Chapter 25 – Decontamination’s Effect

Chapter 25 – Decontamination’s Effect

1 Hour Later

“Have you familiarized yourself with the charts, Dean Densalin?”

“I have,” Kaoné replied, passing Petro a quick glance as she stepped into a tiny operating room. She quickly brought up the biological charts on sitas on her own AR display, pushing the chart to the side of her vision before approaching the center of the room.

“I know you’ve said that you can handle anesthetics on your own,” Petro stated, “but we’ve administered some anyways, to reduce the animal’s stress.”

“That’s fair…” Kaoné muttered, stopping at the side of a small operating table in the center of the room. Laying atop it was the once-caged infected sita, now heavily sedated and free of its cage. With closed eyes, Kaoné took a moment to observe the sita’s current physical state through the use of her matter-manipulation powers; a second later, she nodded and opened her eyes to focus on the animal once more. “I’ve identified the dosage you used, given the type of anesthetics you told me you use. I can handle it from here.”

“You didn’t even look at any equipment or data readings!” Nil’kin exclaimed incredulously, while standing on the side of the small room. “How can you possibly—?”

“Shush, Major,” Rebehka interjected, passing the Dra’kis an annoyed glance from her position just beside her. “If you’re going to observe, then don’t be a distraction.”

“Or we’ll have to remove you,” Petro added. “Quite honestly, with how obstinate you’re being, I should remove you right now.”

“What—?!” Nil’kin began to indignantly respond, only to be interrupted.

“No… it’ll be fine,” Kaoné said, while still focusing on the infected sita. “I’d like for a Chaos Knight to be present, as an independent source to verify that a cure is possible.” She then turned to side-eye Nil’kin. “And if anyone acts up… I always have my Overdrive.”

The Dra’kis responded only with stunned, indignant silence.

“You’d better be careful, Nil’kin,” Rebehka remarked quietly, though she struggled to suppress a smug smirk as she did. “It’s rare that I hear Kaoné threaten someone.”

“…Such threats are unnecessary,” the Major eventually replied in a huff.

“Mm…” Kaoné responded with only a muted grunt as she returned her attention to the infected sita. “Alright… Colonel, the room’s shields are active and at full power, right?”

“They are,” Petro replied. “Our personal shields are all rating at above 95% power, as well.” He then glanced up at the ceiling, where a metal mesh obscured the technology hiding above the room. “And the Chaotic monitoring systems are in place and active. We’re good to go.”

“Good. I’m declaring now the start of the operation, so everyone, please be quiet. Colonel, let’s go through the pre-procedure checklist. Starting from the top…”


“What a fucking trip.”

It is rather depressing, isn’t it… Mark replied.

“Well… yeah, but that’s not what I meant,” Pierce retorted. “I meant that we came all this way to do fucking nothing. On every other one of our trips, there was an actual reason for us to be there, actual things for us to do. But now? Now we’re stuck waiting in a damn line!”

“…Can’t believe I’m saying this, but I agree…” Austin muttered as he looked out over the line in front of the Earthian travel group. They currently stood at the edge of Holres’Ket, in the midst of a line leading through the district’s exit gates. For security purposes, every single person and object that left Holres’Ket had to spend a minute in an “incineration gate”, which was basically a small shower stall that bathed the subject in intense, searing flames. The energy shielding of powered armor would protect individuals from the flames, while the sustained minute-long metal-melting heat was more than enough to annihilate any Nanocreature nanites that may be hiding on the surface of the energy shields. The incineration gates themselves were carefully sectioned off from both Holres’Ket and the outer districts by a series of airlock-esque energy shields, all in an effort to eliminate the risk of contaminating exterior districts with Nanocreature nanites.

The Earthians had already been through the gates once, when they left Holres’Ket the previous day. Today, however, the lines seemed longer and slower moving, resulting in the group milling about for much longer than they had expected.

“I’ll admit, it does feel like we’ve been used, somehow…” Phoenix said, her hands on her hips as she tapped her foot impatiently. She then turned around to look over the ruined district of Holres’Ket before continuing, “like… I get why the Deans wanted to bring us here, but… I don’t know. It just doesn’t quite feel right.”

“Maybe, but if Kaoné can actually cure that one animal, then… that’s pretty big, right?” Twy pointed out.

“If we were there to see it,” Spike replied.

“Yeah, but who wants to watch a surgery?” Conrad questioned incredulously. “The more important question, is why are these lines taking so long?”

