Chapter 18 – Limits of Power
The Next Morning
“Aw, man… we’re out here in the field, again?”
“Suck it up,” Davídrius retorted as he threw Conrad an annoyed glance. “You’re here to learn how to get better with your abilities, that means lots of physical effort.”
“Yeah, but I’m still sore from yesterday…” Austin muttered as he massaged his thighs. “What do running laps and doin’ push-ups have to do with bein’ a Chaotic, anyways…?”
“Chaotic combat is incredibly physical. You could have the strongest Chaotic ability in the galaxy, but it wouldn’t mean shit if your body was weak,” Davídrius declared. “…Unless you have one of those abilities that just let you change your body on a whim… but none of you do.”
“Sure wish I did…” Conrad replied with a sigh.
“It’s a little unfortunate, but it’s just how things go,” Karísah replied, from her position standing next to Davídrius. “But y’all want to get better with your powers, right? Just think of this as part of that!”
“Easy to say when you’re a Forcetechnic who just is innately strong,” Austin countered.
“What are you even doing here, anyways?” Pierce questioned as he eyed Karísah. She was the only new addition to the morning scene, compared to yesterday; otherwise, the empty practice field of WCU hosted only Davídrius and the young Earthians. “Don’t tell me we’re supposed to learn from you, too.”
“Actually, yes. Kinda.” Davídrius crossed his arms and straightened his back as he addressed the group. “Yesterday, I taught y’all about the Berserk State. Today, I’m gonna teach you about the other two States most Chaotics experience: Overdrive, and Cooldown. And Karísah is gonna help me demonstrate.”
“I’m glad to help,” Karísah commented as she bowed her head slightly.
“Overdrive, huh?” Spike echoed, “that sure does sound interestin’.”
“I can’t help but feel that this ‘Overdrive’ thing sounds counter to what you taught us yesterday,” Phoenix remarked. “Yesterday, you said that using too much Chaos Energy can make us go berserk… but ‘Overdrive’ sounds like exactly that!”
“And it is,” Davídrius replied. “But there are still times and places for usin’ Overdrives. If you’re responsible, you can even use Overdrives without goin’ berserk. Chaotics all over the galaxy do it all the time!”
“Well now it sounds really interesting!” Sky exclaimed. “What do they do? And how can we use one?!”
“And does it have anything to do with how your voice gets a little echo-y when you say the word ‘Overdrive’?” Twy questioned.
“Yep. I’ve got an Overdrive, and they’re verbally activated, like Chaostechnic abilities,” Davídrius responded. “But novices like you ain’t got any business usin’ Overdrives. Hell, I’d be surprised if any of you actually could. But, to start: an Overdrive is a temporary state of increased power that a Chaotic can enter by callin’ out the word ‘Overdrive’ and then the Overdrive’s name. Like so: Overdrive: Speed Break!”
Following the declaration, little happened. Davídrius and his surroundings remained unchanged.
“…Did something happen?” Conrad asked.
“Not that y’all would be able to tell,” Davídrius stated. “All my Overdrive does is increase my speed and reflexes. The difference would be basically undetectable to novices like y’all.”
“I guess this is why Karísah is around, then?” Twy questioned.
“That’s right.” Davídrius nodded as he placed a hand on Karísah’s shoulder. “It’s far more obvious when Karísah’s Overdrive is active — but I have a couple more things to say before we demonstrate this. Namely, Overdrives don’t last very long. Only around ten to twenty minutes, and then its effects wear off.”
“You say ‘my Overdrive’ and ‘Karísah’s Overdrive’, like they’re unique,” Phoenix observed. “Are you saying that every Chaotic has a unique Overdrive?”
“That is, in fact, not what I’m sayin’,” Davídrius declared. “With millions of Chaotics throughout the galaxy, do you really think every damn one would have a unique Overdrive? That’d be fuckin’ insane!”
“I was just asking a question, you don’t have to be so rude about it…”
“It’s not a bad question, though,” Karísah commented. “Most Chaotics who have Overdrives only have basic ones. You can tell if their Overdrive has ‘break’ in the name. Speed Break or Velocity Break for Velocitechnics, Force Break or Strength Break for Forcetechnics, Fire Break or Pyro Break for Pyrotechnics — you get the idea.”
Pierce smirked as he eyed Davídrius with amusement. “So you only have a basic Overdrive, huh? What a hero!”
