Chapter 11: Becoming the Captain
The next day arrived and Ace was growing impatient. He became even more agitated when he noticed that Captain Starshield persisted in keeping away from the Liberator tournament. Instead, he was busy competing in another challenge, on another planet.
Ace couldn’t wait much longer. He left the Battledome and headed towards the transport vessel, with its coordinates set to the planet, Catacrom 4; the planet which Starshield was currently competing at.
Arriving in only a matter of minutes, he was released onto the barren ground. It was a relatively deserted planet; only decorated by ancient temple ruins, dying trees and modifications by the Vox land development team, perfecting the land and ruins for the many DreadZone challenges heroes competed in.
It was silent and the air was cold and thin. Ace moved through the wastelands with caution, awaiting anything in his path. He eventually came across a distinctive track, one of which he was familiar with. He saw dismantled robot pieces scattered around the place and a large damaged turret; signs that another contestant has been fighting around here.
He stalked the path patiently as he continued to search out his opponent, looking determined and wild; desperate to kill this contestant.
It was not until he came close to the end of the course, where he could see a few DZ strikers; large and unintelligent robots, trying to seek out Starshield as they scanned the area.
Ace hid behind a large group of boulders, to avoid alerting them. He continued to watch them steadily and then he got an idea.
Looking up, Ace could see that he was able to climb up the rocky temple wall, so he did. He climbed up swiftly, using his immense strength to grasp and pull himself onto any ledges and crevices on the slightly steep and rugged wall, until he came close to the top. He heaved himself up to the surface and stayed low, while he began to sneak towards the edge of the cliff.
Peering down from the high ledge, he could now smile menacingly at seeing his victim…
Starshield was hiding down below, standing himself up against the old temple ruins with his lancer held firmly, waiting for the DZ strikers to come around the corner. There were three of them, and they all seemed to look nervous of what was to come. Starshield could only smile cunningly, before placing his lancer forward and firing…
He was quick and fired two bullets, both hitting their targets and blowing two of the robots to pieces. The remaining DZ striker was startled and didn’t notice where Starshield was.
Until he let out a whistle… which the robot responded to, only to meet its doom as it started screaming out for help, before exploding from the blast Starshield delivered from his gun.
Captain Starshield smiled after destroying the last few robots in the area and he noticed the DZ cameras flying nearby, which only caused him to pose in front of the cameras, showing off his lancer. Starshield switched his attention back to the battlefield, as he attempted to search out more robotic opponents.
Meanwhile, Ace glared down at his rival. He smiled evilly and stood up, before leaping down from high above, landing only several meters away from Starshield, swiftly and nearly silently…
Starshield was startled. He turned around, only to see Ace staring back, with his launcher aimed directly at him. He had no time to run, no time to avoid any incoming shots…
A piercing blast and scream is all that followed afterward.
It only took a single shot from Ace’s launcher; a devastating blow of violet and blue destroyed Starshield instantly; turning his body into a pile of ash, with only his lancer left on the ground besides his pile.
The DZ cameras were quick to come up close, with three of them already hovering around Ace. He noticed these cameras and began to pose with his Launcher for the viewers, as the announcer came out from above in a hovercraft…
”A dramatic conclusion to one of the most exciting episodes of DreadZone I have EVER seen! Captain Starshield, the number one ranked gladiator has been terminated by Ace Hardlight! Ace has now eliminated a record THIRTEEN contestants in the regular season!”
Ace continued to raise his fists in the air, proud of his victory. Before letting out a sadistic laugh…
He was now the DreadZone grand champion once again, for the fifth season in a row.
Back at the DreadZone Station, there was a big celebration waiting for Ace as he arrived. Many of the DZ employees and robots were standing all around the place. A minority were throwing confetti and some were waving around wine glasses; with a few already drunk and having a hard time keeping balance while many others were cheering as Ace came walking down the main isle. He was smiling in content, not even taking a single glimpse at the others who stood at his side as he strutted down the hallway.
He made his way towards a specific part of the station and arrived at a large doorway, with a large neon sign above it reading out ‘The DreadZone Bar ‘n Grill’.
He walked through and was greeted by various customers and staff inside the bar. Many of the people in here were voelhomen, while some were DZ guards. Some testbots were seen cleaning the tables and music was playing as Ace arrived and more people cheered for him,
”Good job out there mate! For the fifth time in a row now ehh? Very impressive!”
”Man, you took Starshield out with a single shot! Good shooting man!”
Ace only grinned in content at the sight of people supporting him. At the same, he scanned the area of the bar, looking for someplace to sit. The majority of the seats were taken though; with many people, dining, drinking or passed out on the tables and floor around the place.
