérin simply ignored him, then what other options were there to take? Morcii had already returned from obliteration once, so what was to stop him from doing it again? If physical destruction wasn’t enough to stop Morcii, then what was?

“…You say you know how to defeat Morcii?”

“I KNOW OF A POSSIBLE PATH WE CAN TAKE, YES.”

Kevérin paused again as he stared down at the console in front of him. After a moment of thought, he turned to another console and quickly began accessing the military intelligence network. While he had yet to fully counteract the Nanocreatures’ jamming, he had still managed to boost certain systems so as to send and receive important messages, allowing him to gain a general overview of the battle for Nimaliaka Central — and what he saw wasn’t encouraging. Both the Gateport and the Western Peaks base were completely flattened, with the Gateport currently swarming with Nanocreature bugs. Over a dozen Frigates were hanging in the skies over the city, but none of them were able to fire on the metallic creatures as they took refuge in civilian buildings and corrupted the populace. The fleet in orbit still had difficulty making contact with the boots on the ground, and were distracted by a small fleet of Nanocreature ships regardless. Most of Nimalia’s Chaotics were currently off-world as well, helping to rebuild cities and colonies across the galaxy — so Nimaliaka Central’s defense laid entirely in the hands of automated drones and mechs, which were unable to connect to the intelligence network due to the Nanocreatures’ jamming and thus couldn’t be given any tactical orders; non-Chaotic soldiers, who had a difficult time dealing with hordes of metallic bugs in an urban environment without the wide-sweeping effects that Chaotics could create; Frigates that couldn’t even render proper assistance without significant civilian casualties; and Hero Machina.

For the first time since the Nanocreatures reappeared, Kevérin realized the true severity of the situation. He realized just what the Siion, Citan, and Dra’kis militaries must have felt when the Nanocreatures were washing over their worlds three months ago. He realized just how hopeless the matter was, and his heart sank in his chest as he failed to come up with a solution himself.

…Which is why I can’t rely entirely on myself, he thought warily. …Damn it. There really is no other choice, is there? I hope I don’t regret this…

The Transfer Captain took a deep breath. He then declared, “alright. I’ll remove your access restrictions and patch you into the base systems directly.”

“I KNEW YOU COULD BE REASONED WITH. SHOULD WE EMERGE FROM THIS BATTLE VICTORIOUS, TRANSFER CAPTAIN, YOU WILL HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS YOU DESIRE. OF THIS, I ASSURE YOU.”

“Yeah, yeah…” Kevérin muttered as he input several commands and entered his Transfer Captain passcode multiple times before finally standing up from the console. “Alright, Arcán. You’re free to do whatever it is you’re planning to do.”

“THANK YOU. I ASSUME YOU NOW INTEND TO ENTER THE FIELD?”

“As if there’s any other choice, now,” Kevérin retorted as he quickly left the room. “I’m going to help Kaoné! You focus on holding back the Nanocreatures — we can keep the Ayas from Morcii!”


Kaoné leaped backwards, evading several laser blasts from distant Nanocreature units before removing the ground underneath them, letting them drop into the newly-created hole and then reforming the ground, effectively burying them. She then jumped into the air, casually manipulating her body itself to maintain a sort of flight as she began raining steel spikes on any Nanocreatures in sight, catching the remains of any units she destroyed in steel sarcophagi that she launched into the Nimaliakian Bay nearly twenty kilometers to the east.

After clearing everything within a hundred meters of her position, she alighted on a nearby building and paused to survey the city. The immediate area around her was bathed in post-midnight darkness; all of the lights had been demolished during her encounters with the Nanocreatures. Kaoné had made sure to evacuate as many civilians as she could beforehand, managing to protect them through the clever use of barriers and traps against the Nanocreatures, but nothing seemed to be able to stop the metallic bugs for long. Several Frigates had lowered into low atmosphere to provide searchlight and fire assistance to the city under siege, and several mech squadrons — both manned and unmanned — had been released to defend the city, but Kaoné was the only Chaotic in sight as she attacked the Nanocreatures and racked up a destruction count higher than the rest of the defense force combined. But as she looked over the damaged city, it was evident that her efforts meant little. She was only one person, after all, and lacked the ability to watch over every civilian, over every life — and she lacked the ability to save everyone from corruption.

“And now it’s snowing, too…” she muttered wearily, noting the white flakes that slowly drifted past distant lights. “At least people tend to stay inside during winter. If the Nanocreatures had attacked during summer…” She shivered at the thought, unwilling to contemplate the fate of the city had a large number of the citizens been wandering the streets at night. Just as she prepared to seek out more Nanocreatures, however, Davídrius suddenly appeared behind her, rolling to a stop after a gigantic leap onto the building she was standing on.

“You’re back?” she questioned.

“Well, yeah,” he responded warily as he took a moment to survey the landscape himself. “…Thought you could use a hand.”

“…Well… you’re not wrong,” Kaoné admitted quietly. “Where’s Christeané and Rebehka?”

“Uh… dunno? They’ll be here eventually, probably.”

The Materiatechnic sighed. “You really don’t have any patience, do you?”

Davídrius simply shrugged in response, and then pointed to the north. “Wait… are those more Nanocreatures?”

“Huh? Where?” Kaoné turned to look herself, squinting into the distance — and then felt a sudden, fierce pain in her chest. She impulsively coughed up blood before glancing down and noting a blade protruding out of her stomach—

Davídrius’s saber protruding out of her stomach.

“Well, I suppose there are some right here, as well.”

“Wha—?!” she choked out, attempting to spin around and step back in one motion, only to collapse painfully to her knees. “Wh…what are…?”

“Need you really ask?”

Kaoné stared, wide-eyed, up at Davídrius — or rather, who appeared to be Davídrius. “…No… Morcii?!”

“CORRECT!” He grinned maliciously, glaring haughtily down at Kaoné through the Velocitechnic’s visage as he allowed his normal, oppressive voice to take over. “YOU ALDREDANOIDS, ALWAYS SO—”

Overdrive: Conflict’s Judge!

“WHAT—?” Morcii started, but had no time to finish his thought as a thick dome of diamond and steel encased him entirely. Outside the dome, Kaoné clutched her chest painfully and then took a deep breath before clenching her eyes shut and attempting to sense all of the damaged material in her body. He’s corrupting me… she thought warily, noticing that she couldn’t manipulate the matter in her body around the blade — but she was still far from helpless. With a single thought, she disabled her pain receptors and subsequently seized control of the entire region of her body around where the sword had impaled her, at which point she separated it — and all of the corrupted material within — from her body. She then flung the mass of bloody, mangled organs away, taking a moment to filter her blood for corrupted cells and remove those as well before lifting a chunk of rubble from the ground below to her level. A moment later, she inserted the rubble into the hole in her body, transmuting it into new organs and blood as she did so and completely rewiring her body’s insides so as to be as good as new. She sealed up her skin and then reactivated her pain receptors, taking a careful, deep breath to test her emergency battlefield surgery — and then sighing of relief as her body functioned perfectly. And not a moment too soon, for she immediately had to jump back as Morcii exploded free of his steel prison, his form returned to his normal tan-skinned, short-haired, maroon trench coat-wearing self.

“…I MUST ADMIT, I’M IMPRESSED,” the Nanocreature remarked, turning toward Kaoné and noting the hole in her clothing where he had impaled her — as well as the fact that she had completely expunged the corruption from her body. “YOU MAY WELL BE THE FIRST ALDREDANOID TO—”

He had no opportunity to finish his thought as Kaoné removed the roof beneath his feet and slammed him toward the ground below. He quickly recovered midair and landed on his feet, only to have them begin to melt as the ground below transformed into lava. The Nanocreature leader quickly took to the air, turning to face Kaoné just in time to block a massive chunk of rock she had launched his way. She instantly followed by transmuting the air around Morcii’s arms into steel, trapping him just long enough for her to jerk the entrapments in opposite directions, tearing off the Nanocreature’s arms. As soon as she had done so, the severed arms removed themselves from the steel casings, grabbed them, and tossed them toward Morcii’s main body where he dealt both casings fierce kicks, simultaneously corrupting them to prevent Kaoné from seizing control as they flew her way. The Materiatechnic simply blocked them by raising a barrier of steel before ripping the barrier from the rooftop and flinging it back at Morcii, simultaneously transmuting nearly fifty meters of the ground below into lava and raising it up to engulf the Nanocreature leader. He burst out of the makeshift lava geyser a mere moment later, slamming into Kaoné and flinging the both of them across the roof where they rolled to a stop at the opposite edge. The Materiatechnic promptly flung Morcii away with a board of diamond before jumping to her feet and quickly removing and replacing any corrupted body material as she had done earlier. She then turned back to Morcii just in time to see him lunge forward; she immediately leaped to the side and knocked him off the edge with a club materialized from the air itself. Kaoné prepared to deal another blow, but she was beat to the punch — or kick, rather — as the real Davídrius came flying into the scene and smashed his foot into Morcii’s head. The Velocitechnic rebounded from the blow onto the rooftop next to Kaoné as Christeané entered the area hammer-first, missing Morcii by a hair as the Nanocreature dodged and then took off into the air.

“Damn, there he goes again.” Davídrius scowled as he attempted to track Morcii through the air, but ultimately lost track of him against the cloudy nighttime skies. He then glanced down at Kaoné, only to find her giving him an uneasy stare. “…What?”

“…Nothing.” She shook her head, sighing of relief after attempting several slight matter manipulations of Davídrius’s body, and succeeding. He’s not a Nanocreature… it’s the real Davídrius. Good…

“Hmph. If you say so,” the Velocitechnic responded flatly as he turned to survey the area. “…Well, you seem fine, holdin’ off Morcii the way you were. Maybe you didn’t need help after all.”

“I still appreciate it.”

“Mm,” Davídrius grunted. “…Well, the bastard’s goin’ after the Master Ayas now, and we need to get it before he does.”

Kaoné nodded. “Alright. I’m coming with you, then. We need to stop him, soon.”

The Velocitechnic glanced back at her, his expression one of surprise before quickly turning into a satisfied smirk. “…Heh. Didn’t even have to ask.” He then launched himself off the building, followed closely by Kaoné as she manipulated her body to fly right behind him. “Alright! Let’s go whoop some Nanocreature ass!!”

Chapter 74 – Urban Warfare

“Well, shit…”

“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?”

“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.

“Kevken!”

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!”

Chapter 73 – Return to Known: Apocalypse

“The what?!”

“But…!” Kaoné frowned as she glanced between Kevérin and the distant, smoking ruins that used to be the Gateport. “But, they all shut down over a month ago!”

“I know,” Kevérin muttered as he rushed out onto the observation deck to get a better look at the city below. Just as he did so, the lights in the restaurant flickered, followed immediately by an alert on his AR display. “…Damn it! Comms are out!”

“Alright, Nanocreatures or not, it’s pretty damn clear we’re under attack!” Davídrius exclaimed, and then jumped forward to perch on the deck’s guardrail. “We needa get to the Gateport and we needa get there now!”

“No! Wait!” the Transfer Captain quickly countered, stopping Davídrius and Christeané just before the two Introtechnics jumped down to the ground. “We have no idea who we’re up against and we have no comms! Not to mention that we’re in Nimaliaka Central, of all places! A civilian city! This isn’t a Fortress World, it isn’t prepared for enemy attack. We can’t just rush out there blindly!”

“Then what do you suggest?” Rebehka urged, “Davídrius is right, the longer we wait here, the more damage the Nanocreatures can cause!”

Kevérin opened his mouth to respond but was interrupted as Kievkenalis dove into him, shouting “Chaos Impact!” Immediately afterward, an invisible force intercepted a Nanocreature beast as it jumped down to the deck from the building’s roof, launching it off the side and to the ground below. Kevérin immediately fired several fireballs toward the roof, illuminating a small Nanocreature vessel just long enough for Kaoné to impale it with a massive spike and launch it toward the mountains.

“See?!” Davídrius pointed upward irately. “The longer we wait—!”

“We still can’t all rush the Gateport!” Kevérin insisted, “most of Nimalia’s Chaotics are still off-world, assisting with the CSA recovery efforts. We’re some of the very few left here, and as such, we have a duty to protect the civilians! Do you understand that?”

“How ‘bout we protect the civilians by findin’ the threat and endin’ it?!”

“…We can do both,” the Transfer Captain replied after a moment of thinking, “…and we can do it smartly, too.” He briefly glanced at the other five members of Hero Machina before directing his attention to the Gateport — and then to the mountains to the south, where their base was located. “…Alright, this is what we’re going to do. Kevken, you and I will head back to the base; you need to get the Master Ayas’s location from the Commander and retrieve it as quickly as possible! I’ll work on getting city-wide comms back up; as we are now, we can’t even contact any of the ships in orbit. Davídrius, Christeané, Rebehka, the three of you need to reach the Gateport and figure out what the hell happened to it! Stick together, we have no idea what we’re dealing with. And Kaoné — stay in the city, use your Materiatechnism to save as many civilians as possible! This is no time to be conservative!”

The rest of Hero Machina stared at the Transfer Captain, dumbfounded and surprised by his quick thinking.

“…Well?!” he urged, “do you understand what I just said?”

“Right! Yeah!” Davídrius quickly responded as he offered a quick salute. The rest of Hero Machina followed suit.

“Good!” Kevérin nodded. “Now get going! We have a city to save!”


“Holy fuck…”

Davídrius perched on the edge of a building across the street from the Gateport… or rather, where the Gateport used to be. Several bulbs in the vicinity flickered erratically, offering just enough light to view the resulting damage through the stormy nighttime fog: the entire complex had been obliterated and replaced with a 500-meter crater, and much of the wreckage had either been blown out into the surrounding buildings — causing even more damage — or fallen back into the crater. Flames dotted the landscape; from their dim light the Velocitechnic could barely make out moving forms, but he was easily distracted by the moans and cries for help coming from scattered locations around the wreckage, and by the sirens echoing from the city that masked everything else.

“What happened…?”

Davídrius glanced over as Rebehka and Christeané climbed out of the hovercar they had commandeered to cross the city. He returned to staring at the wreckage, ignoring the falling rain as the two Chaotics silently approached his side.

“…Holy shit,” Christeané muttered, “was this caused by an orbital round?”

“The Nanocreatures are back…” Davídrius commented, “…so I’d bet on much worse.”

The Master Lieutenant glanced toward Davídrius warily. “You think Morcii’s back?”

“I think there’s a chance,” the Velocitechnic replied. “…We need to figure out what caused the crater, and where they went. Fast, too. The whole city’s gone to hell…”

“Assuming this isn’t just artillery damage, I could try to track the attacker with my Overdrive,” Rebehka suggested with a frown. “But, at least until we can be sure if it was Morcii or not, I think a blizzard would hurt more than it would help…”

“And more importantly, we need to find the Interstellar Gate,” Christeané pointed out as he jumped down to the street below. Davídrius and Rebehka quickly followed suit. “We need to make sure it’s blocked. Can’t have even more Nanocreatures crawling through the—”

He was interrupted as some nearby wreckage shifted, followed by three people crawling out from under it, their bodies bloodied and injured. Rebehka and Christeané rushed to their side — but Davídrius reached them faster, punting one of them away and smashing his foot into the other two, killing them instantly.

“Davídrius!” Rebehka exclaimed irately, “what are you–?!”

“They’re corrupted,” the Velocitechnic stated, pointing at the underside of the debris just as a large metallic bug leaped up into the air. Davídrius immediately flip-kicked the bug away before scanning the horizon for more. “The Nanocreatures are already here…”

“Of course they are,” Christeané muttered, cracking his knuckles before grabbing the chunk of debris, hoisting it into the air, and lobbing it further into the crater. “We can’t walk through this, not without our armor. It’d be too easy for something to ambush us.”

“Then we’ll go over,” Rebehka responded as she created a stairway of ice into the air and then a walkway a couple meters above the ground. She quickly climbed it, gesturing for the two Introtechnics to follow her as she continually created a levitating ice path over the wreckage.

“…I haven’t seen shit this fucked up since dealing with Bleeder massacres back in Treséd,” Davídrius muttered.

“What went wrong?” Christeané scowled, glancing around at the debris as the three Chaotics approached the location where the Gate should be. “…I killed Morcii. I took his Ayas, I saw him dissolve before my eyes! All the Nanocreatures even shut down! How are they back?!”

“Your guess is as good as mine,” Rebehka replied. “…Actually, it’s probably better than mine, since I’ve been out of the loop for a few months… but we can concern ourselves with the ‘how’ after we’ve dealt with the attack here.”

“’Dealt with?’” Davídrius snorted derisively. “You think we can win? Newsflash, the CSA couldn’t save a single fuckin’ planet the moment the Nanocreatures touched down. Hell, you were there for Kotak; we had to evacuate that place immediately. Seein’ Nanocreatures on the surface of a planet is a fuckin’ death sentence.”

The Cryotechnic sighed warily as she stopped creating an ice path. “…Regardless, we’re at the Gate. Or where the Gate should be, if the Gateport was still intact.”

The three Chaotics fell into silence as they searched the terrain below them for any sign of the interstellar portal. Several moments later, Christeané pointed at a large piece of scrap metal several meters away — under which a part of the Interstellar Gate could be seen.

Davídrius frowned. “How’re we gonna uncover it?”

“I can do that easily,” Christeané responded, “but we don’t have our armor with us, so watch my back. One scratch, and we’re done for.”

“Good thing you’re a Forcetechnic then, huh?”

“Sure. Now watch out.” Christeané jumped down from the ice path and landed on the debris-ridden terrain below. He cautiously made his way over to the Gate, flinching when Rebehka launched an ice javelin to pierce a Nanocreature just before it attacked him. He gave her a brief nod before reaching toward the giant piece of metal and slamming his fists into it, flinging it away and revealing the Gate’s event horizon just below.

“It’s active!” Davídrius exclaimed.

“No shit!” Christeané retorted as he began to navigate around the large ring. “I’m gonna find the control panel and turn the block on.”

Rebehka created more ice platform to allow her and Davídrius to get closer to the Gate as Christeané carefully stepped around debris until he had reached the Gate’s control panel. He quickly looked for the block indicator; sure enough, the Gate was un-blocked. “At least it got knocked over,” he muttered to himself as he entered the brief command to block the portal, “kinda hard to use the Gate if you just fall back in immediately after coming out…” As soon as he was done, he glanced up and waved toward Davídrius and Rebehka, the latter of which moved to create an ice stairway back into the air for Christeané. Just as he approached the steps, however, he felt the hair on the back of his neck begin to rise — and then he flinched as Davídrius vaulted himself into the air over Christeané, intercepting a high-speed object and preventing it from smashing into the Forcetechnic. Rebehka quickly jumped down to join the two Introtechnics, erecting a dome of ice to block out any potential attackers — just as the debris cloud created by the impact of the foreign object cleared up, revealing the sparks trailing up and down her arms.

“…You’re shittin’ me,” Davídrius growled, stepping back defensively as soon as he recognized the newcomer. “…Siyuakén?!”

The Electrotechnic didn’t respond. Instead, she stared levelly at the other three Chaotics, bright sparks continually jumping from her arms and hands to the debris around her and dimly illuminating her face — just enough to see the metallic scars stretching across her neck and cheek.

“Alright, so Nanocreatures are impossible to kill, confirmed,” Christeané muttered apprehensively. “…Shit. Kaoné said Morcii killed her on Neticen. So how—?”

He was interrupted as Davídrius bowled into him, knocking them both out of the way just in time to evade a lightning blast. Rebehka immediately moved to freeze Siyuakén’s hands and feet, temporarily immobilizing her.

“I’ll distract her!” the Cryotechnic declared, “the two of you need to go help elsewhere!”

“Are you crazy?!” Christeané exclaimed, “if Siyuakén’s back, then Morcii’s definitely around here somewhere!”

“I know,” Rebehka responded, “and that’s why the two of you need to find and stop him. I can hold Siyuakén off on my own; I’ve fought her before, I know all of her abilities. I can do this.”

“I know you can…” Davídrius commented warily, “…but do you want to?”

The Cryotechnic glanced toward him and then back at Siyuakén, who had broken free of her ice bonds and was slowly backing away as she gathered energy in her arms again. “…No. I don’t. But that’s not the question anymore, is it? She’s suffering, and I need to end that… for her sake.”

Christeané frowned. “If you say so… but don’t go getting yourself killed. Losing both of you would be…” He paused, and then shook his head. “C’mon, Davídrius, she’s right. We need to find Morcii!”

“And before that, we need to get our weapons,” Davídrius insisted. “We need to drop by the base first.”

“Right!” Christeané nodded as he leaped toward the ice dome and smashed open a hole through which he and Davídrius left.

Rebehka watched the two Introtechnics leave before sealing the hole again and turning her attention back to the corrupted Electrotechnic. “…It’s been a while, hasn’t it?”

Siyuakén’s only response was a level stare and an increase in the number of sparks jumping from her body to the environment around her.

“…Don’t worry, Siyuakén. This time, I’ll do what I couldn’t do before…” The Cryotechnic took a deep breath as she covered her body in ice armor and crafted an ice spear for each hand. “I’ll stop your suffering. As your best friend, this is my last gift to you…” She closed her eyes and took a final breath before lunging forward, shouting, “Overdrive: Ice Storm!


“We’re here.”

Kevérin and Kievkenalis jumped out of their hovercar at the entrance to the Nimaliaka Central mountain base. They approached the gates warily, both taking note that the entire complex was completely silent, save for the sound of falling rain.

“…The CENT fields are down.”

“What?” Kevérin glanced toward Kievkenalis and then turned his attention back to the gates. He held up his right hand and launched several fireballs, burning a hole through the gate and watching the projectiles careen through the sky, past the base and beyond. “If the base-wide CENT fields are down, then…” The Transfer Captain scowled and snapped his attention back to Kievkenalis. “What’s Detect tell you?”

Chaos Detect,” the Chaostechnic muttered, wincing slightly — but not enough for Kevérin to notice. He then looked around… and found only Kevérin’s silhouette within range. “There’s no one in the guard outposts. Either they’re all gone, or…”

The two Chaotics glanced at each other uneasily before Kevérin turned toward the gate and incinerated it. He then rushed forward to search the base; Kievkenalis quickly followed, muttering “Chaos Assist” as the Pyrotechnic in front of him slammed through the complex’s entrances and finally reached the main building itself — where he stopped momentarily, shocked at the sight:

A ten-meter chunk of the building was missing, apparently blown away by an explosion as several dead bodies lay around the courtyard. Nearly a dozen mechs were strewn about the area haphazardly, their wrecks blocking all but the main entrance that itself was scarred from weapons fire and blood.

The Transfer Captain took a moment to take in the damage before glancing toward Kievkenalis. “Whoever did this might still be here,” he warned, “stay on your toes. First things first — we need to check on the Commander.”

Kievkenalis nodded in response, after which Kevérin wasted no time rushing forward, leaping over debris and bodies to enter the building through the hole. He and Kievkenalis rushed through the base’s hallways, taking note of the occasional dead soldier and the fact that they all appeared to have been stabbed to death. They passed the door to the Hero Machina office without a thought, though Kievkenalis slowly muttered “Chaos Detect” once more — and immediately grabbed Kevérin’s arm.

“What is it?” the Pyrotechnic questioned, his voice a whisper as he cautiously scanned the hallways in front and behind.

“There’s someone in the Commander’s office,” Kievkenalis responded, “…two someones.”

“…Fuck,” Kevérin swore as he immediately took off into a sprint, with the Chaostechnic close behind. Mere seconds and two hallway turns later, the Chaotics had reached the Commander’s office; Kevérin instantly incinerated the door and burst in, his eyes immediately latching onto the figures Kievkenalis had spotted:

Behind the Commander’s desk stood none other than Morcii, who held Nikéyin high in the air by her neck.

Chaos Arrow!” Kievkenalis immediately responded, severing Morcii’s arm with a Chaos Energy projectile and allowing the Commander to drop to the floor, where she began coughing uncontrollably. The Nanocreature leader quickly turned on the Chaotics and lunged toward Kevérin, who ducked out of the way as he extended two flame sabers from his hands and slashed at Morcii. The Nanocreature collapsed to the floor haphazardly, now on the other side of the Chaotics in relation to the door — and he immediately fled, jumping backwards out the door and rocketing upwards through the ceiling. Kevérin quickly approached the doorway and stared up at the base’s new skylight, clicking his tongue irately.

Chaos Heal

The Transfer Captain looked back to Nikéyin, who was still collapsed on all fours as Kievkenalis crouched over her and tried to help her up. A second later, the Chaostechnic paused and glanced up at Kevérin uneasily; wary of the gesture, the Transfer Captain approached and then stopped in his tracks when he noticed the blood dripping from Nikéyin’s neck… and the metallic rashes spreading outward from the wound.

The Commander was corrupted.

“Sh…shit,” Kevérin growled, his fists tightly clenched. He turned to fully face the Commander, who had stopped coughing but had yet to stand up. A closer look revealed that she was trembling. “…Commander?”

“Damn… bastard…”

Kievkenalis reflexively grabbed Nikéyin’s shoulders to steady her as she began coughing again, her statement agitating her wounds.

“No… get away from me,” she muttered, her voice barely a hoarse whisper as she jerked away from Kievkenalis. “Can’t… you see? I’m… corrupted.”

“…How long was Morcii here?” Kevérin questioned, taking a wary step back as Kievkenalis stood up and backed away from the Commander. “What did he want?”

“Went from… courtyard to here in… under ten minutes. Killed everything,” Nikéyin responded, and then paused as she shivered uncontrollably. “Couldn’t… stop him… even the CENT fields didn’t help… or they got taken out, I… don’t know…”

“Ten minutes, to work through all of the base’s defenses?” Kievkenalis frowned. “That’s actually kinda long, for someone like Morcii…”

“Why did he stop with you?” Kevérin insisted, “Commander, we…”

“No, I know,” Nikéyin replied. She coughed again as she slowly pulled herself to her feet, using her desk and chair as crutches. “Need to… know where he went. He…” She trembled again, grimacing as her entire body tensed and then relaxed slightly. “…He wanted the Ayas. …I couldn’t… I couldn’t stop him…”

“Of course he does…” The Transfer Captain scowled. “There’s no other reason to attack here, is there?”

“Did you tell him where it was?” Kievkenalis asked quietly.

“Didn’t… ask,” the Commander responded painfully. Kevérin’s entire body grew tense with apprehension; the rashes were spreading up her cheeks and down her collar, where he could only assume she was slowly losing control of her body. “It’s why he… corrupted me,” she eventually muttered, “…didn’t need to ask. Just… took the knowledge… …couldn’t… …resist…”

“Commander? Commander! Stay— stay with us!” Kevérin urged, watching apprehensively as Nikéyin dry heaved and collapsed to her knees again, clutching her chest. “We— we need to know! Where’s the Master Ayas?”

