Chapter 8: Terror amongst the Tension
Ace was snatched from the meeting room without warning. Two large DZ Executioner robots pulled him by his arms out of the room. Gritting his teeth angrily, he tried to resist their tight metallic grip. He was taken further into the station and up several elevator shafts. He had no idea what was happening, or where he was being taken to.
The final elevator came to a halt. The doors opened and he was led down a long hallway with a glass roof, showing the views of deep space. They walked towards a large door with the DZ logo imprinted on it.
With the door opening, Ace was shoved in roughly by the guards and he looked straight ahead of him. For the very first time, he saw Gleeman Vox in the flesh. He was perched on a highchair with his small pet Slugga sitting on the desk in front of him. The room appeared to be quite empty aside from a huge holovision screen behind of Vox with large speakers, golden lighting around the entire room and a huge shelf on the right, full of physical copies of holovids.
Ace was scowling while he stared ahead at Vox. He began walking up to his desk slowly. He didn’t like Vox and seeing him in person made him feel somewhat disturbed.
So here’s the sicko in the flesh. The villain behind all of this…
”So, we finally meet in person ehh, Ace Hardlight!”
”You could say that…”
Ace responded, which Vox could only sneer at. He stared at Ace’s distasteful expression; as if he knew exactly what the verpardi was thinking.
“I don’t understand, why are you doing this? Why did you capture me rather than allowing the authorities to capture me instead? And what is up with the imprisonment of all the other superheroes here? They did nothing to deserve this!”
Vox shook his head while smiling deviously.
”Tsk tsk tsk… oh Ace, you’ve got it all wrong. You are all contestants, competing on my brand new holovision show, set to bring in all the high ratings from all across the galaxy and beyond! I captured all these heroes, to prove their worth as a hero! I don’t see why you’re even bothering to help out those tossers!”
”Because they are victims! That is what I do; I save lives. I don’t just stand back and let them die…”
”Ah but they continue to shun and blame you for something terrible. Am I right?”
Ace went quiet. Vox was correct about that, and Ace wasn’t sure how to respond to him now.
”Oh and by the way, I never sent my forces out to kidnap you. You came to me instead! Heh”
”What do you mean by that?”
”You crashed your spacecraft into my house, that’s what! In fact, you should be a bit more grateful for what I have done for you. I could have left you there to starve and rot away, or I could have killed you for crashing into my expensive house. But no, I saw potential in you. And so I decided to let you live instead. So think about that, Hardlight. I saved your pitiful life. What’s there more to say to that?”
Ace then pondered over it.
He really must be telling the truth… he thought. It all made sense to him now, but he still couldn’t understand why.
”Why did you do it? I can’t see why you bothered to in the first place…”
”Oh stop being so dramatic. You have become the top contestant of DreadZone, after only a single month of competing! I know what happened to you last month, and how much hate you’ve been getting from the public in the galaxy as of late. But if you keep up the good work, then I can make you a proud star again!”
Ace turned away from Vox and looked down at the floor.
“I have nothing to be proud of anymore…”
Gleeman let out a sigh. He shook his head again and looked over towards Ace,
”You see kid; you are already very well appreciated by my fan base. Who cares about those other superheroes, they’re all ungrateful gits who don’t have any respect for you as a hero. Simple proof that they’re all unworthy to be heroes in the first place! You may have fallen as an intergalactic superhero to most people out there. But I can help you become a grand celebrity, the greatest gladiator in the galaxy! With riches beyond your imagination!”
More days and weeks flew by. Time was drawing closer to the end of the season and the DreadZone challenges were intensifying; they became harder and more dangerous.
Yet Ace continued to conquer challenge after challenge, amazing the crowds in the arena and the viewers who watched DreadZone live. Ace appeared to be enjoying the challenges more and he was becoming a lot more appreciated by the fans in of the Shadow sector. Daryn persisted in giving his praise too, although Ace still found him very irritating and he even tried to shoot at him with his HL Launcher. But Daryn was often too high above and out of reach for his launcher’s shots.
