Chapter 366 Clint's Decision
"Solar? Sorry, Thanatos, but if that's what you're pitting me against, I can't do much," said Gerard. He grimaced, tapping nervously at his glass of beer with enough force to send the cold perspiring water flinging off to the wooden counter.
"I know better than to expect a fight from you. Plus, I'm not in favor of overworking senior citizens either," said Aldrich. "What I need you two for is the raid on Meteor Labs.
You, Gerard, I specifically need to track the lab down give me a good read of the area. Basic reconnaissance."
Gerard and his riders, the Hawks, were specialized in navigating the Wastelands by reading geostorms. The Wastelands were an ever shifting, ever dangerous zone where geostorms of any nature showed up in frightening frequency, and knowing when they did was invaluable information.
The issue was that geostorms messed with both technology and Alters tremendously. Even the toughest Alters would struggle to survive in these storms, not because they posed a physical threat to them, but because they would overload from energy - the power resource that Alter Organs and cells generated to fuel their abilities - explosively building up within them.
Any attempt to predict geostorms based off of technology like satellite surveillance failed due to their optical shielding.
And direct observation using drones or bots was laughable as storms frequently short circuited any technology that was not nomad engineered, regardless of how impressive it was.
Only two types of technology worked in geostorms.
One, created by Ravana, sentinel of India. His flying fortress, called Pushpaka, could travel anywhere, shielded using some otherworldly power.
Second was nomad tech. Its cobbled together proportions that seemingly should not work by any known realistic law of physics all originated from Arskman, a world class mechanic who was around since the Altering.
Arksman was considered the 'first nomad'. A free spirited revolutionary who wanted to destroy all corporations. When he saw that the Panopticon would integrate corporations into their world order, he decided to leave to the wastelands, creating a moving city of his own, a sort of Noah's ark that began the nomad movement.
That old city, called Arktown, was last seen forty years ago and never again. Neither was Arksman.
But his greatest innovation, the Ark Engine, lived on with the nomads, and only they could reliably power it using pure etherite from chasing geostorms.
Using nomad-tech bikes and ether dampening cloaks, the Hawks, over decades of careful observation under Gerard's eagle eye, mapped out a relatively accurate pattern of geostorm movement across the east coast of the United States, and that knowledge alone made the Hawks the most valuable, at least credit wise, among all of the great nomad tribes.
Companies would easily be willing to kill to obtain that information.
"I'd like your riders to provide me with timeframes Alter forces can easily access the lab's area for a sustained attack, though optimally, any raid shouldn't last more than an hour or two."
Gerard sighed in relief. "I can do that. So long as I don't gotta commit any of my boys to the line of fire."
"And you want me and my riders to be the muscle to break the labs down, right?" said Clint.
"You and a select group of other personnel from me," said Aldrich. "Including Alan."
"Oh, that kid." Clint scratched his head. "You sure? He's got guts, yeah, and his cybernetics ain't half-bad, but if he's anyone special to ya, it'd be pretty damn dangerous.
Meteor Labs is a pretty big name in the Underworld. Any of their offsite bases are gonna be packed to the tits with guards."
"He wants to fight. I won't deny him that," said Aldrich. "Also, Clint, preferably, I don't want you going to that raid by yourself. Send Diamondback and some of your riders instead. The force I'm gathering should be enough to overpower the lab's defenses."
"I don't like sending my boys out without fighting by their side," said Clint. "My pa always said a real man don't tell his friends to fight without being by their side."
"I know, but I need you in top condition," said Aldrich. "The Seven Swords are going to be at Blackwater. A week from now, when I plan on attacking."
Clint paused. His ever present grin faded almost in a flash. Aldrich expected to see anger on his face. The Seven Swords were responsible for killing Clint's wife and child, after all, but instead, Clint looked more somber than anything else.
"Seven Swords, huh? Leadership hasn't changed, I figure? Monk's still the first blade?" said Clint.
Aldrich nodded. "Same leadership."
The mood in the bar grew significantly more serious.
"I'm not here to push you around," said Gerard. "But the Swords ain't pushovers. Not even you, the Unbreakable, could take em all on before. Especially Monk.
But it isn't just that.
I know it's not my place to say this, I wasn't the one that lost her, but Lily, she wouldn't want you to put your life on the line for the sake of her memory."
"Yeah. You're right." Clint leaned back in his chair, one made bigger specifically for larger bodied Mutants, but it still creaked against his weight and size. He looked up, closing his eyes, thinking in silence.
