"I'll allow it," said Seismic as he watched the rock formations shudder and break apart. At first, the formations had broken apart rapidly, but now, the building sized upturned rock spikes were falling one by one.
The Locus was…slowing down as it approached them, taking up almost a casual strolling pace.
The defenders stopped firing in confusion, though they aimed their guns and weapons forwards, feeling tension cling heavily at their backs.
The Locus walked straight through the rock of the final rock formation, completely ignoring its existence. The building sized rock collapsed all around it.
When the Locus emerged out of the rubble and the dust clouds settled down, that was when it became fully visible.
Just shy of a hundred meters away from the defensive line.
The Locus did not look that menacing. It was approximately two meters tall and surprisingly skinny. It was strikingly humanoid in appearance with bipedal legs and four lanky arms. Where the crabmen, fishmen, and mermen were bipedal, they were not in any sense of the word humanoid.
Their features were distinctively monstrous. Inhuman. It was impossible to ever mistake them as a man.
But the Locus - if one did not look at it too closely, it might have been possible to mistake it was someone inside unique power armor.
One pair of the Locus's arms possessed five fingered hands while another pair ended in shrimp-like claws, though these claws were not that much larger than its hands. Its body was covered in segmented shell colored a bright iridescent rainbow color.
The color gradient of the shell constantly fluctuated in many bright, glowing shades, though the dominant colors were bright green and blue.
A shrimp-like tail swished and swayed behind it. Some red and raw strands of musculature were visible in gaps and seams beneath the creature's bright shell. Its head was covered in layers of shell that looked almost like a motorcycle helmet, and underneath the plating, surprisingly human looking rainbow-colored eyes were visible.
Twin antennae poked out of its head in long and thin, translucent blue strands that crackled with electrical charge.
The Locus walked forwards; its head cocked curiously as it observed the humans.
"Take it down!" came a cry from behind Seismic, and the defensive line fired all they had.
A storm of bullets, missile salvos, and tank shots crashed against the Locus, completely engulfing it in fiery explosions and high-speed lead collisions. Smoke and fire roared up around it, obscuring it.
"Stop!" said Seismic after ten good seconds of this bombardment.
The smoke settled, and the Locus was there. It hunkered down with its arms thrust out in front of it like a scared child, but it was mostly unharmed. A smoking crater decorated with fire sprawled out all around it, but the actual damage done to it was pitiful.
There were a few scratches in its shell - that was it.
"Throw me there," said Mel.
"What?" said Seismic.
"I can't fly without a jumpstart of energy, so I need you to throw me. I'll cut it down and end this once and for all," said Mel. "Or do you have anything against a vigilante taking your kill?"
All Seismic said was, "Good luck."
From what he could tell, this girl was young. Likely driven by some form of strong passion, maybe vengeance. She had talk and attitude in her, and that was something Seismic was getting a little too old to deal with.
Instead, Seismic grabbed Mel roughly by the shoulder and punted her like a baseball. Mel at first ragdolled out from Seismic's power, but she quickly regained direction in the air, spinning in a compact ball with her blade in front of her, rotating in flashes of gold.
When Mel was directly above the Locus, she directed force behind herself and shot down towards the Locus, fueling this descent with thrusters from her greaves.
The Locus looked up at her and blinked wonderingly, not at all bothering to defend itself.
Mel slashed down at the creature's head. The Locus just stared up at her with cocked and curious head. Her blade glowed gold as it reached down to the Locus's neck. Using her force direction ability, she could continuously rotate energy around her blade at insanely high speeds capable of slicing at the molecular level, negating any durability.
This exceeded the sharpness of even the highest end of Vibroblades on the market. No matter how tough this creature's shell was, if it did not dodge, it was done for.
The Locus's antennae twitched at the very last millisecond, when the blade nearly touched it, and it moved to the side. It moved in a flash of crackling energy bolts, and it moved so quickly that it looked almost like it had just teleported.
Mel found herself stabbing into the ground.
"Y-you…," said the Locus as it's eyes landed on her golden blade.
Mel's eyes widened in sheer surprise.
The Locus had…spoken?
It was impossible for a variant to ever speak. The only time it ever happened was with parasite type variants that hijacked the brains of humans.
But this variant talked, there was no mistaking it.
"You killed mother." The Locus's human eyes narrowed into sinister, monstrous hatred.
Mel's power was a rare multi-category power that had two parts to it. The first allowed her to control the direction of energy around her body. The second allowed her mind to make exceptional levels of calculations specialized to fine tune this energy control.
Mel could thus react to the Locus's attack, but her body was far too slow to keep up with it.
The Locus reached out and grabbed Mel's sword arm wrist and her head. It lifted her up in the air with the ease of lifting up a feather. The Locus glared at Mel as it tightened the grip on its hands, exerting immense crushing force onto her wrist and upper half of her head.
Golden shimmers rapidly flickered from around her head and wrist, indicating force she was diverting away from herself.
"You don't die…?" The Locus cocked its head and stared at Mel for a few seconds. "Then, go away."
With that, the Locus threw Mel away, bolts of energy arcing with its movements. The power of its throw was such that Mel was sent soaring away over the walls themselves, likely to crash into a few buildings down in her descent.
"Stand back!" said Seismic before panic could settle in among the heroes and policemen behind him. He slammed his fists together, and his bracers clicked as they readied to channel his powers. "I'm going to take this thing down.
All of you, give me cover fire, make sure no other variants get in my way.
But do not try to step in - all of you will be dead weights in a fight of this scale."
"Yes sir!" came a resonating shout.
Seismic breathed in, then breathed out. He closed his eyes, looked up, then opened them. He saw several drones floating in the sky, recording everything. He pointed at them and did something he rarely ever did: smiled.
