Chapter 62 – Beachhead

“Morcii made Planetfall?!”

“Ye…yeah…” Kevérin replied slowly, staring dumbfoundedly at the information feed on his glasses. “…He obliterated the Siionkagh primary generator in one strike.”

“What?!” Kaoné exclaimed, “but, how did he—? How could he…?”

The Pyrotechnic scowled. “Hell if I know. He’s never— …there haven’t been any reports of Morcii breaking through shielding on any of the other planets. He didn’t— it’s not possible. He would have needed at least a teraton’s worth of force to make any kind of noticeable dent in those shields! That’s— if he hit the planet itself with that force, that’d be enough to cause an extinction event, I mean— …if Morcii can really output that much force, that’s, that’s, that’s insane!”

“Aren’t… aren’t Kevken, Vélunis, and Wilkas all stationed at the Siionkagh generator?” Kaoné questioned as she began to wring her hands in worry. “If they… are they okay?”

“I don’t know…” Kevérin furrowed his brow in frustration. “They aren’t important enough to post about on the info feed. The Genesis isn’t close enough to their location to get a focused sensor reading, either. So… there’s no way for us to know.”

“You know what this means for us, right?” Davídrius cut in impatiently, “Morcii attacked the generator ‘cause the Ayas was there, didn’t he? Well guess where he’d go next then, huh?!”

“There are many different reasons for him to attack the generator,” Kevérin countered, “…but all of them would have him hitting Oriciid’kas as a follow-up anyways. You’re right. But what can we possibly do against that? Nothing short of a Capital ship could stop that kind of force!”

“…I hate to say it…” Davídrius frowned. “But our best bet might be to grab the Ayas and run. If Morcii can really output as much force as you’re sayin’ he can, then none of us stand a chance against him.”

Where would we run?” Kevérin questioned. “The Gate’s blocked; we can’t leave the planet. And even then… we can’t just abandon Oriciid’kas, not this quickly.”

“You say that, but stickin’ around won’t help much either, you know!”

“Weren’t you the one who wanted to fight Morcii?”

“Sure, before we learned that he single-handedly broke through the Ayas-reinforced planetary shields,” Davídrius retorted. “Fuck fightin’ him now — we can try that later when we have more Ayas with us!”

“I wonder if the Ayas actually mean anything, now,” Kevérin responded warily. “They sure as hell didn’t stop Morcii.”

“But…” Kaoné worriedly glanced between the other two Chaotics. “…What do we do?”

The three sat in uneasy silence before Kevérin sighed and spoke up again. “I’ll try to contact the Genesis through the system’s Relaynet, and just hope that the relays are still intact. Hopefully, Krick will have some more input…”

“Sounds like a plan, now get to it,” Davídrius urged.

“Right, right… Command: contact the E.S.C. Genesis. …Command: contact the E.S.C. Genesis…!”

“Uh oh…” Kaoné muttered as Kevérin’s frown deepened. “What’s wrong…?”

“Comms have cut out…” the Transfer Captain replied uneasily, “there’s nothing coming or leaving. We’ve gone dark.”


“Chaos Cannon!”

Morcii lunged forward, effortlessly knocking away the Chaos Energy projectile as he grabbed one of Vélunis’s many weapons out of the air and swung it toward Wilkas. The Forcetechnic blocked the blade with his palm, allowing his armor’s shielding to protect his hand as he thrust his other first forward, impacting Morcii’s chest and launching him across the grounds at Mach speeds. Vélunis immediately summoned dozens of railguns and fired them all simultaneously, obliterating the entire far wall and further exposing the outer tower of the polar base to the elements. Kievkenalis quickly cleared the resulting smoke and debris with Chaos Massive Impact, but was suddenly whacked in the face as Morcii burst through the invisible force with his fists forward. He grabbed the Chaostechnic by his arm and whirled him through the air before throwing him at Vélunis, just in time to leap into the air to avoid a metal beam thrown by Wilkas. Upon returning to the ground, the Nanocreature leader attempted to leap upwards again but was smashed back into the ground by a massive sword that simply dropped on top of his head, completely shearing his body in two.

Before any of the Chaotics could sigh of relief, however, the two body halves sprung forward, knocking Wilkas to the ground before reconnecting to reform Morcii’s full body and allow him to stomp the Forcetechnic’s back with enough force to instantly create a two-meter deep crater. Kievkenalis immediately replied by launching several Chaos Cannon attacks at Morcii, driving back the Nanocreature leader and allowing Wilkas to jump back to his feet and punch the crater wall, shattering the ground under Morcii and causing him to stumble. Vélunis quickly launched a hail of bladed weapons, darkening the sky just above Morcii as Kievkenalis dashed toward him from the side, gesturing for the two other Chaotics to stand back. Then, just before reaching Morcii, he shouted, “Chaos BLAST!”

A massive sphere of purple energy exploded from the Chaostechnic, obliterating everything within fifty meters and blowing back everything else within a hundred. Vélunis and Wilkas both quickly recovered and dashed up to the crater created by the blast before eying the results in surprise.

“You never told us you were an explosive type!” Wilkas shouted down at Kievkenalis.

It never came up—?! the Chaostechnic replied, but was interrupted as Morcii burst upwards from the ground beneath him, nailing Kievkenalis in the jaw with a hardened fist of steel. The Chaostechnic flew up and back, covering several meters of damaged terrain before painfully tumbling back to the ground.

“AS EXPECTED…” Morcii smirked, observing Kievkenalis as he quickly climbed back to his feet and massaged his jaw. “THE CHAOS STATE HAS RAISED YOUR DURABILITY SIGNIFICANTLY, BUT I CAN STILL OVERWHELM IT IF I DESIRE.”

“You tryin’ to say you’re not being serious?” Wilkas countered.

“OF COURSE,” the Nanocreature replied dismissively, “IF I WERE TRULY FIGHTING FOR VICTORY, THEN THE LOT OF YOU WOULD HAVE BEEN POUNDED TO DUST BEFORE YOU EVEN REALIZED THE BATTLE BEGAN.”

“…Right,” Vélunis drawled. “Those are some big words for a scrawny guy like you. Storm Blade!”

Wilkas and Kievkenalis immediately jumped back as nearly a hundred blades appeared several meters over Morcii’s head. Within a second of creation, Vélunis slammed them all into the ground, piercing Morcii’s body all over and littering the area around him with embedded metal rods — rods that Kievkenalis quickly charged with Chaos Charge, and then shouted, “Chaos Strike!” The strike of Chaos Energy hit the rods instantly, amplifying the electrical charge in the area enough to create actual lightning strikes that stunned Morcii and prevented him from moving as Wilkas leaped into the air and brought his fists down over the Nanocreature’s head. On impact, Morcii disappeared into the ground as the entire area inside the outer tower shattered and cratered, further destroying the outer tower and launching loose debris and dust clouds into the air.

“…I knew he was all words,” Wilkas remarked with a smirk, wiping his hands as the dust began to settle.

No… this isn’t right… Kievkenalis frowned uneasily. This is nothing like our encounter back on Maasen. He might still be around—

“HOW VERY ASTUTE.”

“What?!” Vélunis spun around to face the section of obliterated wall behind him. Standing on top of a loose metal beam hanging precariously several meters in the air was none other than Morcii himself, arms crossed as he stared down at the three Chaotics.

“How’d he get up there?!” Wilkas exclaimed incredulously.

“HA! THIS BATTLE HAS PROVEN MILDLY INTERESTING,” Morcii remarked, “THOUGH YOUR UNEARNED CONFIDENCE IS PAINFULLY TYPICAL OF ALDREDANOIDS, I FIND. LET US SEE IF YOU CAN KEEP ME FURTHER ENTERTAINED FOR THE TIME BEING, HMM?”

“…Guys?…” Vélunis muttered uneasily as he brandished two rifles.

We can’t outrun him; we’re stuck until the Genesis can pick us up. Kievkenalis scowled. …We just have to last until then. Chaos Assist!


“The Nanocreatures are beginning to transfer their fire to Siionkagh itself!”

“Tch, of course they are. Intercept the larger ships! How are Siionkagh’s shields holding?”

“…Not well. The destruction of the North Pole generator reduced the shield’s overall strength by over ninety-nine percent, and the increase in fire from the Nanocreatures is very quickly eating through what’s left. We don’t even have twelve hours at the current rate…”

“Damn…” Krick scowled as he impatiently glanced between bridge displays. “…We can’t wait any longer. Petition the Battle Group leader to move to the Polar Fleet — wait for a response, but we’ll be moving out regardless of what it is!” The Captain then sat back in his chair, rubbing his chin absentmindedly as he awaited the completion of his order. Morcii appeared out of nowhere… not even our sensors could pick him up. We have no way of knowing if he’s still on Siionkagh, or if he’s moved out again, and that means we have no idea if he has the Ayas that was plugged into the generator… damn. This does not bode well for Oriciid’kas.

“Permission to move to the Polar Fleet granted, sir!”

“Set a course immediately!” Krick barked, “full thrust! Be prepared to beam up as many survivors on the ground as possible, particularly the Nimalians, and especially the Ayas!”

“Yes sir! Setting course for Polar Fleet! …Some of the Nanocreature ships have broken off, they’re following us! Twenty-five ships, all Cruiser class!”

“Engage the cloak! Begin acquiring targets immediately — account for weapon power, spread, and accuracy, and begin firing periodically with all weapons in sync. I want each blast wave to wipe out at least five ships!”

“Yes sir! Engaging cloak!”

“Twenty-five Cruisers, huh…” Krick muttered to himself, “they must really not want us to reach the Pole. Or maybe they’re catching on to how dangerous we are to them…”

“Weapons primed! Targets acquired — firing! …Twenty targets remaining!”

“Keep it up, keep it up!” The Captain nodded approvingly. We’re losing the battle for the system, but on a local level, we’re doing perfectly fine. I can’t help but feel wary about this… but there’s no time to worry. The Ayas comes first.


“Will someone please tell me what’s goin’ on here?!”

“If I knew, I’d be more than happy to explain,” Kevérin retorted as he led Kaoné and Davídrius away from the communications center. “No one knows why comms are jammed. If we did, we’d be doing something about it.”

“I can tell you what we can be doin’ about it,” Davídrius insisted, “gettin’ the fuck outta here!”

“We can’t do that, either,” the Transfer Captain countered. “Even if the base commander had issued an evac command, we need to stay with the Ayas and protect it. We can’t let the Nanocreatures have it!”

“Then just take it with us!”

“Take it where?”

“Take it, uh…” Davídrius paused for a moment to think, falling behind Kevérin and Kaoné before dashing back up to the Pyrotechnic. “…I dunno, somewhere not here, maybe?”

“And make it easier for the Nanocreatures to breach Oriciid’kas’s shields and surround us?” Kevérin snorted. “Morcii might be able to puncture the shields with ease, but none of the other Nanocreatures have shown the same ability. The shield is still important.”

“It’d be pretty bad if we lost Oriciid’kas faster than even Bouy’Xis, too,” Kaoné commented.

“…Hn,” Davídrius grunted. “…I don’t like this one bit.”

“No one does,” Kevérin responded, stopping at a small observation deck to stare out at the arctic tundra surrounding the base’s outer tower. “…But the thing is, there’s really nothing we can do, aside from hunkering down. This is a military installation, so at the end of the day, this is the best place for the Ayas to be.”

“Are you sure? Maybe there’s a more secure base on the planet somewhere?” Kaoné suggested.

“Not on Oriciid’kas. This is primarily a civilian world; the largest bases are at the poles, where the primary shield generators are.” The Pyrotechnic sighed wearily. “If we were on Siionkagh, then there would be alternatives. But this base is literally the most fortified it gets.”

“Question: how much of that ‘fortification’ is ‘cause of the climate?” Davídrius retorted, “’cause if that’s what it is, then it won’t do much against the Nanocreatures ‘cause they’re, well, you know. Machines.”

“Relax,” Kevérin replied. “We’ll still have plenty of warning time before the base itself is attacked. The Nanocreatures still have to break through the shield, after all—”

The entire building shuddered violently, interrupting the Transfer Captain’s statement as the three Chaotics were thrown to the ground. Alarms promptly began to sound as all of the base personnel began scrambling in every direction in an urgent yet surprisingly calm manner.

Davídrius scowled. “The fuck’s goin’ on?”

“…Oh no…” Kevérin’s face fell as he turned his attention to his glasses’ information feed.

“…No.” The Velocitechnic stared at the Pyrotechnic incredulously. “No. Do not say Nanocreatures. It is not the Nanocreatures.”

“…But it is.” Kevérin looked up at Davídrius warily. “…The Nanocreatures just attacked this base. Directly.”

Chapter 61 – Breakthrough

2 Days Later

Windia, Skydiath 23, 8034 –

“Captain.”

“Oh, Chief Captain.” Bourne quickly stood up from the commander’s chair and faced Krick to give him a salute. He casually saluted back, gesturing for Bourne to resume sitting as he glanced up at the bridge displays. “…You’re an hour early,” the XO remarked after several seconds of silence.

“That last shield shock woke me up,” Krick answered flatly as he absentmindedly scratched his chin. “Couldn’t get back to sleep, so I decided to come up here and check on things.”

“Things have calmed down since the opening of the battle,” Bourne commented as she turned her attention back to the bridge displays. “Nothing new has happened since I last relieved you.”

“So we’re still in a stalemate then, huh…”

“If that’s what you call losing ships at a slightly slower rate than in any other encounter with the Nanocreature fleets to date, then yes, I suppose we are.”

“No, it’s more than that,” Krick countered. “Either the CSA has finally pulled its shit together, or the Nanocreatures are going easy on us, because neither Oriciid’kas nor Siionkagh have taken any major hits. Their shielding is still near maximum. Hell, our shielding is still near maximum, and we’ve been directly engaged with the Nanocreatures for two days, now.”

“I actually wanted to ask you about that, sir.” Bourne eyed Krick warily. “You said that the Genesis outclasses any other ship its size, and based on the reports I read from the encounters at Tyrnaus and Maasen against the Riaxen and the Drakkars, this ship should have firepower and durability on par with a Siion Battleship or so, but… against the Nanocreatures…”

“I know…” Krick furrowed his brow as he stared at the ship status readouts in confusion. “…We’re doing as much damage to the Nanocreatures as any of the Dreadnoughts.”

“Not to mention our shielding is holding up better than many of the Capital ships, as well,” Bourne added. “Even the fighters are substantially outclassing their CSA counterparts. Sir, this is… it’s almost scary.”

“You’re not wrong,” Krick replied as he rubbed his chin in thought, “and I’m just as confused as you are. The reactors are outputting slightly more power than usual, as well… looks like there’s more to this ship than we thought.”

“That’s quite the understatement.”

“Well we can’t complain. I’ll take every edge against the Nanocreatures we can get; we can scrutinize the ship further once we’re out of battle and safe back at Earth. What about the rest of the allied fleet? How are we holding up?”

“…Nearly three thousand ships have been destroyed already, but most of those are Sub-Caps. Namely Cruisers and smaller… we lost a Carrier and a couple Dreadnoughts in the past six hours, though. The Nanocreatures tried to take them over, so we had to destroy the wrecks. We lost the L1 and L3 Siionkagh-moon space stations, as well… the Nanocreatures gained access and began assimilating the entire structure, so we had to obliterate them ourselves.”

“Were the stations evacuated?”

“…Not completely.”

“Damn…”

“…The ships the Nanocreatures have taken over from previous battles are also outperforming their original specs, according to the CSA,” Bourne added. “…They’ve tried hailing the corrupted ships, but there’s never a response.”

“Hmm… out of all the casualties we’ve suffered so far, how many have been from weapons fire, and how many have been from direct assimilation attempts?”

“It’s one and the same, really… the Nanocreatures use weapons fire to take down shielding, and then they deal the final blow by ramming the ship and trying to take it over.”

“For the first four hours, ramming seemed to be the only thing they did,” Krick mused. “They didn’t adopt any formations until eleven hours in, and they only started really focusing on the Siionkagh and Oriciid’kas defense fleets right before your current shift. …Have they employed any real use of strategy since you took control?”

“No, sir…” Bourne frowned. “But they don’t need to. Their armor strength and repairing capabilities outstrip the amount of damage most Sub-Caps can do, if their weapons tracking was even fast enough to hit them. That’s another thing, we’re one of the few ships capable of reliably hitting the Nanocreatures in the first place. Only the Capital ships can achieve the same hit rates, and that’s only because their weapons are so massive.”

“You’re telling me things I already know…”

“We aren’t making any progress against them. If this keeps up, we’ll break in a week, maybe two, and then the Nanocreatures will be free to hit the planets themselves.”

“…Maybe that’s why they haven’t bothered to target the planets yet; they’re trying to destroy any possibility of reinforcements. And there isn’t anything we can do to stop them, not if we keep going on like this.” Krick scratched his chin again, furrowing his brow as he glanced between the bridge displays. “…If something doesn’t change soon, we’ll lose the system.”


“This doesn’t make any sense at all.”

“Well I ain’t complainin’,” Davídrius remarked, speaking around the mouthful of food he was currently chewing. “If the Nanocreatures—”

“Davídrius,” Kaoné cut in as she gave the Velocitechnic a disapproving glare. “Don’t eat with your mouth full like that, it’s disgusting.”

“I didn’t know you were my mom,” he quipped, pointedly ignoring Kaoné’s remark. A moment later he swallowed and turned back to Kevérin as he continued eating. “I don’t know why you’re concerned, though. The Nanocreatures ain’t attackin’ the shields, cool, it means we’ll last longer.”

“It’s not that simple,” Kevérin countered, restlessly glancing around the small cafeteria before continuing, “there has to be a reason for this. They’ve been in the system for two days, and planets are big targets, so it’s not like they’re missing. They have to be pointedly ignoring Oriciid’kas and Siionkagh. But why would they do that?”

“Maybe they’re just focusing on the fleets,” Kaoné suggested.

“Yeah, fere waf a lof of fem!” Davídrius added, the food in his mouth distorting his words. He glanced back at Kevérin and Kaoné in confusion when they paused to stare at him. “…Whaf?”

“Do you always talk while you eat?” Kevérin deadpanned.

The Velocitechnic swallowed before retorting, “only when people feel the need to interrupt my peace and quiet while I eat.”

“Aw, but you looked so lonely,” Kaoné remarked.

Davídrius scowled. “Well I wasn’t.

“And here I thought you might be concerned about current events,” Kevérin drawled.

“Get back to me when somethin’ new happens. In the meantime, I’ll save my very limited concern for other things.”

“Wait…” The Pyrotechnic frowned. “…Have you been paying attention at all to the bulletins?”

“To the what?”

“…Do you have your AR info feed enabled?”

“Keh, no. Why would I? Last thing I want is a text box in the corner of my vision at every damn minute of the day.”

“Then you haven’t heard that Dramantis, Gonaan, and Siionleh have all fallen, have you?”

Davídrius faltered, pausing just before taking another bite out of his meal. “…Say again?”

“You heard me.” Kevérin leaned back and crossed his arms. “Dramantis fell three days ago, and the CSA declared Siionleh and Gonaan lost yesterday. That’s six worlds the CSA has lost. Six Transpace Worlds, of fourteen.”

“Ya know, what does that mean?” Davídrius questioned, “when you say a planet’s fallen, what’s that mean? Planets can’t fall, can they?”

“It means it was lost. The Nanocreatures took it over,” Kevérin replied. “Basically, the CSA believes the worlds are lost past a recoverable point, and that enough system infrastructure has been destroyed or taken over that there’s not enough left to defend.”

“Have the Nanocreatures destroyed any of the actual Transpaces?”

“Oddly enough, no, but any lone ship that tries to jump into a lost system is almost immediately destroyed.”

“Great,” Davídrius deadpanned. “What’s that mean for us?”

“It means the CSA is about to crumble,” Kevérin replied tensely. “…They lost Siionleh. Do you understand the significance of that? The Nanocreatures somehow forced the Siions to abandon their Homeworld. And Citici and Y’kisdral both are only one jump away from Nanocreature-controlled systems, so you can bet that they’ll fall under attack soon, too. But those don’t even matter, because the Siions are practically crushed. Half of their Transpace Worlds are in Nanocreature hands now, and the two that aren’t are cut off from the rest of the CSA. And this is the Siions, the backbone of the CSA military! If they end up losing Oriciid’kas, then that’s just even worse, as the Siions will be completely cut off from the rest of the CSA, which will make it far more difficult for the Citans and Dra’kis to defend their own space. If things keep up as they have been, the CSA will fall apart by the end of the month, and you can guess who’ll be the next targets.”

“The Nimalian Territories…” Kaoné muttered.

“And they’ll take us out much faster than they took out the CSA.” Kevérin sighed in resignation. “…This might actually be the end.”

“Whoa whoa whoa, hold on there,” Davídrius cut in, “it’s a little early to be declarin’ defeat, ain’t it?”

“Do you see a way out of this?”

“Well, beatin’ Morcii, for one.”

Kevérin scowled. “Don’t put too much stock into that plan. At this rate, he doesn’t even have to show up and the Nanocreatures will still win.”

“The planetary shields are still holdin’ up, aren’t they?” Davídrius pointed out, “maybe he’ll show up to speed up the process. We can fight him then.”

If he shows up,” Kevérin countered, “and then there’s the whole issue of fighting him. There’s no way we can win as we are, even if one of us used the First Tier Chaos State; we’ve already gone over that.”

“Says you,” Davídrius snorted and then took another bite of his lunch. “We know what Morcii can do now, so we can put up more of a fight.”

“I doubt—” the Pyrotechnic started and then froze mid-sentence.

“Uh oh…” Kaoné muttered.

“So you saw it, too?” Kevérin sighed warily. “Great. Just great.”

“What? What is it?” Davídrius glanced between the two uneasily.

“An announcement on the info feed,” Kevérin responded irately, “you know how the Gate was being used to evac civilians out of the system?”

“Yeah?…”

“The moment the Gate shut down — you know, to refresh the connection after the two hour mark — the Nanocreatures dialed in. The Gate’s block was activated before many of the bugs could make it through and the bugs themselves have been contained, but…” Kevérin scowled. “…The Gate’s unusable now; the Nanocreatures are sitting on the connection, preventing us from dialing anywhere else. We’re stuck.”


2 Hours Later

“I think this might be it, guys…”

“Huh?” Wilkas glanced toward Kievkenalis. “What’re you talking about?”

“You heard about the Gate getting blocked on Oriciid’kas, right?” the Chaostechnic replied as he stared up at the massive inner tower that housed the Siionkagh primary shield generator. “That might be a sign that the Nanocreatures are getting serious.”

“Implying they aren’t serious already?” Vélunis deadpanned.

“They aren’t even attacking the planetary shielding, that has to be on purpose.”

“Yeah, that is pretty weird,” Wilkas mused. “Planets are big targets. They must be either really bad at aiming, or so good at aiming at other ships that they never miss.”

“Or they’re just far enough away that we aren’t actually that big a target,” Vélunis countered. “Didn’t the fleets engage the Nanocreatures in high orbit? It’s not like misses will have a high chance of hitting us at that distance.”

