"Bittersweet Blessing"


Life on Aquatos had become nothing short of boring. Ever since the renowned heroes Ratchet and Clank had put a stop to Dr. Nefarious' evil plan for robotic superiority, the planet had once again reverted back to being a peaceful place and the Doctor's secret base deep down on the ocean floor had become an abandoned relic, save for the few clean up bots that remained and somehow still had work to do within the base.

Except for being her home and having grown up in it, Aquatos hadn't done a thing for Hydro Girl. She had finally reached the point in which she could no longer stand the lack of excitement and longed for a grand adventure of her own. She may not be a good fighter or a brave explorer and there may be tons of risks involved, but it didn't matter to her. She just wanted to escape this life for a much more fun and adventurous one, no matter what.

And that was exactly what she did. Without so much as a goodbye to her friends and family, she packed some supplies, her things and herself into her own personal ship, emerging from the depths of the ocean and quickly into the great beyond. As she soared away from her watery home an intense feeling of relief washed over her, like a constricting wall that had surrounded her had finally been broken down and she was free to do as she pleased.

She had never felt so happy, and yet she still felt a slight sense of doubt and thought what she was doing was unwise and maybe she shouldn't... She shook her head. Who was she kidding?

Her thoughts began to drift toward one of her favorite things; heroes that she knew and envied. She wondered whether this relief was how all heroes felt as they embarked on their first adventure. She thought about all the stories she had heard, read and seen about heroes and the tales and legends that often followed in their wake. Her mind drifted from each hero that she knew and all the stories that she knew about them, from the renowned Captain Starshield to Ratchet and Clank to even that crazy buffoon Captain Qwark.

A small ship suddenly zipped past her closely to the right, leaving a rather cloudy trail behind. Hydro Girl snapped out of her thoughts and violently pulled her ship off to the left, cursing loudly at the careless ship that had already vanished into the distance. She breathed a sigh and straightened her ship, catching something out of the corner of her eye. She gazed to the left to see a large planet with swirling dark green clouds completely covering the planet's surface. The sight of the ominous planet sent a spark in her memory, but the name of it escaped her. She was sure it began with an "O" and was home to a race called the Blarg…or something like that.

In any case, it certainly didn't look like the ideal place for a visit and she pressed on. But her eyes fell back onto the green body as she spotted numerous blinking lights over the surface. She narrowed her eyes and tried to make out what they were but they were too far away to tell for sure. She suddenly felt her seat begin to vibrate and she glanced around the outside of her ship but found nothing. The vibration continued to strengthen until her entire ship shook violently. A red light suddenly flooded the inside of her ship as a force field of some sort surrounded her.

Hydro Girl's heart began to race. She tried to accelerate her ship but it felt like it was stuck firmly in place. Two red ships with yellow symbols on the sides approached from the left and right sides and stopped uncomfortably close. She searched the dashboard for a switch or trigger that fired her ship's weapons but to no avail. She whimpered and her heart sunk as she realized that she didn't actually have any weapons and the thought hadn't even crossed her mind until now.

Doors from the two ships next to her began to open slowly. From behind them large bulky robots emerged wielding rather large guns and both aimed directly at her face. They hovered slowly closer with jets on their backs until they were both touching the windshield of her ship. Her lip quivered, and then a flash of light…

She was suddenly awakened by a rather sharp sensation through the fog of her mind. Her vision faded in and out and there were distant voices all around her, but she couldn't make out what they were saying. There was an immense amount of pressure around her head and she could feel something poking and prodding her at various points on her body. She felt the urge to move and attempted to, but metal clamps on her head, wrists and ankles kept her from moving an inch. A metal claw suddenly took a fierce hold of her chin. She felt hot breath smother her face with a rather rancid smell, and then a voice hissed something quietly in her ear. The claw then released her chin and her mind then drifted back into the void of unconsciousness.

Her eyes snapped open and she was surprised that she was looking through a bright orange tinted visor. She blinked a few times to make sure her eyes weren't playing with her, and as she slowly regained her senses she realized that she was lying on the ground face first. She moved her arms and lifted herself up, immediately discovering that something else about her was way off. She lifted her hands up to see a pair of armored claws instead of her pale blue fingers and then gazed down at her body to see that it too was fully covered with bulky armor. She then placed her hands onto her head and felt the outside of her helmet that pressed against her face like it was going to crush her head from the outside. After examining her new self for several moments she rose to her feet, though with a bit of difficulty as the armor made her feel like she weighed a hundred kilos heavier.

A robotic female voice suddenly rang in her ears, giving her a series of instructions in which she obeyed without question. She followed the voice step by step, and all the while her mind was in complete disbelief that she was wielding a weapon. The voice told her how to use her new weapons and maneuver in her armor, and then she was instructed to use the teleport pad nearby. With little reluctance she hopped onto the pad and a bright green light engulfed her and transported her into a new area.

