Chapter 114

                 Whatever programming the mech had been built with, counter-strategies designed around the data compiled from previous robot/Hero battles, it had most definitely not been given a ready response for being attacked by a twenty-story tall rabbit. Hopcules’ first punch caught it completely by surprise, leaving a massive dent in its six-eyed head and following up with a sucker punch to the torso. The echo from the second blow rang through the street, and Hexcellent immediately heard Jeremiah’s voice snap in her ear.

                “Avoid the body blows, if possible. It’s already tough enough to move around inside this thing, without getting shaken like a martini.”

                “Don’t mind Jeremiah, he’s just mad because you made him fall and look undignified,” Aether added, her tone much less annoyed. “But do please focus on the extremities. Those are going to do the most damage to the surrounding areas.”

                “Not a problem.” Hexcellent tightened her grip on the bunny’s fur and yelled up to its ear. “Grab an arm and snap that shit off!”

                Luckily enough, an arm fitted with what looked like a half dozen machine guns came toward them, no doubt intent on filling the attacking rabbit with countless holes. Before it could take aim, Hopcules grabbed the wrist area, just below the guns, and slammed another hand into the upper arm, straining the elbow joint. Since the damn mech didn’t have a back there was nowhere to twist to, so Hopcules just kept piling on more pressure, trying to make the joint snap.

                “I’m going to take a wild guess that Hopcules was formed during a time when you watched a lot of wrestling.” Titan sounded surprisingly calm, given that he was darting around on the other side of the mech, throwing punches into its legs as he tried to cripple the thing’s mobility. Hexcellent could already see a tilt in the giant robot’s stance, meaning at least one of its legs was now shorter than the others.

                “I may or may not have enjoyed the occasional cage match in my childhood.” Hexcellent heard the crunch and pop before she actually saw Hopcules pull away the front part of the arm. Her moment of triumph at seeing the threat neutralized was short lived, however, as a blow from behind sent Hopcules stumbling forward. Only his gigantic feet saved him from losing his balance entirely.

                Whirling around, Hexcellent quickly put together what had happened. While they were trying to take care of one arm, it had swung another around and fired a laser blast into Hopcules. Hexcellent scrambled across the shoulder to look down at her summon’s back and assess the damage. A huge part of his armor was eroded, and there were singe marks along the skin with burned off patches of fur. Hopcules didn’t seem to have slowed down, but he had to be hurting.

                “Don’t worry, buddy. We’ll pay him back for that.” Even Hexcellent was surprised at the fury kindled inside her. Just the sight of her old friend in pain was enough to make her want to turn that fucking mech to bits so thin it could be mistaken for glitter. But she couldn’t, because then it would win. So they’d just have to settle for taking away its limbs.

                Hopcules swung back around to face it’s foe, and to Hexcellent’s surprise the mech stepped back slightly. It had seen that the bunny had the upper hand in a melee fight, so now it was trying to keep distance between them. The damned thing was learning, because of course it was. That was what these bastards did. Every time, every iteration, they just came back stronger and more organized, with no actual goal aside from collecting resources and-

                “Titan. And Dispatch, and whoever else is listening. I figured it out.” Hexcellent couldn’t believe it had taken her this long to see what was happening. Though, to be fair, RTS had always been one of her least favorite genres to play. “I know what the robot’s motives are.”

                “We’re all ears.” The voice was Jeremiah’s, though Hexcellent was relatively certain she also heard some explosions in the background.

                “It’s a video game.” Hexcellent had to pause as Hopcules leapt out of the way, avoiding another laser blast while working to close the gap. The mech kept sliding back, trying to line-up its next shot while also dealing with the smaller, yet potent, threats on the ground.

                “Going to need some elaboration,” Titan said.

                “All of this, the mech, the robots, the motives, it’s a real-time strategy game. You make troops, then send them out to fight and get resources. You use the experience from those encounters to make more, bigger troops and repeat the process. Over and over, until you can wipe out the enemy. That’s why no one could figure out what the fuck these things wanted. This is what they want. These fights.”

                “Why in the hell would someone go to all this trouble just to play a game?” Gale snapped.

                “No idea, but it’s the first theory I’ve heard that actually fits the pattern,” Jeremiah replied. “But if anything, it drives home how much we need to make this work. An attack more powerful than this one and the city will be leveled. Distraction team, keep it up, we’ve got a potential match for the signal relay, I’m en route to confirm.”

                “Okay, no more slacking,” Hexcellent yelled up to Hopcules. “We got one arm, three to go. You ready?”

                In response, Hopcules leapt forward, barely missing the latest volley of laser blasts. Fire breath was out, since it would melt the people inside the torso as much as the mech, but there was still good ole fashioned grappling. Hopcules slid it’s giant foot beneath the mech’s legs, knocking three of the remaining four upward. At the same time, he grabbed onto the laser gun that had been taking shots at him with both hand-like paws and jerked upward, trying to use the weight of the falling mech to force a separation at the shoulder.

                The idea was a good one, but if failed to account for one important element. After only a few feet, the mech’s fall stopped cold and it righted itself, spinning another arm around to slam the back of Hopcules knees, this time successfully sending it to the ground. While Hexcellent couldn’t understand how something that big could stop itself with one leg, Titan knew all too well what had happened as he watched the rabbit fall. Those damn gravity distorters, the ones that made the mechs viable in the first place. It had changed its weight to save itself.

                Hopcules struggled to get up while Hexcellent did all she could to hang on, but they were no match for the mech’s inhuman reaction time. The laser arm whipped around, pressing directly into Hopcule’s head, between the ears and the eyes.

                At this range, there was no chance the mech was going to miss.