Six green scaled fishmen each manned two Vent Worms, holding their large black shells in place so that the worms within could direct their heat waves right into the metal vault doors below.
The Vent Worms were spaced just a short distance from each other so that their melting zones overlapped, creating one large spot of glowing white molten metal that would soon burn through the doors.
And then, it was open season to hunt the tasty and helpless humans down below.
Over a hundred fishmen gathered in a ring around the vault doors, licking their lips eagerly for their long awaited feast. A little ways from the main crowd their leader, the hulking, muscled, armor scaled shark variant, watched, overseeing this operation with gleaming yellow eyes.
The two squadrons of green scaled fishmen operating the worms cocked their heads as they felt an odd sensation weigh on their scales. An invisible weight that settled through their whole bodies. They looked around, swiveling their heads from side to side, wondering what was going on.
"Skraa! Skraa!" One of the fishmen on the outer ring pointed above wildly, but too late.
Minuteman emerged from a portal several dozens of meters in the air, away from sight, and hurtled straight down. He fell headfirst with his right arm stretched out, his round shield poised to take the impact of the fall.
He crash landed solidly behind the two green scaled fishman groups, and his silver shield took the energy of the fall and flashed blue before it reflected the force of the fall outwards in the form of a kinetic energy shockwave.
The shockwave knocked the green fishmen on their backs and toppled the Vent Worms over.
Outside of the water, Vent Worms had no way of moving around.
They relied on fishmen to carry them, and so they rolled on the backs of their shells helplessly.
Without a moment's hesitation, Minuteman clenched the fist of his shield arm and then twisted it, triggering a razor thin vibrocutting plasma layer to rapidly whir around his solid silver shield in a ring of glowing pale blue, almost white light.
Shaped plasma in the form of rapidly rotating micro saw teeth lined the shield, and armed with this deadly cutting edge, Minuteman threw his shield like a frisbee.
The shield shot forward like an arcing buzzsaw and sliced through both Vent Worm's shells like a hot knife through butter, killing them before continuing its path of destruction, whirring into the crowd of green fishmen and severing their bodies in halves.
After making a full round trip, the shield returned to Minuteman's forearm where it latched onto his red gauntlet with a mechanical click. The solidified plasma layer around the shield dimmed down, going on a short recharge period.
"Sorry, but if you want to get down there, you'll have to get through me," said Minuteman as he watched the countless hostile, gleaming yellow fish eyes stare at him from every direction. He faced those strange eyes and fanged snarls with a grin. "And trust me, you won't be getting through me."
Several blue scaled fishmen pointed their four arms at Minuteman. Water seeped out through their scales and gathered around their webbed palms, swirling into spheres that then pulsated, shooting out pellets of highly pressurized water like shotgun shells.
Minuteman put his shield in front of his face to stop his eyes from getting gouged out as he sprinted forwards. His shield was not big enough to cover more than half his body, and water bullets pelted his legs and back.
However, Minuteman's enhanced physique meant that firepower like this equivalent to small arms gunfire barely only stung him. He took the most damage at his exposed back, with hundreds of water bullets crashing against him, but so long as he kept his eyes safe, he could weather this storm of projectiles practically forever.
Minuteman leaped into the air when he got near enough to the blue fishmen, and before he landed, he threw his shield. It zipped forward, bouncing between four different fishmen and cracking their skulls before landing on the dirt.
This left Minuteman with both his hands free to fight with.
There were still dozens more fishmen to deal with ahead of Minuteman, so he shuffled among them, making sure that wherever he maneuvered, there was a fishman behind him to take the water bullets meant for his back.
All the while, Minuteman laid a beatdown on any fishmen near him. He used thoroughly trained mixed martial arts augmented with his superhuman stats.
Jabs, kicks, locks, throws - he used it all, dancing around the alarmed fishmen and tearing through their ranks.
Blue scaled fishmen were frailer in exchange for their ranged water bullets, so Minuteman could put them down with singular well-placed blows.
Red scaled fishmen had sharp blades on their fins and respectable land-based agility, but not fast enough to outmaneuver Minuteman. They were just as easy to put down as their blue scaled brethren.
