"…Can I ask what that means?" came the response on the other hand, but Aldrich just ignored that. He mentally called out for Crow, and the Alter's monstrous avian form came soaring through the skies before landing on the ground beneath Aldrich, right beside the tank.
In response, the tank and all the Alters around Crow reeled backwards in fright and surprise. The AC count scanners built into their frames registered Crow's AC count. In response, shocked conversation spread throughout the Alters like a wildfire burning through a dry forest.
"That thing, it's got an AC count of 8000. That's…that's an A rank variant…and that man, he's…tamed it?" said a man. "Look! Look how it just lets him get on its back like some kind of pet!"
"What!? He's tamed an A rank variant? That's impossible unless he has a power to control variants but that can't be it. He's strong, he's fast, he's got that barrier, he can conceal his own AC count, he's got those wings - just how many powers does he have!?"
"Is that the thing that surprises you the most? Just look at his army! Look at all those variants that he controls! Look at all that giant! And all those strong Alters with him too - he must be part of some massive team!"
"He's not part of any team I know."
"Then some kind of huge shadow organization, I don't know. There's plenty of rumors about them existing. He must be their head!"
"Sh*t, if he's manning an org that big with that much firepower to boot, then I want to see if I can be part of it. They give a lot more of a sh*t for us than the AA does, that's for sure."
"Yeah, you and your E grade techno power is gonna get you a place in THAT army?"
"Whatever it is, it doesn't matter." A stronger voice cut through the gossip. A short and stocky man waved his hand forward, towards the battlefield. On the chest of his frame was emblazoned a rectangular badge showcasing two stars.
A ranking badge that signified that he was a police captain. "All that matters is that he's saved us, and that he's right: we need to make the most of our lives as we can. So quit this yapping and get back to firing! Hold this line, boys, and tomorrow, we'll have one hell of a story to tell!"
Yes, thought Aldrich. One hell of a story. Very likely a story that would make his position negotiating against the AA and Panopticon heavily favored towards him.
"Let's go," said Aldrich, and Crow growled as he pushed his enormous wings down. With his wings stretched out like that, he was easily comparable in size to the battle tank nearby, and it was with pure relief that all the Alters there saw that Crow was not against them.
Crow soared into the air and flew over Portal Girl's position.
This, Aldrich dubbed, was the Portal Line where she worked overtime, generating portals en masse to take in undead from the battlefield to give them some resting time where they could regenerate before portaling back over the sinkhole to fight again.
Her expression was knit into pure concentration as she talked into an earpiece of her own, this one linked to the drones that Spybird and Fisk had set up. There, the drones not only recorded the battle, but also funneled battle information to her, determining which undead were injured and needed portals.
Here, the Deildeghasts also stood in formation, their greatswords clasped between their gauntleted hands, ready to be shoved down into the earth.
"Hold here." Aldrich bid Crow to hover above the Portal Line. He knew that with the flyers at the back of the variant army largely disabled, the variants would start to man more and more of their sea anemone cannons.
By now, Aldrich calculated that some of them were now ready to fire, and he confirmed this with a visual via his Grave Ward.
This was the perfect opportunity to show off, then. And to test this mechanic.
Aldrich turned around on Crow and stared back the rows and rows of humans firing their weapons, nursing their injured, and manning the drones that went back and forth over the walls, ferrying what little ammunition, repair kits, and med kits they had remaining.
Aldrich mentally recognized all of the humans as 'allies', and as he did so, he saw a green glint mark all of them.
A message appeared in the corner of Aldrich's vision, confirming this worked. Normally, units caught in Aldrich's [Mist of Undeath] and also the [Spirit Boundary] generated by the Deildeghasts would suffer all the negative effects from them which included life loss and obscured vision.
In the game, allied units could just see through the mist and spirit boundary with no issues, and it was a given that they did not get damaged either.