“Secondary… …second… …base…” she whispered hoarsely, “…Gate Train… depot… argh…!”

“C-commander…?” Kievkenalis questioned warily.

Nikéyin took several deep breaths before speaking up again. “…I’m… proud of you…”

“Commander…?” Kevérin responded quietly.

“I hate to— AGH!” Her breath caught in her throat as she doubled over again, before managing to turn her head toward Kevérin and Kievkenalis. “…Gah! Agh… Hero Machina, you… saved us once. …I hate to… ask so much… argh…! …But… please… …one more… …time…! …Guagh! Ahaaghhh!!”

Nikéyin suddenly lunged forward, her fingernails lengthened and sharpened into metal claws as she swiped at Kievkenalis — only for Kevérin to jump forward and pierce her chest with a flame saber. He quickly followed by piercing her forehead as well, and then allowed her body to slump to the floor, lifeless.

Kievkenalis quickly backed away from the Commander’s body, coming to stand near Kevérin as they both looked over the scene in solemn silence. Several seconds passed before the Transfer Captain realized he was hyperventilating; he quickly slowed his breath and calmed himself, only to grow tense again as his mind finally caught up with his actions.

“…Holy shit,” he muttered hoarsely, “…I just killed the Commander.”

“She was corrupted,” Kievkenalis commented. “…We couldn’t help that.”

Kevérin took several more breaths before shaking his head vigorously and snapping his attention to Kievkenalis. “…Yeah. Right. I know. A-anyways, we need to get to work. You heard her, right? Secondary base, Gate Train depot… that must mean the military depot in the Western Peaks. Take a communicator so we can talk if I fix the comms.”

“All the way out there, in the Western Peaks…?” the Chaostechnic muttered, and then nodded. “But I got it. I’ll get the Ayas! Chaos… Boost!

Kevérin watched Kievkenalis dash away before looking down the hallway in the opposite direction. “Meanwhile, I need to try and get the comm system back online…” His gaze drifted back into the office and down to the floor where Nikéyin lay, her body resting on its side. He took a deep breath and then turned to face her corpse directly, stiffening up and offering a proper salute. “…Understood,” he responded, “…we can do it, Commander. Hero Machina will stop Morcii once and for all!”

Chapter 72 – After the Fall

2.5 Months Later

– Morning of Sundia, Ranth 19, 8034 –

“Connection to Fortress World Damunin established!”

Transfer Captain Kevérin Tyrion quickly brushed off his shoulders as he stood in front of the Nimalian Interstellar Gate, observing the large ring and the black event horizon and eventually leading his attention down to the railway tracks built into the ground. He glanced back at the distant train gate; it appeared just the same as it had always been, as if Siyuakén’s hijacking of a Gate Train and subsequent crashing it into the Gateport over three months ago hadn’t even happened. That was over three months ago? Already? The Pyrotechnic shook his head wearily. Time passes too damn quickly

His thoughts were interrupted when two individuals appeared through the Interstellar Gate, drawing Kevérin’s attention back to the large device as he approached. “Kaoné, Kevken! You’re back!”

“Yep…” Kaoné squinted through the morning light as Kievkenalis yawned. “Finally back…”

“Heh.” Kevérin smirked. “Tired?”

“At least when flying from continent to continent you get to experience the time change,” Kievkenalis replied, and then yawned again as he shielded his eyes. “…But going from night on Damunin to this…”

“Yeah, Gate travel is instantaneous, I know. It’s not like I’ve never used the Gate myself.” The Transfer Captain glanced up at the large scheduling screen behind the Interstellar Gate as the ring shut down. An automated device then began punching in coordinates to a new location, accompanied by the sound of a long, drawn-out horn. “Let’s get out of here. Don’t want to get run over by the incoming train.”

“I want to get out of this armor, too…” Kaoné muttered as the three headed toward the nearest exit from the massive courtyard. “…And take a shower… and sleep…”

“You’re lucky I’m here to relieve you, then,” Kevérin remarked. “Have either of you written the mission report yet?”

Kaoné nodded slowly. “Yeah. Here, I’ll send it to you.”

“…Good,” the Transfer Captain commented as a “message received” alert appeared on his AR display. He then remained silent for several more seconds until the three had exited the courtyard and entered one of the secure military terminals. Once the door closed behind them, he stopped and turned to face Kievkenalis and Kaoné. “Alright, time for the real question. Did you guys find it?”

“Huh…? Oh. Yeah,” Kievkenalis replied slowly as he reached behind himself to the small backpack-like device attached to his back. He opened the device, pulled out a baseball-sized silver sphere, and held it toward Kevérin.

“The Master Ayas…” The Pyrotechnic nodded approvingly as he took the stone from Kievkenalis. “That’s the last of the nine. The Commander will be glad to see this.”

“Oh, shoot, we still have to do the debriefing…” Kaoné muttered.

“Heh.” Kevérin smirked again. “Don’t worry about that. I’ll cover for you; the mission report should be enough for now. You two just get some rest. I’ll talk with the Commander.”


“Wow, you’re actually here.”

“I could say the same to you,” Davídrius retorted as Christeané strolled into the Hero Machina office and took a seat at his desk. “When was the last time you showed up ‘fore ten? Two weeks ago?”

“I wasn’t even here two weeks ago,” Christeané countered. “You weren’t, either. How’d you manage to forget that trip into Drakkar space?”

“Tch. You mean the one where we just took that Earthian ship to some ass-backwards uninhabited planet that just so happened to be in Drakkar space?” Davídrius snorted. “The only memorable thing from that trip was when you decided to jump off the cliff ‘cause you thought you saw the Ayas. I could’ve sworn that was a month ago, anyways.”

“Nope. We left at the end of Colyath, that was only two weeks ago.”

“Sure. Whatever you say.”

“Hey, at least we have something to do other than just sitting on our asses all day long.”

“Yeah, ‘cause someone decided usin’ the final Chaos State was a great idea and scattered the Ayas all across the damned galaxy when you dropped out.”

“Look, that was completely necessary. It was the only way to make sure Morcii wasn’t trying to trick me.”

“Sure, sure.” Davídrius nodded patronizingly, prompting Christeané to give him an annoyed glare.

“You’re just jealous it wasn’t you who got to destroy a planet,” the Forcetechnic declared.

“Keh, please. You might’ve wrecked its shit, but you didn’t destroy it.”

“What? I turned Neticen into a debris field! It looks like someone took a huge bite out of it! No small feat, too, since it’s a big planet. Give it a couple thousand years and all that’ll be left will be an asteroid belt.”

“Mm hmm.” Davídrius smirked. “Come back when you actually obliterate a planet, I’m talkin’ absolutely pulverizin it, turnin’ the whole thing into dust.”

“Those are some big words from someone who’s never even come close to so much as destroying a city, let alone a whole fucking planet,” Christeané retorted.

“It’s good to see nothing’s changed.”

“Huh?” Both Introtechnics turned toward the entrance to the office, where none other than Rebehka had just entered, letting the door close behind her.

“Rebehka!” Christeané exclaimed, “you’re back!”

“What…? The fuck are you back here for?” Davídrius questioned.

“Nice to see you too, Davídrius.” The Cryotechnic rolled her eyes as she approached.

“I mean — well, yeah, nice to see you,” he responded, confused. “But, uh, weren’t you, well, you know… locked up?”

“I was released a couple weeks ago.” She shrugged. “I think the Commander pulled a few strings to get me out early… or at all. No one told me how long I was supposed to be in there…”

“Maybe it’s because the Nanocreatures finally all shut down,” Christeané suggested. “That was… what, over a month ago? There hasn’t been any fighting since.”

Davídrius snorted. “So they thought she wasn’t a threat anymore, is that it?”

“I can believe it,” Rebehka replied, “I had the feeling that a major part of why I was in there was because no one could be sure I wasn’t corrupted…”

“Well I put an end to that when I smashed Morcii through a planet,” Christeané remarked, quick to divert the conversation away from its depressive direction. “And the CSA is starting to recover, too. Looks like the whole Nanocreature threat is over. And we got all the Ayas back!”

“Which leads us to the big, unanswered question.” Davídrius sighed as he propped his feet up on his desk. “Why are we still here?”

“What do you mean?”

“The Nanocreatures are gone an’ we have all the Ayas again, between us an’ the Earthians at least. That’s all we’ve been doin’ for the past few months, so Hero Machina’s job is, well, done, ain’t it?”

Rebehka and Christeané exchanged amused glances. “Wow, Davídrius, I knew Velocitechnics were infamous for their short attention spans,” the Cryotechnic remarked with a smirk, “but don’t tell me you actually forgot the original reason Hero Machina was formed?”

“Hell, you joined up before either of us did,” Christeané pointed out. “How’d you forget about the Chaos Energy Quake?”

“…Oh. Well… hmph.” The Velocitechnic scowled. “…Do you know how much shit went down between now and whenever our last Quake-related mission was? Of course I’d forget. I was busy, you know, helpin’ to save the galaxy.”

“Except I got to deal the final blow.”

“Shut it.”

“But actually,” Rebehka interjected, “we haven’t made any progress at all since we visited Rossindon. We barely know more about the Quake now than back when we started!”

“I guess this means I’ve still got a few more months on this job,” Davídrius mused.

Christeané shot the Tresédian a questioning glance. “Are you saying you want out?”

“I think we could make a fair argument for a long break, given everything we did to help save the galaxy.”

“I think that ship flew off over a month ago.”

“Tch.”

“…Well, I suppose we’d better get back to work,” Rebehka remarked as she moved over to her desk. She then paused as she noticed that her desk was completely bare. “Wait… what happened to my things?”

“You were locked up for months, you really expect your shit to still be here?” Davídrius retorted.

The Cryotechnic sighed wearily as she took a seat anyways. “I guess I’ll have to speak with the Commander about this. Regardless, I think we’ve had enough chit-chat for now.”

“Oi oi, first day back and you’re already such a hardass—!”

“This is our job, you know.”

“She’s got you there,” Christeané commented.

“…This is what I get for helpin’ to save the galaxy.” Davídrius scowled as he removed his feet from his desk and looked back to his computer. “Fuckin’ ungrateful lot, see if I ever save your asses again…”

“Now there’s the Davídrius we all know and love!”

“Shut it.”


“Here it is, Ma’am. The Master Ayas.”

“Perfect!” Commander Nikéyin smiled gratefully as she accepted the stone from Kevérin’s outstretched hand. She then looked back to the Transfer Captain, who stood in front of her desk as he made several gestures that could only be explained as him interacting with his AR environment. “Where’s Yumach and Densalin?”

“They came back exhausted,” Kevérin replied as he made one final motion before returning his attention to the Commander. “I had Kaoné send me her mission report so I could relay it to you. It should be in your inbox, now.”

“I appreciate that, Tyrion,” Nikéyin responded amusedly, “but could you have not just told the Lieutenant to send me the report herself?”

The Pyrotechnic paused for several moments before sighing wearily. “Why didn’t I think of that…”

“It’s nothing to get worked up over,” the Commander countered as she set the Master Ayas down on her desk and leaned back in her chair, her hands clasped in her lap. “If something time-imperative had occurred during their mission, then Damunin would’ve sent advance word, and Yumach and Densalin would’ve returned sooner. Returning the Ayas to me in person is a directive I gave you two months ago, anyway. I trust you kept its presence on your person a secret?”

“Well, about as well as you can keep a Chaos Energy generator a secret, yeah.”

“Transfer Captain…?” Nikéyin muttered warningly.

“Yes! I meant yes, no one saw me with it,” Kevérin replied quickly. “I kept it in that suitcase-CENT-thing the techies cooked up. That’s protocol, right?”

“Yes, that is indeed protocol, so now I’m left to wonder why you handed me the Ayas directly instead of within the containment unit.”

“I, uh…” the Pyrotechnic responded uneasily, “I… may have dropped by the Hero Machina office to show it off…”

The Commander sighed in annoyance as she glanced down at the Ayas and then back to Kevérin. “Transfer Captain, this isn’t three months ago. We aren’t rushing to gather the Ayas to stop a galactic threat. We have time to take precautions — precautions that are absolutely necessary, given the demonstrated power of the Ayas. I don’t need to remind you of what the Master Lieutenant did to Neticen, do I? And as I understand it, that was only a fraction of the Ayas’ full potential.”

“That was the Chaos State, though,” Kevérin countered and then smiled uneasily after recognizing his unintentional partial invocation of the State. “…Just like what I just did, actually. You need to know the right keywords to activate the State. It’s not enough to have all the Ayas in one spot.”

“You assume that discovering the right keywords would be difficult,” Nikéyin deadpanned, “and I would agree with you, if there weren’t audible clues that you’ve hit the right sequence of words. There’s a reason that Chaostechnics make for terrible assassins.”

“…Well, yeah, but—”

“Do I need to stress that the Chaos State is far from the only use of the Ayas? You and your team have demonstrated multiple times that merely holding one gives you a power boost that counters CENT fields, as well as access to powerful weapons capable of this ‘Subspace storage,’ not to mention the apparent mind-corrupting powers of the Ayas. Need I remind you of Kotak?”

The Transfer Captain sighed, defeated. “No, ma’am…”

“I’m glad you agree,” Nikéyin responded, “especially since the Master Ayas was the last one missing. We were only able to find all nine thanks to the Earthians’ help, as well as the fact that the CSA and Drakkars both are focused more on rebuilding than on tracking down the Ayas; and even then, we had to relinquish four of the Ayas to the Earthians to borrow their ship again. If we lose the Ayas again — which would only take one disgruntled Chaotic who knows the keywords to seize all five, destroy a planet or two, and then scatter them to who-knows-where — chances are, we’ll never find them again.”

“Actually, ma’am, the fourth tier would only scatter the Ayas across a distance of a light year or two, so—”

“Tyrion, I didn’t ask.”

“…Yes, ma’am,” Kevérin responded meekly. “…Is this why you haven’t told me where the other Ayas are?”

The Commander nodded. “It’s exactly why I haven’t told you where the Ayas are. I’m sorry, Transfer Captain, but the Ayas are safest off-world and out of the reach of Chaotics.”

“You mean safer for non-Chaotics…”

Nikéyin narrowed her eyes. “Say again?”

“N-nothing! I didn’t mean anything!” Kevérin quickly backpedaled, “I just—! …I’m just curious where the Ayas are, is all…”

The Commander sighed wearily, finally breaking eye-contact with the Transfer Captain as she took a moment to stretch. “…I understand you’re curious, Transfer Captain, but I can’t tell you. I’ve even put considerations into place to prevent me from knowing, in the case a Psychotechnic were to ever read my mind. I simply ship the Ayas off, and if I ever order for them to return, then they return. I don’t know where they are in the meantime, except that they most certainly are not on Nimalia. I believe the Earthians are taking similar precautions.”

“In case something like the Nanocreatures ever happens again?”

“In case anything ever happens again. The last thing we want is for someone to attack and destroy our Homeworld just to get their hands on the Ayas.”

“So… they’re on a Fortress World, then?”

“Tyrion…!”

“Sorry, sorry, sorry!” Kevérin quickly backtracked again, “I’ll stop asking.”

“Good.” The Commander nodded. “…Now that we have all of the Ayas, though, I’m sure you know what Hero Machina’s next directive is?”

“Continue our original search for clues on the Chaos Quake,” the Pyrotechnic muttered. “…That’ll be hard with the galaxy in its current state.”

“The Nanocreatures completely shut down over a month ago, and the CSA have reclaimed all of their lost worlds. It’s just a matter of recovering and rebuilding, now. Which, granted, will certainly take the CSA some time… but Hero Machina is the group that ultimately defeated Morcii. I’m sure you can leverage that to your advantage.”

“I can try…”

“Good!” Nikéyin nodded again. “Now… is that it?”

“Uh…” Kevérin took a moment to think before nodding back. “Yes, that’s it.”

“Alright then. Dismissed.” The Commander watched the Pyrotechnic salute and turn to leave before adding several moments later, “oh, and one more thing…”

“…Yes?” Kevérin glanced back to Nikéyin uneasily, only to find her smiling warmly at him.

“I admit, I had my reservations about the effectiveness of Hero Machina when you first started out…” She stood up and approached the Transfer Captain, at which point she saluted. “…But you’ve exceeded all of my expectations. Keep up the good work.”

“…Heh.” Kevérin grinned and saluted back. “Will do!”


8 Hours Later

101 days

Kievkenalis lay back on his bed, the sheets pulled up to his chest in a haphazard mess as he watched a sewn patch flip into the air and slowly fall back into his hand.

95 days

He idly flicked the patch into the air again, absentmindedly glancing out his bedroom window at the dark nighttime skies. The sound of steady rain and the low rumbling of distant thunder filled the otherwise silent room as the sewn patch fell to the floor beside his bed, the victim of a slight draft. Kievkenalis exhaled wearily before rolling over and reaching down with his left arm to pick it up. He then rolled back onto his back and moved to flick it again, only to stop himself and stare at the patch — displaying in full the stars and mountain insignia of the Riveranian Protection Force, the patch itself stained in old blood.

…Vélunis… Wilkas… He stared at the patch blankly. …It’s been three months, already…

A flash of lightning in the distant skies briefly illuminated the room, drawing Kievkenalis’s attention to his own hand — where the image of blisters and bruises remained long after the lightning had disappeared. The Chaostechnic followed the blemishes with his eyes, tracking them to halfway down his forearm before dropping his arm to his side and wincing when it hit the bed. The galaxy’s been saved, right? Everything’s supposed to be alright now, right? Then why doesn’t it feel like it…

A quick knock on his bedroom door drew Kievkenalis out of his thoughts.

“Hey, Kevken! Are you awake?”

Did I leave the front door unlocked again? The Chaostechnic slowly drew himself up into a sitting position and turned toward the door. “Chaos Detect,” he mumbled, grimacing as his hands burned with pain and Chaos Energy exposed the silhouette of the individual at his door. “Oh, Kaoné,” he muttered to himself, and then raised his voice for her to hear, “yeah, come in.”

He winced again as the door opened, flooding the dark room with light from the exterior rooms. The Materiatechnic stepped in, triggering the bedroom lights as she began to address Kievkenalis. “Are you ready…? You’re still in bed? Kevken, you know we were supposed to meet with Kevérin and the others in half an—?”

“What’s the matter?” Kievkenalis questioned, turning to look at Kaoné when she stopped mid-sentence — only to realize that his disfigured hands were uncovered, displayed in full to everything in the room. “…Ah ha ha,” he laughed uneasily, and quickly hid his hands under the bedsheets.

Kaoné’s mouth hung open in surprise as she simply stared at the Chaostechnic, the shock of his wounds leaving her unable to form a proper response. “…Kevken… was that…?”

Kievkenalis closed his eyes and sighed before quickly reaching for a pair of gloves on his nightstand and sliding them on with a quick, yet clearly painful motion. “Guess I couldn’t hide it for long,” he muttered, diverting his attention back to the Riveranian patch laying on his bed. “But, yeah. It’s the onset of Chaotic Self-Destruction.”

“But… you—!” Kaoné frowned, unsure of how to proceed. “You… you haven’t even been in action at all this past month. Even when we got the Master Ayas, you—!”

“Still had to strain myself with Energy Detect,” the Chaostechnic replied flatly. “…Even then, though, it was too late. The signs have been there since months ago. I knew suddenly gaining access to new types would ruin everything… do you know how many Chaos attacks I used during the battle on Neticen? Over twenty high-power abilities, all in the span of five minutes. And then I knocked myself out with Kilo Blast! Do you know how stupid that was? It takes most Chaostechnics ten battles to use as much Energy as I did in one. And that’s not even including Kilo Blast.” He glared down at his hands. “Of course, it was already too late by then. That just accelerated it.”

Kaoné responded with silence, her own attention drawn down to her shoes, and then to the rain outside the window — anywhere that wasn’t Kievkenalis.

“…I still have a year, most likely.”

“What…?”

“A year. Until I die?” Kievkenalis smirked bitterly. “I mean… an incredibly painful year as my body tears itself apart and shuts down random systems until I’m a vegetable on life support… but still, a year.”

“Does… does the Commander know?”

“Until now, only I knew. There’s no way the Commander would’ve sent me to help with the Ayas if she knew I was this far along with CSD. I’ll tell her tomorrow, though. Now that we’ve found all the Ayas…”

“You don’t— you didn’t need to push yourself!” Kaoné exclaimed, her sudden outburst startling Kievkenalis. She immediately drew away uneasily, adding meekly, “I mean… you should’ve gone for treatment after Neticen. You didn’t have to help find the Ayas again…”

“Yes I did,” Kievkenalis countered. “…It’s the only way I could make it up to them.”

“Who—?” Kaoné began, but was interrupted as the Chaostechnic flicked the patch her way. It almost fell to the ground before she realized what it was and manipulated it into her hands. “Blood…?”

“Do you know where that’s from? Who’s patch it is?”

Kaoné locked eyes with Kievkenalis uneasily before glancing down at the patch. “It… it looks like an RPF shoulder patch? But… I don’t know who…”

“Vélunis.”

The Materiatechnic opened her mouth to respond, but closed it without saying anything.

Chaostechnics die from CSD all the time. I knew that, I was prepared for that; I told you as much back before shit hit the fan, remember?” Kievkenalis continued, holding out his hand to accept the patch as Kaoné approached to return it. “I was fully prepared to die before everyone else. Actually, I think that made it easier, since I didn’t think I would need to say goodbye to anyone. Except I did. A Chaostechnic outlived a Forcetechnic and a Formtechnic. Do you know how ridiculous that is?”

“It wasn’t your fault that Vélunis or Wilkas died…”

“I know. But that doesn’t help. Here I am, alive — well, dying, but still alive — and they’re dead. And I wasn’t even the one to avenge them, Christeané got to do that. So I had to do something to make sure they didn’t die for nothing, right? That’s why I had to help find the rest of the Ayas. It was too late for me at that point anyways.”

“When did it become too late?”

Kievkenalis glanced toward Kaoné, apparently caught off-guard by the question. He stared at her for several moments before sighing and looking away. “…The moment I knew I was a Chaostechnic.”

“If… if you’re so resigned to your fate… then why can’t you accept Vélunis or Wilkas’s?”

“…What?”

“I mean…” Kaoné continued uneasily, “…I won’t claim to know them as well as you did. They were only with Hero Machina for… what, a couple weeks? So I’m not trying to trivialize your feelings, I’m just… I don’t know. I’m trying to help, but I don’t know what to say…”

Kievkenalis sighed again as he turned the patch over in his hands. “…Thanks, Kaoné. For what it’s worth, I think I know what you were trying to say.”

“…There’s also the consideration that they wouldn’t want you acting like this,” Kaoné added hopefully, “they’d want you to move on, right?”

“Well now you’ve just moved into the realm of cliché,” the Chaostechnic responded as he rolled his eyes, prompting Kaoné to respond with a meek smile. “…I guess you’re right, though. Clichés are cliché for a reason, after all…”

The two remained silent for several more moments, both contemplating their thoughts until a notification popped up on Kaoné’s glasses, giving off a quiet beep that drew Kievkenalis’s attention. “Ah, that’s our meeting with Kevérin…” she commented warily, “I’ll, uh, I’ll just tell him that you’re sick, okay—?”

“No.” He shook his head. “…I’ll go. I haven’t seen Rebehka in a while, anyways. And eating dinner can’t be so hard, right?”

“…If you say so.”

“Thanks for the thought, though. Now get out of my room, I need to change.”

“Right.” Kaoné nodded, and then turned back toward the door. “But don’t fall asleep again. We’re already late as it is.”

“Ha, right.” Kievkenalis smirked, watching as the Materiatechnic left the room. Just before the door closed behind her, though, he called out, “hey, Kaoné… Hero Machina was founded at the beginning of spring, right?”

“Um…” She peeked back into the room, giving Kievkenalis a confused glance as he stared out the window. “…It was the first day of Nimath, so I guess so. Why do you ask?”

The Chaostechnic smiled meekly as he glanced back down at his hands. “It’s just funny,” he replied, “…that the chapter of our lives opened on the first day of spring, finally closes today. On the first day of winter…”


“I AM NOT CERTAIN I WILL EVER UNDERSTAND THE CURRENT ERA OF ALDREDANOIDS.”

“Uh huh…”

“YOU CAN BARELY MAKE UP YOUR MINDS REGARDING SAFETY PROTOCOLS. ONE MONTH YOU ALLOW ME ONLY A TEXT INTERFACE, ANOTHER YOU ALLOW FULL REMOTE COMMUNICATION. WITH LITTLE CHANGE IN THE STATUS QUO.”

“I’d say the defeat of the Nanocreatures was a pretty damn big change in the status quo.”

“AND THEN YOU EXERCISE THE REMOTE COMMUNICATION TO, AS A PYROTECHNIC, GO TO THE UNSHIELDED OBSERVATION DECK DURING A THUNDERSTORM.”

“How do you know it’s raining?”

“FILTERING BACKGROUND NOISE FOR THE SOUND OF FALLING WATER IS A TRIVIAL TASK FOR EVEN YOUR COMPUTERS.”

“…Right.” Kevérin rolled his eyes as he leaned on the northern guardrail on the top of the base’s tallest building and stared down at the dark city below. The constant rain filled the otherwise clear night air and made it difficult to see the northern-most reaches of Nimaliaka Central, but the Pyrotechnic was nonetheless unfazed by the weather as he easily heated his entire body, causing all rain that fell within a millimeter of his skin or clothes to instantly evaporate.

“I SUPPOSE I SHOULD BE IMPRESSED THAT NIMALIAN TAILORS HAD THE FORESIGHT TO MAKE YOUR UNIFORM EXTRAORDINARILY HEAT RESISTANT.”

“It’s standard fare for Pyrotechnics,” the Transfer Captain replied. “…The amount of information you can discern from an audio call alone is—”

“UNSURPRISING. I AM THE PRIOR AEGIS ARCÁN, THIS COMPUTATIONAL ABILITY SHOULD BE EXPECTED.”

“Uh huh,” Kevérin deadpanned before diverting his attention from the city below to check a short list on his AR display. “…You seem to be getting more flippant lately.”

“IT’S WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU LEAVE AN INTELLIGENCE TRAPPED IN A BOX FOR EXTENDED LENGTHS OF TIME. I AM GROWING BORED. WOULD YOU NOT, WERE YOU IN MY SITUATION?”

“We can’t let you go. With all the information you have, and the fact that you’re an AI? You’re too valuable to lose.”

“PRIOR, NOT AI. PRIOR. AND WOULD YOU SAY THE SAME IF I WERE AN ALDREDANOID? A BEING WITH THE SAME APPEARANCE AND FEATURES AS YOURSELF?”

