Chapter 113

                As an agent and friend to a wide variety of Heroes, Lenny would have been among the first people to be evacuated from Brewster. He hadn’t bothered with any of the Heroes that were actually needed, though, instead calling in a quick favor from a retired former client. The ones on duty had better things to do than worry about him. A quick teleport later and he was in his mountain home, a place he’d bought in hopes of spending time away from the job, focusing just on himself in the seclusion of nature.

                The wide-screen television sitting above the gas-fireplace, wired up to a complete satellite package, betrayed his failure in disconnecting from the world. In fact, Lenny barely got any use from his cabin unless something threatened the town he was in and he needed a quick place to lay low. Sometimes he loaned it out to clients that needed to hide out from the press for a while as well. It was spacious enough to house four comfortably, or six in a pinch, and despite his intention of roughing it Lenny had stocked the place with cushy furniture and high-end electronics, to say nothing of the booze. In a way, the cabin had served its purpose though. He’d bought it for soul-searching, and what he’d uncovered was that he was not a man who wanted to disconnect from the job. He was the job, and he was happiest when he was knee-deep in it.

                At the moment, he was juggling two phone calls, a half dozen news streams on his laptop, and a live feed of the fight in Brewster. The footage was grainy and far off, which was a damn shame, because otherwise something like this would easily make the national reels for a week, minimum. Still, it was close enough that he could just make out the big robot being pushed through town, drawing nearer to the other massive form with each step. The angle was shit, a skyscraper he didn’t remember seeing before was blocking out everything save for the tips of a pair of ears tilting slightly forward into view. But Lenny was plugged in, he knew what was lurking behind the building, as well as how many of his clients were about to go take the last mech bastard on.

                “Yeah, you heard me,” Lenny snapped, his energy much higher than the weary clerk on the phone. “Ten thousand of the old Titan shirts. Well then update the damn material, but keep the look as vintage as possible. Trust me, you’re going to want to get ahead of this one.”

                A new figure appeared on screen, just as the mech cleared the last row of houses, where the ambush was waiting. It was huge by most scales, though compared to the robot it only looked like a normal-sized bird. Lenny hadn’t seen that one in quite a while. The screen seemed to shake as the news crew started moving, getting closer than was safe or prudent to the ensuing battle. Lenny hoped they stayed cautious, but he also hoped they didn’t turn back. This was going to be solid gold.

                “Go ahead and make sure all the Birdsman merch is stocked up as well, especially his bird plushies. Looks like he’s going to be getting some screen time too.”

*             *             *

                “Told you I had one more!” Birdsman yelled the barb at Titan from atop his final summon, a stone-colored bird with at least a twenty-five foot wing-span. The creature looked like a statue come to life, with every flap, rubble flew from its wings. Despite appearing as though it weighed somewhere in the ton region, it climbed effortlessly higher into the sky, moving closer to the mech. The robot turned to face the bird, giving Gale and Eli the chance to start disintegrating holes in its hull.

                “Ranged distraction team, we are go! Get in there and draw fire.” Jeremiah’s voice echoed through the area, he barely even needed the comms to give orders. “All of our melee people, and this includes Hexcellent and Hopcules, you hold back until we’re inside. We don’t need to dodge your bunny while trying to break in.”

                “Yeah, about that, why isn’t it already attacking us?” Hexcellent asked, her voice nervous, but determined. Seeing as she was currently standing on Hopcules’s shoulder, braced for whatever attack the mech might throw, it was a fair and relevant question.

                “This is Misdirection; I was told to keep you hidden until it was show time.” The illusion-wielding Hero walked over from the group to stand near Titan and Hopcules. “We thought it might attack something as big as you, and like Jeremiah said, that could be problematic while the Heroes are breaking in. Plus, this gives you the element of surprise.”

                “How in the hell did you hide something this big?” Hexcellent asked, beating Titan to the question only by a few seconds.

                “I’m not on a team like Elemental Fury for nothing,” Misdirection replied. “I conjured a fake skyscraper around you. Around most of us, actually. As far as anyone more than fifty feet away can tell, this is just a building. Should let us keep the mech from knowing how much we’re working with.”