“Looks like security was bumped up a level, today…” Luke replied after consulting the news feeds through his AR display. “It’s a response to Major Dralis’s ‘inspection’, and Sector 2’s decision in response to that to start moving around a bunch of the infected creatures so they can be annihilated.”

“I can kinda see where Sector 2 is coming from, but…” Austin frowned in unease. “There’s gotta be a better way of doin’ this, right? I really don’t see why they can’t ‘annihilate’ the infected stuff where it’s at, instead of moving it to a whole new place…”

“I’m sure it’s some stupid, political, bureaucratic bullshit,” Phoenix remarked. “The kind of bullshit that’s going to cause us problems, too.”

“And the kinda ‘bullshit’ that caused this place to end up lookin’ the way it does,” Spike added.

“Seriously?” Sky passed Spike an incredulous look. “I get that those Black Suns guys moving the animals around is weird, but it seems like a little much to compare it to the Nanocreature War! Especially given everything we know about it!”

“No… he’s right,” Kestrel stated.

“Yeah, given everything we know, the Nanocreature War only happened because people weren’t taking the metallic infection seriously,” Twy pointed out. “That’s the only way the infection spread as far as it did, and claimed all of the Ayas that it did. And if we aren’t careful, then I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see history repeat itself…”

“Yeah, but all of the Ayas are accounted for, right?” Sky questioned, “we’re not losing them anytime soon!”

“The Master Ayas is still missing,” Luke countered. “And as for the rest — they might be under lock and key right now, but don’t forget that the first Chaos Quake — the one 40 years ago — made all the Ayas disappear. If that happens again, then we’re in trouble.”

“It makes you wonder, though, right?” Austin said, “I know that Chaos Knight lady got all haughty with us about Earth not ‘properly’ knowing what happened during the Nanocreature War… but all the people here did. And they’re still bein’ careless. I kinda get where she’s coming from, in that regard…”

“She’s still a massive bitch about it,” Pierce retorted. “As if we can’t understand the danger of something, just because we didn’t experience it first hand!”

“Oh yeah, definitely, not like there’s anyone around here who’s exactly like that, at all,” Conrad deadpanned.

Earth did contribute to the Nanocreature War, though, didn’t we? Mark asked, turning to look at Luke. It wasn’t much, but I thought I had heard somewhere that we sent help…

“We did. We sent the Genesis,” Luke replied. “Now, this was well before my time in SERRCom, so I only know the stories. But Hero Machina basically used the Genesis as their personal ferry during the more intense parts of the War. It’s the fastest ship in the galaxy, after all, not to mention the usefulness of its ACS.”

“Wait, Genesis? The same ship that SERRCom’s using now?” Sky questioned, “the one that everyone always talks about as being some high-tech black box marvel of technology, or something?”

“That’s the one.”

“Ships do tend to be in service for several decades,” Austin pointed out. “Especially larger ones.”

“Well, yeah, but…” Sky passed Austin a doubtful glance before turning back to Luke. “If we’ve had the Genesis around for 20 years, then why haven’t we made a better ship, yet?”

“That depends on your definition of ‘better’,” Luke remarked. “SERRCom has a couple Carriers and Battleships that are bigger than the Genesis, and carry heavier weapons. If by ‘better’ you mean technology-wise, though…” He shrugged. “The Genesis is the best that we got. Remember… SERRCom didn’t actually build that ship. It just appeared out of the ether, one day, over an old colony of ours. It was one of Hero Machina’s first missions to help investigate that, actually.”


“Yep. Though they weren’t able to tell where the Genesis actually came from. Instead, the colony got overrun by Nanocreatures.”

“How the hell are those connected?!” Phoenix responded incredulously.

“Beats me,” Luke replied with another shrug. “If I recall correctly, though, Kaoné was one of the Hero Machina folks who were on that mission. Davídrius, too. You might be able to ask them more about it, if you’re curious.”

“So the Genesis is still our most advanced ship, even after two decades, huh?” Spike questioned.

“That seems pretty ridiculous, to me,” Pierce said. “But if that’s all true, then the fact still remains that the ship was still new and shiny at the time of the Nanocreature War — and Earth still sent it to help out! That isn’t nothing!”

“I doubt SERRCom did it out of the kindness of their hearts,” Phoenix countered. “I’m sure they got something out of the deal.”