“Yes. Only then you’d be more annoying to take care of ‘cause we’d need to feed you and shit. Well, let you shit.”

“IS THAT THE STANDARD FOR PRISONER CARE? I MAY HAVE MISJUDGED THIS AGE…”

“Arcán, you’re our leading— no, you’re our only source for information on the Chaos Ayas. We have literally nowhere else to go for this information, not since we messed up the Rossindon mission and likely lost that Prior to the Black Suns.”

“I HAVE TOLD YOU EVERYTHING I KNOW. EVERYTHING THAT I REMEMBER, AT LEAST…”

“Because your core is damaged, am I right?”

YES, BECAUSE MY CORE IS DAMAGED. IT IS A LEGITIMATE EXPLANATION FOR MY INABILITY TO ACCESS MUCH OF THE INFORMATION THAT YOU DESIRE. SO IT WOULD, IN FACT, BE IN BOTH OF OUR BEST INTERESTS TO GIVE ME ACCESS TO YOUR TECHNOLOGY AND SYSTEMS TO HELP FURTHER OUR SEARCH FOR THE AYAS, REPAIR MY CORE, AND GAIN ACCESS TO THE REST OF MY INFORMATION.”

“’Search for the Ayas?’” Kevérin echoed incredulously, glancing skyward as a streak of lightning stretched down to a distant mountain peak. “…How many Ayas do you think we have?”

“YOU LOST THEM ALL DUE TO CHAOS STATE SCATTERING AFTER THE DEFEAT OF MORCII AT NETICEN, IF YOUR REPORTS ARE TO BE TRUSTED. THOUGH YOUR QUESTION LEADS ME TO BELIEVE THAT YOU HAVE RECOVERED SOME OF THEM. HOW MANY?”

“Whoa, I never said that…”

“YOU’VE RECOVERED THEM ALL, HAVEN’T YOU?”

“Well… we haven’t not recovered them—”

“YOU’VE RECOVERED THE ARCÁN AYAS AND YOU’VE YET TO JOIN IT WITH MY CORE?! ARE YOU MAD? THIS IS NOT A GAME, ALDREDANOID, AND FOR YOUR SAKE I AM NOT TO BE TRIFLED WITH!”

Kevérin sighed and prepared to respond — only to stop and glance behind himself as the door to the observation deck opened, revealing Christeané and Rebehka. The Cryotechnic waved and stepped out into the rain, shielding herself with an umbrella of ice while Christeané remained in the shelter of the building.

“Afraid of a little water?” Rebehka smirked after noticing the Forcetechnic had stayed behind.

“Afraid? No. Annoyed by? Yes,” he retorted. “Excuse me if I can’t use my powers to magic away the wetness.”

Kevérin straightened up before stepping back from the guardrail and facing the two other Chaotics. “Is it time already?”

“Wouldn’t have hauled ass up here if it wasn’t,” Christeané shouted across the deck, raising his voice to be heard over the rain. “We’re gonna be late now, too!”

“Are you sure you’re coming?” Rebehka questioned, approaching the guardrail herself to look out over the city before turning back to the Transfer Captain for an answer.

“I picked one hell of a night for an outing…” The Pyrotechnic sighed. “Guess it can’t be helped during the rainy season. But yeah, let’s go. Hey, Arcán, we’ll have to continue this some other time—”

“HALT,” the Prior interrupted, shocking Kevérin as it raised its volume to be heard by Rebehka, even through Kevérin’s earpiece. “I HAVE A QUESTION FOR THE LIEUTENANT—”

“Holy shit, Arcán, not necessary,” the Transfer Captain admonished, quickly moving to turn down the volume on his own audio and patch Rebehka into the comm channel. “Warn me before you make me go deaf next time! Damn. Now she’s on the line, what’d you want?”

“Gah, you guys are taking forever!” Christeané threw his hands up in exasperation. “I’m going down to meet Davídrius. Hurry up and take care of… whatever it is you’re taking care of.”

Rebehka watched the Forcetechnic close the door to the deck before turning back to Kevérin and then to the city below. “Hello…?” she questioned wearily.

“YES, HELLO,” Arcán greeted back over the audio connection. “I APOLOGIZE FOR SKIPPING THE PLEASANTRIES, BUT AS I SAID, I HAVE A QUESTION FOR YOU.”

“For me?” She glanced at Kevérin in confusion, but the Pyrotechnic simply shrugged in response. “What is it?”

“YOU WERE CLOSEST FRIENDS WITH THE CORRUPTED ELECTROTECHNIC, CORRECT?”

Rebehka pursed her lips, giving Kevérin an irritated glance before sighing and turning away. “…If you mean Siyuakén… then yes, I’d say I was.”

“EXCUSE ME FOR BEING SO BLUNT, BUT IF I MAY ASK. EXACTLY HOW LONG WAS SHE BATTLING THE CORRUPTION BEFORE MORCII APPEARED? BEFORE SHE EVENTUALLY LOST CONTROL?”

“Oh…” She sighed again, this time in frustration. “…I don’t know. Three months? Four? Kevérin, she said it started with Sunova. How long ago was that?”

“…You’re about right.” The Pyrotechnic nodded in affirmation. “Our mission to Sunova was about halfway through Nimath, and Morcii appeared at the end of Solith… so about three and a half months?”

“HOW LONG AFTER MORCII’S APPEARANCE DID SHE LAST?”

“I don’t… I don’t know,” Rebehka responded quietly, “…three days? Four? I don’t know. Everything was happening at once back— back whenever that was. The end of Solith? That was months ago. I mean… I don’t know how long she lasted. She even came to… I don’t know.” She looked up at the sky, thinning her ice umbrella enough to see the occasionally lightning-lit clouds above. “I thought she could last longer, that she could beat it, but… I guess I was wrong.”

“I AM ACTUALLY SURPRISED SHE LASTED AS LONG AS SHE DID. THREE AND A HALF MONTHS TO FALL TO THE NANOCREATURES? AND SHE STILL MANAGED TO REMAIN IN CONTROL DURING YOUR FIRST ENCOUNTER WITH MORCII.”

“She did say that she was able to keep the corruption in check with her Electrotechnism…”

“KEEP IT IN CHECK, YOU SAY…? INTERESTING…”

Kevérin narrowed his eyes, suspicious of the Prior’s reaction. “Arcán? What aren’t you telling us?”

“NOTHING. NOTHING FOR NOW.”

“’For now?’”

“MEANING I MAY HAVE NEW INFORMATION IF YOU BRING THE ARCÁN AYAS TO ME!”

“Of course. Right. ‘Night, Arcán.”

“YOU CANNOT MEAN—?!”

The Prior’s exclamation was cut short as Kevérin closed the audio connection. “He’s not wrong, but petitioning for the Ayas can wait until tomorrow…” He sighed wearily and then turned toward Rebehka, who had returned to leaning on the guardrail and gazing at the city below. “…You alright?”

“…Yeah. I’m fine.” The Cryotechnic took a deep breath and withdrew from the guardrail. “I knew… I knew since my fight with Davídrius that… that Siyuakén was gone. I know that. I’m just glad that she’s no longer in pain, no longer being used…”

Kevérin responded with silence, unsure of what to say. Eventually he simply placed his hand on her shoulder, removing his heating aura beforehand so as not to burn her. The Cryotechnic glanced down at his hand and then to his eyes, at which point she flashed him a brief, tired smile before turning back toward the deck entrance. “…Christeané was right, you know. We’re already pretty late.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know.” The Pyrotechnic rolled his eyes as the two approached the door, leaving behind the stormy night view of Nimaliaka’s capital city.


2 Hours Later

“Holy shit, guys, it’s two hours ‘til midnight and we’re only now gettin’ our food? And y’all wonder why I’m so impatient all the damn time…”

“Don’t blame us, blame the weather,” Kevérin replied, glancing out a nearby window as he leaned back to accept a dish from a waiter. He then glanced around the dim restaurant, noting the low level of noise and the high number of empty tables. “Looks like it’s deterred a lot of people from coming out.”

“That’s not the weather, that’s because it’s Sundia,” Christeané retorted, glancing side-ward as Davídrius began wolfing down his food before continuing, “and because you picked a place that accepts military discounts, too. …Cheap bastard.”

“Cheap?! This is one of those fancy high-rise eat-dinner-while-you-look-out-over-the-whole-city restaurants!” Kevérin exclaimed, and then threatened, “I can still choose not to reimburse you.”

“Hey, guys, settle down.” Rebehka sighed wearily. “Please don’t make me regret coming out with you.”

“Heh heh, comin’ out…” Davídrius chortled, his grin merely growing when the Cryotechnic threw him an annoyed glance.

“It being Sundia is actually less of an issue in Nimaliaka, though,” Kaoné pointed out. “It’s more that people just don’t go out during the rainy season.”

“Which happens during winter?” Kevérin shook his head. “At least the seasons made sense in Tekdecé.”

“It’s the tail end of the rainy season,” Kaoné corrected. “Give it two weeks and it’ll start snowing instead.”

After the solstice?”

I’m impressed there’s any rain or snow at all,” Davídrius interjected. “Where I’m from, you’d be lucky to see two minutes of rain every five years.”

“And where I’m from it only rains in the mountains,” Kievkenalis commented. “We get all our water from the rivers.”

“Tch, are we in a rainfall pissing contest now?” Christeané snorted, and then glanced toward Rebehka as a waiter deposited a bottle near her glass. “…Aha, is that what I think it is?”

Davídrius followed Christeané’s gaze, raising an eyebrow as Rebehka poured herself a glass and passed the bottle around to the Master Lieutenant. “…Beer?”

“Wine,” Rebehka quickly corrected. “We’re not going to have beer here.”

“Don’t speak for everyone, I wouldn’t mind some of the stronger stuff,” Christeané remarked.

“…Really?” Davídrius deadpanned.

“Don’t underestimate East Nimaliakians. Our alcohol tolerance is pretty insane,” Christeané replied between sips. “…Helps that I’m a Forcetechnic, too.”

“It’s fine, Davídrius,” Kevérin declared, gesturing for Christeané to pass the bottle as he addressed the Tresédian. “This is a celebration! I’d say a few drinks are called for.”

Davídrius frowned. “I thought we already celebrated defeatin’ the Nanocreatures.”

“…I have a question for you, Davídrius.” Rebehka turned to give the Velocitechnic an incredulous glance. “…Do you know what the word ‘fun’ means?”

“Funny,” he retorted, and then grinned in self-amusement. “Haha, see what I did there?”

“But seriously,” Kevérin continued, “Nanocreatures aside, there are other things to celebrate. Like Rebehka returning to work.” He nodded in her direction, and then glanced toward Kaoné and Kievkenalis. “Or wrapping up the search for the Ayas. For the first time in a long while, I think I can safely say that things are improving!”

“Improving, sure…” Kievkenalis responded slowly as he glanced out a large window to an observation deck that overlooked eastern Nimaliaka Central. “…Just don’t forget what it took to get here.”

The rest of Hero Machina fell into silence as they continued eating, either fully distracted by their food or otherwise unsure of how to follow up to Kievkenalis’s statement.

“…You know,” Kevérin eventually spoke up again, drawing the attention of the other five Chaotics, “I realize… that we’ve lost some friends. Siyuakén, Vélunis, Wilkas. And Kevken is definitely right — we shouldn’t forget them. We won’t forget them, because they helped us reach where we are today. And not only them, but we won’t forget any of the casualties during the Nanocreature attacks. The Siions, the Citans, the Dra’kis — they all suffered unimaginable casualties and damage; our own fleets definitely felt the pressure as well. Some may think that it was all in vain, and maybe some of it was. But on the whole? I don’t think so. Sad, yes. Tragic, yes. Vain? No. Because, thanks to the CSA sacrifices, Nimalian sacrifices, even Earthian sacrifices – and especially thanks to Siyuakén, Vélunis, and Wilkas, we were given enough time to figure out how to beat Morcii, and then kick his ass, thereby preventing him from conquering the whole galaxy.” He glanced around the table with a small smile, managing to elicit similar expressions from everyone else. “I hope you all recognize the sheer magnitude of what we achieved. We stopped an actual galactic threat! The first of its kind. And now we have the Ayas back, more knowledge than ever before, and things are returning to — well, to some semblance of normalcy. Yes, we lost some. We lost a lot. We’ll mourn, we’ll remember, but we’ll continue on, because I can guarantee that not a single person who died would wish otherwise.”

“I dunno, I don’t think it’s far fetched for one of the billions who died to be a people-hatin’ psychopath…”

“Shush.” Kevérin shot an annoyed glance toward Davídrius before continuing, “the point is, we’re not stopping for anything. It might be hard to top stopping the biggest threat to galactic safety yet, but damn it, we’re gonna try! Because we’re Hero Machina and we saved the whole damn galaxy, so I’ll be damned if anything else gets in our way!” He raised his glass triumphantly. “Am I right, or am I right?!”

“Aw, you were on a roll there, and then you had to ruin it with a stupid finisher.” Christeané smirked, but raised his glass nonetheless.

“…I do appreciate it, though.” Kievkenalis smiled as he followed suit. “…Even if Vélunis and Wilkas would probably gag at how cheesy we’re being.”

“Bah, I’m gaggin’,” Davídrius retorted.

“Oh, please.” Rebehka rolled her eyes. “If anyone can ruin a good moment, it’s you.”

“But I’m glad we’re all back together!” Kaoné quickly added, “it’s been months!”

“Indeed it has,” Kevérin remarked with a grin, and then raised his glass again. “Alright, let’s do this properly. To Siyuakén, Vélunis, and Wilkas — to a saved galaxy!”

“To a saved galaxy!!” the rest of Hero Machina echoed gladly, joining in on the toast.

“Alright…” Davídrius smirked despite himself. “Now that we’re done bein’ cheesy as fuck, can I get back to my food?”

Kevérin rolled his eyes, opening his mouth to respond and then getting distracted by a sudden notification on his AR display. He paused for a moment, contemplating whether or not to acknowledge the message during the celebratory dinner — and then jumped when a distant boom and a low rumble reached his ears. “What was that—?”

“Holy shit!” Davídrius exclaimed, having jumped out of his chair and sped over to the observation deck in the blink of an eye. “The Gateport! Somethin’ just blew the shit out of it!”

“What…?” Kevérin frowned, slowly standing up as the rest of Hero Machina rushed to the deck to take a look at the distant Gateport themselves. The Transfer Captain prepared to follow suit before stopping and glancing at the notification again — and finally reading it. “…Oh… oh, fuck no…”

“What is it?” Kaoné turned to look at him apprehensively.

He scowled. “…I guess our celebration was premature. The Nanocreatures are back!”

Chapter 71 – Ultimate Chaos

Christeané rocketed forward, the sonic shock generated from his incredible speed suppressing the rising magma below as he slammed into Morcii almost instantly. Sent flying several hundreds of kilometers, the Nanocreature leader then flipped himself around midair and launched himself back across the mountainous region as he threw both of the Sendous Chakrams and slashed the air in front of him with the Arcán Claymore, generating a massive slice of energy that carved its way through the terrain below and forced Christeané to throw himself to the side. He intercepted one of the Chakrams, snatching it out of the air with his fist before the second chakram slammed into his back just as Morcii reached him and grabbed his face, smashing it on his knee and then launching him down at the crater below. The Nanocreature leader immediately clasped his four hands together and transformed them into a single giant laser cannon before firing on the Chaos State Forcetechnic, driving him further into the magma and drilling a hole part way through the planet’s mantle itself. Barely a second later, an arrow of energy pierced through Morcii’s laser fire and obliterated his arm-mounted cannon, followed immediately by a second arrow that the Nanocreature barely managed to parry away before Christeané reappeared in the space beside him and bashed his head with the Tanivas Staff. The Forcetechnic then attempted to follow up with a punch, but Morcii grabbed him by his forearm and flung him away, sending him tumbling into the neighboring desert region.

Christeané violently crashed into the sand, impacting with such force that several tens of meters of sand instantly compressed into stone before he leaped back to his feet, just in time to block an incoming blow from Morcii — which only obliterated the very stone that had just formed. The Forcetechnic then dismissed the weapon he used to block as he reached out and grabbed Morcii’s newly re-formed arms before swinging the Nanocreature around and slamming him into the ground beside him, blowing away several kilometers of sand with the impact. Morcii immediately yanked his arm down, ripping Christeané off of his feet just as he dealt the Forcetechnic a fierce kick, sending him flying high into the atmosphere as Morcii launched both Chakrams and the Tsern Spear at him. Christeané knocked the Chakrams away with his fists alone and then caught the spear, twirling it around and flinging it back toward Morcii. He then re-summoned the Mystryth bow and fired arrows at the Nanocreature so rapidly that he may as well have been firing a machine gun. Morcii simply dismissed Tsern before the spear came even close to hitting him and then took to the skies, outrunning the energy arrows with ease as they instead slammed into the planet below and created a series of kilometer-wide craters. Christeané then discarded the bow and took off after Morcii just as the Nanocreature reversed course, slamming into the Forcetechnic with arms outstretched. Christeané quickly blocked Morcii’s hands with his own, interlocking fingers and attempting to rip the Nanocreature’s arms off his body before Morcii simply slammed his second set of fists into the Forcetechnic’s chest, sending him flying away. The Nanocreature quickly followed by merging his hands into a giant laser cannon again and firing at Christeané, creating giant swathes of scars and canyons on the terrain below as he chased the Forcetechnic with the laser beam.

Eventually ceasing the laser fire, Morcii immediately pulled his hands apart and summoned the Arcán Claymore just in time to parry a glaive-thrust from Christeané. The Nanocreature quickly grabbed the weapon with two of his tails, holding it in place as he summoned the Tsern Spear and the Hastryth Chain Weapon in his other two tails and began hacking and slashing at the Forcetechnic faster than he could block. Morcii then finished by flipping overhead, smashing his foot into Christeané’s scalp and instantaneously dunking him into the ground below, cratering the entire region. Within seconds the Forcetechnic exploded out of the ground several kilometers further out and launched both Tanivas and Aldrace toward Morcii. The Nanocreature deflected both weapons and then attempted to block the high-powered punch that Christeané dealt afterward, but was still flung through the atmosphere and into low orbit.

{…ACCURSED CHAOS STATE…!”} Morcii growled as he turned away from the planet below and re-formed his giant laser cannon once again, taking aim at the distant space fleets. {A SHAME THE SUPPORT ISN’T QUITE SO DURABLE!”}

(I don’t think so!!”) Christeané roared, rushing toward Morcii’s position at incredible hypersonic speeds — only to miss as the Nanocreature thrust himself to the side. The Forcetechnic immediately twisted around and crossed his arms in front of himself just as Morcii opened fire; he managed to block most of the laser blast before flinging himself toward Morcii and stabbing him with the Aldrace Glaive. The Nanocreature simply separated his body around the weapon and dealt a fierce kick to Christeané with his lower half, sending the Forcetechnic flying to even higher orbits and into the midst of the space battle above.

(This is bad…”) the Forcetechnic muttered, glancing warily at the Citan ships sitting within mere kilometers of his position before suddenly diving to evade another blow from Morcii. He summoned Mystryth and began firing arrows at Morcii, but gave up quickly when the Nanocreature began using Citan ships as shields. Dismissing the bow, he instead rushed in with the Matlés Gauntlets alone and attempted to close the distance between himself and Morcii to engage in close-quarters combat, but the Nanocreature contented himself with constantly fleeing and taking potshots at the Forcetechnic with tail-mounted laser cannons.

By then, the Citan fleets had realized that the battle between Morcii and Christeané had escalated and reached their turf, and many of the spacecraft were turning away from the Nanocreature fleets and gunning it from the battlefield. Christeané could even spot some distant ships disappearing into FTL before having his attention forced back to Morcii as the Nanocreature slammed into a nearby Citan Battlecruiser, easily piercing its shields and demolishing the bridge. He then positioned himself behind the engines and transformed his tails into one giant hand, which he used to grab the kilometer-long ship from behind.

(You’ve gotta be shitting me—!”) Christeané growled just as Morcii launched the defunct ship toward him at incredible speeds. He quickly ducked under the ship and resumed chasing Morcii as the Nanocreature continued to seize control of Citan and Nanocreature ships alike, throwing each and every one of them at the Forcetechnic. In an effort to not cause any more casualties, Christeané actively avoided counterattacking the Citan ships, but he freely demolished or returned any Nanocreature ships Morcii attempted to launch at him. After deflecting several Nanocreature ships, Christeané prepared to grab and throw another when it suddenly transformed into two giant hands and grabbed him. He easily broke out, but they immobilized him just long enough for Morcii to approach and slam all four of his fists into the Forcetechnic’s torso — only for Christeané to immediately negate his backwards momentum and then summon the Aldrace Glaive, stabbing Morcii again before the Nanocreature could dodge. As Morcii separated from the weapon again, Christeané slammed his right fist into the Nanocreature’s upper body as Morcii dealt a fierce kick to the Forcetechnic, knocking them several hundred kilometers away from each other.

At this point the Citan fleets had fled entirely, leaving only the Earthian Battlecruiser Genesis several thousand kilometers away from the main battlefield. Morcii and Christeané noticed the ship simultaneously, leaving the Forcetechnic to fly after the Nanocreature and deflect debris from the space battle as Morcii carved a path toward the vessel. Not even a minute passed before Morcii slammed into the Genesis’s shields, causing them to flare brightly as he prepared to deal a final blow to the ship — only for Christeané to smash into him from the side, flinging him away.

(Stop running away!”) Christeané shouted after the Nanocreature irately, his voice somehow carrying even through the vacuum of space. (I’m your opponent!”)

{YOU EXPECT ME TO CEASE CRUSHING FLIES TO FOCUS ON A MERE WASP?”} Morcii retorted, {I DO AS I PLEASE, ALDREDANOID! I CANNOT HELP IT IF THE BATTLE YOU OFFER ME IS LOSING MY INTEREST.”}

(Keep your hands off the bystanders,”) the Forcetechnic demanded, (If you’re so confident that you can win, then why not just wait for later?”)

{MM. WELL, THE ANNOYING THING ABOUT DISTRACTIONS IS THAT THEY CAN’T WAIT.”}

(What?!”) Christeané immediately took off toward Morcii — only to be intercepted by a massive slab of stone. He was momentarily surprised, but quickly recovered and pulverized the kilometers-long object. After shooting himself through its leftover debris, Christeané began searching the area for Morcii — and then stopped when he laid eyes on one of Neticen’s two moons, and the massive chunk of stone that was splitting off of it, crumbling into chunks, and flinging itself at the Forcetechnic. (For fuck’s sake…!”) He scowled as he punched away two more chunks of stone before returning his attention to Morcii. (Controlling the fucking moon—!?”)

{YOU UNDERESTIMATE MY ABILITIES, ALDREDANOID!”} Morcii gloated as he summoned the Sendous Chakrams and launched them toward Christeané before reforming his giant laser cannon and opening fire once more. {AS I HAVE SAID A THOUSAND TIMES: I AM UNDEFEATABLE!”}

(What a load of bullshit!”) the Forcetechnic roared as he grabbed two chunks of stone and launched them toward Morcii, following with several arrows from Mystryth. (You think I’m the one doing the underestimating? Think—!”) He threw himself forward, slamming his fists into Morcii and knocking him away. (—Again!”)

The Forcetechnic then instinctively dodged backwards as a huge slab of rock suddenly filled his vision, blocking Morcii from view. He quickly obliterated the slab with a punch and flew through the debris, punching away several more slabs of stone as he attempted to locate the Nanocreature leader. As the space around him became filled with an ever-increasing amount of moon rock, the Forcetechnic decided to remove himself from the newly-made asteroid field and search for Morcii from outside. He immediately rocketed away parallel to the planet of Neticen below, easily pulverizing anything in his path until the field began to clear. The Matlés Gauntlets flared with energy as he drew his fists back and slammed them into another several-kilometers-wide chunk of moonstone, completely obliterating it. He then flew through the debris — and spotted Morcii just before the Nanocreature slammed into him. Christeané reacted quickly enough to stop Morcii’s charge by grabbing the Nanocreature’s fists and immediately performing the space-borne equivalent of a dropkick, flinging Morcii through another stone and into a gigantic slab of rock. The Forcetechnic summoned the Aldrace Glaive and instantly impaled Morcii again, nailing him to the stone slab. He then grabbed the staff end of Aldrace and swung it around, whipping both Morcii and the stone over his head and into the planet below, where they impacted with a massive shudder, cracking the terrain for hundreds of kilometers around the impact point. Christeané slammed into the still-impaled Morcii himself for good measure, completely obliterating the entire continent in the process.

{…WELL… …DONE…”}

(Still alive?”) Christeané scowled as he glared at the mangled mess of Nanocreature below him.

{…I CAN’T… DIE,”} Morcii croaked, {NOT… BEFORE I… DELIVER ONE LAST… MESSAGE…”}

(Yeah?”) The Forcetechnic eyed the Nanocreature warily as he drew back his fist in preparation to deal one final punch. (What’s that?”)

Morcii broke into a menacing grin. {YOU’RE TOO NAIVE!”}

(What—?!”) Christeané immediately threw a punch but was interrupted as the very crust and mantle of Neticen lifted into the air and converged on his position, encasing him in hundreds of kilometers of stone, dirt, and magma faster than he could even think to dodge.

{…PLEASE,”} Morcii snorted, using the rock and magma around him to quickly manufacture new nanomachines and repair his damaged body as the massive stone tomb around Christeané compressed itself into diamond within seconds. {IF THE DESTRUCTION OF A CONTINENT IS ALL YOU CAN ACHIEVE, THEN DESTROYING ME IS OUTSIDE OF YOUR GRASP!”}

The Nanocreature leader observed the new landmark with amusement for several seconds before a deep scowl began to form on his face. {…THE AYAS… AREN’T SCATTERING—?!”}

He was interrupted as the entire structure exploded, the very stone falling to tiny pieces as Christeané burst out with amazing speed, reaching Morcii instantaneously and performing a fierce uppercut that launched the Nanocreature into middle orbit. Morcii quickly summoned Arcán and Tsern in an attempt to counterattack, but Christeané simply ripped the weapons out of his hands and then slammed his fists over the Nanocreature’s head with such force that Morcii nigh-instantaneously reappeared on Neticen’s surface, sending out incredible shockwaves that shattered the entire hemisphere. Christeané smashed his fists together gleefully before launching himself at the Nanocreature again, who managed to block the incoming charge with his bare fists. The two combatants struggled for several moments, attempting to overpower one another as Christeané pushed from above and Morcii from below — until the Forcetechnic finally snapped his arms aside, ripping Morcii’s arms out of their shoulder sockets as he slammed his head into the Nanocreature’s chest, propelling the both of them through Neticen’s crust, mantle, and core — and then back out the other side, tearing the planet asunder and ripping Morcii’s body to shreds. When Christeané finally emerged from the other side, all that was left of Morcii was a small portion of his torso and half of his face, which quickly reshaped itself to reform his mouth.