“…Still…” Kievkenalis frowned. “I have a bad feeling about this…” He continued staring at the shield tower through the large windows of the outer tower that hosted all of the base’s personnel facilities. “…I think I’m going to go check on the Ayas—”

His sentence was cut off as the entire building shuddered violently, throwing the three Chaotics to the ground. The lights flickered and came back on just in time for some unknown force to impact the inner tower from directly above, completely demolishing it and creating a massive shockwave that blew out the windows of the outer tower the Chaotics were sitting in.

“What the hell?!” Wilkas exclaimed, staring at the wrecked tower in awe as freezing arctic air began rushing in through the broken windows. “What was that?!”

“That was the generator getting obliterated!” Kievkenalis immediately jumped to his feet and rushed over to the windows. “The Ayas is there! We need to retrieve it!”

“Kevken—!” Vélunis started, but the Chaostechnic ignored him and vaulted through the window, dropping several meters to the ground below before running toward the tower wreckage. Vélunis and Wilkas quickly followed, landing on the ground from above and smashing their way through the wreckage before stopping in their tracks just behind Kievkenalis.

“What’d you stop for—?” Wilkas started, but froze after realizing what the Chaostechnic was staring at — or rather, who he was staring at.

“HMPH, SO WE MEET AGAIN.”

“…Morcii…” Kievkenalis muttered.

“Oh, so this guy’s Morcii?” Vélunis looked up at the Nanocreature leader. He was standing on a pile of collapsed metal supports, glaring down at the Chaotics as his maroon longcoat and blue robing flapped violently in the arctic winds. “…Doesn’t look as threatening as I had imagined.”

“YOU THINK I DON’T LOOK THREATENING?” Morcii raised an incredulous eyebrow. “I JUST DESTROYED THIS PLANET’S SHIELDING IN ONE BLOW. NEED I DESTROY THE PLANET ITSELF TO SATISFY YOU?”

Vélunis responded with silence, unable to form a reply to the Nanocreature’s dangerously cold tone.

“ANYWAYS…” Morcii smirked as he extended his left arm behind himself and then retracted it, revealing the Light Green Ayas now in his hand. “I HAVE WHAT I CAME HERE FOR—”

Chaos State: First Tier!

A sudden flash of bright white light filled the area before slowly fading away as the Ayas disappeared from Morcii’s hand and into Kievkenalis’s body. The Nanocreature leader stared at the Chaostechnic, dumbfounded, and then broke into a menacing grin. “I SEE YOU’VE LEARNED FROM OUR PAST ENCOUNTER!”

“Kevken…!” Wilkas muttered warningly, “what are you doing…?!”

We have to hold him here, Kievkenalis insisted, his voice taking on the subtle echo indicative of the Chaos State. …Not just that, we also have to wait for the Genesis to return to beaming range before it can pick us up.

“So, basically, we have to stall,” Vélunis deadpanned, and then sighed warily. “…Figures you’d get us into a fight.”

“It’s been a while since we’ve been in a real fight,” Wilkas remarked with a begrudging smirk. “Let’s hope we haven’t lost our edge. Overdrive: Infinite Lift!

“Damn it…” Vélunis scowled. “…Tch. Whatever. Overdrive: Limitless Weaponswright!

“…SO YOU REALLY DO INTEND TO FIGHT ME?” Morcii’s grin widened further. “AND HERE I THOUGHT YOU WERE SIMPLY TRYING TO FOOL ME WITH FALSE BRAVADO. INSTEAD, YOU’RE PLAYING THE PART OF ACTUAL FOOLS! IT WOULD SEEM THAT YOU STILL HAVE MUCH TO LEARN!”

“Chaos Assist, Kievkenalis muttered. …Alright guys, I’ve already activated my distress signal. Hopefully the Earthians can get here soon. But until then—!

“We got you!” Wilkas exclaimed — and then lunged forward. “Let’s go!!”

Chapter 60 – Capital of the Galaxy

3 Days Later

– Mondia, Skydiath 20, 8034 –

“So this is the so-called ‘Capital of the Galaxy,’ huh?”

“Capital of the Galaxy?” Captain Krick echoed incredulously. “Oriciid’kas is the capital of the CSA, but I wouldn’t call it the capital of the whole damn galaxy.”

“It’s just a nickname,” Kievkenalis replied while maintaining his focus on the Genesis’s bridge window. “The CSA is the most culturally and politically influential entity in the galaxy. The Drakkars are just a threat, after all — they don’t have any real influence per se, and the Taizen races keep to themselves. So the CSA effectively runs the galaxy.”

“They like to think they run the galaxy,” Vélunis corrected, “but they don’t hold any real sway over us Nimalians. They had to ask for our help, after all.”

“Ideally, they wouldn’t need to…” Krick muttered as he observed a far-away space station, magnified as a hologram to allow the bridge inhabitants to inspect it more closely. Not much about its appearance was remarkable, as it looked to be little more than a series of cylinders jutting out from a central shaft, but it’s size… “Christ, that thing is huge! Each of those shafts looks like they’re tens of kilometers across… People live on that?”

“I’ve heard that a single station in this system can host millions,” Kievkenalis remarked, “and there’s a station sitting at every Lagrange point of the five terra planets. And then even more than that.”

“…This is ridiculous…” Wilkas frowned uneasily. “There’s so many people in this system. How the hell does the CSA plan to protect them all?”

“They don’t,” Krick replied. “They only have a vested interest in the planet of Oriciid’kas itself and Siionkagh, the local Fortress World. Why do you think those are the only planets they requested you help reinforce?”

“That’s only because Oriciid’kas and Siionkagh are the only planets with decent planetary shielding,” Kievkenalis countered. “There’s no way the other three can be protected from the Nanocreatures in any reasonable fashion, but surely the CSA is at least orchestrating a mass evacuation of the system?”

“Ha,” Vélunis snorted. “And where would they all go? There’s over a hundred billion people living in this system, that’s more than all of the Homeworlds in the galaxy combined. No other system could possibly handle taking in this many refugees.”

“Which is all the more reason to help out the CSA,” Krick stated. “…Your friends should already be on Oriciid’kas, right?”

Kievkenalis nodded. “They should be, yes. Kevérin, Kaoné, and Davídrius took the Ayas Mystryth with them through the Gate a couple days ago, so hopefully the Ayas is already plugged into the planet’s shields.”

“That leaves us to help reinforce Siionkagh,” Krick mused. “…I wonder if we can really make a difference.”

“That prototype FTL Drive should definitely help,” Wilkas remarked, “if the CSA can start mass-producing those, then that alone would help a whole lot.”

“Wilkas is right.” Kievkenalis nodded again. “That’s why we’re here anyways, isn’t it? To transport one of the prototype Drives. I don’t really think the Genesis itself would make a difference, since it is only one ship, albeit a massively advanced one…”

“I think you guys are overlooking the best systems of the Genesis,” Krick countered, “the Subspace Drive is great, sure, but the beaming systems are far more tactically useful. The CSA can hold out against the Nanocreatures for weeks in space, likely, but it’s all over once they make Planetfall. That’s how Bouy’Xis and Metorilis were lost. But the beaming systems — if the CSA had that, then they could’ve actually put up an effort on the ground. …Unfortunately, the beaming systems seem a lot harder to reverse-engineer than the Subspace Drive was.”

Vélunis frowned. “I dunno, would they really make that much of a difference?”

“They’re what saved us from Morcii back on Maasen,” Kievkenalis pointed out, “and I have a feeling that they’re going to be what saves us if we ever encounter Morcii again. Hopefully we won’t, but, well… you never know.”

“If you see Morcii planetside, then it means the planetary shields have failed, and we’ll have pulled you out long before then,” Krick stated. “…That said, he’ll probably show up at least on the space front. According to the battle reports I’ve read, he’s only appeared on battlefields three times since Maasen, and each time it was when the CSA almost seemed to be developing a steady defense. Seems like he lets his forces do most of the work, and then shows up himself to break any particularly strong defense. He was there for the fall of both Bouy’Xis and Metorilis, for example. So, given that…” The Captain paused to squint at a display toward the front of the bridge. “…And given how much military might is garrisoned in this system, I wouldn’t be surprised if the metallic bastard showed his face soon.”

“Huh?” Wilkas tried to find the display Krick was staring at. “…What do you mean?”

“If I remember the briefings right, a typical, full-sized Siion fleet is five thousand ships, with a heavy skew towards Dreadnoughts and Battleships. Citan fleet sizes are about three thousand strong, with a skew more towards Carriers than Dreadnoughts, and Dra’kis are a little smaller, with a higher focus on Sub-Caps. Mixed CSA fleets sit around four thousand strong. …There are currently ten fleets stationed in this system. The 22nd Siion fleet, the 15th Citan fleet, and mixed fleets 1st through 8th. Over forty thousand spacecraft.”

“…Damn.”

“For reference, three Dra’kis fleets were lost at Bouy’Xis before the remaining two retreated, and four Citan fleets were lost at Metorilis before it was abandoned.”

“Is ten really enough, then?…” Kievkenalis commented warily.

“Maybe, maybe not, but you have to keep in mind that every fleet that’s sitting here is a fleet that isn’t helping to defend any of the planets currently under attack, not to mention that the CSA fleet reserves are in no way infinite,” Krick pointed out. “That’s not all there is, anyways; looks like the CSA are committing several Super-Caps to this system as well. Seven Motherships are stationed in the Tau’cen Kii system and are prepared to launch their full fighter squadrons through the Transpace, and… two Deathnoughts, a whole two Deathnoughts, are currently in system, right now. The Siion Dakonis Raath, in orbit around Siionkagh, and the Dra’kis On’esstin, in orbit around Oriciid’kas.” The Captain whistled in awe. “The CSA really are serious about protecting this system.”

Vélunis snorted. “Of course they are, it’s their capital.”

“All the more reason for us to help as much as we can,” Krick replied. “…Alright, we’re approaching Siionkagh. We’ll be in a stable middle orbit within the hour, and after that we can figure out how to deliver the prototype Drive, and how to get your Ayas to their shields.”

“Sounds good.” Kievkenalis nodded as he turned toward the bridge exit, signaling for Vélunis and Wilkas to follow. “C’mon, guys, let’s suit up.”

“Suit up?” Wilkas echoed incredulously. “We’re just here to reinforce the shields. We shouldn’t be doing any fighting; why bother with armor?”

“Better safe than sorry,” the Chaostechnic responded wearily. “…Though, against the Nanocreatures, we might not have the latter option.”


“For the supposed ‘Capital of the Galaxy,’ this place feels really desolate.”

“Well of course it does.” Kevérin rolled his eyes. “We’re at the North Pole. It’s not exactly a major population center.”

“I can certainly see why,” Davídrius deadpanned as he glared out the tower window at the vast swathes of tundra below. “…Man, why’d we have to come straight to the coldest damn place on the planet?”

“Because this is where the primary planetary shield generator is. If we want to get the largest boost possible from the Ayas, we have to plug it in to the primary generator.”

“…Bah. This better be fuckin’ worth it.”

Kevérin responded with silence as he looked up at the polar skies. Even in broad daylight, the polar skies of Oriciid’kas displayed fantastically colored aurorae due to the interaction of the planetary energy shielding and the planet’s own magnetic field. The sight led to the poles being highly-valued tourist destinations, but tourism had all but dried up completely in the face of Nanocreature attack. And even if citizens were willing to take trips at such a dangerous time, the CSA had shut down the poles to civilians — they now hosted only enough of a military garrison to protect the shield generators.

“…Looking at the skies?” Kaoné questioned as she slowly approached the two Chaotics.

“Mm,” Davídrius grunted, casually glancing upwards at the bright blue and green streaks through the night sky. “…I guess we at least got that goin’ for us.”

“It’s actually a point of weakness,” Kevérin muttered, “planetary shielding is always weakest over the magnetic poles due to interference from the planet’s own magnetic fields. It’s why the primary generator is built here, because if it wasn’t, then the shielding over the pole would be virtually non-existent.”

“Well thanks for ruinin’ the moment,” the Velocitechnic drawled.

“I’m just being cautious,” the Transfer Captain replied wearily. “We have to be ready for when the Nanocreatures attack. It could be at any time.”

“We’ll have at least some warning though, right?” Kaoné responded uneasily. “I mean, it’s not like they can break through the shields within minutes.”

“Not to mention they’re already spread over four planets and who knows how many more in Drakkar space,” Davídrius added.

“Not quite true…” Kevérin shook his head. “Lehmekarid fell two days ago.”

“What?!” Kaoné exclaimed, “but—! They only lasted five days! Wasn’t Lehmekarid supposed to be better reinforced than Bouy’Xis or Metorilis?”

“It was, but that didn’t stop the Nanocreatures. Dramantis will probably fall any day now, as well. So for all we know, the Nanocreatures are already on their way here, and Morcii himself could show up at a moment’s notice. We do have an Ayas here, after all.”

“Yeah, but he’d still have to break through the shields,” Davídrius pointed out. “Powerful as he is, that’ll at least take some time, won’t it?”

Kevérin paused for a moment to sigh before responding, “I hope so.”

“…How long do you think we’ll last?” Kaoné questioned quietly.

“This system has a larger garrison than any of the others that have fallen, we have a better idea of how the Nanocreatures work, and we have Ayas reinforcing the shields of both Oriciid’kas and Siionkagh,” the Transfer Captain mused. “…Assuming the Nanocreatures don’t suddenly focus all of their forces on this system, which is a distinct possibility, I think we might be able to hold out for at least several weeks. The space fleets definitely can, at least — but whether or not we hold the system relies on preventing the Nanocreatures from making Planetfall. And to do that, we have to maintain the shields, and to do that, the fleets have to somehow draw the Nanocreatures away and into empty space. That’s the hard part.”

“Can they do that?”

“That’s the big question…” Kevérin frowned and sighed wearily. “…The Genesis might be able to help. It has enough advanced tech that it might draw some attention to itself and away from the planets. The CSA might also be planning to use the non-shielded terra planets and some of the space stations as bait, as morally ambiguous as that may seem… but the thing is, we have an Ayas here. I know it’s supposed to reinforce the shields, and it certainly did — I don’t think I’ve ever heard of planetary shielding strength jumping into or above the petaton range — but we know Morcii wants the Ayas. It’s why Nikéyin made sure none of them sat on a single planet for longer than two days ever since the Nanocreatures showed up. So… it’s possible that they’ll just carve a path straight to the Ayas… straight to right here.”

“Alright.” Davídrius crossed his arms as he turned away from the window to face Kevérin straight-on. “What do we do if that happens?”

“The Genesis is orbiting Siionkagh, so we can’t count on them to save us…” Kevérin mused, “if worst comes to worst, we need to take the Ayas, engage the Chaos State so Morcii can’t steal it, and then high-tail it back to the Interstellar Gate.”

“What!?” Kaoné exclaimed, “but then you’d be leaving behind everyone on this planet! You’d doom billions of people!”

“And I’m sure billions more would be lost if the Nanocreatures got another Ayas,” the Transfer Captain countered, “I talked to Arcán about this a couple days ago, and if he’s right, then these things are far more powerful than we ever imagined. We can’t afford to lose it.”

“But we can’t afford to lose Oriciid’kas, either…”

“Alright, here’s an idea,” Davídrius cut in, “if the Ayas are as powerful as you say they are, then why the hell don’t we just fight Morcii and end it all here?”

“One Ayas isn’t enough,” Kevérin responded impatiently, “I used the First Tier Chaos State back on Earth, and while it was certainly powerful, there’s no way it’s enough to counter Morcii. We’d have to use the Third or Fourth Tier at least to stand up to him.”

“We only need one Ayas Weapon though,” Davídrius pointed out. “I think everyone’s forgettin’ about Subspatial storage, here. Y’all saw me use it back on Kotak, didn’t you? I think that could be useful!”

“What, so we can store Morcii’s luggage for him?” Kevérin snorted. “We don’t even know how to get something out of Subspace once it’s in there. And besides, the Ayas are too powerful for us to just use them as storage devices.”

“What? The fuck are you talkin’ about?” The Velocitechnic scowled. “We don’t need to know how to get shit out, gettin’ it in is all that matters.”

“Huh?…” The Transfer Captain stared at Davídrius blankly for several moments before realization slowly dawned on his features. “…Oooh, you want to Subspatially store Morcii!”

“That’d work, wouldn’t it? Stuff the bastard into who-knows-wherever-that-is and he can’t bother us anymore.”

“That might work…” Kevérin nodded in approval. “But it requires getting into a direct fight with Morcii, which we should still try to avoid.”

“We all know what happened the first time, after all…” Kaoné muttered.

“The first time we weren’t expectin’ him to pull a Dues Ex Machina out of his ass.” Davídrius rolled his eyes, and then chortled. “…Get it? ‘Cause he’s a machine, and he was claimin’ to be a god?”

Kevérin and Kaoné both gave the Velocitechnic flat stares of disapproval before the Transfer Captain turned back to the tower window. “…If it really does come down to a fight, I’ll take the Ayas and engage the Chaos State, and then I’ll try the Subspatial storage thing on Morcii. If we can’t lay a hit on him, though, then we need to get out of here. Davídrius, can you carry both of us?”

“I could barely carry both of you fatasses at once without your armor, there ain’t no way I’m doin’ it with armor. Why don’t I take the Ayas? Then I can just Subspatially store y’all and run back to the Gate easy.”

“Did you not hear me when I said that we don’t know how to retrieve objects from Subspace?” Kevérin deadpanned.

“Can’t be much harder than stickin’ ‘em in…” Davídrius frowned. “Just… think about it or somethin’, I dunno.”

“Exactly. No one knows. That’s not even considering what happens to stored objects. Do they go into stasis? Do they just float in Subspace? If you stored a person, would they get exposed to Subspace and die, or would they come out exactly as they went in? What even is Subspace? …There’s just too many things we don’t know; using Subspatial storage now is too risky.”

“…Whatever.”

“Regardless…” Kevérin sighed. “It’ll take the Nanocreatures at least a day to break through the shields, hopefully. So once they show up, we’ll still have a window to plan contingencies.”

“Now we just have to sit tight and wait for them to actually show up…” Kaoné muttered.

Davídrius scowled. “I wonder how long that’ll be. Hmph. I really don’t like the idea of stayin’ here for much longer.”

“Neither do I…” Kevérin responded, “but against the Nanocreatures… we don’t really have a choice.”


1 Day Later

“The prototype Subspace Drive has been unloaded to the research station, and the Ayas is secured in and powering Siionkagh’s planetary shield generator. We’re clear, sir.”

“Alright…” Krick leaned forward expectantly. “Finally. I never dreamt it could take so long just to drop off a couple objects… Hold position and request sitrep-level data-connection access with the CSA fleets, and query their fleet control for a formation position. Once we know what we’re doing, well… we’ll be doing that.”

After waiting for the bridge officers to acknowledge his order, Krick stood up and stretched. He then crossed his arms and glanced to his right toward a redheaded woman not much younger nor shorter than himself.

“…’We’ll be doing that?’” She echoed incredulously when she realized she had his attention.

“Don’t get flippant with me, Bourne.” Krick smirked, but quickly removed it as he sighed warily. “I hate to do this to you on your first real mission with the Genesis, Captain, but we’re fixin’ to be in a full-on engagement soon, and as the XO, you’ll have to switch out with me every twelve hours to command the ship. We could very well be here for a full week, or even longer. Understand?”

Bourne nodded. “I do, sir. But don’t worry about me; I’ve studied the Genesis’s specs, so I know how to handle the ship.”

“That’s all well and good, but you won’t really know how to handle the ship until you’re sitting in this chair right here.” Krick patted the arm of the commander’s chair. “…Though with your record, I hope you already realize that.”

“I was second just after you in the Captain candidate list for this ship.”

“Yes you were, but don’t let it get to your head. We’re about to enter battle with an enemy that even the CSA has little experience fighting, and while this ship can handle more than any other ship in its class, it is, in the end, still just a Battlecruiser. You’d do well to remember that.”

“Yes, sir.”

Krick nodded. “Good… In eight hours, you take over from me; at that point we’ll start switching every twelve until we’re no longer in a state of battle readiness. When the Nanocreatures first attack, though, I want us both on the bridge, regardless of who’s already here. I’ll take command for the first two hours of the battle while you observe, and then we’ll resume shift switches after that. But while you’re off, you need to get as much rest as possible, you hear me?”

“Yes sir, and I’d like to say the same to you.”

“Heh, I’m sure you would. Now, it’s about time you actually got that rest. We can’t afford to stand around and chat—”

“Sir! Picking up signals on the long-range sensors!”

“How many?” Krick immediately redirected his attention to the sensor readouts at the front of the bridge as he sat down in the commander’s chair. Bourne quickly moved to stand at attention by his side.

“It’s… thousands! …Incoming from Lehmekarid, but none of them match CSA, Nimalian, or Black Sun signatures!”

“So the Nanocreatures are finally here,” the Captain muttered. “Broadcast an emergency alert! Our sensor suites are more advanced than the CSA’s, they may not have picked up on the Nanocreatures yet! And prepare to engage!”

Krick sat back in his chair warily as the rest of the bridge responded with a united “Yes sir!” He continued staring at the bridge displays, his expression grim.

“…This is it.” He eventually glanced toward Bourne. “Forget what I said about the initial time line of the shifts; observe for two hours, and then replace me in nine.”

“Yes, sir, understood!”

“Good. Now keep your wits about you — we can’t afford to panic.” Krick turned back to face the bridge window and the many holographic displays in front of it. “…Because the defense of the Oriciid’kas system begins now.”

Chapter 59 – Darkness of the Known

8 Days Later

Firdia, Skydiath 17, 8034 –

Lehmekarid, Gonaan, Siionleh, Egdonikon, Bowiisen.

Citaron, Citici, Metorilis.

Tau’cen Kii, Lis’talra, Y’kisdral, Dramantis, Bouy’Xis.

Oriciid’kas.

3 civilizations, 3 Homeworlds, 14 Transpaces — all belonging to the Core Space Alliance. The three member civilizations of the CSA claim territory tens of thousands of light years across, encircling the galactic core and protecting hundreds of planets. Over a trillion people live under the CSA government. The Homeworld solar systems of Siionleh, Citici, and Y’kisdral alone host tens of billions of people, and the CSA capital world of Oriciid’kas is an economic and cultural juggernaut, featuring such grand engineering feats as terraforming almost every planet in the solar system and constructing enough space stations to allow nearly a hundred billion citizens to reside in that system alone. The Alliance has persevered throughout the millennia, standing up to such threats as the Drakkar factions all while developing their own territory and trade relations with the Nimalians, Syraus, and Black Suns. Their economic and military might is such that, between the three member nations, the CSA possesses a total of six Deathnoughts — giant warships stretching fifty kilometers from bow to stern, the man-made gods of space warfare, capable of tanking supernovas and dishing out enough firepower to obliterate planets. And that’s not even taking into account the massive space fleets of the Alliance, hosting the numbers and strategic prowess to fend off most attacks from even the technologically superior Drakkars. The CSA is truly a force to be reckoned with. And yet…

15 days ago, the Dra’kis border Transpace World of Bouy’Xis was lost.

