Raven made his dark promise as twenty men rushed into the lab with weapons ready. They arrayed themselves before their leader in a semi-circle, then pulled the trigger on twenty high-grade rifles.
The lab became a backdrop for a dazzling display of broken glass and sparks as bullets tore the place apart.
Concentrated rifle fire obliterated everything in the enclosed space. The best fighters in the wasteland wouldn’t be able to protect themselves from what was tantamount to a wall of hot lead. Most of the unfortunate souls in the room were hardly fighters, either, but scientists who didn’t know how to defend themselves. Shooting fish in a barrel would be more difficult.
Cloudhawk was fast enough to grab Hellflower, and the two huddled behind the thick examination table he’d tipped onto its side. As the hail of gunfire pummeled it the metal bent and warped, but did not give.
Cloudhawk scowled. “All this fuckin’ noise!”
He snapped his fingers and a formless, invisible cocoon of energy spread out to fill half the laboratory. The assassins looked around as they struggled to understand the sudden, inexplicable circumstance.
Their weapons were firing – they could tell by the kick-back and muzzle flare – but there was no sound at all. The bullets ricocheted through the room but they heard nothing. It was like someone just shut off the volume.
It wasn’t a power from any relic. This time the mute field came from him and him alone. It was an unsung phenomenon, for never in recorded history had any demonhunter been able to use a relic’s power without the tool itself. Summoning a mute field wasn’t an earth-shattering accomplishment, but it did stop the attackers from being able to communicate. A flaw that maybe he could exploit.
Sure enough, as they continued to fire that flaw revealed itself.
Cloudhawk reached over the gurney and flung eight metal spikes toward the door. They slipped through the air fast as any bullet, faster than anyone could believe, and each one found a target.
Was this guy omniscient?! He didn’t even need to aim!
He wasn’t, of course. He had to aim, but not necessarily with the help of his eyes. Moments after the spikes ended eight of the gunmen, a streak of gold swept by that opened the throats of several more.
Oddball’s dagger-like wings ripped through soft flesh without effort. It came at Cloudhawk’s beck and call as he reached out to form a connection. After engorging itself on eboncrys the small bird was overflowing with energy and flew almost faster than the eye could follow. At that speed, skin was separated like wet paper.
It stopped for just the blink of an eye and beat its tiny wings. Glittering, golden feathers fanned out in a deadly semi-circle!
Hellflower craned her neck over the table to see what was happening. Twenty assassins were now rapidly cooling corpses, in just a matter of seconds. Eight were on the ground with metal spikes in vital areas, and eight more were bled dry from holes in their throats. The rest had been killed by feathers.
So fast! How quickly the tables had turned!
Raven stood before the doorway like an iron tower, unmoved. Ten more giant men stood behind him, just as grim and quiet. Their average height was over two meters and even then they were still slightly shorter than Raven.
A red light flickered in the man’s dark eyes. “Kill them.”
But of course, there was no sound. Still the large men seemed to get the message.
They came closing in like hulking shadows, outfitted differently from the others. They wore something on their head like motorcycle helmets, and everything from their vests to their gloves to their boots were all made of metal. It made them look almost mechanical, a technical fighting force comparable if very different from the artistry of elite elysian warriors. The armor these men wore was simple in appearance, but exceptional in function.
They moved in lock-step, almost mechanical. A host of heaven guns were raised their way.
They were not normal guns, either. Rocket launchers!
Cloudhawk narrowed his eyes, tracking the trajectory of their gunfire. Wrapping an arm around Hellflower’s waist he crouched low, then exploded into the air. He leaped safely from behind the gurney to another bit of cover.
Hellflower was not idly flung around. She drew her pistols and tightened her grip.
These were high-grade weapons dug up from ruins of the ancient world. They were unique in that their projectiles weren’t propelled by gunpowder, but electromagnetic coils. The magnetic current sped up the bullets to incredible speed before releasing them, which in turn made them far more destructive.
She fired off a volley with incredible speed!