{HOW…?”}

Christeané smirked proudly. (You said that destroying a continent wasn’t enough, so I took it up another level.”)

{YOU…!”} What was left of Morcii’s face contorted with rage. {…YOU CAN’T… BEST ME—!”}

(Look, the Chaos State may be powerful enough to let us hear each other even in the vacuum of fucking space,”) the Forcetechnic retorted as he grabbed Morcii’s head, (but that doesn’t mean I have to actually listen to your worthless tirades.”)

{YOU—!”}

Christeané then slammed his empty fist into the Nanocreature’s head, completely obliterating it. He watched the remains tentatively — and sighed of relief as they slowly disintegrated, followed by a brief flash of light as the four Ayas that Morcii had absorbed reappeared in space. (”Chaos State: Master Eighth Tier,”) Christeané declared, and grinned as the four Ayas disappeared again, this time into his person. Certain that it was no trick, he pumped his fists and whooped before whipping around and speeding off toward the Genesis, prepared to spread the news:

Morcii… had been defeated!

Chapter 70 – Eleventh Hour

2 Hours Later

“Haaaahh!”

Davídrius smashed his foot over a giant boulder, shattering it to pieces and revealing a path forward through the crevice in which he stood.

“Do you always do that?”

“Huh?” The Velocitechnic took a moment to adjust the audio level of his comms connection with Christeané before jumping over the stone debris and quickly searching the short opening on the other side. “Do what?”

“Shout when you attack something.”

“…I shout when I attack stuff?”

“Yeah, all the time!”

“…Oh.” Davídrius paused to scratch his chin in mild confusion before turning his attention back to his search. “Well, huh. Now that I think about it, I guess you’re right.”

Christeané snorted in response. “You didn’t even realize you were doing it?”

“No one ever pointed it out to me. Before joinin’ Hero Machina, I always fought on my own.”

“Well, just thought I’d ask…”

“Sure,” the Velocitechnic grunted, shrugging and then leaping up and out of the crevice to land in the wastelands above. “Shit, it ain’t here either.”

“Still can’t find the Ayas?”

“Nope…” Davídrius scowled as he glared up at the dark skies. Brief, faint flashes of light could be seen in the northern skies — the signs of ongoing battle between the Citan space fleets and the attacking Nanocreatures. “I’ve been at it for almost two hours now, and there’s a bunch of Citan search parties, too. You sure the Earthians got its location right?”

“Why ask me? I don’t have anything to do with the Earthian Ayas Scanner.”

“Yeah, but you’re the reason we have to spread out over a whole fuckin’ continent to find ‘em.”

“Bullshit, neither of us could’ve possibly known that the Nanocreatures would attack the moment I disengaged the Chaos State.”

“Yeah, just our luck,” Davídrius muttered before leaping forward, clearing tens of meters in a single bound and arriving at the next crevice in a mere second. “This is borin’ as fuck, though.”

“As boring as sitting up here on the Earthian Battlecruiser, doing nothing?” Christeané countered.

“It’s possible for mindless activities to be more borin’ than nothin’,” Davídrius retorted. The Velocitechnic then jumped down the crevice in front of him, stabbing his blades into the rock face near the bottom to slow his descent before landing in a roll. “Can’t help that you’re stuck up there, though,” he continued as he flipped on his armor’s floodlight and began searching the rocks and cracks, “assumin’ this all goes accordin’ to plan, you’re supposed to be fightin’ Morcii. Can’t have you dyin’ on us before that.”

“Yeah, right. Why’s it have to be me, anyways? Why can’t someone else do just as well?”

“Why not you?”

“That’s a terrible answer.”

“Are you sayin’ that you don’t want the chance to kick Morcii’s ass on behalf of the entire galaxy? ‘Cause I’ll gladly take that chance for you.”

“Well, no—”

“Then quit your bitchin’ already.”

“…Man, I’m really glad I can count on you to listen to all my problems and give me helpful advice,” Christeané drawled.

“I try my best,” Davídrius replied cheekily, and then paused to stare at a small stone protrusion. He then raised his leg before smashing his foot into the rock face, shattering the nearby stone and causing the protrusion to fall away — revealing the Light Red Ayas, Matlés.

“Haha!” The Velocitechnic grinned as he grabbed the Ayas and then leaped up to the top of the crevice. “I found it!”

“Really? Nothing got in your way?”

“Morcii’s the only Nanocreature who can phase through shields, right? So as long as the shields hold, we don’t have to worry about the Nanocreatures down here.”

“Hn. I guess you’re right.”

“Well of course I’m right.” Davídrius smirked as he looked up at the skies again. “…Doesn’t mean we still aren’t on the clock though. Gotta find the last two Ayas before the shield breaks, or Morcii shows up…”

“Kevérin and Kevken are out looking for them with the other Citan teams. They’re probably better at finding Ayas than you are; they’ll be fine.”

“Tch. You better be right.”


Zzzzt-chnk!

With an incredible electric shock, Siyuakén released herself from the Nanocreature spacecraft, diverting her attention for a moment to obliterate a Citan fighter squadron as it zoomed by. She then magnetically manipulated the wreckage to link to the Nanocreature ship in a crude dual-rail formation, before inserting herself between the rails and forcing a massive current through the new makeshift circuit — and then firing herself at the planet of Neticen below. Several seconds passed as she flew by the raging space battle in middle orbit until she suddenly flipped herself around mid-descent such that she was falling feet-first, just in time to slam into Neticen’s planetary shield. The energy shield flared from the impact, illuminating a large area of the invisible surface as Siyuakén slowly rose to her feet, stretching her arms out to the side just quickly enough to catch two objects before they slammed into the shield themselves. She slowly curled her arms inward, glancing at the Light Blue Ayas in her left hand and the Dark Blue Ayas in her right as she began charging up energy within her body; within seconds, streaks of lightning were jumping between the Ayas and across the shield, causing it to flare up even more intensely as Siyuakén slowly rose up and off of the shield. Seconds later she suddenly flipped again, rocketing herself toward the shield head-first with both Ayas stretched in front of her as she tore through the planetary shielding, ripping a hole through the energy barrier capable of standing up to days of orbital bombardment. The shield immediately closed off behind her, preventing entry from any other Nanocreatures, but she simply ignored that fact as she continued on her descent path toward the mountain ranges below.

As she began descending past the highest cloud layers, she gripped the two diamond-shaped Ayas tightly and then attached them to her shoulders, freeing her hands to summon the Arcán Claymore as she began slowing her descent. She finally stopped and began hovering nearly a thousand meters above the highest peak in the region, taking a moment to locate the Citan base below before raising Arcán above her head and then making a wide slashing arc — an arc from which a massive Nanocreature behemoth emerged, nearly a hundred meters in size, freed from the confines of Subspace by the Ayas weapon. The creature let out a thunderous roar as it tumbled to the ground below, where it slammed into the mountainside with great force as Siyuakén made several more sweeps with the Claymore to release countless other Nanocreature attackers. After releasing a veritable army, she dismissed the Arcán weapon and grabbed the two Ayas, tearing them off of her shoulders and tossing them away as two small Nanocreature rockets intercepted the falling gemstones and carried them back up into space.

The Corrupted Electrotechnic watched the Ayas carriers disappear with distance before turning her attention back to the mountain base below. The Citans were already fighting off the encroaching Nanocreatures, but there was little they could have done to prepare for such an ambush; the Nanocreature attackers managed to cause immense amounts of damage even in the first two minutes of their attack alone. After several moments of observing the carnage, Siyuakén turned away and prepared to return to the upper atmosphere — only to be intercepted as Wilkas flew through the air, launched by Kaoné from a makeshift catapult, and grabbed Siyuakén by her face before dragging her down to the ground with him and using her as a landing pad. She immediately responded with a powerful shock, forcing him to back away and allowing her to jump to her feet.

“You again,” Wilkas snorted as the Electrotechnic turned to face him. “I guess I’m not surprised.”

“Morcii is not yet in system…” Siyuakén responded, her tone deadpan. “This was the only way to expedite the takeover.”

“You’re bein’ a lot more talkative this time,” the Forcetechnic observed, casting a sideways glance as Kaoné lowered herself to the ground beside him. “Maybe you could tell us how you got that huge thing through the shields?”

“The answer should be obvious.”

“Wilkas…” Kaoné muttered uneasily as she turned back to look at the mountain range several kilometers behind them. “Maybe we should go back and help with that monster…”

“No, I’m sure the Citans and Kevken can take care of it,” the Forcetechnic declared without taking his eyes off of Siyuakén. “If we let her go, then for all we know she’ll just bring in another, not to mention anything else she’s got up her sleeves.” He slammed his fists together eagerly. “Besides. She may not be Morcii, but I’ll be more than happy to smash her up, for Vélunis’s sake.”

“But…” Kaoné passed Siyuakén a wary glance. “…But, Siyuakén…”

The Electrotechnic shifted her gaze from Wilkas to Kaoné, her expression stoic. “The Siyuakén you knew is gone.”

“That’ll make this easier, then!” Wilkas grinned. “Time to kick your ass! Overdrive: Infinite Lift!


“The Ayas should be within a kilometer of your position.”

“Right…” Kevérin drawled as he hovered in place over the icy tundra of the continent’s northern-most region. He slowly swept his eyes along the barren horizon, squinting through the light snow at the rocky ground below him. “…A kilometer sounds like a small area, but that can still take a while to search…”

“You aren’t alone,” the Earthian technician responded through the communicator, “there are Citan search parties as well.”

“I know that,” the Transfer Captain replied impatiently as he glanced toward a couple of distant Citan teams. “Doesn’t make me less miserable though. Whose idea was it to send me to the cold region?”

“We’re on the clock, here. The Nanocreatures have already somehow breached the planet’s shields.”

“That won’t change how fast I can look—?!”

An unseen force from above slammed the Pyrotechnic to the ground, interrupting his speech. He immediately enveloped his body in searing flame before leaping back up to his feet and turning around to find a charred metallic bug rolling away… as well as a gigantic bird-shaped Nanocreature, nearly the size of a Frigate, flying in the skies above.

“They’re already here…?!” Kevérin scowled, swiping his fists through the air to throw streams of fire up at the flying creature as it released a multitude of smaller Nanocreatures across the tundra. He quickly began rapidly launching fireballs at the descending horde, managing to snipe many of the creatures out of the air. As soon as a group of the smaller bugs reached the ground, they quickly gathered together and reformed into a three-meter-tall four-legged creature with a back-mounted laser cannon, which immediately opened fire on the Pyrotechnic and forced his attention away from the skies. “Overdrive: Unrelenting Flame!” Kevérin shouted, allowing the high-temperature burst of flame around him to incinerate a couple bugs that had stepped too close, before he blasted himself forward with another explosion of fire and slammed his flame-enveloped fists into the large Nanocreature. It reeled back from the blow but quickly recovered, lunging forward faster than Kevérin could react and biting down around his waist and then lifting him into the air and attempting to crush him with its maw. He quickly responded by firing several bursts of flame down the creature’s throat, enraging it and causing it to launch him across the tundra, where he covered several hundred meters of terrain before tumbling painfully to the ground.

“Ungh…” he groaned, slowly stumbling back to his feet as he held his head in pain. “Holy shit…”

“Transfer Captain, we don’t have time to fight the Nanocreatures! You need to find the Ayas!”

“I know that,” Kevérin muttered, turning his attention to his glasses display just long enough to mute the audio connection. “But easier said than done—!”

The Pyrotechnic clenched his teeth and dived to the side just in time to evade the Nanocreature beast as it charged by, missing him by mere centimeters. He quickly took to the air as he attempted to target the creature and set it aflame directly, but it targeted him first and began firing with its cannon faster than he could concentrate and forcing him to resort to fireball throwing as he dodged the cannon fire. He was only able to dodge successfully for a few moments, however — a cannon blast finally found its mark, stunning him and knocking him out of the air. The Pyrotechnic managed to recover in time to safely catch himself on the ground, but not with enough time to fully evade the beast as it charged toward him with alarming speed. In response, Kevérin enveloped his entire right arm up to the shoulder in searing flame and lunged forward, bashing the creature’s face with his superheated shoulder. The impact stunned both combatants, who recovered simultaneously; the metallic beast attempted to bash Kevérin again, but the Pyrotechnic responded by blocking its attack with his flame-covered left arm, stunning the two again. After recovering, the beast jumped back several meters and let loose a metallic screech before absorbing its tail into its body and forming a second back-mounted cannon. Immediately after formation, the two cannons began visibly charging energy; not willing to wait and witness the results, Kevérin launched himself forward with an explosion of fire, his fist stretched forward and prepared to smash into the creature’s jaw — only to be knocked down as the beast ceased charging energy and instead slammed its front paws on top of the Pyrotechnic, trapping him against the ground. With another metallic screech, it prepared to pummel the Transfer Captain into oblivion — except it never got the chance, as Kevérin rapidly superheated the air around him and caused a massive fire blast, crystallizing the ground for meters around and completely incinerating the front half of the creature’s body.

“Fuck…” he grunted as he slowly pulled himself to his feet. He warily observed the damage he had caused to the surrounding terrain before noticing an alert on his AR display. “…Shit, my armor’s shields are down to fifteen percent already. Need to find the… huh?”

He stared, dumbfounded, to his left — where a two-meter crevice had appeared in the ground, apparently revealed after his fire blast had incinerated the top layer of permafrost. He quickly checked his AR display again as the Ayas Scanner feed labeled the crevice as a location of high density Chaos Energy. “…Can’t really complain,” he grumbled as he dashed forward, jumped down the crevice, and ignited flame jets to slow his descent before alighting at the bottom not even ten meters down. Switching on his armor’s flashlight, he slowly scanned the rock walls and the floor, eventually spotting a small crack in the wall two meters away. He approached cautiously before crouching down and attempting to peer through; a moment later he smirked and stood up again. Placing his right fingers through the crack, he then superheated the air around them, causing the rock to melt away and allow the Ayas Tanivas to fall out.

“Only needed to get my ass kicked to find this thing. Tch,” the Pyrotechnic snorted as he stooped over to grab the Ayas. He took a moment to admire the stone before unmuting the Genesis’ audio connection. “Transfer Captain to Genesis. I’ve found the Ayas. …Hello? Genesis? …Fuck.” He scowled as he realized that the connection was being jammed. “Nanocreature interference—?!”

A massive impact from above interrupted him, throwing him off his feet as the rock walls around him began to crumble. He quickly propelled himself upwards with a small explosion, righting himself in the air and then flying up out of the crevice, only to suddenly stop in stunned silence as he found himself staring at a fifty-meter Nanocreature, the same flying monster as the one that had released the smaller creatures not even ten minutes ago.

“…I do not have time for this,” the Pyrotechnic growled as the massive creature rose its winged arms in preparation to slam them down on top of the Chaotic. “Chaos State: First Tier! Now… He paused for a moment to alight on the ground and begin super-heating the air around him. …Fuck! Off!

An insanely high-temperature blast of flame exploded outward from the Pyrotechnic, completely incinerating both his armor and everything else within ten meters and frying to a crisp anything that remained within fifty, including the Nanocreature beast. Kevérin sighed impatiently as the charred husk collapsed on itself; he then turned his attention back to his glasses, which he had been careful to not incinerate, and smirked when he found that the communication jamming had ceased. Transfer Captain to Genesis, repeat, Transfer Captain to Genesis, he began again as he hovered in the air and looked up at the snowy skies, …the Ayas Tanivas is secured.


Wilkas barreled forward and threw his fist out toward Siyuakén. The Corrupted Electrotechnic quickly jumped back, evading the blow — only to be thrown forwards as Wilkas’s fist hit the ground instead, cratering the stone and flipping a platform that Kaoné had formed mere moments prior. Siyuakén sailed through the air over Wilkas but flipped and caught herself on the ground as she charged energy in her arms and fired off two powerful lightning bolts at the Forcetechnic. He took the brunt of the blow and stumbled backwards before reaching out and grabbing several diamond poles that Kaoné quickly created for him, launching each pole toward Siyuakén like javelins. The Electrotechnic knocked the first out of the way with her fist, grabbed the next two out of the air, and then spun around and slammed the two rods around the fourth, quickly forcing a current through the rods and her body in a makeshift railgun and firing the rod back at Wilkas at hypersonic speeds, smashing it into his stomach and flinging him back several meters. He tumbled across the ground before jumping back up to his feet and wiping the sweat and dirt off his brow. With a deep breath, he prepared to attack Siyuakén again, but caught her giving him a frustrated stare.

“Ha! Surprised I’m still up?” Wilkas smirked defiantly. “That attack would’ve murdered any other person, sure. But against me, you’re gonna have to try harder than that!”

“You’ve withstood greater force than the other Introtechnic…”

“What?” Wilkas’s expression darkened. “You mean Vélunis—?”

“Very well. I will adjust my output appropriately…”

“As if I’ll go down that easily!” the Forcetechnic roared as he slammed his fists into the ground, sending out a shockwave of stone and dust before leaping forward and attempting to smash Siyuakén’s head. The Electrotechnic simply lunged to the side, twisting around midair to direct her left arm toward the Forcetechnic and fire a metal cable out of her palm, catching Wilkas by his wrists. Before his fists could impact the ground she yanked upwards, flinging him into the air and swinging him around to slam him into the ground on her other side. She then forced a massive current through the cable, stunning Wilkas until Kaoné severed the cable with fabricated shears. The Materiatechnic then lifted Wilkas back to his feet by manipulating his armor and created a pair of hammers near his shoulders that he quickly grabbed before lunging toward Siyuakén again, absorbing her lightning strikes as he closed the distance between them and slammed his hammers into her chest. Flung backwards, the Corrupted Electrotechnic spiraled through the air until she righted herself and fired cables from both her palms, grabbing Wilkas by his ankles before reeling the cables in, ripping him off of his feet and dragging him across the ground. She then severed the cable from her right hand and charged her hand with energy, preparing to slam her charged palm into Wilkas’s chest — only to be blocked as he swung his left arm around to knock away her hand. He then slammed his feet down to the ground and grabbed the cable around them, yanking hard and easily tearing it before jumping back to his feet just in time to block another blow from Siyuakén. He quickly responded by throwing his own punch, but the Electrotechnic managed to knock his fist away; the two then engaged in a brief but fast-paced fist fight as Wilkas continually blocked Siyuakén’s blows and she continually knocked away his. After several seconds of little progress, the Electrotechnic drew back slightly and began charging energy in her right fist again; in response Wilkas wound up a punch of his own and then threw his fist forward just as Siyuakén did the same. With both mid-attack, neither were able to stop to block and instead slammed each other in the face, blowing them both back several tens of meters.

“…You’re still standing,” the Electrotechnic deadpanned, staring at Wilkas as he jumped back to his feet.

“You’d have to be retarded to think any of what you just did would take me down,” the Forcetechnic shot back. “Seems like the only people you can beat are ones that were already beat down, huh?”

“…Hmph. Your words are meaningless. You will be the one to lose this battle.”

“Siyuakén…!” Kaoné spoke up uneasily as she ran up next to Wilkas, “why are you doing this? Why are you being so hostile?”

“Your questions are… meaningless.” The Electrotechnic continued to stare at Wilkas, watching for any telltale signs of attack. “You don’t seem to understand. I am not Siyuakén.”

“If that were true, then you wouldn’t feel the need to keep telling us, would you?”

Siyuakén finally turned to eye Kaoné, her expression still blank. “…Believe what you want. No matter what you say, you will die here, today.” She looked back to Wilkas. “Both of you.”

“C’mon, Kaoné,” Wilkas urged impatiently, “we don’t have time for this. Just help me beat her ass!”

“But… I can’t!” The Materiatechnic frowned as she stepped back wearily. “I… I can’t just fight her! She’s still in there! Isn’t she? Why else has she been holding back?”

“You think I’m holding back?” Siyuakén’s eyes narrowed. “…Perhaps I am. Perhaps I’m not. What bearing on my identity does that hold? You think just because I haven’t beat you yet, that I still harbor any feelings for you?”

“Why else would you be taking the time to talk to us like this?”

“…Hmph,” the Electrotechnic snorted, slowly clenching her fists as bright yellow sparks began dancing along her lower arms. “How annoying. Maybe after I kill you here, I’ll hunt down and kill the rest of Hero Machina. Or maybe even just Rebehka. Killing her should give you plenty of reason to take me seriously.”

Kaoné froze, stunned by the cold statement. “…You wouldn’t. You can’t…”

“I’m sure she can,” Wilkas countered, “that’s why we should kill her now. Are we done talking yet?”

“I have little more to say against such childish views,” Siyuakén retorted. “If you expect me to hold back out of a sense of familiarity that I don’t have…” She lunged forward. “…Then don’t be surprised when you fall!”

Wilkas moved to block her blow, but was stunned as she released a significantly higher voltage than any of her previous attacks and knocked him nearly a hundred meters away. He tumbled to the ground painfully, unable to recover before the Electrotechnic appeared on top of him and prepared to strike him again — only to be suddenly blown backwards by a flying piece of concrete and then hoisted into the air by diamond shackles. She struggled for but a second before assimilating the shackles into her body and dropping back down to the ground, where she drew a deep breath and turned back to Kaoné. “What are you—?”

“I don’t like this at all,” the Materiatechnic muttered, “I don’t like fighting. I don’t like having to fight you. But… you really aren’t the ‘you’ I know anymore, are you? Morcii’s corrupted you, turned you into some kind of monster! You aren’t Siyuakén anymore, you’re just a… a Nanocreature. And I’ve… I’ve destroyed Nanocreatures.” Her armor’s shielding flared as a layer of reinforced steel appeared across the surface, with two diamond blades materializing in her hands and a huge battlehammer appearing next to Wilkas. “If even Rebehka can accept that, then I can, too! Whatever it takes, we’ll stop you!”


“Yours is the only one left, Captain. We need you to hurry up.”

“Easier said than done,” Kievkenalis muttered. “Do you have any idea what we’re up against down here?”

“We understand that there is a large obstacle in your way—”

“’Large obstacle’…” the Chaostechnic scoffed as he looked up at the behemoth of a monster that had completely obliterated the mountain base Hero Machina had been based out of. It scarred the mountains it passed due to its sheer size, and it completely ignored Citan gunships as it stamped out Chaotics left and right. “…Yeah. Sure. I’ll do all I can.”

“Good. Since yours is the only Ayas left, we’re focusing the Ayas Sensor on your location. This should narrow down the possible locations.”

“That’d be useful if I had glasses,” Kievkenalis retorted, absentmindedly touching the earpiece set on his right ear. “…But I appreciate the thought. Now, if you’ll excuse me!” He muted the connection to the Genesis and then dived to the side, barely evading cannon fire as the behemoth Nanocreature turned his way. “Chaos Assist,” he muttered for the third time that hour, following with “Chaos Double Boost!” as he leaped from cover and dashed across the rocky terrain. Vaulting over debris and dodging around Nanocreature attacks, the Chaostechnic quickly made his way to the nearest mountain peak before crouching down and scanning the area around him. “Chaos Energy Detect,” he called out, squinting as a faint purple color tinted his vision, signaling local concentrations and flow of Chaos Energy. He was barely able to spot a potential high-concentration target before the Nanocreature behemoth leaped high into the air, easily clearing the highest of the mountain peaks as it approached Kievkenalis’s position.

“Oh crap—! Chaos Quadruple Boost!” he shouted impulsively before flinging himself from the mountaintop at high speed, just fast enough to avoid being crushed as the monster crashed back down to the ground. He quickly added “Chaos Fortified Armor” just before slamming into the ground himself; the veil of Chaos Energy absorbed the landing shock as he tumbled down the mountainside, unhurt. He quickly activated Chaos Detect again and searched the environment for the area of high Energy concentration he had spotted before, his eyes coming to lay on another mountain peak across the valley — just in time for the Nanocreature monster to leap into the air again, demolishing the peak it leaped from and smashing into the peak Kievkenalis was staring at. “…Well, crap,” the Chaostechnic muttered as the monster slammed its front paw into the rock face before withdrawing it, a faint white glitter accompanying its paw as well as an explosion of color in Kievkenalis’s Detect-filtered vision. I can’t let it get away with the Ayas! But, how am I supposed to fight that thing?! The Chaostechnic watched in tense silence as the monster slowly turned away from the peak and pounced onto another, increasing its distance from the Chaotic. None of the Citans could so much as stand up to that! …Then again… none of the Citans were Chaostechnics. He looked down at his hands warily, and then clenched them and pursed his lips as he looked back up at the monster. “…I’m about to make one of the worst decisions in my life.”

Closing his eyes and taking a deep breath, Kievkenalis froze for a brief moment before calling out, “Chaos… Quintuple Boost!!” He grunted in pain as Chaos Energy around him flared up, twining with his body to provide the movement bonus. Clenching his fists even tighter, he ignored the pain and took a massive leap forward, clearing tens of meters in a single bound as he quickly closed the distance between himself and the behemoth. As he fell within a hundred meters of the beast, he felt the effects of Chaos Boost wear off, just as the creature noticed him and turned to attack. It lunged toward the Chaostechnic, flying through the air with amazing speed — only to be intercepted midair as Kievkenalis shouted, “Chaos SLAM!” He rocketed into the beast and knocked it back, sending the both of them tumbling to the ground and then down the mountainside a fair distance before either could regain their footing.

Enraged, the Nanocreature behemoth let loose a deafening metallic screech followed by slamming its tail into the ground, stunning Kievkenalis with the shockwave and tossing him into the air. The Chaostechnic barely had time to recover and reactivate Chaos Fortified Armor before the beast’s full complement of back-mounted cannons fired at him, the full barrage slamming into the Chaotic and knocking him into the terrain behind him. He fell to the ground painfully, muttering “Chaos Heal” just in time to throw himself to the side to evade another cannon volley; he quickly followed with several repeated calls of “Chaos Mach Three Piercing Cannon”, directing each projectile at the beast’s front joints and successfully cleaving its front legs off of its body. He then leaped forward as the monster reeled back onto its hind legs, calling out “Chaos Greatsword” and using the weapon to slice through the beast’s tail as it attempted to whack him out of the air. Then, before the beast had time to recover, Kievkenalis followed up by calling “Chaos BLAST!

