Chapter 17 – Escalation

1 Year Ago

“…Researcher Kirstin MacTavish?”

“Y-yes! Uh, uh, s-sir!”

“At ease, MacTavish, at ease.”

“Uh… y-yes…”

“You’re the daughter of the ETAA’s top boss, aren’t you?”

“…Th-that’s right…”

“The daughter of Scott MacTavish, the man responsible for reverse-engineering both the Subspace Drive, and our breaming tech… sounds like a stressful stick to measure yourself against. Going into the same type of career is bold of you.”

“…Um… r-right…”

“How old are you, exactly?”

“Um… n-nineteen, sir…”

“That’s even younger than Mote… shouldn’t you be in college right now?”

“I-I f-finished, sir.”

“Really? What’s your degree?”

“Um, w-well, uh… wh-which one?”

“You’ve got more than one? I’m supposed to believe you completed a double major by nineteen?”

“Er, w-well, n-not quite…”

“…Don’t tell me you’ve got a masters.”

“A-and a, um, P-Ph.D…”

“You’re kidding! You really are Scott’s kid, huh?”

“…”

“What’s your field training like? Are you a hidden prodigy there, too?”

“…F-field training, sir…?”

“You know, your physical ability and skills? Your tactical ability? Your gun skills?”

“…Uh…”

“You can fire a gun, right?”

“…Um…”

“You’re kidding.”

“I-I, uh, I-I know how t-to fire one…!”

“Alright. Well then, how’s your ability to focus in stressful situations?”

“U-um… o-okay… I-I think…?”

“…Figures. Damn it, Lead, the hell have you gotten me into this time…”

“I-I’m sorry sir, I-I can go—”

“Just answer me one question, MacTavish. Did you request this position yourself? Or did your old man thrust you into it?”

“…Um… uh… I-I, well…”

“You aren’t exactly filling me with confidence.”

“I-I, uh, I can just, you know, uh… quit…”

“No no… we can work through this. If you’re here, the General must’ve seen something in you. Fortunately for you, the Eximius Vir take care of most of our combat needs, so I’ve got the time and energy to take care of you. As long as we both realize why and how you got here, I’m sure we can get you the rest of the way to being an actual qualifying member of CSF-1.”

“…R-really…?”

“But I won’t lie, it’s gonna take a lot of effort from you. A lot a lot. But it should be fine for someone who got a Ph.D before they turned 20.”

“I-if you say so…”

“I do say so. We’ll make this work, MacTavish.” Saito extended his hand, firmly grasping MacTavish’s as she offered a weak handshake in response. “…Welcome to Chaotic Support Fireteam 1.”

*     *     *

Present Day, 3 Hours Later

Sunday, October 9th, AD 2129

 

“What a fucking day…”

Colonel Saito shook his head wearily as he meandered through the hallways of Genesis on his way to the mission debriefing. The Battlecruiser and her sister ship, Origin, had just dropped out of Subspace after leaving Dead Space to perform post-Dead Space maintenance checks; thankfully, as far as the Colonel could tell, neither ship had sustained significant damage, even through their brief encounter with a Drakkar Battleship.

“Not that I even remember any of it…” he muttered to himself. His memory of the time between taking off in the Aldredian ship and coming to on board Genesis was completely nonexistent. According to Kate, he — as well as the Black Suns, and the rest of the SERRCom soldiers — had blacked out due to the g-forces generated by Mote’s flying. A reasonable enough explanation, but it also drew attention to the abnormal physical constitution of the Eximius Vir. They truly did seem to maintain all of their powers and abilities while within Dead Space, and while Saito was certainly glad to have been rescued by Mote, he was also unsure of what to make of this new discovery.

Especially considering the fact that the Black Suns were privy to it as well.

Saito shook his head again; both Commander Rabine and Chief Captain Krick were certain to want answers, but the Colonel wasn’t sure he could provide them. He had been working with the Eximius Vir ever since the beginning, and was their oldest point of contact with SERRCom — so he considered himself to be fairly knowledgeable regarding their abilities. Mote controlled electricity and magnetism, Mark was super strong, Kate could materialize all kinds of explosives at will on top of being super intelligent, and Danielle could shapeshift into virtually anything she could imagine. Additionally, all four of them had bodies capable of withstanding far greater forces than normal people, Mark to a far greater extent than the other three. For the longest time, Saito thought their increased durability was par for the course for Chaotics, but he had eventually learned that it wasn’t — the Eximius Vir were simply incredibly hardy. And on top of that, they all possessed special weapons that they could summon at will: Mote, a giant battlehammer; Mark, a giant halberd; Kate, a pair of greaves; and Danielle, a pair of pistols. The four were clearly unique as Chaotics went, and this recent discovery regarding their powers in Dead Space was more evidence on the pile. What the Colonel still didn’t know, was how, and why?

