"Fire! Fight! Do anything!" roared Rockshaper as he pointed his arm at the monstrosity. Jagged spheres of rock formed in front of his palm and fired off with the velocity of bullets.
Cowboy finally shot at the right place this time, unloading as many bullets as he could.
Another hero fired blasts of blue energy, another spears of water, another unloaded a clip from a handheld minigun, and so on and so forth.
A hailstorm of diverse projectiles rained against the being, but they all clattered off the entity's green forcefield. Some of these projectiles missed and smashed into the walls of the plane, gouging out holes that grew dangerously close to breaching the walls.
"How many powers does he have!?" shouted a hero. "This gas, that shield, not to mention how strong he is and that blasting attack! This-this doesn't make any sense!"
"He must have a weakness!" said Rockshaper. "Something for all this power he has. A time limit, maybe-,"
"The only time limit I have is that I do not want to waste too much of my time on the likes of you." The figure stood there, letting attacks ping off of its ultra durable forcefield, before it put a clawed hand to its pointed chin in contemplation. "Judging by how weak your attacks are, it does not seem like any of you have much potential.
But maybe some of you are like Dynamite Girl, capable of massively accelerating your growth with undeath and further training."
"That is not so," came another voice. One that seemed to resonate from the chest of the being.
"Who…who was that?" said Rockshaper.
"Oh, you can sense their potential, Volantis?" said the being.
"I am an apt judge of warriors, especially in determining the peak of their ability to hone their bodies physically and in capacity to channel raw energy." This voice was deeper in timber and smoother in its delivery, yet, it was equally as cold. "I may not understand fully the energy that the humans of this realm harness, but in its purest essence, it flows similarly to mana.
Thus, I can roughly determine their potential, and those standing before you are already at their peaks.
Both physically and in terms of harnessing energy, they are at their primes, and no matter how their bodies change, how much they labor and toil, they will not grow much stronger."
"Thank you for your insight, Volantis." The being drew its gaze up from its chest back to the heroes. "Then that means I have no more reason to waste time scoping out your powers to see if you would make good undead.
You all truly are worthless after all."
With that, the red dot serving as the being's eye in its helm-mask of black metal glowed brightly, and all the heroes froze in place, stopping their attacks. They felt an intense sense of dread grip them, holding them like firm anchors.
The entity swiped its clawed hands forward twice, firing off two swirling, helical patterned bolts of green. They each hit a hero, and when they did, the blasts acted like targeted explosives, blowing apart bodies with gruesome force.
The heroes closest to those that blasted apart were showered in the blood and guts of their fellow C rankers, and they blinked as they looked down at their blood drenched hands before they dropped any pretense of fighting back.
They screamed in sheer terror as they sprinted back.
"Run! Get out of here!"
"We-we can't fight that thing!"
"I can't stand the way you all run. It reminds me far too much of cockroaches scattering under light. Disgusting." The being fired blast after blast of those strange green bolts that promised instant death to anything it hit, and they landed with pinpoint accuracy on those that ran first.
Hero after hero exploded into showers of blood and disintegrated flesh.
First, it was the heroes that ran, then it was the heroes closest to the approaching entity. Everyone died one after the other in such quick succession that within just thirty seconds, there were only two survivors.
Rockshaper and Computation. The two heroes that were the farthest away, occupying the cockpit.
The entity went right up to the two heroes and towered over them with its horrible bulk of spiked metal, bone, and live, pulsating, strange flesh.
Rockshaper fell to his knees, shivering uncontrollably as he knelt in the presence of this terrible, terrible being. This manifestation of death from which there was no escape.
"Why are you trembling like this? I've turned off the life drain and debuffs on my mist. There shouldn't be a reason to be this afraid. Or maybe I've simply lost what it feels like to be afraid as a simple man," said the entity.
All Rockshaper could do was kneel there silently, his face staring down at the dull grey metal floor as sweat poured from his forehead. His heart beat rapidly, and his tongue felt heavy, like lead. He felt frozen in both terror and acceptance, knowing that no matter what he did, before this thing, he was just prey.
Was this how it felt to face certain death?
It was such an awful feeling. It felt like every single inch of his being was about to be devoured, at the precipice of a massive cliff where with just a light breeze, he would fall into enormous jaws waiting to snuff out his insignificant little life.
How had Minuteman faced certain death with such courage? With a smile on his face?
"You kill me, and there's nobody left to pilot the plane!" shouted Computation in sheer desperation. "The plane will crash!"
"Oh, I did not care much about saving this plane in the first place. It is Panopticon property, after all. I cannot just take it." To end his sentence, the entity thrust his clawed hand out and sliced it straight through Computation's head.
Computation's glowing blue mask sparked and sputtered before glitching out, blood pooling from the cracked glass surrounding the claws drilled through his head.
The entity withdrew his claws with a gruesome squelch, and Computation fell forwards, his face planted into controls that covered under a veil of his blood.
"Hm. It seems that autopilot has engaged," said the entity as it stared at the control screens. "Lying about the plane crashing with your death - an interesting gambit to save your life. But a crash from this plane would not have even come close to killing me in any case."
The entity moved back from the controls and then stopped as it stared down at Rockshaper's frozen, kneeling body. Rockshaper's breath caught in his throat and his eyes widened in terror as he felt the entity's gaze burn into his back.
"I almost forgot about you, the way you were so still," said the entity.
"Why…," whispered out Rockshaper, barely getting out words through his throat made tight with fear.
"Why did you kill us? Why!? When we were all heroes!?" said Rockshaper. His words came out freer now, maybe it was because his body had instinctively accepted its death, and thus, was free to say whatever it wanted before its inevitable end.
"Why? You say you are a hero as if it means something, as if it means it makes your life valuable enough to spare.
Then let me turn that question around on you. What is a hero?"
"What is the purpose of a hero? Is it not to hunt variants and save lives?"
Rockshaper looked up at the unblinking red dot looming over him, confused.
"But look at you. Look at those around you-," The entity motioned with its spiked, clawed arm behind it, at the medley of corpses it was responsible for. "You abandoned the lives you were meant to save. And you run from the variants you are meant to hunt.
Does that not mean you have no more purpose?
And without purpose, why do you deserve to live? What is the point of your meaningless existences?"
The entity raised its clawed hand up, and Rockshaper put his arms over his head and shook like a child in the dark. Seeing that arm raised up, those claws splayed out, he felt a renewed burst of desperation. "Please! Please! I-I'll be a proper hero! I'll save as many people as I can! I'll hunt down all the variants! Just-just give me another chance! I have credits, too! Anything you want, I can give you!"
"Anything I want, is it?" said the entity as its clawed hand froze in the air.
"Anything!" shouted Rockshaper. He was crying now, snot drizzling from his nose as he felt his life truly wavering on the tightrope of death.
"Then I will add you among my experimental subjects. Fler'Gan will be pleased."
"H-huh?" Rockshaper looked up in confusion, not understanding, but the entity's hand chopped down at him. Yet, the entity did not slash down with its sharp and lethal claws… Instead, the being slammed the flat of its palm into the base of Rockshaper's neck, knocking the consciousness out of him.