Chapter 308 The End of the Attack
"Broken men are dangerous," said Star Spartan, shaking his head. "And men broken under vengeance are worse. Vengeance cuts in deep, deep enough that even when the wound is healed, it is never the same.
And Dracul is not healed. Far from it."
"Hm." Aldrich pondered Star Spartan's words for a moment. Was he the same? Had he healed wrong? No. Star Spartan was wrong. It was not a matter of healing wrong. The vengeance that Aldrich had nursed and fulfilled, that was a battle scar.
Something he could wear proudly as a sign of what he had weathered.
"Shuttles are on their way. Qilin, the assistant A.I. I use, will guide everyone to where they want, though she might be a little sassy about it," said Machine Emperor.
"You're connected to your networks. How are things on earth? Have any other Pillars been infiltrated?" asked Aldrich, wondering if the Stranger had initiated a mass worldwide attack.
What it had done right now was a blatant attack against the entirety of the Panopticon and AA. If it wanted to cause the most damage, it had to do it now, when the iron was hot, when nobody knew how to defend against it.
"No," said Machine Emperor. "The Panopticon's initiated a worldwide shutdown of their Pillars until they figure out how to shield themselves from further attacks. I predict most companies will similarly be shutting down services to try and figure out how to protect themselves from similar infiltration."
"Damn, that means I won't be seeing Lightning Returns 2 on Vision+!" complained Indra.
"Lightning Returns? Isn't that your movie? And 2? Isn't that redundant with 'returns?'" said Machine Emperor.
"The title's up to the writers, I'm not up for all that brainy stuff. And it's because it's my movie that I want to watch it more," said Indra.
"Then what about variant defense? The Panopticon handles nearly 70% of all variant attacks worldwide," said Star Spartan.
"The Alterhuman Agency will have to pick up the pace if they want to have any hope of salvaging their public trust. Which means we'll be working overtime," said Machine Emperor, and Indra groaned. "On that note, I have to get going quickly. I assume I'll be needed. Pretty badly, too.
Good luck everyone."
Machine Emperor gave a small salute to Aldrich and Star Spartan before flying away, keeping Mushin in tow.
"May we meet again." Mushin tried as best as he could to bow to Aldrich before he was whisked away.
Aldrich watched as the two S class heroes left. He wondered how he would stack up against them. Machine Emperor was the weakest out of the S class here, but he had the most versatility with a whole array of combat suits, each of them suited to a different type of enemy.
Machine Emperor's current suit was called the V-Solar. A fairly low powered one that Aldrich believed he could take out one versus one now, even without instant death magic. But Machine Emperor did have far stronger suits.
The strongest one the public knew was called the V-Nova, and its fiery beams could easily wipe out Aldrich and his legion. If given prep time and battle data, Aldrich was sure Machine Emperor could devise a suit that could best counter Aldrich as well.
Mushin was the ultimate single person combatant.
His invisible blade could wipe anything out of existence down to the atomic level. Durability did not matter at all.
Aldrich had no vitals to wipe out, and he could regenerate chunks wiped out from him, but that sword was still incredibly dangerous. On top of that, Mushin's hero costume â€“ his grey hakama and gi â€“ could apply some of his power to turn him invisible for brief periods of time.
That, combined with Mushin's incredible physical abilities, particularly his godlike reflexes and combat speed, and Aldrich knew he could not take Mushin one on one.
Not many could. In a solo fight, against humanoid enemies, Mushin was arguably number 1.
A small, hyper-agile target that could one shot kill practically anything was a horrible match for anyone one on one.
But against Aldrich's entire army? A legion that also knew no vitals nor fear? And capable of regenerating under his mist?
Mushin would have a much harder time.
Once Aldrich upgraded his legion with even tougher units, he was confident he could deal with Mushin.
The real top tier S class heroes, though, Indra and Star Spartan â€“ they were out of Aldrich's league, even if he used his full legion. They had it all. Insane physical stats and destructive power, very much like Solomon Solar.
The only way Aldrich could think of a way to take them down was to kill them with instant death magic.
Star Spartan was too fast, strong, and durable. Indra was almost perfect to beat Aldrich with his fiery lightning, absurd speed, and destructive area of effect power.
"I'm back," said Indra.
"How was your brother?" said Star Spartan.
"Holding up well. Dude's a little shaken up, but he's tough, just like me. He's no Dud, that's for sure, heh," said Indra.
"Stop that. 'Pure Human' is the better word," said Star Spartan, his tone admonishing, showing the wisdom of additional years and a generally more selfless heart.
"Yeah, yeah, you're too much of a goody two shoes, sometimes, Spartan." Indra shrugged dismissively. He leered as he saw Kinesis in the distance, flying by with the U.S. examiners in a mind construct ball of white outlined in black. "You stay a stickler for the rules too much, and you'll end up like her. Selfish bitch."
Aldrich looked to Earth, ignoring the conversation. The word 'Dud' was basically commonplace vocabulary now. It was a slur, yes, but so common that fewer people used the term 'pure human' than they did 'Dud'.
The fact that Indra used it was not surprising. And there was no point making a ruckus about it right now.
And the term 'Dud' felt strangely far away from Aldrich now. Maybe because he was no longer even human to begin with. It did not feel like it applied to him anymore, and truly, in every aspect, it no longer did.
Aldrich stared at earth.
"Kinesis...she's an odd one. I believe this is her first real public appearance," said Star Spartan.
"Yeah? I'll make sure to let my six hundred million Snapshot followers know how much of an asshole she is," said Indra.
"I wouldn't do that were I you," said Star Spartan. "Social media is a weapon as potent as any firearm. Aiming it at a fellow S class hero is...questionable."
"...Whatever." Indra pouted.
"I still cannot fathom her. Why would she stay so loyal to the terms of her contract? To the United States?" said Star Spartan.
"She's a government dog," said Aldrich. His skeletal jaw set beneath his helm.
Machine Emperor, Mushin, Indra, Star Spartan - these were the wrong heroes to be thinking about fighting.
If Aldrich was going to be standing against the United States, his main threat was Kinesis. But there was very little information about her. Her fights were rarely, if ever recorded. Only reported about, and she chose to keep her mission records as secretive as possible.
She had gotten her S class position by single-handedly defeating a S rank variant. What type of variant, how she had done so, and other questions about battle data were all an utter mystery.
What Aldrich did know was that she was not going to be a pushover. If she was a government dog, he needed to be ready to kill her.
He needed to get stronger.
"Maybe. That is where she is based," said Star Spartan.
"Stop giving her the benefit of the doubt, Spartan. They probably have some dirt on her. Maybe she's into some weird ass shit that they'll leak to the public. Tch." Indra nodded to Aldrich. "Yo, Thanatos, if you ever get beef with her, send me a call. If my PR team doesn't shout down my ear, I'll lend a bolt or two to help you out."
"Noted," said Aldrich. "Where will you two go from here?"
"I have plenty of assignments across Europe," said Star Spartan. "And due to the nature of my powers, I am wanted in many places, now more so than ever."
"Same here. I only like taking missions with high AP, but damn, I can't just let my home get ass blasted by variants," said Indra.
"What about you?" said Star Spartan. "Now that your status as Sentinel is all but guaranteed?"
"Me?" Aldrich put a hand to the pointed chin of his metal and bone helmet. If the Stranger was bold enough to make such an attack, that meant he was ready for an all out conflict. Not just with Aldrich, but with the whole world.
The Trident's half-baked plans to try and topple AA and Panopticon â€“ the Stranger was probably going to set all that in motion.
And Aldrich would be there to stop it. "Preparing for war."