Chapter 27 – Derelict Chaos
Flashes of gunfire, muted by vacuum, filled a tiny dark corridor as Major Hackett unloaded a magazine of bullets down the hallway. Little could be seen through the darkness, until Danielle swept a hand transformed into a flashlight across the space — revealing a swarm of metallic bug-looking creatures, each nearly the size of a basketball as they charged along the ground, walls, and ceiling.
«Get back, get back!» Hackett shouted to Danielle as both women pushed off of the bulkheads around them to float backwards through the corridor. «Danielle, wipe them out!»
«Easier said than done!» Danielle replied as she manifested a laser cannon on her right arm and began firing at the approaching bugs. Each shot she fired blasted one of the creatures to smithereens, only for the constituent nanites to melt into the bulkheads — and then form yet another bug. «Every time you kill one, they just get replaced!»
«Damn it,» Hackett swore as the two floated back past a door. Just as they did, the bulkhead slammed shut, blocking the metallic bugs on the other side — though it wasn’t long before the bulkhead, previously colored crimson and steel gray, began to take on a silver sheen.
«Wow. These Nanocreatures really can take over anything, huh?» Danielle remarked.
«There’s a reason the galaxy nearly lost to them 20 years ago,» the Major replied. «As long as they have matter to control, they’ll keep coming back.»
«Then what do we do?» Danielle questioned, just as a hole opened up in the door and one of the bugs leaped through it. Hackett immediately brought her gun to bear and shot the bug out of the air, only for several more to begin crawling through the hole — and then for the bulkhead to burst open completely as a larger, more bestial wolf-like creature charged forward. Danielle quickly transformed her right arm into a massive piston before slamming the piston head into the creature, launching it back down the corridor.
«Don’t touch them!» Hackett shouted as she blasted a couple more bugs away with gunfire, retreating further down the hallway in the process. «You can’t let them corrupt you!»
«It’s fine, I still have energy shielding parts!» Danielle exclaimed. «How are we supposed to deal with these bugs, though? There’s so many!»
«Our only hope is to get off the station. As long as we’re on it, we’re toast.»
«Ah, right!» Danielle replied, momentarily manifesting a dozen laser turrets out of her chest to blast away the nearest of the Nanocreatures. «…Aw man, if I didn’t have to keep my shields up, I’d have more options…»
«We just need to run!» Hackett declared, hastily reloading her gun and opening fire into the approaching swarm once more. Two of the bugs managed to slip past her screen of bullets and latch onto her leg, where the energy shielding protecting her began to flare up brightly. Immediately, she slammed her leg into a nearby bulkhead, managing to shake off one of the bugs while Danielle scrapped off the other one. The two women then pushed off of the walls to continue their fighting retreat, though as they did, the energy shielding around Hackett’s leg remained flared — as though trying to protect against a persistent effect. «Shit, they’re still on me!» the Major shouted, «Danielle, get us out of here, now!»
«Uh, if you say so!» Danielle responded warily. She then pushed herself toward Hackett, latching on to the Major’s back and transforming into a jetpack. Immediately, the pack’s thrusters activated, propelling Hackett down the hallway even faster than before — though with the Nanocreatures still hot on their tail, the swarm surging forward, and consuming the surrounding bulkheads to grow ever larger.
«What do— what do— what do we do?!»
«Calm down, MacTavish,» Saito insisted, momentarily glancing back at the Researcher before turning around to face the direction he was floating in. «We’ll be just fine. The Nanocreatures can’t corrupt matter through energy shields.»
«Our shielding is only so strong, sir,» Mote pointed out. «I can keep refilling our batteries, but a strong enough strike will still overpower the shields in one go.»
Saito passed Mote an annoyed glance, and then turned forward once more. As soon as they had heard about the presence of Nanocreatures on the space station, Saito and Mote had returned to the main control room to pick up MacTavish; the trio were now on their way to Major Hackett and Danielle’s last known position, in the hopes of helping them escape the Nanocreatures.
«How much of a threat do you think they are?»
Saito released a sigh in response to Mote’s question. «Hard to say. I’ve never fought the Nanocreatures myself, before. But if they really can seize control of any matter, then we might be screwed. Hell, the entire station could be under their control.»
«The entire station?» Mote replied incredulously, «can they really do that?»
«They were able to seize control of entire fleets of spacecraft during the Nanocreature War, so I don’t see how controlling a single space station would be a problem for them.»
«W-well…» MacTavish spoke up, «th-the Nanocreatures weren’t, um, a-as smart or c-capable before Morcii appeared. With him, uh, gone, th-they might not have, um, th-the, uh, station… I-I hope not…»
«That’s assuming he’s actually gone,» Saito countered. «Morcii was ‘killed’ twice during the Nanocreature War. The second time seemed to stick, but if the Nanocreatures are still around, then we can’t be sure.»