“Did it have something to do with the Zhou Crisis?” Twy asked, her attention directed toward Luke.

“I’m pretty sure it did,” he replied. “I was only, what… 10, at the time? 10-year-olds don’t exactly pay attention to politics, so I don’t remember much about the Zhou Crisis, personally. But I’ve read the reports. And I’m sure you all have learned about it, in history class.”

“You mean the event where the President of the United States tried to strong arm an international, interstellar military?” Phoenix scoffed. “Yeah, we’ve learned about it. What a fucking shit-show. I can’t believe we elected someone like that idiot.”

“I dunno, America’s had some real doozies when it comes to Presidents,” Conrad remarked.

“The fact remains, though, that the Zhou Crisis is what really solidified power for SERRCom,” Luke said. “Before that point, it wasn’t really decided who held the real power on Earth — the individual nations, or the military they had created to ‘unite’ us, at the request of the CSA first-contact party. And the resolution of the Crisis showed that SERRCom was more than powerful enough to defeat national interests.”

“Which was also the start of SERRCom Hegemony,” Phoenix muttered.

“…Can’t really deny that,” Luke replied with an uneasy chuckle. “But to tie this back to the main point — you won’t see this in any of the public-facing reports, but the Zhou Crisis was started by the US military getting their hands on one of the Ayas. And what’s more, is that Hero Machina helped SERRCom put an end to the crisis with no casualties. You know the official story: at Zhou’s command, the US launched an ICBM at our own goddamn soil, in the hopes of masking it as an orbital strike from SERRCom — and thus, providing a pretext for dismantling the organization and taking all of their stuff. But SERRCom was able to destroy the ICBM en route, resulting in no casualties. Well… it wasn’t actually SERRCom who destroyed the ICBM. It was one of the members of Hero Machina, using the Chaos State.”

“One person destroyed an ICBM?!” Austin exclaimed in disbelief.

“I can almost believe it, if the Chaos State was involved…” Twy muttered.

“It’s all true, you can ask the Deans yourselves,” Luke said. “And as thanks to Hero Machina for them helping out… SERRCom handed over our Ayas, and lent the use of the Genesis.”

“I knew SERRCom got something out if it,” Phoenix remarked.

Would we seriously have stayed out of the Nanocreature War, if not for Hero Machina helping us…? Mark questioned warily.

“That’s hard to say. I was only 10 at the time, so I don’t remember the political atmosphere, myself,” Luke pointed out. “But if Hero Machina hadn’t been there… well, I doubt the US would actually have succeeded in pinning the blame for their nuke on SERRCom, but SERRCom also would’ve had a hard time shooting down the nuke on their own. And if a US city had been nuked, I feel like SERRCom and Earth in general might’ve been too busy dealing with the fallout of that to join the Nanocreature War.”

“I wonder what would have happened, if we hadn’t…” Austin mused. “Would it’ve been possible that the war would’ve gone for longer, if not for the Genesis?”

“You’re sayin’ we could’ve had the Nanocreatures on our own doorsteps?” Spike frowned at the thought. “That would’ve been… bad.”

“You can say that, again…” Sky muttered as she looked out over the ruins of Holres’Ket.

I’m disappointed to hear that our involvement in the war was only due to self-gain, though… Mark commented.

“That, and because Hero Machina seems to have had their fingers in every damn pie,” Pierce remarked. “How the hell do we hear their names every time someone talks about something notable from 20 years ago?”

“I knew they were important to the war, but I didn’t realize they were so tied to SERRCom’s own history, too…” Austin commented.

“It almost seems too convenient, doesn’t it?” Sky said.

“I really don’t think there’s anything else to it,” Luke countered. “If you read Hero Machina’s published mission reports, you’d know that prior to the war, they were primarily occupied with finding the Ayas — which, at that point in time, were all missing. And both times they got involved with SERRCom, it was because we or someone on Earth had found an Ayas. So in the end, it’s really just coincidence.”

“A hell of a coincidence, though,” Phoenix remarked.

“A coincidence that eventually led to us, standing here, in this line…” Conrad muttered, and then allowed a yawn to overcome him as he stared at the line in front of them. Even after all of their conversation, the line had only progressed by a handful of people.

“It sucks, and I don’t like it,” Austin stated, “but… when it comes to the Nanocreatures, I really think it’s better to be safe than sorry.”

