Aldrich waited in front of the base doors, admiring just how solid they were. They were like solid blocks of metal that could probably pancake someone flat under their weight. Very much like nomad craftsmanship.
Either nomad tech was light and hyper mobile or it went overboard on just stacking defensive layer on top of defensive layer to create plate packed mobile behemoths.
The doors reminded Aldrich of the neosteel castle wall that protected the Red Circle, the very same wall that needed a cannon round fired from a railgun at mach 6 to actually penetrate. But he doubted these doors had even half the durability as the neosteel doors.
Neosteel was expensive. The highest end commercially available metal on the market. Even Casimir could only afford small amounts of it.
But even neosteel was like paper compared to someone like Solomon Solar, and if Aldrich wanted to take over Blackwater, he knew he would have to go through Solomon.
There was a certain point where technology just did not keep up with superpowers, and the S rank was where that difference was incredibly noticeable.
What good was a war mech against someone who could fly at hypersonic speeds and demolish entire city blocks with punches? The only technos that could keep up with the S rank were S rank technos themselves who had technology that was so advanced it was practically magic.
As Arthur C. Clarke once said, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic".
Solomon Solar was a definite issue. Aldrich could admit very easily that in a direct fight with Solomon, even with all his recent powerups, there was no contest: Solomon could probably beat Aldrich in one minute with raw overwhelming force.
Granted, the matchup was bad with Solomon, like Seth, being Aldrich's natural counter. Extreme physical stats coupled with fire damage in the form of solar energy was a nightmare to deal with for an undead mage type like Aldrich.
But like with Seth, Aldrich would find a way to work around Solomon
Father would fall like son.
No, if Aldrich had his way, Solomon would fall far, far further than Seth ever did. After all, Solomon had so much more to lose.
"Oh, sorry about wait!" Spybird's voice buzzed through an intercom. "I was passed out for bit there. Alcohol generator not working properly, you see. But here-,"
The base doors slowly opened up with slow and rattling movement. It felt like watching some behemoth of a beast languidly rise from slumber.
Aldrich passed through the doors after a long five seconds, half wondering how a lot of the nomad tech did not just break down on the spot. It all seemed so clunky and makeshift with odd bits and pieces cobbled together.
Aldrich used his ability to sense his undead to make his way around the base. The base was made up of three mobile homes temporarily fused together like some kind of bootleg transformer.
Each of the homes roughly had different functions. One acted like a control center for anything tech related while the other two were like living quarters with recreational spaces and supplies.
The control room was his goal, but Aldrich wanted to check up on the others as well. The immediate room he was in now was a small chamber meant for decontamination from potential exposure to nasty stuff in the Wastelands, but no need for that now.
The chamber doors opened, and Aldrich strolled his way through a short hallway. Bare metal walls, floor, and ceiling. He wondered briefly how nomads could tolerate being holed up in what was basically an oversized military car for years.
When the sliding doors at the end of the hallway opened up, Aldrich realized he was quite mistaken. He found himself staring at a rather vibrant living space. Still the same metal walls and floors and ceiling, but they were decorated with warm, sunshine colored lights, posters, and several telescreens that now played various movies and shows. A surprisingly good speaker system played party music for some background noise that concealed Aldrich's entrance.
Aldrich's units sat around bolted pieces of furniture, watching the telescreens or talking amongst each other. Some played beer pong on a table while others fixed up a meal in the kitchen. Opened beer cans and bottles of liquor were everywhere.
It gave off the vibes of a college party.
And it made sense. Most of Aldrich's humanoid units were Blackwater students, and they were just that: students. With their black uniforms replaced with casual clothes, it was apparent to Aldrich that these were just teenagers.
Just like Aldrich, though he was the least 'teen-like' out of them all. Not that he minded this too much. It was good to let his troops de-stress, for even if they were undead, they could still get mentally tired and need time to reset.
Aldrich remembered sleeping with Valera, at how just the simple act of sleeping without worrying about something had been so refreshing.
"Haha, THAT'S what you do at a proper hero academy?" Ace said as he nudged Eileen's (Portal Girl) arm with his elbow. "You spend half your time thinking about how to, like, save people? Most of your exams are actually about figuring out how to lift rocks out of the way so randos don't get crushed under them?"
"W-well yeah, that's what heroes do," squeaked out Eileen. She was surrounded by Blackwater students curious about what a real hero trainee did.
"What the hell? That's like, totally so boring!" said Kat in a valley girl voice. She was Blackwater's rank 4 just behind Ace. She had lost her beetle insectoid features, now opting for cat ears and eyes. Her power let her shift to a variety of animals depending on what she ate.
Presumably, Kat only needed to eat little bits like fur of the animal whose features she wanted, otherwise the implication was that she had literally eaten a cat. "I mean, I totally get needing to save people for AP and stuff, but like, doesn't it get way boring?"
"N-no, it's honestly why I wanted to be a hero…isn't what why all of you wanted to be heroes as well?" said Eileen. "You're in a hero academy, right? Blackwater, I think?"
"Pfft. I'm just here to kick money and make ass," said Ace.
"Uh, it's 'kick ass and take money' idiot," said Kat as she rolled her eyes. She shrugged at Eileen. "And girl, honestly, I don't know. I was trained as an assassin from when I was little, so I kinda just do what my parents tell me to do."
"D-did you say assassin?" Eileen looked visibly nervous.
"Yeah. I had my first contract at like, uh, ten or something? Honestly though, it's a drag sometimes. It's not like being a merc where you can just go in blasting and punching, you have to be suuuper patient, and that's totally boring," said Kat. "I figure if I graduated from Blackwater and got my license, I'd be out hunting heroes or something."
"A-and you?" Eileen said to Ace. She looked visibly distraught, especially at the whole 'hunting heroes' part of Kat's talk, but she held on admirably. "Are you also an assassin?"
Ace scratched his head of white hair. "Honestly, I dunno. I grew up in a lab or some shit. Parents tossed me out I think. The researchers wanted me to get really strong and sent me to Blackwater for training. I don't really know why.
But I didn't complain. I love beating the shit out of people, and that's what I did all day there."
"But like, tell me more about what you did. It's totally interesting to hear how the actual good guys work," said Kat as she playfully punched Eileen's shoulder. Eileen jumped a little, scared.
Made sense. In Eileen's perspective, everyone here was a villain. Someone she was supposed to be trained to fight against.
"Stop harassing the poor girl and let her breathe." Aldrich spoke up as he strolled into the room. He did not let his guard down as he did so. This might have seemed like a casual space, but there was one thing he had some worry about.
That was the fact that Aldrich was someone that the Blackwater students knew. They had only ever interacted with 'Thanatos', but Aldrich was someone they had previously looked down upon for being a Dud.
Granted, like with Eileen, Aldrich had everyone's 'loyalty meter' cranked up so that they could maintain their personalities while not being a liability to Aldrich. This maxed out loyalty effect was strong enough that Fisk did not care at all about his previous boss dying right in front of him.
But Aldrich wondered whether it would be just as effective now.
The room grew tense as everyone looked back to stare at Aldrich. They all stopped what they were doing as recognition filled their eyes. The only sound left came from background noise the telescreens and speakers blared out.
Aldrich clenched a fist, ready to instantly withhold the free will of every Blackwater student here.