Chapter 19: Battle of Liberty
Ace Hardlight was now in Gleeman Vox’s office. It still looked very much the same as last time; full of the Hardlight crates, containing much of the Ace merchandise that hit the shelves weeks ago, remaining unsold.
He didn’t take any notice of that though. His eyes were set on Gleeman Vox, who was sitting on his high chair, smiling in content. His small pet Slugga sat there and she appeared a bit distasteful at Ace’s presence.
Ace was becoming impatient though, so he asked.
”What do you need Vox? I don’t have much time for chat…”
”Ah yes, yes I know. But there are a few small issues that I need to discuss with you… just a few minor things, which shouldn’t take up too much of your precious time and all…”
Ace sighed, wanting Vox to be quick with the talk. He was growing even more impatient as the seconds rolled by.
”Could you hurry up? I need to-“
”Me, hurry up with what? YOU’RE THE ONE WHO DID NOTHING BUT PARTY AROUND LAST NIGHT, WHEN YOU KNEW THAT THERE WOULD BE A BIG TOURNAMENT COMING UP THE VERY NEXT DAY!!!”
Screamed Vox, startling Ace a little. Even so Ace still glared over at Vox, looking very defiant.
”So what? Is that all you can SAY about this?! For Drek’s sake OPEN YOUR EYES!!! You should be TRAINING FOR THE BIG MATCH-UP! Not pissing around in the station and killing my DZ employees! I don’t care when you destroy my test-bots but ORGANIC EMPLOYEES ARE VERY EXPENSIVE TO HIRE YOU KNOW!!!”
”Who cares about them? They got on my nerves, and so they die! They just don’t know when to shut their mouths about things that don’t matter to them!”
”Oh don’t give me that crap, Ace! Don’t be such an oversensitive jackass! Suck it up and IGNORE THEM! FOCUS ON ANNIHILATING THE CONTESTANTS! No wonder no one is buying any of your junk, because you’re about as useless as a Blargian butler!!”
”I am NOT useless! None of the new contestants have made it to the Liberator tournament yet so of course I haven’t exterminated anybody this season! Man, you need to take a chill pill of some sort…!”
Ace yelled back. He was starting to become very angry with Vox’s attitude towards him, but Vox was even madder. He got off his chair and walked up to Ace, fuming…
”Me? YOU’RE THE ONE WITH THE ANGER ISSUES! And look, I still haven’t even managed to sell a SINGLE ONE of your freakin’ Ace Hardlight action figures!”
”Oh why don’t you just shut your gills! Your voice is really beginning to get on my nerves! As a matter of fact, I’m GLAD all these crates are in here blocking your HV shelves from my view. So that I don’t have to be reminded of your disgusting blarg fetishes every time I come in here!”
Vox’s angry face suddenly changed to embarrassment, and he began to blush red with his eyes widened; unsure of what to say to Ace in return.
”You know, maybe you should go watch some of those videos in your back office right now; to fulfil your daily needs. You seem a bit frustrated at the moment; in need of something to lighten up the mood!”
”SHUT UP, JUST SHUT UP You shit-stirrer!” Vox cursed loudly at Ace.
”You should be showing me a lot more respect! I aided you in earning billions at the start of DreadZone. And I even helped get your show up there with the high ratings and all, and this is how you repay me?!”
”Oh really? Then how come I am LOSING millions of bolts from all these Hardlight merchandises then, ehh? And how come NOBODY is buying your stuff!? It’s because nobody LIKES YOU anymore! If you don’t prove your worth out there today in the Battledome… then that is it, you’re cut from the job, for good!”
Vox said, displaying a gesture of his own throat being slit with his finger, to show Ace what would become of him if he really does lose in the match-up against Ratchet.
”That won’t be happening. I will have this lombax lying in a pool of his own blood very soon. Nobody has defeated me at DreadZone, ever; and it won’t be happening tonight!”
”You better make sure of that, you egoistic asswipe! Now piss off and get to the Interview room. The clock is ticking and my fans are waiting!”
Ace was utterly furious, gritting his teeth at him. Vox was about as equally frustrated as he was though, showing off his own set of sharp teeth as he stood there in front of Ace.
Ace was very tempted to kick, punch or thrash Vox across the face with his Launcher but regrettably, he turned away and stormed out of the room in a hurry.
