Chapter 86 - Epilogue: The Beginning of a Saga
20 Years Later
– Sundia, Aldredath 28, 8054 –
"Aaaahhh… so tired…"
Kevérin worked at the buttons on his jacket as he entered his hotel suite, glancing up when the lights automatically flipped on. He removed his jacket and tossed it onto a coat rack near the door before kicking off his shoes and stepping into the main living area. Looking over at the dark window, he moved to adjust his glasses — realized he wasn't wearing any — and smirked to himself as he opened up his AR environment anyways. I keep forgetting that I have the implants… and I got them years ago. I guess old habits die hard. He then swiped one of the holographic panels, toggling the window opacity and revealing the late afternoon coastline.
This suite is better than my office… He sighed after staring out at the Tekdecénian west coast for several moments, taking in the calm ocean waves breaking against the cliffs before he turned his attention to a handful of alerts in the corner of his AR display. Institute mail… junk mail… more junk mail? What happened to my spam filters?… Wait, Kines picked a fight with Nimal again? Damn it. You'd think the 'Elite Six' would be better behaved… oh well. I'll have to talk to Kaoné about that… Hmm… Oh, Maven! Let's see… 'Hurry up and call me you twat, you haven't been home in three weeks! Love you.' Yep, sounds like her. I'll have to give her a call tomorrow… …Hmm, I guess that's it. He passed an impatient glance toward the room's entryway. Where are they? I could've sworn they were right behind me the whole time—!
A ringing bell interrupted his thoughts. "Coming!" he shouted as he turned away from the window and approached the doorway where he casually slammed a button in the wall, causing the door to slide open.
"Oi, there you went! Think you can try an' outrun me?"
"Wouldn't dream of it," Kevérin remarked with a smirk, stepping aside to allow Davídrius — followed by Christeané and Rebehka — to enter his suite. "It's about time you got here! Where's Kaoné and Kevken?"
"They're on the way," Rebehka replied, setting her satchel down on a nearby counter as Davídrius and Christeané wandered past the entryway and into the living room. "Sidonté Demerin wanted to talk to them about something."
"Can't he wait until tomorrow? The Summit lasts for a whole week, we aren't going anywhere," Kevérin responded in annoyance as he stepped into the living area behind the Introtechnics and then turned toward his kitchen. "Take a seat wherever," he called out, "I'll get the drinks."
"Ha! Drinks! Yes, please!" Christeané sighed of relief as he approached the window that overlooked the coast. "Ahhh… there's nothing like a good drink and a chat with old friends after a long day."
"You sound like an old man," Davídrius retorted as he approached the window next to Christeané.
"I feel like an old man. Forty isn't twenty, I'll tell you that much."
"Forty isn't old. Trust me, it's really not," Rebehka countered as she took a seat on the couch. "We aren't even middle-aged. With any luck, we'll live three or four times longer than we already have."
Davídrius scowled. "Fuck, I didn't come here to get into a pissin' contest about age."
"And I certainly didn't invite you all here for as much," Kevérin added as he re-entered the room with four mugs, each filled to the brim with a translucent maple-gold liquid. Christeané eagerly accepted one and took a massive swig as Rebehka took another. "Davídrius?" The Pyrotechnic held the third out toward the Velocitechnic.
"Eh…" Davídrius stared at the mug and pulled a face. "No thanks."
"C'mon, really?" Christeané snorted, ignoring Kevérin as he placed the fourth mug on the table in front of the couch and then took a seat in a chair to the side. "You should give it a go every once in a while."
"Not everyone enjoys drinkin'," Davídrius shot back, and then grinned. "'Sides, it's more amusin' to watch you get drunk."
"How often do you see him drunk?" Rebehka responded incredulously.
"Too often," Davídrius replied with a smirk. "You'd almost think he was WCU's second Dean with how much time he spends down in Treséd."
"You're the one asking for all the help," Christeané countered, "you should recruit yourself a half-decent Forcetechnic if you're gonna complain about my help."
"Wait, Davídrius, I thought you had one?" Kevérin questioned.
"Who, Karísah? Sure, she's helpful, but I ain't gonna ask one of my students to help me out all the damn time. It looks bad."
"I'm surprised to hear you concerned about appearances," Rebehka teased, "are you sure that isn't your pride talking?"
"…Bah. I only got this far by forcin' myself to care just a little bit about appearances." Davídrius sighed wearily. "I only got WCU recognized by all the major compounds a few years ago, so I'd appreciate some… well… appreciation." He shook his head and glanced toward Rebehka and Kevérin. "What about y'all? I haven't really had the chance to talk with either of y'all since the last Summit two years ago."
