Chapter 2 – Unlocked

“…and indeed, the disconnection of the Relaynet earlier today is the proof that confirms SERRCom’s recent report: the galaxy is now suffering through yet another Chaos Energy Quake. Some of you may be familiar with the first Quake that occurred over forty years ago, in 2088…”

“A Chaos Quake, huh?” Sky idly echoed as she and her sister listened to the broadcast news.

“I suppose that might explain why the Chaos Energy exhibit closed so suddenly,” Twy commented.

“It was just an exhibit, it’s not like it had any functioning Chaos tech. Kicking us out was stupid.”

“They were probably reacting to the Relaynet unexpectedly going down, which would always be a bad sign.”

“I guess.” Sky shrugged as she sat back in her chair. She and Twy were sitting around the small kitchen table in Austin and Spike’s apartment; the four friends had elected to spend the rest of the day there after being kicked out of the museum. Twy was the first to start searching the news for an explanation, and before long she had found it: another Chaos Energy Quake had started, meaning that Chaos Energy was utterly unusable. Technology that relied on it shut down, and Chaotics — those who could use supernatural powers — were reduced to the level of normal people.

Practically, this meant little for the citizens of Earth. As first contact occurred a mere 29 years ago, the Earthians were incredibly new to the galactic stage and had yet to widely adopt the advanced Chaos Energy-based technologies of the other races. The single most well-known and widely-used piece of Chaos Energy-based technology were the Relay Network Points, which connected Earth to a galaxy-spanning information network known as the Relaynet, not wholly unlike the Internet. The Relay Network Points were capable of sending information at faster-than-light speeds thanks to Chaos Energy, but network latency was still high, preventing any kind of social interaction beyond message boards and wikis. And with Chaos Energy suddenly inaccessible, not even that was possible. To the average Earth citizen, the rest of the galaxy had effectively ceased to exist.

“What in the—? Austin, you bastard! Get back here!”

“Yeah, eat my dust, dirtbag! You ain’t got shit on me!”

Of course, the average Earth citizen didn’t often concern themselves with the rest of the galaxy in the first place.

“Guys, can you not take this a little more seriously?” Twy glanced toward the living room area with mild annoyance. Whereas she and Sky were watching the news, Austin and Spike had quickly broken out the VR headsets and booted up a racing game. It wasn’t long before the air filled with their constant taunting and trash talking.

“What’s that—? No! Fuck! Where the hell are these shells comin’ from?!”

“Ha! Havin’ fun in last place, huh?”

“Suck a dick, asshole.”

“What’s that? You’ll have to speak up, my massive lead makes it hard to hear you!”

Twy huffed, irritated at being ignored. Her sister simply smirked in amusement, and then jumped in surprise as Austin suddenly whooped.

“Haha! Victory!”

“Victory my ass.” Spike scowled as he roughly removed his headset from his face. “Only Twy can beat me so soundly. Today was a total fluke. All luck.”

“Bah, you’re just mad you didn’t win,” Austin retorted, a smug grin covering his entire face.

“Are the two of you finally done?” Twy cut in.

A frown rapidly replaced Austin’s grin. “…What’re you bein’ so pushy for?”

“Yeah, this is just what we usually do when we hang out,” Spike added.

“Yes, but normally there isn’t a Chaos Quake to worry about,” Twy countered.

“Aw, c’mon, that doesn’t affect us,” Austin waved off her concern. “The only Chaos tech we have ‘round here is the Relaynet, and that’s hardly necessary for everyday life. Now, if the Internet went down, then we’d have a problem.”

Sky snorted. “What, because then you couldn’t jack off to your stupid memes all day?”

“I’m going to pretend you didn’t say that.”

“Twy actually kinda has a point…” Spike commented as he stepped around the living room couch and stood next to Sky, where he began leaning on the back of her chair with his arm. “The last Quake caused a bunch of disasters, didn’t it? People don’t call it the ‘Apocalypse’ for nothin’.”