“And either way, we’re stuck, here. Waiting,” Pierce said, his arms crossed and brow furrowed in impatience. “Fucking hell. At this rate, Kaoné will finish with her fucking cure operation before we even get the chance to leave…”


“Okay… I think we’re there. The chemical anesthetics aren’t cycling through the sita’s system anymore, and I’ve successfully subdued its nervous system on my own.”

“Understood…” Petro replied, quickly marking down a note before turning back to Kaoné. “Is there anything else?”

Kaoné remained silent for a second, still focusing on the unconscious sita laying on the operating table in front of her. She hadn’t yet begun the actual nanomachine-removal operation; she had instead been spending the past half hour using her Materiatechnism to get a better sense of the sita’s biological processes — there was only so much she could learn from studying a textbook, after all. Over that half hour, Kaoné had developed enough of an understanding of the sita’s body to be able to regulate its biological needs with her own abilities, so when the Black Suns-administered anesthetics finally wore off… Kaoné was prepared to take over, numbing the sita’s pain receptors and duplicating the awareness-dimming affect of anesthetics while still keeping the animal alive.

“…No, there’s nothing else. I’m ready,” Kaoné eventually responded to Petro’s inquiry. “We can finally begin the actual process of removing the nanites.”

“Finally…” Nil’kin muttered under her breath, just loudly enough for Rebehka to hear as the two women stood at the back of the room.

“Have some patience,” Rebehka responded quietly. “You have to know that this is a delicate operation.”

“Only because you care about this animal’s well-being so much.”

“Yes… that is the point.”

“…Tch.” Nil’kin snorted in derision, but kept her attention on Kaoné all the same. The Materiatechnic had her hands gently held out toward the sita, her fingers and palms shifting reflexively in response to her own manipulations of the matter in the animal’s body from afar. At first, nothing seemed to happen; whatever Kaoné was doing was impossible to discern with the naked eye. Sensor readouts on a nearby monitor revealed the truth, however: parts of the sita’s body were beginning to shift in distinctly unnatural ways, as Kaoné sought out the nanomachines invading its body and attempted to isolate them.

Petro, Nil’kin, and Rebehka watched wordlessly, with the Black Suns Colonel occasionally turning to the side to monitor the readouts of the room’s various sensor equipment. Kaoné, for her part, continued to steadily manipulate the matter in the sita’s body, testing every last organ, tissue, and even cell for her ability to manipulate it.

“…I’ve found some nanites,” she eventually declared, for the sake of the room’s recording equipment. “They’re clustered in a lymph node on the sita’s left flank. Isolating them now…”

“Why is she starting with inside the body?” Nil’kin questioned to Rebehka. “There’s an obvious rash right on its skin!”

“From what she’s told me, it’s easier to find all of the nanites within the body, cluster them together, and then bring them over to the surface rash to remove them all at once,” Rebehka replied. “Something about reducing the amount of times you need to open up the body…”

Nil’kin passed Rebehka a doubtful glance, but didn’t say anything further. Just as she turned her attention back to Kaoné, however, a flashing red light appeared on the corner of one of the sensor displays.

“Is something wrong?” Rebehka asked aloud.

“It’s… fighting me!” Kaoné responded, her brow furrowed in concentration. “I haven’t seen the nanites react like this to my cure attempts, before…!”

“I’m getting alerts that the other infected creatures around here are getting agitated, as well,” Petro stated, his eyes diverted as he read through a dozen alerts on his AR display. “The start of the elevated agitation coincides with the start of your nanomachine removal, Densalin…”

“You have this under control, though, yes?” Nil’kin prompted expectantly.

“Of course we do,” Petro retorted. “…But this level of agitation is unprecedented. Just what’s going on?”

“The nanomachines might be reacting to Kaoné trying to cure this animal,” Rebehka suggested. “I’ve seen infected creatures react to remote stimuli, before — likely due to individual nanites being able to communicate over long distances. It’s possible that’s what’s happening here, especially since there are so many infected creatures within this facility. That said, though… this didn’t happen when Kaoné cured the animal on Karania, so what’s different now…?”

“So you’re saying that the infection knows we’re a threat to it, and is reacting accordingly?” Nil’kin bristled as she impatiently glanced between Petro and Rebehka. “Isn’t this a problem? We’re demonstrating here that attempting a cure is too dangerous!”

“I can handle this one animal, here…” Kaoné stated, her attention still primarily focused on the sita. “As for everything else, though…”

“We need to abort the process. It isn’t safe.”

