"Beats me. I just kind of wanted to go out there and flex my muscles a little. I don't hide the fact that I love to crush the weak, whether they're whimpering variant beasts or weakling Alters.
But yeah, seems like this isn't worth it.
Not like stopping this fight is going to net us any real AP. Might as well wait for them to get civilians in the crossfire to up any AP gains, but even then, villains are real careful these days to keep their fights all self-contained, so meh." Hat Trick yawned as he realized his chances of going out and beating up villains diminished by the moment.
But honestly, as he noted, it was not really worth it either.
Heroes received AP (achievement points) based on successful missions that determined their placement in rankings and potential for promotion.
But variant attacks provided the most AP while apprehending villains provided far less.
As a result, most low tier heroes who were not strong enough to go out and fight variants and instead had to help dealing with street level crime in neighborhood patrols or whatnot faced plenty of ridicule.
They were dubbed 'Janitors' that swept the streets of petty crime instead of being strong enough to defend humanity against variant attacks.
The real heroes were those who could stand up to flashy giant monster attacks and save countless lives.
This lenient attitude towards villains, especially compared to during the Age of Villains where they were feared as tyrant overlords, occurred due to reforms that occurred after the Monstering where a huge move for a unified humanity against variants started.
And, at the end of the day, villains were still humans.
Many villains joined heroes and sacrificed their lives to fight against the extinction level threats of the Titans at the start of the Monstering. This gave villains far more leeway to pursue their way of life.
So long as villains did not threaten society as a whole or directly injure large quantities of human life, heroes generally did not engage with them significantly.
Plus, it was logistically difficult.
There were still obscenely powerful villains from during the Monstering who became founders or higher ups within the largest villain organizations, so trying to wage a war against them was just a waste of resources when variants continuously threatened humanity as a whole.
Public and social media were also heavily engineered and regulated by the Panopticon so that they glamorized heroes beating variants but largely downplayed villain organization activities unless they became far too obvious and harmful.
Like this, there was a sort of unspoken 'truce' between villains and heroes that existed so long as the threat of the sleeping Titans remained.
Not to say that there was never conflict between heroes and villains - there was plenty- but on a macro scale, variants were the real threat.
"Police should be dealing with this," said Seismic.
"Hah! That's a good one, Seismic," laughed Hat Trick. "I'll bet fifty thousand credits right now that the police commissioner here makes triple his sh*tty public salary from villain 'donations'."
"I pity the idiot who would ever call that bet," said Seismic. He sighed. "But still, I can't help worrying about the villains. What if they are planning something in the shadows? Using their diplomatic immunity from the Monstering for something big?"
"The years have turned you into a conspiracy theorist," said Hat Trick. "If the villains ever step out of line, the AA and Panopticon turns against them and then they just get sh*t on. Panopticon starts to actively find their assets, freeze them, and shut down their businesses.
And then the AA fights the villains, and I can guarantee you that we have way more heavy hitters than they do. AA has been recruiting the strongest Alters actively and globally for over fifty years.
You can't walk more than two street blocks without seeing an ad for joining the AA and becoming a hero. Heroes are the faces of advertising and corporate deals everywhere. They're the ones people look upt o and love.
Villains, in the meanwhile, still have to move in secrecy, and that's just bad business for attracting new talent."
"True, true," said Seismic. "Maybe the years have made me paranoid."
"You've gotta learn to live a little, Seismic," said Hat Trick. "This is why I don't believe in having kids or a wife. All that commitment and responsibility, it starts to drag you down and make you worry about the future. It stops you from really living in the present, you know what I mean?"
"I do," said Seismic. "But there's something about worrying for people you're committed to that makes life worth living. It beats out the aimless addiction to destruction I had when I was young."
"Well, that sounds like a you problem. I got no problem having twenty different girls on call and bathing in credits and cheers," said Hat Trick. He perked up as he watched the telescreen. "Oh sh*t! Look! They managed to pull of a warping maneuver!"
"Good tactics," said Seismic with a nod. "Using a mass amount of drones to generate enough interference to tune out any scanning - I would never have thought of that. I suppose that's the difference between villains and heroes. They're used to fighting Alters and we're used to fighting variants."
