|Allies of the Night|
Three years ago
It was a forgotten world.
On the very edge of unexplored space, the asteroid resembled little more than a speck of dirt floating between the stars. There was no wind to trouble the dust that had settled on the battered chunk of rock and ice over the ages. It appeared untouched by civilization to the naked eye: just another dark, frosty, clump of stone that was vaguely spherical. From the surface of the darkened rock the nearest star was nothing more than a distant blue glimmer. It existed in perpetual dusk.
It truly was a forgotten world, one that had been neglected and ignored by passing space crafts and shuttles for thousands upon thousands of decades. Bonecrusher tried to think of the asteroid’s history as he lowered his craft – the near-legendary Beagle VI – onto the asteroid’s surface. The clump of rock had existed for millions of years, been flung around the galaxy, and pitted with countless craters and striations on its dusty surface. But, alas, the asteroid had no history. The only thing special about it was the intergalactic tavern that was nestled into one of the craters. The only notable highlight in the asteroid’s millennia-long journey was probably the last time somebody spilt a drink.
Hardly Bonecrusher’s type of place at all. Or at least not under usual circumstances. But then again, today wasn’t exactly a normal day for the sole-surviving Aurosian as his space craft began to slow as he made his decent into the empty atmosphere.
Nearly a decade ago, a cataclysm had devastated the bounty hunter’s home planet, causing the extinction of his species and rendering him the only living Aurosian. That had been ten whole years ago. Bonecrusher had lived ten years knowing that he was the last member of his race. That his wife and family had died slowly and painfully. That he would never find peace again.
And it was all thanks to the blasted Hero Factory.
Bonecrusher didn’t even try to disguise the blood-boiling rage that had consumed him in recent years. Everything that he had owned, everyone whom he had known, everyone he had loved. All of it had been torn from his grip whilst the Hero Factory watched from afar. Those darned heroes could have beamed down at any point and saved billions of innocent lives, Bonecrusher was sure of it. They had enough technology and medicine to cure an entire solar system, so why the hell hadn’t they listened to him when he warned them?
The Beagle VI swept through the tattered strips of atmosphere of the lifeless world. Small clouds of poisonous gas whipped past the windows as the ship thundered over craters and ice chunks then slowed as the thick yet indistinct neon lights of the Maldovarium tavern came into view. The vehicle descended into an air lock chamber then disappeared behind the hissing of two metallic slabs, like the jaws of some great metal beast devouring Bonecrusher’s craft.
The crab-featured mercenary stayed seated as a traction beam carried the Beagle VI to an empty parking area. Whilst his craft was being towed by the invisible magnetic rays, the Aurosian glanced again at his onboard computer screen. He had been on the Beagle VI for a whole two weeks, drifting between planets over the limitless expanse of nothingness. After two hours he had gotten bored and started forming a plan.
On the screen was the brief message he’d been working on throughout his journey. Now he’d landed he could send it. The last Aurosian cracked a sinister smile as he pressed a button and the message disappeared, engulfed by an envelope on the screen.
The message had been sent, and some poor traitor’s fate had been sealed.
As casually as he dared, Bonecrusher rose to his clawed feet and began walking towards the exit as the craft pulled to a halt. It took him a full minute to open the door to his ship because of the intensity of the airlock. Sometimes he wanted to smash the annoying key pad but that would probably leave him sealed inside the space craft until his ticket expired, and that would only be embarrassing.
The Aurosian made his way onto the gridded platform of the Maldovarium and began walking. His talon-like feet clanking against the cold, cheap metal as he strode onwards.
The tavern was supposedly the most popular criminal attraction in the entire quadrant. Bonecrusher had gone there once before in his travels because he had heard the music was good, but it hadn’t been and still wasn’t. The place was just as crowded as he remembered. As Bonecrusher entered the main bar he realized the guidebooks hadn’t been wrong. The place was packed full of villains and criminals alike. Some of them he recognized from wanted posters littered around the galaxy, but he had never spoken anybody in the tavern before. They were all strangers – strangers who had one common interest: crushing the Hero Factory.