As he mulled over these insights, his thoughts gradually turned to Telregina, the Drakkar Faction Leader he had had the misfortune of encountering. She claimed not to be able to use her regular abilities, but she clearly maintained her invulnerability, so there seemed to be some kind of precedent for Dead Space not completely nullifying a Chaotic’s powers. He then thought over the brief hand-to-hand battle he and Rabine had with the Drakkar, and how she seemed… somewhat weaker than he expected. Of course, she had still been matching Rabine and Saito both, but if not for her overwhelmingly powerful tanks, Saito and Rabine may have actually been able to beat her down and eventually capture her. But alas…

The Colonel briefly felt his mind drift along the tangent of “tanks” to think about the Rhino that Telregina destroyed, but he quickly pushed the thoughts away. He didn’t have time to mourn the loss of SERRCom soldiers, not now. There was a debriefing to be had, as well as what seemed to be a race against time and the Drakkars to find ancient Aldredian technology. Addressing the loss of SERRCom personnel would have to wait until he returned to Earth…

“C-Colonel…?”

“Huh?” The sound of someone calling out to him brought Saito’s thoughts back to the present. He realized that he had reached Genesis’s main briefing room while he had been absorbed in his thoughts, and currently sitting inside was MacTavish, who simply stared at him in surprise. Oh. Guess I’m early. Saito offered the Researcher a brief nod of greeting before maneuvering around the room and taking a seat at the table in the middle. “How’s it going?” he questioned, glancing over at MacTavish.

“…Uh… w-well…” She looked down at a tablet in her hands. “I-it’s fine, I guess…”

“How’s the head? I hear our launch from the planet wasn’t exactly pleasant.”

“Y-yeah… I-I’m fine…” MacTavish forced a small smile, but Saito could see the color drain from her face.

He sighed wearily. “You don’t have to say that you’re fine if you aren’t.”

“N-no, I— I am. Fine, th-that is.”

“…I see.” Saito passed her another glance before leaning back in his chair and clasping his hands behind his head. Inexperienced as MacTavish was — she was only 20, under half of Saito’s age — she appeared to do a decent job of putting up with everything her position threw at her. Saito had a strong feeling that she was merely putting on appearances, however, given the circumstances around her getting the job.

The Colonel briefly thought back to his first meeting with MacTavish, and all of the awkward realizations that followed. He wasn’t a fan of the idea that nepotism could fly in SERRCom, which is part of why he was willing to give MacTavish a chance — he wanted to prove to himself that even General Lead’s most puzzling decisions could work out in the end. And sure enough, to everyone’s surprise, it did. In the year following her assignment to CSF-1, MacTavish had proved to be incredibly useful, as well as surprisingly adept at picking up Saito’s teachings. She remained completely useless in an actual gunfight, and her social interaction skills leaved much to be desired, but she was able to work quickly under pressure — which was exactly what the Colonel had been hoping for. On top of that, her skill with sundry technological devices was virtually unmatched. She could easily disable or otherwise interface with foreign devices, spot and explain weaknesses in foreign technology, and could also tinker with the hardware of CSF-1’s armor and weapons to slightly improve their battery runtime and processing ability. Saito had no idea how she did it, but he now considered her a useful part of the team, despite all appearances. His opinion of her father, on the other hand…

He shoved the thoughts out of his mind. There was no use dwelling on negativity, or on things he couldn’t change. So instead, he turned back to face MacTavish. “How’s life?”

She stared at him, her eyes wide, startled by his sudden question. “Huh…?”

“You know, life. In general. How are things going back at home? Any personal projects, meet any people, had any fun…?”

“O-oh…” She averted her gaze; Saito couldn’t tell if it was out of unease, or if she was simply checking her tablet. “…N-not much. Just, um, s-some tinkering. I-I actually th-thought of a way to, um, to in-increase the strength of, uh, of our Chaos sh-shielding by, um, by several percent! I-I sent the idea t-to the, uh, the ETAA, but…” Her face clouded as she trailed off.

