"Holy sh*t, it's Seth Solar in the flesh," came the awed voices of Alter students as they looked up at the cocky slick-back creep like he was the second coming of Jesus.
Aldrich observed carefully.
Of the dozen Alter students that had circled around him, six were preoccupied staring in awe at Seth, gawking at him. The other six immediately turned tail and started to run, not caring to break Aldrich apart and take his points.
This meant one thing: Seth Solar was dangerous.
As predatory and dangerous to his fellow Alter students as he was to the Duds like Aldrich.
Aldrich carefully assessed what he could do against Seth, and in all likelihood, he realized he could do nothing.
The 'Solar' surname was one that almost everyone knew. Alter organs and their powers had some hereditary component to them, and the descendants of strong heroes would likely get similarly strong powers related to ones from their parents.
As a result, powerful top heroes formed dynasties where their descendants took up their capes, power, and influence.
The Solar family was one of these dynasties. Its head and strongest member was Solomon Solar, a hero of incredible power that stood at rank 15 out of the Superboard 100 that determined the heroes with the most influence throughout the North American continent.
Solomon Solar's ability was called Sunlight Overdrive, and with it, he could absorb solar energy into himself at immensely increased efficiency, using it to make his body insanely strong, fast, and durable. Not to mention he could fly at supersonic speeds and blast out intensely hot beams from his eyes.
If Seth Solar had inherited even one hundredth of Solomon Solar's powers, then there was nothing Aldrich could do against him. Not now, not ever.
There was a rumor that the Solar heroes had a specific weakness that crippled them, but whatever it was, the Solar dynasty had hired top end PR firms and net security companies to scrub any trace of it from the Globe Net.
Seth shook his head at the two limp Alter students that Aldrich had beaten up.
"Imagine. An Alter losing to a Dud dressing up in a tin can. The sheer disgrace of it. And all of you-," Seth sneered at the six Alters surrounding Aldrich. "How have you not beaten this Dud yet? All of you are just as pathetic as these powerless unevolved idiots."
Seth shot downwards like a comet, white bolts of energy crackling around his black uniform bodysuit. He moved so fast he was nearly impossible to perceive with the human eye, barely even a blur, and when he landed in front of Aldrich, he gouged out a massive crater with a rumbling impact and shockwave that sent both Aldrich and every Alter in the vicinity tumbling backwards.
Aldrich immediately flipped in mid-air, showcasing a level of agility with the bulky Frame suit that was nothing short of masterful, and landed back on his feet. Even in the face of overwhelming power, he would not give up.
The Alter students, however, were far less trained, and they had fallen flat on their backs, groaning at the impact.
"Pathetic," spat Seth as he heard the Alter students complain. He then disappeared in a flash, reappearing beside every individual Alter student for just a moment to unleash a powerful blow in their guts that rendered them completely immobile, making a couple vomit, knocking others out entirely, and shattering ribs here and there.
Seth then appeared directly in front of Aldrich with a wide, nearly manic smile.
That whole process of beating down six Alters had taken Seth just one split second.
This was power. Unimaginable, godgiven power from birth.
Aldrich hated that kind of power. The privilege of the strong who had everything since they were literal babies. That kind of privilege made these superpowered scum feel special and entitled beyond measure.
"So? You must think you're hot stuff, beating trash level Alters like that. Come on, here's a real challenge," said Seth as he waved his hand in front of Aldrich's face plate. "I'm right in front of you. Do something, you useless fucking waste of air!"
Aldrich engaged the thrusters in his right arm and sent out a solid boosted right straight into Seth's face.
Seth tanked the hit with his head straight on. The sound of cracking impact echoed through the air, and when Aldrich withdrew his hand, he found that the metal around his fist had warped as if they had hit an impossibly hard surface.
Seth smiled at Aldrich, not a single hair on his head harmed.
"Yeah, that's what I thought. No matter how hard you try, this is all you amount to. What? You thought you could actually train to be as good as us? You thought 'working hard' could make up the difference between us?" said Seth. "Between someone born strong and, well, whatever the hell you are?"
Seth thrust out his open palm, smashing into Aldrich's chest before he could even react. Aldrich felt like a truck had crashed into him, sending him hurtling a dozen meters backwards, skidding across the dirt in his bulky frame.