They all had their reasons, just like Bonecrusher had his. But just by looking around the tavern he realized what a dull, arrogant bunch of criminals he was around. Nearly every single one of them was boasting and jeering, bragging about their numerous encounters with various different heroes and how they had defeated them. Bonecrusher didn’t have the slightest wisp of interest. Over his ten year criminal career he had killed a total of 22 heroes. He knew there were probably a lot of other criminals who had slain far more of the little pests than him, but he knew he was in the top twenty most wanted on the Hero Factory’s wanted list. Compared to him these criminals were armatures.
After wandering between tables and weaving in and out of rooms, he found himself where he wanted to be. Outside a closed door, a closed door that was guarded by dark armored brute at least twice Bonecrusher’s size. The Aurosian nodded towards the guard solemnly. The brute grunted then leaned down to address him.
“Give me your weapons,” he bristled in a voice that sounded like a drum roll of dry bones. It was low and aggressive but the bounty hunter ignored his tone.
Bonecrusher raised his right arm to reveal his pincer. “Can’t,” he grunted simply. Similarly to every other male member of his now near-extinct species, the Aurosian had a sleek crab-like claw in place of a right hand. Removing it would require a lot of sharp objects, bandages, and a whole lot of doctors who wouldn’t mind getting their faces blown off by a fully conscious Bonecrusher.
The brute shifted and puffed his chest off, towering over the bounty hunter further. Bonecrusher was beginning to wonder how high the ceiling was. “You don’t give me your weapons – no entry,” he stated.
It was a fair rule, one that the Aurosian had been expecting, and not unavoidable.
“Fine,” sighed the bounty hunter. He turned around, as if to leave, then paused. The guard continued to glare at him as he spun around again. “Actually, I do have this,” he muttered as he thumbed around in one of the pockets of his black cloak.
As the brute leaded closer – probably expecting to see some document or a ticket – the bounty hunter decided that was his cue. The Aurosian growled and headbutted the guard full in the face, just because he was irritated. It was a smooth move, well delivered, but it was backed off to maybe half of what it might have been. There was no need to land the guard in a coma for doing his job.
The brute staggered then toppled forwards. Bonecrusher moved a step backwards to give him room to fall, and backed into a female on his right.
“Excuse me, ma’am,” he grunted politely.
The female glanced at him then nodded briefly and turned away. She was disorientated from the noise and concentrating on her drink, unaware of what had happened behind her.
The guard thumped silently on the metal floor and Bonecrusher used the tip of his clawed foot to roll him onto his front. Then he nudged him under the chin with one of his toes to push his head back and straighten his airway. The recovery position, stops you choking while you’re out cold.
The Aurosian grunted then slipped past the door that the dark armored brute had been guarding, closing it quietly behind him. The room he found himself in was dark and poorly lit, save for the light coming from an expensive looking chandelier at the other side. Beneath the shards of crystal was a sitting area. Four shifty figures sat in the light, on scarlet chairs and around a dark, wooden table. Three of the figures were clad in shadowy, mysterious cloaks. The middle one had a metallic bird-beak stretching out of his hook and all three of them seemed to have metal gauntlets in place of hands peaking out of their sleeves. Bonecrusher ignored them and waited in the shadows for them to leave.
And they did: eventually. The Aurosian watched as the fourth figure continued talking with them. He couldn’t hear what they were saying but Bonecrusher managed to piece together that the three hooded-metal-bird-figures were interested in a particular hero and the fourth figure had agreed to help satisfy their curiosity. The bounty hunter leaned closer when the single uncloaked outline of a Trivolian placed what looked like a decapitated head on the table, the head of the hero of interest presumably. As the Aurosian edged nearer he managed to hear the closing of the deal.
“You’ll find the security protocol you want in the frontal lobe,” chuckled the fourth figure. “With the right equipment I doubt it'll take you long to locate. It might even rattle if you shake it.”
Bonecrusher cracked a slight smile as the lead cloaked figure extended a gauntlet to touch the hero’s head only for the fourth figure to wave him away.
“Not yet,” me muttered. “I want my payment first. My agents are good but they don’t work for free.”
The hooded beak-bearer hesitated then reached deep into his cloak and produced a small sack of gold, which he dropped worthlessly on the table cloth. Greedily, the fourth figure pushed the head towards them then plucked up his reward. He sat there, shifting through the contents purposefully then smiled up at the hooded figures.