Saito wasn’t completely certain why, but he suspected it had something to do with her father — who was the head of the ETAA. As such, he decided to redirect the conversation. “You do anything with Travis or Hackett, lately?” he questioned.

“N-no…”

“Oh. Well, have you hung out with any friends, recently?”

She shrunk into her chair, her head bowed so far that her bangs obscured her face. “…No…”

“Ah…” Saito grimaced internally. “…Well, if you ever want to, I’m sure Travis or Hackett would love to spend some time with you. Or maybe you could talk to the new recruits; they’re all your age, I figure you’ll get along fine.”

“I-if you say so…”

“Yep.” The Colonel then glanced down at his watch uneasily. Well this got awkward… where the hell is everyone?

Just as the thought crossed his mind, Commander Rabine stepped into the room. She glanced between MacTavish and Saito, her expression neutral. “Researcher, Colonel.”

“Commander.” Saito nodded in acknowledgment. Not quite who I wanted to see, but at least it’s someone. “I see you’re doing well.”

“I suppose you could say that,” Rabine replied as she took a seat across the table from Saito. “My augmentations prevented any significant lasting injury from blacking out.”

The image of Rabine’s exposed cybernetic hand after blasting Telregina’s head momentarily flashed across Saito’s mind. “…Oh, right. You Black Suns use cybernetics a lot, don’t you?”

“You could say that. It’s my understanding that SERRCom doesn’t use cybernetics much at all… if so, I can only imagine how painful our escape must have been for you.”

Saito pursed his lips and resisted the urge to roll his eyes; he couldn’t quite tell if Rabine was being sincere or intentionally condescending, but the liftoff experience hadn’t been that bad. Not as far as he recalled, at least. “…I’m sure we’ll manage,” he eventually replied.

“Yes…” The Commander trailed off. Saito caught her passing a surreptitious glance toward MacTavish, who had shied away from both officers as she wholly directed her attention at the tablet before her. After a moment, Rabine spoke up again. “…Excuse me. Researcher… MacTavish, was it?”

“Uh, y-yes?!” MacTavish briefly made eye-contact before averting her eyes.

“After a bit of thought, I’ve realized that I was… unnecessarily short with you earlier today, when we were speaking aboard the Aldredian spacecraft.” Rabine bowed her head. “For that, I apologize. I did not mean to act so unprofessionally.”

“…O-oh… um…” MacTavish glanced uneasily at Saito, who simply shrugged. She then returned her attention to Rabine. “Uh… th-thanks…?”

The Commander lifted her head and turned to face Saito. “Now, that said. Colonel, I think I’m owed some answers.”

Saito sighed. “I know,” he responded, “but Commander, believe me when I say that I’d like to know the same answers as you. Let’s wait until the debriefing proper before we start grilling each other, shall we?”

Rabine’s brow furrowed, but she was then briefly distracted as Chief Captain Krick, followed soon by Mote, entered the room. “…Very well, Colonel,” she replied.

“Havin’ a chat already, are we?” Krick questioned as he approached the head of the table. He turned and pressed some buttons against the wall behind him, prompting a large screen on the far wall to activate.

Saito glanced toward the screen, sparing a moment to pass Mote a nod of acknowledgment. A moment later, an image appeared on the screen — an image of an aging woman with slightly tanned skin, a round face, sharp eyes, and black hair tied back in a bun. Her uniform readily identified her as Chief Captain Alicia Mendoza, the Captain of the Battlecruiser BC-2 ESC Origin, Genesis’s sister ship. Origin was the first Genesis-class Battlecruiser that SERRCom fully designed and constructed on its own, and was usually grouped together with Genesis to form the “Flagship Strike Group” — which naturally meant that Krick and Mendoza, as the Captains of Genesis and Origin, often worked together closely. Saito had interacted with both of them a handful of times over the course of his SERRCom career, even before they gained their current positions, and the one thing that remained constant was his preference for Mendoza’s generally calm demeanor over Krick’s antagonistic one.

«Captain Krick,» she spoke through the screen, and then looked at everyone else in the room. «I see that everyone’s here.»

