Chapter 307 [Bonus chapter] Aftermath of the Judicata
Aldrich, in the next instant, found himself floating in space that he could tell from a distinct feeling of weightlessness. Space was cold, and that was about all he felt from it. The vacuum environment did nothing to Volantis or his lich body. What struck him was how pretty it was, how if he turned from Earth, he could so clearly see the infinite vastness of the cosmos, the inky dark canvas upon which countless little specks of golden stars were scattered.
But Aldrich had little time to admire the scenery because most of the examiners could not survive in space. Some of them could, having the ability to levitate or having guards or heroes that could help out, but just as many just floated about, breathless, soon to perish under the harsh emptiness of space.
Aldrich clasped his hands together and activated his cloak. The souls making it up groaned, their voices audible even in the soundless expanse of space. They spread apart, whirling about as they left wispy green trails that eventually created a sphere of misty green.
Within this sphere, the [Hallowed Ground], there was absolute safety. Nothing from outside could harm anything within, and on top of that, the active also had the clause of keeping anyone within immune to any status effects or environmental damage.
Several examiners sucked in deep breaths, the [Hallowed Ground] providing them the opportunity to breathe.
"Everyone alright?" said Aldrich.
"I'm quite fine," said Jin Woo. "And soon to make my leave. Serpents, prepare for warp."
The six Serpents marched into formation around Jin Woo and his faction of corporate reps.
"Now ain't this a fancy ability?" said Tychus. He tentatively walked around, finding that he could take steps wherever he wanted in the [Hallowed Ground]. He reached out to one of the floating spirits, but before he could make contact with it, the spirit howled and flew away. "Ain't ever seen the likes of it. You sure you don't want a piece of my new agency?"
"I prefer to work alone," said Aldrich.
"Sounds about right, heh. Well, Thanatos, I ain't about to pressure you into a deal you don't want. This ol' boy's takin's his leave too. Let's go, fellas." Tychus clapped his hands, and one of his mercenaries tapped the side of his head, channeling his own warp ability.
"Those of you that can warp out or find safe passage down to earth, do what you can," said Aldrich. "But for those of you that can't, Machine Emperor said he'd be okay with giving you all a ride down."
It was then that Aldrich sensed a massive surge of energy through his helmet vision. A surge so strong that it completely engulfed his sight in white. He turned towards the direction of the Judicata. The walls of the [Hallowed Ground] were see through to Aldrich and his units, though to others like the examiners, it was impossible to see through.
Aldrich saw an explosion engulf the Judicata. But that was not from the self-destruction sequence. He had seen a Pillar self-destruct before on the news when variants had managed to infiltrate it. The explosion was awing, but nothing compared to this.
What Aldrich saw was a blast of gold laced with blue electricity so massive that it looked like the sun been dropped right there. It was such an enormous blast that it must have been visible from Earth, and the shockwave it generated would have crushed the vast majority of people in the [Hallowed Ground] to a pulp.
Luckily, the [Hallowed Ground] rendered them invulnerable to any outside damage.
That was the combined firepower of Indra, Star Spartan, and the Judicata's self-destruction all mixed together. None of the Panopticon bots could have survived that. But what about bots elsewhere? If the Stranger could take over one Pillar, then what about the others?
Aldrich jumped, leaving the [Hallowed Ground]. He floated in space for a second before Volantis unfurled his draconic wings. The wings generated their own lift through magical energy, so Aldrich could still fly through the zero G environment of space.
Chunks of floating, melted debris were the only thing left behind of the Judicata and all its bots. The S-class heroes rapidly approached. Star Spartan rushed in the fastest with his blazing comet form. No surprise. His hero data indicated that Star Spartan could get so fast he could circle the entire planet in thirty minutes â€“ around mach 60.
Behind him was Indra, flying with a trail of lightning crackling behind him. At absolute top speeds, by turning into pure lightning, Indra could reach a high of mach 350. But he rarely, if ever did that. His reaction speed did not scale with his top speed, so he was liable to cause significant collateral damage moving as pure lightning, especially since his lightning was far more destructive than its natural equivalent.