The initial Nanocreature offensive was overwhelming. In four short days, the metallic newcomers had broken down defenses that the Drakkars had failed to penetrate over the course of thousands of years, devastating the unprepared CSA fleets as the Nanocreatures assimilated the defeated ships into their own ranks and descended upon the frightened and defenseless populace of Bouy’Xis. With the Citan border Transpace World of Metorilis and the Siion Transpace World of Gonaan also falling under Nanocreature attack, the CSA had no choice but to abandon Bouy’Xis, disconnecting its Transpace from the neighboring world of Dramantis in an attempt to slow down the Nanocreatures. But then…

10 days ago, the Siion Homeworld of Siionleh fell under attack.

Aside from being immensely powerful, the Nanocreatures were simply too fast. They had launched simultaneous offenses on Bouy’Xis, Metorilis, and Gonaan, and while the worlds were no more than fifteen thousand light years apart, the fact that they were separated by Dead Space forced the CSA to travel along the galactic arms by Transpace. And even then, the CSA’s fleets were just too slow — whereas it took CSA ships over a month to traverse fifteen thousand light years, it took the Nanocreatures a mere two days, allowing them to hit Siionleh hard before the Siions could begin bringing in reinforcements. Nevertheless, with the assistance of the local Fortress World of Tranis, the Siions put up a fierce fight for their Homeworld, determined to not lose their original home to the new galactic menace. But just as hopes were beginning to rise…

6 days ago, the Citan border Transpace World of Metorilis was lost.

After a full nine days of defending the system, the Citans had lost thousands of ships and billions of people. The Nanocreatures had managed to make Planetfall within six days of attacking the planet, and once they began attacking and assimilating civilians and military strongholds, the Citans quickly began to lose their foothold. As with Bouy’Xis, Metorilis had been attacked before the CSA realized what a threat the Nanocreatures were, and as such it was poorly fortified; in a bid to prevent future losses, the Citans decided to abandon Metorilis and pull their forces back to their Homeworld in order to set up proper defenses and come up with a solid countermeasure to the Nanocreatures. It was a decision that cost billions of lives, but the Citans hoped that they could save many more by sacrificing the system.

On the same day that Metorilis was abandoned, the Nimalians finally entered the war directly. Under Commander Nikéyin’s orders, six full fleets — each a thousand ships strong — were dispatched to assist the Siions, with two of the fleets stopping to garrison the Siion Transpace World of Egdonikon while the remaining four moved on to help the Siions defend Siionleh. Additionally, the Earthian Battlecruiser Genesis arrived at the Nimalian Homeworld, fully repaired and with several prototype Subspace Drives in tow. The Genesis was the sole non-Drakkar ship that could match the speed of the Nanocreatures, and it was quickly put to task assisting the CSA while the Nimalians researched the Subspace Drives and began attempting to mass-produce their own. And then…

4 days ago, the entire galaxy received a burst transmission from none other than Prosusicivious, the leader of the Prolatio Drakkars.

The Prolatio faction held the smallest territory in Drakkar space and were the least well-known of the six factions due to how rarely they ventured outside of their own borders. Whereas Exdominor and Surdeus appeared often enough to become immortalized in legends and stories across the galaxy, Prosusicivious was a virtually unknown name to the galactic public. So when he suddenly appeared on transmission channels the galaxy over, everyone was caught by surprise — and even more so by what he had to say:

((If you wish to defeat the Nanocreatures, you need only defeat their leader, Morcii. If you are able to take him down, then the rest shall follow.))

The fact that a Drakkar was offering advice failed to baffle no one and quickly gave rise to rumors regarding the nature of the Nanocreatures and how the Drakkars were faring. It was certainly true that the Drakkars had quickly abandoned their attacks on Siion space soon after the Nanocreatures appeared, so there was little doubt that the Nanocreatures were attacking the Drakkars and forcing their attention away from the CSA. Under that light, many found it unsurprising that a Drakkar would offer advice on how to defeat the Nanocreatures, as their downfall would be beneficial to the entire galaxy. Yet many more were confused by the utter lack of malice or condescension in Prosusicivious’s words, a stark contrast from every line of communication with the Drakkars that anyone ever knew; and even more, how could he know that stopping Morcii would stop the Nanocreatures as a whole? How could that even be true? The Drakkar’s advice spawned hope where there was none previously, but the doubt that he was wrong still lingered even in the minds of the most optimistic. Then…

3 days ago, the Siion Transpace World of Lehmekarid fell under attack.

1 day ago, the Dra’kis Transpace World of Dramantis fell under attack.

The CSA was spread thin. They had already lost two worlds and a further four, spread over tens of thousands of light years, were under heavy attack. The Nanocreatures had yet to attack any non-Transpace Worlds, but instead of relieving the CSA, this fact stressed them even more — the Nanocreatures were clearly aiming to capture every Transpace, which would force the CSA to spend months traveling distances that could have otherwise been crossed in a few days. If the CSA lost control of their Transpaces, then their ability to defend their territory would be severely hampered, allowing the Nanocreatures to run amok at their own desire. And while the Nanocreature strategy allowed the CSA to focus their entire might on defending the Transpace Worlds, it still wasn’t enough. The loss of the Transpaces was a fate that no one could allow… yet, it was a fate that appeared to be inevitable.

The Nanocreatures were nigh unstoppable, having already destroyed thousands upon thousands of ships, assimilated many more, and taken countless lives in the process. The longer and harder the CSA resisted, the stronger the Nanocreatures grew, and on top of that — whenever Morcii appeared on a battlefield, all of his opponents were doomed to death or corruption. After only twenty days and countless battle encounters, only six Chaotics remained who had entered battle with Morcii and survived to tell the tale… but even they were doubtful that they could last through a second encounter.

The only hope of defeating the Nanocreatures lay with defeating Morcii. Yet, no one alive could possibly match his absolute power. With each passing day, the galaxy’s fate grew darker, and there was little to suggest even the existence of a light at the end of the tunnel.


“I SEE YOU HAVE RE-ENABLED AUDIO COMMUNICATION.”

“Yep,” Kevérin replied, glancing back at Kievkenalis before taking a seat in front of the computer that was hooked up to Arcán’s core. “Talking like this, instead of typing, will be much easier when there’s more than two people trying to converse.”

“MORE THAN TWO?”

“I’m here, as well,” Kievkenalis spoke up. “I’m Captain Kievkenalis Yumach, of the RPF. Well… formerly of the RPF.”

“YES, I HAVE BEEN INFORMED OF RECENT EVENTS, INCLUDING THE OFFICIAL FORMATION OF THE NIMALIAN SYSTEMS DEFENSE,” Arcán responded curtly. “I DO STILL HAVE SOME RECORDS ON THE RPF THAT I SAVED DURING MY TIME IN THE HANDS OF THE SFC. IS THERE SOMETHING YOU WISH TO SPEAK TO ME ABOUT IN THAT REGARD?”

Kevérin nodded. “Not relating to the RPF, but we have some more questions for you, yes. First off, and I know I’ve asked before, but I wanted to know if you know of any way to stop the Nanocreatures. Anything would help.”

“I HAVE NOTHING MORE TO ADD, ASIDE FROM AFFIRMING PROSUSICIVIOUS’S CLAIM. MORCII AND THE AYAS HE CONTROLS ARE IMPERATIVE TO THE OPERATIONAL ABILITIES OF THE NANOCREATURES AS A WHOLE. EACH AYAS MORCII HOLDS ALLOWS HIM TO CONTROL EXPONENTIALLY MORE NANOCREATURES, AND MORCII’S VERY EXISTENCE AS THE HEAD OF THE NANOCREATURES ALLOWS THEM TO COORDINATE IN A HIGHLY EFFECTIVE MANNER.”

“Wait, so you’re saying that the Nanocreatures aren’t even close to their full potential?!” Kievkenalis exclaimed.

“THAT IS CORRECT. IF MORCII WERE TO GET HIS HANDS ON THE AYAS YOU CURRENTLY POSSESS, HE WOULD BECOME COMPLETELY UNSTOPPABLE. THE DRAKKARS AND ALDREDAS WERE ONLY ABLE TO STAND UP TO THE NANOCREATURES BECAUSE THEY WERE ABLE TO HOLD ON TO SOME OF THE AYAS; ONLY THE MORIKAI ARE EVEN REMOTELY CAPABLE OF OPPOSING THE NANOCREATURES WITH ALL THE AYAS, BUT AS YOU KNOW, MORCII WORKS FOR THE MORIKAI THEMSELVES.”

“That makes using the Ayas against Morcii sound even more dangerous,” Kevérin muttered, “if we were to lose them…”

“IT IS TRUE THAT USING THE AYAS COMES WITH DANGER, BUT IT IS ALSO TRUE THAT THE ONLY WAY TO DEFEAT MORCII IS TO USE THE AYAS AGAINST HIM. THE ONLY OBJECTS IN THIS GALAXY CAPABLE OF OPPOSING THE POWER OF A CHAOS AYAS ARE THE OTHER CHAOS AYAS. THEREFORE, THE CHAOS STATE IS AN ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY COUNTERMEASURE TO MORCII.”

“Which brings us to the other thing we wanted to talk about,” Kievkenalis cut in, “the Chaos State. What can you tell us about it?”

“…YOU ALDREDANOIDS ARE INDEED AN ODD GROUP. WHAT MAKES YOU THINK THAT ASKING THE SAME QUESTION OVER AND OVER WILL YIELD DIFFERENT ANSWERS? I BELIEVE I HAVE ALREADY SPOKEN AT LENGTH ABOUT THE CHAOS STATE.”

“That’s not entirely true,” Kevérin refuted. “When I asked you about the Chaos State, you told me how to activate it, and then deferred to Mystryth on everything else. It’s possible that Mystryth didn’t actually tell us everything you think she told us, so I want to know what you know.”

“PERCEPTIVE. VERY WELL, I WILL INDULGE YOU. YOU ALREADY KNOW HOW TO ACTIVATE AND, SUBSEQUENTLY, DEACTIVATE THE STATE, YES?”

“’Chaos State: Ordinal Tier,’ and ‘Chaos State: Disengage,’ yeah.” Kevérin nodded. “You told me that much.”

“CORRECT. OF ADDITIONAL RELEVANCE TO THE ACTIVATION OF THE STATE IS THE PROXIMITY OF THE AYAS YOU ARE USING. NO MATTER THE TIER, ALL OF THE AYAS YOU ARE USING MUST BE WITHIN TEN METERS OF YOUR CENTER OF GRAVITY.”

“Ten meters, huh?…” Kievkenalis mused, thinking back to when Kevérin activated the Chaos State on Earth. “…That was pretty close, then. The Ayas the Earthians had was almost ten meters away from us.”

“I guess we got lucky in that regard,” Kevérin replied before turning back to Arcán’s console. “I also noticed that the Ayas Weapon got a massive power boost, more so than I did. Is that actually the case, or was I just not using my own full potential?”

“WHICH AYAS WERE YOU USING?”

“Mystryth,” Kievkenalis answered after Kevérin threw him a confused glance.

“AH. YES, THE AYAS WEAPONS DO RECEIVE A SIGNIFICANT POWER BOOST IN THE CHAOS STATE — THE RANGED WEAPONS MORE SO THAN THE REST.”

“What are the Ayas Weapons?” Kievkenalis questioned, “I remember that Hastryth was a chain weapon, and that Mystryth is a bow. What’s the rest?”

“SYN IS A SCYTHE; ARCÁN, A CLAYMORE; TANIVAS, A STAFF; MATLÉS, A PAIR OF GAUNTLETS; SENDOUS, A PAIR OF CHAKRAMS; ALDRACE, A GLAIVE; AND TSERN, A SPEAR.”

Kevérin snorted in derision. “Sounds like a medieval gallery. What’s the actual benefit of using the Ayas Weapons if they’re all just melee?”

“EACH WEAPON IS CONSTRUCTED ON THE SPOT FROM CHAOS ENERGY ITSELF EACH TIME THEY ARE USED, HENCE THE SEEMING ABILITY TO SUMMON AND DISMISS THEM AT WILL. THIS ALSO MAKES THEM COMPLETELY UNBREAKABLE AND, FURTHERMORE, THEY WILL NEVER DULL. THERE IS ALSO THE SUBSPATIAL STORAGE ABILITY, WHICH I HAVE MENTIONED TO YOU BEFORE.”

“Can multiple weapons be used at the same time?”

“IF YOU POSSESS THE SKILL TO DUAL-WIELD, THEN YES. YOU WILL, OF COURSE, NEED BOTH AYAS ON YOUR PERSON. HOWEVER, USING MULTIPLE AYAS WEAPONS AT ONCE IS ONLY TRULY A BOON WHILE INHABITING THE CHAOS STATE. HIGHER TIERS BESTOW THE SKILL AND ABILITY TO NIGH-EFFORTLESSLY WIELD MULTIPLE AYAS WEAPONS AT ONCE.”

“Will the weapons even be useful at the higher tiers?” Kievkenalis questioned with a doubtful frown. “If the higher tiers are powerful enough, then it seems like they’d just render the weapons obsolete.”

“WHILE IT IS TRUE THAT THE FINAL TIER POSSESSES ENOUGH POWER TO POTENTIALLY DESTROY THE GALAXY ITSELF, THERE IS ALWAYS—”

“Whoa whoa whoa, wait, hold on a minute,” Kevérin interrupted, furrowing his brow before staring at Arcán’s console incredulously. “I almost thought that you said that the Final Tier Chaos State could destroy the whole fucking galaxy.”

“I DID INDEED SAY THAT.”

“…What?!”

“YES. FURTHERMORE, THE EIGHTH TIER IS CAPABLE OF DESTROYING SOLAR SYSTEMS, AND THE FOURTH TIER POSSESSES ENOUGH POWER TO DESTROY PLANETS. ACCORDINGLY, THE THIRD TIER AND ABOVE GRANT THE ABILITY OF UNAIDED FLIGHT, AND THE FIFTH TIER AND ABOVE GRANT THE ABILITY OF UNAIDED VACUUM SURVIVAL. SUCH IS THE POWER OF THE AYAS AND THE CHAOS STATE.”

“…We have four Ayas…” Kievkenalis muttered in awe, “…we have more than four Ayas!”

“YES, BUT KEEP IN MIND THAT EACH AYAS CAN ONLY BE USED BY A SINGLE INDIVIDUAL. IF ONE CHAOTIC USES ALL OF THE AYAS TO ENGAGE THE FINAL TIER, THEN NO OTHER CHAOTIC CAN USE THE CHAOS STATE. IT IS OFTEN MORE USEFUL TO HAVE SEVERAL CHAOTICS IN LOWER TIER CHAOS STATES THAN A SINGLE CHAOTIC IN A HIGHER TIER.”

“But still… shit,” Kevérin responded incredulously, “when Mystryth said that the Chaos State could destroy planets or solar systems, I didn’t… I never thought that we’d actually have that potential. I could just get the Ayas locations from the Commander right now and go on a planet destruction spree within the next week, do you understand how terrifying that is?!”

“Doesn’t Morcii have four Ayas?” Kievkenalis questioned, a frown rapidly forming on his features. “Doesn’t that mean…?”

“FORTUNATELY, MORCII CANNOT ACTIVATE THE CHAOS STATE. HIS… VERY NATURE PREVENTS HIM FROM ACCESSING IT, SO HE DOES NOT YET POSSESS PLANET-DESTROYING POWER — NOT ON HIS OWN. AND EVEN IF HE COULD, PURE DESTRUCTION IS NOT IN HIS NATURE. MORCII WOULD MUCH RATHER CAPTURE AND CORRUPT A PLANET AND ITS POPULACE THAN OUTRIGHT DESTROY IT.”

“Our course of action sounds rather simple then, doesn’t it?” Kevérin crossed his arms. “We use the Fourth Tier Chaos State and whoop Morcii’s ass.”

“I don’t think it’s that simple,” Kievkenalis refuted, “I trust Arcán, but we have no proof that what he’s saying is true. I doubt we’ll be able to convince Nikéyin or any of the other top brass to give us access to all the Ayas and then wave them under Morcii’s nose. It’s too risky.”

“On the other hand, it’s the only way to stop him…”

“DO NOT GET CARRIED AWAY, ALDREDANOIDS. DO NOT FORGET ABOUT THE AYAS SCATTERING FACTOR OF THE CHAOS STATE — UPON DISENGAGING IT, THE AYAS WILL SCATTER ACROSS SOME DISTANCE RELATIVE TO THE NUMBER OF AYAS USED IN THE STATE, FORCING YOU TO SEARCH FOR AND COLLECT THEM AGAIN. ENGAGING THE CHAOS STATE CAN BE A USEFUL TOOL TO KEEP THE AYAS OUT OF MORCII’S POSSESSION, AS IT ABSORBS THE AYAS INTO YOUR PERSON. BUT IF MORCII MANAGES TO ESCAPE YOUR GRASP ONCE YOU HAVE ENGAGED THE STATE, THEN THERE IS CERTAINLY THE RISK OF HIM BEATING YOU TO THE AYAS ONCE YOU DISENGAGE AND THEY SCATTER. AND SIMPLY REMAINING IN THE CHAOS STATE INDEFINITELY IS NOT POSSIBLE EITHER, AS EVENTUALLY THE STRESS PLACED ON YOUR BODY WILL KILL YOU. WHILE THE CHAOS STATE IS THE ONLY WAY TO DEFEAT MORCII FOR CERTAIN, DO NOT USE IT UNLESS YOU ARE CERTAIN YOU CAN DEFEAT HIM. UNTIL THEN, RESTRICT YOURSELVES TO USING THE FIRST TIER, AS IT IS THE ONLY TIER THAT WILL SIMPLY RETURN THE AYAS TO YOUR POSSESSION UPON DISENGAGING.”

“…Got it.” Kevérin sighed. “…Damn, this’ll take some time to sink in. Who knew we had such a trump card in our back pocket? This is just… too much.”

“This is all information that we could have used weeks ago,” Kievkenalis stated. “Why didn’t you tell us until now?”

“YOU DID NOT ASK.”

“Don’t give us that shit.” Kevérin scowled. “…Damn. Alright, I’m going to report this to Nikéyin. Maybe the research teams can verify some of it with the Ayas and come up with something before the CSA loses another world…” He turned to readdress Arcán. “You said previously that your memory banks were damaged, but you still seem to know a lot…”

“ARE YOU SUGGESTING THAT I HAVE MIS-DIAGNOSED MY OWN PROBLEM? OR ARE YOU DARING TO SUGGEST THAT I AM LYING TO YOU?”

“Well, no, but…”

“I ASSURE YOU, ALDREDANOID, THAT EVERYTHING I HAVE JUST TOLD YOU IS CORRECT INFORMATION. I ALSO ASSURE YOU THAT I HAVE NOT LIED TO YOU.”

“All we have on that is your word.”

“HAS ANYTHING I’VE SAID PREVIOUSLY BEEN PROVED INCORRECT?”

“Most of the things you’ve said haven’t even been proved correct. It goes both ways.”

“I UNDERSTAND YOUR SKEPTICISM, BUT IT IS UNNECESSARY. NEVERTHELESS, I MUST INDULGE YOU… BUT DO NOT TAKE TOO LONG TO MAKE UP YOUR MINDS, ALDREDANOIDS, AS BEFORE LONG IT MAY BECOME TOO LATE TO OPPOSE MORCII.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Kevérin muttered as he stood up and turned toward the room’s exit. “I’ll be back later with whatever we can figure out about the Ayas. Kevken, let’s go.”


“Aw, Vélunis—!”

“What?” The Lieutenant glanced lazily toward Kaoné.

“What do you mean, ‘what?’” the Materiatechnic huffed, turning her attention away from her desk computer to give Vélunis a highly ineffectual glare. “I stepped out of the room for five minutes and you somehow messed with all my stuff!”

“Suuure, just blame me right off the bat,” he drawled. “You really shouldn’t jump to conclusions, you know.”

“Yeah? Well who else would it be?”

Vélunis glanced around the Hero Machina office, which was currently inhabited by Kaoné and Vélunis alone — until the door opened a moment later as Wilkas casually strolled in.

“He wasn’t here before,” Kaoné declared adamantly when Vélunis turned back to her.

“Whoa, you don’t know that,” Wilkas immediately countered, stepping forward to stand next to Vélunis’s makeshift desk. “I was totally here earlier. I was even here before you were here.”

Vélunis smirked. “See Kaoné, you shouldn’t jump to conclusions.”

“Guys…” she groaned warily.

“Don’t blame us, we aren’t the ones who started randomly blaming people for shit.”

“But I’m not… hey, I’m trying to be serious here!”

“Well maybe you should try harder,” Wilkas replied nonchalantly.

“Aw…” Kaoné scowled, though her attempt to do so conveyed very little in the way of intimidation or irritation. “Seriously guys, we’re at work.”

“Oh, c’mon.” Vélunis rolled his eyes. “Name one time I messed with anything actually important.”

“What—! …Well, I mean, you’ve only been here for a week, so that argument doesn’t really mean anything.”

“Wow, did you hear that?” Wilkas glanced toward Vélunis as he moved over to his own desk. “She thinks we’re criminals!”

“Wow Kaoné, why are you so prejudiced?” Vélunis smirked in self-amusement. “Is it ‘cause we’re from lower tier worlds? Huh?”

“That’s not—! Argh,” Kaoné responded impatiently. “…How can the two of you be like this when the whole galaxy’s at war?”

“Meh, the galaxy’s the galaxy, and here is here.” Wilkas shrugged. “Why bother thinkin’ about it? It’s not like there’s anything we can do.”

“I guess…”

“Everyone here needs to lighten up,” Vélunis declared, “nothing’ll get done if everyone’s just depressed all the time. Hell, Davídrius was walkin’ around earlier looking all doom ‘n gloom and I swear he just about made the walls themselves start crying. Damn.”

“He’s not completely unjustified, he did just lose his home…”

“Sure, but the last thing we need around here is a depressed Velocitechnic with a hair-trigger temper. Dude needs to chill.”

“That’s easy to say…” Kaoné replied with an uneasy frown.

“Well of course it’s easy to say.” Vélunis rolled his eyes again. “Everything’s easy to say.”

“…Is this what everyone from the RPF is like?”

“Wow, did you just stereotype us?” Wilkas glanced toward Kaoné incredulously.

“No, I—! Gah, you guys are so hard to work with!”

“Whoa, Kaoné, slow down!” Vélunis threw up his hands defensively. “We’ve only known each other for a week, I don’t think we’re ready for that kind of a relationship yet.”

“What…?” The Materiatechnic stared at him blankly for several seconds before realizing the joke. She then pulled a face as she turned her attention back to her computer. “Haha, very funny.”

“Oh shit, Wilkas, she knows sarcasm!”

“Oh dude, that’s great, I heard it’s one of the highest forms of humor or something.”

Kaoné sighed warily as she shook her head, choosing to ignore Vélunis and Wilkas’s never-ending teasing as she got back to work.


“Davídrius? What are you doing here?”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” the Velocitechnic drawled, crossing his arms as he casually stepped up to the hospital bed. “I didn’t know I was interruptin’ anythin’. I can leave if you want.”

“No, no, it’s fine.” Christeané smirked weakly, craning his head slightly in an attempt to better meet Davídrius’s gaze. “I just wasn’t expecting to see you. None of the nurses told me anyone was coming.”

“Not surprised. Didn’t exactly call ahead.”