“Some of you even got here fucking early!” Krick remarked as he took a seat at the head of the table. “Just that eager to start the damn meeting, huh?”

“You might say that,” Rabine commented.

Krick glanced at her before shaking his head. “Anyways. As you all know, we just dropped out of Subspace for our post-Dead Space maintenance checks. So far, everything looks fan-fucking-tastic, all things considered, so let’s get straight to the goddamn point.” He looked at each of the other debriefing attendees. “We all know what shit went on down there. The Drakkars attacked, the little kiddies showed up to save the goddamn day, we discovered a shiny-ass new piece of Aldredian tech, yadda yadda yadda. But what I want to fuckin’ know…” The Captain passed Saito and Mote suspicious glances. “…Is just how the hell the Eximius Vir can use their goddamn powers in Dead Space.”

“We’re starting with this already?” Saito frowned. “Not exactly a standard debriefing, now, is it?”

«I’m sorry, Colonel,» Captain Mendoza spoke up through the screen, «but — as much as I hate to admit it — I agree with Krick.»

“As do I,” Rabine interjected. “Colonel, I think you can understand our frustration when we learned that you were withholding this information from us.”

Saito stared at her in disbelief. “What—?”

In his defense, Mote spoke up, he didn’t know that our powers would work in Dead Space. Honestly, I didn’t know, either, not until we tried just earlier today.

The Commander eyed Mote incredulously. “You expect me to believe that?”

“Commander, we lost seven of our own soldiers during that Drakkar attack,” Saito responded sharply. “Four when the Drakkars overran the Gate, and another three when Telregina destroyed our tank. If I knew that the Eximius Vir could use their powers in Dead Space, then those men and women wouldn’t be fucking dead right now. I sincerely hope you aren’t trying to insinuate that I sacrifice the lives of my subordinates for no damn reason.”

“The Suns lost personnel as well,” Rabine countered. “Don’t forget that the Gate Defense Team was equal parts Earthian and Black Suns. That said, I apologize for implying that their deaths were at your hands; I meant no disrespect. However…” She cast a doubtful glance toward Mote. “…This doesn’t make any sense. Your ‘Eximius Vir’ being able to use their powers in Dead Space violates thousands of years of knowledge regarding Chaos Energy and Chaotics! It should not be possible for a Chaotic to use their abilities there without an Ayas, and yet…”

«It’s my understanding that the Drakkar Faction Leader you encountered also retained her invulnerability,» Mendoza commented. «Perhaps what you know about Dead Space isn’t entirely correct?»

“We’re talking about the collective understanding of the entire galaxy, here. Do you really want to suggest that the entire galaxy is incorrect?”

“As if it’s impossible for a large group of dumbasses to be wrong.” Krick snorted. “It wouldn’t be the first time, and it won’t be the fuckin’ last.”

“Still…” Rabine looked Mote up and down. “…You don’t seem to be using the Chaos State, either. I suppose there are still things we don’t know…”

You said that earlier. ‘Chaos State’, Mote responded. What is that?

“You truly don’t know?” The Commander’s eyes widened in surprise. “It’s fairly standard knowledge for Chaotics, at this point. Especially after the Nanocreature War.”

“I’m afraid we’re a bit lacking in knowledge when it comes to Chaotics,” Saito replied. “Can you explain?”

“The Chaos State is a state of increased power that a Chaotic can choose to enter when in close proximity to an Ayas. The Chaotic then temporarily absorbs the Ayas, becoming more powerful and durable than any normal Chaotic could ever be.” Rabine glanced around the room, eying everyone with skeptical incredulity. “How have you never heard of this? The Nanocreature War occurred within all of our lifetimes, and its largest, most devastating battle was fought by a Chaos State Chaotic. An entire planet was destroyed!”

“You mean the Battle of Neticen? You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me.” Krick scowled. “I’ve heard about that battle, but it always sounded like bullshit to me. Like the kind of exaggerated war story you always hear after bigass conflicts.”

«Krick… wasn’t your father Genesis’s Captain during the Nanocreature War?» Mendoza questioned. «Genesis herself even participated in the Battle of Neticen.»

“I fuckin’ know. Where the hell did you think I heard about it?” Krick rolled his eyes. “Still sounds like bullshit.”

“I can assure you that it’s complete truth,” Rabine insisted. “…You Earthians truly don’t know much about Chaotics, do you?”

