Chapter 18: Night before the Fight
Ace’s smile did not last long. Much to his distaste, he just discovered that Ratchet had destroyed the Eviscerator before the deadlocked collar incident. He was the second highest ranked Exterminator, only behind of Ace himself.
Now Ace was the last of the Exterminator gang, the last one who Ratchet will be facing as soon as he could qualify for the match-up. Ace had a bit over 300,000 dreadpoints, but the lombax now had just over 140,000… very close to the qualification for the Liberator tournament.
Ace even took notice of Vox news on HV now and again, and he couldn’t help but have that familiar feeling overcome him again. Watching the news updates, showing Ratchet being slandered, insulted; with baseless speculations and criminal claims that the lombax was apparently part of in the past. It was so similar to how Ace was being slandered during the first season of DreadZone, except it happened on other networks, not Vox news.
And the slander about Ratchet on this channel was all false, and Ace could clearly see that.
Do people actually believe this crap?
He tried not to take notice of the news, as it irked him. It was all beginning to his head, all these similarities between him at Ratchet; they just kept on coming, despite their vast physical differences.
Ace wanted to rid those thoughts off his mind. He felt frustrated and bothered about what was happening so he immediately went for the DZ Bar n Grill, a place where he could relax and chill out at.
He was a little disappointed to see that the bar was a bit crowded, as it appeared to be that it was an employee break late at night. Ace walked nonetheless and suddenly - the whole atmosphere in the bar went silent as everyone noticed his entry…
He walked on through, looking all around as he noticed the sudden and awkward silence. A few fans did wave at him though, and some muttered a greeting but it was all too strange. No one appeared to be very excited of his entry like they used to be, and Ace knew there was something odd about their stares.
”Ace Hardlight! Over here!”
Ace heard Dallas’ voice shout out. He looked over and could see both Dallas and Juanita waving at him; they were sitting near his favourite spot in the bar. Ace still felt a bit tense about being in the bar but he walked over to the pair, despite that.
Juanita gave him a big smile and moved over to allow room for Ace to sit down.
”We saved you your favourite spot, Ace…”
Juanita said, but Ace was silent. He went to sit down, staring down at the table. The bartender was busy serving over customers until Juanita shouted at him,
”Hey you! Why not show some respect for the Exterminator Captain? Get him his favourite drink, now!”
The bartender turned around at the sound of Juanita’s loud voice. He was a little startled to see Ace there and he quickly filled up a jug and placed it on the table. Ace noticed him but the bartender didn’t even greet him this time, like he usually would. Ace realized this and gave off a death stare. The bartender backed away at this, while murmuring,
”Sorry Ace I… I didn’t notice your presence… it’s been a busy night”
Ace didn’t bother to reply. He stared down at his drink for a while, deep in thought. Juanita saw that Ace was quieter than usual, moving up close to him to speak.
”Don’t worry Ace, you’ll get to exterminate that little lombax soon enough, for what he has done! I believe in you, everyone does!”
”Thanks. I will make sure of that as soon as he qualifies… and then he’ll wish that he was never born…”
Ace said, now feeling a bit more confident and looking up with a slight grin. Juanita and Dallas smiled and cheered, nodding their heads in approval.
”Now that’s the spirit!”
Dallas said, taking a drink from his own cup nearby. Ace took a drink now as well, feeling more confident as he mind flowed with ideas on how to finish off the lombax menace once and for all.
”So, you two got any neat ideas on how I can finish the space rat off?”
Juanita and Dallas both giggled together,
”Hmm well let’s see, best if you don’t finish him off too quickly though, like Captain Starshield!”
”Heh, no way. I want to make the most out of this one. I need to do something that the audience will never forget…”
Dallas raised his hand and waved it around,
”I know, I know! Why not just toss him into the lava? I haven’t seen a fried lombax before!”
Dallas said, laughing hysterically.
Ace wasn’t all that amused,
”No, that will be too cheap and easy. I want to… hmm… I want to see him bleed at least, and suffer”
Juanita immediately got excited and started whacking the table repetitively with her hands.
”Hey hey, I know I know! Break his arms and then stab him in the guts repetitively with your Launcher! Now that would be wacky to see! Maybe you can do that after you break open his hideous armour? Oh and don’t forget to punch and stomp on his face a few times! And then I can eat his brain afterwards - lombax brains are good with eggs and salsa!”
