Chapter 108

                If losing Hexcellent wasn’t bad enough, which it certainly was, the Mordent team found as soon as they emerged that they weren’t the only ones moving. The giant mech was also making progress, though it had gone through structures rather than darting around them like the Supers. It had been what caused the collapse, no doubt, chasing a few people that were trying to escape from its sight. The only actual upside of walking into the mech’s shadow was that there was so much chaos going on already, a few people in costumes didn’t draw much attention.

                “Fuck me,” Zone muttered, gazing up at the machine with wide-eyed terror. Galvanize grabbed his shoulder and jerked him forward, snapping the shirtless man out of his trance.

                “Come on! We either run or die, and my legs can still move.” Even as the words left his mouth, Galvanize knew how hollow they were. The street before them was sheer madness, with more of the smaller robots swarming across the ground. Add in that the way behind them was blocked, and that the big bot could easily reach them with one step of its giant insect-like legs, and their chances of surviving the next few minutes were looking slim. But Galvanize had faced death before, not every rescue they went into was a safe one, and he refused to let it take him standing still. Death, be it crushing legs or a murderous robot, would have to at least catch them.

                They raced along the fractured city streets, trying to take cover by nearby buildings. All thoughts of direction were gone from their minds; Mordent was no longer their goal. Now, all they cared about was surviving from one footstep to the next. They picked their paths strategically, minimizing the amount of robots they would have to run past. It was a game of numbers, one that was quickly turning against them. More and more of the smaller units seem to rain down from the sky, and the places to hide were quickly running out. Something gigantic could be heard stomping around from a few blocks away, which they all took to mean another mech was in the area. It was a bad scene, and only getting worse.

                Then, almost as if a beam of light from the heavens shone down to show him the way, Galvanize spotted something that gave him hope. A small alley, entrance almost completely obscured from view, that would take them in the opposite direction of the robot hordes. It might even get them a bit closer to Mordent, if luck was on their side. Which, since they would have to race all the way around the giant mech to reach the exit, luck would pretty much have to be. Silently, he tapped Bubble Bubble and Zone on their arms, then pointed to the alley down the street. It was hard to see, as the giant mech’s legs blocked out so much of the view, but eventually they realized what he was showing them.

                “We’ll never make that,” Bubble Bubble told him. “There’s too many small robots on the edges. We’re barely hiding from them as it is, if we try and go all the way around we’ll be caught for sure.”

                “Probably so, but we still have to try,” Galvanize said.

                “What if we went under it?” Zone motioned to the ample space between the robot’s legs. One could drive a bus under there and still have ample clearance, so it wasn’t an issue of space. But Galvanize couldn’t imagine that the area was undefended, not on a machine built for such destructive ends.

                “It’s probably more dangerous underneath,” Galvanize speculated.

                “Seeing as the edges are definitely going to get us killed, I’m weirdly okay with ‘probably’ more dangerous,” Bubble Bubble said. “Whatever we do, let’s just do it soon. Time is against us.”

                Despite all the prepping and training that PEERS teams had to undergo, the decisions which resulted in life or death often happened in split seconds. Galvanize knew they had to move, and the alley might be their one shot at living. His team was right; the long way was basically a guaranteed death. Risky as running under a giant killer robot might be, it was the better choice.

                Of course, that didn’t mean either choice was actually going to keep them alive, but Galvanize shoved that thought out of his mind as he raced forward, motioning for the others to follow. They sprinted in the one direction no one else was going, toward a mech currently knocking down entire buildings, and quickly made their way between two of its six metal legs.

                It struck Galvanize that the world seemed to go curiously quiet as they ran beneath the robot, all the madness that had been filling their ears somewhat blocked by the impossibly big structure around them. It was peaceful, though not in a way that brought him comfort. No, this peaceful was like that of a cemetery, or a watery cave left unexplored for centuries. It spoke of darkness buried just beneath the surface, waiting for a chance to arise once more.

                That chance didn’t take long, as they were no more than ten feet along in their journey when Galvanize caught sight of a red glow in the corner of his eyes. No time to think, another split second decision that might cost him, or his team, their lives.

                “To the side!” Galvanize yelled, leaping away from where he’d been standing moments before a searing beam of energy struck the concrete. Bubble Bubble and Zone had moved on his orders, and they managed to avoid the shots coming at them as well. However, now that he’d stopped, Galvanize looked up to the source of the attacks and felt his heart drop.

                All along the underside of the robot were glowing red circles, at least two dozen, each of which would be able to roast him and his team alive. Another three fired, but before they could hit a wall of blue energy appeared in front of them. Bubble Bubble was stooped down, arms held out as she focused on keeping the orb around them in place. With every shot that landed, her body seemed to shake. Maybe if the day had just begun, she might have been able to keep it up for a while, but as it stood Galvanize knew she was only buying them a few extra seconds. Maybe a minute, tops.

                Galvanize wracked his brain, trying to think of something, anything, he could do to get them out of there. He considered Zone’s abilities, Bubble Bubble’s power, and what he could augment. But no matter how he turned their situation around in his head, nothing provided even a glimmer of hope. They just weren’t strong enough. Each of them might be Supers, but this was the sort of situation even Heroes would have trouble with, and none of them had power on that level. Galvanize had been determined to at least die trying, and now it seemed that was exactly what they were going to do.

                “Getting… tired…” More and more beams were locking on to them, and Bubble Bubble seemed to be flailing. Their time was almost up. All that remained were the few precious seconds she’d bought them, so Galvanize decided to make use of her gift.

                “Zone, Bubble Bubble, I just want you to know how proud I am of both of you, and of all we’ve accomplished as a team. No matter what happens next, try to take comfort in the fact that we are among the few who can say we left this world better than we found it.”

                Bubble Bubble’s arms fell, and the orb around them flickered out of existence. Galvanize, all his bravery spent on surviving this long, closed his eyes. He’d done enough, staring down his firing squad wasn’t the way he wanted to go. Instead of hot, searing pain ripping apart his body, however, Galvanize felt a tremendous blast of wind strike him, sending him spinning roughly through the air. When he finally landed and managed to pull his eyelids apart, he was no longer trapped beneath the robot.

                Instead, Gale was staring at him, at his whole team, who were miraculously unhurt. She floated above them, lit by the afternoon sun which they could once again see. Her wind had blown them some distance from the mech, which seemed to be distracted.

                “About time you dropped that shield,” Gale said. “I’ve been trying to get you out for the past thirty seconds. Titan, your people are clear. Time to step it up.”

                “Titan is here?” Bubble Bubble asked, turning her head in a vain effort to find their Hero Liaison.

                “Sure is, who do you think kept that thing distracted?” Gale asked. “But now that you’re out, he’s going to stop playing so nice. And as soon as I get you three a little higher and safer, I’m going to help.”

                “Wait!” Galvanize yelped. “Hexcellent needs your help more, she got trapped a few blocks behind us.”

                Gale merely smiled as a new gust of wind began to lift them up from the ground. “Hexcellent is probably the best off of anyone here. Don’t worry, you’ll definitely see it from the rooftops.”