«Either way, we might have a problem leaving the station,» Mote commented. «The Raenaros locked itself down. We’ll have to make sure there aren’t any Nanocreatures around before it unlocks, and that could be a problem, especially if they’re immune to direct manipulation as you said, Colonel.»
«True, but there’s ways around that—»
A burst of light from down the hallway interrupted Saito as one of the bulkheads exploded outwards. Through the bulkhead flew Hackett with a jetpack, firing her gun the whole time into a large metallic bestial creature — also with a jetpack — that was chasing her.
«Shit! Major, look out!» Saito shouted into the comms as he brought his gun to bear and began firing. Hackett took notice of the group’s presence just in time to dodge around them, though the creature remained on her tail — until Mote summoned his battlehammer and slammed the creature into a bulkhead, stopping it in its tracks. He then blasted it with a lightning strike so fierce that portions of the creature charred black, and it ceased moving.
«Thanks for that,» Hackett commented as the jetpack on her back separated from her and transformed back into Danielle. «But there’s still more coming.»
Mote glanced down at the Major’s leg, where her energy shielding remained flared and covering her leg with a golden light. «What’s going on there?»
«Not sure…» Hackett glanced down at her leg. «Two of those bugs latched on to me. I got them off, but the shielding’s been flared ever since. I think some of the nanites are still trying to get through.»
«It would figure,» Saito muttered, and then glanced toward the broken hole just as two metallic bugs crawled through. Immediately, he shot one to pieces while Mote obliterated the other with a lightning strike, only for the bugs to be replaced by four more charging across the bulkheads. Without wasting any more time shooting, Saito, Hackett, and MacTavish all pushed themselves down the corridor, leaving Mote and Danielle to fire away at the approaching bugs with lightning and lasers.
«Which— which way do we go?!» MacTavish questioned in a panic.
«Just follow me, MacTavish,» Saito calmly replied as he floated down a corridor and then pushed himself around a corner. «The Raenaros should be this way—»
«Colonel, look out!!»
«What—?» Saito began to glance toward Mote, only for something to suddenly slam him in the face and send him reeling. His energy shielding flared up, momentarily blocking his vision with a golden glow. In half a second, it subsided, allowing him to spot a sphere of silverish metal floating away from his head… just in time for a dozen spikes to shoot out of the sphere and into the surrounding bulkheads. Several of the spikes were aimed directly at Saito, Hackett, and MacTavish, only to break against their energy shielding — but the shields around the impact points remained flared, much like Hackett’s leg.
«Damn it,» Mote muttered as he rapidly approached the group, his attention directed at the perpetually flaring shields. «I’m going to try something!»
«Do whatever you can!» Saito replied as he ushered MacTavish farther down the hallway.
Mote responded with a brief nod, pausing only to blast a couple Nanocreatures with lightning before backing behind Danielle. As she continued firing away at the bugs, Mote took a moment to charge an incredible level of voltage in his body, and then fire it through the surrounding bulkheads. A wave of electricity swept through the corridor, zapping and obliterating each of the approaching bugs — and also washing over the energy shields of the group.
Saito flinched as a golden light again obscured his vision, but when it disappeared, his constantly flaring shields had subsided as well. Hackett and MacTavish’s shields both appeared fixed, too.
«…Whatever you did, that worked!» Hackett exclaimed.
«Good,» Mote replied. «…The Nanocreatures might be immune to direct manipulation, but I don’t need to directly manipulate them to force a massive current through them.»
«Great!» Danielle responded cheerfully, «I’m not sure what that means, but great! Uh, they’re all going away, though. Is that bad?»
«What…?» Saito glanced back down the corridor, where the bugs had been charging from. Indeed, they seemed to be retreating, with several of them disappearing around a corner. «…I don’t know what they’re up to,» he muttered as he began pushing himself through the hallways again, «but let’s not stick around to find out. The Raenaros should be just ahead.»
A tense, eerily quiet minute followed as the group rushed through the dark corridors toward the docking bay where they had left Raenaros. The Nanocreatures had seemed to disappear entirely, allowing them to reach the bay entrance without issue — though just before entering the bay proper, Saito stopped the group.
«Mote,» he began, «is the Raenaros still locked down?»
«Yes sir,» Mote responded curtly.
«Then there’s still Nanocreatures in the bay…» the Colonel muttered, and then passed everyone a glance. «Mote showed that he can get Nanocreatures off of shields, so he’ll go first. Everyone else, hug the Corvette. The moment it unlocks, I want everyone aboard! Understood?»
«Understood,» replied the rest of the group in unison.
«Good. Mote, you’re up.»