”Heh, yeah that sounds good. Too bad the Eviscerator isn’t here; after I’m done tenderising him, I would have happily let him cut fillets out of his beaten body for dinner – like a farm animal”
Juanita and Dallas started laughing out loud. Even Ace was a bit amused at his own words. But the rest of the people in the Bar weren’t as tickled as they were. Some even shook their heads in distaste, and some people sighed.
But Ace did not notice.
”I’m really looking forward to seeing this match up! It’s going to be one hell of a fight!”
Dallas said, taking another drink from his glass.
Juanita replied after him, smiling up at Ace next to her,
”We’re rooting for you Ace! Show that little runt what you’re made of!”
”Oh I will. I’ll make this one messy… then nobody will even remember who he was”
Ace said, smiling evilly and taking another drink from his own glass. He felt a lot more relaxed now, but something was still troubling him at the back of his mind. However he tried to shut it away; by drinking more and thinking of the sinister ideas on what he can do when he finally gets to fight against Ratchet in the arena.
Then something caught his attention at the corner of his eye. He looked over to see what it was. He could see a group of voelhomen and slademen sitting together at another table. But he couldn’t help but notice something strange, sitting on their laps under the table, as if they were hiding something. Ace flipped his visor so that he could see more clearly with his own vision and he suddenly growled.
He shot up from the table and got out his HL Launcher, pointing it at the group of drinkers. Dallas gasped and almost fell off his seat, while Juanita looked quite surprised herself.
”What are you hiding from me you freaks!?”
Ace shouted. The group at the table were all stunned, shaken in fear.
”Go on, show me! Or else…!”
The four men at the table all stood up and held onto what they were hiding under the table on their laps. To Ace’s disgust, all four men were holding onto Fuzzy Lombax Ears - a Vox product being sold as an accessory item in the Tiny-tots assault weapons kit.
Juanita got up and stood at Ace’s side.
”What’s a matter Ace?”
”These traitors are supporting that damned rodent!”
Ace said angrily, still pointing his Launcher at the group who were standing there, shaking in fear. Juanita looked at them and frowned,
”You guys were wearing those lombax ears as a joke before, right? Making fun of Ratchet? Making a joke out of him?”
The men were immensely scared but one was brave enough to reply truthfully and shake their head side to side, slowly.
Ace grew even more furious. He wanted to blast them all to smithereens. But he then looked around and moved over to another table were other staff members were sitting. Without hesitation, he tipped the table over and the staff ran to avoid the table falling on top of them and much to his disgust; he saw that they too, had the Fuzzy Lombax Ears. The employees were terrified of what Ace was going to do next, but Ace was so angry that he couldn’t think straight and decide on what to do next.
Standing there in the centre of the room, other staff around the Bar stood up bravely, and to Ace, Juanita and Dallas’ shock… they placed their Fuzzy Lombax ears onto their heads.
”Wow, everybody in here has gone suicidal!”
Dallas shouted, surprised by the many staff wearing the lombax product.
”Why the hell are all of you wearing those?!”
Ace shouted, looking utterly furious. Many of the staff tried to keep a straight and defiant face, but most were truly afraid of what was to come, but a select few were very brave…
”We are tired of you, Ace. You showed us no respect… after… after all these years at DreadZone!”
”Yeah! Even after we gave you all of our support! We worshiped you, respected you, even! But you gave us no gratitude in return!”
”You treated us all like dirt! And you even beat up or killed some of our own employees and fans, over such small matters!”
’t sure what to say to them. He looked all around, and could see even more people standing up and looking over at him angrily. Many were talking now and some were nodding in agreement at the words the braver ones spoke out.
”So now we’re going to support the lombax! We know that he would never hurt us, or murder us for no reason!”
”Yeah! He’s kind, modest and talented!”
”Well then, make sure you get a good glimpse of him tomorrow, you pretentious pricks! Because he’s not going to be around for very long. After I slaughter him in front of you, and the whole entire galaxy! Then you’ll ALL feel stupid for ever supporting him, rather than me!”
Shouted Ace and he gritted his teeth angrily, showing off his large canines but for some odd reason he didn’t feel like killing anybody in the bar.