"Damn! Look at that guy die! The guy with the shades!" said Hat Trick, leaning forward like he was watching his favorite football team score a goal. He narrowed his eyes. "Who killed him, though? I only see blurs." Hat Trick talked into his earpiece mic. "Hey Nav, try and get your drone to zoom in a little more."
The drone's camera tried to zoom in, but then a cover of strange, dark smoke washed over everything, completely removing any visibility.
"Nav, this is just smoke, right? Scan past it or something! I'm missing out, man!" said Hat Trick.
The drone camera tried to switch to various sight modes. AC scanning, thermal, radar - nothing really worked.
"The hell? Is this some kind of Alter power?" remarked Hat Trick.
"Fairly high end, too," said Seismic. "Your Nav, what's his support ranking?"
"A solid B," said Hat Trick.
In the AA, heroes that did not directly fight went into the support department that focused on surveillance and reconnaissance, and they had their own ranking system determined from metrics that did not revolve around combat capability.
"Then this is pretty high-end concealment," said Seismic. "It reminds me of Void Walker."
Void Walker was a famous hero turned vigilante who could generate fields of shadowy darkness that completely shut down any form of surveillance.
"You really are old, huh," said Hat Trick. "Void Walker went MIA fifteen years ago. Anyways-,"
Hat Trick stood up, stretching his arms.
"Hm? What are you doing?" said Seismic.
"I'm going out there. I'm a little curious about what's going on now," said Seismic. He balled his gloved hands into tight fists. Golden studs at the knuckles flashed as he cracked his neck. "You coming, old man?"
Seismic put a hand on his salt and pepper colored goatee. The wrinkles around his brown eyes deepened as he thought about what to do. "I don't know. We'd be going into unknown territory-,"
Hat Trick face palmed. "Seismic, we're A class. A. Class. We would wipe the floor with anybody here. Hell, you could probably drum up an earthquake and shove this entire place inside a sinkhole and be done with it. What do we have to worry about?"
"I guess I can give you some cover," said Seismic. As he stood up, he immediately froze as he looked at his AA issued Alert Watch. The watch embedded in his costume blared orange, indicating a possible threat that required immediate investigation.
Hat Trick also stared at his glowing orange watch. A holographic projection of a status report emitted from the watch. From the holograph, a video also played showing an enormous blue pillar of energy rising from the ocean surface and into the clouds approximately fifteen kilometers from Haven's coastline.
The pillar of energy faded away after a few seconds, but when it did, it caused the clear night sky to suddenly throng with dark, rumbling storm clouds. A mass torrential downpour, winds, and rising tides formed.
"What is this? Some kind of Terra-Storm?" said Hat Trick.
Terra Storms were a fairly common phenomenon in the world's unstable climate. The rise of Altering powers had affected the planet itself, causing Ether to infuse into the earth itself. Some scientists even hypothesized that enormous amounts of Ether gathered into the earth's core, causing it to spread outwards into the planet's magnetic field.
Sometimes, ether surges in some areas of earth's magnetic field caused Terra Storms.
Terra Storms generated sudden meteorological phenomenon like storms and even natural disasters. They were generally predictable by studying and keeping track of fluxes in the earth's magnetic field and atmosphere, but sometimes, there were sudden Terra Storms that escaped all notice.
"No, doesn't seem like it," said Seismic. "Even rogue Terra Storms have some windup. Usually, there's a huge buildup of Ether for at least an hour."
"You think something made this storm?" said Hat Trick.
Seismic nodded. "I think so. Probably variant activity."
Hat Trick grinned wildly. "Good. Then we'll finally get to see some action."
"Stay careful, Hat Trick," said Seismic. "Any variant that can generate a storm like this is probably a B rank disaster threat at minimum."
"Good thing we're A rank then, right?" Hat Trick unclasped a black bowler hat from his utility belt and put it atop his wild, neck length dark red hair. As he did so, a band around the bowler hat glowed blue. "Good, I got my Laser Form on the first try. I'll race you to the coastline, old man."
"Wait, we should plan-," began to Seismic, but Hat Trick's body turned bright blue before shooting out of an open window in the form of a laser beam.
Seismic sighed as he squeezed out of the window clumsily, trying to fit his huge body through the comparatively smaller frame. He broke the window with his huge strength, and he made a mental reminder to pay for damages. He then leaped out and flew by generating shockwaves on his feet, hopping through the air.