Ace saw his favourite spot, a long table close to the front of the bartending area but it was already occupied by other drinkers.
But he didn’t care. He walked over and stood there, staring at the men in content; until he got their attention. The three voelhomen men sitting there stared back at Ace, a little tipsy from their alcohol intake but could still notice Ace’s presence…
”This is my zone… now move it!”
The three men could only stare back at Ace, before moving off the seats in a hurry to find another place to sit at. They were reluctant to move but they knew what the consequences would have been if they didn’t.
A testbot was quick to notice and rushed over to the table to start cleaning it with a cloth, just as Ace came to sit down at the table. He gave off sigh in relief, how that he had a chance to relax after such an eventful day. The bartender immediately took note of his presence and walked over to greet him.
”Good evening to you Mr Hardlight. What may I get for the grand champion this fine evening?”
”Just the usual”
The bartender moved swiftly to go fill up a large jug, before placing it on the table in front of Ace. He readily started to take drink and was feeling a lot more refreshed; at least before he could hear the staff cheering loudly again in the background.
He stopped drinking for a moment to turn around and he could see two of the other Exterminators enter the room.
Shellshock and Reactor came through the entry; both enormous and intimidating looking robots. They were two of the other Exterminators of DreadZone, with both robots being good friends. They were low ranked compared with Ace Hardlight, but were nonetheless, extremely dangerous when put up against contestants.
They walked through and waved at all the fans cheering for them as they entered the bar. Shellshock spotted Ace sitting at the high table on his own, and he was already looking back at him.
”Oh there he is! Huh time to go greet our new Captain!”
Shellshock spoke in a distinctive Austrian accent. Both Reactor and Shellshock walked over to greet Ace, who was looking back at them in content.
”About time you guys showed up…” Ace remarked.
Reactor laughed before he gave a response.
”Heh yeah, sorry man. I was busy signing many autographs for all my fans out there! So, is it true that yo’ killed 13 contestants this season?”
”You better believe it. I am the greatest gladiator of them all, you should know that by now”
”Hah! Just when I thought nobody could beat the Eviscerator’s record last year. I thought 10 was a lot but 13? Damn. You sure know how to kick the bucket for those suckers!”
”Those so called ‘heroes’ never stood a chance against me to begin with”
Ace replied to Reactor whilst grinning deviously.
Shellshock laughed for no particular reason, before speaking
”So does this mean you really have become our Captain? Huh! We never expected an organic contestant to get the job. Especially somebody smaller than me. Hah, you’re the odd one out!”
”Oh wow, really? I never noticed…”
Ace said sarcastically, rolling his eyes at Shellshock, who blatantly didn’t appear to have noticed his sarcasm.
“So, where is the Eviscerator?” he asked.
”Oh him? No idea. I haven’t seen since his last victory in the Battledome a few hours ago. Some say he’s busy preparing something special for the occasion though”
”He better be aware that I am his new Captain…”
“Oh I’m sure he will be. Anyway, I gotta get going. Courtney is waiting for me in the Holo-recording suite. We’re both going to star in an upcoming movie! Isn’t that awesome? I get to star in my own movie, based on my life and I get to play alongside the love of my life!”
”Right. I might get to star in a movie soon too, just as soon as somebody purchases the rights. But for now, I’m going to chill. I will probably see you guys next season”
”See you later, Captain!”
Reactor said, as both him and Shellshock left the bar waving back at Ace. He sighed in relief now that they had left.
Good. Now I can have some time alone…
he thought to himself, as he took another sip of his drink.
That is until another pair came rushing into the bar. He continued to drink in peace until he heard a female voice shout out; causing him to stop drinking for a moment,
”Ah there you are Ace!”
A female robot shouted as she tried to make her way through the bar over towards him. Another man was following her from behind, a voelhomen with green toned skin.
”Hey Juanita, wait up for me!”
He said, struggling to move around the crowds of large robots, organic customers and smaller robotic staff members.
The female robot’s name was Juanita, and the man who trailed behind her was Dallas. They were both the current news presenters and announcers for the DreadZone channel. They replaced the cheap robotic staff sometime during the second season and both were big fans of Ace Hardlight. Juanita, however, had a much bigger obsession with him than her work partner, despite herself being a robot.
She made her way over to Ace and he looked back at her with a blank expression.
“I’m sorry for being late. Dallas and I were busy reading out the latest news. I just wanted to congratulate you on destroying Starshield and becoming the five time grand champion!”
”And also, becoming the Captain of the Exterminators! After smashing that record number of kills!”
