Chapter 42 – Resolution of Blood
“Don’t worry, it won’t be long now.”
“Are you sure…?” Austin questioned as he passed Kaoné a wary glance. “The situation seemed pretty bad…”
“Worse than it should’ve been, yes,” Kaoné admitted, “but Rebehka and the Chaos Knights are very skilled at their jobs. They’ve already re-secured all three containment labs, all that’s left is to clean up.”
“If you say so…” Austin muttered, turning his attention to carefully watch his surroundings. He, along with Spike, Sky, Twy, Luke, Mark, and Kaoné, were currently standing just outside of the elevator to Lédia. The doors were still locked down, but the sounds of fighting and animalistic screeching had all but disappeared from the air. In fact, activity on the campus itself had died down some time ago, thanks to Kaoné’s quick work. She was the one who came to the Earthians’ rescue as they defended against many infected creatures, using her Materiatechnism to instantly fabricate cages and move creatures around to contain them. Shortly after, the group had retreated to the elevator area, where some Chaos Knights and NSD Soldiers were standing guard against any threats that might approach.
“I wonder what happened to the others…” Sky commented after a few moments of silence.
“You mean Pierce, Phoenix, Conrad, and Kestrel?” Mark questioned, “I do hope they’re doing fine…”
“As careless as their actions are… Conrad was right.” Luke sighed in frustration. “I should’ve expected Pierce to run off, and stopped him, somehow…”
“Not much you could’ve done against Pierce’s superspeed,” Spike pointed out.
Luke frowned. “Yeah, but still…”
“I know well what it’s like to deal with a careless Velocitechnic,” Kaoné remarked. “They’ll learn, eventually. I agree that them splitting up was irresponsible, but we were all wearing powered armor for just a situation as this. I’m sure they’ll be fine.”
“You talking about us?”
The group turned to their left as Pierce landed with a roll, and Phoenix, Conrad, and Kestrel all alighted on the ground next to him. The four all approached the rest of the Earthians, though Pierce hung back a little, his furrowed brow directed elsewhere.
“I see you’re all fine,” Kaoné commented. “That’s good to know.”
“We might be, but there’s a bigger problem,” Phoenix quickly replied. “We fought and took down some weird animal that was infected, but it stuck its tail to one of the trees. It looked like the infection was spreading to the tree!”
“What?!” Kaoné’s expression collapsed into a worried frown. “Which direction?”
“Uh…” Phoenix turned around and pointed back in the direction from which they had come. “Somewhere that way—“
“I’ll go deal with it,” Kaoné declared as she slowly lifted off of the ground. “If Rebehka returns before me, tell her what you told me. And all of you, stay here!”
The Earthians watched as she shot off through the air, using her control over matter to move her body through the skies and eventually disappear into the darkness of the forest floor.
Luke then turned toward the four newcomers, his arms crossed. “I agree that it’s good to see that you’re all fine… but you all also directly put yourselves in harm’s way, even after being told not to.”
“Uh, I didn’t volunteer, I was dragged along,” Conrad quickly replied.
“And some help you were,” Pierce retorted. “Did you even do anything?”
“Nope — which is what we were supposed to do.”
“Tch…” Luke scowled as he eyed the two. “What happened out there, exactly?”
“…Well, we went after Pierce, as we said,” Phoenix began. “When we found him, there was this massive, like, deer-wolf hybrid, with a long, barbed tail. It had that… metallic rash, so we knew it was infected. We figured that letting it go would endanger the forest, so… we fought it.”
“And killed it,” Pierce interjected.
“And it stuck its tail to a tree?” Sky questioned incredulously. “What’s that part about?!”
“We don’t know,” Phoenix replied. “I guess it’s just something to do with the metallic infection. It’s why we rushed back here, to tell the Deans about it…”
“Don’t tell me we’re about to get lectured for doing what you’re supposed to do to this infection crap,” Pierce commented as he glared at Luke.
“The point is that you ignored explicit instructions to not do what you did,” Luke countered. “There are trained people here who can take care of these issues, faster and with fewer risks than you can.”
“Then what about those attackers who got away, huh? I didn’t see any ‘trained people’ going after them!”
“If they got away, then it sounds like you didn’t do much better, huh?” Austin interjected with an amused smirk.
“That—!” Pierce turned his glare on Austin. “Them getting away had nothing to do with me. That damn animal attacked us, so naturally we had to switch our focus.”
“And it sounds like you got one of the trees here infected in the process.”
