Chapter 10:

Unexpected Ally

[NO LONGER UPDATING] Ceres's Chaos: A Tragic Space Opera

“Crimson Mining Group! Charge!”

The riot was in full swing, with shouts and screams failing to echo up to the high underground cavern ceiling, while Ceres was already hard at work repairing, with his usual mobile backpack setup deployed and his three metallic dragonflies flitting about.

“Wow this has got to be the worst riot I’ve been involved in!” Ceres cursed as he kept his hands busy, moving as quick as he can to fix the damage on each exosuit as fast as possible.

In previous riots, the damage to the exosuits were all generally minor, but this time the enemy was going full out, intending to fully incapacitate the Crimson Mining Group.

It was a rematch of the same trial by combat as before, but this time the opponents had backup! Erik had already been exposed for collaborating with Ceres to prolong the duel, so Ceres had to fight tooth and nail with an unknown repairer on the other side.

The enemy had done a lot of research on Ceres, targeting areas that Ceres was lacking in.

A man crawled on all fours towards him, looking up at Ceres who still had a backlog of four exosuits despite them being the exact same Bee Strathon Mining Suit IV as before. “They’re aiming for our necks and trying to rip out the exosuit spine! What the hell are you doing? Fix them!”

“I know! I’m working on it right now!” Ceres gritted his teeth as he focused his all on manufacturing a new spine for the exosuit using his mobile 3D printer and the controlled three metallic dragonflies who were welding components together.

“This is unsustainable! I can’t keep manufacturing spines out of thin air! I don’t have enough expertise nor materials to replace anymore!”

“Just find a solution boy! Otherwise, you can consider the contract over!” The man gritted his teeth in anger.

What could Ceres do? The enemy were obviously aiming for the main part that Ceres didn’t really know how to repair.

The nerval jack, processor and spine were one of the more delicate components in the exosuit and while it was sort of an unspoken rule in the riots of Athen to not aim there as the backlash could fry someone’s nervous system, it seems the enemy this time did not give a shit and treated it like a real battle.

“God damn it!” Ceres was extremely frustrated. Nerval technology was completely out of his league, and it was beyond reasonable to expect him to magically come up with a solution out of nowhere.

The manufacture and repair of such processor chips were only done by highly qualified people that had spent years obtaining the license to do so – Ceres haven’t even graduated yet!

This was one of the major drawbacks of the nerval jack – it’s implementation and true inner workings were far beyond the reach of a normal citizen like Ceres!

“Just fix it already, isn’t it just a hole? You must know how to right?” The same man continued berating Ceres.

“Shut up! If you cut your own ass, it doesn’t mean you can fill it in like a pothole with concrete! This is more than just a hole!” Ceres shot back.

It was easier said than done. Sure, Ceres could attempt to replicate the spine, but he had to go by feeling. As he was manufacturing the new spine, plenty of errors cropped up along the way, and he knew for a fact that this spine was only 10% functional.

He did not have the skills nor the tools to perform the detailed etching and wiring of the spine’s internals to the processor.

The riot was occurring in a public square right outside the train station of Athen’s Heel in Zone 5, where it had attracted a lot of onlookers and impromptu bets.

Ceres this time was officially cleared to work closely just outside the square as sort of a medic cum repairer, not having to hide behind any corner no longer. A lot of eyes were on him and the battle, causing him to be slightly nervous if his failure was publicised.

Many of the inners were already scoffing at the obvious frustration of Ceres. “Hah, this outer wants to win a riot with that kind of shitty skills? You won’t even make it into the major league!”

Such simple riots were not very high-profile, only serving as basic entertainment for a group of residents.

The real big shots were in a competitive league, where real riot groups clashed in a tournament and league format. It was gladiator-like combat in the Galactic Era!

Ceres didn’t listen to them, blocking them out from his head. “No, think hard, Ceres! There’s got to be a way around this! The exosuit design can’t be this weak to collapse just because it was missing a spine.” He conveniently ignored the fact that there were multiple single points of failure in such a barebones exosuit design, but racked his brain anyway.

“Hey Ceres, what’s up! Over here!” A high-pitch voice attracted his attention.

Ceres spun his head, seeing the crowd of onlookers gathered near him but not seeing anyone talking to him. “Am I turning delusional? Wow I didn’t know I’ll crack this hard under pressure.”

“I’m Ardan, we were teammates a few days ago!” The short 1.3m albino boy finally made his way to the front of the crowd.

He glanced around at the crowd of onlookers plus Ceres’s backpack. “Wow I didn’t know you could actually participate in this kind of battle without graduating; this is pretty amazing and...”