Inside of the interview room, a few test-bots were seen; one holding up a large HV camera projector, a few in front of Ace waiting to give signal to him for his part of the news update. After a short amount of time, Vox News switched on and Ace stood there, waiting for him to go on live HV.
He watched one of the screens ahead of him, still feeling quite stressed and agitated about all that was happening, but he hid the stress quite well from everyone in the room.
He saw Dallas and Juanita show up on live HV, while they read out the latest news. They talked about Shellshock, Rector and the Eviscerator’s deaths at DreadZone, and they continued to slander Ratchet as they did so - blaming him for crimes he didn’t do in the past and ‘bad dental hygiene’ - even though they had no proof on that one either.
Juanita looked upset about it on live HV however, so Dallas went up close and placed his arm around to comforting her. But as soon as he announced Ace Hardlight’s name, Juanita pushed Dallas off her; seeing Ace appear on the large HV screen behind them. And he began to speak out…
”Ace Hardlight fans, prepare yourselves. I’m gonna make this one messy. We’ll see who the real hero is, when I’m through with that furry freak, nobody’s even going to remember who he was!”
”Thank you Ace, the galaxy is rooting for you. We’re all rooting for you…”
Juanita said, moving up close to the screen to place her hand on Ace’s face. For a change, Ace couldn’t help but smile. Somebody was finally giving him some positive words; rather than negativity.
And he was very grateful for her support…
The scene was now at the Battledome - the very centre of the DreadZone Station where many of the DreadZone match-ups took place. An arena feared by a vast amount of contestants. A place where many superheroes had been cut down, burned alive, blasted or beaten to death; the very same place where Ace became the corrupt and murderous gladiator he was known to be today – where he became the first ever DreadZone champion.
Ace stood there in the arena, opposite to the entrance where Ratchet would be arriving in at any given moment. Growing with anticipation, he stood there, eager to get a chance to fight against the lombax menace and finish him off for good.
And after a few minutes, the crowd went wild as they saw the entrance open at the other side of the arena and Ratchet came out from the DreadZone carrier, walking onto the grounds of battle before it flew off. He looked around at his surroundings as all the DreadZone fans were talking amongst one another.
”OH Just listen to that crowd, Juanita! It’s nights like this that I’m glad I gave up my ballet-dancing career!”
Dallas shouted from above in their hover-stage, moving close to Juanita and placing his hand on her leg. She was disgusted though, and then she immediately slapped Dallas across the face with a loud whack from her metallic palm.
Then she spoke out.
”Tonight we bring you DreadZone’s most highly anticipated match-up yet! In one corner the undefeated, grand-champion Exterminator, a legend in his own time… Ace Hardlight!!!”
“And in the other corner…weighing in at err… ninety-seven and a half pounds - most of it probably fluff or fat - Ratchet!”
”This is it, runt. I almost wish it wasn’t going to be over so quickly. Just try to keep it interesting while it lasts, okay?”
Ace said, moving down to give off a snide laugh. Ratchet’s ears pulled back and he lowered himself, growling up at him angrily.
Ace sneered back, bemused by Ratchet’s threatening look he exchanged at him. Ace stood up straight and was about to turn around and walk away, but quite unexpectedly; he hastily turned and kicked Ratchet right in the centre of his armour without warning!
Ratchet was quite stunned after flying several metres away from Ace and finally hitting the ground beneath him. He got up quickly and switched on his helmet, quickly concealing his face with the protection of his DZ armour. He whipped out his Dual-vipers and Ace did the same with his HL Launcher, metres away. Ace also pressed a switch on his armour, which caused his armour to transform into something quite different, and a lot more powerful.
Ratchet was lucky that his own armour protected his body from the blow but he knew he had to really watch himself now, as he couldn’t take a chance if his armour would show any signs of damage.
Both Gladiators stood there, glaring towards one another, bracing themselves for combat. Waiting for someone to make the first move…
Ace was the more impatient of the two. He jolted to the side and Ratchet mirrored him. Firing his Dual-vipers rapidly towards Ace, he ran to the right quickly as Ace in turn had his Launcher locked on Ratchet, firing at the lombax as he dashed to the left.
Ratchet’s vipers were locked onto Ace as well and he was hit many times by the small but destructive bullets. They dealt very little damage though, for the time being, as Ace’s suit and armour protected him quite well.