“Oh, please.” Christeané snorted, and then winced as he attempted to adjust his body brace. “We’re across the ocean from Nimaliaka. Don’t tell me you decided to run thousands of kilometers over the water on a whim or something.”

Davídrius responded with a blank stare.

“…Really? You could’ve taken a transport and been here just as fast, but you decided to run across the ocean?”

“Ocean runnin’ is actually pretty calmin’, I’ll have you know.”

“Tch. I’ll take your word for it. I bet it’s not as calming as laying on a hospital bed for weeks on end, though,” Christeané joked bitterly.

Weeks?” Davídrius echoed incredulously. “Your operations finished a week ago. You’ve only been here for one week.”

“And I will be here for several more.” Christeané scowled as he allowed his head to fall back onto his pillow. “Do you know how restrictive this brace is? I haven’t moved at all since the operations.”

“Sounds utterly terrible.”

“Don’t patronize me. Why don’t you try to take a piss when you can’t even move your body.”

Davídrius grimaced. “…I did not need that image in my head.”

“Well it’s what you get for being inconsiderate.”

“Tch,” the Velocitechnic snorted. He then glanced down at Christeané’s body brace, which held his arms fixed by his sides. “…So, uh… how did the operation go?”

“I’m still alive, in case you couldn’t tell.” Christeané smirked bitterly. “…Barely feels like that, though. I’ve been hopped up on pain meds ever since I got out, it’s what almost makes not being able to move bearable since half the time I’m too delirious to notice. Doc says my body will have adjusted to the skeletal implants by the end of next week, and a week after that it’ll be safe to start physical therapy…”

“Shit… well, ‘least it sounds like you’ll be back to normal after that, right?”

“For normal-person normal, sure. But not Chaotic normal. I mean — I’m far from the first person to have a majority-skeletal replacement, and I’m definitely not the first Chaotic to get it, but I am the first Introtechnic. Well, one of the first.”

“Oh…”

“Yeah. No one knows what the skeletal replacement will do to my ability to withstand force, because no one even knows exactly what gives a Chaotic their abilities in the first place, you know? So I might not even be able to go back to Hero Machina, or even the NSD…”

Davídrius pursed his lips before sighing wearily and crossing his arms. “Well, don’t worry. I’ll be sure to knock Morcii around for ya.”

“Can you really say that after what happened on Maasen?” Christeané raised a weary eyebrow. “I mean, just fucking look at me. What if this happens to you?”

“…”

“…That said, I’ve got a bone to pick with you. …Pun unintended.”

“Some dark humor, right there.”

“Shush. Anyways, I at least convinced one of the nurses to get me the mission reports for the two weeks I’ve been out — you know, to pass the time — and one of them wasn’t very encouraging.” He furrowed his brow before continuing, “so… Siyuakén’s dead?”

Davídrius winced visibly and immediately looked away. “…Yeah.”

“And you killed her?”

“Look, it was either that or lose her to Morcii, alright? Don’t get on my ass about this.”

“No, I’m not… I’m not saying that you’re wrong. I probably would have done the same thing. I just wanted to know why you did it.”

Why?” Davídrius bristled. “What, do you want a reason to interrogate me, too? Is ‘I didn’t wanna lose her to Morcii’ not reason enough?”

“What? No, I never said that. Why would you think that?”

“…”

“Davídrius…?”

“I had to, okay? I ain’t gonna let another one of my friends lose her mind and be forced to kill her own friends. I ain’t gonna fight one of my friends again. I don’t care what you or Rebehka or anyone says, I’m not doin’ that shit again.”

“Why are you getting so defensive all of a sudden? I never said I’d disagree, or even blame you.”

“You say that. It’s easy to say anythin’. It’s easy to do anythin’, too. Thinkin about it, though…”

Christeané narrowed his eyes. “Are you trying to say you’re having second thoughts about this?”

Davídrius sighed wearily as he glanced around the small room in search of a chair. Upon finding one, he stepped over to it and took a seat, his gaze pointedly focused away from Christeané the whole time. “…Maybe. I don’t know. I guess, less second thoughts, and more… I dunno. Regret, maybe.”

“You regret killing Siyuakén?”

“No, not— …I don’t know. I regret not bein’ able to do anythin’ about it. I coulda stopped it. It was on Sunova, you know, I think, and if I had just been payin’ attention— argh, damn it. First Selind, now you. Why’s everyone gotta get all up in my shit?”

Christeané frowned. “Because this doesn’t affect just you. Siyuakén was my friend too, you know, and the last thing I want to hear is that she died for nothing.”

“She didn’t—”

“I’m not saying that I disagree with what you did, I’m saying I have an issue with your response to it. How do you think Siyuakén would feel if she knew that you were getting all wishy-washy and hung-up over what you could have done to keep her alive?”

“…Huh?”

“You’re trivializing her death. It happened, now deal with it. Do you know how disrespectful you’re being? You of all people should know that, because you’re the one who fucking offed her. It may have been the only course of action, but doubting it now makes you little better than a murderer who kills for no reason.”

“What the hell—? You think I don’t know that? What the fuck gives you the right to say that anyway?”

“Because I’m your friend, too, and that gives me the right to call you out on your bullshit.”

“…”

“Look, do you really think Siyuakén would want to see you drowning in regret instead of tearing Morcii a new asshole in her name?”

“…No…”

“Exactly. Keep doing what you’re doing and you’re just insulting her memory and her wishes. Not to mention insulting Rebehka and her attempt to save Siyuakén, since you’re the one who told her to stop trying.”

Davídrius stared at Christeané for several moments, lips pursed, before he smirked bitterly and looked away. “Guess you’re right…” He sighed wearily. “…Shit, feelings are hard.”

“Welcome to life in the adult world,” Christeané quipped.

“Says the guy who needs a nurse’s help every time he needs to take a piss.”

“…Come two months from now, I’m going to kick your ass, got it?”

“I don’t know, might look bad if I beat up a cripple.”

“Ha!” Christeané snorted, and then returned to a neutral expression. “But really, Davídrius. I meant everything I said. Don’t forget it.”

“Yeah, yeah…” The Velocitechnic waved him off. “I know, I know. …Hope you aren’t expectin’ me to thank you, though.”

“If you thanked me then I’d really know that something’s up,” Christeané responded cheekily.

“Tch. Everyone always assumes I’m an ungrateful bastard.”

“It’s because you are an ungrateful bastard. But don’t change, it’s what we all love you for.”

“Keh—! ‘Course you’d say that. Have fun on the hospital bed while I rack up all the glory from beatin’ Morcii.”

“I’ll be sure to save a seat for when you come back in worse condition than I did.”

“Fuck you,” Davídrius responded with a smirk. He then got back to his feet and approached the room’s exit. “Anyways, I’ve spent enough time here. Should probably get back to Nimaliaka before the Commander or Kevérin throws a fit.”

“Sure thing,” Christeané replied. “Thanks for dropping by. And do us all a favor and actually figure out a way to stop Morcii, alright?”

“Aye, definitely.” Davídrius raised his right hand in a casual wave as he left the room. “We’re on it.”


“Come in!”

Nikéyin glanced away from her computer screen for just a moment as Archoné Culana stepped into her office. She quickly returned her attention to the screen and finished what she was typing as Culana silently took a seat across the desk from her.

“…Sorry, I’ve been very busy lately,” the NSD Commander apologized a moment later as she fully turned away from the computer and addressed the Archoné directly. “It’s nice to see you again, but I have to say, if I didn’t know any better I’d think you were our own Archoné due to how often I’ve seen you here in Nimaliaka.”

“I don’t think Sonwé would be very pleased to hear that,” Culana chuckled.

“He also doesn’t request an audience with me nearly as often as you do,” Nikéyin replied. “You are aware that long-distance communication technology exists, right?”

“Yes, but nothing can replicate the personal feeling of meeting in, well, person,” the Archoné countered. “Call me old-fashioned, but I would much rather speak with someone face-to-face than through a screen or an AR interface.”

“I’m surprised you have the time for all the travel that would entail.”

“I’m only the head of a single nation, Commander. You’re the one in charge of the military across the entire Nimalian Territories, and in wartime, no less. It’s no wonder you would be busy. Speaking of, how are you acclimating to the NSD?”

“I’ve had no time to acclimate at all — the Nanocreatures forced me to dive in head-long. Fortunately, Rantéin and Acknos are being extraordinarily helpful when it comes to organizing the fleets… but I doubt that’s what you’ve come here to talk about, is it?”

“Straight to business, I see.”

“I’d love to chat, Culana, really. But I don’t have that sort of time.”

“Fair enough.” The Archoné shifted in his chair to a more comfortable position before continuing, “I’m here to discuss the Quakeborn and the Chaos Ayas.”

“I’m not surprised.”

“In your possession are currently five of the Ayas, one of which is the Master Ayas itself, yes?” Culana held up his hand and began counting off on his fingers. “Syn, Aldrace, Matlés, Tanivas, and Mystryth. That leaves the Nanocreatures with Arcán, Hastryth, Sendous, and Tsern.”

“I’m sorry?”

“Each of the Ayas possess a name, Commander, and you would do well to remember them. The Ayas are more than simple generators of Chaos Energy.”

“Then what are they?”

“They are the keys to defeating Morcii and the Nanocreatures.”

Nikéyin sighed and leaned back in her chair, already exasperated at the Archoné’s speech. “I already know that the Ayas can be useful in that regard, Culana. You didn’t have to come all the way out here to tell me that.”

He shook his head.  “No, it is because you think that that I had to. You understand that the Ayas have value, but you gravely underestimate that value. To you, they are little more than tools, reserve batteries to attach to weapons and machinery in an attempt to overpower the Nanocreatures, but that is not what they are. The Ayas themselves are tied directly to Morcii, and only the Ayas themselves can stop him.”

“…Mmhmm,” Nikéyin deadpanned, “is this all in the Oraculm?”

“I would not be so sure of it if it wasn’t.”

“So you’re telling me to put the Ayas on the front lines against the greatest threat this galaxy has ever known… because a book said so?”

“The Oraculm is more than a book, Commander—”

“No, that’s exactly what it is, Culana. It’s a book. It’s a lucky book, alright, and I’ll even agree that it can seem prophetic at times, but in the end it’s just a book. Can it account for the tens of millions of lives that are lost each day against the Nanocreatures? Can it account for the fall of two Transpace Worlds? Can it account for the ever-growing fleet of Nanocreature ships that continues to attack and endanger the entire galaxy?”

“It can.”

“Culana—”

“Listen to me, Commander! I understand your reluctance to field the Ayas. I understand that you fear losing them to Morcii and allowing him to grow even more powerful. But without them, we stand no chance of victory! You read the Quakeborns’ report from their time on Earth, correct? Do you not realize the power of the Chaos State?”

“Tyrion’s feat was indeed impressive, yes, but the Nanocreatures are incomparable to a single ICBM! You read the report from Maasen, didn’t you? Then you know what Morcii can do on his own, without even trying. Hero Machina are, quite literally, the only individuals in the entire galaxy to have come face-to-face with Morcii and survive the encounter, and that’s only because of the Earthians’ beaming tech. The ‘Chaos State’ is not enough to beat the Nanocreatures.”

“And that’s where you’re wrong, Commander.” Culana shook his head again. “The Quakeborn did not survive only because of the beaming technology. They survived because they are the Quakeborn of Nimalia, and it is their fate to survive. This much, I know for certain.”

“How? How can you possibly believe that?”

“Because I have faith in the Oraculm, Commander. It has yet to fail me, and I do not doubt its words. I did not take an interest in the Quakeborn for no reason and, furthermore, it is no coincidence that they were the ones to recover every Ayas that you now possess. If you help them, they can retrieve the rest of the Ayas and stop Morcii. But if you hold them back — if you refuse to allow them to use the Ayas to their full potential — then you will doom yourself and the rest of the galaxy to a slow, hopeless death, incapable of fighting back against a force which itself has already fully grasped and embraced the power of Chaos Energy.”

Nikéyin stared at Culana silently for several moments before finally replying, “do you have anything to back up what you’re saying, besides the Oraculm?”

“I have no need. The Oraculm is more than enough.”

“No, Culana… it’s not.” The Commander sighed irately. “I can’t entrust the galaxy’s fate to claims that have no evidence to back them. We’re talking about billions, no, trillions of lives, here, all depending on me and the CSA and the Black Suns to make the right calls. Dangling the Ayas in front of the Nanocreatures like you’re suggesting is too dangerous. It’s too risky.”

“…Answer me this, Commander.” Culana leaned forward, his eyes focused directly on Nikéyin. “…Do you foresee a future on your current path? Can you possibly continue as you are and still beat back the Nanocreatures?”

“We have to,” Nikéyin declared. “I’ve had research teams working diligently on the Ayas for the past two weeks, and construction of Subspace Drives based on the Earthian prototypes began days ago. Between those and finding a way to reverse engineer the Earthians’ beaming tech, we can find a way to beat the Nanocreatures. It’ll be hard, and it’ll take time, but it’s the only sure-fire way to see the end of this.”

“That’s not entirely correct,” Culana refuted, “we will all see the end of this, one way or another. Whether or not it’s a good end is the question.” The Archoné slowly stood up and stretched as Nikéyin eyed him warily. “…Very well, Commander,” he eventually commented, “I’ve said what I have to say. It’s clear that you are convinced of your own path, and I cannot blame you for it. However, do not say I didn’t warn you. If you do not take proper advantage of the Ayas soon, then you will lose the ability to take advantage of them at all.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Nikéyin replied flatly, watching as the Archoné made his way toward the office door. “…I’m sorry that we can’t see eye-to-eye.”

“As am I,” Culana replied, opening the door and then suddenly stopping in his tracks to avoid running into Kevérin.

“Oh! Uh, sorry.” The Pyrotechnic quickly stepped away from the door, just as surprised to see Culana as the Archoné was to see him.

“Transfer Captain?” Nikéyin called, prompting Kevérin to turn toward the Commander. “What are you doing here?”

“We just got a message from the CSA,” he reported, “…they’re officially regrouping at and reinforcing the Oriciid’kas system, and they want our help.”

“…That’s to be expected,” the Commander responded as she eyed Kevérin wearily. “…Did they say anything else?”

“No, that’s not quite what I meant.” The Transfer Captain shook his head. “I don’t mean they want the NSD’s help — I mean, they do, but they also want our help. They asked for Hero Machina… explicitly.”

Chapter 58 – The Power of Chaos

Firdia, Skydiath 8, 8034 –

(Monday, February 10, 2110)

“Sir! Blocks 7A and 7B have been compromised! On-board security has been overridden, as well!”

“Those motherfuckers…” Krick tightly gripped the armrest of his chair as he glared up at the information on the hologram display. “I expected them to try something, but this—!”

“Suppression teams Bravo and Delta are trying to cut off the intruders, but the bulkheads won’t respond to their override codes!”

“Lockdown the beaming and weapons systems!” Krick ordered, “set the ship on a stable MEO autopilot path and then lockdown the propulsion systems as well!” He then clenched his teeth as he muttered to himself, “they somehow brought that anti-beaming tech with them… and they have override codes, too… how the hell did they get those?”

“Block 7C has been compromised!”

“They’re going for the secondary bridge! Get team Charlie over there ASAP! Under no circumstances can they be allowed control of the secondary bridge! …How the fuck did they get layout maps? Do we have a mole…? Damn it!” the Captain muttered under his breath, “Zhou had to have planned this from the start. He never wanted to keep his anti-orbital platforms, they were just a means to distract us and allow a team on the ship. Was he gunning for the Genesis this whole time?…” He scowled again before raising his voice to address the rest of the bridge. “Send a burst transmission to SERRCom HQ informing them of our situation and then shut down all non-mission critical comm transmitters! We won’t let those bastards take control of our ship! We need to put them in their place and show them that they have no business messing with SERRCom!”

Krick leaned forward warily as the rest of the bridge let out a short cheer in agreement. “Nimalians…” he muttered, “I hope you didn’t fall victim to this damned trap, too…”


“There it is!”

“The White Ayas…” Kievkenalis stepped forward, staring through a large window of protective glass into a massive chamber. Inside the chamber were a number of machines and rods, and sitting in the middle of it all was none other than the Chaos Ayas. “…Mystryth.”

“Wait, you actually remember its name?” Wilkas glanced at the Chaostechnic in surprise.

“You don’t?” Kievkenalis returned the glance.

“It’s not exactly relevant to our everyday lives,” Vélunis pointed out, “hell, I never expected to actually see one of them. Memorizing their names was just another useless piece of trivia.”

Kievkenalis grunted in response as he turned his attention back to the Ayas. The chamber behind the glass looked much like a repurposed reactor chamber, complete with blast shields and a deep cavity in the middle of the room filled with water. He casually reached forward to place his hands on the glass but withdrew them immediately in alarm. “It’s warm?”

Wilkas frowned. “That’s weird. Why’s it warm? What’s goin’ on in the chamber? If they’re just using the Ayas as a power source, then there shouldn’t be this much heat.”

“…You can’t be serious!” Kievkenalis scowled after taking several more moments to inspect the chamber. “This chamber isn’t just a repurposed reactor — it is a reactor! The Earthians just hooked the Ayas into it!”

Vélunis shook his head in disbelief. “Wow, I knew the Earthians were primitive, but are they actually that stupid?”

“Seems like it…” Kievkenalis began looking all around the chamber, inspecting every rod, wire, and machine from behind the protective glass. “Argh, they’re trying to draw power from the Ayas, but they’re doing it all wrong! There’s no energy regulation, and on top of that, they just chucked it into a reactor! The Earthians clearly have no grasp of the power of Chaos Energy, or how to properly harness it!”

“Well of course you’d say that, you’re a Chaostechnic,” Wilkas replied dismissively.

Kievkenalis glanced toward the Forcetechnic impatiently before returning his attention to the Ayas. “This makes taking the Ayas a little harder…” he muttered.

“I’m more concerned about the lack of resistance, personally,” Vélunis pointed out, “I mean, yeah, we took the elevator shaft all the way down to the bottom floor, but you’d think there’d be more guards protecting the fucking power generator.”

Wilkas shrugged. “Maybe the Earthians really are just that stupid.”

“The whole reason we’re here is to forcefully shut down the anti-orbital platforms because the owners didn’t want to,” Kievkenalis countered, “Vélunis is right. For a place they wanted to protect so badly, there wasn’t much resistance at all.”

“We should probably look around for—?!” Vélunis started, but was interrupted as the facility suddenly shuddered, the unexpected vibrations knocking the three Chaotics to the floor.

“What was that?” Wilkas questioned warily after climbing back to his feet.

Kievkenalis quickly checked the Ayas chamber again and sighed of relief when he saw no signs of damage. He then turned back to Vélunis and Wilkas. “I don’t know, but whatever it is can’t have been good. We need to get the Ayas and then get out of here, quickly.”

“That’s easy to say,” the Forcetechnic retorted as he glanced around the room. “What’re you gonna do, charge in to all that radiation, just to grab the Ayas? It’s not like you can just shut down a reactor by pressing a button, you know.”

Kievkenalis was about to respond when the ceiling directly above him collapsed. Vélunis immediately dived for the Chaostechnic, knocking him out of the way in time to avoid being crushed by a mound of collapsing metal and wires.

“You’re here!”

“Kevérin?…” Kievkenalis turned toward the metal mound confusedly just as the Pyrotechnic descended through the hole in the ceiling, using jets of flame underfoot to hold himself in the air before touching down on the ground and carefully laying Kaoné against the wall.

“…What happened?” Vélunis questioned after turning away from the unconscious Materiatechnic.

“This whole thing was a trap,” the Transfer Captain replied with a scowl, “we reached the control room, and I was able to shut down the jamming fields and contact the Earthian Battlecruiser, but something bad is going on up there. And before I could figure out what, one of the anti-orbital guns fired on the control room!” He glanced over at Kaoné warily. “…I barely reacted in time to burn a hole through the floors and all the way down here, but the impact shock still knocked her out.”

“Wait, a trap?” Wilkas responded incredulously, “what makes you say that?”

“The Captain said it himself,” Kevérin replied. “I have a really bad feeling about what’s going on with the Genesis. We need to get the Ayas and get out, now. Did you guys find it?”

Vélunis casually jerked his thumb toward the reactor chamber. “It’s in there.”

“Huh?” The Transfer Captain turned to inspect the chamber, slowly looking it over until his eyes widened in alarm. “This is a reactor?!

“Looks like it,” Kievkenalis affirmed. “It’s running hot, too. The glass is pretty warm.”

“And you guys have just been standing here, staring at it?!” Kevérin exclaimed.

“I thought our armor would provide adequate protection.”

“You mean the armor that you could feel the reactor’s heat through?!

The three Chaotics responded with sheepish silence.

“Our armor will provide some protection, sure, but if we stick around too long then we’ll start feeling the effects of radiation poisoning anyways. We need to get the Ayas and get out,” Kevérin continued as he turned toward the reactor chamber. “…We’ll have to cut down the reactor. Luckily, it’s buried in a mountain, so if anything goes wrong, well. Not a problem.” He glanced back at the other Chaotics. “Grab Kaoné and get back to the surface; I’ll take care of the reactor. If I’m fast, Chaos Armor should be plenty of protection…”

“Stop!”

“Huh?” The Transfer Captain looked back at the room’s entrance, where a group of four Earthians dressed in protective suits had entered and were now baring bladed weapons. The Pyrotechnic then glanced away dismissively as he addressed the rest of Hero Machina. “Disarm them. I’ll figure out the reactor.”

“Uh, slight problem…” Vélunis scowled. “…We can’t.”

“What—?” Kevérin responded impatiently, but stopped himself when he realized he couldn’t generate any flames. “…A CENT field?!” he exclaimed as he whipped around to face the Earthians, “you guys have a CENT field?!”

“I won’t repeat myself!” one of the Earthians repeated as he stepped ahead of the squad. “If you value your lives, then stop what you’re doing and surrender!”


“We’ve recovered all of the blocks on level 7, but the intruders managed to reach the secondary bridge!”

“What happened to Charlie team?” Krick demanded.

“They were… repulsed. Two casualties, but no deaths. The boarding team appears to have some sort of battle armor with them. Witnesses report it looks much like the armor the Nimalians were wearing…”

“…Did Zhou make a deal with the Black Suns?…” the Captain mused, “that might explain where all their tech is coming from. But the Suns are supposed to recognize only SERRCom as Earth’s representative…” He paused for another moment before raising his voice and asking, “have they activated the secondary access systems?”

“Not yet, but they got past the initial security layer immediately. They must’ve had the override codes, somehow. The only thing keeping them from activating the secondary bridge are the activation fail-safes: that this bridge, the primary one, is still intact, and—”

“And that they don’t have my personal codes,” Krick muttered. “…Alright. I hope none of you needed to use the restroom… lockdown the bridge! No one enters or leaves until this situation is resolved!”

“Yes, sir!” the rest of the bridge replied in unison as the bulkheads sealed shut. The Captain leaned forward wearily, crooking his head up to look at the various holographic displays.

“As long as I’m here and this bridge is intact, they won’t be able to seize control of the entire ship,” Krick declared, outlining the situation to his subordinates. “That means they’ll attempt one of two things: they’ll try to fool the ship’s systems into thinking that the primary bridge has been disabled, or they’ll try to brute force each system one at a time. Either will take a while, and if we keep on our toes, then we can keep it from happening at all. Understood? Don’t let your guard down!”

