Everything was still in the crater, where the temperature had fallen to levels only seen on the polar ice caps. Everything, that is, except the robotic spider climbing over a dome of ice that softly radiated an emerald light, within which Koen and his feral pack of young survivors huddled for protection from the elements.
The spider leaped off the dome and landed on the rocks below. The brain floating in the cylinder mounted on the spider swirled about when it landed, and the spindly metallic legs meandered back and forth as the jar tilted this way and that.
"ACH!" shouted Hans' voice through a hissing speaker. "I can feel the cold even through this thing! I've got to get out of here!" The pair of eyes connected to the brain aimed downwards towards a small bulb on the spider's frame.
"The compass is frozen!"
Hans skittered one way in one direction, and then the other. He stopped to look up at Dr. Mason where he was frozen in place, reaching for the control panel of the villain's former exoskeleton.
"Obviously I've been here before..."
Hans scrambled closer to Dr. Mason and lifted a needle-like limb to tap at the weapon fused to Darien's hand.
"Bastard! He used it all! I'll have to steal his formula at the Consulate!"
Dr. Mason would have roared in outrage if his mouth was not sealed shut. But Hans scrambled away, humming some half-remembered Yuletide carols horribly out of tune. He paused for a moment to wonder at the faint golden aura in the haze before him.
"Is that sunlight? I must be closer to the rim than I..."
He was interrupted by the emaciated and jaundiced boy wrapped in tatters that lunged at him with bestial hunger, clutching a radiant yellow disk in his hand.
"AHHHHH!" Hans screamed as Ryan wrapped his free arm around Hans' brain jar. Elongated and narrowed teeth snapped at the glass.
"GET OFF ME!" The thing's metallic limbs flexed and stabbed at the boy, piercing the flesh and even poking through the over side of his body in several places. The boy did not seem to notice. A scornful voice pierced the villain's brain.
((What was that about hurting children, Cold Dead Hans?))
Ryan raised the disc and swiped downwards, shearing off one of the limbs. Hans screamed pitifully as the boy scraped off more pieces of what Hans had dubbed his Cerebral Escape Unit.
((You've ruined EVERYTHING, Hans! You were supposed to CAPTURE the city, not DESTROY it!))
"MARCUS! But I never INTENDED to..."
((That only makes it WORSE! That proves it. Darien was right for once, wasn't he? You DIDN'T invent that reactor! You STOLE it out of the timestream. A DEFECTIVE one at that!))
Ryan began slamming the disc against the jar, creating a shower of sparks with each strike.
"STOP THAT!!!" Disembodied eyes refocused at the faint scratches left in the glass.
((Oh don't worry Hans. You won't freeze solid when this undead child opens your container. He's going to gulp you down like a fresh Babbage oyster. Not that I've ever eaten any myself...but I digress. I'm going to LOVE reading your thoughts and memories as your brain is torn apart and digested. I might even find something USEFUL in your skills-RNA. Starting of course with the combination to shutting down that accursed reactor...))
"NOOOO!!!" he screamed. "It's FIVE ONE NINE SIX! Five one nine six I tell you! PLEASE! Please don't let him eat me! I'm begging..."
((Did you get that, Darien?))
((Yes,)) His brother silently signaled back. ((Thank you. I owe you one. That is if you can melt this ice...))
((Oh, that won't be necessary. BOY. You need to pick the jar up with both hands and smash it on the ground to open it up. You want that juicy brain don't you? Now just put me down...))
Ryan hurriedly dropped the disk and hefted the damaged Escape Unit over his head. Before he could hurl the device, both the boy and the brain froze in place.
((Things are going to get warm soon enough, dear brother.))
The disk wobbled back onto its side and began rolling away.
Above the freezing mists of the crater, a figure with great crimson wings ripped the metal door off the cab of the dirigible. The pilot screamed as he was hurled out of the craft.
The faint droning sound of the airship overhead that was a constant presence before grew quickly louder.
Koen looked up in alarm as a plummeting metal door smashed against the ice dome. Even as his companions squeezed him tightly in panic, the energy of Ash's disc caused the jagged shards and the mutilated door itself to bounce effortlessly off the shimmering sphere surrounding them.
Darien tried to raise an eyebrow as a thoroughly frozen body fell several yards away and shattered. Such a waste, he thought.
Koen tried his best to calm down his companions.
"We're gonna be alright guys! We're gonna be..." His feline eyes narrowed as the nose cone of the dirigible emerged from the fog of ice. flames danced across the surface of the fabric.
"Hans, you hack!" thought Darien. "You didn't even use a cavorite airship, did you? You probably filled it with helium or..."
"OH HOLY SHIT TAKE COVER!" screamed Koen as the airship burst into flames with a deafening roar.
"...hydrogen. Of course it would have to be hydrogen..."