“Until next time,” he beamed, showing rows of needle-sharp teeth. Bonecrusher waited eagerly for the three hooded grim-reaper-wanna-be’s to file out of the chamber before approaching the table.
“Greetings, Master Bonecrusher,” smiled the Trivolian avidly. He was a scrawny, miserable excuse for a black marketer, but he was useful. “How can I help you this evening?”
“Scratch,” nodded Bonecrusher in greeting. “I want information.”
“Concerning what?” asked Scratch vaguely. “Information about Nano Smoothie shares? Who won the Roboball galactic cup? Next week’s intergalactic lottery numbers?”
“I want to know what you’ve heard,” growled Bonecrusher. “Has anything changed? Is there any news on my wife? Am I still the only survivor?”
Scratch stared sadly as the broken bounty hunter in front of him then sighed and looked down at the sack of money in his clumsy little hands. “I’m afraid I haven’t heard anything new. All I can tell you is what I’ve told you before: the dead stay dead. Nobody’s coming back.”
“What if somebody survived the disease and escaped when the quarantine was lifted?”
The Trivolian smothered a snort then cowered as Bonecrusher growled and slammed his claw on the wooden table. “You know as well as I do. The disease went airborne within three minutes of evolving. It killed everyone on the entire planet forty seconds later. No survivors, end of.”
Anger pumped through the bounty hunter’s body like blood. He could feel his temples throbbing from the pressure of his rage. The Aurosian hesitated before he grunted then finally recoiled. He leaned back in his chair, defeated.
Silence hung for a long, awkward moment as Scratch shifted in his seat uncomfortably. “Are you OK?” he finally asked, sympathy clearly not his strong point.
“Just perfect,” grunted Bonecrusher hollowly.
“Exactly why did you come here?” frowned Scratch as he tilted his head. “You’re smart. You’ve known for ages that nobody could have survived. You’ve gone back to Auros hundreds of times. You told me.”
“You hear everything,” retorted Bonecrusher. “That’s all I want. A rumor. A whisper. A lie. I don’t care. I just need something to go on, otherwise I don’t know what I might do.” The bounty hunter clenched his pincer tighter then loosened it as he sighed. “I need hope.”
“You need help,” muttered the Trivolian trivially. “How long have you felt like this?”
Bonecrusher shrugged idly. “A month, two months. I don’t know.”
Scratch paused, studying the destroyed Aurosian in front of him through sad, miserable eyes. “Well there’s nothing I can do, you have to understand that. You’re howling at a concrete moon. I can’t raise the dead.”
It had been ten whole years since the broken shell of an Aurosian had seen the faces of the people he loved: his wife, his family, his friends. Now they were all gone and he’d been left alone in the world. Emotions ran deep within his people. While he had been growing up on Auros as an infant much of the planet had been at war. He had fantasized about escaping the hate and killing only to become a bounty hunter. He’d never really noticed the irony until now.
Scratch finally sighed and placed the sack of money aside. “You’re right” he muttered quietly. “I do know something. I have heard rumors.”
“Rumors of what?” growled Bonecrusher with cold menace.
“Rumors about some Aurosians,” answered the Trivolian cagily as Bonecrusher’s eyes widened and he turned to face Scratch cautiously.
“Go on,” he ordered, listening intently.
“Do you recall the crash of the Guinevere One space shuttle?” asked the black marketer shiftily.
“Sure,” grunted Bonecrusher, trying to hide his confusion. “It was an Aurosian space shuttle that was launched about thirty years ago.”
“Twenty-four, actually,” corrected the Trivolian. “It was a manned Aurosian craft that was intent on exploring the Corellia System.”
“But what use is it?” growled Bonecrusher impatiently. “Like you said, it crashed, all hands lost. No survivors.”
Scratch closed his eyes and waved his hand dismissively. “No I didn’t. That’s Aurosian media talking. I was very careful not to mention the fates of the crew. The ship lost radio contact when it crashed on a planet named Orcus. Nobody died… at least not from that.”
The Aurosian bounty hunter fell silent. “What? You mean... there are other survivors?”
