Chapter 1 - Formation
– Sundia, Nimath 1, 8034 –
"Where is she…?"
A young man stood in a small tool shack, holding the door open just enough to peer into the world outside. Several hundred meters to the east was a long line of cliffs that dropped off to a sprawling city and the coast, while to the west and south, mountains towered over a series of conservatively decorated buildings, painted to blend in to the grass- and tree-covered mountainside — which presented a stark contrast to the military vehicles parked all around the complex. The man regarded the vehicles with annoyance, but then he glanced down at his black boots, slacks, and black, white, and gray dress jacket: the uniform of a Tekdecénian Transfer Captain. Can't very well complain about tanks on a military base, he thought to himself, …but I can complain about how long I've been waiting. Where is she? Seriously… He distracted himself by dusting off his uniform before glancing at his reflection in the shack's window; a pale face with narrow brown eyes, bounded by short black hair on top, a rounded chin on bottom, and glasses in front, stared back at him. He stood just over five and a half feet tall and his build was decidedly average for the 21-year-old man that he was, rounding out his rather unremarkable appearance.
"Too bad I'm not a shape-shifter," he muttered to himself, just before the sound of footfalls on grass reached his ears. He snapped his attention back to the shack's door and scanned his immediate surroundings, soon laying eyes on a passing young woman with olive skin, brown eyes covered by glasses, and long, wavy black hair. Her uniform shared the black boots and slacks of the man hiding in the shack, but the rest of her outfit was a significant departure: a blue waist-cloak draped from her belt, while she wore a white shirt over a long-sleeved cuffed blue shirt, and a blue shawl around her neck and shoulders. But aside from her outfit, her short stature stood out the most, as the top of her head wasn't even five feet above the ground.
"There she is… finally!" The man in the shack smirked to himself as he watched the woman cross the grounds unawares. "Alright, Kaoné… I've got you this time!"
He took a deep breath, rubbed his gloved hands together, and then…
The shack's door slammed open and a blast of fire rushed outside, rolling over the surrounding ground before rising up into the air and fading away. The man leaped through the doorway and quickly inspected the smoldering terrain around him, his eyes coming to rest on a small rocky mound to his side just as the ground beneath him exploded upward, nailing him in the chin and knocking him over backwards. As soon as he hit the ground, the dirt jumped up and grabbed his wrists and ankles before transforming into steel and binding him to the ground. He immediately began struggling and only looked up when the rocky mound he spotted earlier rose out of the ground and disintegrated, revealing the short woman from before.
"…Damn it!" The Pyrotechnic scowled. "I almost had you this time!"
"Kevérin!" the woman protested, "you almost killed me!"
"Oh please, you would've been fine," Kevérin replied. "You're a Materiatechnic! You're practically invincible!"
"Controlling matter doesn't really make me invincible…"
"Come on, Kaoné. I wouldn't have killed you. I couldn't have killed you! I've never even been able to scratch you before!"
"Fire doesn't scratch."
"You know what I mean." Kevérin tugged at his bounds meekly before glancing up at Kaoné. "Uh… mind letting me go?"
She sighed in annoyance. A moment later, the steel bindings disintegrated and Kevérin clumsily pulled himself up into a standing position. He stretched for a couple seconds before turning to face Kaoné and smirking. Pointing at her waist-cloak, he quipped, "on second thought..."
She glanced down at the singed article of clothing and sighed again. "What would your CO say if he heard you attacked a Nimaliakian?"
"Tch, that was more of a test, not an attack," Kevérin retorted, watching out the corner of his eye as Kaoné's uniform seemingly repaired itself. "We've been stationed here for weeks. Months? I forget which. I'm just trying to make sure we don't get soft."
"I know, I know. You don't have to attack me without warning, though."
"It wouldn't be a surprise attack if I warned you."
"Then don't surprise attack me."
"Hmph." Kevérin idly glanced around at his surroundings as he considered the difference in power between himself and Kaoné. Both of them were known as "Chaotics," a term for people who possess some kind of supernatural ability — and all Chaotics were dependent on Chaos Energy, a mysterious resource that pervades the galaxy and allows for all kinds of physics-defying feats. Kevérin and Kaoné at least had that in common, but their actual powers as Chaotics set them in different leagues. Kevérin could control flames and heat, but Kaoné could control and alter all matter itself. The Pyrotechnic sighed in irritation; it would take more than a mere ambush to make up for the gulf of power between him and his friend.