So far, Aldrich had held off on fully activating his [Mist of Undeath] because of the risk of damaging Alters, but if they could see through and operate their technology freely through the [Spirit Boundaries], then he would be confident to use his [Mist of Undeath] at full throttle.
"Sorry to interrupt, but they're firing more of them!" came the desperate voice from Aldrich's earpiece. "We can't stop them! There's four, no, five beams coming your way!"
"I've got it handled," said Aldrich coolly.
Aldrich stood on Crow and looked down like a commanding general. "Deildeghasts! Set down your boundaries!"
The Deildeghasts slammed their gauntleted bony fists into their warped breastplates of dull grey metal, loosing out three strong clanks in response. They then grasped their greatswords tightly before slamming them into the ground in unison.
Cracks lined with wispy curls of black energy formed from where their greatswords dug into shattered pavement and asphalt. Their grey, stained blades glowed for a moment before huge clouds of smoke burst out from them, billowing and gathering in a swirling pattern concentrated into the shape of a large dome.
The biggest difference between a Deildeghast and a regular Ghast lay in the effective range of their [Spirit Boundaries].
Where Ghasts could be considered units for smaller skirmishes, Deildeghasts could project their boundaries over vast stretches of area to make them fit for entire battlefields or, in the case of the game, full scale raid bosses where multiple allied heroes and their forces gathered.
The domes of smoke rose up just as four hydroplasma beams became visible in the distance, first as glints of blue light, and within seconds, as rapidly approaching pillars of destructive plasma.
The blasts slammed into the [Spirit Boundary] barriers, but just like with Aldrich's [Death Essence] barrier, the plasma beams exploded against the [Spirit Boundaries] without piercing through, merely causing the smoke to scatter for a few moments.
[Spirit Boundaries] were the perfect counter to elemental damage, being highly resistant to it. The damage from plasma mainly came from intense heat, and that filed under the fire element as far as game mechanics were concerned.
Aldrich observed that the humans stopped firing their weapons for a moment, surprised first by the boundaries then at the fact that they blocked the plasma beams.
"What is that smoke!? Just how many crazy things are going to happen tonight!?" said a bewildered policeman.
"Doesn't matter! We can see through it, so we can shoot through it! So keep firing!" shouted an older and more seasoned hero who fired spikes of metal from his hands.
Aldrich nodded as he witnessed the humans start to shoot again, their firing lines lighting up with little specks of bright light as their guns worked overtime. With that, Aldrich fully unleashed his [Mist of Undeath], stretching out his arms as he did so.
The mist emerged from his core, where his Phylactery was, still developing within him, still evolving. The ghostly green air settled down on the various injured undead beneath Aldrich, healing their wounds in a mere seconds, no matter how grievous they were.
Most of the injured, Aldrich noted, were the weaker variant and monster type undead such as the Alpha Striker, Mudcrabs, Alloywing Eagle, and Big arm Grizzly.
He noted with some level of wistfulness that they were soon going to outlive their usefulness, getting outscaled more and more as time went on and Aldrich's forces became stronger and stronger.
If they did not fall in battle, Aldrich would soon replace them with stronger units of his own creation.
That reminded him, he did know that Liches in lore could increase the strength of their undead, but there was precious little detailed information as to how they did it. But even in the lore, liches could only increase the levels of a few of their most precious undead, not any random low level monster or skeleton.
"Thanks for that!" Portal Girl shouted up to Aldrich before she generated more portals, getting the newly healed and battle ready undead out again to fight even as she manned portals to bring more injured ones in.
Regardless, Portal Girl was providing an invaluable tactical service here was both troop transport and first aid.
"You're doing very well," said Aldrich with a nod before he mentally commanded Crow to fly over towards the flyers at the back of the variant army.
"Y-you too," said Portal Girl with a shy blush, but Aldrich was already gone, soaring across the battlefield to his next destination… She saw Aldrich leave and then shook her head, telling herself to focus on doing her job as best as possible.