The shifty Trivolian shrugged casually, basking in his moment of power. “I know more than many, but not as much as some. After all, they’re just rumors.”
“Then I must go to this Orcus,” growled Bonecrusher. “I can rescue them, bring them back to Auros. I could start the Aurosians again!”
The criminal’s anger began to melt away as he sprung to his feet, energy pulsing through his body, his blood racing in his ears. His life suddenly had new-found meaning. He had a purpose. After ten long years of isolation he could be with his people again. He had a chance to start his life anew, to do something noble and save his people.
Or he could recreate his species the way he wanted to.
“Scratch, you’re a freak. But you’re a useful freak to be around,” chuckled the Aurosian darkly.
The black marketer grunted, ignoring the comment as he leaned forward avariciously. “I’m glad to be of help, of course” he giggled. “But what of my payment? My information comes at a price.”
Bonecrusher’s smile widened sinisterly. “Scratch, I really don’t think you’re in any position to be ordering anybody around, least of all me.”
The Trivolian frowned and leaned in closer. “What do you mean by that?” he grunted cautiously, obviously unnerved by the Aurosian’s creepy grin.
As if on cue, there was a massive explosion. The room shuddered and Scratch was thrown out of his seat. Bonecrusher just sat there smiling.
An entire fleet of Hero Factory dropships soared into view as the entire Maldovarium had just lurched and groaned under the spray of red lasers that pounded against its structure, like crimson drops of rain spewing down on the metal. Sparks flew and metal tore as the western section of the structure became unsupported and began to hinge towards the surface of the asteroid. Chaos broke out inside as criminals were thrown into one another. Fighting suddenly commenced as the villains turned on each other, thinking the other had just jumped on them. Soon the entire intergalactic bar had erupted into violence.
And that was Bonecrusher’s signal to leave.
As the Aurosian rose to his feet Scratch’s ugly little head popped up from behind the table, his face in pure shock. “What have you done?” he demanded, the heat taken off the question by his fear.
Bonecrusher’s smile broadened as the sounds of energy weapons discharging in the hallway filled his ears. When he had landed the Beagle VI he had sent out a message, a message that he had been drafting and redrafting for the past two weeks before he finally sent it... to the Hero Factory. However, he had always come back to the same result:
"Help! Help! I’m being held captive on this asteroid by Bonecrusher."
As simple as the message was, it was perfect. Alarm bells and klaxons would have been flaring in the Hero Factory call center within seconds of the message arriving. His name would have been flashing on and off of screens in large, crimson letters.
And better still, the message implied that he was holding the sender hostage, which meant he would be barricading himself deeper within the base, supposedly protected by the hundreds of criminals present in the Maldovarium. The last thing the heroes would be expecting was for him to be making a break for it.
The Aurosian did not answer Scratch's question. Instead he tucked the hood of his cloak over his horns, casting a dark shadow over his face and obscuring his features. Scratch must still be able to see his evil smirk.
“Aurosians,” snarled the black marketer. “So predictably treacherous.”
“Trivolians,” countered Bonecrusher with a tilt of his head. “So predictably gullible.”
At that moment there was an explosion in the coridoor and the door was blown off its hinges. Two heroes poured into the chamber, both clad in different shades of crimson armor, both carrying raised weapons, both deathly serious. Bonecrusher took a step to the left, slipping into the shadows.
The two heroes marched into the room and began looking around. One of them was young, clad in simple red and orange armor. His visor was up and he had a crude energy blaster in his right hand. A rookie, undoubtedly.
The second hero, Bonecrusher had heard of. He was an elite hero, which was signified from his unique chest plate but also from his peculiar appearance. He had pointy and dark armor, indicating that he was one of the earlier heroes, which he was. He carried a scythe – which was a strange choice of weapon to Bonecrusher – and towered over the other hero. The Aurosian recognized him as Fredrick Nova, the Hero Recon Team’s worst kept secret. Nova was a renowned, distinguished, veteran hero from days long gone – and Bonecrusher was about to make him long gone.
“Who the hell are you?” growled Nova menacingly, his fists clenched tightly around his Scythe.