Machine Emperor flew behind them while carrying Mushin with an arm.
And last, but not least, Dracul moved as a formless mass of darkness that shaped into his human self when he got closer.
"Glad to see you're alright, Thanatos," said Star Spartan as he stopped before Aldrich, a shockwave of force hitting Aldrich's armor as the S class hero stopped.
"Sorry about that, I try to keep my stops slow, but I was in a rush," said Star Spartan.
"An understandable rush. It's fine." Aldrich nodded. From hero data, Star Spartan was one of the 'good ones'. No bad track record. A few botched missions, a few side casualties from the nature of his destructive power, but nothing that his good did not overshadow.
"Are the examiners in there?" said Star Spartan, pointing his golden energy spear at the [Hallowed Ground] sphere.
"Yes. Minimal damage. I just need help with the evacuation," said Aldrich.
"Crazy!" Indra stopped before the [Hallowed Ground]. He hovered his hand over the wall of spirits. "What is this shit? It's freaky as fuck! You've got some cool powers, my guy. You know who you remind me of?
Archmage. From Korea. He's got that crazy fantasy shit going on too!"
"Right." Aldrich knew where Indra was coming from.
Archmage was also a S class hero, one of two from Korea. He was under the rarest 'Trump' category of Alter powers that did not really fit with all the others. Archmage had a low level of reality warping that let him have the powers of a typical fantasy mage, using magic circles to toss out fireballs, summon elementals, and the like.
Decidedly, though, Archmage was an Alter with an Alter organ. His 'spells' and 'summons' had Ether traces in them that typical power scanners could recognize.
Entirely unlike Aldrich whose power came completely from other sources.
But still, Aldrich did want to meet Archmage and see whether there was more than met the eye to the hero's abilities.
"Right? That's all you've got to say? C'mon, your power's amazing!" said Indra. He crackled in front of Aldrich and slapped his back, bouncing sparks of electricity between them. Up close, Aldrich could see that Indra was young, almost as young as Aldrich.
Indra could not have been older than the early twenties, and he had been a top hero for ten years already. Meaning he was active since he was barely a teenager. A man blessed with godlike strength almost from birth.
"But I'll stop bothering you. You did help my brother out, after all. He still in there?" said Indra.
"He is. You're free to meet up with him," said Aldrich.
"Don't mind if I do. I'll have to give him an earful about going to dangerous places without me. Wait, technically, I was here with him, ah whatever." Indra shrugged and floated into the [Hallowed Ground] where, Aldrich saw, Indra reached out and hugged his older brother.
"So much for coordinates, huh?" Machine Emperor got near Aldrich. "You didn't warp that far at all."
'I can do much better!' protested Chrysa, though she spoke only in Aldrich's head. 'Tell the tin man that I can do a lot better if it was just father!'
"It was the best that could have been done given the tight timeframe," said Aldrich.
"I understand. I've sent a signal out to my space station. My shuttles will be here in a few minutes," said Machine Emperor. "Though, are you sure the examiners are okay in there? You might have warped out of the blast radius, but you were still in range of the shockwave."
"You can go in there and find out yourself, if you want. But they're all fine."
"I'm not ragging on you or anything, just surprised that this barrier's so durable. The blast was big enough to easily level a city â€“ the shockwave would have been equally nasty. Your powers are so diverse and so powerful â€“ you're quite possibly the most interesting person that's come out of the woodworks in the past fifty years."
"Indeed," said Mushin, his body covered in a lattice of orange light â€“ Machine Emperor's shielding that protected him from space. He put a hand to his chin, gazing at Aldrich inquisitively.
"Ah, there goes Dracul." Star Spartan watched as Dracul's formless darkness rippled overhead, passing by and heading down to Earth. He had said what he had wanted to say, so there was no need to waste any more time.
Until Aldrich reached out to Dracul, he would probably see little of the Sentinel.
"I wish he helped out more. A man of his power would help the world greatly, but after getting his vengeance, he's done little," said Star Spartan.
"Sometimes, the vengeance is all there is," said Aldrich, looking out at Dracul's distantly shrinking form. "And once that's gone, there's not much else."