“Is it that obvious?” Saito retorted. “But we’ve gotten away from the point of this debriefing.”

«The Colonel’s right.» Mendoza nodded, and then shifted her gaze through the screen to Mote. «Back on topic… Lieutenant Emerson, you weren’t assigned to this mission, and you weren’t there when Genesis and Origin left. When and why did you show up?»

We went to Director Hamasaki for permission to participate in the mission, Mote answered.

“You went right to the head bitch herself? You’ve got balls, I’ll give you that,” Krick remarked.

Saito pursed his lips. Part of him agreed with Krick, but all the same… “Captain, you should really avoid talking about Director-level staff like that.”

Krick scowled, but said nothing more as Mendoza continued, «anyways, Lieutenant. That doesn’t explain why you’re here. And from the sounds of it, it wasn’t even the Director who chose to send you… so, why?»

Mote shifted uncomfortably and averted his gaze. Just a… gut feeling.

“You came for the Aldredian ship, didn’t you?” Rabine questioned.

No, not really. I didn’t even know the ship was there until after I arrived, but… He trailed off for a moment, and then finished, you all only embarked on this mission because of me. I thought it would be best if I was here to assist.

“And assist, you did!” Saito replied cheerfully. “If not for you, and the rest of the Eximius Vir, I don’t think any of the ground team would’ve survived.”

“Yes…” Rabine eyed Mote warily. “It also seems rather… convenient that, once again, the Aldredian technology only responded to you.”

Look, I have no idea why that is, Mote countered defensively. I didn’t do anything special. I just walked on the bridge and sat down in the Captain’s chair.

«Really?» Mendoza pressed, «are you certain that nothing special happened?»

Mote paused for a moment, seemingly in thought. Then, he responded, no, ma’am, nothing that I can remember.

Saito frowned; he was certain that he had spotted a subtle spark of recollection in Mote’s eyes. Is he hiding something from us? I’m sure he has his reasons, but even so… The Colonel passed a surreptitious glance toward Commander Rabine. I’ll have to ask him when the Black Suns aren’t around…

«Well, this is a good segue into the next bullet point,» Mendoza commented. «The Aldredian Frigate. It’s currently inhabiting Genesis’s fighter bay one, but what, exactly, do we know about it?»

It’s actually a Corvette, ma’am, Mote corrected. The ship’s registry lists it as a Blade of Raen-class Corvette, named the Raenaros.

Krick stared at Mote incredulously. “And how the hell do you know that?”

I just said it was in the registry. …Sir.

“Sure. And since when could you read Aldredian?”

Mote faltered as unease briefly flashed across his face. …I can’t.

«Then how do you know the ship’s name and class?» Mendoza questioned.

I… I don’t know. The information just kind of popped into my head when I started flying it.

“Like your vision?” Saito suggested.

Mote shook his head. No, I’m pretty sure the information came directly from the Corvette, through its neural dive interface. But… I couldn’t understand anything else. Only the name and class.

“Wait, are you telling me that the only thing we know about that goddamned ship is its name?” Krick questioned incredulously.

Not quite. Mote glanced toward MacTavish. Kate and Kirstin were supposed to take a closer look.

“Uh—! R-right!” The Researcher bolted upright at the sound of her name. “Uh, um… wh-what?”

“The Aldredian ship,” Saito prompted. “What have you figured out about it?”

“O-oh… well…” MacTavish looked around the room and shrank back into her chair once she realized everyone was looking at her expectantly. She quickly snapped her attention down to her tablet and began fiddling with it as she continued, “u-um, well, w-we’ve only, um, scratched the surface, so we, uh, we don’t know t-too much, but, um… well, i-it seems heavily d-dependent on, um, on Chaos Energy.”

“The damn thing has Chaos Cannons, of course it’s dependent on goddamn Chaos Energy,” Krick retorted. “But how the hell did it use those cannons in Dead Space?”

“Uh… I-I think that has something to do with, um… w-with Mote,” MacTavish responded uneasily, passing him a glance before averting her eyes again. “Y-You… Kate said that you, um, f-felt like something was, uh… d-draining your energy, o-or something… right…?”

Mote frowned. …Yes, I did say that.

“Well, um, th-the Corvette has a, a lot of special c-conduits all around it, th-that seem like they, um, w-well… like th-they carry Chaos Energy i-itself.”

