"I don't care," said Ace. He palmed the steel avatar's face and began to focus, closing his eyes. He used his telekinesis to sense the threads of energy flowing from Machine Mind, to trace it towards the frail flesh and bone body that piloted this husk of metal.
"I know you do not. It is hard to, no?" said Machine Mind. "That is inevitable. Gifted with Outer power, you have ascended beyond all of this...drivel. This planet's squabbles and shortcomings.
You are close to perfection, and perfection has nothing to do with the imperfection that is this world.
Soon, you will lose all sense of what is human. What is weak. The vengeance that fuels you now will sputter out. You will question why you cared so much for defective specimens like your siblings. You will question your allegiances, your friends, your family - if you found a new one."
"Found you." Ace opened his eyes. They were solid globes of gleaming white speckled with blue, like twin cosmoses with the dark of space turned white and the gold of stars turned blue.
Inhuman. Ethereal. Outer.
Ace crushed Machine Mind's head. Afterwards, the rest of the avatar's body began to crumble away, disintegrating into dust as its atomic structure unfolded.
"Down." Ace knelt down and placed his palm on the floor of the vault. In response, the earth started to tremble at his touch. Tremble, and then unravel.
A fissure formed, splitting the entirety of the vault, no, the entirety of the whole labs, into two.
Alarm lights blinked out of control. Sirens screeched in desperation. The labs began to lurch, its foundation destabilized. Its floors began to collapse from bottom to top in a colossal show of demolition.
But Ace did not care about the destruction. What he cared about was below, where Machine Mind was hiding. Where he would kill the man who had taken everything from him.
"Stop him!" Shuten Doji roared. He was standing now, though he had his shackled together with Null cuffs that the escaping group had taken from the labs.
The entirety of Meteor Labs was breaking apart. The sound of uncountable tons of metal and infrastructure groaning, falling, and shattering boomed through the air. The dome that kept the entry to the labs safe had capsized inwards, its two sundered halves sinking underground like they were falling into quicksand.
Clint and the raiding party stared at the lab's destruction in awe.
"How the hell is Ace doing this?" said Stella. She nudged Tox with her elbow. "You got any idea? I knew he had top potential, but this...this ain't just 'potential'. This is raw fuckin' power that's reaching the S class."
"I don't know," said Tox. "I knew Ace was born and raised in a lab, but I didn't know he was holding all this back. What I don't like was how he looked."
"What about it?"
"Like he didn't care."
Clint grimaced. "Kid's gone crazy with vengeance.
"It's not just that," said Tox. "Sure, I think vengeance is what's setting him off, but deep down, I know he wouldn't get this crazy. Normally, when I look at him, I see lonely eyes. Sad eyes.
But when I saw him down there, his eyes - there was nothing there. Emptiness. It scared me, like I was looking down into a chasm where you just know that no matter how far you go, there'll always be nothing."
"This is good, though," said Alan. "The Trident will be set back decades because of this. Their biggest base of operations for R and D and storing rare items - gone in a snap."
"Yeah, we taught them one hell of a lesson!" agreed Falco. His hands grasped his Aztech lasergun with tight trembles, his nerves still thoroughly fried from the whole ordeal.
"That wasn't the point," said Diamondback. By now, he had regrown the diamond plating over his arm. Even then, he still glanced at where the empty spot had been ever so often, starkly reminded at how easily he could have died in spite of his supposed invulnerability.
He motioned to Alexis, and she put up a noise cancelling barrier that excluded Shuten Doji.
"Hey! Let me in on this!" shouted Shuten Doji indignantly, but to no avail.
"The point was to damage, but not destroy," said Diamondback. He looked to Stella. "Wasn't it?"
"Yeah." Stella nodded. "Force the Trident to split their forces over here, but hell, if there's nothing left to defend, they're just gonna double their asses down over Blackwater."
"Thanatos will not be pleased with this. In fact, what is he thinking of this? From what I can tell, all of you have some form of mental link with him," said Diamondback.
"What he wants to tell us is his business," said Stella. "For now, you're just dealin' with me."
In reality, Stella had no idea where Aldrich was. He was not responding to her mental calls at all. It was worrying, but she trusted in him to pull through whatever situation he might have been in.
What she did now was hold her own here.
Though even that had gone all to shit. She felt ashamed at how the situation had spiraled out of control, but she did not show it.
She showed confident poise. The poise of a leader.
"We're still partners in an alliance," said Diamondback. "You should inform us of anything that Thanatos does or says."
"Stop pressing her," said Clint. "Let Thanatos operate at his own pace. And the blame for this situation isn't on any one of us. Unforeseen circumstances and all."
"Unforeseen? Ace is part of their team, no?"
"He didn't tell us anything!" said Tox. "You think any of us are seers capable of peeping into the future? And if you want to toss blame, why bring Falco, huh?
If he wasn't here, Kris's obscuration field would've got us down to the vault and out with zero issue!"
"..." Diamondback had no real retort to that.
"I'm...I'm sorry, guys, I really am," said Falco.
"Stop it, kid." Kris surprisingly patted Falco's back. "I know I ragged on you a ton, but if you're gonna be a man, then don't spill your guts like this in an apology.
Just...think about how to be better next time. Preferably a next time that I won't be there."
"Uh...thanks, I guess?" said Falco.
"I know what to do," said Clint, nodding.
Everyone stared at him.
"I'm going down there and getting Ace out."
"Out of all of us, you got the best chance to do that, yeah," said Stella. i𝙣𝙣𝓇𝒆𝒶𝙙.𝒄𝑜𝑚
"As your right hand man, I have to disagree with this," said Diamondback. "You saw how easily he disassembled my diamond skin. He can do the same to you. Conventional durability means nothing.
If he gets to you and breaks you apart before you can adapt, even you might die."
"It's alright, DB, I got this." Clint nodded resolutely, making it certain that he was not taking no for an answer. He motioned to Alexis. "Put the barrier down, missy."
The barrier fell.
"So!? What plan do you have now, Unbreakable!?" said Shuten Doji, thoroughly aggravated.
Clint walked over to Shuten Doji and placed a hand on the Sword's arm.
"I'm goin' to save your daughter," said Clint.
"Wh-what?" Shuten Doji blinked.
"Shit, did I beat you so hard ya lost yer hearin' or somethin'? Ya heard me." Clint drew back his hand and turned around, facing Meteor Labs. Or what was left of it as it began to collapse inwards in a massive sinkhole.
"I'm goin' down there and savin' yer kid. I try to make it a habit not to let innocents get in our messes if I can. Killed enough of em' already."
With that, Clint leaped into the air, sprouting wings. With a sturdy flap, he zipped right into the sinkhole.
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