Chapter 305 Rescue
"Thank you." Aldrich watched as Supermind's life finally faded away. His emotions towards seeing humans die were muted, but he did feel loss for Supermind.
Aldrich had looked up to the Triune when he was a child, just like countless other children. His biggest hero inspiration was Vanguard, but Supermind was a close second.
Supermind, the suave, quiet, cool character that contrasted with Vanguard's bombastic loudness. In many ways, Aldrich related more with Supermind than Vanguard.
But that was the past. When he always looked up.
Now, Aldrich stood at the precipice, at the very edge of the tip of the world. Supermind was an equal to him. And because they were equals, Supermind trusted Aldrich to avenge him.
This, above anything else, validated to Aldrich that he belonged here. At the top of the world.
"Take the body quickly. We have the machines to deal with" said Dracul.
Aldrich nodded. He placed his hand on Supermind's chest.
'Chrysa, I need you to take something in for me. A body' said Aldrich mentally.
'Another body? They're gross! But okay, father.'
White threads appeared from Aldrich's hand, wrapping all around Supermind's corpse like silk woven around prey caught in a spiderweb. With a flash of light, Supermind's body disappeared.
"What's going on?" one of the medics muttered. The other medics looked around, dazed.
"Hm. We are under attack" said Dracul. "Once I lower this dome of shadows, treat any injured you find."
"Roger that, sir."
Aldrich, like Dracul, understood what had happened. Supermind had wiped the medics' memories of this encounter to prevent them from spilling any details about the conversation that had just transpired.
Dracul's shadow sphere broke apart, and the combat medics flew away with their thrusters, activating energy shields on their arms to deflect a hailstorm of lasers and bullets as they returned to the examiners.
That same hailstorm now assailed Aldrich and Dracul.
Aldrich's [Death Essence Barrier] flickered rapidly as bolt after bolt fizzled into nothingness against it.
Dracul, on the other hand, just stood there. All the projectiles just sunk into his body, marking out little indents of pure darkness where they disappeared into an endless void.
Whenever a bot or drone got too close, tendrils of dark from Dracul's body and shadow would lash out, eviscerating them.
"That is a fine forcefield. Personal tech?" asked Dracul.
"Something like that." Aldrich assessed the situation. The situation was still relatively stable. Only a few examiners, it seemed, had died, with various others injured.
The S class heroes were holding back their strength. Mostly because they did not want to get make the Judicata explode, unstable as it already was with the self destruction sequence. But they also had to worry about the much weaker examiners getting caught in the crossfire of their area of effect attacks.
"This is a waste of time" said Aldrich, his voice projecting loud over the din of battle with the aid of Volantis. "The Judicata is set to explode. It might not take out the toughest of us, but it'll wipe out most of the examiners.
The main focus should be in getting out."
Dracul tossed Aldrich a earpiece, and he plugged it into his ear, the metal tendrils of his helm dragging the trinket into the side of his bare skull.
"I am tired of projecting my voice" said Dracul. "And that will give you access to the network the heroes are using. So, what do you suggest? I do not care much whether they die, but to you, I am sure, it is more important."
"I still need them for my vote." Aldrich tapped the side of his helm, willing Volantis to fiddle with the earpiece. "Can you store people in your shadows? I know that there's more space inside them than meets the eye."
Dracul shook his head. "My shadows are not a good place to be. Anything swallowed within them - crushed to nothingness."
"That's fine," said Aldrich. "I have a way out. I just need some coordination."
"Coordination in this chaos? Doubtful" said Dracul, eyeing the examiners as they ran around, shouted at each other, or hunkered down behind their guards and heroes.
In Aldrich's interface, he had his eyes set on Fler'Gan's potion. Its effects were dormant, ready to activate at any moment.
"I'll make it happen." Aldrich flew into the air, his dark green, tattered cape of souls billowing behind him. He connected to the channel the S class heroes used.
Immediately, he started to hear the din of several voices blaring in his ear.
"We need to get the examiners out!" Star Spartan's gruff voice rung out. "Machine Emperor, you're trying to take control of the Judicata back - how's that looking!?"
"I can't get in. Whatever took control of the Judicata - it's completely foreign, unlike any cyberspace signature I've seen."