Dallas said, and he tried to catch his breath after running for so long and struggling to get past the big crowds of people. Ace smiled at them,
”Thanks. It was all too easy”
”Especially for somebody like you…”
Juanita said, as she sat down at the table, about two metres away from Ace. She fluttered her eyes back at him and he didn’t appear to notice the flirtatious gesture. Dallas sat down next to her and shouted out to the bartender, ordering himself a few drinks. Juanita saw Dallas receive his and she looked back at Ace, who was taking another sip of his own drink.
She shouted, as the bartender finishing pouring a few small glasses for Dallas. He walked over towards Juanita,
”What would you like, madam?”
”I’d like to have a bottle of the strongest drink available”
”But madam, wouldn’t you prefer a try of our Diesel Delight? It is a very popular choice among robots”
”No. I want... that, that one right up there on the shelf”
She pointed up at a bottle sitting on the top of the shelf. It appeared to have a purple substance inside of it, with several warning labels around the sides and a large DZ logo. The bartender looked bewildered, before shrugging and taking it off the shelf.
He handed it over to Juanita, with a few small glasses to go with it.
”Now be careful lady. This contains 100% alcohol so make sure no organic life forms take it. I am unsure what kind of effect it has on robots though…”
”No problem sir. I can handle anything…”
She said, while smiling deviously and moving over closer to Ace, and pouring herself a few cups. She looked over towards him and asked,
”So… where’s my thank you?”
Ace looked back at her as she got his attention. He wasn’t sure what she was talking about. She noticed his uncertainty and frowned slightly, before placing her hands onto her hips.
”Huh? Oh, yeah, that. Uhh… thanks. That weapon was a good gift”
”I’m glad you liked it. So, you used it to finish off Starshield, am I right?”
She asked, whilst moving a bit closer again. Ace looked around him to check if anybody was listening. No one was, so he nodded. Juanita went on to smile back at him, before moving herself closer to him, again. Ace took another glass jug from the bartender and thought to himself for a moment, before looking over back at Juanita
”You know. You’re the only woman who has ever shown me the kind of respect I deserve here at DreadZone. And so I just wanted to thank you for that”
He said, as he immediately took another drink. Juanita was surprised with what he had said and her eyes lit up brightly, and a big smile spread across her face.
”You… you really mean that? Well of course. I’m always here for you. Those other filthy girls aren’t worth your time. But me, I will always support you”
Ace gave off a slight smile to her, before resuming with his drink.
Minutes later, somebody of a tall stature came out from the back door of the bartending area, from the kitchen. He was slightly taller than Ace, and was some sort of insect-robot hybrid. He was known as The Eviscerator, the third of the Exterminators. He got his name from the way he dealt with contestants; especially if they had flesh inside of them.
He walked over towards Ace, with a dinner plate placed on the top of his palm. Ace noticed the Exterminator’s presence and looked up at him.
He tried to hold back his laughter as he noticed that the Eviscerator had a cliché looking chef’s hat on his head, giving him a rather comical look; despite the Eviscerator being an extremely violent gladiator.
Dallas noticed the Eviscerator’s arrival and waved at him, as he came up to Ace, and placed the dinner plate onto the table in front of him, before bowing down in respect.
Ace was quite blank at the gestures he showed, until he had a look at the plate that was placed in front of him,
”You… prepared this yourself?”
The Eviscerator stood up straight and nodded. He was unable to speak, but could clearly understand speech from other life forms. Dallas got off his chair and moved over to Ace, before explaining
”Oh my, the Eviscerator has prepared you one of his gourmet meals? How lucky of you! A great way to show respect to his new Captain!”
”Since when did he become a chef?” asked Ace.
”Oh, he’s been a chef ever since he arrived here. One of DreadZone’s finest gourmet chefs, who even has a vast knowledge on fine wine. Isn’t that right Eviscerator?”
The robotic insect looked at Dallas, and gave another nod before placing a wine glass down next to the dinner plate, along with a knife and fork. Ace looked down at the plate again; the food on it looked rather delicious, with a big succulent and tender looking steak, fresh vegetables and mash with gravy poured all over and some marinated spareribs at the side.
”Looks pretty good, thanks. Good to see an Exterminator showing me the respect I deserve, for a change”
Ace said, and the Eviscerator bowed down again, before opening up his insectoid wings at the back and flying off, over the crowds and out of the bar.
Ace grabbed the utensils and immediately started cutting up the steak, as Dallas stood there watching
”Ah, one of the Eviscerator’s fine meals! Crafted by a mastermind of gourmet dining & fine wine, using only the finest ingredients available in the Shadow Sector!”