"Son, no, James, this…is for you. I'll make you proud. If…if I never come back, know that you made this sad life of mine worth living," With that, Seismic's expression turned grim again as he jumped dozens of meters in the air, his fist cocked back and a white sphere encased around it.
Again, the Locus did not react, instead only watching Seismic curiously as the giant of a man bore down his fist against it.
As with Mel, the instant before Seismic's fist made contact with the Locus, it evaded, its body wreathed in an aura of crackling blue energy as it instantly moved to the side.
Seismic's fist smashed into the ground, missing the Locus entirely.
"…Slow," said the Locus.
Seismic, with his enhanced senses, had heard the Locus speak with Mel, so he was not surprised.
"And you are stupid," said Seismic.
The ground around them completely caved into a yawning sinkhole gouged out from Seismic's quake power, and as the Locus lost its balance from the ground suddenly parting beneath it, Seismic quickly grabbed the creature into an expertly performed headlock to trap it and prevent the beast from using its superspeed.
All the while, Seismic generated his power around his arms, forcing shockwaves to continuously ravage the Locus's body from within and keep it pinned to Seismic with immense amounts of crushing force.
Seismic and the Locus free fell into the deep fissure.
The defenders closest to the yawning sinkhole rushed over to the edge, trying to see Seismic, and they saw the Locus struggling, putting its thin hands over Seismic's brawny arms crushing its neck.
Waves of shockwave energy continuously washed over the Locus, cracking its shell armor all over, causing strange blue blood to spurt out everywhere. Before Seismic and the Locus fell so deep that darkness sucked them up, the Locus spurted blood from its mouth as the shell around its throat cracked.
"He did it! Seismic did it!" came a rousing shout.
"That's an A ranker for you! Sh*t, when this is over, Seismic better get promoted back to A+, hell, he should be in the S class!"
"With the Locus gone, these sea freaks are gonna start running with their tails behind their legs!"
"My family - they're safe!"
Cheers and declarations of victory echoed like wildfire around the human defenders.
Ten seconds passed. The cheers started to grow quieter.
Twenty seconds. There was only pure silence now.
Thirty seconds. Silence crystallizing into mounting dread.
Then - despair.
The earth rumbled one last time, shockwaves from deep within the ground rising up and making the ground tremble, and for a brief moment, everyone thought Seismic had landed the final blow.
Seismic shot up over the sinkhole, crashing back on rocky ground and knocking a Framed policeman over.
The policeman groaned as he got up, but when he saw Seismic -
"No…no, no, no!"
There was a gaping hole in Seismic's stomach, and his body was charred beyond recognition. The bracers around his arms had shattered into sparking grey pieces. His internal organs had been completely turned blackened, and his bones were charred into near ash.
He was dead. And no Restorer was going to bring him back from that.
Their only hope, the A ranker, the man whose back they had always looked towards - gone, reduced to nothing more than burnt and destroyed flesh.
The ground shuddered again, but this time, it was not from Seismic's quakes. It was from the incoming march of the entire variant army as they rushed forwards, confirming to the despair of all humans that the Locus was not dead either.
Gunfire and explosives resumed again, but this was just the final desperate efforts of prey before they fell to the jaws of death.
In everyone's earpieces, the panicked cries of the flying heroes buzzed through.
"We're losing ground here! Our barrier Creators are dead! We're getting outgunned! They're going to man the Plasma Anemones again!" shouted Mothman, designated leader of the flyers. "Rocket Man's been downed - we need support-,"
Mothman's voice cut off.
The policeman kneeling beside Seismic's body took down the helmet of his frame and silenced communications. He looked ahead at the incoming tidal wave of variants and shook his head. He saw as explosions rocked their ranks, but it was like scooping out shovelfuls of sand in an entire beach.
At the head of this charge was the leader of the crabmen, its enormous body barreling forward like a living tank. It took tank shots to its body and face directly, and all that did was make it pause for second before resuming its bloodthirsty advance.
"It's over," said the policeman as he dropped his gun. He could hear the sounds of people running behind him, but what was the point?
They were going to get swarmed. They would all die. All their families, all the lives they had built up, washed away just like that -
The king crab variant jumped past the sinkhole straight towards the policeman. The shadow of its enormous body cast over the policeman, and he just closed his eyes, waiting for death.
It never came.
Instead, a loud crash of metal rang through the air, and the policeman opened his eyes.
What looked like a humanoid monster stood in front of him. It was covered in black metal like flesh with living, bloody veins and patches lining it. Three horns of black and bone jutted from its head as did a single gleaming red eye.
This was a terrible, terrible monster. One that sent chills of impending death down the policeman's spine when he gazed at it.
But the monster was not there to kill him, no -
The monster's arm, covered in thick coils of raw, exposed muscle, was raised in the air, acting like a shield that blocked the king crab variant's pincer slam. The king crab variant clicked its mandibles as it struggled against the new monster to no avail.
"W-what!?" The policeman's eyes widened as he saw the scene unfolding before him.
"You've lost your will to live just like that? After all the sacrifice you've seen for your sake? Pick up your gun. Fight." A commanding voice resonated outwards from the black monster, and that was when the policeman gained his wits and realized that this was no monster, it was a man.
A man in some form of armor he had never seen before. But what the policeman did recognize was his authority.
That voice projected with authority. Authority borne from power.
The same kind of authority that Seismic himself had carried in his voice.
Tears welled up in the policeman's eyes as he stared at the black armored man's back.
For a moment, he saw the image of Seismic's back standing tall, overlapping with the armored man.
The policemen grit his teeth and drew together his will.