“It’s not our fault that the animals here are fucking weird. At least we did something to help out here, dweeb, instead of hanging back and doing… whatever the fuck it is you guys did.”
“At least we didn’t put a whole city at risk, you—“
“Austin, really…?” Twy interjected, stepping up to put her hand in front of Austin. He glanced at her in surprise, only to then purse his lips and look away in irritation.
“Pierce, too…” Phoenix commented with sigh. “Arguing won’t do any good. Not here.”
“Hmph,” Pierce snorted, crossing his arms and turning away from the group.
“…What a day, huh? Ah ha…” Mark said with an uneasy laugh. “I guess we learned a lot more about the infection than we expected.”
“Yes… I’m very sorry about that.”
The Earthians looked toward the main walkway, where Rebehka and Nil’kin now approached. Between them were the two men who had attacked Containment Lab 1, their wrists and hands bound.
“Oh… Dean, Major,” Luke nodded toward them. “Is everything under control?”
“My Knights are doing a final sweep,” Nil’kin replied, “but everything should now be fine. All that’s left is to scan the survivors and the buildings to make sure there aren’t any stray nanites.”
“Aw man, more waiting around…” Austin muttered.
“It’s bothersome, yes, but it’s necessary,” Rebehka declared. “We can’t risk spreading the infection.” She then glanced around, as if looking for something, before asking, “where’s Kaoné?”
“She left to deal with a potential infection spread incident,” Luke replied, passing Pierce and Phoenix an annoyed glance.
Nil’kin bristled in response to Luke’s statement. “So it did spread?”
“Relax, Major,” Rebehka insisted. “If anyone can take care of it, it’s Kaoné.”
“…If you insist, Commissioner.”
“Tch. Again, it wasn’t me who commissioned the Chaos Knights.”
“What about the attackers?” Mark cut in, and then gestured at the two men in cuffs. “I see you’ve caught these two. What about the others?”
“The two attacking Containment Lab 2 were killed in combat,” Nil’kin declared. “We’ve yet to apprehend the remaining two, but I have a couple Knights searching for them. They won’t get far.”
“In other words, trained professionals?” Luke replied as he glanced at Pierce again. “That’s good to hear.”
“I get it already,” Pierce snapped.
“Did something happen…?” Rebehka questioned.
“I can fill you in later,” Luke answered. “What about these two hostages? Have they been questioned, yet?”
“We were going to bring them into custody and let the proper authorities do the questioning,” Rebehka replied as she looked the two men over. “But, we’re going to be here for a while, so I suppose we might as well ask a few questions of our own.”
“We ain’t tellin’ you shit,” one of the men spat, and then glared at Luke. “Not with them damn outsiders ‘round here.”
“Watch what you say, you fools,” Nil’kin countered. “This ‘damn outsider’ will have a significant say in how you’re treated in custody.”
The man glared at Nil’kin, but said nothing.
“Oh?” Nil’kin remarked, “finally lost the will to speak?”
“They don’t understand you,” Pierce said. “Or us. They don’t have those translation implants.”
“Huh?” Rebehka looked at him in mild confusion. “How do you know that?”
“…Hmph.” The Earthian Velocitechnic diverted his gaze. “…I ran into two of the others. They didn’t understand me.”
“You ran into them?” Nil’kin questioned, “where? Did you kill them?”
“Uh… no. They were at Lab 3 when I found them, but they, uh… ran off into the forest.”
“Still…” Rebehka turned to look the two captives over head-to-toe. Both men had been relieved of the armor that they had first appeared with, leaving them only with black skin suits and some camouflage robing. “…You had Black Suns armor… but no RTA implants?” she asked the two. “Just who are you? And where are you from?”
“Heh,” the man who had previously spoke sneered. “I bet you can’t guess, huh? You tree hoppers always looked down on us, I bet you wouldn’t even believe us if we told you!”
“…I don’t know about these guys,” Twy spoke up, “but we recently ran into other people who also had armor, but no implants. In fact, the armor we saw then looks just like the armor that these guys had…”
“I think I know what you’re talking about. At Compound Goresan, in Treséd, right?” Rebehka nodded absentmindedly. “I heard about that… but those were Bleeders.” She then looked at the captives. “…Are you really…?”
“Heh heh heh heh heh,” the man chuckled. “Told ya you wouldn’t believe it.”
“What are you doing here? I thought the Bleeders only cared about Treséd…”
“Ooooh, you’d like to think that, wouldn’t ya, tree hopper? Well… it’s true. We don’t give two shits about the rest of the world. Y’all don’t give two shits about us, after all.”