"Then we need to do physical evac! Before this place blows!" said Star Spartan.
"This entire Pillar is compromised. All doors are locked; all escape pods or aircraft have been destroyed" said Machine Emperor. "And if you want to punch your way out, the Pillar will recognize significant enough structural damage and initiate its self destruction early.
Only we, the S class, can survive an explosion like that. And even then, Mushin cannot breathe in space."
"Damn it, that means warping is our only way out, but-," began Star Spartan.
"But the Warp-Lock is impenetrable. There is no better Warp-Lock tech in the world than the Panopticon's." Machine Emperor sighed. "We may have to cut our losses, Spartan. Save just important ones.
If it comes down to it, I can spread my shielding to a few people, and I'll have to do that with the Asian Alliance representatives I've been tasked to escort."
"We still have Kinesis. She can create a large enough construct that we can group all the examiners in. Then, I can propel it out of the Judicata" said Star Spartan. "I can outrun the explosion with my Comet Form. The speed may hurt them, even kill some, but it will save the most lives."
"I am afraid I cannot do that" said Kinesis.
"What?" Star Spartan sounded stunned.
"I am contracted only to protect the United States examiners" said Kinesis.
"Bullshit! Now is not the time for this!" roared Star Spartan. "Most of us here don't have powers for rescue! This is up to you!"
That was on the United Front representatives, noted Aldrich. They had brought heroes that were the strongest, not the best for rescue because they wanted to project power. They would not have expected in a million years to get attacked right inside Panopticon territory.
"Agreed" said Machine Emperor. "Now's not the time to be getting leashed to a contract like some desperate dog. We're S class heroes, not mascot mutts. We have the authority to improvise.
If I could, I would call up shuttles from my space station, but even if they could get here in time, I'm locked out.
This is up to you, Kinesis."
"My brother is one of India's examiners. Kinesis, if you don't do this, I'm personally coming after your ass!" shouted Indra.
"Some of the representatives could have left already by breaching the Judicata's walls" said Mushin. "Such as the Fortune CEOs. They have Alters with forcefields and warp capability with them. They could break out of the walls, protect themselves from the blast, and warp away.
But that would doom everyone else to the explosion. The reason they have not left is because even they trust in us to come up with a solution.
A solution to save them all.
After all, that is why we are S class. When we arrive, there are supposed to be no more deaths.
Will you break that trust?"
"My contract forbids me from aiding any other nation state or group without explicit permission" said Kinesis. "And I have yet to receive orders to aid other nation states or heroes."
"A contract won't save you from me, you dumb bitch!" shouted Indra.
"I am sorry. But I am not authorized to use my abilities in this manner" said Kinesis, her voice emotionless.
"But I am." Aldrich's voice rang through the channel.
"You - Thanatos!?" said Star Spartan. "How did you get this channel!?"
"Doesn't matter." Aldrich continued. "Time is tight, so I'll explain this quickly. I can warp the examiners here out."
"The Warp-Lock-," began Machine Emperor.
"Also doesn't matter to me," said Aldrich. "I need all the examiners packed into one space. I'll have Dracul protect it. Then, I'll warp them out. Afterwards, I can keep them safe in space, but they'll be stuck to one spot.
From there, we can let the Judicata self-destruct. Without the interference, Machine Emperor, you can bring the examiners back down to Earth with your shuttles."
"How can we be so sure that this will work? That we can even trust you?" said Star Spartan.
"What other option do you have?" said Aldrich. "This is the solution that will save as many lives as possible."
"I'll go with the new kid's plan!" said Indra. "Whole lot better than doing absolutely nothing."
"Right. We can't be picky with our options here" said Machine Emperor.
"Alright then!" said Star Spartan. "Let's make this happen!"
Aldrich flew above the examiners.
'Volantis, project my voice as much as possible' said Aldrich.
'I shall, Armored. Now project your will upon these mortals.'
Aldrich activated Fler'Gan's potion.
"All of you," said Aldrich, his voice emanating outwards with powerful waves. "If you want to live, then you listen to me. When I land, gather around me. I will warp you all away.
In exchange, you will vote for me. I will have your goodwill - a fair price to pay for your lives."
Aldrich paused for a moment, letting the words sink into the examiners as they stared up at him.