“If we abort now, then the infection will take over the animal. We won’t be able to save it,” Kaoné protested.

“Our containment operations won’t be defeated by this, either,” Petro asserted. “I understand your wariness, Chaos Knight, but this is a situation we have under control.”

“…Tch.” Nil’kin scowled. “If this all goes tits-up, the blame lies solely in your lap, Colonel.”

“Mine, as well,” Kaoné insisted. “I’m the one going forward with the actual cure, after all. This will work, Nil’kin. I promise you.”

The Dra’kis’s scowl deepened in frustration, but she didn’t respond any further.

“…Thank you. This is requiring a lot of concentration, however, so if I may, I’d like to ask all of you to remain silent until I’m done…”

“Understood, Densalin,” Petro replied, and then spoke into the air for the sake of the room’s recording equipment. “Let the records show that Dean Kaoné Densalin is continuing the operation with the approval of Colonel Petro D’Tan. From here on, you’ll have your silence, Dean.” He then stepped out of Kaoné’s line of sight to begin managing the alerts and messages he was receiving, while muttering under his breath, “I only hope that this all goes well…”


Finally, we’re close to the end.”

“And it only took, what… two hours?” Phoenix sighed as she passed Pierce a glance. “I can’t believe we’ve been standing in line for so long…”

“Well, we were only really in line for an hour and a half,” Twy pointed out. “It took us half an hour to reach the gates once we left the research center.”

Both Pierce and Phoenix turned to give Twy deadpan stares.

“Ever the nitpicker, huh, sis?” Sky remarked.

“I, I was just…” Twy started, but trailed off into a sheepish smile. “…Right.”

Still, I do wonder why this is taking so long, Mark questioned, turning his gaze toward the district gates. As close as they were now, the group could easily see the incineration showers, and the handful of people that were currently being bathed in searing flame. Yesterday, less than half an hour passed between us arriving at the gates, and all reaching the other side.

“I guess the Black Suns really do take this infection stuff seriously,” Austin said.

“Maybe…” Luke responded, though he appeared half-distracted with looking out over the ruins of Holres’Ket. “…But I’ve been seeing some alarming stuff on the bulletins.”

“I hope this isn’t the kind of ‘alarming stuff’ that’s going to involve us,” Conrad deadpanned.

“Depends on how lucky we are,” Luke replied. “If the Suns really do have everything under control, though, then we should be fine…”

“Well now that you’ve said that, we know that something bad is gonna happen,” Austin retorted.

“What kinda bulletins are we talkin’, here?” Spike asked.

“About an hour ago… all of the infected creatures throughout the district started acting up,” Luke answered. “Like something’s agitated them.”

“What?” Pierce looked at Luke incredulously. “What the hell does that mean?”

“…Kaoné’s operation?” Kestrel questioned.

“If Kaoné trying to cure one creature causes the rest of them to get violent, then that sounds like a major problem,” Phoenix remarked. “Do we really know if that’s the case, though?”

“We likely won’t until after Kaoné is done…” Twy pointed out. “She or Rebehka might know what’s going on, though.”

Still, even more reason for us to leave the district, I suppose, Mark said. Especially if something’s happening with the infection—

While Mark was speaking, a distant flash of light drew several of the group’s attention to the ruins closer to the center of Holres’Ket. It wasn’t until a second later, however, that the low rumble of an explosion interrupted Mark’s words and sent all of the Black Suns soldiers stationed at the gate into alert.

“What was that?!” Sky exclaimed in alarm. “Something exploded?!”

“Surely that’s just part of the cleanup operations… right?” Twy responded hopefully.

“I dunno…” Conrad responded as he eyed the Black Suns soldiers at the gate, and how they had all suddenly kicked into high gear at the sound of the explosion. “I have a feeling that we’re getting involved in this, after all…”

“I fuckin’ called it,” Austin muttered.

“And that explosion has something to do with the infected creatures acting up, somehow… doesn’t it?” Phoenix questioned.

“…I’m afraid so,” Luke replied, his expression growing grim as he quickly skimmed the news bulletins on his AR display. “That explosion was from one of the transports that was meant to carry around infected creatures. The bulletins don’t say how or why the explosion happened… but between that explosion and the agitated animals, the Black Suns are going on high alert. Until this situation is dealt with…” He glanced back at the gates, just in time to see the glimmer of an energy shield forming over the district’s exit. “…Holres’Ket is locked down.”