But the news wasn’t good for the other superheroes forced to fight at DreadZone…
Their performances were not as good in comparison to Ace’s. Even more had since perished from the last time Ace saw them all together. Some were destroyed after trying to escape while a few were killed by a new Exterminator robot. Times were dark for them and many were starting to have mental and emotional issues from the stress involved with DreadZone. Hope as it seemed was lost for them. Nobody knew how to escape the mess they were in…
Eventually, they were all forced into another meeting inside the station. Many of the heroes and heroines were very relieved to get a chance to see one another again. But tensions were high and as Ace was added to the meeting, he could notice it immediately from the other heroes.
”We… we have to get out of here! I can’t take any more of this!”
”But if we try, we’ll just end up dead! It is like… all hope is lost. How could the authorities and other heroes outside the Shadow sector not notice our plight!?”
They were all clearly frustrated and stressed. Ace was concerned; he noticed there were only seven heroes here instead of the fifteen he saw last time. Even Agent Star-runner was gone, presumably dead. He knew the other heroes weren’t very fond of him at the moment, but he couldn’t stand back and not try helping them. Ace walked up to Erin Sharpshooter, a superhero who was slightly taller but less muscular than himself, in a dark turquoise and black outfit with gold coloured lights. He was native to Joba, a planet in the Bogon galaxy.
Ace stood in front of him and began to speak,
“I want to help you all out of this mess, so please just let me have a look at your collar!”
”What, you again? Get out of my sight! I bet you’re the reason we ended up being forced into this competition in the first place!”
”What are you on about?! I may have… made a mistake but I had nothing to do with Vox capturing ANY of you! So please, cast your feelings aside. We must work together if we want any kind of chance to escape out of this place!”
Ace told him, looking slightly peeved but serious at the same time. Another hero stood in close, frowning; clearly looking agitated. His name was Carl Silvershard, who wore shiny chrome armour and grey spandex. He was around the same height as Hardlight but was slightly stockier with less armour on his chest. He was a native to the planet Batalia.
He looked at Ace and shouted.
”You’re one sick person. First you and your team destroy yet ANOTHER planet and now you’re here; enjoying the attention at DreadZone just so that you can suck up more glory again after losing it all, isn’t that right?”
”I am NOT here for glory! I was forced into this place just like the rest of you! And I’d like you to keep my team out of this. Shouldn’t we be focused on escaping than fighting over speculations you have no proof of?”
”The Sonic 7 should have known better not to use something so dangerous. They had already destroyed a planet in the past, so how in the name of Orvus did you guys manage make that mistake; AGAIN? You ALL should be locked up on Solana Prison Planet! I always thought you guys were overrated…”
Erin shouted at Ace, and Carl stood in again,
”Yeah, I agree! You and your team should be called ‘The Sadistic 7’ or ‘The Planet Busters’… none of you deserve to be titled and known as superheroes!”
”I say. The rest of them should have been kidnapped for DreadZone, not us. We would never risk destroying a planet for our own selfish needs, no matter how overwhelmed with villains we may be!”
Ace was now infuriated. The other heroes around him were clearly frustrated and delusional; they needed to take their anger out on someone and unfortunately for Ace, it happened to be him.
Thanks to all the hateful and spiteful words being said about him on Vox news, all the superheroes here agreed with it and didn’t stop to think of how Ace and the team actually felt about the accident. They automatically assumed that the Sonic 7 were criminals, and nothing more than that. Not even taking into consideration that they were all famous and beloved superheroes before the accident occurred.
The heroes extended their glare towards Ace with such disgust and he couldn’t stand it. He spoke out again, defending his position.
”Keep my family OUT of this!”
”Your family? No wonder you turned out the way you are. You were adopted by a bunch of psychopaths! Desperate for bolts and glory! And-”
Ace wouldn’t take any more of this. With his blood boiling, he suddenly threw a strong punch towards Erin in front of him, sending him flying back several metres to crash into the wall. The hero was stunned from the blow and utterly winded.
