Chapter 303 Sentinel Vote...?
A massive commotion, one far bigger than any before, ran across the whole hearing like lightning, electrifying the examiners. Suited men and women talked among each other, turning their heads, checking screens, phones, devices, anything to try and shed some light on this sudden turnaround.
"Power on par with nations? Sure, that's debatable. There are some nations out here that are worth nothing without the alliances they're in," said Jin Woo. "But equal to us? The Council of Fortune? With a snap of our fingers, we could set send our fragile global economy into a freefall it'll never recover from.
You think you have that much power?"
"Now, let's not get too rowdy here. We don't see eye to eye on too many things on that council," said Tychus, his smile for once fading. "See, the world's a buncha movin' parts that work together.
If you stand out from it, the whole machine's liable to jus' break down.
But if there's one thing we all agree on, it's that we want that machine to keep runnin'. You step outta line, threaten to tip the machine over, then I ain't sure what'll happen."
"Those generous offers turned into threats quick," said Aldrich.
"Ain't a threat. More like course correction," said Tychus.
So this was what happened when Aldrich tried to shake up the world order. If accepting a deal with anyone here was poking the hornet's nest, then declaring Sentinel status was like taking the nest, stomping it apart, and then torching the hornets.
"You do understand you'll only complicate your situation even further?" said Emmet. "Becoming a Sentinel - an independent actor - and taking over U.S. territory: tell me, if that isn't an invasion, then what is?"
"I am curious." Dracul spoke, his voice echoing softly with a slight rasp - a voice meant for a night creature. The moment Dracul spoke, everyone else grew quiet, showing, in the end, who really had the most power here. "Do you think you have the power to be like us? To be a Sentinel? To be beyond everything?"
Aldrich took in that question. He had read up on how governments and the AA had started to classify Thanatos. Generally, Thanatos was considered an A rank disaster, which according to typical AA guidelines was the classification granted to variants or villains that needed multiple coordinated A rankers to stop.
That was respectable, but a Sentinel was an entire level above that. They were basically the firepower of a major country packed into one Alter.
Aldrich was not yet at that level. But that was just in terms of raw power.
"Do I think I personally have that power? Maybe not." Aldrich put his gauntleted hand to his heart with a heavy thud of metal. "But I am not alone. I am legion.
If any of you makes me an enemy today, you make an enemy not just of me, but of countless others. Beings as strong as me, stronger than me, and countless many weaker - they all stand united with me.
And united against my enemies."
"How much military strength do you even have?" said Emmet. "You act like you can stand against the entirety of the U.S."
"Enough to be confident. Enough to make it clear that if all of you today decide to stand against me, I won't be afraid to fight back," said Aldrich. "But again, it's your choice whether to accept me or not.
Either I become a Sentinel, or a villain the likes of which you have never seen since the Age of Villains."
"You would stand here and declare the entire world your enemy?" said Emmet.
"I could" said Aldrich.
He was bluffing, of course. Taking on the whole world was impossible right now. But escaping deep into the Wastelands and building up an unstoppable variant army?
That was very, very possible.
And making himself into an impossibly large threat incentivized the examiners to grant him Sentinel status that much more. Otherwise, instead of a Sentinel, they would have a villain on their hands.
"Hahahah." Dracul chuckled, amused. He leaned forward with eager smile. "That confidence, I will acknowledge it. I hear from my crows in the Underworld that you are to stand against the Trident.
Is that true?"
"It is," declared Aldrich. "I have a personal stake in seeing their destruction."
"As do I." Dracul nodded. "The Trident is like a cancer. It spreads its tumors everywhere. In every government. In every company. Trying to rip them out is impossible.
Always, there will be a bribed official, a corrupt politician, a bought out suit to stand in your way.
They stood in my way too long. My family died. I took things into my own hands.
I broke all the rules.
Now, I am Sentinel.
Is this what you wish as well?"
"It's what I need" said Aldrich, staring right at Dracul.
