Chapter 17: Foiling their plans
Curiosity got the better of Ace and he immediately went onto the Holo-net, to find out more about Ratchet and Clank. He wanted to know why they were so popular at DreadZone, why this little pipsqueak was rising through the rankings so quickly, much like Ace did when he was a youth like Ratchet was.
Searching online, he came across many holo-websites about the duo of heroes. Looking at an article about Ratchet and Clank, he discovered that they both had defeated Chairmen Drek a few years ago.
This was quite interesting to Ace, because he remembered that after destroying General Devan, he wanted to do the same with Drek but never had the chance. Ratchet and Clank got to defeat him several years later. Ratchet was 15 at the time, around the same age Ace first became known as a successful superhero.
He resumed searching and found out about Captain Qwark’s schemes and downfall as a hero; in which Ratchet and Clank had defeated him. They also were successful in a battle against Dr Nefarious a year after that.
And he even saw an article about Big Al, the chubby alien he saw earlier in team Darkstar. He happened to be a good friend of Ratchet and helped him in his previous adventures.
Ace really couldn’t help but feel a familiar feeling coming over him, and it only deepened as he read that Ratchet was originally an orphan, sent to planet Veldin as a baby by one of his parents. Very much like Ace when he was young - except for the fact that Ratchet was never adopted by any superheroes. Ratchet was even able to prevent the destruction of his foster home planet; Veldin - when it was threatened to be destroyed by Chairman Drek.
Ace read that Ratchet is almost 18 years of age; around the exact same age Ace was when he ended up at DreadZone 6 years ago.
This was becoming personal for him, and all too familiar. Ratchet really was a hero; he had saved the Solana galaxy twice and the Bogon galaxy once.
It wasn’t much different to Ace when he was a teenage hero; saving countless planets and the few nearby galaxies… he couldn’t help but be reminded of who he once was – even so it was uncomfortable and it bothered him immensely.
Glaring angrily, he shut off the Holo-net computer and thrashed the keyboard, causing it to slide off the desk and onto the floor with a thud.
”Pfft. He’s nothing. He relies on all his stupid buddies and wrench to get to where he is. Pathetic. I could smash his skull with practically no effort if he were to face me…”
Ace said to himself, feeling agitated but yet he had that familiar feeling circling around in his mind; it was somewhat tormenting. He scowled again and shook his head. Trying to keep his mind focused on other things, he walked out of the dark room. Heading down the station, towards the containment area…
Hidden high above, he was in the containment area once again. It was night time, so the majority of the lights were switched off around the outside of the station. This gave Ace the perfect opportunity to hide away and spy on the team below - team Darkstar that is.
Noticing that Ratchet was nowhere to be seen, he saw that Clank and Big Al were down below, working on something and chatting quietly.
”Al, we must remain quiet but… I have acquired the blue-prints”
”You mean… the deadlock collar blue-prints?”
Clank looked around, before giving a quick nod.
Ace could hear them faintly from above. He raised an eyebrow; looking down, he zoomed in closer to see what they were doing, and he raised the volume of his visor to listen to them more clearly…
”Yes, from a fellow tech-droid I have been in contact with. But we must not alert Ratchet, at least not until we figure out how to de-activate these collars. But with these particular blue-prints… it should now be a possible to remove the collars safely”
Clank told Al quietly, still nervous of his surroundings but completely oblivious to Ace’s presence at the top of the containment cell. Al gave a nod, and he looked all around him as well, even at the ceiling. Ace quickly moved to avoid being seen through the green tinted glass, but it was so dark up there that Al didn’t get a glimpse of his figure.
Ace could now stand up and grin to himself, in a slyly fashion.
What a bunch of idiots… just wait until I catch them in the act…
Gleeman Vox was informed by Ace Hardlight about Clank and Big Al’s plan to escape. Vox immediately gave off a laugh - he was thankful for Ace coming to him and informing him about their escape plan. Even though Vox was still peeved about the Hardlight merchandise sales, which haven’t even been improving at all since they last spoke.
Ace was quite thrilled about getting a chance to foil team Darkstar’s escape plan, so he lurked around the containment area often. Anticipating the chance to ruin their plans and their cheerful moods - this would be very satisfying, he thought.