Juanita was fuming profoundly though and then she suddenly screamed,
“HOW DARE YOU CREEPS HURT MY ACE HARDLIGHT! YOU WILL ALL PAY FOR THIS WITH YOUR LIVES!!!”
Juanita raged madly and jumped onto the table nearest to her, screaming at the top of her voice and beating on her metal chest with her fists. Dallas was wide eyed and tried to pull her down from the table.
”Juanita! Please calm down, surely we can…”
”SHUT UP DALLAS! I’ll… I’LL GET ALL THESE TWITS FOR THIS!”
She immediately pounced from the table and begun hurling objects at anybody in the bar; pushing wine bottles over onto the floor with glass shattering and wine spilling everywhere. She picked up chairs, in an effort to throw them at the other staff members who were avoiding her rampage.
Ace however, was currently stressed out and he wanted to leave. He put his Launcher away and rushed towards the door, as a brawl in the bar broke out. He snatched two large Gleeman-Beam bottles from a table nearest to the exit and left in a hurry. He was unnoticed by everyone else as the people in the bar were screaming, raging and shouting, with objects flying across the room and hitting the walls and one another.
Breathing heavily and grasping onto the two large bottles he took earlier, Ace rushed down the hallways and up the stairs. He eventually came to a quiet part of the DreadZone station, near the very top outside.
It was a dark night-lit balcony area, with an expansive view of deep space and stars all around, even a couple of nearby moons. Ace saw that there were chairs and tables around and much to his relief, there was no one else out here too.
He was still infuriated though, so he kicked a table and a few chairs, smashing them out the way in rage, sending them flying over the balcony and falling hundreds of metres down below. Still breathing tensely, he walked over to one of the undamaged tables and sat down. Opening up one of the Gleeman-Beam bottles, he immediately started to drink and despite the very strong and somewhat repulsive taste, he didn’t care. He was frustrated at everything happening around here. All he wanted was the solitude; to be away from all the trouble and hatred coming of everyone around him. Thoughts circled his head continuously, tormenting him, haunting him, reminding him…
Ace felt awful thinking about the possibilities. He immediately drank more and more of the strong alcoholic drink, desperate to push those thoughts out of his mind. The more intakes he took, the slower his mind would work while the minutes rolled by - slowing down time around him as he felt lost, mellow and loose from the world around him.
Up until it all became black.
The world was empty; silent, cold and eerie all around as he lay there on the metallic table. It was good to be away from all the hassles of the real world. Ace’s mind was empty and he felt relieved by the emptiness, at least for now.
The empty silence didn’t last long though. The faint calls of his name had begun, bothering him slightly but not disrupting his calm state of mind, either way.
He tried to ignore it, but it just wouldn’t stop.
But it would not stop there. He felt something touch his arm lightly, but he still wouldn’t move.
”Oh Ace come on…”
Then he felt somebody pull on his hair.
Suddenly snapping his bloodshot eyes open, he shot up instantly with what strength he had left and grabbed the pestering stranger by his long head antennae.
Holding him up high in a threatening stance, he scowled fiercely…
”If you do that again, then I swear I’ll rip your antennae off and shove them down your throat!!!”
”I’M SO SORRY ACE! It’s, it’s just that…”
”It’s Ratchet! He’s almost ready to face you so I had to inform you as soon as possible!”
Now that Ace was awake, he saw that it was Dallas. Calming down, he let go of his antennae and Dallas dropped to the ground, barely standing and nursing his sore antennae with his own two hands.
Ace wasn’t feeling well at all. Now that he was fully awake, he was overcome by an awful hangover and an intense headache. He placed his hand onto his forehead, rubbing it slightly as he tried to stand up properly.
Dallas looked at him and knew what was wrong; he also couldn’t help but notice the two empty Gleeman-Beam bottles on the table. His eyes went wide and he tried to hold back his laughter, and stop a cheeky smile from spreading across his face.
”I… see you had quite a… few drinks last night! Hold on, I have a nano-pak on me…”
”Give me that!”
Dallas grabbed a capsule out of his jacket’s pocket and Ace immediately snatched it, cracking it open and releasing the blue nanotech into his body. He immediately began to feel a lot better as the nanotech healed him from the inside. However he did felt a bit strange; especially in his mind. But he was well enough to think straight and stand up properly again.