Ace was becoming increasingly frustrated that the small contestant was avoiding most of his gunfire until he finally got a direct hit at his armour. Ratchet stumbled back slightly and Ace came in a bit closer; to fire at him more with his larger, and more damaging, laser shots.
Ace then tossed out shockwave grenades, and as they hit the ground, they emitted a huge electrical wave, spreading out across the battlefield but Ratchet jumped over each pulse as it came for him. This agitated Ace even more but Ratchet was becoming annoyed at his vipers not doing enough damage to Ace. So he grabbed out another weapon called the Magma-cannon - which caught Ace off-guard and he was hit by a blast of magma from Ratchet. Although luckily for Ace his suit protected him quite well, but it still hurt him a bit on the inside as he felt the incredible heat from it. The crowd also roared, quite excited with the show that was being put on by the gladiators.
“You little rodent! You’re gonna pay for that…!”
Ratchet continued to fire out more blasts of magma, which Ace jumped to avoid this time, whilst still trying to blast at Ratchet with his Launcher. Ratchet moved in closer to try and lay another hit on Ace but Ace dashed back very quickly, in an effort to aim better at Ratchet, finally striking his DZ armour again.
“Ooohh! Ratchet’s going to be feeling that one in the morning!”
Dallas shouted out from the megaphone.
Ratchet was very agile, and a rather small hard-to-hit target while Ace was a lot bigger and an easier target but a faster runner and a much stronger gladiator.
Eventually Ratchet’s Magma cannon ammo fell low after blasting Ace many times, so he switched to his Dual-vipers again; firing at Ace with the small bullets impacting him once again,
”Am I being too easy on you, hero?”
Ace taunted, strafing to avoid the viper’s bullets, only causing Ratchet to become annoyed by his words. Ratchet moved in a bit closer as he strafed. Ace did the same and threw out more grenades, releasing the same shockwaves as last time until he was within a few metres of Ace…
Unexpectedly, he grabbed out yet another weapon, called the Scorpion-flail. It looked like something from the medieval age but was high tech and even more powerful than its classic counterpart.
Ace wasn’t expecting this though, and he was given a powerful blow to his side, and it was then that he finally felt some real damage. He leapt backwards quickly and turned on his armour shield to quickly use one of the nano-packs he obtained earlier, but Ratchet didn’t notice this and he ran for Ace, trying with all his might to smash Ace with the Scorpion-flail but it did nothing against Ace’s shield.
So he stopped to avoid wasting his ammo, grabbing out his wrench instead and he braced himself…
After Ace healed the damage he obtained, he switched the shield off and went straight for Ratchet who was only standing two metres away - surprising him as Ace had put his Launcher away, to attack him head on.
He threw a series of punches towards Ratchet, who in turn moved his small head each time a fist came for it, narrowly avoiding the hits. Ratchet finally jolted back and swung his wrench back as Ace dashed in down towards him and he swung his wrench forward…
Ace was not expecting this. And with that, the wrench came for him and swiped him across the face with a loud whack; stunning Ace quite strongly but only causing him to become extremely infuriated - as he moved his head to the side to avoid another swing from Ratchet’s wrench. Ace quickly lashed out his large hand, grabbing Ratchet by the right-handed wrist.
Ratchet could only gasp as he was being held by his wrist tightly, and Ace gave off a very sinister smile. Without hesitation, Ace came forward and bent Ratchet’s arm up and backwards, in an effort to twist his arm and inflict some excruciating pain. Ratchet was quite shocked with what was happening and he tried to escape Ace’s grasp, dreading what would happen and all of a sudden, he dropped his wrench and felt his armour’s joint break and start to spark.
Ace grinned evilly and bent his arm right back. Ratchet cried out but Ace didn’t hear it, due to his helmet over his face. Then Ace lifted him up whilst holding onto his wrist still. He spun him around before slamming him to the ground… lifting him up again tossing him to the side at high speed.
Ace was satisfied after he heard the breaking of Ratchet’s armoured joint; hoping that his arm was broken as well.
The lombax fell to the battleground with a thud and he gritted his teeth in pain; his arm felt like it had been dislocated! But luckily for him, not broken; thanks to his DZ armour. Even then he seriously needed nanotech so he tried to take a quick glimpse of the arena, before Ace came in for him again.