Twy nodded in response. “Exactly! The damage was incredible. Multiple high-magnitude earthquakes, tons of volcanic eruptions, massive hurricanes, flooding everywhere. The number of casualties is just… mind-boggling.”

“Yeah…” Austin sighed and then sat on the arm of the couch, facing the rest of the group. “…But, think of it this way: if the West Coast hadn’t been practically obliterated, then your parents never would’ve moved out here, and we never would have met!”

Twy passed Austin a deadpan stare. “I hope you realize how incredibly insensitive that sounds.”

“Yeah, it sounded better in my head…”

“Even so, we should be fine,” Sky declared. “I mean, we’re in the middle of Texas! No major fault lines nearby, and we aren’t too close to the coast, so hurricanes and tidal waves aren’t a problem either. The worst we’ll see is tornadoes, maybe.”

“Just because we aren’t in direct danger doesn’t mean we won’t feel the effects,” Twy countered. “We live in a global economy, you know. Wreck one part, you wreck everything.”

“Even just takin’ care of refugees can break a nation,” Spike added. “We already had to deal with losin’ four major cities during the first Quake, and that’s just America. Well… America and Canada, I guess. But there ain’t no way we can deal with another West Coast-level disaster.”

“Y’all are talkin’ like it’ll be the end of the world…” Austin scowled. “C’mon, it can’t be that bad, can it?”

“Tell that to Seattle, or Vancouver, or Portland,” Twy shot back. “And San Fransisco was literally flooded permanently. You said it yourself: that’s why our parents moved out to damned Texas, of all places.”

Spike sighed wearily. “And none of this is even considerin’ what happened everywhere else on the globe…”

“…Man, what’re y’all bein’ so depressing for? You’re actin’ like you were there for the first Quake, but it happened twenty years before any of us were even born!” Austin glanced incredulously between Twy and Spike. “Surely you’re just blowin’ this outta proportion?”

“Yeah, I’m with Austin on this one,” Sky quickly spoke up. “No use in suddenly being afraid of everything! We should just keep living like we always do.”

“What, eating, drinking, and sleeping all day long?” Spike smirked as he roughly tousled Sky’s hair. She let out a yelp and quickly batted his hand away before fixing the mess he created.

“To be fair, she was the one who suggested we check out the museum,” Twy pointed out.

“Yeah! See, I’m not just a lazy asshole!” Sky turned toward Spike and stuck her tongue out at him.

“Sure, sure.” Spike shook his head and sighed as if disappointed, but the slight smile on his face belied his true feelings.

“Still…” Twy muttered as Spike turned around and stepped into the kitchen, “…I have a bad feeling about this whole situation. Another Chaos Energy Quake, only forty years after the first one, but before that the galaxy went thousands of years without any such phenomenon. Something bad must be going on…”

“It’s just a natural disaster, ain’t it?” Austin shrugged. “It’s probably just random chance. And really, really bad luck.”

“Do we even know what caused the first Quake?” Sky questioned.

“There are rumors that the Nimalians know something about it… but they haven’t said much. Most of the Relaynet is more concerned with the Nanocreature War than with the Chaos Quake before it.”

“I can agree with that,” Sky declared, “that Nanocreature business is stuff that we can actually do something about, not this natural disaster Quake stuff. …What exactly is the Nanocreature stuff, again?”

“We were just at the damned museum, looking at the Nanocreature War exhibit,” Spike responded with exasperation as he stepped out of the kitchen with a glass of water in hand. He then knocked on the top of her head. “Do you retain any information in that thick skull of yours?”

Sky promptly adopted a sly smirk. “I know all of the best ways to get you out of bed.”

Austin and Twy exchanged annoyed glances as Spike’s mouth hung open for a moment. His dark complexion made it impossible to see if he was blushing, but his embarrassment was obvious all the same. Then, just as he was recovering from Sky’s remark, she swiftly grabbed the glass he was holding and attempted to snatch it out of his hands — but his grip was tighter than she expected, causing her to simply yank it into the air where it began to fall to the ground.