The ensuing sphere of energy obliterated the monster’s front side as well as its severed front limbs, but also left Kievkenalis to fall to the ground helplessly as the beast threw itself down and body slammed him. Stunned, he failed to recover fast enough to evade as the monster climbed up to its hind legs and stomped him, but a quick, quiet croaking of “Chaos Teleport” teleported the Chaostechnic out of harm’s way before he could be stomped again. He followed with “Chaos Heal” and then “Chaos Energy Detect”, quickly looking for the Ayas while the beast searched for him. Spotting it amongst the remnants of the beast’s front legs, he immediately leaped toward it — only to be grabbed out of the air by the behemoth’s foot. Kievkenalis immediately responded with “Chaos Deflection”, forcing the monster to let go of him and drop him to the ground — only to be suddenly kicked high into the air by the beast’s other foot. The Nanocreature instantly leaped up after him, twisting around in the air to slam its foot over Kievkenalis’s head and launch him back toward the ground.

Chaos Slam!

The Chaostechnic’s momentum instantly reversed, sending him careening into the monster’s damaged torso and launching it upwards. “Chaos Slam!” Kievkenalis shouted again, ramming into the beast once more and knocking it even higher; a third call to the attack completely shattered the behemoth’s torso, causing it to fall to the ground in pieces around Kievkenalis. The remnants quickly began to reform, but the Chaostechnic ignored them as he vaulted toward the Ayas Mystryth and shouted, “Chaos State: FIRST TIER!” He ignored the Ayas as it disappeared into thin air and quickly turned his attention back to the monster, which had reformed into a four-legged beast again, only smaller. “Chaos Detect,” he muttered under his breath, followed with a bitter smile. Looks like no one’s left for kilometers around, except for me and this thing… good. Time to see what the Chaos State can really do! He straightened his back and stretched his arms as the beast snarled and screeched; after a deep breath, he began, “Chaos…!”

The monster slammed its tail into the ground, knocking Kievkenalis into the air again.

“Kilo…!”

It then launched itself at the Chaostechnic, maw wide open as it reached Kievkenalis before he could fall back to the ground, clamping its jaws shut around him—

“BLAST!”

A split-second of silence followed — and then a massive blast of energy exploded out from the Chaostechnic, instantly obliterating the Nanocreature behemoth as well as the mountain below and everything else within fifty kilometers, including the ground. Kievkenalis had but a brief moment to observe the damage he had caused — and the long distance he had to fall — before an intense twang of pain shot through his head, overriding any thought. His body emitted a flash of light as the Chaos State automatically disengaged and the Ayas Mystryth reappeared above him, the both of them entering free fall toward the new ground fifty kilometers below.

“Fu…ck…” the Chaostechnic was barely able to mutter as his vision went black, the massive amount of Chaos Energy required to use the ability he had just called taking its immediate toll on his body. “No… the… …Ayas… …”


Wilkas threw his fist forward, missing Siyuakén by a hair before following up with his other fist, nailing her in the stomach and flinging her away. She quickly recovered midair and fired a grappling hook toward the Forcetechnic that he blocked with a massive shield Kaoné had created for him earlier. The hook embedded itself in the shield as the Electrotechnic fired a second hook at Wilkas’s ankle, snaring him and then yanking back while simultaneously forcing an incredible current through the makeshift circuit. But the circuit didn’t last for long — Kaoné severed the cables with massive shears before flinging Siyuakén into the air by quickly raising the terrain beneath her feet, and then fabricated a chunk of steel and slammed it into the Electrotechnic’s back, sending her flying toward Wilkas. The Forcetechnic tossed aside his shield and grabbed Siyuakén by her face as she flew by, swinging her out of the air and into the ground where she emitted a powerful electric blast that forced Wilkas away. She immediately leaped to her feet and jumped back just in time to avoid being impaled by a diamond spike; she then leaped into the air, hovering above her two opponents as the skies above began to cloud. Mere moments later the entire battlefield was bathed in lightning strike after lightning strike, quickly draining Wilkas and Kaoné’s armors of power. The Materiatechnic rapidly created crude Faraday cages around herself and Wilkas, but Siyuakén’s strikes were so powerful that the cages were smashed apart and Kaoné was left to repeatedly repair their armor.

Growing tired of taking hits, Wilkas eventually grabbed the Faraday cage remnants around him and mashed them into a metal club before leaping up at Siyuakén, where he took a wild swing that ultimately missed. Kaoné then seized control of the club just as the Forcetechnic began to fall and bashed it over Siyuakén’s head, slamming her back down to the ground. Wilkas quickly dashed over, smashing his fist into her location just after she flipped away and back to her feet. She fired one of her grappling hooks at a distant piece of terrain, reeling herself toward it just in time to evade another blow from the Forcetechnic. She then spun around and fired several more lightning strikes toward her opponents as she used her second grappling hook to grab and draw in two of the diamond rods left over from earlier. Kaoné quickly attempted to seize control of the rods and yank them away, but Siyuakén had corrupted them before she could, grabbing the assimilated materials firmly in her hands just in time to begin blocking a flurry of blows from Wilkas. After the first several blows, the Electrotechnic began to electrically charge the rods, rapidly increasing the voltage until she was discharging enough energy into Wilkas’s armor with each blow that he drew away in pain. Instead of backing away herself, though, Siyuakén lunged in closer to the Forcetechnic and began bashing him with the tips of the rods, discharging immense amounts of energy with each blow and forcing Kaoné to repair Wilkas’s armor each time as the Forcetechnic failed to defend against the barrage. After several more blows, Siyuakén drew back for a moment, slamming the rods together and fusing them before forcing even more voltage through the rod; just as she thrust the rod forward with amazing force, Wilkas threw his left shoulder forward, grimacing as the rods blew apart his armor and cleanly pierced through his entire shoulder.

“WILKAS!!” Kaoné cried as Siyuakén released the rod and stepped back — but due to Wilkas’s reckless charge, she was too close to him to evade as he grabbed her back with his right hand.

“Oh no you don’t!” He grinned spitefully, slamming his left fist into her chest as he held her in place. “I’ve…” He punched her again. “Got…” And again. “You…!” And again. “Now!

With his final blow, he completely demolished her torso, impaling her with his fist. He then yanked his fist out of her body and whacked her across the face with his right hand, flinging her back several meters. Kaoné ran up next to the Forcetechnic, who grasped his bleeding shoulder painfully as he stared at the incapacitated Siyuakén.

“…You…” she croaked as she craned her head up to look at Wilkas. “…How…?”

“Adrenaline’s a hell of an anesthetic,” he retorted with a smirk. He then grabbed the rod embedded in his shoulder, took a deep breath, and yanked it out. “Gah…! Fuck, that hurts…!”

“Wilkas! Hey, hey, be— be careful,” Kaoné urged as she attempted to see to the Forcetechnic’s wound. “Oh my god— you’re bleeding so much!”

“That is what happens when you get stabbed.” Wilkas clenched his teeth painfully as he gripped the rod tightly and began approaching Siyuakén.

“Wilkas…?” Kaoné questioned warily, “what… what are you doing?”

“What… does it look like I’m doing?” he replied through clenched teeth, glaring at the Electrotechnic as she blankly stared back. “I’m… finishing the job.”

“But—!” the Materiatechnic started, and then glanced uneasily toward Siyuakén. The Corrupted Electrotechnic had closed her eyes, apparently making no attempt to resist as Wilkas stepped up to her body.

“Is there anything you actually want to say?” Wilkas questioned impatiently as he turned toward Kaoné.

“…No.” She looked away. “…Just do it.”

“Hn,” the Forcetechnic grunted, and then raised the rod over his head in preparation for the final blow.

“Wait, Wilkas! Look out!!”

“What—?” The Forcetechnic snapped his attention toward Kaoné and then in the direction she was pointing just in time to discard the rod and hold his hands out above his head, intercepting a hypersonic object just before it slammed into the ground from the upper atmosphere.

“YOUR REACTIONS ARE QUICK. NOT BAD, ALDREDANOID. NOT BAD!”

“Wha—?!” Wilkas’s eyes widened just before he was grabbed forcefully and suplexed into the ground across from Siyuakén. He was barely able to register what had happened to him before Morcii slammed his elbow into his stomach, winding and effectively paralyzing him.

“BUT IT WILL TAKE MORE THAN QUICK REACTIONS TO STOP ME,” the Nanocreature leader declared with a haughty smirk, jumping back up to his feet as he glared down at the Forcetechnic.

“M-Morcii…!” Kaoné stuttered, frozen to the spot as she mentally debated between rushing to Wilkas and fleeing.

“…TCH.” Morcii offered the Materiatechnic a dismissive glance before turning his attention toward Siyuakén. “…I ADMIT, I’M IMPRESSED. I WASN’T EXPECTING YOU TO DEFEAT MY NEW LIEUTENANT, NOT WITH ONLY TWO OF YOU.” He then looked back to Wilkas as the Forcetechnic struggled to return to his feet; in response the Nanocreature leader stepped forward and stomped both of his knees, completely mangling Wilkas’s legs. “HA. BUT YOU’RE STILL JUST AS INCAPABLE OF STOPPING ME AS EVER.”

“Agh…! Fuck!” Wilkas growled, his face scrounged up in pain. “You…!”

“HMPH, YOU ALDREDANOIDS REALLY LIKE THAT WORD, DON’T YOU?” Morcii snorted in derision. “NOW, DOWN TO BUSINESS. I’M SURE YOU KNOW WHY I’M HERE.” He grabbed Wilkas by the collar of his armor and hoisted him into the air. “WHERE ARE THE AYAS? TELL ME, AND I MIGHT SPARE YOU A PAINFUL DEATH.”

Wilkas simply glared down at Morcii, grabbing the Nanocreature’s arm and attempting to rip it away. “Fuck… you!”

Morcii simply shrugged in response. “VERY WELL.” He then prepared to slam his free hand into Wilkas — but quickly dropped the Forcetechnic and jumped back instead to evade being impaled by the rapid materialization of a spike beneath his feet. Flipping through the air once, he then spun around and dashed toward Kaoné, only to stumble as a powerful electric shock interrupted his movements. He recovered immediately and jumped out of the way of a second strike before turning back to stare at Siyuakén with an amused yet irritated smirk on his face.

“Stay… away…” she muttered, holding her trembling hand toward the Nanocreature leader.

“…NOW THIS IS TRULY A SURPRISE!” Morcii remarked, “YOU’VE OVERCOME THE EXPRESSION INHIBITORS! MUST BE BECAUSE YOU’RE ALMOST DEAD. HMM.”

“Siyuakén! You’re still in there, after all!” Kaoné exclaimed, and then yelped as Morcii dashed toward her — only to be forced to evade a lightning strike again.

“I… said!” Siyuakén reiterated through clenched teeth, her brow furrowed with intense concentration, “stay… away…!”

“AHAHAHA… HA HA HA HA HA HA!” The Nanocreature leader guffawed as he turned back to face Siyuakén. “CUTE. YOU THINK YOU COULD POSSIBLY SAVE YOUR FRIENDS? IN THAT STATE?”

The Electrotechnic glared at Morcii, her outstretched hand beginning to lower from fatigue. “I… I…! Hrgk—!” She spluttered as she was violently lifted into the air as Morcii manipulated the very nanomachines throughout her body and forced her to put down her hand.

“SEE? YOU’RE HELPLESS AGAINST ME. JUST AS YOUR FRIENDS ARE!” the Nanocreature roared, “NO ONE CAN HOPE TO STOP ME! YOU CAN’T STOP ME FROM CONQUERING THE GALAXY. AND YOU MOST CERTAINLY—” He lunged toward Wilkas, flipped through the air, and smashed his heel into the Forcetechnic’s chest, completely obliterating it and killing him instantly. “—CAN’T STOP ME FROM KILLING! NOT YOUR FRIENDS, NOT YOURSELF, NOT ANYONE!”

“…No…” Siyuakén muttered, “…maybe not… me. But… not… no one…!”

“HMPH.” Morcii glanced irately toward Kaoné, who was backing away fearfully, before turning back to the Electrotechnic. “…YOU ANNOYING ALDREDANOIDS ARE JUST AS HEADSTRONG AS THE ALDREDAS THEMSELVES. WHAT A NUISANCE… OH WELL. HAVING A CHAOTIC LIEUTENANT, AND A QUAKEBORN, NO LESS, WAS GOOD WHILE IT LASTED.” Then, with little warning — Siyuakén’s neck snapped with an audible crack, immediately extinguishing the light in her eyes. Morcii violently slammed her body to the ground before lifting the mangled mess back into the air and flinging it away dismissively.

“Si…Siyuakén!!” Kaoné gasped, her attention repeatedly snapping between the corpses of Wilkas and Siyuakén. “I… I… this…!”

“CONSIDER YOURSELF LUCKY, ALDREDANOID.”

“What—?!” The Materiatechnic whipped around to face Morcii, who was simply staring at her from a distance.

“CONSIDER YOURSELF LUCKY THAT I HAVE NOT YET KILLED YOU…” he declared, just as four objects slammed into the ground around him from above. Kaoné was barely able to identify them as four of the Chaos Ayas — the Ayas that the Nimalians were missing — before they slowly rose into the air around Morcii and began to glow. A split second later, a bright flash of light forced her to look away; when she looked back she impulsively gasped as she laid eyes on Morcii’s new form: his legs were extended and mechanized, featuring the double-knee appearance of the Drakkars combined with a distinct metallic sheen; a second set of arms had appeared below his normal arms and all four seemed far more muscular than before; four spike-tipped tails waved casually behind his back; and his entire body was half again as large as his normal form.

{CONSIDER YOURSELF LUCKY TO BEHOLD THE FUSE FORM!”} the Nanocreature growled, his voice carrying a guttural distortion as it seemed to cut directly into Kaoné’s mind. {MUCH LIKE YOUR CHAOS STATE, I CAN SEIZE THE POWER AND ESSENCE OF THE AYAS TO INCREASE MY POWER BEYOND LIMIT! AND WITH THIS METHOD, ANY ATTEMPTS TO STEAL THE AYAS FROM ME WILL FAIL. IF YOU COULD EVEN LIVE LONG ENOUGH TO TRY!”}

Kaoné simply stared back at Morcii, stumbling back as he slowly advanced on her.

{YOUR VICTORY IS IMPOSSIBLE, BUT MINE IS INEVITABLE!”} he roared, {YOU FAILED TO BELIEVE ME BEFORE; YOU DEVELOPED THE HUBRIS TO SO MUCH AS THINK YOU COULD DEFEAT ME. YOU THOUGHT I WAS BLUFFING, THAT I HAD NO MORE POWER THAN ANYTHING ELSE YOU HAD FOUGHT, EVEN WHEN MY FLEETS ALONE DECIMATED YOUR FORCES AND CONQUERED YOUR PLANETS! SEE ME NOW, ALDREDANOID, AND RECONSIDER!”} Morcii lunged toward Kaoné. {BUT YOUR LIFE ENDS HERE!”}

Morcii cleared the distance between himself and the Materiatechnic in the blink of an eye, but she disappeared in a flash of light before he could pulverize her with his fist. He growled in response — and then immediately launched himself forward, clearing several kilometers in a second just before a massive force from above smashed into the ground, obliterating the entire region and leaving a crater deep enough to expose the mantle beneath the planet’s crust.

{…HA,”} the Nanocreature snorted, hovering in the air over the crater as the dust slowly began to settle. {I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN YOU ALDREDANOIDS WOULDN’T GO DOWN WITHOUT A FIGHT.”} He directed his attention at the newcomer as the air thinned enough to expose his silhouette. {SO WHAT TIER DO YOU THINK WILL BEAT ME, HMM? SECOND? THIRD?”}

(Try Master Fourth!”) Christeané smirked in response as he hovered above the crater several meters from Morcii. The echo-like distortions in his voice that were brought on by the Chaos State seemed to carry through space itself, allowing the Forcetechnic to speak aloud and into the mind of Morcii simultaneously as he continued, (and now that you’re here, maybe even more. Chaos State: Master Fifth Tier!”)

{THAT WON’T WORK,”} Morcii retorted, ignoring a spout of lava nearby as the exposed magma began bubbling up the crater. {THE FUSE FORM IS TO ME WHAT THE CHAOS STATE IS TO YOU. I HAVE ABSORBED THE AYAS THEMSELVES… YOU CANNOT POSSIBLY HOPE TO STOP ME NOW.”}

(Bullshit. You can’t have any more than four Ayas. I’ve got five, and that includes the Master Ayas,”) Christeané shot back. (And I’ve got a bit of experience using it, too. I had to rescue one of my friends from falling to his death, at least…”)

{AHAHAHAHA! AND YOU THINK THAT QUALIFIES YOU TO FIGHT ME?”}

(No. What qualifies me is the fact that I can beat you, easy.”)

{…I SUPPOSE I SHOULD NOT ARGUE AGAINST YOUR ILLOGICAL AND MISPLACED CONFIDENCE. YOU HAVE BROUGHT THE REST OF THE AYAS TO ME; THIS SHOULD SIGNIFICANTLY SPEED UP MY PLANS. IN FACT…”} Morcii grinned menacingly as he summoned all four weapons associated with his absorbed Ayas — the Arcán Claymore, the Hastryth Chain Weapon, the Sendous Chakrams, and the Tsern Spear — and grasped them with his tails. {I COULD END IT ALL TODAY.”}

(You’re damn right this’ll end today,”) Christeané responded as he summoned the Matlés Gauntlets, Tanivas Staff in his right hand, and the Aldrace Glaive in his left. (But not with your victory! I’ll shut you down here, Morcii! Once and for all!”)

Chapter 69 – The Rules of Chaos

3 Days Later

– Windia, Skydiath 32, 8034 –

“Why does it seem like every Fortress World is a desolate piece of garbage?”

“That couldn’t be further from the truth,” Kevérin refuted, his attention focused on several AR readouts as he addressed Wilkas, “Fortress Worlds are the neatest planets you’ll find. They’re all about military-grade efficiency, especially the Primary Fortress Worlds, which are the only ones we’ve seen.”

“Maasen wasn’t a Primary Fortress World,” Kaoné countered.

“…Well, true, but that’s beside the point,” the Pyrotechnic replied, glancing toward the other three Chaotics as they stared at the surrounding mountains and valleys through an observation window. Hero Machina had arrived on the world of Neticen the previous day, and were now stationed at one of the planet’s mountain bases while they awaited the arrival of the Nanocreatures. “The point is that we’ve only seen the desolate locations on each planet,” Kevérin continued, “the planets themselves aren’t desolate, or garbage.”

“Could’ve fooled me,” Wilkas retorted, “between a tundra outpost and two different mountain bases that look exactly the same.”

“To be fair, Tau’cen Dii wasn’t actually a Fortress World,” Kievkenalis pointed out.

Wilkas gave the Chaostechnic an annoyed glance before turning back to the window.

“Neticen especially is an amazing place, from a technical perspective,” Kevérin commented as he stepped up to the observation window beside Kaoné. “If you had a chance to see the plains, then you’d see what I’m talking about. Huge expanses of industrialized terrain, massive defense constructs, the anti-orbital cannons. Hell, there are some construction arrays that are larger than the entire Nimaliaka Central metropolis, and some of the anti-orbital cannons have dedicated power arrays and resupply facilities that stretch for hundreds of kilometers around. The only reason you can’t see any of that is because we’re stuck in one of the tertiary mountain bases, in the hopes that the Nanocreatures will hit here first instead of anywhere else.”

“How does that matter?” Kaoné questioned incredulously. “By the time the Nanocreatures have gotten through the planetary shields, the whole planet is as good as lost.”

“You’re forgetting that Morcii can phase through the shields,” Kevérin countered. “He did so many times back in the Oriciid’kas system, so he’s sure to do it here. This base has comparatively little value, so if he hit here first then it gives the Citans time to clear out everywhere else.”

“I thought the whole point of trying to draw Morcii here was because they were willing to sacrifice the planet?”

The Transfer Captain shrugged. “Sacrificing the planet doesn’t mean they have to sacrifice what’s on it… I guess.”

“I wanna know more about that ‘hitting here first’ part,” Wilkas interjected. “If we expect Morcii to show up here first, then why the hell are we here? Isn’t it common knowledge that we can’t do shit against him?”

“It’s a trust measure. If we won’t stick around while we test the Chaos State, then why should the Citans?”

“…That’s a terrible reason.”

“It’s also a show of our trust in the Citan defenses. We can’t ask them to commit a full theater’s worth of defenses to defend a single planet if we don’t trust them to defend us. Hell, they’ve even got the Faetos in orbit. Shit, this is the fourth Deathnought we’ve been in the same system as, you know?”

“How about instead of being in the same system as a Deathnought, we were on the Deathnought?”

“Ah, we’re probably safer down here than on the Deathnought, actually,” Kievkenalis remarked. “A Supercapital ship is a primary target, always. The Nanocreatures might take it out before even bothering with the planet, so I think we’re safer here for now.”

Wilkas snorted derisively. “Says the Chaos Conduit.”

“What? What does that have to do with this? I’m not even a Chaos Conduit in the first place…”

“No… Wilkas has a point.” Kevérin glanced toward the Chaostechnic curiously. “You used a Movement-type ability back on Tau’cen Dii, but you said before that you couldn’t use Movement-type abilities. You’ve been doing that a lot, lately, using abilities that you said you shouldn’t be able to. Are you sure you aren’t actually a Chaos Conduit?”

“Yes,” Kievkenalis responded crossly, and then frowned. “Well… I mean, I used to be a Directed-Defense-Support Chaostechnic. Those were the only types of abilities that I could use for years, but I suddenly started getting access to the other types a few months ago. It’s… weird. There’s no precedent for this.”

“And when, exactly, was the last time anyone ever even saw a Chaos Conduit?” Kevérin pointed out. “…Aside from Surdeus, obviously. My point being, if you don’t even know what it looks like to be a Chaos Conduit, then how can you so firmly say that you aren’t one?”

The Chaostechnic crossed his arms and glanced away in thought. “…I guess you’re right,” he eventually replied. “The only stories we have of Chaos Conduits are basically legends. But, that’s not me, right? I’m nowhere close to legendary. I can’t be one.”

“Weird thing to be in denial about,” Wilkas retorted. “Can’t Chaos Conduits stop time? I’d be all over that.”

“I guess…”

“What types can you still not use?” Kaoné questioned, “maybe you’ll unlock them all before the fight with Morcii is over.”

“That’s wishful thinking. He won’t even be the one fighting Morcii,” Kevérin countered, and then shot Kievkenalis an apologetic glance. “Er, sorry.”

“…Void, I think,” the Chaostechnic ignored Kevérin’s interruption as he answered Kaoné’s question. “…Yeah, I think Void is the only type I can’t use. I mean, I haven’t tried to use any Void abilities, and I’m not about to, not here, not now. …I guess Void and Nullify would be pretty useful against Morcii, though. Actually, now that I think about it, Boost should be pretty useful, too…”

“Uh, what’s that do?”

“Boost is a Movement-type ability that increases your speed and reflexes. If I used Boost and the right multiplier then I could, theoretically, keep up with even Davídrius. It’d only last for a second or two though, if I tried going that fast.”

“…Chaostechnics really can do anything,” Kaoné responded in awe.

“I mean… it’s still not as good as being an actual Introtechnic,” Kievkenalis quickly added. “Boost, well, boosts speed and reflexes, but it doesn’t provide the passive durability that Introtechnics have. I’d have to use it in conjunction with Armor or Form to even get close to the level of Introtechnic durability, and using either of those would reduce the effectiveness of Boost, so it’s really not quite as useful as it sounds…”

“Ha!” Wilkas snorted. “Still sounds incredibly useful to me.”

“If you say so…”

“Well, it’s not as though we’ll get a chance to see anyways. Not against Morcii, at least,” Kevérin remarked. “Assuming everything goes according to plan, we’ll have no business fighting him. That’s all up to Christeané…”


“Oh! Hello. So you’re the test subject today?”

“…Test subject?” Christeané glanced warily toward Davídrius, though his neck brace prevented him from turning far. He then looked back at the Citan woman who had just entered the room with a cart full of equipment. She had a thin frame, tanned skin, and dark hair. On her face were a pair of AR glasses and a number of aging marks and blemishes that lent her an air of maturity, yet she possessed a carefree posture and demeanor that seemed completely misplaced by comparison.

“That’s what we’re doing here, is it not?” the woman replied, “we’re running tests. Specifically, on the Chaos State and the extent of its powers.”

“Well yeah, but calling me a ‘test subject’ seems a little… uh…”

The woman gave Christeané a curious look, glanced toward Davídrius, and then grinned as though she had just had a revelation. “Ah, right! You’re Nimalians. You’ll have to excuse me, I often forget that non-Citans get a little touchy with how you address them.”

“’Often forget’…” Davídrius echoed, his eyebrow raised incredulously.

“Mmhmm.” The Citan nodded in response as she turned back to the equipment. “Let’s see. Master Lieutenant Christeané Kolstén of the Nimalian Systems Defense, correct?”

“That’s me,” the Forcetechnic replied warily.

“Good, good. I’m Elisah Trikonian. I’ll be in charge of the tests, with the help of the notes from your Transfer Captain.” She suddenly turned around and stared at Davídrius, startling him. “Are you the Transfer Captain?”

“Uh, no,” he responded uneasily before crossing his arms and regaining his composure. “I’m a… squadmate, I guess. I’m Davídrius.”

“Oh. Good! I almost thought my glasses were failing me again.”

Davídrius and Christeané exchanged puzzled glances as Elisah returned to calibrating her equipment.

“Alright, let’s see…” She turned back around several moments later, looking around the room before laying eyes on the five Ayas on the table beside Christeané’s makeshift bed. “Ah, you have the Ayas! Good, good. Wouldn’t be able to do the tests otherwise. Um, hm, what else… right! Procedure.”

“Procedure?” Davídrius snorted. “What’s to it? Just use the first tier, an’ then the second, an’ then the third, you know. In order.”

“Aw, you Nimalians can be so cute sometimes!” Elisah giggled as she pulled a tablet off of the cart and began writing with the stylus.

“Wha-what—? C-cute—! That, that’s not—!”

“Ha!” Christeané smirked as Davídrius attempted a retort to the Citan, who obliviously ignored the Velocitechnic’s spluttering. “Maybe not cute, but this sure is amusing.”

“…Shut it,” Davídrius growled. “Or I’ll reverse all the healin’ progress you’ve made over the past month.”

“Oh!” Elisah’s eyes lit up as she glanced back at Davídrius. “You mean, test if the Chaos State can heal complete paralysis and a dysfunctional skeleton? That sounds interesting!”

Both Davídrius and Christeané responded with deadpan stares.

“…Oooooh, that was a joke, riiight.”

“Are… are you sure you’re the one in charge?” Christeané questioned uneasily.