Scratch gawped, speechless as he stared from Bonecrusher to the heroes, finally realizing he was the only person visible to the two newcomers in the poor lighting. “The name’s Scratch” he replied as his rodent-like tail swished in the air.
There was a moment’s silence as the two heroes glanced at each other, confused. They hadn’t been expecting to run into the Trivolian, they had been looking for Bonecrusher himself, which meant somebody had told them he was in there.
“He’s wanted,” muttered the rookie hero finally. “He’s been selling secrets on the Hero Factory to our enemies for years. I think Zire said something about him being the owner of this place.”
“Then, Ratchet, you can cuff him and we’ll take him with the others,” ordered Nova.
The rookie – who Bonecrusher assumed to be this Ratchet person – nodded and lowered his weapon to reach for a pair of Herocuffs only for his hand to come back empty. “Ah,” he muttered. “I knew I’d forgotten something.”
Nova stared at the rookie then sighed. The elite Recon Team member tucked his Scythe away and stepped forwards, producing his own pair of Herocuffs to arrest Scratch – a move that saved the rookie’s life.
As the hulking Hero grabbed Scratch’s left wrist, Bonecrusher’s arm swung upwards and his Meteor Blaster flipped into place. Ratchet tensed and turned towards him as the orb of energy crackled with light and began to hum. The red armored hero noticed Bonecrusher in the darkness and yelled out a warning to his team mate a moment too late.
Bonecrusher fired his weapon. There was a loud crackle of energy as the blast struck Fredrick Nova and sent him flying backwards, crashing into the wall on the far side of the room and disappearing into the darkness with an almighty CRASH. The bounty hunter could imagine his prey, lying inert on the ground, paralyzed by the effects of his weapon.
He may as well just add the name Fredrick Nova to his list of dead heroes.
What happened after that was a blur. Bonecrusher sprang forwards, propelled by his muscular legs, and dodged the energy bursts that erupted from the rookie’s weapon. Ratchet yelled something at him that he didn’t hear. Instead of sitting down and listening, the Aurosian leapt closer to the hero and landed a solid punch aimed at his head. However, the rookie anticipated the move and threw himself to the side, causing Bonecrusher to catch his left arm with his fist. Not the effect he had wanted but the screams of pain were satisfying enough. As the hero clattered to the ground and rubbed his arm, Bonecrusher decided to slip through the open doorway. He skipped over the guard - who was still unconscious - and disappeared into the ocean of brawling criminals. There were about a dozen heroes in the coridoor, but none of them were fighting. Instead they were trying to tear the villains away from one another. None of them noticed the hooded Aurosian as he made his way back to his craft, a sinister plan in mind.
The Guinevere One space craft was a hugely important part of the history of his species. It had been the first time a single member of the Aurosian species had died in space and had been regarded as one of the biggest disasters in planetary history. Although he had never met any of the crew members in his life, they had all received long and proper ceremonies after the ship’s supposed destruction. He knew the names of all eleven crew members. They had all been pioneers and heroes in Aurosian culture.
Perhaps he could get an autograph before he enslaved them all.
As The Beagle VI’s engines burst into life, Bonecrusher began to laugh. It was disturbing yet uncontrollable. The Aurosian hadn’t laughed in years. Now all of his bottled-up emotions were leaking out into one unstoppable cackle. Maniacal laughter boomed over the sound of the craft’s thrusters inside the craft as the Beagle VI tore through the ranks of Dropships and escaped into the dark, vast, emptiness of space, its pilot’s hilarity echoing throughout the cabin, like dry bones rattling in the morning air.
The hero known as Jay Ratchet lay sprawled on the ground, wincing in pain. His arm was stinging and he could feel the imminent injury. Damaged mechanical gears and cogs buzzed and grinded behind the dent in his armor. The hero grunted and bore the pain.
Something flashed past his helmet, a streak of silver metal. Ratchet grunted and wrenched his eyes wide open. It was a foot, a foot belonging to Scratch. The Trivolian just stared at him, a wickedly sharp blade in his hand. The rodent-like villain glanced from the fallen rookie hero at his feet to the weapon in his hands. He hesitated before deciding he had to act. His sinister, crooked smile broadened as he pulled his arm back, ready to strike – a big mistake.