“Watch it—!” Austin reflexively stood up, directing an irritated reprimand toward Sky — until he noticed a distinct lack of the sound of water splashing on tile. In fact, while the cup itself had loudly clambered to the ground, the water that was once contained within it simply seemed to hang in the air.

Several moments passed in silence as Austin, Sky, and Spike stared at the floating blob of water. They each then turned their heads toward Twy, whose right hand was stretched toward the water, and whose face was frozen in shock.

“…Twy…?” Austin was the first to break the silence as he slowly approached her. “…Is that…?”

A moment later, the blob of water broke and fell to the ground, splashing across the tile as though the initial spill had been merely postponed.

“I…” Twy blinked twice, as though waking from a momentary nap. “…Did… did I just…?”

“Bah.” Spike shook his head as he re-entered the kitchen to grab some napkins. “This Quake shit is gettin’ to our heads. Some hallucinatory bullshit goin’ on here—?!”

As he turned around he froze again, as the water that had covered the ground rose up and reformed into a ball of water. The levitating mass then floated over to Twy, who held her hands under it without touching it. Her expression, initially one of awe, quickly transformed into glee as she began manipulating the sphere of water into different geometric shapes.

Austin shot Spike an incredulous glance. “…I think it’s safe to say we aren’t hallucinatin’.”

“But how?…” Spike frowned, his brow furrowed in confusion. He crossed his arms and then started scratching his temple in thought. “…Are… are you a Chaotic?”

“I guess so…” Twy replied, her attention still centered mostly on the water before her. Suddenly she froze, frowned, and glanced worriedly between Austin, Sky, and Spike. “Wait, this shouldn’t be possible.”

“What, because the chance of us Earthians bein’ Chaotics is so incredibly low?” Austin questioned.

“No, because of the Chaos Quake! If Chaos Energy is unusable, then how am I doing this?!” She gestured toward the floating blob of water.

“I don’t have the slightest idea,” Sky responded, “buuuuut, if you can control water… then, since we’re twins, obviously that means I can control fire, right—?!

As she finished her claim she punched the air — at which point a blast of flame emerged, igniting the kitchen wall.

“Holy fuck—!” Austin and Spike both immediately rushed to grab some towels in order to smother the fire. Before either of them could move far, however, Twy simply doused the flames with her sphere of water.

“…Oops?” Sky smiled sheepishly as she turned toward Austin and Spike.

“You dumbass!” Spike rapped her across the head again. “The fuck are you tryin’ to do here, huh? Me an’ Austin have to live here, you know!”

“I’m sorry! I just— I didn’t think it would actually work, you know?!”

Spike growled and shook his head. Then, with a sigh he commented, “…I know. I’ll let you off this once. But if you set fire to our apartment again—!”

“I know, I know!” Sky immediately adopted a broad grin as she turned toward Spike and lit up a small flame on her fingertip. “Be careful with those threats though, after all it’s pretty dangerous to…” She snapped and made finger pistols as she finished, “…play with fire.”

Spike gave his girlfriend a level stare as she grinned back, still pointing at him and thoroughly amused with herself.

“Please don’t turn into a walking cliche,” Twy responded flatly.

“Wait a minute, hold on, this is all fuckin’ ridiculous!” Austin exclaimed, “the hell is goin’ on? Why do y’all suddenly have superpowers? And why are you not concerned about this?!”

“What’s to be concerned about?” Sky questioned, finally putting her hands down and turning away from Spike.

“Oh gee, I dunno, maybe the fact that you suddenly and inexplicably have superpowers despite being too old and the wrong race? Or that every military ever presses Chaotics into military service?” Austin glanced between Twy and Sky with worry. “If someone finds this shit out, then who knows what’ll happen to you! Hell, gettin’ conscripted is probably the best case scenario!”

“…Oh…” Sky’s expression finally fell, as the gravity of the situation hit her. She glanced down at her hands and then back up at Austin cluelessly. “Shit… what do we do, then?”

“Can we even answer that question?” Spike scowled as he crossed his arms and leaned against the kitchen counter. “The two of you just suddenly have superpowers. How? When? Why?”