”I need to find Juanita! I haven’t been able to find her anywhere since last night!”
Dallas told Ace, clearly looking worried about the situation.
”Where is that lombax!? Is he waiting in the arena?”
”No, not yet! But soon he will, and I need to find Juanita right now, or else we’ll be late for the Vox news update! We need you too, for the broadcast!”
”I don’t have time for this!” Ace snapped.
Ace hastily left the balcony, sprinting towards his apartment up in a higher level of the station. Dallas was running behind Ace, struggling to keep up with his quick pace.
”Hey! Wait for me!”
”Why are you following me?”
”Because I haven’t checked your apartment yet!”
Ace resumed running while Dallas scrambled several metres behind until he finally came to the apartment area. But to his shock, his room door was left open.
”Oh no…” Ace mumbled.
He rushed in the doorway and was quite stumped with what he saw on the floor. It was Juanita; she was in Ace’s room, lying on the floor as if she was knocked out. Dallas eventually caught up with Ace and he gasped, as Ace was standing there, utterly gobsmacked with what he was witnessing…
”No!!! My dear, sweet Juanita!”
Dallas cried, running over to her and kneeling down at her side. He turned her head and noticed that her eyes weren’t glowing, like they usually would be. Meanwhile, Ace was very annoyed. He rushed into his room and stood by the pair-
”What are you waiting for? Take her and get out! This is an invasion of my privacy!”
”But, but Juanita! She’s dead!”
”What? She isn’t dead, stupid! She is just… I don’t know, maybe she crashed or ran short of a recharge?”
Dallas then thought to himself for a moment, and he suddenly smiled and his antennae stood up on end.
”Ah now I remember! This sometimes happens to her when she gets too overexcited about certain things. It seems that her sisterboard crashed from getting a bit too excited about being in your room! I wish she’d do the same if she went into MY room!”
Dallas said, giggling to himself loudly. Ace wasn’t sure what to think about that, he even felt a little, disturbed about it.
Giving off another sigh of annoyance, Ace went down at Dallas level and lifted Juanita up slightly,
”This is how you fix these things…”
And to Dallas’ horror, Ace gave Juanita a hard whack with his fist around the back of her head, with a loud clang sound. Dallas gasped as he saw this, and then Ace stood up as Juanita’s eyes started to flicker and she let out a series of gibberish from her mouth before she finally shot up onto her feet and her eyes stopped flashing continuously.
Placing both her hands around her head, she stood there, unsure of what was happening.
”Dallas… what is going on here? Where am I?”
To his delight, he saw that Juanita was back to normal. He suddenly got up and gave her a tight hug.
”Oh Juanita! You’re okay! I was so worried about you!”
Juanita was still dumbfounded and confused. Up until she looked around and noticed that she was in Ace Hardlight’s apartment. She looked at all the Hardlight posters, DZ trophies and other things that belonging to Ace.
She turned around and saw Ace’s tall figure standing right behind of her. He appeared emotionless; folding his arms and glaring at her in return.
”Uhh… what were you doing in my room?”
Juanita was lost for words. Dallas stopped hugging her for the moment as she turned around, feeling very shy and awkward about the situation she was in.
”Well umm… after what happened at the bar I just wanted to see if you were… alright?” Juanita said, giving off a small smile.
Ace’s eyes narrowed even more.
”Right, we don’t have much time now! Juanita, we need to get going, or else we’ll be late for work!”
Dallas yelled, grabbing hold of Juanita by the hand and he immediately started rushing out the doorway, with her struggling behind of him.
As soon as they made their exit, Ace immediately shut and locked his door. Wasting no time, he went through his belongings in preparation for the big arena match up. He frantically searched through all his weapons as well, deciding on which power capsules to use in his HL Launcher and which grenades to use as well. Ace also found a few nano-packs; he thought to himself for a moment and then he took them - hiding them inside his armour, just in case he would need them during the battle.
He was also feeling a bit hungry so he searched through the fridge and took out anything that was compact; rushing as he knew he didn’t have too much time left before the big match-up. He grabbed a beef-jerky bar and continued to rustle through his equipment.
While moving around in his room preparing his weapons and eating as much as he could at the same time, he was nagged again while being interrupted by an incoming message on his visor from Vox; informing him to go to his office immediately.
Damn it! What does he want at a time like this?!