He wanted to see them cower, to see them dwell in hopelessness. Anything that would make them suffer and lose their lively spirits. Especially Ratchet’s. He hated how Team Darkstar had such a lively and positive mood amongst one another. DreadZone was not supposed to be fun; especially for the newcomers. Just the mere thoughts of Team Darkstar got on his nerves, profoundly.
Perhaps Ace was feeling envious that he never had such support and friendship during his first season at DreadZone…
It wasn’t until at least another week that Clank and Al had finally gotten close to deactivating the collars. Ace would watch them from afar, with his eyes set on the two; while Ratchet was busy fighting in the Battledome.
Clank was standing on a table where a Lancer weapon and other tools were visible. While Al was busy working on Clank’s collar from behind, slowly opening it up and looking at the circuits yet rewiring the collar very carefully; to avoid an explosion coming from it.
Ace could see that they were getting close to deactivating the collar, so he positioned himself to jump off the roof – at least until the DZ carrier flew nearby and Ace hid away quickly; to avoid being seen by anyone who came out of the carrier. And to his surprise, it was Ratchet. He was dropped off and he sprinted down the path, straight towards the containment area…
”Hey Al, I got here as soon as I could!”
”Silence! Can’t you see I’m trying to concentrate?”
Al nagged him.
”What are you doing? Clank, are you sure this is safe?”
”It is an exceptional risk…”
Clank replied, as Al placed his microscope in front of his face and zoomed in on the deadlock collar’s wiring.
”Shhhh! I just need to close one more circuit…”
And immediately, Clank’s collar came loose, much to everyone’s delight. Clank gasped and Al smiled, while Ratchet did the same, coming up forward.
”Al you’re a genius! You did it!”
Al said, finally taking the collar off Clank with his right hand. Holding it up and smiling.
But something ghastly came from his right…
A charged beam of heated electrically came towards him in a flash, impacting his shoulder and face, causing Al to let out a loud cry of pain; falling to the floor right in front of Ratchet with a thud.
Al lay there on the floor, unconscious with his right arm badly disintegrated and his face; charred and almost unrecognisable at the angle Ratchet saw him from.
Ratchet was utterly spooked. His eyes were wide as he saw his friend lying on the ground, presumably dead. Clank jumped down from the table and ran to Al in desperation.
Ratchet shouted, before he eventually noticed Ace Hardlight walking towards their containment room…
”Looks like somebody broke the rules…!”
Ace said while walking through, holding up his HL Launcher in his right hand. He also was holding a distinctive remote with his left hand; he gave off a sinister look to Ratchet and Clank.
Ratchet’s heart was racing and his ears stood on end. He saw that there was a Lancer on the table, so he tried to grab it to shoot at Ace with it - but Ace was swift. He held out the remote with his left hand and pressed the button, giving Ratchet an extremely painful shock with his deadlock collar and he yelled in agony, letting go of the Lancer and gasping for air.
The shock only lasted a few seconds, but it felt like eternity for the lombax and he fell to his knees, coughing and trying to gulp as much air as he could. Clank was horrified, and before he could move, Ace stood forward, aiming his Launcher’s barrel at his face,
”Put it back on!” he hissed.
Clank’s eyes drooped and he looked very afraid. Carefully grabbing his deadlock collar, he put the collar back around his neck with regret. Ratchet was breathing again, but he was still feeling very uncomfortable and sore. He looked up at Ace after coughing, and he was extremely furious; with his long furred ears pulled back, scowling…
”You’re….*cough* dead Ace!”
”Oooh… that’s good, I like that spirit. But save it for the arena, Ha ha ha!”
Ace cackled, giving off a sadistic smile down at Ratchet before turning his back to him and walking off out of the containment room. Ratchet and Clank looked over their fallen friend, saddened by what had happened to Al.
Smiling to himself, Ace felt very good after that; seeing Ratchet and his team suffer both physically and emotionally.
He was becoming very irritated, seeing them all cheerful and reasonably happy with their DreadZone successes, and Ace didn’t want them to feel that way for much longer. Especially when his first season at DreadZone was nowhere near as pleasant as Ratchet’s time here.