“Shut it Ardan, I’m working and as you can see it’s not a good time!” Ceres cursed as he continued attaching the crudely manufactured spine into an exosuit, beckoning one of those waiting to come use it.

He turned around only to jump in fright as he saw Ardan squatting extremely close to him next to the mobile backpack, staring at the 3D printer.

“Why are you making spines?” Ardan quizzed, his eyes still trained on the printer that was moving fast, churning out a spine.

“Don’t scare me like that, and it’s dangerous, my dragonflies don’t work well under stress. Anyway, enemy is ripping out their spines, so I got to replace them.”

“I don’t think you’ll need the whole thing though? Do they even need a full spine to win? I’ve learnt exosuit repair and design too!” Ardan pondered, recalling his training. He too was an exosuit repairer!

Ceres stood still, thinking hard and suddenly deriving his own inspiration. Ardan was right! The spine served as a back support for the pilot itself, who possessed a spine of his own!

While the pilot’s spine obviously wouldn’t be able to support the weight of the exosuit on its own, all he had to do was add said support.

Sure, the flexibility of the exosuit might be completely gone, but since the enemy was targeting their spines anyway, this plan was way better.

“Ardan, you short little sweet genius.” Ceres got to work, picking Ardan up and placing him right in front of the 3D printer. “Alright you keep printing that, give me three minutes.”

Ardan was indignant at what just happened. “HEY you can’t just pick me up and down like a kid, I’m sixteen and... wait, you’ll let me help?”

“Yea now do your job, grunt.” At the sound of those words, Ardan’s eyes lit up, getting to work as he took over manual control of the 3D printer.

“I’ve never actually participated in a battle before, I’m so glad I came here today after double checking your riot schedule and following you on the looptrain…”



Ceres pulled up a holo monitor on the mobile backpack station, pulling up the Bee Strathon Mining Suit IV. “Okay, okay, just need to redesign the exosuit to not have a spine, easy right?”

His hands moving deftly as he rapidly performed iteration after iteration of back support design, with the computer in the backpack whirring hard as it ran simulation after simulation, showing the stress levels through the exosuit in all sorts of positions.

After a good two minutes, a cheer came out from Ceres. “I got it!”

He immediately lifted Ardan away from the 3D printer and chucked the half-printed spine, while the three dragonflies loaded up the latest design into the printer before flying over the backlog of damaged exosuits, dismantling the spine holder of each of the damaged exosuit in sync with Ceres.

“My spine, I worked so hard on it…” Tears welled in Ardan’s eyes as he stared at the half-printed spine that was unceremoniously thrown next to him, reminiscing the entire two minutes he spent focusing on it.

“Hey what the fuck are you doing!?” One of the wounded Crimson Mining Group members who was resting there waiting for his exosuit to be repaired was shocked. “Any damage to the exosuit caused by you is going to come out of your own pocket!”

Ceres just merely smiled, continuing his retrofit of the mining exosuit design, replacing the spine holder with a frame structure instead. “Who needs a spine when I can design you like a tank on legs!”


“Keep aiming for their backs, their repairer can’t keep up with us!” The enemy leader roared as the battle continued, which was essentially a full-on melee within the public square, where everyone was duelling somebody else in the chaos.

Their strategy had been working, having researched on how the Crimson Mining Group had been fighting over the last few months.

He knew for the fact that their exosuit repairer was just a kid! Instead of using the Bee Strathon Mining Exosuit IV, their exosuit was swifter and faster, enabling them to pull off this strategy at the expense of protection and arm strength.

Their own repairer was better prepared as well, having come with an extra set of exosuits for every one of their fighters.

This was the power of money! “Lucky the person we’re representing is a bigshot, else we might have lost this battle.” The enemy leader shook his head, sighing.

“We got them by the balls, now we crush them har… huh?” The enemy leader stopped shouting halfway, noticing that a surge of repaired mining exosuits have re-entered the battle, the entire backlog of Ceres being cleared!

They charged into the square like a rugby team, ready to annihilate!

“How is he repairing that fast?! You can’t print out a spine with that measly backpack! Send them back!” The enemy leader shouted, prompting three of his underlings to rush at the newly repaired exosuits.

As the underlings neared, they realized that the mining exosuits looked a bit different from the one’s they’ve been fighting. A new design? It didn’t matter to them though, all they had to do was to aim for the back.

If they could take out the spine again, they would be able to disable the exosuits and force the repairer into a backlog spiral again.

“Don’t let them recover! Keep disabling their exosuits!”