The Captain smiled to himself as the bridge responded again with a unified “Yes, sir!”

“Our priority is removing the intruders from the secondary bridge,” he continued, “tell the suppression teams to back off! Get them to levels 6 or 8, directly above or below the respective entrances in level 7. Vacate all bridge-airlock paths on level 7 and lock the bulkheads. Be ready to vent the halls on my command!”

“…Sir?” one of the officers turned to the Captain in confusion, “the suppression teams report that the intruders were wearing armor, so venting the level may not be enough to take care of them.”

“No, but it will limit their operating time,” Krick replied. “We can’t beam them out because of their anti-sensor tech, and the suppression teams can’t beat them in a straight fight because of their armor. Starving them out is our best bet—”

“Captain! It’s an emergency!”

“What happened?” he immediately snapped his attention to the left as another officer turned to him in a panic.

“The, the intruders have gained access to the missile control systems!”

“What?! Did I not order for the weapons to be locked down the moment they turned hostile?!”

“Yes, sir, and they were, but the intruders still managed to claim access to several of the launch silos! They’re arming missiles as we speak!”

“Well don’t just sit there, take the damned system back! Damn it! Alright, unlock the point defense subsystems and immediately fire on any missiles that leave the silos!”

“Missile launch sequence has been activated for bombardment silos one through five!” another officer shouted from across the bridge.

“Bombardment silos? Are they insane?!” Krick exclaimed, “do they mean to bombard the fucking planet?! Take down those missiles, no matter the cost!”

The Captain clenched his teeth in frustration as another display appeared amongst the already numerous holographic readouts, showing camera feeds of the five activated silos. A minute later, each silo slowly opened, followed by the internal mass drivers activating and launching the missiles out the silos. Immediately, the ship’s point defense systems locked onto the missiles and began firing, taking out two before their thrusters could activate and puncturing the fuel tank of a third just as its rockets ignited, causing an explosion that sent it spiraling out of control and into the fourth missile, destroying both.

“There’s one more!” Krick shouted, standing up without thinking. “Stop it! At all costs!”

The entire bridge remained tensely silent for several more moments before an officer slowly turned back to the Captain.

“…The missile has left fifty percent accuracy range,” he reported quietly, “and has entered the Earth misfire cone.”

“If we try to fire on it anymore we’ll just be hitting Earth ourselves…” Krick muttered, and then scowled. “…Damn it!” He slammed his fist into his chair’s armrest before falling back into the seat. “Contact SERRCom HQ and inform them of the missile. The moment we can figure out its target, transmit that as well. How long do we have until impact?”

Another holographic display appeared, this one charting the location of the Genesis in relation to Earth, as well as the location and velocity of the bombardment missile.

“We’re twenty-five thousand kilometers out, but this is a bombardment missile, so…”

“…We have an hour,” Krick commented grimly. “…We have no more than an hour.”


“Surrender!”

“Alright, come on, let’s think this through,” Kevérin responded warily as he raised his hands and turned to face the Earthians. “You may have a CENT field, somehow, but our armor still works. We’re just here for the Ayas, okay?”

The man in charge furrowed his brow in response as the three behind him glanced between each other uneasily.

“…Sergeant,” the commanding officer muttered, “…go get someone who can understand these…” He looked the Chaotics up and down, his eyes lingering on their armor. “…Aliens.”

“Wait, what?” Kievkenalis responded in confusion, “what’s to understand? We just want that white stone—!”

“No, Kevken, I think they actually, literally, can’t understand us,” Kevérin interrupted. “They must not have audio translation implants. To them, we’re just speaking gibberish.”

“That means they haven’t gone through the IID process.” Vélunis smirked. “Maybe we can scare them off with our dangerous alien diseases!”

“The whole point of us going through IID is so that we won’t have any dangerous alien diseases to spread,” Kevérin deadpanned. “Our armor shielding would prevent that anyway—”

“Silence!” the Earthian CO barked, “I know you aliens have tech that allows you to understand me. So sit there in silence until we can get someone who understands you! Got it?”

“…We can bluff it,” Wilkas remarked casually as he turned back to Kevérin. “He doesn’t have any way of proving we can understand him.”

“That doesn’t change the fact that we’re stuck here anyways,” Kievkenalis pointed out. “We still need to get the Ayas!”

“I would look for the reactor failsafe and activate it and then just snatch the Ayas out of the chamber…” the Transfer Captain grumbled as he glanced back at the Earthians, “…but I’m not sure how they’d react to that.” He sighed. “If only we had a way to draw in the Ayas from a distance.”

“…Hmm…” Kievkenalis looked back to the Ayas in contemplation. “…Huh. That’s a thought. It might actually be close enough to be drawn in by the Chaos State, but, well… hmm. No one knows how to activate it, so I guess that’s pointless to think about.”

“Wait, what—?”

“I said silence!” the Earthian demanded again, this time just as two other soldiers entered the room, both of them with guns. “Understand that your presence here can be interpreted as hostile action! We will not hesitate to shoot!”

“…You’re kidding,” Vélunis deadpanned, “are the idiots really going to open fire right outside of a reactor chamber?”

“Wait, Kevken…” Kevérin quickly turned to the Chaostechnic. “Are you sure we’re close enough to activate the Chaos State?”

“Well, I mean… maybe?” Kievkenalis shrugged. “I know there’s some minimum distance at least, and judging by your voice, we’re probably within that range… but even if we are close enough, does it matter? None of us know how to activate the state. …Wait…” He stared at Kevérin in confusion. “…Do you—?”

“We’ve given you enough warnings!” the Earthian barked, “you have one more chance! Now remain! Silent!

“…If this works,” Kevérin turned back to the rest of Hero Machina, speaking hurriedly as he stepped closer to the reactor. “…It should give us enough distraction to knock out the Earthians!”

“Wait, what are you doing—?” Wilkas started.

“Alright, that’s it!” the CO snapped, “men, open fi—!”

Chaos State: First Tier!

A burst of white light filled the room, blinding every inhabitant as the Ayas sitting within the confines of the reactor chamber spontaneously translated through space, phasing through the chamber until it reached Kevérin and disappeared into his body. He gasped and stumbled backward, but he recovered from his disorientation faster than anyone else could recover from the blinding light and stretched his arm forward. A mere moment later, every one of the Earthians’ weapons burst into flames, prompting the wielders to drop them to the floor, where they turned into molten slag on impact.

“Wha… what the hell?!” the Earthian CO stuttered, stunned by Kevérin’s show of force. “B-but, we had a CENT field!”

Not anymore, the Transfer Captain remarked as he snapped his fingers, prompting an explosion of light from the hallway behind the Earthians.

“K-Kevérin!” Kievkenalis exclaimed, “you—! You know how to activate the Chaos State?!”

Arcán told me how… The Pyrotechnic looked down at his hands, and then rubbed his throat gingerly. His voice itself hadn’t changed, but his past couple statements seemed to literally echo in the air. The effect was so subtle as to be almost imperceptible, but it lent his voice a sort of unnatural presence all the same. It… feels a lot like an Overdrive. Except… a lot more powerful. It’s hard to describe… He glanced back at the rest of Hero Machina. I’m going ahead. I’ll try to contact the Genesis and see what’s going on; the three of you should grab Kaoné and get out of here.

“What do you mean, going ahead—?” Wilkas began to ask, but by the time he finished his question Kevérin had disappeared through the ceiling, generating enough heat to vaporize everything in his path as he rocketed to the surface.

“Figures he’d leave us behind,” Vélunis snorted before turning his attention to the Earthians, who were beginning to flee the room. “…Let’s get out of here. No point in sticking around anymore.”


“The missile just passed the twenty thousand kilometer mark!”

“Do we have a heading yet?” Krick demanded.

“Factoring in current trajectory and remaining alignment correction fuel… the target is likely somewhere in North America.”

“…Would they really target one of their own cities?” the Captain muttered under his breath, “Zhou personally authorized the boarding team, so I know they’re tied to him… …is this what he was playing at all along? He didn’t want the Genesis either, he just wanted to make it look like we fired on Earth?”

“Sir! Level 7 has been completely vacated!”

“Open every bulkhead on the level! Now!” Krick barked, “suck the bastards into space!”

“Opening bulkheads! …Level venting! Oxygen levels at seventy-five percent… fifty… twenty-five… level 7 has reached vacuum status!”

“Ping level 7 for life signs as often as you can! Are the bastards still there?”

“…Only one life sign in the bridge! Only two other signs are accounted for, the remaining three were sucked into space!”

“Ha, perfect!” Krick smirked to himself. “Finally, something goes our way. Seal the bulkheads and shut all of the air vents in level 7! Maintain the vacuum state until all of the life signs have disappeared. With only one of them remaining on the secondary bridge, we can afford to wait them out. One man is nothing against an entire crew.” His smirk quickly disappeared as he turned his attention back to the screen displaying the status of the bombardment missile. “Still, I can’t trust unlocking the beaming systems. Even if it’s only one man, one man in charge of the beaming would be a disaster, which is a damned shame… we could beam the missile away, if only the ship weren’t compromised…”

The nearest bridge officers glanced at the Captain uneasily. “Sir?…”

“…Our shields can sustain a hit from a bombardment missile, right?”

“Um… yes,” one of the officers spoke up uneasily, “the exact depletion amount could vary, but the shields should be able to take it.”

“Then that’s exactly what we’re going to do,” Krick declared. “Unlock the propulsion systems and set an intercept course for that missile! I’ll be damned if we just let it hit Earth without trying to stop it!”

A moment of silence passed as the bridge officers glanced at each other in surprise and confusion; it wasn’t often that a ship would intentionally seek to be hit, much less by a high-tonnage orbital bombardment weapon. But a moment later they turned back toward Krick to offer him a curt salute and a unified response: “Yes, sir!”

Krick smirked in response. “Good! Keep a careful eye on the propulsion systems. There may only be one man left in the secondary bridge, and it may be a vacuum, but we still can’t let our guard down.”

“Sir! Incoming transmission! It’s one of the Nimalians!”

“Put them through!” The Captain leaned forward, watching the various bridge displays until the comm channel opened. “Chief Captain Krick here.”

It’s Transfer Captain Tyrion! We just retrieved the Ayas, but before we did, one of the anti-orbital cannons fired on the control room! What’s the situation up there?!

“This was all a trap,” Krick responded irately, “we were boarded by a hostile team, and they managed to hack into the weapons system long enough to fire a bombardment missile.”

A bombardment missile? As in, orbital bombardment?!

“Yes, but we’re on an intercept course. We were far enough out when the missile launched that we should be able to overtake it and absorb the blast with our own shields.”

Why not just beam it away?

The Captain glanced up at the life signs monitor and scowled when he noted that the single sign in the secondary bridge still remained. They must have atmosphereless armor. Damn! “I locked the beaming systems when we were boarded and we can’t risk unlocking them until all of the intruders are captured or eradicated. That means that we won’t be able to pick up you or your team until this has all blown over, either.”

Understood—

The rest of Kevérin’s statement was lost as the communication line suddenly filled with static, causing Krick to reflexively flinch. “What happened?” he questioned as he turned to the communications officer.

“The line is still intact…” the officer replied, “something must be interfering with it.”

“Interference… are the jamming fields still online?” Krick frowned, but his thoughts were cut short as the static slowly began to fade.

––apta–– ––ou there? Captain––? Can you hear me?

“Yes, I can hear you now,” Krick replied. “What happened? There was some strong interference there for a moment.”

It was a missile launch! A missile just launched from the base! It was huge! Ah— sending footage now!

“What?!” The Captain froze as the missile launch footage appeared amongst the many displays at the front of the bridge. “…An ICBM? They had a fucking ICBM stored there? Complete with a hidden launchpad?!” He immediately turned to the rest of the bridge. “Scan the base location around the Nimalians! Find that missile!”

“…The scanners aren’t finding anything, sir!” one of the officers replied.

What?!

It might be equipped with the jamming field tech! Kevérin exclaimed, that might explain the earlier interference!

“Damn it!” Krick scowled. “We can’t do anything if we can’t see it! …Shit, this was part of Zhou’s plan too, wasn’t it?! This missile is just to guarantee a hit somewhere on the planet. He thinks that he doesn’t even need our bombardment missile to hit anything, he can just use the fact that we launched a missile to blame us for whatever he just fucking launched on his own! There’s no way anyone would believe that, but… to actually try? Shit! Zhou, you insane bastard…!”

The bridge and the comm line fell to wary silence.

…I can stop it.

“You what?” Krick spluttered, surprised by Kevérin’s declaration. “You— …can you really do that?”

I didn’t engage the Chaos State for nothing. I have to try!

“We’re talking about what seems like an ICBM here, likely with a MIRV warhead — that is, it should be capable of hitting multiple targets. Can you really destroy that?”

I have to at least try. You said it yourself, you can’t do anything if you can’t see it— but I can.

“…Ha!” The Captain smirked despite himself. “…Very well. I’m entrusting that missile to you, Nimalian. Don’t let us down!”


The moment the comm channel closed, Kevérin rocketed into the sky, using his flame jets to propel him upwards at speeds unprecedented. But it was too little, too late — the missile had long since accelerated past his top speed and was racing ahead into the stratosphere. The Pyrotechnic attempted to follow, but the thinning atmosphere made it difficult to breath or to reliably continue his flame jets, so he was forced to fall back to lower altitudes.

I guess the legendary feats of unaided flight and vacuum survival don’t apply to the First Tier Chaos State, he muttered, his glasses visually tracking the missile as it shrunk with distance. I can’t attack it from here… so I need to intercept it when it comes back down!

Kevérin immediately took off laterally in the same direction the missile was beginning to curve toward. It soon fell out of visual range, forcing him to use his glasses’ sensors to track it, but when the missile began to level out, he quickly realized that a single major obstacle stood in his way: he was simply too slow.

I can’t even break the sound barrier! He scowled deeply. …There’s no way I can catch up to it. If only I had a weapon! If I could reliably carry people while using my flame jets in a battle scenario I could carry Vélunis up here and have him summon something anti-missile, but— wait! The Ayas weapons! …But aren’t they all melee weapons? …Damn it, it’s all I’ve got! Let’s see what weapon belongs to the White Ayas! The Transfer Captain maintained his aerial speed as he attempted to focus on the Ayas he used to enter the Chaos State and summon its weapon. This can’t be hard; if Davídrius could do it, so can I!

Mere moments later, a light appeared in Kevérin’s hand before transforming into the silhouette of a bow and then solidifying into one. The Pyrotechnic grinned, pleased to find himself with a long-range weapon — and then immediately frowned when he realized that, in the context of archery, ‘long-range’ meant little more than tens or hundreds of meters. And to shoot down that missile He glanced upwards uneasily. …I need kilometers. Hundreds of them… He then looked back at the bow, his frustration with the situation growing. What the hell am I supposed to use for arrows, anyways? Argh— useless weapon! He irately plucked at the bowstring, flinching back as an arrow appeared out of thin air the moment the string was displaced and then launched itself at the terrain below. Kevérin blinked, his expression blank as the arrow streaked through the sky and instantly hit the mountains below, impacting with a flash of light and creating a small crater visible from even several kilometers high.

Holy shit…! The Transfer Captain stared down in awe, almost forgetting to continue fueling his flame jets before correcting his flight path and returning his attention to the situation at hand. So this thing definitely has more range than an actual bow… question is, exactly what is its range… He quickly scanned the horizon before turning his attention back up to the skies. Due to its jamming field, his glasses were barely capable of tracking the missile while it flew through the high atmosphere, but his recent communication with the Genesis allowed his glasses to accurately track the Battlecruiser’s location, even in middle Earth orbit. …Little optimistic for a range test, he muttered, but he nonetheless turned the bow upwards, halting his forward momentum to instead hold himself in one place as he aimed toward the Earthian ship, bowstring stretched back to his ear. As with the earlier misfire, an arrow appeared, stretching and altering its length such that its tip was always notched, and its tail was always against the string. After making note of this fact, Kevérin returned his attention to aiming the arrow — and then fired. The arrow transformed into a streak of light, flying away with such force that the Pyrotechnic was suddenly flung downward and spent the next several seconds re-orienting himself.

“Transfer Captain!”

…You’ve gotta be kidding me, Kevérin muttered before responding to the sudden contact. Captain Krick? Is something wrong?

“Did you see anything fire down there? A gun we somehow can’t spot?”

Why? What did you see?

“…A streak of light, almost like a laser. It almost hit us. I doubt it would have done any damage if it did, but if you have any idea what it was—”

That was me.

“…It what?”

Thanks for telling me. I know exactly what I need to know! The Pyrotechnic grinned. I can take down that missile now!

“What are you—?!”

Kevérin cut the communication short and returned his attention to speeding through the air. Ha! So even if I don’t get super boosts myself, the Chaos State definitely boosts the Ayas Weapons to crazy levels of effectiveness. Hmm, now that I think about it, it must boost my ability to use the weapon as well, since there’s no way in hell I’d normally be able to aim a bow that well. Maybe the Ayas really are the answer to stopping the Nanocreatures… He glanced up again, spotting a small light in the high skies that hadn’t been there moments before. But for now… I’ve got a different target!

The Transfer Captain continued to stare at the small light as his glasses scanned it and confirmed it as rocket exhaust. That thing must be hundreds of kilometers away, but it’s already on a return path? That’s incredibly short-ranged for an ICBM… but no time to think about that! He flipped through the air, stopping his flame jets and initiating two short bursts in front of him to slow himself to a standstill before hovering in the air casually. Taking the bow in his left hand, he lifted it up toward the distant missile and drew the bowstring back, using his glasses to magnify and trace the light — until it suddenly sparked, creating enough light to reveal the missile just long enough for the Pyrotechnic to see it split into multiple pieces. It broke up…? he muttered, and then scowled. Shit — this is that MIRV thing the Captain was talking about, isn’t it?!

Without hesitating further he fired at the falling warheads, sniping two of them out of space. He immediately drew the bowstring back again, arming the bow with another arrow before firing once more and taking out three more of the warheads — the arrow merely grazed each of them, but even that was enough to obliterate them. The Pyrotechnic smirked to himself but suddenly frowned as the HUD on his glasses began to fuzz.

Even without a proper detonation, those warheads are giving off a strong enough EMP to overpower my Armor’s EM shielding?… Kevérin scowled. Just how powerful is a proper detonation, then? Hmph. Let’s not find out!

The Transfer Captain immediately notched another arrow and took careful aim before simply deciding to fire arrows from the bow as quickly as he could draw back the string. The resulting “machine gun” spray of light arrows was a messy tactic, but it worked — in no time at all he had knocked out another five warheads, leaving only two remaining. His glasses zoomed in on each individually, creating HUD elements to follow each warhead as Kevérin carefully tracked them with the bow. With another shot, he knocked out another warhead and began preparing to shoot down the final one — only for his glasses and armor to suddenly short out.

What?! Agh—! He grimaced in pain as the disabled armor weighed down on his body, its lack of power preventing it from supporting itself. The dead weight forced his arms down to his sides, causing him to drop the bow as he enveloped himself in fire, flaring the flames to high enough temperatures to expand the metal plating and tear it off of his body. As soon as all of the plating fell off, he cooled his surroundings and looked himself over with unease. …If not for the Chaos State, I would’ve just fused the underarmor to my skin… He scowled. This will be difficult to remove. …Now, for the final warhead… He turned back to the west, re-summoned the bow, and notched another arrow, preparing to track the final warhead — but froze when he noticed one crucial fact:

When he burned away his armor, he had incinerated his glasses, as well — and with them, his only method of tracking the warheads.

Fuck! he shouted irately, glaring up at the skies in a desperate attempt to locate the final warhead. I can’t even contact the Genesis now! I’m on my own… and at the worst possible time! He began machine gunning the bow again, firing off a reckless stream of arrows into the skies above in an attempt to score a lucky hit. Where is it? A missile like that would at least go above the stratosphere, wouldn’t it? Maybe I can spot it if the heat shields flare up!… There!

Sure enough, the final warhead had begun to glow a slight red due to reentry. Kevérin immediately began aiming for it and fired several arrows, only for each to miss without his glasses HUD to help perform aim correction. I can’t hit it like this…! Damn it! It’s useless without the computer corrections—! The Pyrotechnic paused as an odd sensation slowly swept across his hands, as though he were holding them over a warm stove. I’m not generating any flames from my hands, but I’m still sensing a new heat source… He glanced downward, and then back up at the glowing warhead curiously. …A new… heat source… shit, from this far away? That’s impossible—! Agh, well it can’t hurt to try! He quickly reached out with his right hand toward the warhead, dismissing the Ayas weapon as he attempted to judge the warhead’s distance through a combination of sight and heat sensing. And then, a moment later… he snapped his fingers.

Immediately, a flash of light enveloped the warhead before disappearing, leaving behind nothing that Kevérin could see from such a long distance.

The Pyrotechnic stared forward in shock before turning his attention down to his hands. …Holy shit! he exclaimed as a grin slowly spread across his face, …I did it! Shit, I actually did it! I just single-handedly stopped an ICBM!!


1 Day Later

“Do you understand the utter stupidity of the actions you have taken over the past several months, Zhou?”

Kevérin froze as soon as he stepped foot on the bridge of the Genesis. In front of him sat Captain Krick in the commanders’ chair, and in front of the Captain stood a blond-haired woman of tall stature. Both Earthians were staring forward at a video display at the front of the bridge that displayed a stout man with greying hair, a wrinkled face, and old, narrow eyes.

“…I’m afraid you have me at a disadvantage, General,” the man replied, ignoring the new bridge occupant.

“It’s time you stopped feigning ignorance,” the woman shot back, “I would have preferred continued American support for the future, but given your outrageous decision-making ability, I think forcing you completely out of the SERRCom effort will be far more beneficial for everyone involved.”

The old man frowned. “You wouldn’t dare. And even if you would, you have no proof that I am in any way related to the unfortunate events that transpired yesterday.”

“Don’t patronize me. And don’t underestimate SERRCom’s connections, either. If you truly believe that no one on Earth knows of your actions, then you are terribly mistaken.” The woman paused for a moment to sigh before continuing, “in order to protect Earth and prevent future incidents, SERRCom is ordering that you hand over the Interstellar Gate. Furthermore, you have one year to completely disarm every single nuclear warhead you own and hand them over before we move in and force you to.”

“You cannot possibly—!”

“Oh we can, Zhou, and we have the proof to get the rest of the world on our side, if need be. If you want to resist, feel free, but this isn’t the twenty-first century anymore. On the other hand… you could prevent all of this if you simply step down as President.”

“But that’s—!”

“Pick one, Zhou! Or I’ll pick for you.”

“…”

“I will send you more detailed orders tomorrow. Until then, sit tight, and do. Not. Do. Anything. This order has the weight of the General of the Space Forces behind it.” The woman nodded curtly. “Dowley out.”

The video connection cut out, at which point the entire bridge let out a collective sigh. Kevérin finally began approaching Krick and the woman called Dowley as the former turned to the latter with a smirk on his face.

“You really showed him, ma’am,” Krick commented gleefully, “I never thought I would enjoy seeing Zhou put in his place so much.”