“Shut it, Speed Break has served me well enough,” Davídrius snapped back, but then continued staring at Pierce, as though attempting to process something in his mind.
Eventually he just shook his head and turned his attention to the rest of the group — just in time for Sky to call out, “Overdrive: Fire Break!” When nothing happened, and her voice remained unchanged, her excited expression collapsed into a frown. “Aw…”
“Don’t get ahead of yourself,” Davídrius insisted. “You can’t just use an Overdrive from the start. You have to unlock your own before you can use it, and it’ll be the only one you ever can use.”
“How do we unlock it, then?” Austin questioned.
Davídrius eyed both Sky and Pierce with apprehension before responding, “…a Chaotic can unlock their Overdrive by goin’ through some kind of intensely stressful situation that’s somehow tied to one of their most deep-set fears.”
“…Intensely stressful?…” Spike echoed in confusion. “What, like somethin’ life-threatening?”
Davídrius nodded. “That’s the main way it happens, aye.”
“That means we can force it then, right?!” Sky exclaimed, “we can just orchestrate some kind of controlled exposure to life-threatening circumstances, and bam, Overdrive!”
“I knew one of you would say that, but it’s a shit idea,” Davídrius countered. “For one, needlessly puttin’ yourself in that kind of danger is always a bad idea. Chaotics die all the time from tryin’ to force an Overdrive unlock like this… it just ain’t worth it.”
“Yeah…” Karísah nodded in agreement. “Plus… it’s my understanding that Overdrives unlocked that way tend to be weaker than more, uh… ‘naturally’ unlocked Overdrives.”
“So unlocking an Overdrive is like some kind of fight-or-flight stress response, then?” Twy questioned.
“I guess you could say that,” Davídrius replied. “Generally, the more stressful or life-threatening the situation, the stronger or more unique the Overdrive. Some Overdrives even have powerful effects that trigger immediately on activation. For example, when Kaoné activates her Overdrive, all weapons within ten kilometers of her just instantly break.”
“Ten kilometers?!” Pierce exclaimed incredulously, “are you serious?!”
Davídrius smirked. “That was what I said the first time I saw it in action. But hers is easily the most powerful Overdrive that I know of; most ain’t that wide reachin’. Like Karísah’s.” He turned toward the Nimalian Forcetechnic as he took a couple steps away from her. “Mind explainin’, Karísah?”
“Sure,” Karísah replied with a nod before turning toward the Earthians. “My Overdrive is called ‘Stand Your Ground’. When I activate it, well… it gets a lot easier to stand my ground, I guess.”
“‘Easier’ my ass. Don’t downplay your abilities!” Davídrius insisted. “When she uses Stand Your Ground, she— you know what? Let’s just demonstrate. First, we’re goin’ to show you what normally happens when a Velocitechnic kicks a Forcetechnic. You ready, Karísah?”
She quickly squared her shoulders and slightly bent her knees, bracing for an incoming blow. “Ready when you are,” she replied.
A second after the words left her mouth, Davídrius disappeared from where he stood and instantly appeared next to Karísah — who herself was launched clear across the practice field in the same instant. She rolled along the ground and managed to stop herself just before she hit the far wall, kicking up a massive dust cloud in the process.
“…Wasn’t expecting that,” Conrad deadpanned, as Kestrel offered a brief nod from beside him.
“She’ll be fine,” Davídrius replied, watching as Karísah picked herself up and then leaped through the air, easily clearing the dozens of meters between her and Davídrius to land at his side. “See? Duratechnism ain’t nothin’ to scoff at.”
“I was honestly expectin’ you to kick me harder,” Karísah commented as she brushed some dust and sand off of her clothes. “I barely felt that one.”
Davídrius rolled his eyes. “Yeah, yeah, you’re sturdy as fuck, everyone knows. Now let’s do that again, but with your Overdrive this time.”
“Are you sure? The last time you kicked me like that when I had my Overdrive going, you—”
“I’ll be fine, I know what I’m doin’. Just do it.”
“…Alright. Overdrive: Stand Your Ground!”
Just like when Davídrius activated his Overdrive earlier, nothing about Karísah’s appearance or surroundings changed. But just after uttering the words that caused her voice to echo, Karísah again backed herself into a defensive stance, bracing herself against another incoming blow.