…Are you saying that the ship was siphoning energy off of me in order to power itself?

“Y-yes. I-in fact, i-it seems like, um, th-that all of its s-systems are powered by, um, by Ch-Chaos Energy. All b-but the most basic of c-computer systems.”

“A ship that runs entirely on Chaos Energy?” Rabine questioned. “That sounds… unwise.”

“Half of Genesis’s goddamn systems run on fucking Chaos Energy, and you don’t see me complaining about it,” Krick remarked. “I have no goddamn clue what the stuff even is, but there’s no doubt that it’s goddamn powerful.”

“True, but as I know you’re aware, it heavily limits your ability to act in Dead Space. It also makes the ship useless in the event that another Chaos Quake happens, seeing as all Chaos Energy in the entire galaxy becomes inaccessible.”

“And just how fucking often do Quakes even happen? I thought the big one forty years ago was the first one the whole goddamn galaxy had ever seen!”

«Dead Space is usually uninhabited, anyways,» Mendoza remarked. «To the point that we can usually ignore it when designing spacecraft and other technologies. A ship that runs entirely on Chaos Energy sounds feasible to me.»

The Raenaros isn’t meant to operate on its own, anyways. Not as far as I can tell, Mote pointed out. It doesn’t have an FTL Drive, so it would have to be ferried around by larger ships. It seems like it’s purely an attack craft — something more akin to a fighter than a proper ship. And if that’s true, then basing the entirety of its systems on Chaos Energy doesn’t seem like that bad of an idea.

“Does what he’s saying line up with your findings?” Saito questioned as he turned to MacTavish.

“Huh?! Uh, I-I mean… y-yes,” she responded uneasily. “Th-there’s still more, um, a-analysis to be done, but, uh… i-it seems to be built a-almost entirely around its, um, i-its weapon and piloting systems.”

Mote frowned. That doesn’t seem right, he said, as far as I could tell, the ship only has two Chaos Cannons. That isn’t exactly heavily armed…

MacTavish shook her head. “N-no, there’s more. Th-the… um, th-the conduits that cover th-the ship, they can also be used t-to, um, to channel a Ch-Chaotic’s actual power. O-or, at least, that’s what th-the registry claims…”

“Channel a Chaotic’s actual power?” Rabine echoed, “…what’s that mean?”

Is that why the hull of the ship started sparking every time I activated the weapons? Mote questioned.

“I… I think so.” MacTavish nodded. “I-it’s also why, um, why th-the ship uses a, um, a p-partial neural dive system. Th-the pilot is, um, i-is supposed to view th-the ship like th-their own body, a-and use the ship as a, uh, as a c-conduit to use their powers a-against other spacecraft.”

Wait… so you’re saying that, while flying that thing, I can launch lightning attacks from the ship, using my own powers?

“I th-think so…”

“I see…” Rabine nodded in approval. “It’s always been suspected that the Aldredas highly valued their Chaotics, far moreso than the modern galaxy. Creating a ship like this, that can help a Chaotic use their powers even in large-scale space conflicts… it sounds exactly like something they’d do.”

I mean… strictly speaking, I could use my powers against other spacecraft anyways, Mote pointed out. There’s nothing stopping me from standing on the bridge of the Genesis and firing lightning strikes at approaching spacecraft. Aside from the vacuum of space, that is.

“Forget the vacuum of space, I’ll fucking stop you,” Krick interjected. “I don’t need goddamn lightning storms on my bridge!”

…Right… Mote passed the Captain a wary glance before turning back to MacTavish. My point being, what’s so special about the Raenaros?

“W-well…” The Researcher paused for a moment as she fiddled with her tablet. She eventually continued, “i-it has to do with the, um, th-the neural dive system. The, uh, the ship’s sensors are tied in to give th-the pilot a, uh, a better view of th-their surroundings, um… a-and th-the conduits help, um, g-guide the pilot’s powers. I-it, um, I-I think it would be much, uh, easier t-to do stuff with the, um, th-the Corvette.”

Huh… I see…

“If everything you’re saying is true, then this ship could be an amazing find, indeed,” Rabine remarked. “More impressive than the armor that led us to it, to be sure. And if I understand correctly… then the ship also provided a coordinate to a ship yard?”

MacTavish stared at the Commander, dumbfounded. “H-how did you…?”