The battle was a full on melee-brawl. No one had any ranged weapons as it was banned, prompting members on both sides to throw punches or swing anything they could get their hands on.

Soon however, they realized that the mining exosuits weren’t going to stop charging! They slammed right into the three underlings, causing them to be sent flying as they kept moving forward.

One of the underlings managed to get behind one of them, punching the back of the mining exosuit as hard as he could.

Despite that, he heard no electrical crackling, only the dull thong of armour plate as he noticed that the entire back was armoured only with crudely made metal plates. Where was the spine even? “How the hell is this guy even moving?”

The mining exosuit swivelled around like a tank on legs, unable to turn his body naturally, but still able to grab with his slightly stiffer arms.

Grabbing the underling with his hand, he lifted him and lob him over the battlefield, causing him to crash in the back of the square.

“Okay guys, just like what Ceres told us. We’re a tank, we’re a tank, we’re a tank on legs.” Mr Niu repeated to the group of repaired mining exosuits, who were all covered in crudely shaped metal plates.

“Their arm strength sucks so they are not going to get through this! WE’RE A TANK!”

“WE’RE A TANK! WE’RE A TANK!” The group rushed straight at the enemy leader, barrelling any enemy that tried to stand in their way.

The lighter exosuits couldn’t break through the metal plates quick enough to avoid being grabbed, nor could they use their arm strength to hold the charge!

A few of the enemies tried to hit the legs of the newly repaired group, which worked to a certain extent. However, when Mr Niu’s group stood together, it was nigh impossible to trip them as they bundled together like a phalanx.

Taren was awed, and used the impetus to launch a final charge, taking out the enemy leader and quickly subduing the enemy rioters.


“Wow Ceres you’re amazing! How did you come up with that idea so fast!” Ardan excitedly jumped around Ceres, while the three dragonflies flew back to the mobile backpack to charge. The riot was won!

“I didn’t, you did, you gave me the idea!” Ceres smiled, knowing that his side-job was saved.

“What? I meant you could manufacture just a less detailed spine, instead of having so many notches in the spine for mobility. You could just have printed a spine with three parts only and it would’ve been good enough for the battle. But making the user a tank on legs? That’s smart! It’s like a mini version of a mechsuit!”

“Err…” Ceres realized his folly but went with it anyway. Before he could reply though, he was hugged from behind by Taren! “Good job kid, you saved us! This riot was the turning point for us!”

“What was the riot for anyway?” Ardan asked. Taren was slightly stumped at the question, scratching the back of his head as he tried to dumb it down.

“Well, we were hired to fight another riot group, who was also hired to fight us. I’m a bit lost myself on the reason as to why we were fighting, but it seemed to boil down to something about a logo infringement. We’re contractually obliged to not give a shit. The pay is good though!” Taren scratched his chin, himself a bit confused about how to explain to a teenager why fifty men just fought another fifty for something so insignificant.

“Wait wait, aren’t riots supposed to be because you’re unhappy with the current local riot group and you want to overthrow them?” Ardan was absolutely confused, not knowing that riots meant this.

“That too, but generally minor disputes that don’t get settled by the justice system devolves into a trial by combat, and generally its group combat. Hence this riot. But doesn’t matter to me, we made L-credits and now you get paid! That’s all that matters to us. Speaking of which, aren’t you the...”

“SHHH!” Ardan did a silence motion with his index finger on his lips, which Ceres found very suspicious.

“How the hell do the two of you know each other? He’s your dad?” Ceres asked as he glanced between the two of them.

Taren took a step back, his face full of horror. “I’m absolutely appalled that you would ever suggest I would stick around with a female in a long-term relationship, but no he’s not my kid. Anyway, since you know Ardan, you should know Braton too. That idiot randomly squeezed someone to near death, but I’m his main trainer on my off days in the Gladius. I can treat you kids to a meal or something!”

“Yea, but I’m not training in the Gladius. I don’t have enough money, unless you’re willing to donate even more to the new Ceres Fund I’m putting together for the competition.”

“Ceres Fund? When did that start?” Taren asked.

“Just now.”

“Well then, you got mister Ardan here to help you out! The amount I’ll put it would be less than pitiful compared to him! Goodbye kids, and thanks for the help!” Taren swiped on his multi, transferring the L-credits over to Ceres before quickly walking away, celebrating with his riot group members.

Ceres turned to face Ardan, who was trying very hard to act as though he was fascinated by this little brown pebble on the floor. “Alright spill it: who the fuck are you, why were you stalking me and how are you related to this Gladius?”

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