“Then what are you doing here?”
“We’re gettin’ some revenge. Teach the world a lesson for leavin’ Treséd the way it is, and show y’all that we ain’t as helpless and harmless as ya think!”
“Those are some lofty aspirations for common criminals,” Nil’kin retorted. “Not to mention contradictory and thus, utterly pointless.”
“You aren’t quite right, anyways,” Rebehka quickly commented, passing Nil’kin a glance as if to tell her to be quiet. She then looked back to the captives as she continued, “you should know that things are beginning to turn around for Treséd. Surely you know about Compound Tresnon, WCU, and the Bleeder Reformation Program?”
“Tresnon can go die in the wastes, for all I care,” the captive spat. “You think they’re actually helpin’? Ha! Even that dumb bastard Sentry can’t make Treséd any better than it was. That’s why he needs so much help from outsiders!”
“Isn’t that what you wanted? For the rest of the world to help you out?”
“Tch… as if that’s what y’all are actually doin’. If anythin’, it’s the opposite.” The captive turned his gaze on the Earthians. “After all, these outsider assholes got free spots in Treséd’s famed WCU. If you outsiders actually meant any good, you wouldn’t be takin’ up our space, our air, our resources!”
“Hey, it’s not like we chose to be here!” Austin countered.
“I don’t care what excuses you got. Get the fuck out of our—!”
“That is enough,” Rebehka interjected, cutting off the captive and drawing his attention back to her. “You can save your irrational tirades for another time. What I want to know is how you got here, why you targeted this campus, and who sent you.”
“You think I fuckin’ know any of that?” the captive retorted. “We were told to come here and blow up some cages, so come here and blow up cages we did!”
“You’re saying you don’t know anything about the metallic infection?”
“The what? You mean that silver rash stuff? I don’t know what the fuck that is, we were just told that freein’ those animals would fuck you guys up!”
“Who told you that?”
“Shut up, you idiot,” the second captive spoke, for the first time since arriving at the elevator. The first captive glanced at him in surprise, and then looked back to Rebehka with pursed lips.
“…Great,” she muttered.
“I suppose we won’t get much more out of them…” Mark commented.
“Still, we’ve learned a lot from this,” Luke pointed out. “We know they’re Bleeders, we know they’re from Treséd, and we know that somewhere in the Bleeders’ chain of command is someone who knows enough about the metallic infection to know that attacking this campus is an effective terrorism tactic.”
“True…” Rebehka responded wearily. “Still… Bleeders? In Lédia? Something about this isn’t right…”
“I say we execute them,” Nil’kin declared, glaring at the two captives.
“Execute? Here?!” Phoenix exclaimed incredulously. “But they’re captured! They aren’t a threat!”
“I’d still be well within my rights, by CSA law,” the Dra’kis countered. “Intentionally or not, these two saboteurs put an entire city at risk of falling to the metallic infection. Given where the infection got us 20 years ago, that act is tantamount to aiding in the destruction of the galaxy. In other words, high treason.”
“That’s a bit of a stretch,” Conrad muttered. “Not even a trial, either…?”
“We aren’t in the CSA, anyways,” Rebehka declared. “This is Nimalia, Major. Homeworld of the Nimalian Union — which means that we play by Union rules. These captives are more valuable to us alive than dead, anyways.”
“You say that now,” Nil’kin replied, “but if they turn out to be vectors for spreading the infection in the future, then you’ll have only yourself to blame.”
“If they’re infected, then we’ll find out when we scan them,” Rebehka responded, and then glanced at the elevator as the red light over its doors turned orange. “…And here comes the scanning crew.”
“Finally!” Sky exclaimed, watching as the elevator doors opened to reveal a team of heavily armored soldiers, and a large device on wheels. “This means we can leave soon, right?!”
“After everyone has been scanned, yes.” Rebehka nodded and then stepped forward, raising her voice to address the soldiers and other people present around the elevator. “Alright, everyone! The Scan Team has arrived. Remember the Outbreak drills — I need three lines: here, at that post, and next to that light!…”
“…Well…” Mark commented quietly, tagging along with Luke as they began following Rebehka’s directions to line up. “…Even on this mission, we can’t escape action, huh?”
“Seems like it. If this keeps up, I’ll have to see about requisitioning my rifle,” Luke muttered, and then sighed warily. “Hopefully, the Colonel and the rest are doing better than we are…”