Red alert lights flashed in Aldrich's vision and he saw a diagram of his Frame suit highlighted in the corner of his vision. Large red patches over the Frame's chest and stomach area indicated critical damage.
Aldrich struggled to get up, but the impact had not only shattered some of his ribs, but it had also damaged the hydraulic support systems and metal-fiber muscle weave of the Frame to the point where the power suit was now little more than dead weight. All he could do was shakily get back on one knee.
Elaine stumbled in front of Aldrich, her arms raised up in a guard.
"Can you stand?" said Elaine. "I can hold him off for a couple of seconds, but I can't guarantee anything more than that."
"Oh, look at you. You're that girl from before. Lots of spirit in you, heh." Seth licked his lips.
"I like that. But I won't beat you up. Don't want to ruin your face, after all. Plus, if it isn't obvious enough already, none of you are worth my time. I just wanted to show you ants how useless it was to think you were worth anything in this world," said Seth as he crossed his arms and started to levitate in the air. "Ghost, deal with them. I'm going to crush some Alters more on my level."
With that, Seth flew away, leaving Aldrich and Elaine alone with Adam still unconscious.
"Ghost?" said Elaine as she looked around, trying to figure out where this 'ghost' was.
Based on obvious context clues such as the fact that this guy was not visible and he was called 'ghost', Aldrich figured this was an invisible enemy,
"Scan…Scanning systems. There's thermal imagery, sound-based radar, and AC scans," said Aldrich with a cough as he grit his teeth and held down the massive amounts of pain burning at his ribs and stomach. He tried to get his Frame's scanners to start working, but Seth's hit had broken most of his suit's functions.
"Got it," said Elaine. She moved more fluidly now, getting used to her Frame surprisingly quickly.
"There you are!" said Elaine as she used her Frame's scans. She rotated around and threw out a roundhouse kick aimed right at the head level of a human sized enemy in front of her. However, her kick just went through plain air.
"Sorry, but that won't work on me," came a quiet voice from seemingly nowhere.
Aldrich watched as little ripples - distortions in space - formed around the metal of Elaine's Frame legs. Then, the metal crumpled and tore apart in arm-sized holes. Elaine fell heavily down face first, her movement disabled.
A male figure became visible, filling out from translucent ripples in space. A lanky, gaunt looking man with pale skin and white hair with feral red eyes. "Invisibility is just one thing I can do. But I can also phase through matter. And when my matter gets superimposed on existing matter-,"
Ghost knelt down and shoved his hand into the back of Elaine's Frame suit. His arm phased through the metal as if he were dipping it into water. "My matter always wins out. "
Ghost's arm phased back in, and when it did, any metal around it warped and broke apart. This caused critical damage to Elaine's Frame, and her suit whirred down, the power shutting off.
Aldrich observed. He always observed, trying to figure out weaknesses for later. He noticed that Ghost had phased his entire arm through the Frame, but though he twisted apart any metal in the way of his arm, Elaine's living, organic body was unharmed despite the fact that Ghost's arm had phased through it too.
That meant that Ghost could not use his phasing ability to harm living matter.
"Hmm. Soft," said Ghost as he sat on Elaine's prone frame and used the hole he had gouged out to start running his fingers across the skin of her exposed back. Elaine could do nothing but remain still, her Frame encasing her in a metal prison now that it was depowered. "The boss told me to spare you, but not him-,"
Ghost got off of Elaine's back and stared at Aldrich. He scooped out metal from Aldrich's chest area, baring the heavily bruised skin from Seth's strike. "Ouch. That has got to hurt. What is that? Two broken ribs? Well, another won't hurt, will it?"
Ghost pressed his finger into Aldrich's ribcage and applied pressure until he snapped one of Aldrich's ribs.
Aldrich exhaled painfully, but he did not cry out or make any sounds. He was used to pain, highly tolerant of it, and he knew that to bullies and lowlives like this, any sign of weakness was just an invitation for more pain.
"Boring," said Ghost. He shrugged at Aldrich's lack of reaction. "No screaming, no crying, no begging. Whatever."
Ghost pushed Aldrich and tipped him over, leaving him incapacitated.
"See you losers later in the F-class. Frame students in F - kinda fits, huh?" Ghost chuckled as he casually strolled away, turning invisible.