“Black Suns powered armor comes standard-issue with bodycams. Even if we black out… we can still see and hear everything,” Rabine responded, and then turned to Saito and Krick. “I think we should investigate this new coordinate immediately.”

«Now hold on,» Mendoza interjected, «don’t you think that’s a bit brash? You all only just ended your Dead Space mission, I think we should report back to Earth first.»

Krick snorted in derision. “Figures you’d want to take your damned time.”

«Excuse me?» Mendoza’s brow furrowed in irritation. «I didn’t know you had such disdain for protocol. Or rather, I suppose I did, but I’d hoped that you’d be reasonable just this once.»

“Reasonable my god damn ass! We just got the fucking coordinates to an entire goddamn Aldredian ship yard! Like hell I’m going to let some other dumbass cunt get the credit for discovering that!”

«Credit? Is that all you want? You’re Genesis’s Captain, damn it, why don’t you—»

“Alright, alright,” Saito cut in, hoping to stop the brewing argument early. Mendoza may be a generally calm woman, but anyone who worked with either her or Krick quickly realized that any disagreement between the two Captains could rapidly spiral into a nasty fight. “There are valid reasons for immediately pursuing the coordinate,” Saito continued, “namely, the fact that the Drakkars seem to be constantly on our tail.”

“The Colonel’s right,” Krick immediately replied. “I’ve read the fucking reports. All three missions CSF-1 went on in the past few weeks, they ran into goddamn Drakkars, who were fucking always looking for the same damn thing that Saito and his team were. If this trend keeps up, then if we just sit around on our asses, then the Drakkars’ll beat us to the damned ship yard! Do you want that?!”

«No, but it’s all the more reason to report back to Earth, first!» Mendoza countered. «If we’re dealing with Drakkars, then we can’t just wander around without a plan! At the very least, we should pick up a strike group, or another Battlecruiser task force.»

“What, you don’t think our ships can handle a few goddamn Drakkars?”

«I do, but I’m not confident that we’ll only run into a few. Not if the Drakkars know that we’ve always been one step ahead of them!»

“Unfortunately, she’s right about this one,” Rabine commented. “We ran into Telregina today, and somehow managed to force her to retreat. She is perhaps the most vengeful of the Faction Leaders, so she isn’t likely to go easy on us if we run into her again. That said…” The Commander frowned. “Something about this seems off. We only knew to look in Dead Space because we found the armor, and that armor could only be used by one person. How did the Drakkars know to look there?”

Krick scowled. “You aren’t trying to say that my ship’s been fucking bugged, are you?”

“No… that isn’t the way the Telum faction operates. Telregina is usually too shortsighted for something like that.” Rabine paused for a few moments, her lips pursed, before she eventually added, “…I think someone might be tipping her off.”

“I hope you don’t think it’s us,” Saito retorted.

“Of course not. But she’s getting this information somehow.”

«This just sounds like even more reason to report back to Earth first,» Mendoza commented. «We should make sure we don’t have an information leak.»

“On the contrary, I think this is even more reason to investigate the new coordinate immediately,” Rabine countered. “If there is an information leak, then Telregina might already know about the new coordinate, and we can’t let her get her hands on the ship yard. Just think, an entire Aldredian ship yard! If it really is intact, and the Drakkars reach it first, then that would be very bad for the rest of the galaxy.”

Saito passed the Commander a wary glance. He agreed with her spoken reasoning, but he wasn’t sure if she was arguing in good faith. She could just be concerned that we’d force her and her team to disembark, and then check out the ship yard all on our own…

Captain Mendoza, however, simply stared hard at Rabine in disapproval. Then she snapped her attention over to MacTavish, asking, «where is the new coordinate? I may be willing to acquiesce if it’s close.»

“U-um, a-about that…” The Researcher looked down at her tablet uneasily, and then over at Saito. “Th-the coordinate is, um… i-it’s over three days away, in… in S-Sursum space.”

“Sursum?!” Rabine exclaimed, “as in, the Sursum Drakkars?”

“Y-yes…”

«The Sursum faction is one of the two most powerful Drakkar factions, isn’t it?» Mendoza shifted her gaze to Krick. «You cannot seriously hope to invade Sursum space all on your own!»