“And do me an’ Spike have powers, too?” Austin added.

Spike nodded. “Yeah, exactly. And all of this in the middle of a supposed Chaos Quake, too.”

“…This is a lot more serious than I thought…” Sky commented, crestfallen. “What do we do now…?”

“Don’t use your powers,” Spike suggested. “No one’ll know you have ‘em if you don’t use ‘em.”

“But…” Sky frowned. “But that’s…”

“Do you want to be conscripted? Because that’s how you get conscripted.”

“…”

“…Wait, Austin,” Twy spoke up, “what about your uncle?”

“You mean Luke…?” Austin stared at her for a few moments, confused, before her suggestion clicked. “Oh, yeah! He works with those Eximius Vir guys, doesn’t he?”

“Eximius who…?” Sky glanced between Austin and Twy wearily.

“The only four Earthian Chaotics to ever exist,” Austin explained. “…Until now, at least. They work for SERRCom. They aren’t much older than us, actually. My uncle, Luke, he’s a member of the fireteam that supports them, so he probably has a lot of experience and know-how when it comes to how SERRCom treats Chaotics.”

“He’s still part of SERRCom himself, though,” Spike pointed out. “Look, I know Luke’s a pretty cool dude, but can we really trust him with this?”

“Of course we can. …Probably.”

“At least we have time to think about it,” Twy stated. “Given his position, he’s probably really busy right now dealing with the fallout from the Quake.”

“Yeah, good point.” Austin nodded. “Hell, we might even be able to ask him for some better info about what’s goin’ on, in general.”

“Sounds like a plan…?” Sky glanced between Austin and Twy expectantly.

Spike heaved a lofty sigh. “Well, it’s all we’ve got for now. Just keep your powers to yourself so you don’t draw SERRCom’s attention, alright?”

“Will do!” Sky offered a mock salute as Twy simply shook her head in resignation.

“We’ll be careful,” Twy added, and then threw her sister a warning glance. “I’ll be sure to keep Sky in line.”

Sky simply stuck her tongue out in response.

“I guess this is all we can plan for now…” Austin frowned uneasily. “…Still… this whole situation just… doesn’t sit right with me.”

“You ain’t alone there,” Spike replied, “but there ain’t really much use in constantly worryin’ about it.”

“Agreed!” Sky exclaimed, and then yawned broadly. “…Oof. I think it might be time to get out of here.”

“I second that.” Twy stood up from her chair and stretched.

“The two of you gonna be alright?” Austin questioned as Spike moved to hug Sky.

“Bah, we’ll be perfectly fine,” Sky retorted. She gave Spike a quick kiss before releasing him and turning toward Austin, at which point she grinned and flexed. “After all, we just got superpowers! No one can stop us now!”

“Don’t go forgettin’ everything we just talked about, now,” Spike replied as he tousled her hair.

“I knew I’d have to babysit you,” Twy remarked with a sigh, “…but please don’t make me start so early.”

“…Man, you guys are no fun.” Sky pouted and stepped toward the door. As she stopped to put her shoes on, Twy approached Austin and gave him a quick hug.

“Don’t worry about us,” she declared, “we’ll all be fine.”

Austin nodded slowly. “Yeah… I hope so.”

The sound of the door opening drew their attention. Sky stood just outside of the doorway and waved back to Twy. “C’mon, sis! Let’s get going!”

“Coming, coming…” Twy muttered as she approached the door herself. She paused one more time to turn toward Austin and wave. “See you guys later!”

She then stepped through the door and closed it behind her. The twins were gone.

The moment silence fell over the apartment, Spike let loose an incredible yawn. “Looks like that’s it for me, too,” he grunted and moved toward his bedroom.

“Bit early to go to bed, ain’t it?” Austin questioned.

“Meh. It’s been a long day.”

“Heh, won’t argue with you there… well. See you tomorrow, then?”

“Aye.” Spike nodded as he closed the door to his bedroom. “’Night.”

“Yeah…” Austin responded absentmindedly, “…’night…”

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