“A’ight. Now watch this.” Davídrius passed the Earthians a brief glance to ensure that they were watching, at which point he again launched a supersonic kick at Karísah — only this time, when the kick connected, she remained standing exactly as she was. Instead, Davídrius’s foot rebounded off of her body as his face scrounged up in pain.
“Aw, fuck!” he swore as he grabbed his foot. “Fuckin’, fuck…”
“A-are you okay?” Karísah eyed him warily.
“I’m fine… just, fuck. I forgot just how sturdy you get…”
“I did warn you…”
“Ah, shut up.”
“…What did we just watch?” Conrad questioned cluelessly.
“I bet I can guess,” Phoenix remarked. “Karísah’s Overdrive must make her virtually immovable. With a name like ‘Stand Your Ground’, it only makes sense.”
“That’s basically it,” Karísah replied. “I’m not completely immovable, though. And I’m still affected by gravity.”
“But if her opponent is a person, or another Chaotic? Oof.” Davídrius shook his head as he released his foot and gingerly tested putting his weight on it.
“That sounds so cool!” Sky exclaimed, “did you come up with that name yourself? It’s so cool, like a signature move, or something!”
“But why not name your Overdrive something else?” Twy asked, “instead of giving your opponent a hint as to how it works?”
“That’s not somethin’ you can control,” Davídrius stated. “Chaotics don’t actually consciously pick the name of their Overdrive. When you unlock it… the name just comes to you, and you say it. Far as I know, there ain’t no conscious decision involved.”
“Makes sense,” Pierce remarked. “After all, there’s no way someone would willingly pick a generic Overdrive. Unless they were losers.”
“…Hold it.” Davídrius eyed Pierce suspiciously. “…That’s the second time that happened.”
“Huh?” Pierce returned the look. “What, are you just mad you have a basic Overdrive?” His eyes then widened as he held a hand to his throat. “Wait…”
“I wasn’t the only person who heard that, right?” Conrad questioned.
“No, I heard it, too…” Phoenix commented. “Pierce, your voice just did the same thing that mine does when I say ‘Chaos’…”
“Overdrive…” Pierce repeated, only to find that as he spoke the word, a barely perceptible echo accompanied his voice. “…Ha! So I have an Overdrive, then, huh?”
“Sounds like it…” Davídrius scowled. “But, how? Y’all are novices, ain’t you? When the hell did you unlock an Overdrive?”
“And what is it?” Karísah asked.
“I…” Pierce began to respond, but faltered as soon as he realized that he had no answer. “…I don’t know.”
“Davídrius said that Overdrives can only be unlocked in stressful situations,” Phoenix commented, and then turned to glare at Pierce. “Don’t tell me you’ve been involved with even more fighting than I thought you were!”
“Well maybe if you didn’t decide to hold yourself back, you’d be on my level right now!”
“Still, I find it hard to believe that you could unlock your Overdrive, and not remember it…” Davídrius muttered, as he held a hand to his bearded chin in thought. “…I guess it’s possible that the experience was so traumatic, that you just forgot…”
Pierce stared at the Nimalian incredulously, at first prepared to insist that he hadn’t had any such experiences, but then he paused to run through the prior two months in his head. As he recalled Trenon’s death, the skyfall on Ainminthalus, his multiple encounters with EA’s robots, and the burglars he had accidentally injured back in Oakland… it occurred to him that there were actually a handful of events where he couldn’t quite recall all of the details. His encounter with the burglars stood out the most, as his memories of the event were all in a haze — the encounter wasn’t life-threatening by any stretch of the imagination, but the fact that it had caused him distress was undeniable. Could he have possibly unlocked his Overdrive during that event, and then forgotten all about it…?
“I hope you’re not about to try lording this over us…”
Pierce glanced over at Austin, who was currently regarding him with a wary stare. With a smirk, Pierce replied, “maybe you should try harder if you don’t want to fall behind, loser.”
“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, here,” Davídrius quickly interjected. “Without knowin’ what your Overdrive even is, we can’t know how useful or powerful it is. For all we know, it could be Speed Break.”
“As if my Overdrive would be so lame.”
“Well, there’s only one way to find out,” Karísah commented.
Pierce stared at Karísah warily, and then glanced at Davídrius, who simply looked back with his arms crossed.
“Go on, try it,” the Dean insisted. “Don’t leave us hangin’.”
“You afraid that Speed Break is what you actually have?” Phoenix taunted.
“As if. It won’t work,” Pierce declared. “Just watch. Overdrive: Speed Break.”