"Just as busy as always," Rebehka replied, "I didn't have nearly as much trouble as you when I started the Academy, but that just means I have different problems. It seems like every Relédiakian researcher wants a place on the faculty — though, in hindsight, I suppose there haven't been many private-sector opportunities for Chaos Energy researchers before now. But on top of that, working out how we fit into the old conscription paradigm is… difficult, at best. …The student body is small, but well-behaved, at least."
"Lucky you," Kevérin snorted, taking a quick sip as he leaned back in his chair.
"Oh no. Did Kines do something again?"
"Seems he picked a fight with Nimal." Kevérin sighed. "This wouldn't be quite so much of a problem if Nimal wasn't the daughter of Nimaliaka's Archoné, and the younger sister of a Black Suns General. I swear, these kids…"
"Wait, what's this about the Archoné?"
"Huh?" Kevérin glanced back at the entryway and grinned again as Kaoné and Kievkenalis entered. "You're finally here!"
"You guys decide to take the scenic route?" Christeané snorted.
"No, Demerin just wanted to talk about a couple Chaostechnic training techniques," Kievkenalis replied wearily. "Not sure why he was asking about that, though…"
"Anyways…" Kaoné turned back toward Kevérin as Kievkenalis took a seat on the couch next to Rebehka. "What were you saying about the Archoné?"
Kevérin took another drink before replying, "Kines picked a fight with Nimal again."
"…You mean Derynii? Derynii Nimal?" Kaoné frowned, and then facepalmed. "Oh no, not again…"
"I'm just glad Sméthan didn't get involved," Christeané remarked. "Last time he and Cartérius got into a fight, I spent the whole week cleaning up after their diplomatic mess."
"Man, what's with y'all? I've never had any problems with my students, not like this," Davídrius commented.
"Yeah, that's 'cause you're a strict bastard and rule over them with an iron fist."
"That's not…! …Well okay, that's kinda true, but—"
"Why do we always end up talking about the students when we get together?" Rebehka cut in, "can a conversation about our jobs ever not do that?"
"Maybe if Kines and Nimal weren't part of the 'Elite Six,'" Kevérin retorted.
"I always hated that title," Kaoné responded with a an annoyed frown, "even when it first came into use almost ten years ago. It always just goes to the students' heads."
"I don't know, I think a little competition is good," Rebehka refuted.
"It's not 'little' when I come to know the Archoné on a personal level due to how often his daughter acts up," Kaoné countered.
"And here's a great place to talk about somethin' else," Davídrius interjected as he turned his attention toward Kaoné. "How're your kids? …Fuck! I actually just asked someone 'how're the kids!' Fuck! We really are old!"
Kievkenalis frowned. "Forty isn't old…"
"Besides, my oldest is eleven." Kaoné smirked. "Have you really only just realized that?"
"Gah, that just makes it worse—!"
"Wait, Davídrius," Kevérin cut in, "don't you have a daughter?"
"What?" The Velocitechnic gave him a clueless stare before recognition dawned on his face, followed by incredulity. "You mean Relia? She ain't my kid. I'm friends with her mom, sure, but she ain't mine."
"And being friends with someone who has a kid old enough to attend your school doesn't make you feel old?" Rebehka responded, amused.
Davídrius scowled. "…Shut it."
"If you feel old, how do you think I feel?" Kaoné sighed. "I'm the only one of us with kids. How did that even happen?"
"Whaddya mean, innit obvious? You got knocked up."
Davídrius promptly found himself suspended upside-down in the air as Kaoné gave him an irritated glare.
"Oi oi oi, what're you—!"
"Nice to know that you've matured, Davídrius," Rebehka deadpanned.
"I'll have you know that none of my children were accidents or born out of wedlock," Kaoné declared. "To suggest otherwise…!"
"That's not what I— wait…" Davídrius frowned. "…What do you mean, 'not accidents?' You can plan that stuff?"
"You…" Kaoné paused uneasily. "…You didn't know that?"
"I'm not surprised," Christeané snorted as the Materiatechnic allowed Davídrius to fall to the ground haphazardly. "Have you seen this guy with women? It's no surprise he doesn't know shit about sex or having kids."
"Are you saying that you're good with women?" Rebehka retorted.
"Like you're one to make fun of me for being single."
"Ooh, he's got you there." Kevérin smirked as the Cryotechnic drew away dejectedly.
"But still…" Kaoné turned toward Davídrius, a concerned expression on her face. "You're forty, and you don't know about family planning?"