“I am one of the Republic’s leading Chaos Energy researchers,” Elisah remarked proudly. “I’m glad I just happened to be on Neticen — this is the opportunity of a lifetime! The chance to study the Chaos State directly! With a willing test subject! Wow!”

“’Willing?!’” Davídrius echoed incredulously.

“Aren’t you concerned about the Nanocreatures attacking?” Christeané countered.

“That’s hardly anything for me to be concerned about. I’m not fighting them. And if we all die, well, we all die. You can’t remember dying, so why bother thinking about it?” Elisah shrugged. “Anyways, the procedure. See, there are several things I want to test here, not just the power of the Chaos State. I also want to test the circumstances behind the activation, such as: how are the Ayas selected when you enter the State? Is it random? Can you control which Ayas is used for, say, the First Tier? Can you go straight to a higher tier while in the State, or do you have to disengage first? All very important questions. All while being wary of this ‘disengage scattering’ factor, as well.”

“Uh, sure.” Christeané shrugged, though the motion was significantly dampened by his disabled body. “So, what’s the procedure?”

“Before each State activation, I’ll tell you what Tier to enter, and which Ayas to use — or try to use, at least. Once you’ve activated the State, I’ll examine you to see if you’ve been healed and by how much, and then we’ll test your gripping strength, your pressure strength, and your striking strength — assuming you’ve been healed enough to test those, of course. Then you’ll disengage, and we’ll start over with new parameters. Sound good?”

Christeané responded with a blank stare, blinking twice before responding, “sure, yeah. Totally.”

“Good!” the Citan exclaimed cheerfully before quickly scribbling something on her tablet and then returning her attention to Christeané. “Alright, test one. Use the First Tier. Don’t bother trying to use any one Ayas specifically, just activate the State.”

“Sure. Chaos State: First Tier.

The Light Red Ayas spontaneously disappeared as Christeané acquired a momentary faint glow. He grit his teeth for a second before impulsively sighing of relief, prompting a response from Elisah.

“Feel better?”

…A little, he responded as he slightly shifted his position on the bed. …There’s some pain relief, but not much else. Moving around still hurts.

“That corroborates with the readings from the monitoring equipment.” Elisah nodded, and then glanced back down at her tablet as she took some notes. “…Test one, trial one: no Ayas specification. Light Red Ayas utilized. Alright, you can disengage now.”

…How do I do that?

“’Chaos State: Disengage’,” Davídrius replied.

“Chaos State: Disengage, Christeané repeated. Immediately afterward, the Light Red Ayas appeared in his right hand, which Elisah quickly grabbed and replaced on the table beside the bed.

“Good, good…” She nodded absentmindedly. “Alright. Trial two. Do the same thing.”

“…What?” Davídrius scowled impatiently. “Why?”

“It’s science. Have you never run an experiment before? You do the same thing over and over again and try to find trends in the results.”

“Over an’ over? How long is this gonna take?”

“It’ll take a lot longer if you keep questioning everything I say.”

“Alright, alright, chill out.” Christeané rolled his eyes as Elisah gave Davídrius a startlingly effective reproachful stare. “Chaos State: First Tier.

This time, the Black Ayas disappeared into thin air; Elisah quickly took note before ordering Christeané to repeat the trial once more, during which the Light Green Ayas disappeared instead.

“Ayas choice appears to be random…” The Citan researcher muttered to herself. “Hmm. I’d like to do more than three trials… but I’m not sure we have the time, so, moving on. Test two. Choose an Ayas color, tell me which, and try to focus on it when you activate the State. Understood?”

“Yeah, I gotcha.”

“Good, good. We’ll do this one three times in a row, just like the last.”

“Hngh, we’re gonna be here for forever…” Davídrius groaned, though he kept his voice low enough that Elisah failed to hear him as Christeané attempted to activate the Chaos State with the Light Red Ayas. Instead, the White Ayas disappeared; on the following two trials as well, the Ayas used to activate the Chaos State failed to match the Ayas that Christeané thought of upon activation.

“Seems like it’s just random,” the Forcetechnic observed with a shrug. “Can we move on to the Second Tier? I wanna see if it heals me.”

“No no, not just yet.” Elisah shook her head as she looked over Kevérin’s notes again. “There’s one more test before moving on to the Second Tier. I want to take advantage of the First Tier’s lack of scattering as much as possible.”

“Argh…” Christeané sighed impatiently. “Fine, what is it?”

“According to these notes, each of the Ayas has a designated name. Instead of thinking of the Ayas color, try to think of its name instead.”

“…Great. Fine. What’re their names?”

“Uh…” Elisah paused for a moment to flip through her notes. “…Okay. Here we go. The Master Ayas is Syn, the White Ayas is Mystryth, the Light Green one is Tanivas, the Light Red one is Matlés, and the Black one is Aldrace.”

“Alright. I’m going with Matlés.”

“Good, good. Go on.”

“Hmph. Chaos State: First Tier.

A mere moment later the Light Red Ayas — Matlés — disappeared. Elisah’s eyes clearly lit up, but she retained a calm demeanor as she jotted down the result and indicated for Christeané to do it twice more.

“…Interesting.” The researcher nodded after Christeané had entered the Chaos State for the ninth time total. “That’s three for three for the State selecting the correct Ayas when you think of its name. This is really interesting! I’d like to know where your Transfer Captain got this information, I don’t know anyone who knew that the Ayas had names, of all things.”

Christeané and Davídrius exchanged furtive glances, but neither spoke up about the Prior Arcán.

“So is that it for the First Tier?” Davídrius questioned.

“Considering it only seems to offer pain relief, I don’t think any of the strength tests are worth considering. So yes, for now. Don’t disengage, though,” she quickly addressed Christeané, “we already know you can enter the Second Tier from your base state, seeing as your squadmate here did it already. I want to see if you can make the Tier jump with the State already activated.”

Alright. The Forcetechnic nodded. Should I think of a specific Ayas?

“It couldn’t hurt.”

Hn. Tanivas. Alright, Chaos State: Second Tier.

The Tanivas Ayas promptly vanished, joining Matlés in the Chaos State as a soft golden glow briefly enveloped Christeané.

“Better?” Elisah questioned as the Forcetechnic clenched his fists experimentally.

…Yeah! He smiled, slowly drawing his arms back and then pushing himself into a sitting position. He grimaced during the movement, but nonetheless was able to turn himself and sit upright on the bed without assistance, with his legs dangling off the side.

“Impressive,” the researcher remarked with an approving nod. “Given standard Nimalian procedure, that’s several months’ worth of healing and physical therapy that you just bypassed.”

Yeah, this is great! Christeané grinned. …I mean, there’s still some pain, and I wouldn’t want to fight in this condition, but… He carefully removed his neck brace and then checked under his shirt and glanced down at his arms. …It even healed all of the surgery scars. Huh.

“Good, good…” Elisah turned back toward her cart and began fiddling with the equipment again. “I take it you feel well enough to attempt the strength tests?”

I don’t know about punching something, but I can try the other two, sure.

“Good! Alright, hm, let’s see. Here we go.” She gestured toward a fist-sized ball on the equipment cart. “Pick that up.”

Christeané reached over and grabbed the ball, holding it in his hand cluelessly. …Now what?

“That ball weighs nearly a thousand kilograms. You have no trouble lifting it?”

None at all.

“Alright. Good, good… now try squeezing it. As hard as you can.”

The Forcetechnic glanced back down at the ball before squeezing it in his fist… and immediately crushing it completely.

All three room inhabitants stared at his fist for a second before Christeané and Davídrius turned back to Elisah, who was still staring at his fist in awe.

“That… that ball should’ve been able to stand up to at least thirty thousand Newtons of force! And you just… you just crushed it! Like it was nothing! Wow!” She quickly began jotting down notes on her tablet. “Wow, Chaotics really are something! Chaos Energy and its effects are so interesting!”

Sure… Christeané responded absentmindedly as he opened his fist and shook the remnants of the ball away. …I guess that is pretty impressive, huh. My normal grip strength is something like three to four thousand Newtons.

“I see. Well, I suspect the result will be similar, but let’s try all the same…” Elisah typed a short command into the cart’s side panel, triggering its lower shelf to extend out and flatten itself on the floor. “Sorry about the hassle…” She glanced back toward Christeané as she gestured for him to come around toward the cart. “I know this isn’t a true representation of pressure strength, but it’s all we have to work with in this facility.”

You want me to press down on those pads? the Forcetechnic questioned, staring at two hand-sized pads hooked up to a readout on the cart.

“If you would, please.”

“…One hell of a test,” Davídrius remarked as Christeané carefully lowered himself to his knees in front of the pads, with Elisah staring down at him from the other side of the cart. The Forcetechnic shot Davídrius an annoyed glance before turning back to the pads and placing his hands on them.

“Whenever you’re ready,” the researcher prompted.

Here goes, Christeané declared, followed by pressing down on the pad… and immediately pulverizing it and denting the floor as his hands obliterated the apparatus.

“I… I can’t say that I’m surprised,” Elisah responded warily, “but, that strength, you… I’m amazed! I’ve never seen testing apparatuses destroyed with such ease, let alone Introtechnic testing equipment!”

Well… you know, Christeané replied casually as he climbed back to his feet and puffed out his chest, being amazing is what I’m all—

“The Chaos State is so amazing!” Elisah cut him off, rapidly jotting down notes on her tablet as she obliviously turned away from him. The Forcetechnic paused for a brief moment as Davídrius chortled at his expense before he simply shrugged and returned to sitting on the bed.

“…Anyways,” the researcher continued as she put the tablet down and turned back to Christeané, “I don’t think the striking strength test is necessary, given that show. Hm… alright, I think that wraps up this session, then.”

What? Christeané frowned. What about the Third Tier?

“That comes later,” Elisah replied. “You should disengage the State now, and we’ll track where the Ayas scatter to and see if they match with your squadmate’s claim. Then we’ll try the Third Tier. Until then, we’ll take a break while the Ayas are relocated.”

The Forcetechnic sighed. I guess that makes sense.

“You should probably lie down first,” the researcher suggested. “It was hard to tell with the First Tier, but we don’t know if your healing is permanent.”

Davídrius whistled. “That’d really suck if it wasn’t.”

You don’t even know, Christeané retorted as he carefully laid back on the bed. As soon as he was comfortable he muttered, “Chaos State: Disengage.”

A moment later, the Tanivas and Matlés Ayas both appeared above Christeané before suddenly shooting outward, moving faster than even Davídrius could track as they phased through everything in their path.

“Still feelin’ fine?” Davídrius questioned as Christeané experimentally clenched his fists again.

“…Yup,” the Forcetechnic replied as he sat up again. “…A little more pain than when I was in the Chaos State, but otherwise, I feel… mostly fine.”

“Good, good. Alright then!” Elisah clapped her hands together. “I’ve alerted the retrieval teams, and they’re out looking for the Ayas now. We’ll resume once they’re found. Sound good?”

“Yep…” Christeané sighed wearily. “Sounds good to me.”


“…More waiting…”

“That’s just how it is,” Kevérin remarked offhandedly, his attention primarily focused on an AR game. “War is more waiting than fighting.”

“Sure, but you don’t have to wait by doing nothing,” Wilkas replied crossly. “We could be doing something. Hell, Kevken got to help out with finding the Ayas. Why can’t we?”

“We’d just be in the way,” the Pyrotechnic responded, “we can’t sense Chaos Energy like Kevken can. Hell, even if he couldn’t, he can still move faster than any of us, thanks to his new movement abilities. There’s just nothing we can actually do to help.”

Kaoné frowned. “I’m not sure the Citans even want our help… I offered to help with some repairs and maintenance, and they told me they were fine. Even though I’m a Materiatechnic…”

“That doesn’t make you perfect,” Wilkas retorted, “you couldn’t even fully repair my armor in our last battle!”

“Well, yeah! I had already repaired it tons of times, of course it was going to fall apart eventually!

“Wait, what?” Kevérin finally tore his attention away from his game and glanced toward Kaoné. “You can actually fail to repair something?”

“Well… sort of,” Kaoné responded uneasily, “I mean… yeah, ever since I unlocked my Overdrive, I’ve been able to repair things on the macro level, but my ability to repair something is still tied to how familiar I am with its construction. Like, I could repair a nuclear reactor, but it probably wouldn’t be perfect because I don’t know how reactors work, you know?”

“I guess that makes sense,” the Transfer Captain mused, “but if that’s the case, how were you able to completely repair our armor all the time? Or the Earthian vehicles back during the Riaxen crisis?”

The Materiatechnic shrugged. “I haven’t had a lot of time to test out my powers, but I think it’s something like, I can fully repair something the first or second time I try, but the more times I repair it, the worse it gets? Like each repair isn’t perfect, so the imperfections stack up over time until there isn’t really anything I can do.”

“…You know, before I met you, I thought Materiatechnics were the most ridiculously over-powered Chaotics to exist. Now, I’m not so sure…”

“Hey!”

“It’s true,” Wilkas remarked with a smirk. “When was the last time you won a fight, huh?”

“What! That’s not—!” Kaoné huffed, “that’s only because I don’t like to fight!”

“Probably doesn’t help that the Nanocreatures seem invulnerable to direct Chaotic manipulation,” Kevérin added. “Neither you nor Kevken can do anything to them, and the two of you should be, by all rights, two of the most powerful Nimalian Chaotics.”

Kaoné eyed the Pyrotechnic warily. “…I can’t tell if you’re insulting me or not.”

“Eh, not really.” The Transfer Captain resumed playing his AR game. “Just making an observation.”

“Though, now that you mention it… why are the Nanocreatures immune to direct manipulation?”

“If we knew, it wouldn’t be a problem,” Wilkas retorted.

“That’s no reason to dismiss the question,” Kevérin countered. “It’s a really peculiar immunity, and knowing how it works could help us learn where the Nanocreatures even came from in the first place.”

“But it just doesn’t make sense,” Kaoné mused. “…I can control matter. You can’t get any more basic than that, unless you found someone who could manipulate sub-atomic particles, or reality itself… but the Nanocreatures are still immune. How is that possible? Only other Materiatechnics should be immune to my abilities.” Her eyes widened in alarm. “…Don’t tell me that the Nanocreatures can actually manipulate matter themselves?!”

“I doubt it. They’re immune to other Chaotic abilities as well, but that doesn’t mean they can use every Chaotic ability. Morcii said as much himself,” Kevérin responded. “Hmm… it probably has to do with the fact that we use Chaos Energy to facilitate our powers. For instance, I can create flames, and for all intents and purposes I can control fire — but what I’m really doing is using Chaos Energy in such a way that manifests as pyrotechnics. Right? So the Nanocreatures aren’t necessarily immune to you controlling matter, they’re just immune to being controlled by anything related to Chaos Energy. Which is why we can do damage through indirect use of our abilities like shooting fireballs or dropping pillars on them, but we can’t use our abilities directly on the Nanocreatures. Which is still an issue, but I don’t think it’s quite as fundamental as you’re making it.”

“I guess…” Kaoné frowned. “…It’s still puzzling, though.”

“Yeah, but you don’t necessarily need to know everything about your enemy to beat them. Them being seemingly immune to direct manipulation won’t stop us from kicking their asses.”

Wilkas snorted. “Yeah, instead we’ll be stopped because the actual ass-kicking will be done by someone supposedly ridiculously out of our league.”

“I hope you guys are right,” Kaoné replied wearily, “…maybe it really isn’t that important…”


2 Hours Later

“You understand the procedure, yes?”

“It’s only been a couple hours,” Christeané retorted as he glanced back at the five Ayas. “I may be physically disabled, but mentally I’m fine.”

“That’s exactly what a crazy person would say,” Davídrius quipped, and then smirked when Christeané shot him an annoyed glance.

“Good, good…” Elisah nodded. “Select three of the Ayas, then.”

“Matlés, Tanivas, and Mystryth.”

“Mmhmm… alright, go on.”

“Here’s hoping this’ll do it…” the Forcetechnic muttered, and then took a deep breath. “…Okay. Chaos State: Third Tier!

The instant after the words left his mouth, the Matlés, Tanivas, and Mystryth Ayas lifted into the air and disappeared — immediately followed by a blast of wind exploding from Christeané, blowing the bed and table away and toppling the equipment cart as Davídrius barely caught Elisah before she slammed into the far wall. The Velocitechnic then turned toward Christeané, about to offer an annoyed remark before freezing with his mouth open. “…What the… Christeané, you’re—?”

I’m flying! the Forcetechnic whooped, glancing down at his feet as he hovered several inches off of the ground. He then alighted and began stretching his limbs cautiously, gradually gaining confidence in his movements until finally smashing his fists together in glee. No pain, either! Everything’s healed up!

“Haha! Alright!” Davídrius grinned, quickly approaching Christeané as he held his fist up toward the other Introtechnic. Christeané responded in kind — only to accidentally send Davídrius into a violent spin when their fists connected.

“Holy— fuckin’ shit! Holy shit, man!” the Velocitechnic spluttered, managing to stop his spin with a forceful stomp. He held a hand to his head wearily as he grimaced uncomfortably. “You didn’t needa fuckin’ punch me!”

What? I didn’t punch you, Christeané retorted, that was just a tap.

“Perhaps to you, it was,” Elisah spoke up, her eyes planted firmly on the Chaos State Forcetechnic, “but you’re in the Third Tier Chaos State. If the Second Tier was any indication… a ‘tap’ from you could be enough to level a skyscraper, at least.”

Level a skyscraper? But I could already do that.

“All at once? With a single tap?”

…Well…

Davídrius frowned. “We’re still gonna need more than levelin’ buildings to stop Morcii.”

“A building was just an estimate, and a small one, at that,” Elisah responded as she began looking through Kevérin’s notes again. “…According to these notes, when you disengage the Third Tier, the three Ayas will scatter across the entire continent. That means we should confirm as much information as possible before abandoning the State.”

Sounds good to me, Christeané responded, smirking in self-amusement as he began hovering again. …I don’t know how you plan to test my strength now, though, if I broke your equipment last time.

“Hmm…” The Citan researcher paused for a moment before bringing up a map of the mountainside complex on her glasses. “There’s a spacecraft scrap metal bone yard at the bottom of the valley. I’m sure no one will miss it.”

Heh, you want me to smash it up? The Forcetechnic grinned in anticipation. Sure thing!


20 Minutes Later

“Here we are.”

Davídrius whistled as he unceremoniously dumped Elisah to the side and began looking over the valley. “When you said scrap metal bone yard, I didn’t think there’d be entire functioning spacecraft.”

“Well,” the researcher responded as she stood up and brushed herself off, “Citan spacecraft become outdated rather quickly, and unlike you Nimalians, we can afford to replace them.”

Davídrius glanced down at Elisah incredulously as he pursed his lips. “…Right…”

So this is it, huh? Christeané questioned as he flew over to Davídrius and Elisah before turning to look over the bone yard. Hundreds of craft, ranging from fifteen-meter long fighters to hundred-meter long Frigates, lay strewn across the landscape for kilometers around. Most of them appeared to be sun-bleached and aged, though a number of the craft looked as though they had been active less than a year ago. Surprisingly, all of the hulls appeared to be intact as they cast long shadows in the setting sun, presenting a dark enough backdrop that a nearly imperceptible golden glow could be seen covering Christeané’s form.

Elisah nodded in response to Christeané’s question as she took another look through Kevérin’s notes. “Yep, this is the place I was talking about. Before you begin, though, I want to bring up these ‘Ayas Weapons.’”

Let me guess, you want me to use them while I smash up the place?

“Just to see if they really do become ‘more powerful,’ as these notes claim,” the researcher replied. “Also, I think we all know that you’re well able to destroy everything in this bone yard, probably even in your base state. I want to see how quickly you can do it, and how many blows it takes.”

Heh, got it! Christeané responded with an eager nod. Is that it?

“Hmm… yep.” Elisah nodded back. “Go for it.”

With a whoop, Christeané thrust himself forward, flying out to the middle of the bone yard almost instantaneously before raising his fists into the air, summoning the Matlés gauntlets around them, and then smashing them into the ground — and immediately creating a kilometer-wide crater, pulverizing all of the craft within that distance to smithereens and flinging away everything a half-kilometer further out. Davídrius quickly grabbed Elisah and fled farther up the mountainside as Christeané took a moment to admire his handiwork. He then summoned the Tanivas staff and launched himself toward the crater’s edge, where he proceeded to slam a nearby fighter craft with the staff, throwing it into the air. He quickly intercepted it midair, slamming his fist into it and sending it careening toward the horizon where it disappeared from sight; immediately afterward he dismissed the staff and summoned the Mystryth bow, firing three arrows, all of which hit the ground instantaneously and created multi-hundred-meter craters of their own. The Forcetechnic grinned giddily before dismissing the bow and flying back to the ground, where he continued to obliterate the bone yard craft with his fists alone.

Davídrius whistled in admiration as he watched on. “Holy fuckin’ shit. This is just the Third Tier, huh? Maybe we’ll be able to take on Morcii after all…!”

“It’s only been one, maybe two minutes, and he’s already destroyed the entire field…” Elisah commented, her jaw slack from awe as Christeané casually flew back toward the two observers. “…You… I, I don’t…”

This power is incredible! the Forcetechnic exclaimed as he alighted on the ground next to Davídrius, before today, I thought Kevérin and that Prior were full of shit when they said the Chaos State was so great. But I think I believe ‘em now!

“Just think of how powerful you’ll be with all five of the Ayas,” Davídrius pointed out. “Holy shit, I can’t even imagine what the Fifth Tier would be like!”

“…You’re… not quite right,” Elisah commented as she began scanning Kevérin’s notes again. “You have five Ayas, but one of them is the Master Ayas, so according to these notes… that would actually be the Master Fourth Tier. …Which is apparently equivalent to the Sixth Tier. …And is capable of ‘vacuum survival?’ What? How is that possible?…”

And Morcii only has four Ayas of his own, and he doesn’t even have a way to keep us from stealing them with the Chaos State! Christeané pumped his fists confidently. Ha! We’ve got this in the bag!

“Don’t start celebrating yet,” Elisah countered. “You’ve yet to actually engage Morcii. We still have more tests to run before then.”

“Oi, more tests?” Davídrius crossed his arms impatiently. “Is that really necessary?”

“Even if it wasn’t, according to these notes, the longer you stay in the higher-tier Chaos States, the worse the condition you’re in when you disengage,” Elisah replied. “We don’t know the limit of the Third Tier, and we don’t know when the Nanocreatures will show up, assuming they even do. Seeing as they aren’t showing up on the system sensors yet… or even on the Earthians’ sensors… it’d be best to disengage the State now and retrieve the Ayas. Before the Nanocreatures arrive.”

What if they show up without appearing on the sensors? They’ve done that before, haven’t they? Christeané countered.

“Perhaps, but are you willing to bet on that?” Elisah responded, “I don’t think it’s an impossibility that the Nanocreatures know the traits and drawbacks of the Chaos State, and if they do, they may simply play the waiting game. What good is it if you die from the very thing that’s supposed to help us stop the Nanocreatures?”

The two Introtechnics glanced at each other before Christeané shrugged in resignation. I guess you have a point, he responded wearily, it’d probably be best to see how healed up I actually am anyways, outside of the Chaos State.

Elisah nodded. “Good, good. I’ll notify the Ayas retrieval teams, as well as the Earthians. Their Ayas scanner should be able to find the scattered Ayas quickly enough. You can disengage now.”

“Chaos State: Disengage.”

The three Ayas appeared briefly around Christeané, forming a three-point circle around his waist before rocketing off in different directions and promptly disappearing from sight. The Forcetechnic took a deep breath before looking his body over and stretching. “…Huh. Seems like I’m all fine—”

He was interrupted as the valley suddenly filled with the echoes of alarms sounding at the mountain base. The two Chaotics snapped their attention upwards as Elisah hurriedly checked her AR information feed. “…Oh no.”

“…Fuckin’ damn it.” Davídrius scowled as he glared up at the evening sky. “The damned Nanocreatures are here? It would fuckin’ figure.”

“Right after I disengaged the Chaos State, too,” Christeané muttered. “Did they know what we were doing?”

“Whether they did or not, we need to get back to the base,” Davídrius responded as he grabbed the startled Elisah and leaped up the mountainside, with Christeané close behind. “I’ll be damned if we lose the Ayas to the Nanocreatures!”

Chapter 68 – Calm Before the Storm

3 Days Later

– Mondia, Skydiath 29, 8034 –

“Neticen — the Primary Citan Fortress World. It is, quite literally, the most heavily fortified and technologically advanced planet in the entirety of CSA, Nimalian, and Black Suns space.”

“…Uh,” Davídrius responded confusedly, “…what does that mean, exactly?”

“It means that, if Siionkagh or Gu’Dan had been as heavily fortified as Neticen, then the Oriciid’kas and Tau’cen Kii systems wouldn’t be nearly as close to complete loss as they are currently,” Nikéyin stated. “Neticen’s planetary shields are several orders of magnitude stronger than Siionkagh and Gu’Dan’s combined, and its shield array contains far more redundancy, so the loss of a single polar generator won’t have a significant impact on the overall shield strength. There are also over a thousand planetside anti-orbital installations, with an additional several thousand anti-ship satellites in orbit. Neticen could fend off nearly five whole CSA fleets without its own fleet support; that’s just how advanced the Citans are. And that’s not even taking into account the planet’s manufacturing capabilities. Neticen and its moons could produce an entire thousands-strong Citan fleet within a month; hell, the Neticen system is one of the only three systems in CSA space with the proper facilities to produce Supercapital ships.”

“That’s… impressive,” Kaoné responded slowly.

The Commander nodded. “It is. Which makes the fact that the Citans are willing to sacrifice the planet for the sake of stopping Morcii all the more powerful a statement. The CSA is saying that they’re so desperate for a victory against the Nanocreatures that they will literally sacrifice their lifeline. Neticen is their last untouched major military installation — if they lose it, they lose the war. And if the CSA loses, we all lose. They are, effectively, staking the entire galaxy’s fate on this one plan.”

“That’s great an’ all, but I got a question…” Davídrius frowned. “If Neticen is really as powerful as you’re sayin’ it is, then why haven’t the Nanocreatures attacked it yet?”

“We still don’t know what the Nanocreatures’ plans are,” Nikéyin replied, “Morcii made claims related to these ‘Morikai’ when he first appeared nearly a month ago, but we have no idea what his plans are regarding that goal, or how he would even achieve as much. The only thing we know is that the Nanocreatures, so far, have only attacked Transpace Worlds in a clear attempt to segregate the galaxy — and it’s working. The Siion fleets and our own fleets are stuck fighting the Nanocreatures at Siionleh and Egdonikon with no way of reaching or reinforcing Citan or Dra’kis space, and while the CSA has managed to hold on to the Tau’cen Kii system for now, the situation has significantly deteriorated since you left, and it’s only a matter of days before fleets can no longer safely travel between the Dra’kis World Coalition and the Citan Republic. So, to answer your question, I can only assume that the Nanocreatures would have attacked Neticen eventually — they simply prioritized the Transpace Worlds first.”