When the imperceptible echo accompanied Pierce’s voice all throughout the activation phrase, his expression rapidly collapsed into a scowl — while Davídrius began to chuckle.
“What was that about havin’ a lame Overdrive?” the Nimalian commented.
“Aw, c’mon… this is lame. I don’t even remember unlocking the damn thing, and then I find out I have the weakest Overdrive in the book?” Pierce crossed his arms and irately turned away from the group. “This is fucking lame.”
“Hey, at least you have one,” Conrad pointed out, to which Pierce responded with an annoyed glare.
“This is a good opportunity to quickly explain the Cooldown State, though,” Davídrius said. “Especially since you’ll need to watch out for it.”
“…Hmph.” Pierce turned back to face the Nimalian. “And just what the hell is it, then?”
“It’s pretty simple,” Davídrius remarked. “The Cooldown State is when a Chaotic suddenly can’t use their abilities. Usually lasts for a few hours, sometimes a full day. The trigger is actually very similar to the Berserk State — overuse of Chaos Energy, particularly of Overdrives, can trigger the Cooldown State. In fact, with Overdrives specifically, you’re more likely to go into cooldown than you are to go berserk. Goin’ berserk usually only happens if there’s stress involved.”
“Wait, so not only is there a risk of us losin’ our minds if we use our powers too much, now there’s also a risk of us just suddenly losin’ our powers altogether?!” Austin exclaimed incredulously.
“Hey, I said it’s termporary,” Davídrius countered. “And if you’re responsible, it won’t happen anyways. I ain’t gone berserk or entered cooldown in almost twenty years.”
“…So you have gone berserk, then?” Twy questioned warily.
“I have, and we don’t talk about it.”
“…It’s not entirely uncommon, though,” Karísah commented. “Most Chaotics — well, most Tresédian Chaotics, anyways — go berserk at least once in their life. It’s just inevitable.”
“That’s not exactly encouraging,” Austin replied.
“If anything, it’s a good reason for more trainin’,” Spike remarked. “The best way to stop this stuff is to be prepared for it. And the best way to be prepared, is to train!”
“But not just regular training, though!” Sky insisted. “These Overdrives sound really useful, but it also sounds like we’ll never get one from regular training! We need some real action!”
“Now that, I can agree on,” Pierce added as he turned toward Davídrius. “We really aren’t novices, you know. At least, I’m not — as you saw, I even have an Overdrive! We can totally handle more dangerous stuff.”
“More dangerous stuff?!” Davídrius echoed incredulously, “and what the hell are you thinkin’ of, huh? You don’t seriously want to wander out into the wastes and fight Bleeders or somethin’, do you?”
“Kicking the asses of a bunch of evil gang members? Are you serious?!” Sky exclaimed, “of course we’d want to do that!”
“Hell yeah, sounds like a great time!” Pierce agreed.
“Well too bad, because that’s not an option,” Davídrius declared. “No matter what you think, you are not ready for any kind of field trainin’. You still have a lot to learn.”
“No complaints here…” Conrad responded airily.
“Oh, come on.” Pierce threw his arm around Conrad’s shoulder. “Don’t you want to figure out what special abilities you have in store? Imagine what you could do with an Overdrive, and that glaive of yours! Maybe you could actually be useful in a fight!”
“Yet another reason to keep y’all outta the field: those Ayas Weapons ain’t nothin’ to take lightly,” Davídrius countered. “I ain’t keen to take you out until you can understand that!”
“No buts,” Davídrius interrupted as he glared at Pierce. He then swept his gaze over the whole group, continuing, “whether or not y’all want to accept it, y’all are novices. Newbie Chaotics. And until you properly understand the basics, you ain’t goin’ anywhere! Understand?”
“We understand,” Phoenix replied, passing Pierce an annoyed glance as she did.
“…I guess…” Sky responded with a pout. “Man, this sucks…”
“It is what it is,” Davídrius commented. “Now get ready for some more training. Now that you know the three basic Chaotic States — Berserk, Overdrive, and Cooldown — we’re goin’ to experiment with those last two, so you can experience firsthand what Cooldown is like. And that means pushin’ y’all to the limit!”
“To the limit?!” Austin echoed incredulously.
“It’s the only way to hit Cooldown!” Davídrius countered. “Besides, if you want to get in the field so fast, then your training will have to be just as fast and hard! Now get ready for another long, hard day!”