“It needed to happen,” Dowley responded flatly. “Before, he was just jockeying for power. But the moment he put innocent lives on the line to gain that power, he had to be dealt with.” She glanced back at Krick and then to Kevérin, who stood stiffly next to the commanders’ chair. “…Excuse me,” she addressed him, “who might you be?”

“Ha, this is Transfer Captain Tyrion,” Krick answered proudly. “He’s the CO of the Nimalian team that retrieved the Ayas. He’s also the one who single-handedly stopped that missile from hitting anything.”

“Ah, I’ve heard nothing but praise about you from the Captain.” Dowley smiled warmly before saluting Kevérin. “And I must thank you, myself. As both the General of the Space Forces, and personally. Were it not for your assistance, I’m sure Earth would be descending into a massive war right now.”

“Well, uh, thanks, I mean, you’re welcome,” the Transfer Captain responded sheepishly. “But it wasn’t, well, I had some help, sort of. …A-anyways, I’m glad everything’s fine.”

“I wouldn’t say ‘fine’…” The General sighed. “…Not yet. But things are looking up. This Battlecruiser was truly a godsend; I’m not sure what we would have done without it. It may very well single-handedly carry SERRCom into the future.”

“Haha, that’s asking a lot of it,” Krick remarked.

“It might be… but the future is the future.” Dowley turned back to Kevérin. “I understand the rest of the galaxy has its own problems at the moment?”

“Um…” Kevérin replied uneasily, “the Nanocreatures are a threat to you, too…”

“Yes, but unlike the rest of the galaxy, we can’t do anything against them. We barely have a fleet, and as you’ve personally demonstrated, our defensive technology can’t even stand up to a handful of Chaotics. That’s why I’m entrusting the Genesis and its crew to you for the time being — I’m sure you Nimalians will be able to put it to far better use than we ever could.”

“I don’t think I can thank you enough,” the Transfer Captain commented. “Even the beaming systems alone could be invaluable. Between it and the Ayas, I’m sure we can find a way to stop the Nanocreatures, or at least seriously impair them.”

“I’m glad you think so, Captain.”

“I appreciate the praise you’re heaping on the Genesis,” Krick spoke up, “but I’m afraid that the intruding team did a number on the ship. We’ll need to stop for some repairs and re-staging, but after that I can set a course for Nimalia.”

“How long will that take?” Kevérin glanced toward the Captain.

“No longer than a couple days, hopefully. Don’t worry, Transfer Captain — I was there for the Maasen incident. I know what the Nanocreatures are capable of, and I won’t underestimate them. I won’t let you down. You can count on us Earthians!”

“Don’t get carried away now, Captain,” Dowley interjected, “…but that should be it for now. I’ll return to SERRCom HQ to iron out the fine details of Zhou’s situation; in the meantime, I entrust the Genesis to the two of you.” She saluted. “Good luck.”

Kevérin returned the gesture. “Thank you, ma’am. I’m sure we’ll need it.”

Chapter 57 – Guardian of the Future

Firdia, Skydiath 8, 8034 –

A cool breeze swept across the warm bricks, slowly wearing away at the heat absorbed from the now-setting sun. The day had been long, but not long enough to heat the numerous ruined structures to uncomfortable temperatures, allowing Davídrius to perch on top of a scarred building while he watched the sunset.

His gaze eventually moved away from the sun and down to the ruins surrounding him — the collapsed walls, the blasted guard towers, the pillaged homes. Bloodstains covered almost every surface in sight, the only remaining sign of the dead bodies Davídrius had buried earlier in the day. Now, his former home of Riken was but a gathering of ruins; where it was once a bastion against the terrible desert outside, it was now merely a part of the vast wastelands itself.

The Velocitechnic cast a sullen glance to the side as the sound of a motor reached his ears, but he made no further attempt to investigate. Instead he turned back to the sunset, sitting as still as the ruins around him, almost as if he were a part of them himself.

“I knew I’d find you here.”

“I thought I told you goodbye,” Davídrius replied flatly, making no attempt at eye-contact as Selind approached the short building he was sitting on.

“You never say goodbye,” she countered, “and when you do, you never mean it. That’s why you’re here.”

The Velocitechnic glanced down at her and then returned his gaze to the sunset. Selind stared at him for a few moments before sighing and leaning against the wall, electing to join Davídrius in silence and sunset observance.

“…I killed ‘em all.”

“Huh?” Selind looked up at Davídrius again.

“The Bleeders,” he responded sullenly. “I found the nearest encampments, and killed ‘em all. Not a Bleeder left standing for a few hundred kilometers in any direction.”

“Wow… impressive.”

“Yeah, but… …was it right?”

“’Right?’” Selind echoed incredulously. “You’ve killed Bleeders before. What’s different now?”

“…”

“An eye for an eye, they always say.”

“Yeah, well they also say it makes the whole world blind.”

“…It’s not like you to be all philosophical.”

“Well it’s not like me to fail so massively against the Bleeders either, yet here we are.”

Selind glanced around at the surrounding ruins. “This wasn’t your fault… You had no way of knowin’ that the Bleeders could manage such a counterattack.”

“Just like I’ve got no way of knowin’ whether random Bleeder Joe Schmoe actually joined voluntarily or was pressed into joinin’ and I killed ‘im for no reason, or like how I’ve got no way of knowin’ if I actually could’ve stopped a massive attack on Riken, or like how I’ve got no way of knowin’ if leavin’ Treséd was ever the right decision, or like how I’ve got no way of knowin’ if I made the right choice when I killed one of my friends half a week ago, or like I know anythin, really.”

“You’ve never doubted yourself before, not like this. What gives?”

The Velocitechnic gave a lofty sigh, staring out into the distance as Selind watched him warily.

“I always thought I was right,” he eventually responded, his voice low, “that, you know, that killin’ is the answer. Someone’s a threat to you or someone else, you take ‘em out. Don’t have the time to deal with all the what-ifs. Or, I guess… you could actually say that I just never thought about it in the first place. It’s easy to make decisions when you don’t think, and just react. That was before, though, before I left. Made some… I guess you could call them friends. I dunno. Feels hard saying that now, though.”

Selind frowned as Davídrius looked down at his hands.

“You’ve heard ‘bout the Nanocreatures, right? An’ all that metallic infection shit?”

“You mentioned them the last time we talked.”

“Oh. Right. Well, one of my… …one of my teammates got infected. Corrupted. Whatever you call it. Shortly after the Nanocreatures showed up and started wreakin’ havoc, she lost control of her body. Like… the corruption was takin’ over. Yeah, corruption sounds better than infection, keh. Infections don’t really make you attack your best friend against your will, do they?”

“…”

“She and her friend got locked in a fight, but I… cut the fight short. By killin’ the corrupted one. …At the time, it seemed like the right thing to do. I mean, I still think it was the right thing to do. But her friend blamed me for it, and at the time I thought she was wrong, but now that I think about it… I don’t know…”

“This…” Selind shifted uncomfortably. “…This sounds a lot like what happened with Hanas.”

Davídrius winced visibly. “I… I know. I said as much myself.”

“You know you couldn’t’ve saved her. You’d done everythin’ you were physically capable of; you would’ve had to time travel to do any more for her than you did.”

“I know that. That’s why— that’s why I regretted not killin’ her immediately, to end her misery early. That’s why I killed my recent friend so quickly.”

“Then why the hell are you doubtin’ yourself?”

“Because, I—” The Velocitechnic paused for a moment, pursing his lips as he clenched his fists. “…It was my fault she got corrupted in the first place. I mean, I didn’t know it happened when it did, but, in hindsight — if I had just been payin’ attention, if I had been a little bit faster, I could’ve stopped the damn bug, and none of this would’ve happened. She’d still be here, her friend wouldn’t be in fuckin’ jail, I wouldn’t be down here beatin’ myself up while everyone else is off on a mission to who-knows-where… Or, maybe if I hadn’t left Riken in the first place, then I’d’ve been here to protect everyone, and Hero Machina probably wouldn’t’ve been sent to that damned Earthian planet in the first place, and everyone would be fine. But instead, they’re fuckin’ dead.”

Selind sighed, moving her eyes off of Davídrius and up to the darkening sky above. “So, that’s it?”

“…‘That’s it?’” he growled, glaring down at her. “The fuck’s that supposed to mean?”

“Earlier, when you were askin’ about if killin’ was the right thing to do — were you askin’ because you were actually wonderin’ about the moral consequences of killin’ in general? Or was it because you had to kill someone who was close to you, and you’re startin’ to feel guilty about it?”

“I, I don’t…”

“I’d almost thought you’d changed, again.” She closed her eyes wearily. “…I should stop doin’ that.”

“Dammit Selind, you keep goin’ on about this ‘change’ shit but you never explain yourself. Just fuckin’ tell me already.”

“…Your problem is that you’re stuck in the past,” Selind responded quietly.

“…What?”

“You take the sayin’ ‘hindsight is 20/20’ and then run it into the ground. You act in the moment, but as soon as it’s over, you think back and find every single li’l mistake you made and every li’l thing that you could’ve done better, and then you blame yourself for the whole situation. You even blame yourself for your Dad’s death and that happened while you were bein’ fuckin’ born. It’s why you’re a terrible protector.”

“A terrible—?! I was the only fucking Chaotic in the region for years! I was the best Guardian this side of Tresnon. All the other compounds wished they could be under my protection.”

“No.” Selind shook her head. “You were a fine Guardian, but you’re a bad protector, because what you did wasn’t protection — it was retaliation. A way for you to take out your frustrations about your own short-comings on others.”

“What…?”

“You blamed yourself for your dad’s death, so you took up the role of the father figure to your siblings, even though you were still just a pup — hell, even though y’all didn’t share a dad. Then, you blamed yourself for your family’s deaths, so you took up the role of Riken’s Guardian, even though you weren’t even 10. You blamed yourself for Hanas’s loss, so you took it upon yourself to take out her controller and Strén. Then, apparently, you blamed yourself for your friend’s ‘corruption,’ so you came down here in an attempt to balance it all out by killin’ some Bleeders — and then, when you learned about Riken, you only blamed yourself again and decided to take out all of the Bleeders in the area.” Selind stepped away from the wall and turned toward Davídrius, her back to the horizon as the sun finally disappeared behind it. “Don’t you see a pattern here? Everythin’ you do is reactionary, everythin’ is based on anger or self-blame. ‘Specially recently. You said you took out all the Bleeders within a few hundred kilometers, right? You sure as hell could’ve done that a few months ago when you left, but you didn’t. The only reason you did now was ‘cause you got angry. And that’s always been the case with you. You don’t protect people, you don’t deter threats. You react to disasters, you retaliate against criminals… that ain’t protection. That’s revenge.”

Davídrius scowled and looked away in a pointed effort to ignore Selind’s gaze. “You think you’ve got me all figured out, just like that, huh?”

“You aren’t a super complicated person. …Well, not to a fellow Guardian, at least.”

“Gee, that really makes me feel better.”

“Davídrius, I’m tryin’ to help you…”

“Well maybe you should help yourself first, huh? Fix your own fuckin’ mistakes before you try fixin’ mine.”

“Look, I know… I know I’ve made mistakes. But that doesn’t mean everything I say or do is wrong. You can’t just ignore what other people say ‘cause it hurts. A little pain now is worth it if you can prevent a lot down the line, you know?”

Davídrius sighed impatiently. “I knew I shouldn’t’ve tried talkin’ to you…”

“…Is that really what you think?” Selind crossed her arms, her eyes narrowed. “I’m tryin’ to help. Do you just want me to listen to your pathetic self-doubt and nod my head in agreement?”

“As if I need your help. Or any help.”

“Cut the bullshit, Davídrius. You’re only 21, of course you need help. Everyone does.”

Davídrius glanced at Selind and then looked away dismissively. “You could really do without the holier-than-thou attitude.”

“Ha! Never could handle a woman like me, could you?” Selind smirked bitterly. “You never liked it when people disagreed with you. I guess that’s why you liked Hanas so much, huh? I bet she never refused you.”

“You take that back,” Davídrius growled, dropping from his perch on the rooftop to draw one of his sabers on Selind.

“What’re you gonna do? Kill me?”

“I—!” he started, but stopped himself and settled into a deep scowl.

“See?” Selind replied quietly, “all you can think about is revenge. Retaliation. When you were Guardian of Riken, you weren’t there to protect their future. You weren’t tryin’ to help the compound grow and thrive, not as a primary goal at least. You were there to retaliate against massacres, and that’s all. And you know what? It hurts to hear, but I bet that’s why they kept happenin’. You can’t spend your whole life reactin’ to things, sometimes you gotta go out and do things before anyone else can. You can’t just dwell on the past and blame yourself all the time, ‘cause the past can’t change. But the future can.”

Davídrius pursed his lips again, but eventually he slowly lowered his saber. “You think it’s as simple as that?” he responded flatly, “just… stop thinkin’ about the past?”

“Well, no.” She shook her head. “Obviously it ain’t that simple. For you… I’m sure it’s hard. But you aren’t just protectin’ a small compound anymore. You’re workin’ with the Nimaliakians. And based on what you’ve told me, you’re actually fightin’ those Nanocreature things. You’re fightin’ to protect the whole damn galaxy now, Davídrius, and the galaxy’s a big place. You can’t blame yourself for every failure out there, for everythin’ that you might’ve done wrong, for everythin’ that you could’ve done right. It’s too much; you’ll kill yourself.”

“Hn.”

“I admit I’ve made mistakes… mistakes that’ve forced me to stay here. I don’t know if I can ever actually leave Treséd in good conscience…” She sighed. “But you ain’t made those mistakes. Not yet. I don’t think you realize what you got, Davídrius — you have an opportunity that most Tresédians will never get, an opportunity to get off this damn rock legitimately and make a name for yourself out there. This is one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, you know. Don’t waste it ‘cause you can’t get over your past.”

Davídrius stared at Selind for several moments before sighing and shifting his gaze to the horizon, and then up to the twilit sky. “…I had forgotten how wordy you can get.”

Selind smirked. “Well, that’s why I drink. I tend to get quieter when drunk. Sometimes. Really weird how that works.”

“Implyin’ that you aren’t weird by default?”

“Funny.” Selind planted her hands on her hips. “But I meant everythin’ I said, Davídrius.”

“Yeah, yeah…” He glanced away as he absentmindedly sheathed his saber. “I guess… I don’t completely regret talkin’ to you.”

“I suppose I shouldn’t expect much more from you. You should really think about it, though. You’re still young. I’d hate to see you screw this up.”

“You keep treatin’ me like I’m a kid, but you ain’t much older, you know.”

“…It sure don’t feel like I’m 23. Feel a lot older than that.”

“You almost look the part, too.”

“Hey!” She shoved Davídrius playfully. “You tryin’ to call me a hag?”

“Your words, not mine.” He smirked back, but quickly adopted a more serious expression. “You keep talkin’ like you’re stuck here, but I told you a couple days ago; it wouldn’t be hard at all for you to leave.”

“No…” Selind responded wistfully as she turned back toward the horizon. “I… can’t leave. Not yet. There’s still a couple anchors here that… that I’m not sure I can leave behind.”

“Thinkin’ about goin’ back to Austilad?”

“I dunno. Maybe. …It’d be pretty arrogant to expect him to accept me back, though.”

“Ha. Just a little bit ago, you were tellin’ me to focus more on the future, and here you are, stuck on the past yourself.”

Selind chuckled uneasily. “I never could take my own advice, could I.”

“No, you couldn’t,” Davídrius replied. “…It’s not all bad, though. We’ve all got our flaws.”

“Some broad strokes, there.”

“Yeah yeah, whatever.” The Velocitechnic shook his head as he shifted his gaze to the sky above, where the stars were just beginning to make themselves visible. Selind slowly followed suit, the two Tresédians staring upwards and taking in the dark sights in silence.

“…Hey, Selind?”

“Yeah?”

“…Thanks. For bein’ here. And listenin’.”

She glanced over at the Velocitechnic, but he continued observing the sky, either not noticing her attention or ignoring it outright.

“…Heh,” she eventually responded as she returned her eyes to the skies. “Anythin’ for a friend.”

Chapter 56 – The Power of Greed

2 Days Later

Firdia, Skydiath 8, 8034 –

(Monday, February 10, 2110)

“Less than half an hour until arrival, sir!”

“This is it, Nimalians…” Chief Captain Peter Krick muttered, “I’d hoped that the first Nimalian trip to Earth would be under more peaceful circumstances, but, well…”

“This is a really bad time to be dealing with civil conflicts,” Kevérin responded, his arms crossed.

“That’s easy for you to say; you’ve been dealing on the galactic stage for centuries. We Earthians only started dipping our toes in interstellar travel fifteen years ago, and SERRCom itself is barely ten years old.” Krick glanced back at Kevérin and Kaoné wearily. “This was bound to happen sooner or later. It’s just our luck that it had to be sooner.”

“Um, if you don’t mind me asking,” Kaoné spoke up uneasily, “…exactly what are you talking about?”

The Earthian Captain sighed and stretched before fully swiveling his commanders’ chair around to face the two members of Hero Machina. “Basically, it’s a power struggle. One of the nations on Earth is throwing a fit that it doesn’t have the authority to do what SERRCom does — that is, pretty much everything that has anything to do with anything outside our solar system. So they’re waving their dick around and trying to get SERRCom to rise to the bait so they can beat us down and show the rest of the world that they can do our job better.”

“This sounds like it should be easy to deal with,” Kevérin replied. “You’re the ones with the spacecraft; I’d say it’s pretty clear who the boss is. Besides, I thought SERRCom started out as a joint international organization, surely there’s a better way of handling this than with force.”

“I wish there was, but the Americans aren’t really happy that their 150 years of power was abruptly cut short because some random alien races stepped in and decided that Earth needed a different organization to represent it.” Krick snorted. “At least, that’s how the government is behaving.”

“I’m not sure I follow.”

“Alright… let’s back up to ten years ago. First encounter. I think we dialed a CSA planet… regardless, as soon as the CSA realized that we Earthians existed, they swooped in and demanded that we create a unified representative body to, well, represent us. They didn’t want to have to deal with over a hundred individual entities for a single planet — that’s what led to the creation of SERRCom. The thing is, the CSA forcing us to create SERRCom like they did was basically holding a gun to our heads. Everyone was running scared — out of nowhere, these super-advanced aliens who had already colonized a quarter of the galaxy were demanding things of us, so who were we to say ‘no?’ We didn’t want to risk bad first impressions or, worse, being attacked and wiped out. It wasn’t until a couple years later that we realized that the CSA wasn’t really hostile, and ever since then, the more powerful nations on Earth have been trying to lobby themselves into positions of interstellar power, all while SERRCom is trying to keep hold of the reins. Which wasn’t hard, since we’re the ones dealing with all you advanced races, but now…” Krick frowned. “…I don’t know how — probably because they have the Interstellar Gate, I guess — but the Americans got their hands on an Ayas.”

“You mean, the guys who’re upset that SERRCom is in power?” Kevérin questioned.

“Yeah. They must’ve found it some time ago, too, because they only just recently revealed a massive network of anti-orbital railguns that all hook into the Ayas for power. They almost took out one of our Frigates before it jumped away.”

“Wait, anti-orbital railguns?!” Kaoné exclaimed incredulously, “and you’re just going to exit FTL on top of them?!”

“Don’t worry; they’re of no threat to the Genesis. This Battlecruiser was created by the Master Ayas itself, after all, and it’s got all kinds of advanced tech. Plus its technical specifications have been classified; there’s no way the Americans could’ve accounted for it when designing their weapons.”

“Then why can’t you just bombard the shit out of the bastards?” Kevérin suggested.

“Because of politics.” Krick chuckled bitterly. “This is what I meant earlier when I said that ‘this was bound to happen.’ America is challenging SERRCom on its power. If we fuck this up, then they’ve got the support of the rest of the planet on their side, and at that point we’re screwed. There’s at least another ten years or so until SERRCom can be self-sufficient, so for now we have to rely on funding, personnel, and material support from Earth. So we can’t just fire on them. They’d play that up as us ‘declaring war on Earth’ or something, and they’d use that to kill SERRCom and take over themselves.”

The Pyrotechnic snorted. “That sounds ridiculous.”

“I’m not saying it isn’t, but it’s what they’d do, and the bad thing is, it’d probably work.” Krick sighed. “So we need to disable the anti-orbital gun network and extract the Ayas with as few casualties as possible. If we can do that, then it’d show the rest of the planet that we’re in control, and that America has nothing on us. We’d make them look like fools, and it’d give us enough support to remove the Interstellar Gate from American soil and move it to someplace safer, probably the SERRCom space station that’s slated for construction here soon. Which is another reason to disable the railguns…”

“So you’re saying that we’re here solely to help out in a petty power struggle.”

“Heh, sorry this isn’t something more glamorous, but that’s how it is.” Krick shrugged. “But I’m serious when I say that we do need you. More worrying than the development of the anti-orbital guns is the fact that the Americans also managed to develop some sort of technology that jams the Genesis beaming systems. Well, it’s more like they prevent us from getting a lock on anything, but it’s essentially the same, since if we can’t lock onto an object or location then using the beaming systems isn’t safe.”

“What does that have to do with us?”

“Because the entire gun network, especially the Ayas housing center, is covered by this jamming tech. In order to infiltrate it, we’d have to send in teams the conventional way, and ground combat isn’t exactly SERRCom’s forte. Especially not when it comes to power projection over a mountain range, which is where the Ayas is. This ship’s guns are too powerful for small-target bombardment, and while we can certainly absorb shots from the anti-orbital guns without issue, I’d prefer not to get so close that they can score guaranteed hits. We need someone who has enough power on their own to easily disable armor and aircraft… we need Chaotics.”

“…And no Earthian is a Chaotic, so you need our help.” Kevérin nodded understandingly. “Alright, so basically, you want to send us down some distance away from the Ayas and then we’ll blast our way to it and retrieve it, taking out any guns we see along the way.”

“With as few casualties as possible, yes.”

“Sounds like your Overdrive will come in handy, then,” Kevérin remarked as he passed a sidelong glance to Kaoné.

“Yeah, this mission doesn’t sound hard at all,” Kaoné agreed. “I don’t think this should take very long.”

“I hope it won’t,” Krick replied. “The sooner we get this done, the better.”

Kevérin nodded. “Definitely. We can barely afford to waste our time here. If we get the Ayas and access to this ship out of it, though, then it might just be worth it.”

“Remember that you don’t get to keep the Genesis,” Krick quickly pointed out, “and me and my crew will still be manning it. But yes, if you help out SERRCom here, then helping you back is the least we can do.”

“Sounds like a plan.” The Transfer Captain turned toward the bridge exit. “My team and I will suit up now. Once we’re ready, just beam us down and mark our maps; we’ll take care of the rest from there.”

“Understood, Captain. Good luck down there.”

“Ha,” Kevérin snorted. “Hopefully, we won’t need it.”


4 Hours Later

“It’s so cold…”

“Just stick with it,” Kevérin responded as he glanced back at Kaoné, “our armor has climate control, so you won’t get frostbite or anything.”

“You say that…” The Materiatechnic looked around herself at the snow-capped mountains surrounding the small cliff Hero Machina was currently standing on. “But… it’s below freezing out here.”