“Hahahaha! TAKE THAT LOMBAX!!!”
Juanita screamed with laughter, overly thrilled with how the fight was headed.
Ace stood up and wiped a bit of blood off his mouth, as he had started to bleed a little from the hit to the face he obtained from Ratchet’s wrench before.
He ran in for him in a rush and was determined to break through more of his armour and injure him badly but Ratchet dodged him; leaping to the side, despite how sore his arm was - he knew that his life depended on it so he tried to ignore the pain. Then he spotted a few nanocrates several metres away, as well as his wrench.
Ratchet made a dash for it and Ace noticed this. He frowned and tried to go and stop him, but Ratchet was ahead and ran for the box, breaking it open by running into it and the nanotech was released, healing his arm and repairing the broken joint of his armour.
Ace stopped running for the moment as Ratchet stood there staring at him angrily. Ace couldn’t see his expression, due to the armour’s helmet but he knew how the lombax felt.
Ratchet was so relieved to be back in full health again. He stood there, staring at Ace and waiting for him to make a move. He was deeply disturbed at what he was experiencing… now that he was facing Ace for himself. Ratchet still could not understand Ace and his motivations…
How could a great hero end up like this? It can’t have been money and fame alone. There has got to be more to it…
It frustrated him, thinking about it. Ratchet strafed to his side and jumped through the air, avoiding any incoming shots from Ace. But Ace didn’t do anything for the time being so he went to grab his wrench, lying on the floor next to him when he landed.
Instead, Ace pressed the centre of his armour and he vanished for a split second and Ratchet could only stare back and notice Ace reappear but not just Ace by himself - he saw him appear with at least 7 identical ‘copies’ of himself.
Ratchet was quite stumped. Ace and his hard-light clones all began to move, all of them were holding out their ‘own’ HL launchers and about half of them fired towards Ratchet. He quickly moved to avoid them, as Ace tried his best to shoot down the lombax.
Ace was in a state of ferocity. He desperately wanted to kill this hero, controlling the six extra hard-light clones with his mind and trying his best to get them to aim at Ratchet.
But aiming was very difficult while trying to control six clones at once. He tried his best to keep his true self at the back of the hard-light clones, as Ratchet grabbed out his Dual-vipers and started firing at the clones. The hard-light copies did nothing as they were shot by the bullets; they continued to shoot at Ratchet, landing a few successful hits on him but Ratchet wasn’t slowing down. He came in closer to strike Ace and his duplicates with the Scorpion-flail and now, Ace had lost 3 of his clones, they disappeared into thin air and he snarled, leaping back to avoid more blows from the flail, as well as his last 3 hard-light clones.
But then Ratchet switched to another weapon, the Arbiter. Ace was a little surprised to see how many weapons Ratchet had used so far and he fired it - finally impacting Ace’s true self and he was stunned quite badly, almost falling onto his back but had managed to keep his footing, switching on his shield and using another of the nano-packs, as quickly as he could to avoid being noticed…
But Ratchet saw this, and he frowned angrily. Now he knew that Ace was carrying nanotech on him, which he found to be very unfair. Ratchet was forced to collect nanotech on the run and wasn’t able to hold onto it for when he needed to use it.
Whilst Ace still had his shield on, Ratchet quickly applied weapon-mods to his Dual-vipers and Arbiter gun, a shock-mod for the vipers and a freeze-mod for the Arbiter. Ace came out and he put his Launcher away behind him, and Ratchet prepared to fire, but Ace was doing something else…
Ratchet was becoming tired of running continuously and jumping often as Ace threw out shockwave grenades but his hopes raised as he saw Ace finally get struck again by his Arbiter, and to Ace it felt a lot worse this time round.
After taking a direct hit to his armour, he felt icicles form around the upper part of half his body and he inhaled some of the liquid nitrogen vapour, which almost caused him to choke slightly. He shook himself, desperate to get rid of the ice shards sticking to his metallic armour and he jumped to the side, to avoid another incoming Arbiter rocket.
Ace was quite annoyed after that and he growled. He stood up straight to press the centre of his armour, to reappear with him and six of the hard-light clones again. Ratchet was about to switch to the Scorpion-flail but then he was kicked suddenly by one of Ace’s copies, and kicked yet again by another Ace to the right, sending Ratchet skidding across the floor, towards the very edge of the arena where a glow of orange was seen around the edge.