The Electrotechnic acknowledged Saito’s order with a nod and then approached the door to the docking bay. Tentatively, he manipulated the electric currents through the door to unlock it and drive the motors to slam it open, revealing the bay beyond. Expansive darkness met the group, as the large, empty space appeared just as they had left it… with the exception of Raenaros, who was covered entirely in a golden light as her energy shields remained flared. As soon as he spotted this, Mote pushed off of the ground to approach the Corvette, the rest of the group following him as he prepared to blast the ship with a powerful lightning strike — only for the entire bay to suddenly shudder.
«…What was that?» Danielle questioned, eying Raenaros warily. The disturbance had been so violent that it caused the Corvette to begin free floating away from the ground.
Before anyone could respond, however, the entire wall at the back of the docking bay imploded, only to be absorbed into the body of a massive, metallic dragon. It lunged forward, propelled by thrusters lined all along its silvery wings as it grabbed Raenaros in its gigantic hands and slammed the Corvette against the bay wall.
«What the fuck!» Saito exclaimed, watching wide-eyed as the dragon began to withdraw into the immense hole that now existed at the back of the bay, Raenaros still held tightly in its grip.
«Shit! Colonel, stay back, Danielle and I will handle this!» Mote shouted through the comms, and then turned to his fellow Chaotic as a pair of golden wings, constructed out of rigid, holographic shapes, appeared on his back. «Danielle, get that Corvette! Don’t worry about damaging the station!»
«If you say so!» Danielle remarked, already on the way to increasing her size massively and creating a giant jetpack on her back to help maneuver in the zero-g environment. Before the metallic dragon could withdraw completely, she lashed out with her arms, just barely managing to get her newly huge hands around the Corvette’s hull. The ship’s shields flared even brighter under the stress of two giants pulling on her, but she remained intact as the dragon turned around and bared its silver teeth. If the bay had been filled with air, Saito was certain that he would’ve heard a roar in that moment — but the silence that replaced it was somehow more menacing than any roar he could imagine.
The dragon lashed out with its tail, smacking Danielle across the face before manifesting a laser cannon in its chest and firing. Mote managed to use his armor’s own zero-g maneuvering system to zip in between Danielle and the dragon at just the right moment, intercepting the laser blast with his body before firing a lightning strike at the dragon’s chest. A flash of light followed as the cannon exploded and a hole formed in the dragon’s stomach, only for it to draw back and claw at the surrounding bulkheads. In that moment, Danielle was able to overpower it and yank Raenaros out of its grasp, at which point she moved to grip the longsword-shaped ship like an actual sword and bring the Corvette down on the dragon’s head. Due to Danielle’s massive size, as well as the dragon’s, their movements were much slower and more easily predicted than that of a normal-sized human — as such, the metallic beast was unable to withdraw before Danielle slammed the Corvette into it. The metal bulkheads surrounding the dragon buckled and caved in under the force, ripping a massive gash through the walls of the bay and the space station, but as Danielle began to pull back from the strike, the dragon immediately followed. It pointed its giant maw directly at Danielle, revealing a new laser cannon within its mouth that it then fired at Raenaros, hitting the Corvette with such a fierce blast of energy that she was flung from Danielle’s hands, and toward the front of the docking bay.
An opening! Saito thought to himself, and then smirked as he spotted Mote rush toward the Corvette as well. «Let’s go!» the Colonel ordered to Hackett and MacTavish, pushing off of the ground as he did. Hackett quickly grabbed the Researcher’s hand and followed suit as Saito shouted over the commms, «Danielle, good job! Now keep it distracted!»
«Got it!» came Danielle’s cheerful reply, in exactly the same pitch and tone as her normal voice.
Saito simply shook his head as he thought about the absurdity of his current moment. What a life I lead, he thought, watching as Danielle grabbed the metallic dragon by its chest and attempted to pin it to the wall. He then directed his attention back to Raenaros, watching as Mote rushed over to her, golden wings trailing behind him. Shit, its shields are still flared, the Colonel observed, as the Corvette continued to be covered in the golden light of her energy shielding. The ship’s shields must be taxed to the limit. It can’t possibly last for much longer… «Mote! Can you tell how much longer its shields will last?»
«Not from out here,» Mote replied.
«Won’t we risk overloading its shields if you do that lightning sweep thing?» Hackett questioned, as she, MacTavish, and Saito all reached Raenaros, just behind Mote.
«If I don’t clear the nanites, then it’ll never let us in,» Mote commented, and then turned to face the Corvette. «It’s a risk we’ll have to take. Now shield your eyes!»