The Pyrotechnic shrugged. “It is the middle of Earth’s winter, and we are halfway up a mountain…”

“Of course it’s easy for you to shrug it off, you can create your own damned heat.” Vélunis scowled as he peered into the distance through the scope of a laser sniper. “You should make us a fire. That’ll warm us up.” He then glanced conspicuously at Kaoné. “…Better yet, set her on fire. She’ll probably burn longer than anything around here.”

“Hey!” she protested before grabbing some nearby rocks, transmuting them into firewood, and dumping them at Vélunis’s feet. “There! Firewood. There’s no need to try and burn me.”

“A little cold won’t hurt you,” Kevérin countered. “We can’t afford to start a fire here, anyways. We already don’t have arctic camouflage, so the last thing we need to do is create a free light and heat source for the Earthians to lock on to.”

“Implying that our armor doesn’t create heat,” Vélunis deadpanned.

Kevérin glanced back at the other members of Hero Machina. Kaoné, Kievkenalis, and himself were all wearing their normal Chaos Armor, but Vélunis and Wilkas were stuck with lower-grade electrical armor, due to the lack of fitted Chaos Armor.

“I know they create heat,” the Pyrotechnic replied as he turned back to the rock face in front of him and began cautiously searching for footholds. “But it’s a level of heat that I can mask. I could do the same for a fire, but then that’d defeat the whole purpose of creating a fire in the first place.”

“Shouldn’t we be focused on finding the base?” Kievkenalis interjected.

“What do you think we’re climbing this mountain for?”

“Why are we even climbing?” Wilkas questioned, and glanced at Kaoné. “You’re a Materiatechnic, right? Just make a platform or something.”

“We need to be as stealthy as possible until we actually find the base,” Kevérin refuted, “if they sound the alarm before we get too close then we’ll have to go through a lot more people, and Kaoné’s Overdrive will only help so much if there’s crowds of people and blast doors in our way.”

“Sounds reasonable enough…” Vélunis muttered, still peering through the sniper scope. “…If they hadn’t found us already, at least.”

“What—?” The Pyrotechnic’s eyes widened in alarm as Vélunis suddenly fired his laser sniper. A small burst of light could be seen in the distance before Wilkas jumped forward and punched a cannon shell out of the air, sending it flying into the cliffs to the bottom left.

“Where are they?” Kevérin demanded.

“Point defenses, over a kilometer northeast,” Vélunis reported before firing another shot.

Chaos Assist,” Kievkenalis called. “Damn… they found us already?”

“No time to wonder how,” Kevérin muttered, and then gestured toward Kaoné. “Do it!”

She nodded once in acknowledgment before calling out, “Overdrive: Conflict’s Judge!

Vélunis flinched back as the gun in his hands sparked and fell to pieces. He turned toward Kaoné, confused. “What just—?”

“It’s her Overdrive,” Kevérin cut in, “now, Kaoné, make us a platform and fly us over there!”

The Materiatechnic quickly complied, transforming the ground under the five Chaotics into steel and then lifting it up into the air. The Pyrotechnic stared out into the distance toward where the cannon shell originated while the remaining three Chaotics of Hero Machina clung to the platform, unprepared for the sudden airlift.

“We have no choice but to find the base as quickly as possible, now,” the Transfer Captain continued, “alright, Kaoné. Let’s go!”


“…Visual scans indicate that one of the anti-orbital railguns has been destroyed.”

“Already?” Krick frowned, shifting in his chair as he looked up at the holographic displays at the front of the bridge. “We beamed them down not even an hour ago… where was the gun?”

“It was on the southern inner emplacement perimeter, roughly around 44 degrees north and 109 degrees west.”

“They’ve barely moved at all, but I guess that’s to be expected in the mountains…” Krick grumbled to himself, “they’ve moved enough to enter the jamming fields, though, so we can’t contact them now… it’s do or die.” He then raised his voice to address the entire bridge. “Do the scans show anything else? Unit mobilization? Raised heat emission from activating defenses? Energy transfer?”

“…Sorry, sir,” one of the officers replied, “we aren’t picking up anything. The remaining anti-orbital guns have begun moving, presumably to target us, but they’re the largest emplacements we can track. The communications and lock-on jamming is interfering with our ability to detect heat emission, as well.”

“Then they’re really on their own… …Alright. Initiate the cloak and move us down to low orbit over the coordinates of the destroyed gun.”

“Wait— sir, we’re being hailed. …It’s President Zhou.”

“Oh?” Krick raised an eyebrow in curiosity. “What does he want?”

“There’s no info tag accompanying the request, except that it’s an audio-only line.”

“Ha. I’d bet this has something to do with his precious railguns.” The Captain snorted. “Alright, maintain our orbital position and hold the cloak order for now. Open a channel to my headset… let’s see what he has to say.”

Krick leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees as he waited for the communication connection. Mere moments later, he heard a couple beeps in his ear as the comms officer gave him a thumbs-up, indicating a successful connection. He waved back and then tapped his ear piece to open the line. “Greetings, Mr. President.”

“Good day to you as well, Chief Captain.”

“If you don’t mind me asking, what brings you to contact me? I’m sure someone in a position such as yourself would find it more productive to get in touch with General Dowley instead—”

“Excuse me, Captain, but I’ve no time for your snide remarks,” the President cut in impatiently. “I’m sure we both know why I’m contacting you.”

“Do we?” Krick questioned innocently as he glanced up at the real-time scanner readings. “I’m not sure what you’re talking about.”

“You mean to tell me you have nothing to do with the destruction of one of my orbital defense platforms?”

“Well, now that you mention it…”

“I have no time for your games, Captain. Do you realize that this is an act of war?”

“And firing on one of our Frigates wasn’t?”

Krick smirked to himself when the President failed to immediately respond.

“…You must understand, Captain,” Zhou finally continued, “we did not intend to hit, or even fire on, one of SERRCom’s Frigates. That was merely a test of the defense platforms’ capability.”

“And you just happened to almost hit a Frigate sitting in stable middle Earth orbit?”

“Yes.”

“You just happened to almost hit a 75-meter target sitting nearly ten thousand kilometers above the Earth’s surface?”

“I am aware of the size of Frigates and the altitude of MEO, Captain. I maintain that the incident was unintentional.”

“All due respect Mr. President, but cut the shit. We both know that you’re lying through your teeth. Now tell me what you want so I don’t have to talk to you anymore.”

“The nerve—! I can see to it that you never set foot on American soil again!”

“Do you think I care? I haven’t even set foot on Earth in the past year. I answer to General Dowley of SERRCom, not you.”

“You—!”

“Now, is that it? Surely you didn’t call just to threaten me.”

“…No, it’s— it’s not. …I must apologize, I did not mean to… anyways. About the defense platforms.”

Krick glanced up at the scanner readouts again just in time to see that a second railgun emplacement had been destroyed. The Nimalians are really moving now, he thought to himself, let’s hope they’re keeping the ‘minimal casualties’ objective in mind… He then turned his attention back to the communication. “Alright, what is it?”

“I’d like you to withdraw your ground team.”

“And what do we get out of that?”

“A… truce. And a public apology. We won’t try to get in SERRCom’s way again.”

“You want to trade your anti-orbital weapons for words?”

“I’m afraid it’s all I can offer at the moment.”

“How about handing over the gun emplacements to SERRCom?”

“I can’t do that.”

“Why not? It’s SERRCom’s job to protect Earth from interstellar threats, and I’m fairly certain that anti-orbital weaponry follows that goal pretty well.”

“…I will consider it, if you withdraw your team immediately.”

“I would consider doing so as well, but as we both know…” Krick smirked. “…The entire area is blanketed in jamming fields. I can’t contact anyone down there. So if you want me to withdraw anything, you’re going to need to shut down the jamming.”

“That’s nonsense. How can I trust you won’t use the opportunity to bombard the whole area?”

“Sir, if it’s orbital bombardment that you’re worried about, you should know that a jamming field won’t stop us. The only reason I haven’t opened fire already is because there are innocent men and women down there risking their lives for a political dick-waving contest. And I will continue to withhold the Genesis’s orbital bombardment rounds for that very reason, unless you do something as egregious as opening fire on a SERRCom ship again.”

“Should I take that as a threat, Captain?”

“It’s a warning — and I’m sure Dowley would say the same. Now I’ve had enough of your pleading, so if that’s all you have to say, then I have work to get back to—”

“Wait, Captain! Surely there’s a way we can work this out?”

“It’s all up to you.” Krick shrugged, the indifference working its way into his voice. “SERRCom has little to lose from this situation.”

“You stand to lose the support of every civilized nation on this planet, and with it, all your funding and manufacturing power.”

“’All’ is an overstatement.”

“…Grant me an audience. Let’s work this out in person. I can even send my people to your ship, and we can negotiate on your ground.”

The Captain paused for a moment, surprised by the President’s sudden offer. “…You want to send a negotiation team onto the Genesis?”

“If it will work out the situation with the defense platforms, then yes, I am willing to do so.”

“…Hold that thought for a minute, please.” Krick quickly tapped his ear piece, muting the connection as he turned to look again at the scanner readouts. What does he want the captain thought to himself, he must have ulterior motives. Why else would he contact me and not Dowley? How did he learn about the Nimalians so quickly, anyway? And why the hell did he suddenly offer to send a team to the Genesis? This smells fishier than the sea itself Still, I suppose if I at least attempt to negotiate, it’ll make SERRCom look better… Several moments later he finally turned to one of the bridge officers. “Seal the bulkheads around receiving airlock 7A and send a suppression team down to guard the entrances.” As soon as the officer acknowledged his order, the Captain tapped his ear piece again to unmute the communication. “Sorry about that, Mr. President. I just had to check some things first.”

“Your answer, then?”

“I’ll do it. Assemble a team, and I’ll beam them up. But understand this, Mr. President — if they try anything fishy, I will not hesitate to stop them by any means necessary and report the incident to General Dowley.”

“Yes, of course, Captain. I would never dream of doing such a thing. Now if you’ll excuse me, I will go do exactly as you suggested. I will be back in under half an hour.”

“…’Never dream of it,’ he says,” Krick muttered to himself after the comm channel cut out, “we’ll have to see about that…”


BANG!

The meter-thick steel door sealing the entrance to the mountain base was suddenly knocked inward, completely severed from the wall as it fell over. Wilkas immediately stepped in and began looking around at the base’s entrance bay as Kevérin stared on in disbelief.

“So much for being stealthy,” he lamented irately.

“What’s the point of bein’ stealthy?” Wilkas countered, turning to look back at the Transfer Captain. “We’ve already been detected.”

“Yeah, we just need to get the Ayas and get out,” Vélunis agreed.

“It would be better if we could find out the actual specifications behind the railguns,” Kevérin argued, “and if we could find out where they found this Ayas. I’d like to know how all this was put together under SERRCom’s nose.”

“Whatever we do, we should figure it out soon,” Kaoné urged as she glanced toward a small group of confused Earthians standing at the far end of the entrance bay. “My Overdrive will wear out soon, and if Cooldown doesn’t happen then, then it’ll definitely happen if I use it a fourth time.”

“Strictly speaking, we don’t need your powers beyond your Overdrive,” Kievkenalis pointed out, “the four of us can do just fine.”

“Way to make me feel useful…”

“She has a point, though; we need to act fast.” Kevérin paused for a moment to think before continuing, “alright, Kaoné, you’re with me. We’ll look for the control room and see what we can do from there. Kevken, Vélunis, Wilkas, I want the three of you to find the Ayas. Will you be able to sense it, Kevken?”

“Once we get close enough, probably.”

“Then that’s it,” the Pyrotechnic declared, narrowing his eyes as the Earthians in the room suddenly fled and alarms began to sound. “…We covered a lot of ground since the last time Kaoné used her Overdrive; there might still be intact weapons here, so be careful. Otherwise: split!”

Chaos Assist! Chaos Detect!” Kievkenalis shouted as he dashed forward ahead of Vélunis and Wilkas. He waved to Kevérin and Kaoné as they burst through a wall in the opposite direction and then turned his attention down and to the left, tracking several distant silhouettes as they descended through space. “Over there!” He pointed at the wall. “There’s an elevator shaft! The Ayas is probably in the lower levels!”

Without wasting a moment, Wilkas thrust his fist forward, pulverizing the wall and opening a hole into the hallway behind it. Vélunis jumped through, summoning two pistols out of thin air before quickly scanning the hallway and firing on a defense turret before it could fire on him. As soon as he did so, several more alarms began blaring — and then the walls in the immediate vicinity unexpectedly exploded, showering the three Chaotics in smoke and hot debris. The three quickly stumbled out of the smoke, only to see several rocket turrets staring at them from down the hall. Wilkas immediately jumped forward as two rockets were fired, obliterating one of the rockets with his shoulder as Vélunis sniped the other out of the air. Kievkenalis fired several Chaos Cannon shots down the hall at the rocket turrets as Wilkas tore out a section of the steel wall and used it as a shield while rushing down the hallway, Vélunis and Kievkenalis in tow.

“…Here,” the Chaostechnic exclaimed as he slammed his fist against a large steel door. “The elevator’s here!”

“Got it.” Wilkas nodded before tearing into the door, ripping it open with ease. The three Chaotics paused to stare down the large, dark shaft — the bottom was too far down to be seen.

“This must be a freight elevator,” Vélunis observed, noting the width of the door Wilkas had torn down as well as the depth of the elevator shaft.

“If it is, then maybe it goes all the way down to the bottom of the base…” Kievkenalis squinted in an attempt to see through the darkness, but to no avail. “We’ll likely encounter less resistance if we go down the shaft, too.”

“Well sure, and I know I can survive that drop just fine…” Wilkas glanced back at the other two Chaotics. “But what about you guys?”

“We can climb down the elevator cables,” Kievkenalis suggested. “Worst case scenario, Vélunis and I both have abilities that can soften a landing. Our Armor’s shielding will help a lot, as well.”

“You’re not wrong, but I hate it all the same…” Vélunis muttered, and then sighed loftily. “Well… let’s get climbing.”


“Hands in the air!”

Kevérin burst through the wall after cutting his way through the steel with heat, two blades of flame extending from his hands as he held them threateningly in front of him. He then allowed the flames to dissipate and his hands to fall to his sides as he glanced around the room in confusion.

“…There’s no one here,” Kaoné observed quietly after entering behind Kevérin.

“This doesn’t make any sense…” The Transfer Captain scowled as he snapped his eyes from empty console to empty console, from vacant workstation to vacant workstation, and eventually to the massive window at the front of the room that allowed a wide view of the snowy mountains. He cautiously approached the nearest workstation before sitting himself in front of it and activating it. “…This seems like the control room, alright,” he muttered after fiddling with the computer for a short while, “so why is no one here?…”

“It’s a good thing, though, right?” Kaoné questioned. “We don’t have to worry about hurting anyone this way.”

“I don’t know about that,” Kevérin refuted. “These stations are clearly meant to be manned. This entire base should be manned, but we’ve only run into primitive security bots and defense turrets, aside from those Earthians back at the entrance. I don’t like this one bit…”

“Well, what are we supposed to do about it?”

“I’m not sure if there is anything we can do about it. Not without learning more…” The Transfer Captain glanced across the room before jumping up and seating himself at another console. “First things first, let’s disable the jamming fields and get in touch with the Genesis.”

“Can you do that?”

“Please. Earthian computers are far more primitive than 200-year-old Citan tech, and I hacked the Teghica computers with ease. I even got some interface tech from one of the technicians up on the Genesis; this’ll be a walk in the park. …There. See, I have access already.”

Kaoné watched the Transfer Captain work for a few moments before she turned her attention to the room’s window. Far in the distance she could see one of the anti-orbital railguns, mounted into the side of a mountain and pointing straight up into the sky. “Overdrive: Conflict’s Judge,” she muttered, only for nothing to happen. My powers are still on Cooldown… I guess that’s to be expected after using my Overdrive three times in a row…

“There, field’s down.”

The Materiatechnic glanced back at Kevérin and then approached his console. “Are you going to contact the Genesis?”

The Pyrotechnic nodded. “That’s the plan. Heh, good thing Earthian interface protocols are well-known. Their stuff is so primitive, trying to hack it from scratch might actually be more difficult than hacking Citan computers. Everything’s put together so… so…”

“Confusingly?”

“I’d say haphazardly. Or ignorantly. Or just stupidly.” He shrugged. “Anyways, contacting the Genesis…”

Kaoné jumped in surprise as the sound of static suddenly filled the room before being replaced with a soft, dull tone. Moments later, the tone disappeared completely as Captain Krick’s voice boomed through the room. “Captain… …that you?”

“It is.” Kevérin nodded, though the gesture was lost on the audio-only connection. “I just disabled the jamming fields. We haven’t found the Ayas yet, though.” He paused for several moments in anticipation of a response, glancing at Kaoné in confusion when the Earthian Captain failed to reply. “Captain?”

“––gerous! We’ve been bo–– …Damn bastard couldn’t keep his word, they’v––”

“What?” Kevérin leaned forward tensely, surprised by the low quality of the audio connection. “Captain, the line’s cutting out, I can’t make out what you’re saying! Captain?!”

“––trap, the anti-orbital network–– get out of there!”

“The hell?” The Transfer Captain stared at the console in front of him with a mixture of confusion and irritation. “What do you mean, trap? What’s going on?!”

“Uh, Kevérin…” Kaoné spoke up warningly, warily pointing out the window. “The, the gun…”

“Huh?” The Pyrotechnic looked up just as the Railgun in the distance began to move, lowering its barrel toward the horizon before slowly swiveling toward the control room. “…Well, shit.”

“We need to get out of here—!”

“Way ahead of you!” Kevérin jumped out of his seat and turned toward the room’s entrance, but the two Chaotics were barely able to so much as exit the room before the entire structure suddenly collapsed, the entire control room and the area around it crumbling to the mountaintop below.

Chapter 55 – Protector of the Past

1 Day Later

Skydia, Skydiath 6, 8034

“Can’t believe I came back here… the shithole of the shithole. Commonly known as ‘Nock’…”

Davídrius glared at his sun-bleached surroundings as he perched on top of an old, abandoned apartment building. The twenty-story structure was the tallest around for kilometers, allowing the Velocitechnic to casually scan the capital city of Treséd. Such a vantage point offered no true advantage, however — all it served was to allow Davídrius to watch from above as he took in the dirty slums, abandoned and crumbling multi-story buildings, filthy streets, and the sandy wasteland horizon. He glanced toward the city docks, but even those were dirtied beyond reasonable belief with dirt, sand, sewage, and oil lathered over the piers and polluting the water for kilometers. Nock was, effectively, an old, abandoned, post-apocalyptic wasteland inhabited by gang members, bounty hunters, criminals, and slaves, none of whom possessed even one iota of determination or care when it came to cleaning or maintaining the well-being of the city.

“And this is supposed to be the capital… ha!” Davídrius snorted in derision before jumping down to the streets below, paying no heed to the several tarps he broke through on the way down. He landed with a roll before standing and double-checking his Sword Box harness, followed with a quick glare toward a small group of shady-looking men until they scrambled off down a back alley. Still got the glare, he thought to himself in amusement before taking off down the streets, blowing past people, stalls, and garbage piles alike until he found his way to the commercial district — if it could even be called that. The area was just as dirty and run-down as the rest of the city; the only differences were the significantly larger crowds in the streets and the vast multitude of signs attached haphazardly to poles and walls just outside of every door entrance.

“I hate this place…” the Velocitechnic grumbled, but began slowly walking down the street anyway, torn between spitefully walking slower than the crowd around him and stubbornly shoving ahead at his own pace. No no, c’mon man, focus on what’s relevant. News of the Bleeders. What’ve they been up to, where are they, is Riken okay…

He looked up to find himself in the city square: a large, run-down plaza filled with stalls and stands and bulletin boards of all kinds. Using his height to his advantage, he slowly scanned the area in search of a bounty board. Upon spotting one, he quickly moved toward it, ignoring the countless salesmen and peddlers along the way who attempted to grab his attention. Mere moments later he was standing in front of the board, tapping his foot impatiently as his eyes jumped from poster to poster, from announcement to announcement.

“Oi, Davídrius! Is that you?”

“What?…” The Velocitechnic snapped his attention toward the origin of the call, quickly searching the crowd until laying eyes on a dark-haired, tan-skinned woman of height roughly equivalent to his own. She grinned and waved back at him before adjusting her shoulder strap and quickly approaching.

“…Wait…” Davídrius responded, astonished. “Selind, is that you?”

“Ha, nice to know you still remember my name, pup.” She smirked. “Long time no see!”


30 Minutes Later

“Still as much a fan of alcohol as ever, huh.”

“Shut it, you,” Selind replied as she led Davídrius up to the counter at the front of the bar. “The drinks in this place are well worth the wait.”

The Velocitechnic scowled. “Ain’t nothin’ on this continent that’s worth the wait.”

“I see you haven’t changed at all,” Selind remarked with a smirk before turning to wave the bartender over. Davídrius watched as she ordered two of something he barely recognized before returning her attention to him.

“I could say the same for you,” he commented flatly.

“Ha. If only that were true.” She sighed, and then glanced down at Davídrius’s sides. Even while sitting in the bar chair, he had yet to detach either of his Sword Boxes. “Lookin’ to make some trouble?” she quipped.

“Says the woman with a sniper rifle slung over her back.”

“A woman’s gotta protect herself, you know. This thing ain’t failed me yet.”

“A sniper rifle ain’t exactly a defensive weapon.”

“Not true, I find it makes a surprisingly wieldy club. Very effective in brawls.”

“Mhm,” Davídrius grunted, glancing away as the bartender arrived and unceremoniously slid two glasses toward Selind. She quickly caught both before either could slide off the counter and downed one of them in one go.

“But enough with the banter.” She smirked as she punched Davídrius playfully in the shoulder. “How’ve ya been? I don’t think I’ve seen you in… what, two years?”

“Sounds ‘bout right.”

“Heard you finally took care of Strén.”

Wish I could say that.” Davídrius sighed wistfully. “It was… it was actually a couple of foreigners who finished him off.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah. Came by randomly one day, asked me to join some squad that was supposed to check out the Chaos Quake. Told ‘em I’d only join if they could take care of Strén and the local Bleeders. Well, they did, so I did.”

“Wow. Guess that explains where you disappeared to, then, huh.”

“Eh? You knew I’d left?”

“You were only one of Treséd’s most feared Compound Guardians, of course people would hear if you left. Riken was one of the safest places to be with you around. Almost as safe as Tresnon.”

“Keh,” Davídrius snorted, mildly amused at the quip. “Think you’re better than me, eh? Desert sun must’ve finally got to you.”

Selind punched him in the shoulder again, slightly harder this time. He simply smirked as she paused for a moment to down her second drink and then shoved her glasses back across the counter, gesturing for the bartender to refill them. She then turned back to Davídrius. “So you finally left Treséd, huh?”

“’Finally?’” he echoed incredulously.

“You were always a fierce Guardian, sure, but it was easy to tell you didn’t like it here. Especially with that speed of yours, the only thing keepin’ you around was some misguided sense of duty.”

“’Misguided?’”

“Are you gonna actually talk to me or just echo everythin’ I say like a dumbass?”

“…Hmph.”

“Any sane man or woman would leave the moment they could. Not you, though. All you had to do was run across the gulf to Tekdecé or Relédiaka. But you never did.”