Suddenly switching off his clones, Ace sprinted and pounced for Ratchet, pinning him down very roughly with his sheer weight, going in for Ratchet’s neck with his grasp…
Ratchet gasped and was lucky that his armour was preventing him from being strangled by Ace’s hand but he wasn’t trying to strangle him. He lifted Ratchet and moved closer to the edge of the arena. With great anger, Ace looked down at the glowing pit of lava over the edge; intent on dipping the lombax head-first into the pool of molten rock.
Ace wasn’t even smiling deviously by now. He was seriously mad and wanted to cripple this contestant; finish him off and see him die. Ratchet struggled with all his might to pluck Ace’s hands off of him, all happening in slow-motion for the lombax. He even tried with both his legs to push him off, but it was impossible; Ace was too strong and heavy.
Ace was clenching his teeth as he moved to dip Ratchet’s head into the lava, and he was getting close to succeeding, as the tips of the DZ armour’s ears started to immerse themselves into the lava and Ratchet panicked.
“Oooh he’s going to die, he is going to die! I love it!!!”
Juanita shouted out with excitement, while Dallas could only watch the fight with much widened eyes…
The crowds were roaring in the background as they saw this, and the lombax knew he had to act fast. He squeezed one of his hands down his own side and successfully grabbed a weapon in a split second.
Feeling the heat of the lava on the outside of his armour touch his ears, he had a rush of adrenalin. It happened so fast and Ace was suddenly blasted back, abruptly pushed off Ratchet and sent flying backwards as Ratchet lifted himself back onto his feet. He ran from the edge of the arena; certainly not so eager to go near the lava boundaries again.
As for Ace, he was quite shaken up from the sudden blast. He was shot at the side of his battle armour, and he noticed that one of the armour shoulder blades was gone. It was blasted clean off by the Arbiter!
He switched on his shield again, to use the last nano-pack, to repair the rest of the damage on his armour, from the very close impact he encountered.
Ratchet on the other hand, had ran over towards other nanocrates and ammocrates that were dropped into the arena, healing the damage from his own armour and filling up some lost ammunition. He couldn’t help but glare over towards Ace again.
Watching him more begun to bring back more memories from his childhood, and it was all so familiar. Ace used to be one of the most beloved superheroes in the galaxy. He even used to have posters of him in his room as a child, and was one of the few superheroes he once looked up to, until he disappeared several years ago.
I still… don’t understand. Why did he do this? Why did he choose to become an evil, hero killing gladiator?!
It was unsettling. But Ratchet knew he had to win this fight, even if it made him feel rather uncomfortable. He quickly added another freeze-mod to his Scorpion-flail and an acid-mod to the Magma-cannon….
Ace was now ready again. He switched on his hard-light clones and Ratchet prepared himself. Ratchet held out his Scorpion-flail and came after Ace again, as his hard-light clones fired towards Ratchet. He slammed down the flail over and over, and at the same time, watching out for the lasers from Ace’s launchers, managing to avoid them with relative ease this time.
Ace was starting to become madder. He lost the thoughts of giving him a slower death. Now he just wanted to finish him off in any way possible, desperately trying to control his clones at the same time and shoot him down. However, he was bringing upon a sore head from using the clones so often.
Ratchet managed to down another three clones before finally striking the real Ace with the flail, forcing Ace to completely lose focus of all the clones as the powerful flail slammed on him and left ice shards on his body. Ace dashed back quickly and tried not to breathe in the frost, throwing out more shockwave grenades on his way, with Ratchet getting shocked by one of the waves unexpectedly.
Ace really disliked those ice-mods. He didn’t want Ratchet to notice this, but it was difficult. Frost was his main weakness and it got to him, but he shook it off and continued to strafe around the arena, before releasing yet another Soul-Stalker beam from his wrist.
Ratchet was becoming quite tired now, but was still in relatively good health; having not lost much nanotech. He continued to keep his focus on shooting at Ace and avoiding the stalking plasma-beam again, strafing at the same time and leaping each time Ace fired towards him.
He tried shooting at Ace with the Dual-vipers and even the Magma-cannon but he found them not to be too effective. So, he switched to the Arbiter again, but had to be sure he got Ace on target, as the ammunition capacity for this weapon was low and the ammo was harder to obtain.