Rage flowed through of Ace’s mind and he turned around to perform a high kick to Carl’s face. He cried out in agony and stumbled on backwards, trying to clamp his hurting jaw with his hand but Ace came for him again to throw a series of punches to his face and chest. This was the hero who hurt his feelings the most.
The other superheroes and heroines were overwhelmed with what they were witnessing. Some backed away in fear while three others tried to pull Ace off Carl as he pounded him to the ground. Carl had already passed out from the hits and was bleeding from the face with many bruises forming. Ace was very strong though so it wasn’t easy for the other heroes to pluck him off the unconscious hero.
The other superhero Erin, who was winded from Ace’s punch earlier, had recovered and regained his footing. He ran towards Ace to strike him with a kick to the face. Ace was eventually knocked off the hero he had pinned and the three heroes behind him all stumbled over.
Still infuriated, Ace got back onto his feet and leapt forward to attack the larger hero who struck him; attempting to throw another punch at his chest. Ace and Erin fought and threw many punches, one after another and narrowly missing each other’s target. Ace suddenly set his right foot forward to trip up Erin and was successful. Almost stumbling, Erin fell and Ace came over to slam both his fists down on his back, sending him crashing down to the floor heavily with a loud thud.
Several other heroes tried to stop Ace again from behind, he spun around to swipe at two of the heroes closest to him and they were struck, crying out in panic. The DZ guards immediately burst into the meeting room and pushed their way past the remaining heroes. With Ace still fuming, he was finally grabbed by one of the large robots and the other heroes were free from his fury. Ace was still angry though and managed to get himself free from the robot, only to deliver a kick to it as well!
The other heroes were watching, still shaken with what was going on and they all moved backwards, expecting Ace to be electrocuted by his collar anytime soon…
But against all odds… it did not happen.
Ace had managed to take down and damage one of the guards and another three came rushing in to aid the other guard. Ace was finally contained by four of the DZ guards; he was still furious though and tried with all his might to get himself free. The guards didn’t say a word and simply took Ace with them outside the meeting room, much to the relief of the remaining heroes.
Still struggling fiercely, Ace tried all he could to get his arms free but his temper was beginning to cool down as he came to realize what he has done. He also noticed that he was being taken up the high elevator shafts, to Gleeman Vox’s office. He didn’t want to think about what kind of horror was bound to happen.
Shoved into the office entry again, he stood there catching his breath as he was beginning to settle down after the brawl he started. He was slightly bruised from the fight but wasn’t bleeding or hurt badly like the other two heroes. Ace looked ahead of him to see Vox in the eye. The slademan could only glare back at him in content, and after a few moments of silence… he smiled a toothy grin.
“Nice moves you pulled off there, Ace”
Ace could only blink, confused with Vox’s response to what he had done. Ace could just stare back, unsure of what to say to Vox.
”Why look so surprised? You need not be afraid of punishment! Heh heh, you sure taught those fools a lesson didn’t you?”
“I only did it because they… didn’t know when to shut their mouths and keep their noses out of my own issues. Nothing more…”
”Ah but you still did a fine job in there; shaking them up and putting them back in line. Sure proof that you’re a much worthier hero than they ever will be. What a bunch of jealous fools they are!”
Ace was still feeling a bit puzzled by Gleeman’s response.
Shouldn’t I be punished instead?
Even so, he thought about what Vox had said. Those heroes truly did hurt his feelings; even after he tried so hard to offer them a helping hand…
”So… I am not being punished for what I did?”
”Of course not! You’re one of the finest gladiators we have here at DreadZone! Now why would I do that? They’re the ones who deserve the punishment, for being so cruel and judgmental. If they were true heroes, they would be a lot more kind and considerate, wouldn’t you agree?”
Vox told him. Ace was still feeling confused, yet for some odd reason… he somewhat agreed with Mr Vox; but he didn’t want to admit it.
He did have a slight grudge against those heroes for what they said about him and his team. Thinking of those heroes made him feel bitter and now he was feeling very uncertain about everything.