Chapter 117

                Northeast of Brewster was a whole lot of nothing, at least as far as Titan was concerned. Some folks enjoyed the loping hills and quasi-mountains, good for hiking and camping and not much else. Despite his rough and tumble appearance though, Owen Daniels had always preferred life in a city to the more outdoorsy world. Visiting his wife’s family in the south had been his only real exposure to the country, and when he’d fled to start his bar he’d at least picked a place somewhat near civilization. The location didn’t surprise him, or any of the others, as it seemed to materialize around them. Building that many robots, an operation of such vast size, it had to be hidden out in nowhere. Otherwise, they’d have found it and put this whole thing to bed ages ago.

                “This is the closest point I had,” Relocate informed them. A teleporter who worked out of Port Valins, they’d been lucky he did an internship in Brewster and had been able to see so much of the town. There was no reason for him to have gone so far out in the boonies though, even a teleporters’ encouragement to travel had limits. A few freelance teleporters had been nearby, but they weren’t likely to get the team any closer. Besides, Titan never liked taking those types to sensitive areas. DVA-certified transportation resources or not, he preferred to stick with Heroes when things were getting serious.

                “We appreciate your help,” Jeremiah told him. “It’s a few more miles from here, something Gale can easily handle. I’m sure you need to get back to the rescue efforts.”

                “The requests are already flooding in.” Relocate tapped his right ear, where Dispatch was no doubt alerting him to the dozens of civilians in need of saving. The robot threat might be suppressed, but the damage they had done left countless people trapped or in danger. Every Hero that could be spared was pitching in to help, along with emergency services and dozens of PEERS teams. “If you need to make a quick getaway, I can meet you here. Otherwise, there might be a wait for me to get back.”

                “This isn’t a team that plans on running,” Gale told him.

                “I didn’t expect as much, but it seemed polite to offer.” Relocate took one last look at his surroundings, refreshing his memory to make the trip back easier, and vanished in a shimmer of static.

                “Gale, if you could follow my heading,” Jeremiah said, stepping to the front. “There might be defenses out here, the nearer we get to the signal source the greater chance of that, so everyone be on guard. Aether, be ready to shift Gale and Deadlift if we come under fire.”

                “What about you?” Aether didn’t bother asking about Titan, because the answer was obvious: he didn’t need to be intangible. The very best those robots had thrown at him didn’t leave so much as a mark on anything other than his suit. The bots were strong, but Titan had fought stronger.

                “I’ll be fine,” Jeremiah assured her. “Worry about these two. Although, Gale, do your powers work when you’re intangible?”

                “Never had occasion to find out,” Gale said. “Guess today’s a good chance to learn.”

                Deadlift let out a soft groan. “Let’s not tempt fate. Hopefully we’ll make it to the signal without needing to take evasive actions.”

                “Hope in one hand, spit in the other…” Jeremiah didn’t bother finishing the saying, instead listening attentively to a voice coming through his comm. As he sat silent, Gale took the opportunity to whip up a whirlwind, raising them all from the ground. Jeremiah was in the front, since he’d be pointing the way, with Deadlift and Gale on either side of Aether so she could reach them. Titan was in the rear, a hardy shield in case something tried to come at them from behind.

                “That way,” Jeremiah said finally, gesturing out toward a hill overgrown with lush green trees. “Based on the topography my people are looking at, we’ll pass over two hills and a small lake before we get to the right area.”

                With no more than the point of a finger they were off, tearing through the sky at breakneck speeds. Though she was doing a good job staying controlled, Titan could nearly feel the rage coming from Gale. He liked Brewster, but to him it was just a city. To her, however, it was a place of incredible importance. It was where her team had been based for decades, where the legacy of Elemental Fury took root. More than that, she’d lived there for years, she knew the city and the people in it intimately. This attack hadn’t just been horrific for her on a human level, it had hit her personally. When they found whoever was responsible for it, Titan knew he was going to have to move fast. If the culprit wasn’t captured quickly, Gale might do something she ultimately lived to regret. Killing was never easy, and if it was done without need then she’d be weighed down by that sin for the rest of her life.

                The ground below them flew by, in no time they were zipping past the lake Jeremiah had mentioned, and he motioned for Gale to begin their descent. Near as Titan could tell, there was nothing that marked the area they were heading for as noteworthy, just a small ravine and more hills full of trees. Of course, if the base could be seen from the sky, they wouldn’t have needed to use such extreme tracking methods in the first place. Slowly, following Jeremiah’s directions, Gale brought them down, past the lip of the ravine, deeper into the crevice where the late-afternoon sun could scarcely reach. At last, Titan felt the familiar sensation of earth beneath his feet.

                It turned out that the ravine was deeper than he’d thought from the sky, a narrow slice in the land that felt like two walls looming over them. Thankfully, Hero gear didn’t lose signal easily, as Jeremiah began trekking across the rocky terrain, following the guidance of his unseen team. The more Titan watched Modus Operandi accomplish, the more curious he was about the other members. It wasn’t unheard of for Subtlety Heroes to buck the spotlight, but a whole team represented by one Hero seemed peculiar. Then again, they were bound to be making all manner of enemies, given how efficient they were, and Subtlety Heroes often weren’t known for their combat skills. Maybe putting up a giant target to go after made sense, assuming Jeremiah could handle the burden.

                “We’re getting close,” Jeremiah called, waving for them to follow. “The signal is coming from nearby, and my team says this is the most likely point to have an entrance. If we don’t find one, then I’m going to need Aether to do some intangible recon through the rock, and then Titan can bust open-”

                Before Jeremiah could finish his plan, he took one step too far, and what seemed to be nothing more than a clump of rocks suddenly sprang to life. It whirred and clicked, whipping around and locking the barrel of its laser gun directly on Jeremiah. Titan started running as soon as he saw the motion, but he wasn’t nearly fast enough. The sound of a high pitched whine filled the air, then a flash of red shot from the barrel. After that, there was only Titan’s thundering footsteps and the soft slump of a body hitting the ground.

                The hole in Jeremiah’s chest where his heart should be was still smoking, the horrid smell of roasting flesh wafting through the air.