Green fishmen were the toughest with stronger builds, durable scales, and a minor healing factor, and these, Minuteman beat by gouging out their eyes and ripping out their gills to secure a kill.
All the while, Minuteman kept his peripheral vision tracked on the shark variant. The shark variant seemed to just be watching for now, letting Minuteman make a mess of his subordinates.
Good, thought Minuteman. The more time he got, the more time he bought for Miles to open the hangar and jumpstart the carrier.
Once the hangar was open, it exposed the bunker. But once the carrier left, the only people left behind for the fishmen to try and hunt were trained C class heroes that would back Minuteman up.
That was how much time Miles had estimated it would take to get all this ready.
Minuteman could easily hold up for that long. Provided he only fought fishmen.
A sizable fishman, much larger than its brethren, growled as it trudged forwards, swiping away other smaller fishmen in its way as it sprinted towards Minuteman to try and tackle him.
Minuteman ducked under the clumsy swipe of the large but slow fishman before he closed his right fist. His red gauntlet-glove flickered with light, and his shield sped back towards him, latching back onto his forearm. He uppercut the green fishman with his circular shield, breaking the creature's jaw.
While the larger fishman reeled from the blow, Minuteman spun as he tossed his shield forwards.
The shield acted like a metal catapult ball, smashing into the fishman's knee and shattering the bone. This time, Minuteman instantly recalled his shield, catching it in midair before spinning again, giving more momentum to a second throw that shattered the fishman's other kneecap.
The fishman grunted in pain as it fell face forwards, at which point Minuteman rushed forwards, jammed his hands into the creature's gills, then tore them out with a roar of exertion.
Blood sputtered from the fishman's gills as it screamed in agony before slumping to the ground, the holes on its neck convulsing as they gasped for breath.
Minuteman dropped the fleshy gill matter from his hands and flicked blood off his arms. The smaller fishmen around Minuteman shrieked in fear as they stumbled backwards.
That was the thing with fishmen. They were social creatures that moved in groups, but inherently, they avoided conflict and were quite cowardly. There were a lot of them in the world's oceans, but they were like cockroaches, numerous and able to populate anywhere, but weak.
The fact that they managed to gather in such a large scale like this, under other aquatic variants that were not even the same species of them, was impossible.
The shark variant loosed a guttural grunt that echoed through the air, and the fishmen all backed away, clearing the vault door as a makeshift arena. The shark variant stepped forwards, its sharp toothed gaze ever smiling as its beady yellow eyes gazed hungrily at Minuteman.
"Round 2, huh? Sorry to say, though, but this'll end up exactly like last time." Minuteman clenched his right fist and twisted it, activating his shield's plasma sawblades while simultaneously tossing it, giving the shark variant as little time as possible to register the attack.
Even if the shark variant had adapted to blunt force blows with its thicker scales, solidified plasma like this, especially rotating at vibrocutting speeds, would still pass through it with no issue.
The shark variant's three fins twitched, sensing motion in the air, and it swiveled around, lashing out with its lengthy tail. Its tail hit the shield in mid-air, forcefully pinging its trajectory far up. The shield whizzed by the shark variant, instead continuing forwards and mowing down several more fishmen behind it.
Minuteman exhaled. This thing's reactions, speed, and strength had all gotten considerably better since last time. There was no question about it: the monster was superior to Minuteman now. On top of this, Minuteman only had one more charge of plasma left in his shield.
Thankfully, the shark variant seemed to hold some sort of tribal, martial pride, preventing any of the other fishmen from intervening, but when Minuteman stared at that shark variant, at its powerfully muscled body, its force absorbing scales, its fins that registered attacks at lightning quick speed, and its many rows of jagged teeth, he knew he was staring into the face of death.
Minuteman smiled and stayed strong as he clenched his right fist, recalling his shield back to his forearm. Looking at his smile, a bystander would have thought Minuteman was just moments away from securing a win for himself.
Strong even when you are weak. Strong even when you are losing.
Because the moment you look weak isn't just the moment you lose for real, it's also the moment when everyone standing behind you, everyone watching you, everyone relying on you, loses as well.
"Sorry for the sneak attack," said Minuteman. "Now let's beat each other bloody the old-fashioned way… Me with my fists, you with your claws and jaws."