The rockets spat from the tech unit’s weapons where struck in midair. Sparks, explosions, shrapnel – the lab was a battlefield but still remained silent as the grave. The armor-clad behemoths stumbled from the blasts.
Hellflower followed up with two quick shots at Raven. They struck, but didn’t seem to puncture flesh. However he was thrown back against a nearby wall. In the space of a few seconds the assassins had lost their advantage, and now found themselves in a difficult position.
Years of wandering the wastes had made Hellflower strong. She was formidable years ago when Cloudhawk met her in Blackwater, and she was only more terrifying now. In addition, her new guns could blow holes in three inch steel plating. There was no reason why Raven could have survived. With him dead the others weren’t any concern.
But he wasn’t dead.
Raven’s cloak of thin, metallic feathers had deflected her bullets. The dramatic clothing had to be made from elysian tungsten – much sturdier than normal armor. The cloth material itself was some kind of mesh composite that offered extra protection against piercing blows. The combination made him effectively bulletproof, even against Hellflower’s high-velocity shots. Raven probably wore more armor underneath.
Metal feathers chimed while Raven got back to his feet. There was something about the guy that made Cloudhawk very uncomfortable – like there was something about him that was not normal.
No more waiting around, the Warden was a man of action. Phase, become invisible, move in close, attack.
The lab was still encased in a shell of soundlessness. With that and his invisible, formless body Cloudhawk was impossible to detect as he moved toward the tech soldiers. He shoved his exorcist rod into them, releasing his mental power through it as the phase field dropped. The explosion of force ripped through the soldier and sent him careening wildly through the air like a rag doll.
Two quick swipes from the staff followed, two more armored attackers went flying!
Meanwhile Oddball was doing its part, whipping among the soldiers and using its wings to cut their weapons apart. They were left with no way to defend or pressure their target.
He broke through the line of tech soldiers and moved in toward Raven. Even though Cloudhawk never dropped his invisibility it didn’t seem to confound the assassin. Tugging his cloak, the feathered armor was flung out toward him with a dangerous ringing. If Cloudhawk wanted to get in close enough to land a blow he would have to fight through a host of knives.
He instinctively backed away.
From Ravens wide sleeves extended a hand wrapped in a metal gauntlet. The fingers were several inches long and ended in spiked tips strong enough to pierce concrete. But it wasn’t enough to overcome Cloudhawk’s phasing ability.
An odd buzzing sound emerged as a high-frequency particle blade emerged from the same sleeve.
The guy’s fighting style was fast and brutal. He changed approaches fast and often enough to make his next moves hard to read. Definitely an opponent of rare skill. The speed with which he attacked was no less dangerous than the likes of Vulture and other Dark Atom leadership, but Cloudhawk had his own methods to defend himself – to begin with, his incorporeal body.
He didn’t need it now.
As Raven lashed out with the particle blade he was stopped mid-swing and sent reeling backwards. His hulking form struck the wall again with bone-jarring force. Several of the feathers on his cloak dropped to the floor in pieces.
The cabal of tech soldiers looked at the culprit; a massive, ominous tower of metal stood with its arm outstretched. An orb of blue energy was gathering in its palm, and then released.
The armored giants were hit with a deluge of energy that pitched them several meters back. They hit the ground near the far corner in a heap of limbs.
Cloudhawk recognized the new arrival, a golem that represented the apex of ancient technology. Its entire body was specially constructed tungsten steel that could self-repair, capable of sustaining incredible heat and tremendous force.
Wolfblade had controlled it when they attacked Hell’s Valley. The enormous guardian cut an impressive figure, capable even of standing toe to toe against Instructor Dumont’s relic-empowered charge!
Afterwards, the guardian was gifted to Hellflower. With such a powerful force by her side, it was unlikely anything was a threat. However, Cloudhawk saw he wasn’t giving their enemies enough credit, for even after taking a direct blow from the guardian Raven got back onto his feet like nothing had happened.
And so did the ten tech soldiers.