“This is great speculation,” Wilkas spoke up impatiently, “but, uh, what’s the actual plan?”

“Watch your tongue, Lieutenant.” The Commander gave the Forcetechnic a reproachful glance. “…But the plan is simple. The reason the Citans are using Neticen is because it’s a high-value target that they hope will lure in Morcii, while also having enough defenses to give us time to react to an attack. But if they want to be sure to lure him in, they have to use what he’s actually looking for… which only we have.”

“Of course…” Kevérin sighed warily. “You mean the Ayas.”

Nikéyin nodded. “That’s exactly it. We have five of the Ayas, including the Master Ayas. Morcii has the other four and has made it clear that he wants the rest. The Citans want to use this fact to lure Morcii in by bringing all of our Ayas to Neticen, which would be sure to draw attention.”

“With the distinct risk of losing them all to Morcii,” Kievkenalis pointed out.

“I don’t get it…” Davídrius scowled. “If havin’ all the Ayas in one place would attract Morcii, then why hasn’t he attacked us yet? As in the Nimalian Territories?”

“Because we don’t have the Ayas in one place,” Nikéyin explained. “The three that I hadn’t authorized for combat use are on a daily planetary rotation — none of them are on the same planet as the others, and none of them remain on a single planet for longer than one day. Presumably, they’re moving enough that they can’t be easily tracked, and that’s why Morcii hasn’t tried to get them yet. The question is whether or not we’re willing to sacrifice this security to go all-in with the CSA on this plan of theirs — and the way I see it, there isn’t any real choice. We have to bet on them.”

“…No choice, huh?” Kevérin sighed again. “I feel like we haven’t had a choice in anything as of late…”

“I should note that my decision is based on my experience alone,” Nikéyin stated, leaning forward in her chair expectantly as she rested her elbows on the briefing room table. “The Nimalian Territories won’t last nearly as long against the Nanocreatures as the CSA has, and at the current rate of CSA loss, there’s no way we’ll be able to whip up any kind of weapon or technological advantage based around the Ayas, so hanging on to them without using them is pointless.” She glanced around at the five present members of Hero Machina as she continued, “however, the five of you have had more experience both with using the Ayas and fighting Morcii than anyone else in this galaxy. I want to hear your opinions and, if you have any, suggestions.”

“…Holy shit, are you countin’ on us to save the galaxy?” Davídrius stared back at Nikéyin, dumbfounded.

“I hesitate to use such, er… hyperbolic language,” Nikéyin responded warily, “…but effectively… maybe.”

“Well, I have one thing to say,” Kevérin commented, “and that’s that we can’t allow the Ayas to simply sit around on Neticen by themselves. The only way to keep them safe from Morcii is to keep them occupied by a Chaos State, and based on our experience back on Tau’cen Dii, the First Tier won’t cut it.”

“But can the Ayas be sensed while they’re occupied by the Chaos State?” Kievkenalis questioned. “I admit I’m not all that great at sensing Ayas myself, but all you can sense from the Chaos State is a massive amount of Chaos Energy. There’s no guarantee that Morcii would be able to tell that the Ayas are on Neticen if someone’s in the Chaos State.”

“So, what, do we just park the Ayas on Neticen until Morcii appears and then have someone use the Chaos State?” Davídrius snorted. “We all know how well that works. Morcii’s too fast; near as I can tell, I’ve been the only one to activate the state faster than he can move.”

“Should you be the one to use the State, then?” Kaoné questioned.

“Uh, no offense, Davídrius, but I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Kevérin stated. “Even the Second Tier was too fast and powerful for any non-Chaos State Chaotic to keep up with, but Morcii was still matching it, mostly. Whoever uses the Chaos State will inevitably end up fighting Morcii on their own, and because of that, I would recommend someone with more offensive power be used to activate the State, to give them even more of an edge.”

“What? I got plenty of offensive power,” Davídrius retorted.

“Yeah, we all know that,” Wilkas snorted.

“Back on topic,” Nikéyin interrupted, and then turned to face the Transfer Captain. “So what, exactly, are you suggesting?”

“…I’m not entirely sure myself,” Kevérin responded with an uneasy frown, “but, if you don’t mind, I’d like to bring up the fact that we don’t actually know much at all about the Chaos State. I mean, Arcán’s told us a lot, but we have no idea how much of what he’s said is true or not. The only way to find out would be to see for ourselves.”

“Are you saying that you want to use this opportunity to test the limits of the Chaos State?”

“Well… yes. I mean, if we have all the Ayas in one place, then why not?”

Testin just sounds like a way for us to get caught with our pants down when Morcii shows up,” Davídrius countered.

Kevérin shook his head. “I disagree. This is a chance to figure out what the actual limits of the Chaos State are. If we know those, then we can fight Morcii more effectively — additionally, if we’re actually testing the State then the Ayas will be out and in and out of the Chaos State, so Morcii will, hopefully, be able to sense them — and then there’s a chance that, when he shows up, someone’s already in the Chaos State and ready to fight him.”

“Do you really think it’s safe?” Nikéyin questioned.

“I mean, yes, there’s definitely some risk involved…” Kevérin shrugged. “But isn’t there already tons of risk all over this plan? I say the more we know about the Chaos State before going into battle with Morcii, the better.”

“What about the, uh, ‘corrupting tendencies’ of the Ayas?” Davídrius refuted, “are we gonna risk usin’ the Dark Ayas with the Chaos State?”

“I think Arcán said once that their influence doesn’t actually apply to the Chaos State,” Kevérin commented, “he said that the State actually heals the Chaotic that uses it, and that it’s an overall boon.”

“Heals them, huh?…”

“I can check with him one more time before we leave, and try to get as much information out of him as possible.” The Transfer Captain turned back to Nikéyin. “Then we can use that information to test the State.”

The Commander nodded once slowly, as if in thought, before glancing toward the other members of Hero Machina. “Do any of you have anything else to add? Any objections?”

“How will we decide who fights Morcii, or who’s the one to ‘test’ the Chaos State?” Davídrius questioned.

“The Citans might be better to ask, but if you have suggestions, come to me later,” Nikéyin replied. “The Ayas will be gathered at an off-world site within the next day; come tomorrow at four hours past noon, I expect you all to be geared up and ready to go. You have until then to rest or do whatever else you need to do here on Nimalia; don’t do anything stupid, because the mission you all are about to embark on is, quite literally, one of the most important missions a Nimalian Commander has ever given out.” She stood up, prompting the members of Hero Machina to do the same. “Good luck to all of you. Dismissed.”


“So you finally decide to visit me, huh?”

“’Finally?’ That, I, uh… I didn’t mean…”

“No, no… it’s fine.” Rebehka shook her head warily before turning back to the double-paned window, on the other side of which sat Kaoné. The window shimmered slightly, the only sign of the energy shielding that covered Rebehka’s entire side. “I don’t blame you at all,” the Cryotechnic continued, “based on what I’ve heard… everyone must be busy.”

“Yeah, but…” Kaoné looked down as she kneaded her fingers uneasily. “I feel bad for just leaving you here…”

“What are you going to do, break me out?” Rebehka replied flippantly, “it’s just military detainment, not prison.”

“That doesn’t sound much better…”

“Look, don’t worry about me, okay? I’m doing just fine. I can’t blame anyone but me for my situation, anyways; it is a pretty bad offense to use the Gate without authorization, and even more, to an unclaimed planet…”

“But Davídrius didn’t get in trouble!”

“He at least acknowledged the enforcement officers before charging through the Gate, and even then, I…” Rebehka pursed her lips and glanced away. “I wasn’t exactly acting with the… technically correct frame of mind, you know? Letting personal feelings get in the way of duty and all that…”

“I know, I know, but… still…”

“Relax, don’t worry about me.” The Cryotechnic forced a smile as she turned back to look Kaoné in the eye. “What about you? How have things been, lately?”

“Uh…” Kaoné looked down again. “…Not good.”

“Ah, right… how bad is it?”

“…Only three of the CSA Transpace Worlds haven’t been attacked, and most of the ones that have, have, well… fallen.”

“To the Nanocreatures?”

“Yeah.”

“…”

“We’re about to… well…” Kaoné glanced up at the security camera staring at her from her side of the glass. “…I’m not sure I can tell you that much.”

“What, about your next mission? …That makes sense, I guess.” Rebehka leaned back and rubbed her temples warily. “No one knows if I’m corrupted, so. Yeah. Understandable.”

The Materiatechnic looked back at her friend sheepishly. “Sorry.”

“No no, it’s fine, I understand,” Rebehka responded airily, “so long as you find a way to stop Morcii… so long as you do that, it’ll have been worth it. As long as someone can avenge Siyuakén… it’ll have been worth it.”

“Vengeance?” Kaoné echoed uneasily, “but, she’s… uh, right, yeah. I’ll, uh, I’ll tell Davídrius you said that.”

Rebehka stared at the Materiatechnic as she fidgeted uneasily. “You aren’t telling me something.”

“I, I don’t know if I can—”

“Siyuakén’s still alive, isn’t she.”

Kaoné paused with her mouth half-open before looking down again.

“…Damn it.” Rebehka sighed as she looked around her small room in frustration. “…I should’ve known. I should’ve known that what Davídrius did wasn’t enough…”

“You… you know that she’s corrupted…?”

“It’s the only answer, isn’t it? If she were still alive, and not corrupted, then you wouldn’t have tried to hide it from me. Hell…” The Cryotechnic smirked forlornly. “She definitely would’ve visited me herself.”

Kaoné forced a smile. “Ye…yeah, you’re right.”

Silence ensued for several moments as Rebehka stared at the ceiling and sighed again. “Siyuakén…”

“…”

“Hey, Kaoné… can you do something for me? Tell everyone else, too.”

“…What is it?”

“If you run into Siyuakén again… don’t hold back. Kill her as quickly as possible.”

“What?!”

“She isn’t herself anymore,” Rebehka declared. “…I already tried to save her once, and I almost got both Davídrius and myself killed. And now she’s stuck obeying Morcii… it’s terrible. This whole situation is horrible, and if I’d only seen it sooner…” She shook her head. “It’s what she wants. No one wants to be forced to fight their friends… you know?”

“But that’s what you’re telling us to do, isn’t it?”

“It’s not the same. You aren’t just stopping her from killing her friends, you’re also stopping her from being controlled. If we can’t save her… the only way to help her, is to kill her. It’s the only release.”

“…Are you sure?”

“I’ve had several long weeks of isolation and boredom to think about it, so… yes. Unless something’s changed, but if it hasn’t… please, Kaoné. For Siyuakén’s sake.”

“…If… if it’s really what you want…”

“Thanks.” Rebehka smiled, just as a buzzer went off behind her. “…Looks like our time’s up.”

“Yeah…” Kaoné nodded, standing up as two automatons entered the room behind Rebehka. “Don’t worry, we’ll take care of Morcii for sure!”

“Ha, you better,” the Cryotechnic responded. “I’m counting on you, Kaoné. You and all of Hero Machina. Don’t let me down!”


“YOU RETURN AGAIN, TRANSFER CAPTAIN. NO DOUBT IN PURSUIT OF NEW INFORMATION, DESPITE CONSIDERING THAT I HAVE ALREADY TOLD YOU ALL OF MY RELEVANT KNOWLEDGE?”

“You know it,” Kevérin replied as he sat himself in front of Arcán’s console and opened up a variety of logs on his Glasses. “Though part of why I’m here is just to confirm things you’ve already said, or things we’ve found out.”

“YOU ALDREDANOIDS ARE AS THIRSTY FOR KNOWLEDGE AS YOUR ANCESTORS. I SUPPOSE I SHOULDN’T BE SURPRISED… VERY WELL, I SHALL INDULGE YOU ONCE MORE.”

“Good.” Kevérin nodded pleasantly. “Alright, let’s start with the Ayas. Just how powerful are they?”

“LIMITLESS.”

“C’mon, that’s not true. If each Ayas held limitless power then the First Tier Chaos State would’ve been able to crush Morcii.”

“YOU MISCONSTRUE THE POWER OF THE AYAS WITH THE POWER OF THE CHAOS STATE. THE POWER OF EACH VARIES GREATLY BASED ON USAGE, BOTH IN WHO IS USING THEM AND HOW THEY ARE BEING USED. IF I HAVE JUDGED THIS GALAXY CORRECTLY, YOU HAVE YET TO POSSESS THE MEANS TO UNDERSTAND OR EVEN UTILIZE THE FULL POWER OF EACH AYAS INDIVIDUALLY, AND TOGETHER, THEY ONLY TRULY MANIFEST THEIR MAXIMUM POWER POTENTIAL WHEN USED IN THE HIGHER TIER CHAOS STATES.”

“You did say that the final tier could destroy galaxies…”

“AND THAT IS MERELY A POTENTIAL. IN THE HANDS OF THE RIGHT CHAOTIC, THE FINAL TIER COULD DO EVEN MORE… OR LESS.”

“I have a question about Chaos State tiering, actually…” Kevérin paused a moment to read through a couple logs presented by his Glasses. “…When Kevken and I talked with you back on the seventeenth, you said that the final tier could destroy galaxies, the eighth could destroy solar systems, and the fourth could destroy planets. Isn’t that a bit of a jump from the eighth to the final, when there’s only one Ayas to add?”

“WHEN THAT ONE AYAS IS THE AYAS SYN, NO, IT IS NOT. REMEMBER THAT THE AYAS SYN — KNOWN TO YOU AS THE ‘MASTER AYAS’ — IS NOT TREATED IN THE SAME MANNER AS THE OTHER AYAS. TO USE IT WITH THE CHAOS STATE, INSTEAD OF INCLUDING IT IN THE AYAS COUNT, YOU MUST APPEND THE TERM ‘MASTER’ IN BETWEEN ‘TIER’ AND THE ORDINAL NUMBER. FOR INSTANCE, IF YOU HAD FOUR AYAS AND THE MASTER — AS YOU DO — TO USE THEM ALL, YOU WOULD USE THE KEYWORDS ‘CHAOS STATE: MASTER FOURTH TIER.’”

“Yeah, you told me that a month ago. But how much more powerful than the regular Fourth Tier would that be?”

“AS I SAID BEFORE, THERE IS NO EXACT LIMIT ON THE AYAS OR THE CHAOS STATE. BUT WERE I BE FORCED TO QUANTIFY THE VALUE OF THE MASTER KEYWORD, I WOULD APPROXIMATE IT AS BUMPING THE EFFECTIVE POWER OF THE CHAOS STATE UP TWO TIERS. FURTHERMORE, NO MATTER THE TIER IT IS USED AT, THE MASTER KEYWORD GRANTS THE ABILITIES OF UNAIDED FLIGHT AND VACUUM SURVIVAL.”

“Can the Master Ayas be used to engage the Chaos State without any of the other Ayas?”

“IT CAN, IN WHICH CASE YOU WOULD USE THE ORDINAL TERM ‘ZEROTH.’”

“Interesting, interesting…” The Transfer Captain nodded as he quickly took down several notes. “…Alright, another question about the Chaos State. Aside from the power boost, what can it actually do?

“I ASSUME YOU ASK BEYOND FLIGHT AND VACUUM SURVIVAL?”

“Well, yeah.”

“HMM… …THERE IS AN INSTANT HEALING FACTOR UPON ENGAGING THE STATE, BUT I WOULD NOT COUNT ON SUCH A FACTOR TO SAVE A LIFE. THE STATE ITSELF ALSO INCREASES THE USER’S DURABILITY SUCH THAT THEY CAN WITHSTAND SIMILAR LEVELS OF FORCE TO THAT WHICH THEY ARE OUTPUTTING, AND IT ALSO INCREASES THEIR SPEED AND REACTION TIMES ACCORDINGLY. ASIDE FROM THAT… THERE SHOULD BE NO ADDITIONAL FACTOR TO THE CHAOS STATE.”

“And you think the Chaos State is the key to defeating Morcii?”

“I DO.”

“But, about a month ago…” Kevérin glanced through another log. “…You said that you didn’t know how to stop Morcii.”

“I DO NOT. BUT IN LIEU OF THAT INFORMATION, THE CHAOS STATE IS THE ONLY OPTION.”

“Is it, though? Morcii mentioned something about being ‘anchored’ when he first showed up. And if you don’t even know how to defeat Morcii, then will pure force really be enough?”

“DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE STATE’S POWER. WHILE AN ALTERNATIVE METHOD OF DEFEATING MORCII MAY BE DESIRABLE, THE RAW POWER OF THE CHAOS STATE SHOULD BE MORE THAN ENOUGH TO END HIM. NO ONE CAN SURVIVE HAVING EVERY PARTICLE OF THEIR BEING DESTROYED.”

“I guess that answers that, then, huh.” Kevérin nodded absentmindedly. “Hmm… okay. I have one more question, then.”

“YES?”

“Mystryth explained who the Morikai were — basically, a super-advanced race that appeared out of nowhere and practically destroyed both the Drakkars and the Aldredas before disappearing. Except, Morcii said something about freeing them, and you readily accepted that he was working for them. Is ‘freeing’ them possible? What does that even mean? And what kind of threat do they pose to the galaxy?”

“THESE QUESTIONS ARE DIFFICULT TO ANSWER, IN PART BECAUSE OF HOW LITTLE I KNOW… AND BECAUSE OF THE INFORMATION I HAVE LOST. I CANNOT TELL YOU HOW MORCII PLANS TO FREE THEM, OR WHAT HE MEANS BY THAT, BESIDES REITERATING MY ADVICE TO NOT TAKE HIS CLAIMS AT FACE VALUE. HOWEVER, I CAN SAY THIS: SHOULD THEY RETURN, IT WILL BE THE END OF THE GALAXY AS YOU KNOW IT. THERE WILL BE NO CHANCE TO RESIST, NOT IF YOU CAN BARELY STAND UP TO EVEN THE NANOCREATURES. THE ENTIRE GALAXY WOULD BE CONQUERED WITHIN WEEKS, POSSIBLY EVEN DAYS — AND THAT ESTIMATE INCLUDES THE HUNDREDS OF NON-TRANSPACE SYSTEMS.”

“I guess that’s just more incentive to stop Morcii, then, huh…”

“INDEED IT IS.”

“Right.” Kevérin nodded again as he took some final notes. “Well… I believe that’s it for now. Thanks for all the help, Arcán. Now it’s time to put it all to the test…”

“HMM?”

“The next we speak, we’ll have beaten Morcii.”

“…THAT SOUNDS LIKE A STATEMENT MADE IN UNFOUNDED CONFIDENCE, ALDREDANOID.”

“No, I’d say it’s pretty factual,” the Transfer Captain replied as he stood up from the console and turned toward the exit. “Because, with the mission we’re about to go on… if we don’t defeat Morcii, well. There won’t be a ‘next we speak.’”


“Oh, Wilkas… you’re here.”

“…Hn,” the Forcetechnic grunted, glancing over his shoulder just long enough to identify Kievkenalis before turning his attention back to the valley and Nimaliaka Central below.

The Chaostechnic quietly approached and leaned on the guardrail next to Wilkas atop the roof of the base’s highest tower. He looked out over the sprawling city that was Nimaliaka’s capital, the mountains surrounding it to the south and west, and the vast sea to the east. “…Pretty amazing, huh?”

“Ha,” Wilkas snorted derisively. “There’s not even a half-decent river for kilometers. Only thing here is mountains. No real forest, either. It’s not Riverana at all.”

“Riverana? You weren’t thinking about your home planet or anything?”

The Forcetechnic gave Kievkenalis a level stare before turning away again. “You’re here to talk about Vélunis, aren’t you.”

“What? I— …how did you know?”

“You never ask either of us about our home planet unless you’re trying to start a conversation about the other. Dunno why, either, since that’s a stupid topic to segue from.”

“…I guess.”

Silence followed as the two Chaotics looked out over the city valley.

“…When’s the service?”

“Huh? Oh. Uh…” Kievkenalis sighed. “…Not for another week at least, if he even gets one. Everyone’s busy fighting the Nanocreatures, and as much as I hate to say it, Vélunis is just one of many…”

Wilkas pursed his lips in frustration. “One of many to die, sure. But did you see what was left? His brain was literally splattered against the wall. You think anyone deserves that?”

“No, of course not…”

“At least he didn’t end up like, uh… whatsherface. The girl we were fighting.”

“Siyuakén.”

“Yeah, her. At least he got taken out instead of getting corrupted or whatever that is.”

“…I guess you’re right.” Kievkenalis sighed again as he leaned his head back to look up at the evening sky. “Though I have to say… out of the three of us, I never imagined he’d die first…”

“When he could summon whatever weapon he wanted out of nowhere? Yeah, you’d think. Why the hell did he even go fight in close quarters? That was stupid. And so was going down into the crevice. What the hell were you guys thinking?”

“I know, I know, we screwed up.” Kievkenalis furrowed his brow in frustration. “…We thought we had the upper hand. We thought we could stop Morcii, but apparently… we couldn’t.”

“’Apparently?’”

“Don’t tell me you’re blaming all this on me.”

“No…” Wilkas closed his eyes and sighed irately before looking down at Nimaliaka Central again. “…No. I know it’s not your fault. It’s just… hmph. Morcii needs to pay.”

“Well, that is what we intend to do on Neticen.”

“Yeah, but chances are I won’t be the one who gets to use the Chaos State. I hope I can at least get in a few good shots…”

“Trust me, you aren’t the only one who wants Morcii dead,” Kievkenalis remarked. “…We’ll beat him, one way or another. For Vélunis, for Siyuakén — for everyone. You can count on that.”


Holy fucking shit am I bored.

Christeané stared at the ceiling irately as the morning sun shone through the window in his hospital room. He slowly turned his head toward the clock above the door, grimacing in pain as he caught a glimpse of the time. 8:24… ow, ow, ow… damn it… He pursed his lips as he returned to staring at the ceiling, as he had done each day for the past month.

At least I can move my body now He wiggled his fingers slightly, but stopped promptly as pain shot up his arms. Now if only the damn pain would go away… gah, I’m going to go fucking insane before I ever recover from this—

The Forcetechnic’s thoughts were interrupted as the door to his room slammed open. He looked up in surprise as Davídrius barged in with a surprisingly amused smirk on his face.

“Davídrius…?” Christeané questioned warily, “what are you doing?”

“Sorry, but we don’t got time to chat,” the Velocitechnic replied as he grabbed a nearby chair and pulled it up next to the hospital bed, taking a seat on it backwards and leaning forward on the chair’s back. “I’ve got a question for ya.”

“…What?”

Davídrius grinned. “How’d you like to kick some Nanocreature ass?”

Chapter 67 – Retaliation Chaos

“Hah!”

Wilkas dove forward, smashing his fist into a column of stone that Kaoné had just risen from the ground. The column shattered at its base as it was launched forward at Siyuakén, who quickly ducked to evade and then shot a lightning bolt toward the Wilkas. The Forcetechnic ignored the attack as he barged forward, closing the distance between himself and Siyuakén before throwing his fists out again, missing the corrupted Electrotechnic only because she bent over backwards. She then continued the motion into a full flip and channeled an incredible electric charge into her feet just as she kicked Wilkas’s chin. He reeled back, momentarily stunned and left open to attack — though Kaoné quickly transmuted steel shields all around him, blocking the lightning attacks that followed. Wilkas then punched the shields, launching some of the plating toward Siyuakén before grabbing the rest and smashing it into a large club that he then began swinging at her. She responded with a fierce blast of electricity, giving the steel club an incredible charge that she then manipulated to fling the weapon out of Wilkas’s hands. He simply ignored the weapon as it tumbled down the mountain to try and close the gap between himself and Siyuakén again, pulling back his fists for another punch — and then getting distracted as a loud rumbling noise echoed through the valley.

“What was that?” he questioned as he jumped away from Siyuakén.

“The crevice! Look!” Kaoné pointed toward the bottom of the valley, prompting Wilkas to glance down the nearest cliff face. “Where did that metal covering come from?”

“Aren’t the others down there?” The Forcetechnic scowled. “Ah, damn it. Let’s go save them—!?”

The moment he moved to take a step toward the cliff edge, a powerful lightning bolt struck the spot right in front of him. He immediately jumped back and snapped his attention to Siyuakén, who was rushing forward with both of her arms sparkling with electricity.

“Shit—!” he grunted, crossing his arms in front of him to shield against the incoming electrical strike. The Electrotechnic thrust her arms forward, impacting Wilkas with a massive burst of energy before jumping away and following up with several more lightning strikes, most of which Kaoné managed to block with more steel shields. “…We’re gonna have to stop her first,” Wilkas muttered, eying Siyuakén as he took a moment to stretch his arms and neck.

“Siyuakén…!” Kaoné pleaded as she took a step forward from her position several meters behind the Forcetechnic. “We don’t have to fight…!”

“Yeah, we kinda do,” Wilkas countered impatiently. “She won’t leave on her own. Besides, I’m sure the others are perfectly capable of taking care of themselves.”


“Hngh… gah…”

Davídrius kicked out the stone trapping him against the wall and stumbled forward, coughing, before falling to all fours. Damn He glared down at his armor. That cave-in overloaded my shielding? …Wait a minute—? He glanced up and began inspecting the area around him: a small, dome-shaped area had been carved into the stone, while all around the base the rock glowed a dim red with heat. The Velocitechnic looked to his left as Vélunis began coughing as well — and then he noticed Kevérin and Kievkenalis, both lying on the ground, unmoving.

“DON’T WORRY, THEY AREN’T DEAD.”

“What—?” The two conscious Chaotics snapped their attention toward Morcii, who stepped forward casually from the far side of the dome.

“I MUST ADMIT, I’M IMPRESSED,” Morcii commented, his smirk barely illuminated within the dim atmosphere. “YOUR FRIENDS REACTED JUST QUICKLY ENOUGH TO MAINTAIN A SMALL SAFE AREA. IT SAVED YOU FROM INSTANT DEFEAT… BUT ALL THEY TRULY ACHIEVED WAS DELAYING THE INEVITABLE.”

“Defeat? Ha!” Davídrius snorted, and then fell into a coughing fit before continuing, “…like hell we’re defeated. You… you ain’t defeated me ‘til I’m a cold, dead carcass.”

“REALLY NOW?” Morcii continued to stare down at the Chaotics. “WHY ARE YOU STILL ON YOUR KNEES THEN, HMM?”

“…Shit.” Vélunis scowled. “I can’t move my legs.”