Krick scowled. “Of course not! We’re not talking about a fucking invasion. But still… of all the god damned places it could be…”

“Why would there be an Aldredian ship yard in Drakkar space, anyways?” Saito questioned, “weren’t the Aldredas and Drakkars mortal enemies?”

“They were, but it’s possible that the coordinate was actually a part of Aldredas territory when they were still around,” Rabine explained. “Once they disappeared, there’s nothing stopping the Drakkars from moving in to claim the space.”

“Then how do we know that the Sursum Drakkars haven’t already claimed this ship yard?”

The room fell silent in response to Saito’s question. He hadn’t meant it to be rhetorical; he was genuinely seeking an answer, but as he glanced around at everyone else, the Colonel noticed significant doubt wrought across their faces.

Eventually, Captain Krick broke the silence. “Is the new coordinate in Dead Space?”

MacTavish shook her head. “N-no…”

“Alright, then.” Krick nodded. “I have a plan.”

«You still want to go through with this?!» Mendoza questioned incredulously.

“Damn right I do! You and I both know how Genesis revolutionized SERRCom’s tech. Just imagine the shit we could get from a fucking Aldredian ship yard! We could build ourselves a goddamn fleet of the most advanced fucking ships the galaxy’s ever seen!”

“I don’t think the CSA would take kindly to that,” Rabine interjected.

“Ah, who fucking cares what the CSA thinks,” Krick muttered. “But if this new coordinate is in good ol’ regular space, then that means that Genesis’s systems will actually fucking work. And that includes the goddamn ACS.”

«…You want to sneak into Drakkar space?» Mendoza responded incredulously. «Into Sursum space?!»

“Why the hell not? We know the ACS works against the Drakkars’ dumbass sensors. There’s absolutely no goddamn harm in dropping by and taking a fucking look. Then, if there is something there, we take as much as we can and get the fuck out!”

«And just where the hell is Origin during all this? You know that Genesis is the only ship SERRCom has with a proper ACS!»

“Excuse me, what’s ‘ACS’?” Rabine questioned.

“Absolute Cloaking System,” Krick replied. “We turn that motherfucker on, and there ain’t a goddamn sensor in the whole fucking galaxy that can pick us up! Not even visual ones!” He then turned toward Mendoza. “You won’t be with us, anyways. Not only would you give us away, you’d just fucking slow us down, with that slow-ass Subspace Drive of yours!”

«Don’t be a cocky bastard,» Mendoza retorted. «It’s Genesis that’s absurdly fast. Origin’s Drive is the fastest SERRCom has been able to build on our own. It’s the best recreation of Genesis’s drive that we have!»

“And it’s still slower than us, which is all that fucking matters. So you take your ship and go report back to Earth about the shit that happened here, and I’ll take my ship and go check out this sweetass Aldredian ship yard.”

«You can’t be serious!»

“Damn straight I’m serious. It’s not like I’m going to suicide charge into a fucking Drakkar fleet anyways, if we run into trouble then we’ll leave. I’m not a fucking dumbass!”

Mendoza remained silent for several moments as she glared at Krick. Then she shifted her gaze to Saito. «Colonel, do you really think this is a good idea?»

“I don’t know if I’d say ‘good’,” Saito replied, “but it’s reasonable enough. I’d rather find this ship yard before the Drakkars do, if they haven’t already. We can figure out how they’re constantly on our tail later.”

Finally, Origin’s Captain turned to Rabine. «And you?»

“I apologize, but I’m with them,” the Commander replied. “If this ‘ACS’ truly works as well as you say it does, then we should be fine.”

Mendoza continued staring at Rabine for a moment, and then sighed of frustration. «Fine! Fine. I hope you know what you’re getting yourself into, Krick.»

“Of course I fucking do,” Krick retorted. “As if I’d ever let the Drakkars touch my fucking ship!”

«When will you be leaving, then?»

“As soon as the maintenance checks are done. That’s the whole goddamn point of this plan, to not waste any time!”

“Well, I think that just about wraps this up,” Saito interjected, and then glanced around the room at everyone present. “Sounds like we all know what we’re doing, and when we’re doing it. I don’t think there’s anything else to discuss…?”

After a couple moments of silence, Krick stood up from his chair. “Fucking finally. I’m going to go take a goddamn nap until the maintenance checks are done. If you need me, go find Captain Tang instead. Otherwise, we’re done here. Fuckin’ dismissed!”

 

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