Raven’s reputation among the Dark Atom wasn’t just because of his personal abilities, vaunted though they were. He also commanded this unit of mysterious and powerful armored giants. All of them were uniquely talented killers, as skilled in combat as those like Vulture. The suits of armor they wore were the same grade of ancient technology as Hellflower’s guns, far from ordinary equipment even for Seekers. The tech unit’s fighting abilities were nothing short of incredible.
With their weapons destroyed, the soldiers charged forward into melee range. Cloudhawk was left with no choice but to meet them head on.
Several successive blows had destroyed Raven’s glasses. Behind the glass, his left eye crackled with electric energy. Certainly not natural.
Hellflower’s face was solemn and dignified. She’d only been part of the Dark Atom for a short time, but even she knew Raven’s reputation. He was Three-Eyed Spider’s most loyal dog, rarely dispatched and rarely sent out into the wastes. Consequently, Hellflower knew next to nothing about what he could do.
The silver guardian raised its arm. Blue light began to gather.
Raven fearlessly rushed forward, breaching half the distance between them when the guardian’s pulse wave was released. The assassin strafed to the side but was still clipped by it. The blast tore off his mask and glasses, and whipped back his cloak. Three-Eyed Spider’s mysterious servant was fully revealed.
His face was a mess of poorly healed scars. His right eye was normal, but the left was an electronic replacement. His scalp was gone, and where there should have been hair there was instead a metal plate like some kind of helmet. His half-human, half-machine appearance was disturbing to behold.
Hellflower’s irises constricted. “A cyborg?”
Roste wasn’t the only madman who had tried to improve his body. Three-Eyed Raven wasn’t the only lunatic trying to extend his life.
Three-Eyed Spider had to be brilliant in order to achieve his status among the Dark Atom. He and Roste both were scientific minds practically without equal. Their processes were as incredible as they were unique; Roste’s transformation went deep, to the genetic level. A biological effort that was difficult but continuous and self-improving. Three-Eyed Spider’s tried to exploit a shortcut by combining high technology with the natural body to create a living machine.
Natural and unnatural. Each had its advantages and drawbacks.
Raven was no man. He was Three-Eyed Spider’s weapon. A semi-artificial super human!
The silver guardian’s pulse wave didn’t catch the cyborg full-on, but it did stop his charge and cause some visible damage. It moved forward to launch an attack of its own, flinging its silvery streamline fist at its enemy. It caught the assassin in the chest.
Raven didn’t dodge. He couldn’t, nor would it have helped. A hand-to-hand battle with the silver guardian was suicide.
His chest caved in where the guardian struck. Obviously the damage was severe, but there remained no expression on Raven’s scarred face. Perhaps whatever process had converted him into this creature had stolen the ability to show emotion? He abandoned any futile attempt to defend himself, and instead met the guardian’s fist while wrapping his own hands around its head.
Ravens body suddenly crackled with surging electrical current. Thousands of volts coursed through his metallic arms and into the guardian’s head. While Hellflower’s protector was reaching back for a second blow, its body suddenly went rigid.
Raven whipped his leg around and kicked the metal beast away. It hit the ground and skid through the mute field, sending sparks cascading through the air. A trench of broken tile marked where it passed. When it stopped the guardian remained frozen where it lay, convulsing.
Impossible! Raven should not have been able to overcome the high-grade robot! Cloudhawk had seen what the robot could do with his own eyes. Raven had to have used some kind of special ability to knock it out of commission.
Now Hellflower’s face was turned in a dark scowl. She didn’t know enough about their enemy, but he knew everything about her. He proved that by beating her protector. Fire, ice, acid – nothing was too much for the guardian. Physical damage? Laughable. Its only weakness was high-voltage electricity!
Raven knew this and had come prepared. For the time being, the silver guardian’s body was shut down and could not help. Without it, how was Hellflower supposed to defend herself against Three-Eyed Spider’s half-human assassin?
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Cyborgs and golems! After all the relic fights, we're now seeing what the Dark Atom has hidden up its sleeve.