“Findin’ a way to live in the other nations ain’t that simple. Runnin’ across an entire sea ain’t quite a walk in the park, either.”

“How’d you get back here, then? No transports have arrived since last week.”

“…I ran from Nimaliaka.”

“You’re sayin’ you ran across the entire fucking Ineridé Ocean?!”

“If I’m runnin’ in a straight line, without havin’ to focus on dodgin’ anythin’, then I can hit Mach 8 easy. Maybe even 10, not sure. Barely skimmin’ the water’s surface, at least.”

“That’s still several hours, Davídrius!”

“Yeah, well. I was determined.”

“So much for ‘not a walk in the park,’ huh?” Selind drawled, glancing up and reaching forward to retrieve her two recently-refilled glasses. “Why the hell’d you come back? If you were comin’ back from Nimaliaka, then whatever you were doin’ over there had to be better than protectin’ this shithole.”

Davídrius sighed wearily. “I got… well, I won’t be doin’ anythin’ over there for a couple weeks ‘cause of… reasons.”

“This have anythin’ to do with the shit goin’ down over in CSA space?”

“So the news even reached here, huh?”

“Don’t be surprised that news reaches Nock. People are well-versed in current events here. It’s the Compounds out in the wastelands that never hear anythin’.”

“Well, you ain’t wrong.” Davídrius paused to yawn, taking the opportunity to lean back and stretch. “So, seein’ as I had some… free time, I decided to check on Riken. See if the Bleeders are up to anythin’, anythin’ that I could stop. Make sure they aren’t an issue anymore.”

Selind frowned, turning her attention down to her glass as she slowly swirled its contents around. “…Of course that’s why you came back.”

“…That a bad thing?” Davídrius narrowed his eyes, giving Selind an apprehensive glance.

“I’d be tempted to say yes.”

“The hell’s that supposed to mean?”

“You were always attached to Riken. You took those Bleeder attacks pretty hard fifteen, twenty years ago. I thought you leavin’ was a sign that you’d managed to move on, but… guess I was wrong.”

“Move on?” Davídrius scowled. “Shitty as it is, Riken is my home. The hell is there to ‘move on’ from?”

“From thinkin’ that every little screw up in your life is your own fault.”

“What? Since when have I done that?”

“Since you discovered your super speed, that’s when. No one should saddle themselves with stickin’ around and tryin’ to fix this shithole. But you did anyways.”

“You keep sayin’ that. If you’re so convinced that everyone should leave, then why the hell haven’t you? You’re two years older than me and you’re pretty good with guns, I wager you could’ve easily found work with the RPF or SFC.”

Selind sighed warily. “I… can’t. I’m stuck here.”

“Sure ya are,” Davídrius deadpanned. “Just two minutes ago you were lecturin’ me about comin’ back, and now here you are sayin’ you can’t leave. Never could take your own advice, huh?”

Selind’s only response was to take a long drink before slamming the cup down on the counter haphazardly.

“What’s ‘stuck’ supposed to mean, anyways? This have anythin’ to do with your boyfriend?” Davídrius snorted as he began glancing around the bar distractedly. “Where is he, anyway? Last I saw you, the two of you never let each other outta sight.”

“…We had a kid.”

“…Really.” Davídrius turned back to face Selind, who was again engrossed in the liquid swirling in her cup. “When’d that happen?”

“’Bout two years ago.”

“Yeah? Boy or girl?”

“Girl. Named her Relia. Austilad’s idea.”

“I’m guessin’ they’re back in Tresnon, then?”

“Yeah. Austilad makes for a great father. Almost wish I had one.”

“Mm. When’re you goin’ back?”

“Not sure I am.”

“What?” Davídrius snapped his attention back to Selind after having it wander to the dark shelves in front of him. “Say again?”

Selind sighed again before downing the rest of her drink. “I left him.”

“What?! The hell did you do that for?”

“I couldn’t handle it, okay? I’m too young for this shit. Settlin’ down, raisin’ a family. I can’t do it. I can’t anchor myself here.”

“So you just left your boyfriend and your kid behind?” Davídrius retorted, “you really gonna force that on ‘em?”

Selind scowled. “Don’t get high and mighty on me, pup. You ain’t the only one here who grew up without parents.”

“Exactly. You know how it feels. So why the hell d’you wanna inflict that on your own kid?”

Selind refused to respond, instead choosing to take a swig out of her second glass.

“…So that’s why you were confused about me comin’ back. Ha!” Davídrius laughed bitterly. “That’s why you were glad I left. You wanted to do the same.”

“You saw right through me,” she smiled hollowly.

“What about Tresnon, huh? You’re the primary Guardian. You just gonna leave the whole compound to itself, too?”

“…”

“Damn. I knew you were carefree, Selind, but I never thought you’d fuck someone over with it. And you haven’t even properly left, you’re still on this shithole of a continent. Leave it to you to half-ass fuckin’ someone over.”

“Hey,” she cut in sharply as she shot a glare at the Velocitechnic. “You weren’t there. You didn’t know what it was like. What I was goin’ through. What I am goin’ through.”

“No, but I know what growin’ up without parents is like. I know what it’s like to lose someone close to you, too. But I’ve never left someone. So between you, Austilad, and your kid, I can empathize with two of you. Guess which one I can’t?”

“Never left anyone, eh?” Selind chuckled bitterly. “That’s a lie. That’s a solid lie. You left Riken.”

“First you were confused that I came back, now you’re mad I left? Get a grip, woman, which one is it?”

“Neither.” She paused to take another drink. “…Both.”

Davídrius shot her an incredulous look. “How drunk are you?”

Selind shook her head warily before finishing the drink and shoving the glasses back across the counter. “Not drunk yet, just buzzed. Need another three or four of those to get drunk.”

“Right,” Davídrius drawled. “The shit you’re drinkin’ would knock out most men half again your size at that point.”

“I’ve built up a tolerance over the years.”

“Sounds like a shitty way to spend the time.”

“Not really any other way to spend the time.”

“You mean aside from gettin’ knocked up and abandonin’ your kid?”

“Look, I know I’ve made some mistakes. No need to get crass or snappy about it.”

“Oi, oi, since when’ve you cared about bein’ crass? You started this when you got on my case for comin’ back, anyways.”

“I’m just tryin’ to look out for you, Davídrius…”

“Maybe you should start lookin’ out for yourself, huh?”

Selind sighed warily, leaning forward with her elbows on the counter as she waited for her glasses to be refilled. “I know I’m not the best person to be givin’ out advice, but… I think that applies to you, too. You should really think about yourself more often.”

Davídrius snorted. “When’ve I not thought about myself?”

“You give off the impression that you’re self-centered, and it’s enough to fool most people, but not me,” Selind countered. “I’ve known you since you were just a wee lad, you know.”

“You say that, but you were just a ‘wee lass’ yourself.”

“Stop internalizin’ things, Davídrius. I know that’s why you never left. You blamed yourself for your parents’ deaths, for your siblings’ deaths… for Hanas’s death.”

Davídrius scowled deeply at the name, but didn’t interject.

“That’s why I was happy to hear that you left, I think,” Selind continued, reaching forward to grab her glasses just after they were refilled. “I thought you’d finally gotten over ‘em.”

“You think I’d really just get over Hanas?”

“I’d hoped you would. Did you?”

The Velocitechnic looked away, sighing wistfully. “I… don’t know. …I thought I did…”

Selind took another drink. “And?”

“…And nothin’.” Davídrius shook his head before standing up. “Look, I’m grateful for seein’ you again, and for the talk, but I’ve really gotta get goin’. Info on the Bleeders won’t find itself.”

“Wait.”

“Eh…?” The Velocitechnic paused mid-turn, glancing down at his right arm where Selind had just grabbed him. He then looked up at her face, though she herself was once again absorbed in her drink.

“…You stickin’ around?” she questioned without making eye contact. “Goin’ to check on Riken?”

“Well, yeah.” Davídrius shook her off and turned to face her completely as he crossed his arms. “That’s the whole reason I came down here. Why would I not check on Riken? It’s my home. …Was my home.”

“You got the past tense right.”

“…What?” He narrowed his eyes, watching tensely as Selind finished her drink and moved on to the other. Before drinking again, though, she sighed.

“Riken’s gone.”

“…Say what?”

“Bleeder attack,” Selind muttered, her gaze pointed straight down into her cup. “Barely a month after you left. I guess they wanted revenge for you takin’ out Strén? I dunno. But by the time I’d heard, it was too late to do anythin’. Whole crew of Bleeders, attacked Riken, cleaned the place out. It was… a massacre. No one survived.”

“Wha… what…?” Davídrius responded quietly, stunned. Mere moments later his face contorted with rage as he reached over to Selind and roughly grabbed her by her collar, forcing her to face him. “Why the fuck didn’t you tell me earlier?!”

“Because I knew this is exactly how you’d react!” she snapped back, knocking away his arm and accidentally knocking over her drink in the process. “I was tryin’ to look out for you! Help you move on! Not drag you back into the stupid affairs of this stupid shithole!”

“By hidin’ the fact that my entire home was slaughtered?!” Davídrius shouted back, ignorant of the attention he was beginning to attract. “You think hidin’ the fact that everyone I knew is dead is supposed to help me ‘move on?!’”

“Yes! …No! I don’t know!” Selind countered, turning away in frustration. “I just— I don’t know!”

“Damn right you don’t know,” Davídrius growled. “And here I thought I could still trust you. So much for havin’ someone in my life who’d understand me.” He turned his back on Selind. “Because, apparently, they’re all dead.”

“Davídrius—!”

“I’m gonna find the Bleeders responsible, and I’m gonna make them pay. And then I’m gonna leave. I bet that’ll make you real happy, huh?” He paused for a moment. “…Goodbye, Selind.”

She simply stared forward, unable to respond before the Velocitechnic suddenly disappeared from sight.

Chapter 54 – The New Guys

3 Days Later

Windia, Skydiath 5, 8034

“Oh, Kaoné, Kevken…”

“Hey, Kevérin.” Kievkenalis casually glanced toward the Transfer Captain as he entered the Hero Machina Office with a sullen look on his face. “Is something wrong?”

“No…” Kevérin replied, and then sighed wearily as he trudged over to his desk. “…Yes,” he corrected himself, “yes, something’s wrong.” Kaoné and Kievkenalis looked back at him and then to where he was gesturing: the four empty office desks belonging to the other members of Hero Machina.

The Pyrotechnic crossed his arms as the two other Chaotics turned back to face him. “That’s what’s wrong,” he muttered sullenly, “not even a week after the Nanocreatures show up and we’re already starting to fall apart…”

Kaoné frowned uneasily. “That’s not true…”

“Siyuakén… KIA. Christeané, medical leave. Rebehka, detained until further notice. Davídrius, military leave,” Kevérin replied flatly, though his furrowed brow betrayed his emotionless tone. “I don’t… I don’t know what to do. The Nanocreatures are just too much. With just the three of us — what are we supposed to do? Not even a week after the Nanocreatures show up, and they’ve already disabled half our squad, directly or indirectly. And that’s just us! Bouy’Xis fell almost three days ago, did you know? A Transpace World, lost in just four days. If the Nanocreatures keep this up, the CSA will lose control of all their Transpaces in just a month and a half, and that’s assuming that the Nanocreatures only attack one world at a time! Which they don’t, because two more Transpace Worlds are also under attack right now, and are bound to be lost within the week! What are we supposed to do against that kind of power?!”

“Well, brooding sure won’t get you anywhere.”

“Huh?” Kevérin looked up at the entrance to the office, which had just opened to allow two individuals dressed in RPF uniforms to enter.

“…Vélunis! Wilkas!” Kievkenalis exclaimed, his expression one of both confusion and happiness.

“…Wait…” Kevérin squinted at the two newcomers, who shut the door behind them and casually approached to stand next to Kievkenalis’s desk. “…We’ve met, haven’t we?”

“Don’t even remember us, huh?” Wilkas crossed his arms. “It was, uh, some SFC raid, I think.”

“The raid on Kotak,” Kievkenalis answered.

“Yeah, sounds about right.”

“Well it’s great to see you guys again, but what brings you here?”

“…You don’t know?” Vélunis glanced between Kievkenalis and Kevérin incredulously. “Just when I thought there was some level of competence in this whole organization…”

“In case you haven’t noticed, things have been pretty damn busy lately,” Kevérin replied impatiently. “These past few days haven’t exactly been pleasant for us either, you know. We’re down to three people from a formerly seven-person squad for who knows how long. So please, tell us why you decided to grace us with your presence so we can get back to work figuring out how to stop the entire galaxy from getting destroyed.”

“Like we haven’t heard about the fall of Bouy’Xis either,” Vélunis replied flatly, unfazed by Kevérin’s thinly-veiled irritation. “That’s why we’re here, actually — about you being down to three people. Some of the higher-ups apparently decided we’d be better off helping you than doing hell-knows-what on whatever planet the CSA’s going to lose next.”

Kevérin paused momentarily to process Vélunis’s claim. “Wait… are you saying you’re here to join Hero Machina?”

“Well, I mean, unless you want us to suck your dick or some shit, I don’t know what else ‘helping you’ is supposed to mean.”

The Pyrotechnic scowled. “Did Nikéyin send you here?”

“She’s the NSD Commander, right?” Wilkas shrugged. “That qualifies as ‘higher-ups’ then.”

“…I can’t have this. I won’t have this. Hero Machina is an already-established squad; we don’t need any new members. Recruitment wrapped up months ago.”

“Kevérin…” Kaoné replied with a frown, “you can’t just reject them…”

“And why not?” The Transfer Captain bristled. “You know what this is, right? This is basically the Commander telling us ‘hey, don’t get your hopes up about seeing your friends again. Here’s some replacements.’” He glanced back to Vélunis and Wilkas. “No offense, and nothing personal, but we can’t take this right now.”

“You sure about that?” Vélunis replied incredulously, “we were there for the blackout, you know. In fact, if it weren’t for your Cryotechnic friend being in the way, I could’ve taken out that berserk chick and saved two of your ‘friends’ from getting thrown in the brig for unauthorized off-world travel.”

“Huh?… Wait…” Kevérin squinted again, taking a moment to think back to the short report he had read on the blackout incident. “…Are you saying it was you who managed to shoot Siyuakén’s arm off?”

“’Managed?’ That was a damn good shot, man. I was a whole kilometer away.”

“How is the fact that you fired on one of my friends supposed to get you on my good side?”

“Because, unlike your ‘friends,’ we can actually do what we set out to do.”

“…You’re treading on real thin ice, buddy.”

“Well, he’s not entirely wrong,” Kievkenalis spoke up, standing and moving to place himself in between Kevérin and Vélunis. “If Rebehka or Siyuakén had told us about the corruption before, then we might’ve been able to do something about it, instead of… well… instead of what happened.”

The Transfer Captain glared at Kievkenalis before tearing his gaze away and sighing wearily. “Fine. Fine… you have a point. I guess we could use your help.” He then turned back to face the two newcomers. “But only if you stop insulting our friends.”

“…Whatever, sure.” Vélunis casually shrugged in response.

Kevérin’s eyes narrowed at the response, but he didn’t directly address it. Instead he moved around to the front of his desk and leaned back on it, his arms crossed. “Alright, then. Let’s have a formal introduction, if you’re really going to join Hero Machina.”

“I dunno, I’m starting to have second thoughts.”

“C’mon, guys,” Kievkenalis urged, “it’ll be fun—!”

The Chaostechnic stopped himself as everyone in the room turned to stare at him blankly.

“…I mean, well…” he continued uneasily, “you know… fighting Nanocreatures… defending planets… finding Ayas… that’s fun, right?…”

“…So are you in or not?” Kevérin questioned flatly, ignoring Kievkenalis as he turned back to Vélunis and Wilkas. The two glanced at each other and shrugged.

“Sure,” Wilkas spoke for the both of them.

The Pyrotechnic nodded. “Alright. Well, I’m Transfer Captain Kevérin Tyrion, and I’m the Commanding Officer of Hero Machina, so you’ll be taking orders from me, got it?”

“Sure thing, Cap’n.”

Kevérin sighed impatiently before continuing, “anyways. We’re all Chaotics, here. I’m a Pyrotechnic. Kaoné there is a Materiatechnic. I assume you already know that Kevken is a Chaostechnic…”

“’Kevken?’” Vélunis echoed with an amused snort before glancing over at the Chaostechnic. “Everyone calls you that here, too, huh?”

“Seems like it.” Kievkenalis shrugged. “I don’t mind, though.”

“Nicknames aside,” Kevérin interjected, “I assume the both of you are Chaotics? What types?”

“Forcetechnic,” Wilkas declared as he flexed proudly, though his attempt at showing off his muscles was ruined by the thick jacket that covered them.

“I’m actually a double type,” Vélunis answered nonchalantly, “Sub-Mach Velocitechnic, and Weapons-Specialist Formtechnic.”

“Really?” Kevérin whistled in awe. “That’s actually pretty impressive. A Weapons-Specialist Formtechnic, huh? That means you can create weapons out of thin air, right?”

“Basically, yeah.”

“Hey, I’m pretty powerful too,” Wilkas interjected, “I can lift a couple thousand kilograms, you know. At least.”

“So can Christeané,” Kevérin replied flatly, and then continued, ignoring Wilkas’s scowl. “If you don’t mind me asking, how old are you guys?”

“Same age as you,” Vélunis responded, “21.”

“21…?” Kevérin frowned as he did some quick mental math. “…So you were born in 8012?”

“Oh boy, here we go…”

“No, 8013,” Wilkas corrected as Vélunis glanced away impatiently.

“Huh? But… that means you were born during the Chaos Quake,” Kevérin replied in confusion.

“Yep.”

“…But you’re Chaotics.”

“Yep.”

“But only seven Chaotics were born during the Quake…”

“On Nimalia, yeah.”

Kevérin blinked, staring at the two Chaotics blankly until realization dawned on his features. “Oh, neither of you were born on Nimalia?”

Wilkas shook his head. “Nope.”

“Then where?…”

“I’m from Chiníka,” Vélunis replied. “Wilkas is from Shekafte.”

“Tier 3 and 4 Worlds, huh?” Kevérin crossed his arms. “Were you guys the only Chaotics born on those planets during the Quake, then?”

“Yep.”

“Wait, what?” Kaoné spoke up, her brow furrowed in confusion. “You mean… we weren’t the only ones born during the Quake?”

“No, of course not.” Kevérin passed the Materiatechnic an incredulous glance. “You should know that. Almost every Tier 1 World had between five and ten Chaotics born during the Quake. There’s at least hundreds, maybe thousands of us ‘Quakeborn’ Chaotics out in the galaxy, you know. We aren’t even the only Chaotic squad to consist entirely of Chaotics born during the Quake — the CSA has a whole program for them.”

“Aw…” The Materiatechnic pouted. “And I thought we were special…”

“We still are, just not that special,” Kievkenalis remarked.

I’d certainly say that you all are very special,” Vélunis quipped.

“Right,” Kevérin responded flatly, unamused by the jab. “Anyways… welcome to Hero Machina, I suppose. I don’t know what to do about desk space for you guys, but, uh, I can ask the Commander and we’ll figure something out.” Almost as soon as the Transfer Captain finished his statement, his glasses lit up with a notification indicating a new message from Nikéyin. “Well, speak of the devil.”

“What is it?” Kaoné questioned.

“A message from the Commander…” Kevérin quickly read through the message and then relayed its contents. “She wants us all to meet in the briefing room in ten minutes… I wonder what this is about.”

“Oh man, we got here just in time for a mission. Yay,” Vélunis deadpanned.

“Don’t be upset, this could be important.” The Transfer Captain pushed his way between the two Chaotics as he made his way toward the door. “C’mon, guys. Let’s go see what the Commander has for us.”


“Good, you’re all here.”

Kevérin quickly stood as Nikéyin rushed into the briefing room, giving the Transfer Captain a brief nod before taking her seat at the head of the table.

“What’s the rush?” Kaoné questioned uneasily.

“Organizing fleets, planning defenses, trying to hold everyone together while the Nanocreatures are out there raising hell,” the Commander responded with a sigh. She rubbed her cheeks tiredly, drawing Kevérin’s attention to the bags under her eyes.

“Uh, Commander…” He frowned. “When was the last time you slept…?”

“Don’t talk about sleep. I don’t have time for sleep. You’ll just make me remember that I need it.” Nikéyin shook her head and cracked her knuckles before leaning forwards, her elbows on the table. “Anyways, to business. I’m sorry I couldn’t tell you about Lieutenants Húnon and Icard before they arrived, Tyrion. I’ve been busy with… more pressing matters.”

“No, it’s… fine.” Kevérin glanced over at the two newcomers. “But what about the rest of Hero Machina? What does this mean for them?”

“Kolstén and Wrikax will return to service eventually. But Kolstén still has at least half a week before his operations are even complete, so don’t expect him to be battle-ready until the beginning of next month at the absolute earliest. Wrikax and Tchiréon are both on leave for the stunt they pulled a few days ago… given the galactic circumstances, and the circumstances of the situation involving Wanléon, I can pull Wrikax back in a week or two, but for now he’s not allowed on base. Tchiréon, though… I don’t know what to do with her. She knew about Wanléon’s corruption, and willingly chose to keep it hidden. Whether she realizes it or not, that was an egregious mistake. Who knows what could happen now? Wrikax and Tchiréon both claim that Wanléon was taken care of, but who’s to say that Tchiréon isn’t corrupted? That anyone or anything else Wanléon has touched isn’t corrupted? It’s been almost four months since the Sunova mission; that’s a lot of time, a lot of space to investigate. She seems to have at least had the good sense to cover herself up, but we still don’t know the full extent of the Nanocreatures’ abilities. Worst case scenario, Tchiréon and Wanléon have unknowingly doomed us all.”

“That’s barely fair,” Kaoné responded quietly, “no one knew what the infection really was until Morcii showed up. How could they have known it would blow up like this?”

“I realize that they had no way of knowing, but ignorance is no excuse.” Nikéyin sighed. “The Nanocreatures are formidable. They’re already overpowering the CSA by conventional means, so we can’t allow them to take full advantage of their corruption and assimilation techniques. Tchiréon will remain detained until I can be certain that Nimalia is safe. Until then, don’t expect to work with her.”

“…Alright, then,” Kevérin eventually replied, choosing not to argue the issue farther. “Are there any updates on the fighting between the CSA and the Nanocreatures? Aside from the loss of Bouy’Xis?”

“…Luckily, no additional Transpace Worlds have fallen under attack. It’s only Gonaan and Metorilis for now. But the Nanocreatures have practically obliterated several CSA fleets already; it would seem that for every enemy ship we can destroy, we lose fifty. Fifty to one is a terrible ratio, and it’s made worse by the fact that the Nanocreatures can turn our defunct ships against us. We’re feeding their fleets, and there’s nothing we can do about it.” Nikéyin paused for a moment to remove her glasses and rub her temples warily. “I’m starting to think, more and more, than any possible chances for victory might lie with the Ayas, even if the only feats we know them to be capable of are legends. Which brings me to why we’re here.” She replaced her glasses on her face and looked up at the five present members of Hero Machina. “The Earthians want our help… and they’re willing to loan us their new Battlecruiser and an Ayas to get it.”