"Oh, is that what that's about?" The Velocitechnic stood up and dusted himself off. "I thought that was just… I dunno… travelin' or some shit."
"The shining light of Treséd, everyone," Christeané joked.
"Oi, I've done more for Treséd than you and that joke of a College have ever done for East Nimaliaka," Davídrius shot back.
"Hey, fuck you! I'll have you know that the Kolstén College of Chaotics is doing very well for itself! Enrollment is at an all-time high!"
"And student behavior at an all-time low, am I right?"
"It's not all about the students, we have researchers and shit too!"
"I'll bet they'd be real impressed to hear that their Dean called them 'researchers and shit.'"
Christeané rolled his eyes. "Ah, fuck you."
"Fuck you too, buddy," Davídrius replied with a smirk.
"Christeané's right, though," Kievkenalis commented, "I don't know about you, but I feel like I'm managing a research group, not a school…"
Kaoné shrugged. "I feel the same way, but I guess that's just universities for you."
"That's not entirely true," Kevérin countered, "of course DSC and YCUR have a higher ratio of researchers to students — their Deans are a Materiatechnic and a Chaostechnic, respectively. I don't know if you guys realize it, but your Chaotic types are like wet dreams to Chaotic and Chaos Energy researchers." He glanced toward Kievkenalis. "Especially since you're a Chaos Conduit."
"Oh, is that why I'm always being asked to participate in experiments?" The Chaostechnic asked with a confused frown.
"…Isn't it your job to understand what's going on?" Rebehka questioned incredulously.
"Eh, not really." Kievkenalis shrugged casually. "I don't stick my nose into every experiment or research group. As long as everyone follows the rules and doesn't do anything dangerous, everything's fine."
"Maybe that's why you have so many researchers," Christeané remarked, "most people could only dream of that kind of hands-off administration."
"It's still a problem," Rebehka asserted, "is it really okay for you to be so lax? I've had Archoné Ledkia and the NSD breathing down my neck for less…"
Kievkenalis shrugged again. "I guess no one bothers me because I'm a Chaostechnic."
"More like because you're a full-fledged Chaos Conduit," Kevérin countered, and then sighed. "For some reason, I never expected founding and leading the Institute would be so difficult."
Davídrius scowled. "Yeah, you'd think we'd've been able to get more shit done after we saved the whole fuckin' galaxy."
"The thing is, we did get a lot done," Rebehka responded wearily. "The very fact that we were able to drop out of the military when we did, and that we were even allowed to upset the normal Chaotic education scheme by founding private schools — that's all thanks to the gratitude we earned after the Nanocreature War. But even then, I doubt any of the nations would've conceded the education point if you hadn't done it first in Treséd and shown how effective it was."
"Fuck yeah, stickin' to the man."
"Can't ask for too much, is that what you're sayin'?" Christeané questioned.
Kevérin chuckled spitefully. "If we were going to ask for anything more, we should have done it a long time ago, back when people were still willing to bow at our feet. But it's too late now. Hell, even back then there were a lot of people who refused to believe that we'd done anything. It took five years for us to convince the galaxy that we'd killed Morcii and get them to finally back down from high alert, and five years after that everyone had already forgotten, despite the fact that the planets attacked by the Nanocreatures are still recovering."
"I don't think we can fault anyone for that," Kaoné responded uneasily, "the Nanocreature War was pretty brutal. Even I wish I could forget, sometimes…"
"But we can't," Rebehka declared. "Even if the whole galaxy forgets, we'll still remember. At least, I will. I made a promise, and I intend to keep it."
"You named your school the 'Wanléon-Tchiréon Academy of Chaotics,'" Christeané replied with a smirk, "trust me, no one'll be forgetting Siyuakén any time soon."
"I hope so," the Cryotechnic responded, and then glanced away uneasily. "…People may have reason to remember her soon, though…"
"That sounds ominous." Kevérin leaned forward in interest. "What do you mean?"
Rebehka stared at her half-empty mug, swilling the drink around for a moment or two before looking back up at the other Chaotics with a grim look on her face.
"Oh fuck, you're serious…" Davídrius scowled. "What is it?"
"…What I'm about to say can't leave this room," she eventually replied. "I've arranged for a private meeting with the world leaders and the NSD commander, but this can't be said at the Summit. It's too early to go public."
"We get it, we get it," Christeané urged, "…what's goin' on?"
"Remember… remember how the Nanocreature War was prefaced by the appearance of the metallic infection?"
"Given that's how we lost Siyuakén? Kinda hard to forget," Davídrius remarked.
"Well…" Rebehka glanced down again, taking a deep breath before finishing, "the infection…