She was immediately greeted by a large holovid with a rather ugly gray-skinned man on the screen and there were two gold robots standing off to the side, both of whom appeared to be anxious about something. The man started talking about game shows and collars and whatnot, but she didn't pay any attention, as her eyes were glued firmly upon the ball-shaped robots and spiny green creatures that were in the center of the room. The Dual Vipers in her hands were quivering with anticipation and her heart was beating frantically, though she wasn't moving. The holovid then vanished into the air and the voice told her to step into the small arena with her opponents. The robot balls quickly charged forward with spinning blades as Hydro Girl raised her weapons.

Gunfire rang throughout the arena as bullets zipped through the air and shell casings littered the floor. Robot parts were scattered everywhere and the bodies of the spiny creatures lay motionless. The robot voice in her helmet fell on deaf ears as Hydro Girl stood still, breathing heavily. She looked at the carnage that she had inflicted upon the arena, realizing that she had a twisted smile on her face…

For the next several weeks, there was only one thing on her mind. She fought battle after battle, fired bullet after bullet, and earned bolt after bolt, and with each one she felt something that she had always wanted to feel; a feeling of belonging, of fulfillment, and of satisfaction. Sometimes she would reveal her face from behind her helmet to the crowd after a victory so that everyone in the Shadow Sector would recognize her. Before she knew it, DreadZone had come to call her by the name of "Hydro Girl" after revealing what her home planet was and by her long blue hair and two-toned blue skin. At first she didn't like the name as it sounded a little too plain, but over time it began to grow on her.

With communication between contestants currently allowed, it didn't take long for Hydro Girl to fall back into one of her old habits. She would often call other male contestants and engage in mindless, pointless conversation which would usually end with her flirting with whomever she spoke with. Sometimes she would scare them away with her personality or would end their chat because of something they said, but sometimes she would lose contact with them because they had fallen in battle. She was always looking for someone to talk to, whether it was to brag about a recent battle or for some harmless flirting.

Eventually she had received a transmission from a veteran contestant who went by the name of Plasma Ray. At first she was a bit put off since she was usually the one who did the calling, but then she lowered her defenses upon noticing his snow white skin, large antennae that curved backward from his forehead, and lovely, bright purple eyes. He introduced himself in a kindly manner and congratulated her on her recent increase in ranking from Marauder to Avenger, in which she blushed at the words. They soon engaged in deeper, more personal conversation, with Plasma Ray revealing that he had been a contestant in DreadZone since childhood and Hydro Girl revealing that she had an attraction for men who were good with their hands, at which Plasma Ray coughed loudly.

Soon their frequent chats on holovids turned into somewhat of a relationship with each other. Even though they couldn't see each other personally or that often due to their own matches across the DreadZone circuit, they still managed to find the time to have friendly chatter. However, one day robot guards showed up within Hydro Girl's Containment Suite, demanding that she follow them and leave her combat bots behind. When asked what for, they told her that fans of DreadZone wish to see her fight in a very special match in the DreadZone Arena, which brought a smile to her face and was more than happy to oblige.

She followed the guards into the transporter and it took them to the Arena entrance. She pressed the glowing plate on her chest and her helmet wrapped around her head. The Arena and transporter doors opened and Hydro Girl entered the screams and cheers of the crowd, equipping the Arbiter as she casually walked toward the center of the Arena. At the other end she could see her enemy, who stood tall, proud and fierce and was wearing orange Vindicator armor. She smiled at him, knowing that she was about to face a more than worthy opponent. The voice of the announcer Dallas shouted out of the speakers, and the match began…

A half an hour, hundreds of shots fired, and many taunts and shouts later, Hydro Girl stood heavily injured but victorious. The body of her opponent lay motionless at her feet as she panted deeply, the barrel of her Magma Cannon smoking from its use. The crowds cheered and screamed her name, but she didn't care as something felt like it was bothering her. She put her weapon away and bent down at the body, curiosity getting a firm grip on her. She reached over and pressed the dim plate on his chest.

The damaged helmet receded, revealing the pale, cold, lifeless face of Plasma Ray with a trail of dark blood flowing from his mouth.

She stood up slowly, her face blank. The crowd suddenly became silent and the heat from the lava surrounding the Arena no longer felt warm. She continuously stared at Plasma Ray's body as the realization of the cruel joke that was played on her settled in heavily. She looked away and gazed at the cheering crowd, seeing the smiles of joy upon all their faces, seeing how entertained they were at the match they just witnessed. And all the while one thought replayed itself over and over and over in Hydro Girl's head…

You killed him…

Maybe…being a well-known hero isn't as great as she had thought it was all this time…