As he continued to muse about his situation, Kevérin's gaze turned to the cliffs overlooking the sprawling city below, and then up to the mountains that occupied the entire southern horizon. "You know," he eventually remarked, "as beautiful as this place is, I'm starting to miss Tekdecé…"
"You'll probably go back soon. Things have calmed down since that one incident with the Interstellar Gate," Kaoné stated, "Tekdecé doesn't have a lot of reason to keep soldiers in Nimaliaka. I'm surprised you've stayed this long, anyway."
"Probably the stupid conflict between the Drakkars and the CSA. Never know when they might attack each other again, and we'll have to hop through the Gate and put our lives on the line for some galactic federation that doesn't give a rat's ass about us."
"The Core Space Alliance isn't a federation."
"You're correcting me a lot today."
"You're being wrong a lot today."
Kevérin scowled. "…We should probably go back to our quarters now."
Kaoné glanced at the western horizon, where the sun was rapidly descending toward the mountaintops. "Yeah… in fact, that's where I was heading before you jumped out of that shack and ambushed me!"
The Pyrotechnic grinned sheepishly. "Sorry."
Kaoné grinned back. "It's okay. Just don't be surprised if the ground starts tripping you a lot."
"Oh boy…" Kevérin groaned before turning around, just in time for another soldier to round the corner.
She suddenly stiffened and saluted. "Sir! Ma'am!"
Kaoné and Kevérin saluted back. "What is it?" Kaoné questioned.
"Sorry about the timing." The soldier glanced at the sunset. "Commander Nikéyin would like to see you."
Kevérin snorted. "More fetch quests, I bet."
"Kevérin," Kaoné reprimanded as she elbowed his side.
"Fine, fine." He rubbed his side tenderly before looking back to the soldier and nodding. "You can go now. Tell the Commander we're on our way."
Kaoné slowly opened the large door to the Commander's office. She then stepped inside and let go of the door, leaving Kevérin to awkwardly catch the doorknob before it could nail him in the stomach. He glared at the Materiatechnic as he stepped through the door and stood next to her, but she pretended not to notice. Then he snapped his attention forward as soon as the chair on the other side of the desk swiveled around, revealing an olive-skinned woman with shoulder-length black hair and a ponytail. Her uniform was the same as Kaoné's, with the exception of golden decor sewn into her waist-cloak to demonstrate her high rank. On her face were the folds of age which, when paired with her glasses and her hardened — yet serene — resting expression, confirmed the many years of experience that her uniform claimed as she turned her attention to the two guests in her office.
Kaoné and Kevérin both saluted. "Commander!"
Commander Nikéyin stood and saluted back. "Lieutenant Densalin." She nodded toward Kaoné, and then glanced at Kevérin. "Transfer Captain Tyrion." She sat back down and bade for the two Chaotics to do the same, though they had only stools themselves.
Nikéyin eyed the two as they fidgeted in their seats. "Slow times, hmm?"
"You could say that," Kevérin admitted.
"It's not bad though," Kaoné commented. "I'd rather be bored than have to fight."
Nikéyin sighed. "If only things were always so easy…"
Kevérin's eyes widened with interest. "Does that mean we have an actual mission?"
"You won't be fighting anyone, if that's what you're looking for."
"Aw… Why do we have to stick around the base? We're literally the only non-rookie Chaotics in the entire region! Everyone else is off helping on the Drakkar or Riaxen fronts!"
"Do you want to be shipped to the war fronts?"
"Well… no," Kevérin admitted. "It's just… I hate having nothing to do!"
"Maybe if you'd stop complaining, you'd learn of what I want you to do?" Nikéyin smirked as the Captain's face fell. "Wipe that frown off your face. You may not be seeing action, but I think you'll still be pleased with your assignment."
Kaoné and Kevérin glanced at each other in confusion. "…What is it?" Kaoné questioned.
"I'll start by briefly explaining the background," the Commander stated, and then looked over at Kevérin. "You're from the Tekdecénian military. I'm sure you're aware of the movement to place all of Nimalia's extrasolar military activities in the hands of a non-national entity."
"I am," Kevérin replied. "I'm not against the idea, but it wouldn't be fair to take the space fleets from Tekdecé and the RPF if Nimaliaka gets to keep the Interstellar Gate."
"Don't worry, that's been considered. The Interstellar Gate won't be moved, but the facility it inhabits will be established as one of the first non-national grounds."
"…You're talking like this is already happening," Kaoné commented slowly.
"That's because it is." The Commander smiled broadly. "Nimaliaka, Tekdecé, and Riverana are coming together to form the Nimalian Systems Defense — the NSD. A non-national organization that will take control of all extrasolar activities. Well… at a later date, at least. The NSD hasn't been officially established yet."
