“Hooooly Shiiiiit!” Hexcellent’s scream was drowned out by the thunderous boom of Hopcules landing on the street below, then launching himself upward once more, leaving only a giant footprint behind. She stood nestled between his neck and shoulder, while Titan and the rest of her team clung to the top of Hopcules’s armor a few feet away. Her words seemed to sum up everyone’s sentiment; there was no carnival ride in the world that could simulate riding on the shoulders of a giant rabbit as it hopped through town.
With no teleporter on hand capable of moving a twenty story bunny, there was only one way to get to the final mech’s location. Several Heroes had already evacuated a path, and others were driving the mech toward them in an effort to minimize how much damage was done. Word came down from Dispatch, the strange woman who seemed to be relaying everything through the new comm Hexcellent had shoved in her ear, that they were converging on a spot that had already been halfway leveled fighting an earlier mech. Better to rebuild one section of town than two.
Nearby, Gale and Topsy floated alongside Hopcules, her powers keeping the two of them aloft. Though they’d been offered the chance to ride on the rabbit’s shoulder, the two Heroes had declined. Hexcellent wasn’t sure if it was out of pride or prudence, and she didn’t really care. They were free to miss out, all the more room for her and her team.
“Hexcellent, you’ve reached the rendezvous point.” Dispatch’s voice brought her back to reality, as she looked down and noticed a cluster of brightly colored costumes dotting the ground. The Heroes that were waiting for them. For her. There was a moment, as Hexcellent began to rise from Hopcules’s shoulder, that she genuinely thought it was her joy lifting her up. Then she felt the swirling wind and realized that it was Gale transporting her team to the ground.
Even as she was losing altitude, Hexcellent could see the mech, only a few blocks away. It was moving, slowly and steadily, as the other Heroes drove it toward her. She wasn’t sure if it had noticed Hopcules or not, but as soon as she got the order she’d make sure it couldn’t pay attention to anything else.
“You know, I have seen some crazy shit in my days. Really, truly, insane stuff. And this doesn’t take the cake… but it’s still pretty impressive.” The man speaking had his head tilted back as he took in Hopcules. Of all the people waiting for her, he looked the least like a Hero, wearing a simple outfit that was mostly notable for the large array of pockets. Eventually he turned from the bunny to the woman who summoned it, making his way over to Hexcellent and taking her hand.
“Pleasure to meet you, Hexcellent. I’m Jeremiah, and yes that’s my Hero name. You probably recognize most of the group from the news, but I keep a lower profile.”
Jeremiah was right, as a Brewster resident Hexcellent was quite familiar with Aether and Deadlift, to say nothing of Birdsman, Spring, Granite, and Misdirection, the rest of Elemental Fury. There were other Heroes, ones she’d seen on the news in other towns, Heroes who didn’t call Brewster home, but as she scanned them another face caught her eye, one that lacked a mask yet was familiar all the same.
“Isn’t that the fucking disintegration guy? Why isn’t he in jail?”
“I have a name,” the man muttered. He was wearing a white jumpsuit, standard issue to mark Supers in prison, rubbing his wrists where handcuff marks could still be seen. “It’s Eli, and I’m here for the same reason you are.”
“You can summon a giant fire-breathing rabbit?” Hexcellent asked.
“He’s here because he’s got a talent we need,” Titan explained, cutting off the conversation before it spiraled into a barrage of insults. “Jeremiah had him pulled out of jail to lend a hand in exchange for a reduced sentence. The armor on these mechs is tough, and Eli can get people in without having to punch through it.”
“But you can punch through it,” Hexcellent pointed out.
“Given the size of these things, having just one Hero search for the signal relay would take too long.” As Jeremiah spoke, he began pulling out what looked like cell phones with wires attached and handing them to the various Heroes. “One of my teammates whipped these up in the last hour; hopefully they’ll be able to find the device that’s receiving the master signal. We’re going to split up and cover as much ground inside the thing as possible. Aether and I will be paired up, so if anyone gets a hit on their detector, contact us and I’ll head over to jam in the tracking device.”
Jeremiah paused in front of Titan, only a few of the boxes left in his hands. “Since we don’t want to do so much damage inside that the mech melts down, I’d prefer to have our more… destructive… members helping the rabbit keep it busy. You okay with taking distraction duty?”
“I was going to demand it,” Titan replied. “No way in hell I’m leaving Hexcellent on her own.”
“This is pretty fucking far from being on my own,” she said, jerking a thumb at the bunny whose shadow was looming over all of them.
“Still, these big ones are tough. I’m watching your back, so make peace with it.”
“Titan really fits in better in the line of fire anyway,” Jeremiah seconded. “And hey, at least it will make for good footage.” He nodded to a nearby rooftop, where a small news crew could just be made out pointing their cameras over the side. Now that she was looking, Hexcellent caught sight of another crew a block away, and a few more a street over from them.
“Wow, that is ballsy,” Hexcellent said.
Jeremiah clucked under his tongue. “Not every Super goes into our line of work. They’ve probably all got a way to protect themselves or vanish, if the need arises. Even if they don’t, I’m not turning them away, though. After all this destruction, we’ll need some good footage of the Heroes fighting back the threat.”
“And one corpie.” Bubble Bubble’s voice wasn’t particularly loud, but it still managed to catch the attention of everyone nearby.
“The term is Privately Employed Emergency Response Super,” Gale corrected.
“God damn right it is,” Titan agreed.
“And we are thankful to have her, but time is running short.” Jeremiah finished doling out the boxes and turned to address everyone, effortlessly commanding their attention. Part of Hexcellent wondered how she’d never heard of him before, between the good looks and leadership skills, it seemed like Jeremiah would have a bit of notoriety.
“When the mech arrives, everyone is either on hunting or containment duty,” he continued. “You know your team by whether or not there’s a jerry-rigged phone in your hand. Gale, we need you to use Eli to erode the armor before coming in to join us so that there are plenty of easy entrances. Everyone else, get in, scan the equipment, and pray those damn things work. Those of you on the outside, contain the damage as much as possible, but try not to break the mech too bad. Remember, we’re going to be inside the thing; not to mention that if you bust it beyond a certain point everything useful inside will self-destruct, signal relay included. Also watch out for the smaller bots, they’re sticking near it and we can’t shut them down until we trace the signal. Other than that, have fun, and maybe try to put on a good show. The cameras are watching.”
“Did he just actually tell us to have fun?” Hexcellent tried to keep her voice at a whisper only Titan and her team could hear, but from the snickers of a few nearby Heroes it seemed to have carried further than intended.
“Jeremiah is trying to keep the mood light. Going into battle tense doesn’t help anyone,” Titan told her. “Now let’s have Gale get you back on the bunny before the mech arrives. People are going to be counting on you to guide Hopcules and buy time for the Heroes to do their work.”
“All while news cameras watch on, ready to judge every mistake I make. But no pressure, right?”
“Look at the upside,” Titan said. “If we make it through this, that rabbit is marketable as hell. You’ll have Hopcules plushies in stores by Christmas.”