Chapter 298 The Hearing Begins
Aldrich first passed through a bare hallway, the door of the waiting room shutting with a pressurized click behind him. Another helper bot detached from the ceiling and hovered beside him, though this one was not hacked.
"All members of your hearing have gathered. Do you require additional time, or are you free to proceed?" said the bot.
"Free to proceed," said Aldrich. At the other end of the hallway was one more door, then, the entire world. Eerily, he could not hear anything at all except the rhythmic hum of shield generators. Both the hallway and the waiting room seemed to be soundproofed.
Aldrich pondered whether he had done the right thing.
Fundamentally, he and the Stranger could not align their goals.
The Stranger wanted world domination. Aldrich wanted world order. They were diametrically opposed.
If the Stranger rose, Aldrich would have to strike him down to preserve order. If Aldrich rose, the Stranger would try to tear him away from the top to try and take over.
There were also too many gaps and mysteries for Aldrich to trust the Stranger. He could not blame the Stranger for this too much - the Stranger probably wanted to limit information to Aldrich until they were confirmed allies.
At best, the Stranger could give 'gestures of friendship' like Feather's location, but demanding that Aldrich step away from the world stage entirely?
Not worth it.
Aldrich did not trust the world completely either, which was why he wanted to vie for Sentinel status to operate on his own rules, but that did not change the fact that everyone out there, out in the hearing, was responsible for the lives of most of humanity.
Aldrich would rather try to work with them first, then determine whether he should break off rather than start off guns blazing as a solo player.
Ultimately, there was not enough info to work with the Stranger to begin even remotely trusting him.
But Aldrich could parse some details from their conversation. The biggest of these being that the Stranger did not know exactly who or what Aldrich was.
From the Stranger's wording, it seemed that he thought Aldrich something akin to an alien. Entirely extraterrestrial and not a human that had obtained otherworldly powers.
Which opened up Aldrich's worldview considerably. There were entities out there that were not native to earth to begin with.
And, considering Supermind's revelation, humans out there too that were like Aldrich, holding 'Irregular' powers that did not belong to this world.
Considering Supermind's rather calm reaction to Aldrich's status as an 'Irregular', it also seemed likely that there were quite a few of said Irregulars out there, though he doubted any of them had powers from Elden World.
For one, if such a person existed, Supermind would have made a connection with Aldrich. The closest Aldrich could think of was Archmage, a S class hero from Korea, but his powers were more low level reality warping that gave him the moveset of a typical fantasy mage.
Fireball, lightning strike, stuff like that. Very likely, people assumed Aldrich had the same kind of low level reality warping ability.
Secondly, Aldrich was confident Vanguard did not wield any Elden World powers. Vanguard seemed like he was just like any other caped flying brick - strong, fast, and airborne. No spell or skill from the game matched that.
Aldrich stopped in front of the hallway exit, cutting his thoughts off. He closed his eyes and readied himself.
'Volantis. Keep your Truesight active at all times' commanded Aldrich. The Judicata was insanely guarded and had anti-stealth measures as well, but if there was even a slight chance that the Stranger's unseen bots could slip through them, Aldrich wanted to be prepared.
The Grave Wards could reveal the bots, and so could Volantis.
'I will. Good luck, Armored. Show the world who they'll be fighting under.'
'Yeah.' Aldrich pressed his hand on the door, and it slid open. Bright white light engulfed him. He stepped out, into the light both figuratively and physically.
Before Aldrich was an enormous round room. Looking up, he saw concentrically aligned seats wound around the walls in even rows that piled up high. From there, suited Alters, men, women, and mutants, all stared down at Aldrich in silence.
Silence that was surprising considering how many there were.
A rough guesstimate on Aldrich's part figured that at max occupnacy, this entire hearing room could seat about 500 people.
Currently, there were around 400. Fewer than 100 actual officials, but they all had support staff and guards with them.
Overall, this was an astounding turnout.
For reference, Dracul's Sentinel hearing, also held in the Judicata, had yielded a turnout of about 200 total people.
Aldrich looked all around him, eyeing the crowd. A crowd made up of influence and power. Leaders and representatives of countries, the AA, and companies.
Reps from specific countries sat in areas marked with a holographic image of their nation's flag floating above. Company reps had their corporate logo projected above.
Aldrich took a moment to process the sheer scale of this. The whole world really was here.
The Pan-African Alliance. The East Asian Alliances. The Eastern European Block. The Oceanic Blocks. The European Union. The Middle Eastern Coalition. Even the Antarctic Settlers - the big dogs of every continent were here.
The corporations were just as prominent, most of them related to war.
There was the double A logo of the Alterhuman Agency, of course, but also two Council of Fortune members: the ouroboros of Imugi War Arts and the red and blue diamond of ARMA.
Corporations just a tier below them like Shatterlock Droid Systems, Blast Ballistics, Volsung Cybernetics, and Culture Biotechnology were also in attendance, but there were no companies beneath tier 1.
Anyone that got to this hearing was just that important.
And that, consequently, was how important Aldrich was.
Security was intense as well. Guards and supes crawling everywhere, and none of them were likely to be pushovers. Panopticon war drones and bots floated everywhere, the barrels of their energy weaponry highly visible.
But above all that were the S rank heroes hired to hold down the fort. S rankers from all across the world.
There was Mushin, dressed up in plain gray hakama and gi, from Japan with his power to cut anything out of existence.
Star Spartan, who, as the name would suggest, donned the garb of a spartan warrior. He was from the European Union and could turn into a living meteor. As far as response times to disasters were concerned, he was second just behind Lightspeed, the current top hero in the United States.
Aldrich spotted the crackling blue eyes of Indra who, as a lightning elemental, had both top class power and speed that made him stand near the top in India, just below Ravana, a Sentinel.
There was Machine Emperor from China whose battlesuit was considered the strongest in the entire world, said to be powered by advanced star fusion tech centuries beyond what humanity could muster currently. He was also the head of his own military tech company, though it did not seem like he had come here as a company head, more as security for the Chinese government representatives.
From the United States, there was Kinesis, widely considered to be the next Supermind with her impressive telekinetic and telepathic abilities.
And, finally, from the Eastern European Bloc, there was Dracul. He sat by himself, surrounded by waving darkness that formed a suit and cloak. He stared right at Aldrich with his eyes of solid, inky black.
It was extremely rare that a Sentinel like Dracul ever took a job like this.
After all, Sentinels were independent, basically like kings, so they could do whatever they wanted. They had no need to weigh themselves down with security contracts.
As evidenced by the fact that no other Sentinels were present. Most of them were content to sit in their own city states in luxury and content, only ever showing up in the worst of disasters.
If Dracul was here, protecting country representatives was just an excuse. He was here to see Aldrich.
"Please proceed to the podium," said the helper bot, sensing Aldrich's pause.
Aldrich nodded and stepped across a long walkway made of solid, pure blue energy that led to the center of the hearing room where he got in place behind circular white podium platform.
It was now time for the hearing.