                There was a crunch from behind, and Titan turned to find Granite standing nearby, only a few feet from Galvanize, who was jogging over. “Our illusionist is top notch. With her, we never have to tip our hand on the battlefield.”

                “Mr. Granite,” Galvanize said, breaking in. “Spring told me that you were looking-”

                “Just Granite, and heck yeah I was looking for you. Heard you’ve been going around juicing everyone up, thought I might get in on that. I mean, I’m strong, but…” Granite nodded to the mech, which was currently being peppered with disintegration holes along with energy blasts from other Heroes while a dozen costumed figures raced to slip inside it’s torso. “…that thing is probably stronger.”

                “I don’t actually make you stronger, though,” Galvanize explained. “I just bring you to the best you can possibly be.”

                “Still better than nothing,” Granite said. “I have to be on top of my game, otherwise Birdsman and Roc-Steady are going to get all the attention.”

                “He named that thing Rocksteady?” Titan asked, momentarily dumbfounded.

                “R-O-C, like the giant mythical bird. Also it’s a pun, since it’s stone. And no, none of us has any idea how it can fly.” Granite finished the explanation and looked at Galvanize, who simply took a step closer to the shifter currently composed of rocks and did what he’d been asked.

                “Do your best.”

                Granite stiffened at the words, then stretched his limbs carefully, testing their movements with the new boost surging through him. “Not bad at all. I can tell I haven’t broken any barriers, but I feel… good. Like I’m on top of my game. Titan, you getting in on this?”

                “Eighty percent of the Heroes have infiltrated the mech’s torso,” Dispatch said, quietly speaking in their ears. “Melee distraction team, be ready. You’ll be called as soon as the percentage passes ninety five.”

                “Titan prefers to reach his pinnacle without help,” Galvanize replied, unaware of the orders being issued across the comms.

                “Well, in rescue work, me suddenly using more strength than I’d planned could be dangerous,” Titan replied. “I need near perfect control in those delicate situations.” He looked at the stomping mech, and then at Hexcellent all the way up at the top of her rabbit’s shoulder. As he turned, he also caught sight of a small group of reporters getting in for a closer view. Well, that would make Lenny happy, at least.

                “But you know, seeing as I’m playing defense today anyway, a little extra pep in the step might not be such a bad idea.”

                “Really?” It was one of the few times Titan had seen Galvanize truly taken aback, even the composed smile faltering with uncertainty. “Are you sure? I mean, you don’t actually need my boost. You’re plenty strong enough as it is.”

                “No doubt about it.” Titan took Galvanize by the shoulder and pointed to where the camera crew was setting up. They didn’t know it, but when Misdirection’s illusions dropped, those reporters would be in for a hell of a view. “However, there is one thing we can all agree on, be we Heroes or PEERS. Sometimes, you have to give the people what they want.”

                “Ninety five percent mark cleared,” Dispatch said. “Misdirection, drop the illusion, we now want all attention on the melee distraction team.”

                The air around the waiting Heroes shimmered like pavement on a summer afternoon. When it ended, the mech’s eyes turned toward them, and there were audible gasps from the nearby reporters as a giant armor-wearing rabbit suddenly came into view.

                “That’s our cue,” Titan said.

                “Then by all means, Titan. Do your best.” Galvanize turned toward the giant rabbit as its legs tensed, ready to launch itself forward. “You too, Hopcules.”

                Titan’s whole body tingled, like he’d gotten an unexpected rush of adrenaline. Carefully, he shifted his weight, noting the way the concrete cracked and splintered under him. In almost any other circumstance, this would be dangerous, but facing off against a giant metal monster was one of the few times he didn’t mind having a little extra gas in the tank. If nothing else, it would be interesting to see just what his metaphorical top speed was nowadays. It had been a long time since he needed to find out.

                “Thanks,” Titan said, moving with extra caution as he stepped forward. “Now stay by Topsy. This whole area is about to become a warzone.” With that, Titan leapt forward, only to be passed by Hopcules a few seconds later.