Dracul's dark eyes were hard to read, but the intensity behind them, honed by lost love and vengeance, was an intensity that Aldrich could reflect in his own eyes.
"Operator, Supermind, I acknowledge Sentinel status for Thanatos," said Dracul.
"This current case has nothing to do with Sentinel status" said the Operator.
"Oh, but it does," said Aldrich. "According to your own rules, nothing forbids the examined from ever asking for Sentinel status. The idea being that if you're strong enough to even consider it, nobody can say 'no' to you anyway."
"..." the Operator pursed her lips, unsure of herself.
"That is true," said Supermind. "But in all past cases, those that have tried to get Sentinel status have been no brainer decisions. Either they were blatantly above the rules, or they were delusional and in over their heads.
You, though, are maybe the first where things aren't so clear cut.
In the end, your Sentinel status would have to come down to a vote."
"Vote? A silly joke." Dracul leaned back in his seat of solidified darkness, putting his elbow on an armrest of shadow while resting his stubble decorated chin on his fist. "All of you here know that Sentinels are not appointed by vote, they are appointed by necessity.
Any man worthy to be Sentinel is raw, untamed power. If you do not respect it, it will turn against you.
Is that not why I was appointed Sentinel? Because all of you fear that if you do not give me respect, I will swallow one of your countries whole in darkness.
But go ahead. Cast your votes. And Thanatos, when you are done with this charade, you are free to reach out to me on the matter of the Trident."
"I'll keep that in mind" said Aldrich. He turned to Supermind. "Then go ahead and start that vote."
"Are you sure about this? Like I said, this isn't an open and shut case. The vote could go either way. And if it doesn't go the way you want it to, by global law, you will be considered an outlaw.
In the eyes of the U.S., you'd instantly be promoted to an invader."
"I'm sure. I want to make this happen while all of you are here in one place." Aldrich readied Fler'Gan's potion, having his mental trigger finger on the hypnotic suggestion effect's activation.
"I will go ahead and authorize a Sentinel Status Consideration Vote" said Supermind. "Operator, load the appropriate information and voting procedurals."
Once the vote started, Aldrich would use the suggestive effect to get as much of the examiners on board as possible. He was fairly certain he could not get everyone here on his side. At least a few of them had to have had strong enough wills to resist.
But could he get a majority?
Aldrich was fairly confident, but there was a definite possibility it would not work out. In that case, he would default to his plan of setting up base in the Wastelands, which he was much more confident in doing now because he had Dracul's support.
Not many would dare to go after Aldrich if they thought it meant crossing Dracul.
"Operator?" Supermind furrowed his brows, his hovering wheelchair floating up to the Operator's side.
The Operator seemed to be blankly staring in front of her, as if in a daze. Her eyes turned from teal green to bright, icy blue. The same shade of blue of the frost bots.
With a violent motion, the Operator whirled around and slammed her fist into Supermind's chest. Her mechsuit arm punched right through Supermind's age weakened flesh and bone and even popped right through his hovering chair.
Sparks crackled out from the hole in the chair outlining the Operator's arm, illuminating shreds of viscera and spatters of blood on once clean white plating.
Spermind's cross shaped pupils dilated, then thinned into nothing but blank white.
Dark tendrils erupted from the Operator's shadow, impaling her up high and away from Supermind.
Supermind slumped over, falling forward onto clean white tiles. A gaping hole lay bare in his chest, where his heart used to be.
"Get him treatment!" roared Dracul as he got off his chair of darkness, fully mobilized.
The Judicata, the entirety of the space station, started to shake. The lighting turned pale blue. The lights in all of the bots present, all of the deadly Panopticon battle drones and bots, flickered from green to the same shade.
The Operator was connected to the Judicata and every single piece of robotics within it. If she had been taken over, then everything else was too.
The bots and drones were the least of anyones worries here. The S class heroes were more than enough to annihilate the machines.
It was the Judicata itself. If the structure had been taken over, then -
The floor started to violently shake.
"The self-destruction sequence has been initiated!" shouted a visored techno.