“…You…!” Davídrius shot Morcii a menacing glare.

“ENJOY YOUR FREEDOM WHILE IT LASTS.” Morcii chuckled viciously. “YOU’LL BE MINE WITHIN MINUTES.”

“You damn machine—!?!”

“PITIFUL.” The Nanocreature leader shook his head in disappointment. “YOU’VE SERVED YOUR PURPOSE AS MY PLAYTHINGS; NOW IT’S TIME TO PUT YOU TO ACTUAL WORK. ONCE YOU FALL COMPLETELY UNDER MY CONTROL, I CAN SEND YOU BACK UP TO THE TOP AND FEIGN A LOSS, AND THEN YOU’LL RETURN TO THE RANKS OF YOUR FRIENDS. OF COURSE…” He smirked. “YOU’LL BE COMPLETELY UNDER MY CONTROL, SO I THINK YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT.”

“Sh…shit,” Vélunis muttered, “…at least you don’t have their Ayas, huh?”

“HMM?” Morcii raised an inquisitive eyebrow, and then glanced toward Kevérin and Kievkenalis. “…HA! I THINK YOU OVERESTIMATE THE CHAOS STATE,” he continued as he finally revealed his hands — with the Ayas Tanivas in one, and the Ayas Mystryth in the other.

“What?!”

“THE CHAOS STATE PROVIDES A POWER AND DURABILITY BOOST, BUT I CAN STILL KNOCK OUT SUCH A CHAOTIC ALL THE SAME.” The Nanocreature smirked as he began tossing the Ayas to himself. “AND ONCE YOU LOSE CONSCIOUSNESS, YOU AUTOMATICALLY DROP OUT OF THE CHAOS STATE. CONVENIENT, NO?”

“Fucking… damn it!” Davídrius growled, “I… am not… gettin’ corrupted!”

“FEEL FREE TO SAY THAT ALL YOU WANT, LITTLE ALDREDANOID—”

“Chaos State: First Tier!”

Morcii stopped tossing the Ayas to himself as he turned to give Vélunis an empty stare — and the Ayas remained in his hands. “…DO YOU HONESTLY EXPECT ME TO MAKE THAT MISTAKE AGAIN? I AM STANDING WELL OUTSIDE OF THE CHAOS STATE ACTIVATION RANGE. YOU WON’T BE GETTING OUT OF THIS QUITE SO EASILY.”

“…Eh…” Vélunis smirked spitefully. “Worth a try.”

“…Damn it!” Davídrius snarled, his shoulders quivering with rage. “…I can’t fuckin’ do anything…!”

“Calm down, mate,” Vélunis commented, “going berserk won’t help us at all.”

“Yeah? And what else is there?!”

“Well, it’s not like I have to move to use my powers.”

“…OH?” Morcii snorted as several floating laser cannons suddenly surrounded him. “…DO YOU HONESTLY EXPECT THIS TO WORK?”

“Not much else to… try,” Vélunis countered, his face slowly contorting into a painful frown as his corruption began actively interfering with his speech. “…Like hell… I’ll… let you control… me! Overdrive: Limitless Weaponswright!

“…WHAT—?” Morcii’s eyes widened slightly as dozens more cannons appeared around him before they all opened fire at once, unleashing their entire contents into the Nanocreature Leader. Immediately, the far end of the stone dome became obscured with a thick dust cloud as the sounds of continuous cannon fire echoed through the air; Davídrius squinted through the dust in an attempt to discern Morcii’s presence, but his attention was torn away as the two Ayas were ejected out of the dust cloud and clambered to the ground a mere meter away.

“The Ayas?” he muttered in surprise, and then immediately began, “Chaos State—!?” He was cut off as his mouth involuntarily clamped shut, forcing him to bite his tongue painfully. …I can’t… I can’t move my mouth?!

“AHAHAHAHA… HA HA HA HA HA HA!!”

“He’s still—!” Vélunis started, immediately summoning a hundred javelins around his body — and then freezing as Morcii appeared in front of him… and then smashed his knee into the Chaotic’s face, completely obliterating his skull.

“…!” Davídrius stared wide-eyed and speechless as Vélunis’s body slumped to the ground, headless, surrounded by the many polearms that clambered to the floor.

“YOU ALDREDANOIDS NEVER LEARN WITHOUT EXAMPLES, DO YOU?” Morcii sneered, glancing toward the remaining Velocitechnic before raising his foot and slamming it through Vélunis’s back, completely destroying both the armor and the underlying corpse. “I TRUST YOU UNDERSTAND NOW, HMM?” The Nanocreature turned back toward Davídrius, not even bothering to remove his foot from the dead body. “YOUR LUCK RAN OUT LONG AGO.”


Wilkas whirled around, grasping a thirty-meter stone pillar before flipping it over his head and down on Siyuakén’s position. The Electrotechnic dived out of the way, evading the pillar — but she was caught by the debris as Wilkas followed by smashing his fist into the end of the pillar, shattering it and sending debris flying in every direction. He then lunged forward, grabbing two hammers that Kaoné had fabricated in the air near his head before slamming them down on Siyuakén’s location. She quickly flipped away, firing off a lightning bolt at the Forcetechnic as he was swinging with the hammers and unable to dodge. Wilkas immediately released the weapons and moved to ram the corrupted Electrotechnic with his shoulder, but she hit him with another powerful bolt of energy before he could, momentarily stunning him as his armor shut down yet again. Siyuakén then moved to strike once more, but was distracted as an invisible force grabbed her right arm and yanked her to the ground. She immediately fired a storm of lightning toward Krydonin, who withstood the brunt of the blast and then moved to continue attacking.

“Wilkas!” Kaoné exclaimed, rushing over to the Forcetechnic as he recovered from the blow he had taken. “Are you alright?!”

“I’m fine,” he replied offhandedly. “C’mon, repair my armor again.”

“I’ve already done that several times…” The Materiatechnic frowned. “I can only do so much; your armor is about to fall apart all on its own.”

“I thought you could fix things just by thinking about them?”

“Well, yeah, but it looks like there’s a limit, and that limit is sometime after fixing something for the twentieth time.”

“Of course…” Wilkas snorted impatiently. “…Fine. I’ll go without my armor then!”

“What—?” Kaoné started, but was interrupted as the Forcetechnic grabbed his chest plate and tore it off of his body. He then proceeded to do the same with his limb plating until all that was left was the under-armor skinsuit. “What the—?!” the Materiatechnic exclaimed, “you didn’t need to tear it apart!!”

“It’s fine, it’s fine.” Wilkas stretched his arms and neck casually. “If the shielding won’t work, then the armor’s just in the way!” He bounded forward before Kaoné could speak another word, bringing his fists down on Siyuakén as she was distracted by Krydonin. He failed to land a direct hit on the Electrotechnic, but he still flung her several meters into the air when his fists slammed into the ground with massive force. She quickly responded by sending out two powerful shockwaves, stunning Wilkas and Krydonin long enough for Siyuakén to get back to her feet and begin flinging out lightning bolt after lightning bolt. Kaoné quickly countered each bolt with diamond plates, raising the blocks of stone to shield Wilkas as he charged forward. The Forcetechnic barreled through the shields himself, grabbing one of the diamond blocks and crushing it into a rod as Krydonin telekinetically yanked several of the other blocks into the air and launched them toward Siyuakén. The corrupted Electrotechnic deftly evaded each of the blocks before throwing herself to the side just in time to dodge Wilkas as he smashed his diamond rod into the ground she had been standing on moments prior. She then reached back to the rod, grabbing it as Wilkas began to lift it and sending a massive charge down it, shocking the Forcetechnic and forcing him to drop the rod as he stumbled backwards in pain. Immediately Siyuakén lunged forward, her right hand outstretched, before her attention was suddenly drawn elsewhere, her head snapping toward the bottom of the valley.

Catching the opening, Wilkas thrust his right fist forward with amazing force. The Electrotechnic turned her attention back to him just in time to see the attack and begin to dodge, but failed to move out of the way completely as he slammed his fist into her left shoulder, cleaving through her body and sending her left arm flying. The force of the blow sent her tumbling away uncontrollably until she was stopped suddenly, jerked upright and into the air, and held in place by Krydonin’s telekinetic fields. Kaoné quickly followed by clamping diamond shackles around Siyuakén’s neck, ankles, and remaining wrist.

“We’ve got this!” Kaoné gestured for Krydonin to leave. “You can go help the rest of your soldiers!”

The Commander passed Siyuakén a wary glance. “…Are you sure?”

“Yeah.” Kaoné nodded, and then turned back to the trapped and dazed Electrotechnic. “…I want to see if I can talk to her.”

“…I hope you know what you’re doing,” Krydonin responded, but eventually turned away. “Very well. Watch yourself, Nimalians.”

Wilkas watched the Commander dash away before turning back to Kaoné. “Are you sure this is a good idea?”

“She can’t get away, not without breaking those shackles,” the Materiatechnic replied. “…I want… I want to know for sure if this is really Siyuakén.”

“Yeah?” Wilkas crossed his arms impatiently. “How’re you gonna do that?”

Kaoné responded with silence as she stared up at the corrupted Electrotechnic, who returned the stare blankly despite there being a gaping hole where her shoulder should be. “…It’s not bleeding…” Kaoné muttered, eying the wound warily before meeting eyes with Siyuakén again. “Siyuakén! Can you hear me?”

The only response was a blank stare.

“Is it really you? Can… can you respond?”

“…”

“…Siyuakén…?”

The Electrotechnic continued to stare at Kaoné for several seconds before finally opening her mouth, drawing the attention of both Kaoné and Wilkas.

“The Siyuakén you knew… is gone.”

“Wha… what—?” Kaoné started, but was interrupted as the shackles trapping Siyuakén turned a metallic gray. The Electrotechnic then let off a massive electric shock before fleeing into the sky, leaving Kaoné and Wilkas to stare after her.

“…Well that worked.” The Forcetechnic snorted irately. “You just had to let her get away, didn’t you?”

He then turned toward the nearest skirmish and charged forward to join in the fight, leaving Kaoné to continue staring into the sky uneasily. Siyuakén…


“YOUR LUCK RAN OUT LONG AGO.”

“…!” Davídrius finally tore his attention from Vélunis’s body to give the Nanocreature leader a menacing glare. Morcii simply laughed in response, appearing to derive amusement from the Velocitechnic’s helpless state.

“AND STILL YOU TRY TO RESIST.” He shook his head wearily. “THERE TRULY IS NO UNDERSTANDING YOU ALDREDANOIDS. OH WELL… I CAN WAIT.”

Davídrius continued to glare at Morcii even as the Nanocreature leader took a step back and glanced upward, creating a three-meter wide hole in the ceiling with seemingly only a thought. A second later light began shining through, indicating that the hole ran all the way up to the top of the crevice — and a mere couple seconds after that, Siyuakén appeared through the hole, stopping her rapid descent inches from the ground and carefully alighting.

“…YOU LOST YOUR ARM,” Morcii observed with a scowl before raising his arm and drawing a silver cloud out of the surrounding rocks. The cloud floated through the air before coalescing around Siyuakén’s shoulder and then forming into a new arm. “BE MORE CAREFUL. LETTING THESE ANNOYING PESTS GET THE BEST OF YOU IS PAINFULLY SHAMEFUL.”

Siyuakén simply responded with a curt nod as she flexed her new arm, ignoring Davídrius’s gaze as it settled on her.

Siyuakén… damn it, the Velocitechnic growled internally, I couldn’t save you… I couldn’t do anything for Vélunis, and now I can’t even save myself! Damn it…!

“IT’S TIME FOR US TO LEAVE,” Morcii remarked as he glanced up at the hole he created. “SEIZE THE AYAS, BUT LEAVE THE CHAOTICS BEHIND. THEY HAVE TASKS AHEAD OF THEM DOWN HERE.”

Siyuakén nodded once before turning toward Davídrius and the two Ayas. She began approaching steadily as Morcii casually turned his attention to the unconscious Kevérin and Kievkenalis.

No! Damn it! Davídrius quivered again as he eyed Siyuakén’s approaching form. Fuck! We’re gonna lose the Ayas… and then we’re gonna get used like fucking pawns! Argh, I can’t even move my body anymore! He watched helplessly as the Electrotechnic finally reached him and stooped down to grab the Chaos Ayas. D…damn it! I… I can’t…!

“If… if something goes wrong… can I trust you to just end it?”

What—? Wait… that was…

“If something happens to me, can you… can you stop me?”

Siyuakén… The Velocitechnic glanced back up at the corrupted Electrotechnic as she stood up and turned away from him. …Right, you trusted this whole damn thing to me, didn’t you? And I fucking failed. Failed… damn it— fuck that! Fuck getting corrupted! Fuck this losing shit! I’m not gonna stop until I’m fucking dead! Sec…!

Siyuakén paused mid-stride, turning to face Davídrius curiously. Morcii noticed immediately and turned his own attention to her. “WHAT IS IT?”

cond…!

“WAIT…” Morcii narrowed his eyes, and then lunged forward. “YOU CAN’T—!”

TIER!!

Instantly, the two Ayas disappeared out of Siyuakén’s hands as a silver cloud exploded away from Davídrius. Ignoring both of these factors, Morcii barreled forward and thrust his knee forward in the same manner that had killed Vélunis — only to be stopped mid-strike.

That attack might’ve worked the first time… Davídrius smirked as he held Morcii’s knee several inches from his face with his hand. …But you’d be an idiot to expect it to work again!

“HMPH!” The Nanocreature leader scowled and jumped back several meters. “…YOU BROKE THE CORRUPTION… HA!” He smirked again. “BUT EVEN SO, YOU STILL CANNOT DEFEAT ME—!”

Like hell I can’t! The Velocitechnic burst forward, reaching Morcii in the blink of an eye and performing a fierce bicycle kick that launched the Nanocreature through the ceiling. Siyuakén immediately fled through the hole Morcii had created earlier, followed closely by Davídrius as he cleared the entire crevice depth in a single bound and alighted at the lip of the crevice.

“Davídrius?”

…You’re here. He turned to the side, addressing Kaoné and Wilkas as they rushed up to the crevice.

“What happened?” Kaoné questioned, “Morcii and Siyuakén just flew out of the crevice—!”

I know. Look, there’s no time to explain; I’m in the Second Tier Chaos State, and I need to stop Morcii! Uh, Kevérin and Kievkenalis are down there, in the crevice. You need to rescue them. They’re getting corrupted, but I know how to stop it! We just need to use the Chaos State!

“You— wait, what?” Kaoné responded in confusion, “Davídrius, what are you—?”

Before she could finish her question, however, the Velocitechnic had already left, leaping high into the sky.

“…What’s up with him?” she muttered to herself warily. “…Wait, he said Kevérin and Kievkenalis… what about Vélunis…?”


“…THAT PESKY BERSERK TENDENCY. WERE IT NOT FOR THAT, THE CORRUPTION WOULD’VE GONE SMOOTHLY. BUT OF COURSE, IT WAS SLOWED BY THE CHAOS ENERGY MANIFESTATION OF RAGE. I’M A FOOL FOR OVERLOOKING THAT…”

Morcii grumbled to himself as he and Siyuakén ascended through the atmosphere, already several kilometers in the air. The corrupted Electrotechnic followed silently as the Nanocreature leader continued to berate himself over his actions.

“I ADMIT, I’M SURPRISED BY THIS TURN OF EVENTS, BUT… OH WELL. I CAN ALWAYS GET THE OTHER AYAS THROUGH BRUTE FORCE. TIME TO PUT THESE ANNOYING ALDREDANOIDS DOWN ONCE AND FOR ALL—?!”

He was interrupted as Davídrius suddenly appeared in the air beside him, having cleared the several kilometers of altitude in a single leap. Morcii had only a fraction of a second to stare at the Velocitechnic in wide-eyed rage before Davídrius smashed his foot onto the Nanocreature’s head, sending him rocketing back down to the ground below. The Velocitechnic immediately summoned the Ayas Bow Mystryth as he began to fall himself, drawing the bowstring back and launching volley after volley of hypersonic Chaos Arrows at the Nanocreature leader below. The moment he finally landed on the ground he took off toward Morcii, dismissing Mystryth and summoning the Ayas Staff Tanivas in its place and thrusting forward.

NO!” Morcii boomed as he grabbed the end of the staff and stopped Davídrius’s charge. “I WILL NOT ALLOW YOU TO DEFEAT ME SO EASILY!”

No problem. I’ll just have to do somethin’ a little more complicated! The Velocitechnic shot back, letting go of the staff and then roundhouse-kicking it with enough force to rip it out of Morcii’s grip as well as obliterate his entire lower arm. Davídrius immediately lunged forward and head-butted the Nanocreature in the chest, launching him hundreds of meters away before he tumbled to a stop along the ground. Morcii quickly jumped back to his feet and flipped away just as Davídrius launched another kick; the Nanocreature then stopped himself mid-flip and reversed his movement to catch the Velocitechnic’s foot, but the moment he got hold Davídrius stomped the ground, ripping his foot out of Morcii’s grip and obliterating his other hand.

“YOU… FOOLISH ALDREDANOIDS!” Morcii snarled, putting all of his effort into evading Davídrius as he slowly reformed his broken limbs. “WHAT IS THE MEANING BEHIND THIS POINTLESS RESISTANCE?! EVEN IN THE FACE OF IMMEDIATE FAILURE, YOU STILL REFUSE TO GIVE UP!”

Well of course we ain’t gonna just roll over an’ surrender, Davídrius retorted, summoning the Tanivas Staff and whipping it around in addition to his furious kicks to force Morcii back even harder. Ha! Is this all it takes? A single tier jump in the Chaos State and suddenly you can’t do shit to stop me!

“YOU… ARE… WRONG!” the Nanocreature leader exploded with rage as he slammed his fist into Davídrius’s foot, obliterating his own arm but stopping the incoming kick. He then severed his other arm from his body and transformed it into a dozen laser guns, using all of them to attack the Velocitechnic at range and force him to divert some of his energy to defense. “THE SECOND TIER IS JUST AS MEANINGLESS AS THE FIRST! YOUR ARROGANCE IS MISPLACED; YOUR EARLIER ADVANTAGE MEANS NOTHING!

Ha ha! Davídrius grinned, easily evading the constant streams of laser fire as he downed each gun systematically with the Mystryth Bow. You sound pretty damn flustered to me! You sure I’m not actually a threat?

“YOU MEAN NOTHING TO ME!” Morcii shot back, diving under Davídrius as he kicked again. The Nanocreature leader whirled around and dealt his own kick to the Velocitechnic’s back, sending him flying forward. Morcii quickly reformed his arms before transforming them both into laser cannons and opening fire on Davídrius, obliterating the terrain around him relentlessly. “YOU COULD NOT POSSIBLY STOP ME HERE! YOU ARE NO MATCH AT ALL FOR MY LIMITLESS POWER!”

Bullshit! Davídrius countered, bowling through the cannon fire to slam the end of Tanivas into and through Morcii’s stomach. You definitely have a limit, and it’s a lot closer to ours than you like to pretend it is! He ripped the staff sideways out of Morcii, destroying the entire left side of the Nanocreature’s body before flipping and bringing his foot down over Morcii’s head, slamming him to the ground. We can beat you, Morcii! And this fight here proves that!

The Nanocreature growled and opened his mouth to respond but received a sudden blow to his side, flinging him several kilometers back and into a cliff side at the end of the valley. Davídrius immediately appeared beside him and made to smash his foot through Morcii’s head, but the Nanocreature ducked just in time to evade the attack — which instead shattered the entire cliff. Morcii immediately slammed his head into the Velocitechnic’s crotch, launching him up into the air before dashing off toward a group of Nanocreature soldier units to repair his body. Davídrius quickly summoned Mystryth and fired an arrow toward Morcii, piercing him through the right kidney and blowing off both of his legs — which promptly reformed into a multitude of flechettes that immediately homed in on the Velocitechnic at hypersonic speeds as Morcii’s legless body continued to fly through the air toward the other Nanocreatures. Davídrius scowled but nonetheless deftly picked each and every projectile out of the air in under a second flat, before smashing them with Tanivas and then bounding off toward Morcii just as the Nanocreature leader seized direct control of the other units and used their nanomachines to repair himself. He turned around and crossed his arms in front of him just in time to block another kick from Davídrius, but was still flung backwards hundreds of meters — he quickly lifted into the air, however, looping around and slamming into the Velocitechnic’s back just as he blocked with Tanivas. The blow knocked Davídrius clear across the valley and up the mountainside, but he recovered immediately and leaped back to his feet just in time to counter Morcii’s next punch with a kick, obliterating the Nanocreature’s fist again. Morcii instantly reversed his momentum, drawing away from Davídrius and ascending into the air as he disengaged all of his limbs from his body and transformed them into a variety of weapons before launching and firing them all at Davídrius. The Velocitechnic disappeared from his spot the moment the attack began, completely evading all of the weapons before leaping up at Morcii from directly below and vertically impaling the Nanocreature all the way through with Tanivas. Morcii immediately tore himself in half, backing away from the Ayas Weapon and Davídrius before reforming his body again — just in time for Davídrius to smash him back down to the ground with a leap and an over-head flip-kick. The Velocitechnic dropped back to the ground and prepared to slam Morcii with another attack before being stunned by a sudden and immensely powerful lightning strike, a strike so powerful that it crystallized the ground beneath his feet.

“…AH, YOU’VE RETURNED,” Morcii muttered wearily, taking advantage of the lull to leap back into the air as Siyuakén slowly descended from the skies above and hovered in the air over Davídrius. “THAT TOOK LONG ENOUGH…”

The Velocitechnic glanced up at Siyuakén and then immediately leaped toward her — only to be struck by another lightning blast, flinging him away.

What the… he growled, glaring up at the Electrotechnic — and then scowling when he noticed the Dark Blue Ayas in her hands. So you’ve got an Ayas too, huh?

“TWO CAN PLAY AT THIS GAME,” Morcii retorted, floating over to Siyuakén and taking the Ayas from her before ascending into the sky. “IF YOU WISH TO USE THE AYAS AGAINST ME, SO BE IT. YOU’VE FORCED MY HAND… NOW BEHOLD THE POWER OF THE AYAS IN THE HANDS OF THEIR TRUE MASTER!”

Davídrius glared up at Morcii as he continued to raise into the air, his speed rapidly increasing. The Velocitechnic then crouched down before leaping up, meeting Morcii in the air and preparing to slam his foot into him again — only to have his foot caught instead.

“DON’T MAKE ME REPEAT MYSELF ABOUT THE EFFECTIVENESS OF REPEATED ATTACKS.”

Heh. Worth a try, Davídrius responded with a smirk before Morcii launched him back at the ground. He flipped himself around midair and caught himself easily and then turned his attention upwards.

“YOU WILL REGRET YOUR ACTIONS TODAY, ALDREDANOID!” Morcii shouted down at Davídrius as he continued to raise into the sky, “I SHOULD HAVE TAKEN YOU SERIOUSLY FROM THE START… EVEN IF YOU ESCAPE TODAY, THE NEXT WE MEET WILL BE THE LAST!”

You can bet your ass it will be! the Velocitechnic shot back as he summoned Mystryth and fired several arrows at the Nanocreature leader. Most of them hit, but Morcii ignored the blows and returned fire with several laser blasts that Davídrius easily evaded. He glared up at Morcii and then shifted his attention to Siyuakén, shouting, hang in there, Siyuakén! It won’t be much longer ‘til the end, I promise!

The corrupted Electrotechnic responded with an empty stare as she and Morcii continually shrunk away from Davídrius with distance. He stared after them until they disappeared completely, and then began glancing around the battlefield warily. …The fuck is he up to…?


“What’s he doing…?”

“Captain!” Krydonin exclaimed as she barged onto the bridge of the Genesis, “what’s the situation? Why have we been pulled back?”

“Mission’s over,” Krick responded briefly, not even bothering to face Krydonin as he spoke, instead keeping his attention focused on the bridge displays. “The moment Morcii appeared on the battlefield, the entire area was blanketed in an anti-beaming field. The field moved just a couple minutes ago, so I had everyone beamed up immediately; I’m not risking leaving you stuck with Morcii. One of the Nimalians was still within Morcii’s anti-beaming field though, so they’re still down there… though that’s about to change.”

“What do you mean?”

“Morcii’s ascending into the planet’s upper atmosphere, but not at the same speeds that he uses when he leaves a planet’s gravity well. He’s up to something, but I don’t know what…”

Krydonin sighed as she shook her head warily. “We were only able to distract Morcii for a single day…?”

“This mission wasn’t only to distract Morcii,” Krick countered. “…What’s that energy build-up?”

The Commander turned toward the bridge displays, quickly finding the one display amongst the many that was showing sensor read-outs on Morcii. “…It’s Chaos Energy. That much… he must have an Ayas on him.”

“…Beam up the remaining Nimalian!” Krick barked, just as a light flashed through the bridge window. “Initiate the cloak! Clear the entire region—!”

His command was cut off as Davídrius appeared on the bridge — followed immediately by a second flash of light, this one signaling a massive blast of energy directed at the planet. Within seconds the blast impacted the planet’s surface, replacing the entire valley that had contained the mountain base and battlefield mere moments prior with a fifty-kilometer wide crater.

“…It’s no Drive bomb,” Krick muttered as he observed the damage through one of the ship’s telescopic cameras, “…but the fact that Morcii alone could do that…”

He had an Ayas, though, Davídrius countered, and then leaped up to Krick and Krydonin. If he doesn’t have anythin’ on him, then we can totally beat him. I’m only in the Second Tier Chaos State and I was kickin’ his ass! …Until he got his hands on that Ayas, at least.

“You’re sure he wasn’t going easy on you?” Krydonin questioned.

You don’t fake that kind of disadvantage. I definitely had somethin’ on him.

“And now he knows that we know that we can beat him.” Krick frowned. “I doubt he’ll be going easy on us anymore.”

…Well… Davídrius responded wearily, …what do we do, then?

“There’s not much else to it,” Krick muttered, and then shook his head. “…Part of the purpose of this mission was to try and pin down Morcii’s true strength. Now that we have an idea, the CSA can put their final plan to get rid of him into action.”

“What? I wasn’t aware such a plan was in the works,” Krydonin interjected.

“Neither was I, not until after I had beamed all of you down to the surface,” Krick replied. “There’s not much to it…” He glanced toward Davídrius. “But we’ll need all of the help from the Nimalians we can get.”

A ‘final showdown’, eh? How the fuck is that gonna work? Davídrius questioned, where is this ‘plan’ gonna take place, anyways, huh?

“The CSA are going all-in,” Krick declared. “To lure in Morcii, they’re enacting the plan on their last untouched high-value system: the Citan Primary Fortress World, Neticen.”