"Alright, so this is cool and all…" Kevérin frowned. "But if it hasn't been established yet, then why are we here?"
"Just because it hasn't been officially established doesn't mean that it hasn't been effectively established," Nikéyin declared. "While we work through the politics and bureaucracy to make the organization official, I still have a useful task for you two – oh, I suppose I should mention that I'll be the NSD's Commander."
"Congratulations!" Kaoné smiled warmly.
"So… what are we supposed to do?" Kevérin questioned.
"Form the NSD's first Chaotic squad, recruit further members, and then investigate the cause of the Chaos Energy Quake."
Kevérin whistled. "That's a tall order."
"Hasn't the Quake already been investigated by countless organizations?" Kaoné pointed out, "I don't know what we could find that hasn't already been discovered…"
"That is true," Nikéyin admitted, "but I'm sure the two of you are aware of your relation to the Quake."
Kaoné and Kevérin briefly thought back to the event that occurred over twenty years ago. One day with no warning, all of the Chaos Energy in the galaxy became inexplicably erratic, frying Chaos Energy-based technology all across the galaxy and sending countless Chaotics berserk. And then — just as suddenly — Chaos Energy became completely unusable, rendering all of the technology that had survived useless and making faster than light travel and communication practically impossible. The galaxy was thrown into disarray until Chaos Energy mysteriously became usable again a year later. The civilizations of the galaxy have since largely recovered. However, aside from disabling all manner of advanced technology, the Chaos Energy Quake had a second lasting effect: the birthrate of Chaotics during the year-long period plummeted to almost zero. The galactic birthrate itself remained relatively constant, but of the millions of children born on the Nimalian Homeworld during that year, only seven went on to develop supernatural abilities — to become Chaotics. Kaoné and Kevérin were two of those seven.
Kaoné frowned, failing to understand the Commander's implication. "Our 'relation' to the Quake won't really help us figure out what caused it, though…"
"The two of you are two of the only Chaotics on this planet to have been born during that entire year," Nikéyin refuted. "Normally, several thousand of the newborns on Nimalia in any given year go on to develop Chaotic ability. It would be understandable if no Chaotics were born during the Quake, but that the seven of you were — it's confounding."
"I still don't know how we can help with this, but if it means actually doing something that isn't standing around here, I'm sold!" Kevérin leaned forward in anticipation. "Where do we start?"
"Ultimately, that will be up to you," the Commander stated before pulling up a roster on her glasses' AR display and sending it to the two Chaotics. "But to start with, your task is to recruit more members. I've already spoken with your respective superiors; they know to leave you be. You just need to get the people on that list to join up."
"…So this is a fetch quest," Kevérin drawled.
"Oh shush," Kaoné replied as she looked over the roster Nikéyin had sent to her. "…Wait, I recognize some of these names."
"I would hope so," Nikéyin replied, "they're the other five Chaotics born on Nimalia during the Quake."
His interest piqued, Kevérin began looking through the list himself. He then scowled, and began to complain. "These guys are all over the place! And a Tresédian? Really? You want us to recruit someone from that backwards place?"
"Davídrius Wrikax is one of Treséd's best Velocitechnics," the Commander asserted. "Everyone on that list has significant skill as a Chaotic, in fact. You'd do well to not underestimate them."
"Why do only Siyuakén Wanléon and Christeané Kolstén have contact information?" Kaoné questioned, "how are we supposed to find these people if we can't even contact them?"
"You'll need to visit them in person," Nikéyin responded, "it's probably the only way most of them will even consider joining you, anyway."
Kevérin scowled. "I knew this was a fetch quest…"
"You're really representing your home nation well."
"I guess we can start by calling up Siyuakén and Christeané…" Kaoné mused, "once we hear from them, we can decide who to ask next…"
"Sounds like you're developing a plan already! I knew I could count on Hero Machina."
"Hero… Machina?" Kevérin echoed slowly, and then grimaced. "Don't tell me that's our—?"
"Call sign? Actually, it is." Nikéyin smirked again when Kevérin let out an exasperated sigh. "It's really not that bad."
"Right…" Kevérin muttered. "…I almost want to go back to just standing around."
"Too late for that," Nikéyin replied as she stood up, prompting Kaoné and Kevérin to hastily stand as well. "You understand the task you've been given, correct?"
The two Chaotics nodded in response.
"Well then, I'll leave you to it. Meanwhile, I have some other things to attend to." The Commander saluted. "Dismissed!"