Ace truly wanted Dallas to shut his mouth, but he was too focused on the dinner to respond, as he placed a piece of the steak into his mouth and found it to be rather good as he chewed, but Dallas didn’t stop there…
”Lovingly crafted with home grown vegetables, chemical and radioactive free! Ah and of course, an Eviscerator-style meal is not complete without using the freshest meat, straight from the Battledome!”
Ace almost choked. The… Battledome… CONTESTANTS?
It all made sense and he immediately tried to spit out what he was eating. Dallas placed his hand over his mouth and tried not to mutter anything, as he took a few steps back slowly, but Ace didn’t care about what Dallas was doing. He was too disturbed to say anything. He just sat there staring at the plate, wide eyed.
He immediately pushed the plate aside, sending it sliding across the table and falling onto the ground with a loud smash as it hit the hard floor.
A testbot noticed this, and sighed annoyingly as it moved over to clean up the mess off the floor. Ace didn’t say anything after that and immediately tried to drink more of his beer to get rid of the taste; ignoring the wine that the Eviscerator gave him; knowing what could be in that as well judging by its crimson colour.
A couple of hours had passed and the bar was a lot less crowded, with only half as many customers and staff as before. Ace was feeling mellow and relaxed, with a few glasses there in front of him and a bowl of prawns with sauce.
Dallas was seen dancing on the empty tables in the background, now that he was very intoxicated, worsening his behaviour.
Juanita kept Ace company in the meantime. Yet she was sitting even closer to him than before; only about one foot away from him. She remained there to talk with him, still attempting to flirt and gain his affection. She also drank some of the mentholated spirits she obtained earlier on, which had no effect on her whatsoever.
Ace was feeling a bit slow and calm, not paying too much attention to her. However he was a bit stumped as to why Juanita was even drinking pure alcohol in the first place.
”So, what do you plan on doing later?”
”Hmm, I don’t know. Whatever I feel like”
”Aww really? Surely you’ve got something fun on mind for later… if I could, I would go organic for you…”
Ace may have been a bit idle minded at the moment, but he did get the hint and he raised an eyebrow;
Okay now she’s starting to freak me out… a bit.
He wasn’t sure how to respond, so he simply took another drink from a glass and while he did, Dallas came rushing up behind Juanita to placing his arm around her shoulder. He was clearly drunk and struggling to stand, and Juanita turned around to look at him annoyingly.
”You know what, Juaaaanita? I think, I think that after we retire from DreadZone, we should start up our OWN HV show. You know? One starring the twoooo of us. We could get married in the very first episode for high raaaatings ya know!”
”Dallas stop it, you’re embarrassing yourself…”
She said, feeling humiliated and annoyed. Ace couldn’t help but stare at them and raise a smirk, before taking a prawn from the bowl in front of him to dunk into the dipping sauce. He was disturbed all of a sudden when Dallas came up from his left; appearing right between him and Juanita and placing his hand onto Ace’s shoulder.
”And you know what Ace Haaaardlight? I always wanted to become a ballet dancer. But, but I never had the right body, you know? But you… you are soooo flexible; so flexible that you could almost kick yourself in the FACE. You’d be a natural if you ever tried baaaallet!”
Ace hastily moved his left arm and Dallas’ hand slipped off. He stood up and towered down at Dallas in a very threatening stance,
”If you don’t shut your mouth about your stupid desires, then I may just have to break your mouth; permanently!”
Dallas became very silent. Juanita was still sitting next to him, but moved herself over as Dallas continued to stare up at Ace in pure terror. Ace appeared to be rather agitated, persisting in looking down at a very scared Dallas.
After a few seconds of silence, Dallas muttered…
”I think I just soiled myself…”
Ace’s face changed from angered to blank. He moved away from Dallas and stood up straight; in no need to discover what Dallas was talking about. Juanita got up off the chair and pulled Dallas by the ear,
”Alright Dallas, that’s it. I think you’ve had enough for tonight!”
Dallas was scared but he got up as well as he was pulled by his ear, out of the bar, with Juanita leading the way.
Ace sighed in relief; finally, now I can really get some time to myself around here.
He looked around the bar, trying to find a new place to sit down and relax at. He decided to sit at the far left of the bar table, opposite to where he was sitting before. This area was lit up with brilliant neon lighting; now that it was late at night with fewer customers about.
