Chapter 105

                “Please tell me there’s a backup plan.” Owen watched in wonder as the six-legged metal monster fell from the sky, landing with a loud crunch only two blocks away from where he and Jeremiah stood over the carved up carcass of a smaller robot.

                “There is… sort of.” Jeremiah yanked his pen-device out of the robot’s chest and slipped it back into a pocket on his costume. “From what my people were able to figure out, the six giant mech-style robots are functioning as relay stations. The universal signal goes to them, and they broadcast it to the lesser robots. It’s a good way to make sure people can’t do exactly what we were trying, use one of the pawns to find the king, but there are two weaknesses to the tactic.”

                Jeremiah scanned the area, pointing to two other giant mechs falling in their line of sight. “Most importantly, at least for the time being, from the way that the big bots are scattered about, I’d guess there’s a range limit to their relay capacity. That means if we take them down, the smaller ones depending on the signal might be cut off.”

                “Won’t be easy, but I think we can swing that,” Owen replied. Already, the Heroes around them were shifting focus, taking note of the new wave that was pouring onto the battlefield from the innards of the giant mech. “What’s the second weakness?”

                “Those big ones must be connected to the master signal,” Jeremiah said. “So our original plan is still valid. If I can somehow get access to the receiver inside one of those, we might be able to track down the source.”

                Owen sized up the massive opponent, already firing off rounds of bullets and lasers at every Hero advancing on it. “That is a lot of metal to root through for one little box.”

                “Which is why we should focus on taking out the first five, especially if my theory on the signal range bears out. For the sixth, we take our time and see what we can uncover,” Jeremiah said.

                “The presented plan has merit, but current damage potential for Brewster is approaching catastrophic levels.” Dispatch’s voice came to their ears, speaking without prompting. It was easy to forget that, while she usually replied only when talked to, Dispatch was technically listening to everything one said while wearing a comm. That was how she knew every detail of a battle, without Heroes having to constantly check in.

                “Jeremiah, I can only allow approximately a half hour for you to test your plan. Currently, evacuations of areas near the large robots are being undertaken, however, there are too many of the smaller models to be allowed to spread. They must be taken out while they are centralized. Right now, we are saving as many civilians as possible. If you can neutralize the small units by stopping the large ones before evacuation is complete, I can allot more time. If you cannot, then all Manhattan-level Heroes will receive authorization to terminate the army.”

                Not for the first time, Owen was glad he’d never tried to go into the DVA like some of the other retired Heroes. The call to wipe out entire city blocks wasn’t necessarily a wrong one, as those robots could do a lot more damage if they spread out. Still, there was no way to completely evacuate this much of the city, no matter how many Supers the DVA pulled in. Casualties were going to be inevitable, but it might be less than what the city would face if it was overrun with robots. There was no perfect call, only ones that did the least damage.

                “Understood, Dispatch.” Jeremiah licked his lips as he stared at the mech, eyes taking in every facet, and weakness, it presented. “Our best bet is probably to focus fire on one of them, show proof of concept. Once we know that destroying the large ones knocks out the smaller bots, we can shift to just taking out the big boys.”

                “We don’t have long to work with, so tell me where I’ll do the most good,” Owen said.

                “There is one more item for Titan,” Dispatch continued, breaking in between the short silence they presented. “You requested to be kept abreast of your team. They were, unfortunately, in the landing zone of another of the six giant robots. From what I’ve been able to track, it seems Hexcellent is injured, and they are continuing to try and reach the Mordent building.”

                The ground beneath Owen shattered. He looked down, expecting attack, only to realize that he’d shifted his weight without holding back. A second’s loss of focus, and the world around him crumbled. “Dispatch, how are their chances? Do they have a clear path?”

                “They are near the central point where more of the smaller units are swarming out. Even if we could spare evacuation personnel, their situation is too dangerous. I’m sorry, but they have very small, almost negligible, odds of surviving.”

                Owen’s eyes swept around to Jeremiah, who nearly jumped back at the ferocity on his face. “I need to go. Can you manage without me?”

                “It’s not ideal, but Dispatch was filling me in on the situation too. And, can I manage? Titan, look around, there are dozens of Heroes for me to work with, I can still easily make this happen. In fact, I’ll do you one better. Dispatch, have Gale join Titan and I,” Jeremiah said.

                Moments later, the wind-manipulator settled to the ground only a few feet away, glancing back and forth between Owen and Jeremiah. “What do you need?”

                “I need you to take Titan to his team,” Jeremiah told her. “Dispatch can give you the coordinates, but time is of the essence.”

                “I’m sorry; did you just ask me to play taxi while there’s a giant robot a block away tearing up my town?” The wind seemed to pick up as Gale spoke, swirling around them in a not-so-subtly threatening manner.

                “No, I’m asking you to help me diversify our efforts.” Jeremiah pointed to the mech, under all-out assault from the other Heroes. “We need to kill one of these things, and soon. But there’s always the chance that the one we got is a lot stronger than the others, or has a secondary relay. It’s the one that was dropped on the Heroes, we need to assume that wasn’t an accident. Titan’s team is right on top of another one, further into Brewster, possibly under attack from it. Now, Titan, what are you going to do if you come upon one of these things trying to kill your team?”

                “I’ll kill the son of a bitch first,” Owen said without hesitation.

                “Exactly. So, if I’m going to split off two Heroes to try and topple one of the other big bots, I’d like it to be a pair that actually has a chance of succeeding. The leader of the strongest Hero group in Brewster and a living legend.” Jeremiah patted both of them on their shoulders. “Can you think of any other duo with a better shot of pulling it off?”

                “There might be others that are a better fit, but I can promise you there are none more motivated.” Owen turned to Gale, whose skepticism was beginning to melt. “Please, help me get there. I promise, I’m going to help keep your town safe.”

                “I’ll do it, but I’m not so sure even the two of us can bring down one of those,” Gale said.

                “If it’s attacking my team, it’s going down. Trust me.” For a moment, Owen was gone, all the gentle kindness and tempered power of a man who’d seen too much vanished. In his place was Titan, the Hero whose name was whispered among criminals like a demon’s curse, the man who no Super had managed to stop, who’d used his bare hands to rip apart many an allegedly unbeatable foe. In that instant, Gale did trust him, and she felt a surge of pity for any who tried to get in his way.

                “Just don’t get motion sick,” she warned. “I’m not the gentlest ride when I’m in a hurry.”