Moving in closer, he could finally get another direct hit with the Arbiter and Ace almost stumbled backwards, and Ratchet shot him again… pushing Ace even further away from Ratchet and he tried to get up and out of the way, to avoid another incoming missile from the weapon.
Ace was not feeling well. It wasn’t the rockets that hurt him the most, but the ice-mods they contained. He began to cough, even though he tried so hard not to and Ratchet saw this. Ace aimed his launcher at Ratchet again and shot multiple lasers, and Ratchet strafed to dodge them. He now realized that his freeze-mods were very effective against him, but more thoughts started to flow back to Ratchet’s mind…
Ace was starting to become exhausted now, and he couldn’t use anymore nanotech because he had no more on him. There were no nanocrates lying around neither; as Ratchet had broken them earlier for himself. He continued shaking the ice off his upper body, as the extreme cold emitting from it started to make him feel nauseous, and persisted in standing up straight when he noticed Ratchet had slowed down. But Ace, himself, was slowing down as well.
Am I… going to lose? No… I can’t lose, especially to this, this damn rat!
Ace continued to battle with the demons in his head. He felt as if he was losing his mind, causing his aiming to be even more off target. Finding it a lot harder to focus on the fight…
Ratchet had other things on his mind; memories from his childhood were rushing back to him rapidly, up until he was around 12 years old, around the exact same time Ace disappeared from the galaxy.
He remembered something… a news update he saw 6 years ago. It was about Ace Hardlight, and his mind suddenly clicked. He remembered seeing Ace on HV as a ‘wanted criminal’ for apparently, destroying his home planet, Bolden 3. It was upsetting back then, many people started to hate Ace because of it; and they assumed that he was on the run from authorities. Thus he was slandered, insulted and treated like a criminal by the media.
Ratchet could only gasp in shock, from inside his armour, now he remembered it clearly.
So… now I remember what happened. Man, that bites… it must have really hurt a lot…
Ratchet was caught off guard; Ace had dashed towards him and had his hard-light clones out again, striking Ratchet with their blasters, blowing Ratchet backward but he got up quickly, to jump and avoid the other blasts from Ace’s Launchers.
Ratchet held out his Arbiter and shot down each clone that was running for him, until finally hitting Ace’s true self again, which caused him to fall to his side and he scowled; quickly standing himself up and switching on his shield temporarily as he did so. A second wave of Arbiter rockets hit the shield, saving Ace from further impact.
Ace was struggling to breathe now though, finding himself to have the liquid nitrogen crystals sticking to him again, he tried to pull them off, avoiding trying to breathe in the air, as each time he inhaled, he started to cough and feel as if it were stinging him from the inside.
Ratchet put a stop to firing for a moment and he lowered the Arbiter down, now that it had run out of ammo. He stared ahead at Ace, and could see that Ace had almost had enough. Despite all the anger and hatred he held towards Ace, he simply couldn’t help but feel sorry for him. He didn’t want to imagine how it felt to have lost his home planet, and living with the blame of destroying all the lives that once lived there. And not to mention, all the hatred and anger from the media and the citizens right across the galaxy.
But Ratchet frowned angrily, remembering his reason for fighting Ace in the first place…
This still doesn’t change the fact that he killed so many other heroes, for sport! There is no excuse for this kind of carnage and I’ll… make him pay for what he has done to them, and to Al!
Ratchet lowered himself and readied to grab out another weapon; just as soon as Ace came out from the protective shield he had generated.
Ace was feeling lost, but still very determined to not give up. He grabbed out his HL Launcher again and began running for Ratchet…
Ratchet yelled out and ran for Ace, bringing out his Scorpion-flail and swinging it forward. Ace tried dashing back, shooting at Ratchet at the same time but Ratchet was moving quicker this time; his determination gave him strength to fight on. He swung the flail around, again, and again… finally striking his intended target and causing Ace to get stunned yet again by the force of the flail. He couldn’t run, and then Ratchet slammed down on him again with his devastating weapon. Swiping the flail across his chest and noticing the ice build-up on him even more, Ace struggled incredibly but managed to press the trigger on his armour to teleport instantly from that position, to another part of the arena.
But this time, with no clones as Ace couldn’t concentrate hard enough to bring them out.