Half a second later, just before Saito could act on Mote’s advice, the Electrotechnic blasted the Corvette and her shields with an incredible strike of lightning. Sparks swept across the ship’s shields, causing them to flare even brighter than before, and then subside a moment later — but only in parts. Sections of the shield remained flared. Mote promptly blasted the ship again, specifically targeting the flared areas with his strikes; this time, the golden glow subsided entirely, revealing the crimson, black, and golden contours of Raenaros herself.
«Good work,» Saito said, «now can you get it open?»
«It’s still locked… wait…!» Mote held a hand out toward Saito. A tense second followed, and then the Electrotechnic began waving toward the Corvette’s underbelly, as the ship’s loading door slowly opened. «It’s open!»
«Let’s go!» Saito shouted as Mote grabbed his and Hackett’s hands to tow the group through zero-g and into the Corvette.
«We should probably do another sweep of the ship once we get out of here,» the Major commented as they entered Raenaros’s underside, «just to be sure there aren’t any nanites inside…»
«I agree, but we don’t have time for that right now,» Saito replied, watching the Corvette’s loading door close behind them. He then began following Mote onto the small bridge.
«W-wait…» MacTavish glanced back at the door uneasily. «Wh-what about Danielle?»
«She’ll be more than fine on her own out there. Zero grav and empty space mean nothing to a Transtechnic like her.»
«Even so, we still shouldn’t force her to hold that… dragon off for much longer than necessary,» Mote commented as he rushed into the bridge and practically leaped into the captain’s chair.
«Yeah, and now that you mention it,» Hackett remarked as she and Saito quickly entered the bridge themselves, «what’s up with the dragon?!»
«I have a couple ideas, but let’s save that for the debriefing,» Saito replied. «Mote! Get us the hell out of here!»
«Understood!» Mote responded, as the sword insignia on the floor of the bridge began to glow, and holographic displays appeared all across the main window. Outside, Saito could see Danielle still struggling against the metallic beast. By now, the already large room that was the docking bay had been expanded massively, as the blows that Danielle and the dragon exchanged would crash into and tear through the surrounding bulkheads. Debris from the interior of the space station filled the room, the station itself being gutted by the battle between the two giants.
«…Alright. All systems seem to be working,» Mote commented a second later. «Spooling up the engines— oh, shit!»
Just as the Corvette began to move, the metallic dragon grabbed Danielle by her neck and blasted her with a massive laser cannon, flinging her back through the bay — and straight into Raenaros. Saito was thrown to his feet as the view through the Corvette’s bridge window spiraled out of control, the sheer momentum of the attack sending Danielle and the Corvette both smashing through the docking bay’s exterior doors and into open space beyond.
«Damn it!» Mote swore as he struggled to get Raenaros back under control. Out the bridge window, Saito could spot the metallic dragon using its thruster wings to fly out of the bay and directly at the Corvette, only for Danielle to intercept with a giant kick.
«Contact the Genesis! Now!» Saito demanded.
«Right! Contacting the Genesis… alright, it’s going through!»
«Colonel?!» came Captain Krick’s immediate response, «why the hell haven’t you been in contact? And what in the god damn hell am I looking at?!»
«Nanocreatures, Captain!» Saito replied. «There might be more on the station. Obliterate it, now!»
«Nanocreatures?!» Krick echoed incredulously, «what the…? God damn it, it would figure! All stations, open fire on that space station. Leave nothing behind!»
In the distance, Saito could see the Battlecruiser Genesis, highlighted by Raenaros’s own displays. There was a brief flash of light as the Battlecruiser fired her guns — followed by further flashes and streaks of light as railgun shells and Chaos Cannons tore into the ill-defended space station. At one moment, the station appeared as a diamond, but the next, massive chunks were torn out of it and obliterated. The hail of fire continued for another several moments, during which Danielle managed to extricate herself from the dragon’s grasp and fly away — at which point the dragon rapidly fell under fire, as well. Within seconds, the space station and dragon both were torn asunder and rendered little more than sparking, malformed debris fields.
As suddenly as it started, the hail of weapons fire ceased. When the remains of the station failed to show any signs of activity, Saito released a pent up sigh. «Phew…»
«I don’t know what the hell happened here,» Krick commented over the comms, «but if there were fucking Nanocreatures on that station, then that damned Corvette and your team need a very, very thorough sweep before I let you back on my ship, Colonel!»
«Understood, Captain…» Saito responded wearily, and then turned to the rest of the group. «To his point… keep your armors on, for the time being. We need to be certain there are no nanites inside the Corvette before we expose ourselves to it.»
«Makes sense, sir,» Mote replied as he began maneuvering Raenaros toward Genesis, with Danielle — still in giant form — in tow.
«Oof…» Hackett took a deep breath, and then glanced over at Saito. «…We really can’t ever catch a break, huh, sir?»
«Yeah…» the Colonel muttered, simply staring out at the passing debris field as he did. «…We really can’t…»