So he walked down and testbots were quick to move his drinks and bowl down to where he was sitting. There were some other voelhomen employees sitting here, but Ace didn’t appear to mind their presence. They were fitness trainers of a medium build with blue toned skin, ones whom he had seen before in the DZ gym. He went to sit down again to take another drink and one of the men noticed him nearby,
”Oh look, Ace Hardlight’s here! Good to see you mate. I heard about your victory earlier on, great going man!”
”Heh, Just doing my job”
He said with a cold smile, before taking another chilled drink. The other two men sitting there noticed Ace and starting talking amongst one another,
”Man, never have I seen such a ruthless gladiator. Having absolutely no mercy for any of those other contestants. Hah, can’t get much more badass than that, right guys?”
”That’s right. Did you guys know that he exterminated 13 heroes this year? Even some supervillains have been reported to be jealous of that feat! I also heard that Ace runs through the impossible deathcourse every morning as a daily run. Not even the suicidal contestants would dare to go through that course!”
”Man really? That’s cool. Just goes to show how badass Ace really is then huh?”
Ace listened to their conversation and grinned slightly. He felt content with everything; although slightly bored and a little tired from such a long day.
”He is so badass, that he had even destroyed a whole entire planet before he joined DreadZone!”
”Holy cow, really? I did not know that! That’s some hardcore shit right there!”
”Uhh guys, that isn’t really cool, you know…”
”But it’s still quite badass, you have to admit”
Ace may have been mellow from the alcohol intake but he heard what they were saying. He had to double think though, to make sure it really was what they were discussing.
And it was.
He suddenly felt some old feelings return, causing him to feel very uncomfortable… feelings he didn’t like, feelings that disrupted his mind. He felt the need to stand up off the chair and walk back, away from the voelhomen staff.
”Oh now look what you guys have done, he moved away because of you!”
”Why would he? He’s proud of being an Exterminator. He’s probably had enough for tonight, after such a big day. Now boys, take it easy! Let’s go another round at the table!”
One of the men said, two of them held up their glasses and clanged them together, before drinking from them.
But Ace, he was struggling to think straight. The thoughts of Bolden 3 suddenly emerged; thoughts he didn’t want to return again after so long. He shook his head again and looked at a wine bottle in front of him; the one Juanita had left behind from earlier on. His anger started to boil from within as he placed his hand out, with his nerves causing his hand to shake…
The three men resumed to talk and drink among one another, until something alarming came for them. From behind, the first man was struck with a violent smashing and cracking sound from the back of his head, sending him flying and hitting the ground, lying on the floor; wide-eyed and groaning.
Ace growled and stood over him, before hammering his boot down with sheer force to crush his neck. It was to ensure that the man died right there in front of him.
He stood over the body; looking infuriated and deranged while he held onto a smashed wine bottle, dripping with wine and the blood of the fallen victim. The other two men could only sit there staring back at Ace, utterly petrified.
Ace dropped the bottle and lunged forward, grabbing the other man by his antennae and flipping him through the air; sending him smashing down into the tables and chairs behind of him, with a loud crashing sound and a cry of pain. Ace looked over to see him and he lay there on the ground, critically injured yet still breathing, and squirming as he moaned in agony before falling unconscious.
Other people in the bar appeared to be in shock, and many had rushed out the doorway in fear. While some just sat there watching. Other people were too intoxicated to have noticed a thing.
The testbots on the other hand, just stood nearby; waiting for Ace to settle down so they could start to clean up and repair the damage he caused.
Ace meanwhile, was breathing heavily as his heart raced wildly. He was so angry and dazed that he could barely think straight anymore. He saw that one of the men were still alive however, so he picked up the broken wine bottle next to him and walked up to the remaining man, threatening him with the shattered end of the bottle,
”You people just don’t know when to shut up, don’t you?”
”I… I swear I didn’t say anything about it!”
Ace hissed, pointing the bloodied glass shards straight at the fitness trainer’s face. He closed his eyes tight, terrified of what Ace could do next.
But Ace knew that this man in particular didn’t say anything offensive. So he abruptly turned around, to look back at the other employees staring at him. While holding out the sharply pointed bottle in a threatening stance, he said.
”So, does anybody else have something to add to that?”
Everyone who was caught by Ace’s statement shook their heads. They all were clearly fearful of his actions.
”Well good. Best we keep it that way!”
A strong headache began to overcome him now, and he rubbed his forehead in frustration. His anger had eased though, and now he was only feeling very tired and dazed from such a long day. Lying down on his bed, he allowed himself to fall into a sleep almost immediately.
Ace hated it whenever old feelings of his past would come back and haunt him, and he often found that violence was an easy way to take his mind off it. Not many people would usually bring up his past however, as most people of today only knew of him as a feared gladiator, not a former intergalactic superhero.