He shouldn’t have hesitated.
Ratchet snapped into action, sensing the danger. His right arm swung upwards, catching Scratch’s ankle and scooping the criminal off his feet. Startled, the black marketer let out a startled yelp of surprise before the blade slipped out of his hand and dug itself into the metal floor, centimeters away from Ratchet’s neck.
The rookie was on his feet before Scratch managed to regain his balance. As he sprung upwards, Ratchet managed to snatch up his Energy Harpoon in one hand and the Herocuffs – which Nova had dropped – in the other hand. When he landed he tripped and had to steady himself by pushing his foot forwards. Scratch quivered and recoiled. The Trivolian’s hands shot into the air, a form of surrender.
“OK, OK,” he cried in a voice that sounded like something between a whine and a playful laugh. “You got me. I give in.”
Ratchet stayed still, his Energy Harpoon aimed at the Trivolian’s quivering chest. Gutlessness ran deep within the rodent-like being’s species. It was common knowledge. Trivoli had a reputation for being the single most invaded planet in the known galaxy simply because of the craven nature of its inhabitants. Scratch was obviously no exception.
The hero continued aiming his weapon at the black marketer in front of him as he turned his head to look for his team mate, Fredrick Nova. He could see the elite hero’s foot sticking out of the shadows. He hoped his ally was just unconscious. The loss of such a renowned, well-respected veteran hero on a mission like this would not look good on Ratchet’s record.
Everyone just seemed to blame the rookie these days.
The hero turned his head back to Scratch only to see his captive on his feet, trying to yank the blade he had dropped out of the ground hurriedly.
“Hey!” growled the novice as the black marketer looked up, his eyes wide.
Acting on gut instinct, Ratchet swung his leg upwards and kicked Scratch in the face. The Trivolian yelled and swayed backwards, clutching his already crooked jaw in agony. Another kick brought the black marketer to his knees and Ratchet’s Energy Harpoon to his head, aimed square between his eyes.
“Try anything else funny and I'll be able to sharpen pencils in your head,” snarled the rookie, a dangerous tremble to his tone. Scratch’s hands rose to the air once again as he laughed and nodded whilst trying to weasel his distance from the weapon.
“Sure, whatever you say,” gurgled the Trivolian defensively. Ratchet grunted in response as he clamped the Herocuffs onto his captive’s wrists and grabbed them, yanking him after him.
The pain in his left arm was still there. He could feel it as jolts of pain surged through his circuits. He imagined it swelling and bruising when he knew that was impossible. Still, the rookie gritted his metallic-teeth as he wrapped his injured arm around what he thought was Fredrick Nova’s waist and pulled the bulky hero onto his shoulder.
There was going to be a long flight ahead of him before he could return to Makuhero City. He sure as hell wasn’t going to sit through that alone with a creep like Scratch. Rescuing Nova was probably more for his own sanity than his sense of morals.
Baring the almost unendurable pain, Jay Ratchet turned to Scratch and prodded him with his Energy Harpoon. “Lead on” he ordered. “To the shuttle hanger. If you step as much as a meter out of line then I’ll blast you a hole in the neck: it’s the latest thing.”
Defeated, the spineless black marketer smiled faintly then began walking towards the open doorway and into the tavern-wide brawl. Ratchet carried his inert team mate after him, into the slightly better lit bar.
He had never been so happy to see the light.
- "This highly-anticipated story will definitely not disappoint those who have eagerly awaited its debut. With so much attention paid to detail in a way that does not seem not too excessive, this story effectively generates an interesting world of various shades of light and dark. With as much focus put on the "villains" as the Heroes, the character really does show character development in both sides of the struggles, regardless of their backgrounds and affiliations. Based on the first chapter alone, BobTheDoctor27 has definitely shown a much darker and mature version of the Hero Factory universe, which is very much good, and incorporates a much more serious attitude than we're used to.
The writing is extremely good, though this isn't surprising coming from BobTheDoctor27. The timing, pacing, and execution of his writing is brilliant, and it very effectively generates a very strong tension, and is able to generate strong imagery of the locations seen in the story. I am very sure this story will amaze me even more as it progresses through its run!"
- ―Chicken Bond.