Minuteman stepped up to the teenager and looked down at him. The kid looked away, intimidated by Minuteman's powerfully built, navy blue uniformed body.
"Kid, it's okay, I'm not here to hurt you. Here, look at me," said Minuteman gently, and the boy looked up at him. The kid blinked in surprise as he looked into Minuteman's surprisingly soft blue eyes.
Those were not the eyes of a fighter or a killer, they were strangely doe eyed and round and innocent - an incredible contrast with Minuteman's muscled, trained body and scarred face.
Pain and fear and anger were all mixed up in the kid's eyes, and all of that compounded by the glint of something that Minuteman was intimately familiar with - loss.
"Who'd you lose tonight?" said Minuteman.
"Why the fuck do you care?" said the kid.
"Because I know how much loss hurts. I know how much it takes away from you, and I know how alone it makes you feel. I know you don't know me, and I don't know you, but I'm still here to listen," said Minuteman.
The kid paused before whispering out, "My mom and my dad."
Minuteman gently put his dark red gloved hand on the kid's shoulder and bent down, meeting his eye level. He did not do well with basic condolences. The 'I'm sorry for your loss' type of formality. Those were empty words that just reminded those hurt about their loss.
"Anyone left?" said Minuteman.
"…My little sister," said the boy.
"She here with you?" said Minuteman.
"Then you can't afford to be up here lashing out like this. You're all she's got, and she's all you've got. Down here, it isn't my back that she's looking to for strength, its yours.
You've lost a lot, I know, but you still have someone to live for. Someone you have to fight for." Minuteman patted the kid's shoulder. "Go back to your sister. Keep her calm. Fight on.
Tell her it'll be all right."
Minuteman smiled and pointed a thumb at himself. "And I'll make sure you won't be lying."
The kid nodded and shuffled away, and Minuteman went back to the line of heroes. They were all C rankers native to Haven. Among the stronger heroes in the city, explaining how they could survive so long.
"All of you have completed basic hero training, correct?" said Minuteman.
The heroes nodded in unison.
"Then get the med kits stashed in this bunker and start treating everyone here," said Minuteman.
"What!?" said Rockshaper. "There's barely twenty of us, and two hundred of them. Do you understand how long that will take?"
"You have anything else better to do?" said Minuteman. He got up close to Rockshaper again, and the man visibly shrank against Minuteman. "Until Miles gets the hangar and the carrier running, all of you need to keep these people calm, and there's no better way to do that than by comforting them."
"All this sh*t for Duds?" spat another hero. "We should have left with the first wave of evac when they got all the people that mattered out."
"For people, not Duds," corrected Minuteman. "In a situation like this, we're all just desperate people, you understand me?" Minuteman pointed a red gloved finger to the ceiling. "Above ground, the variants don't give a sh*t whether you're a Hero or a Alter or a Dud. Whether you're filthy rich or dirt poor. You're all just food for them. So why do you care?"
Silence was the response against Minuteman.
"I don't want to hear anyone using the word 'Dud' again, do you all understand me?" said Minuteman.
None of the C rankers dared to protest against Minuteman. That was just how big the rift was between the C rank and the B rank. Even if they wanted to mutiny and fight back, Minuteman could hand them all their asses on a silver platter, especially with how tired they already were.
"Good, now get to work, heroes," said Minuteman as he waited first for the heroes to get the medkits before leaving them, going to the separated control room where Miles, a techno Support from the AA, plugged into a large monitor, getting control of the bunker's functions.
"How's the situation?" said Minuteman.
"This hangar hasn't been maintained in decades. Don't even know if the carrier inside it will take off, but if it's using a standard electro-etherite engine, I can use my powers to jumpstart it. The issue is this-," Miles tapped the monitor, and the screen switched to surveillance on aboveground.
The hidden bunker cameras were completely wired to prevent disruption from abilities that disrupted wireless technology, so thankfully, they could still operate even in this tech disrupting storm.
A mass amount of variants were gathered around above, circling around the dirt caked vault doors of the bunker.
"They've sniffed us out," said Minuteman as he crossed his arms. "But they can't break through that door. It isn't Neo-Steel, considering how old it is, but it's still too much titanium alloy for them to chew through."
"Yeah, for the normal fishmen, but shark man's back." Miles tapped the screen again, and it switched to another camera, this one showcasing a hulking, shark shaped fishman walking towards the vault doors.
"What!?" Minuteman immediately uncrossed his arms in alarm.
This shark variant was immensely strong. Minuteman had clashed with it before while leading the initial evacuation of Southside.
Minuteman, along with Gladiator, Haven's native B ranker, had fought the shark variant, and though they had killed it, it was at the cost of Gladiator's death.
Granted, Gladiator was still heavily injured from the past attack against Haven, but it was still an incredible feat that this beast was able to contend with two B rank heroes, both specialized in melee combat, at once.
And, it seemed, the creature had some ability to resurrect itself as Minuteman had made sure to crush its head with his shield.
The variant seemed to be even stronger than before. Where before it had just one fin on its back, it now had three, and its muscle mass had increased significantly. On top of that, its sharp grey scales had grown thicker, almost into armored plating.
The plating was especially pronounced around the variant's head and chest.
As it was now, Minuteman knew he would have an extreme difficulty fight against it. He might even have to use his Minute of Freedom to secure a win.
"That thing is strong, but even it can't smash through those vault doors with raw strength alone," said Minuteman.
That was when something the situation went from bad to worse. The shark variant waved its muscular, grey scaled arms forward, and in response, several dozen fishmen lugged forwards huge spiral shaped black shells on their backs.
They put down the car sized shells with the holes facing downward and into the vault doors, and with that, the spiral pattern on the black shells began to glow a molten red. Molten lava began to pool out beneath them and heat started to permeate through the grey metal vault doors, rapidly superheating them into a bright orange.
"Vent Worms," muttered Minuteman.
Vent Worms were deep sea variants that lived in volcanically active veins in the ocean. They fed on molten rock and could generate intense heat waves from within their shells. They were not very mobile creatures, but they fended themselves against predators with their intense heat generation.
Very soon, the worms would melt holes straight through the titanium alloy doors, and then, it would be a pure massacre.
"How's Portal Girl doing?" said Minuteman.
Portal Girl was a D rank hero, a new graduate from one of Haven's hero academies. She could create portals that had a range of three hundred meters from her current position. The biggest limit was that every single time someone passed through her portal, it drained her stamina, and by now, she was so weak she could barely move.
"She's still dealing with a killer headache. I doubt she's going to be good for a mass evac," said Miles. "She's been making portals all night, and she's way beyond the limit of people she can handle portaling in a day. There's no way in hell she's going to be able to portal out everyone away from here-,"
"She doesn't need to," said Minuteman. "She just needs to get one person out."
Miles paused before he turned to Minuteman, his eyes wide in shock. "You cannot be serious. You're going up there? All alone? Look man, you're going to die-,"