Ace appeared near the centre of the arena and he was feeling very dazed and sore from being hit multiple times by the Arbiter and Scorpion-flail.
Ratchet quickly turned around and prepared to go for Ace again after he stood up, glaring at Ratchet with a ferocious expression. With his blue eyes locked on Ratchet, from behind the visor. He had his fangs bared and tried hard to ignore the intense cold he was enduring.
Ace fired towards Ratchet with his Launcher again, but he was starting to feel more and more unwell as the seconds rolled by. Ratchet leapt over the lasers and swiped Ace again with the flail and, finally, Ace’s left shoulder armour broke off and went flying across the battlefield. Ace too fell to the ground shortly afterwards with a loud thud.
The fans in the stadiums were very excited with what was happening, but Ratchet was still very tense and alert, keeping his eyes locked on Ace to see if he had won the fight or not.
But Ace still would not give in.
Ratchet saw Ace get back onto his knees and stand. He couldn’t believe Ace was still trying to fight, even though he was very worn out and battered and bruised from all the hits he took in the past few minutes. He could probably die if Ratchet decided to blast and lash at him even more with the ammunition he had left.
So both gladiators stood there, staring at one another. Ace was breathing heavily, in a state of madness and determination. Ratchet glared back from the inside of his helmet; waiting for Ace to make the next move.
The crowds were now cheering, and even chanting out a name. The name of Ratchet was heard in the background, becoming louder and louder as the fans continued to shout…
And thus Ace could no longer stand….
He suddenly coughed up and fell to the floor; metres ahead of Ratchet and the crowds went completely silent. Even Juanita and Dallas didn’t mutter a single word at what they were witnessing.
Ratchet glared over at Ace and could finally see that he had been defeated. The crowds were all cheering at Ratchet’s victory but somehow, Ratchet did not feel as proud as people expected him to be…
Ace was still breathing, though struggling to do so as he felt completely drained of his energy, clenching his teeth together; angered that he had actually been defeated.
Ratchet walked over towards him and opened up his helmet, revealing his face and long, furred ears. Ace looked up at him, angrily… struggling to get back onto his knees, for more combat...
”Ratchet! *cough* you can’t beat ME! You’re just a half-sized rodent with a big wrench!”
”Stay down Ace. Don’t embarrass yourself…”
Ratchet said, looking down at him with a saddened expression. Ace screwed his face up in distaste; coughing again,
”Embarrass? *cough-cough* EMBARRASS? I’m Ace Hardlight!”
”You were a hero once, Ace…”
Ace felt a choking feeling. He looked down after Ratchet’s response to him and thought about what he said… his hatred disappeared and he now admitted defeat with himself. His expression changed to a sad one, realizing how awful he has been, and how sorry he should be for what he had done. He failed to save all those heroes, allowing Vox take advantage of him instead… by turning him into a murderer, instead of a hero like he was before.
Ace looked up at Ratchet and he somehow, saw himself. He didn’t want Ratchet to turn into the same person as he turned out to be…
”… Ratchet! *cough-cough* don’t let Vox do to you, what he did to me… you’re the real hero now…”
Ace spoke while he coughed up even more before he finally choked and passed out on the floor, with his vision blurring as he saw Ratchet get taken away by a pair of DZ guards…
And with that, his world went black and his mind became empty…
Gleeman Vox was overall, quite stunned with the defeat of Ace Hardlight. He thought that Ace was dead after the battle, but he got a call from his medi-bots in another part of the station not long after.
”Sir, I am informing you on Ace Hardlight’s status”
”Yeah yeah, what about him? I told you guys to dump his corpse or put it through the incinerator! Not keep him lying around in the medical ward for amusement!”
”No sir, Ace is still alive. In fact, he is quite far from dead. He is only very exhausted and bruised from the battle, but he will recover quickly with some nanotech and a long rest-“
”Look, I don’t care about him okay? He lost the fight! So he’s over and done with, not of any use to me anymore!”
”Sir, what must we do with him then?”
”I dunno! Just, just dump him on a planet outside of the Shadow Sector! I don’t care what you do with him. Just get rid of him right this instant! He is no longer part of DreadZone!”
The medi-bot said after Vox, with no signs of emotion.
Ace was lying there in one of the medical suites, resting in tranquil after the intense battle; completely unknown to what kind of future he had ahead of him… if he even had a future at all from this point onwards…