That silence spoke loud to Aldrich. Clint was, alongside Dracul, undoubtedly the strongest ally that Aldrich had.
Dracul had agreed to help Aldrich only in eliminating the Italian prong as they had been privy to the Russian prong's attempt to kill Dracul. The Russian prong had attempted to get rid of Dracul by blowing up his home using a specially made bomb designed to eradicate all of Dracul's shadow mass in an instant.
The Italian prong had supplied the bomb to begin with.
However, Dracul did not extend his help in dealing with the Japanese prong. The Japanese prong had nothing to do with those plans. On top of that, Dracul and the Seven Swords had a tacit agreement not to fight each other after they once fought to a standstill where both sides agreed to withdraw in respect after their respective clients were assassinated.
Clint, however, had a personal vendetta against the Japanese prong, specifically the Seven Swords, undoubtedly the toughest group at Blackwater.
Their leader, Monk, was also significantly stronger than even Fafnir.
Monk was not on the Killgrid. None of the Seven Swords were, but that was because they were not really a mercenary force that wanted to advertise their strength for hire. They were a professional standing army of sorts that fought solely and loyally for the Japanese prong.
However, talk around the mercenary community was that if Monk became freelance, he would be top 3.
Monk's ability was not well understood because of how fast he killed his enemies, but images after his warpaths showed buildings, structures, and people cut apart with precise slices, regardless of how tough the material or Alter was.
It appeared that not even Clint could take on Monk by himself. But with additional support, it was very possible.
The issue was that Clint needed to accept the mission. Aldrich had brought up Clint's dead wife and child to light a fire of vengeance within him, but Gerard's words seemed to be swaying Clint away.
"Yeah. If Lily was alive, she wouldn't want me to go," said Clint. He opened his eyes and set his gaze back down on his drink. "But if she was alive, I'd have retired from this life wholesale, most likely, and given Diamondback the reigns.
But she ain't alive."
Clint roughly grabbed his mug and downed the entire glass of hard liquor before slamming it down on the counter, shattering it. Cubehead, without breaking stride at all, started to sweep the glass shards down a bin.
"I've learned to let go of a lot of the hate over the years," said Clint. "Learned to smile again. But I wouldn't be no goddamn man if I didn't settle a score like that. A score that took my wife and son from me."
Clint nodded to Aldrich. "I'm in, Thanatos. Ready as ever for my round two with the Seven Swords."
Meanwhile in the Vimana, Aarav Singh's personal aircraft-
Aarav sat back in the fully reclinable, plush cushioned seat of his private jet, legs crossed as he took a long drag on his cigarette. He looked at a holographic screen in front of him, reading an article titled: 'Sheshanaga's Immortality Quest Heats Up: Arjun in the Lead?'
'Not for long,' thought Aarav as he flicked the article away after scanning it for a quick second. He thought about his father's assassination attempt, at the almost fantastical aid he had received from Thanatos, and chuckled to himself. 'Magic, huh? Never thought I'd see the likes of it.
But there's always something new to discover in this broken world of ours. Alien tech, and now, magic.
The more it breaks, it seems, the more novelty comes crawling out the cracks.'
Aarav knew from his eye that the thread of his life always ended at a specific point. It did not matter what circumstances he changed about himself to try and extend his life.
Whether he hid in a bunker, decided never to go out, hired the best security detail, it ended at the same point everytime.
He could shorten his thread by pursuing reckless actions, but he could never lengthen it past that wall.
Perhaps it was a wild theory, but he believed the world would end there.
It was why, after getting this eye, he started to look big. To hunt for the most power he could. That was why his eye was now on Sheshanaga, a massive treasure trove of resources decaying under the greedy dragon that was his father.
It was only by allying with Thanatos that the thread lengthened, but that did not mean he could stay complacent.
Aarav tapped at his screen, wondering what to do next about Haven and Thanatos. He was heavily interested in entering a R and D partnership with them, especially in regards to making magic a more easily accessible resource, combining it with biotechnology and cybernetics.
'I'll send Sita over to them to establish a team. They have potential, but they're lacking personnel. And she's the only mad genius I would trust to work with something as crazy as magic,' thought Aarav.
As he thought this, a coat hanging from a handle behind him morphed into the shape of a blue shaded humanoid, looking almost like an animated mannequin.
The being silently dropped to the ground and stood up, raising a hand in the air behind Aarav, a hand that morphed into a blade-like protrusion.