Chapter 120

                Though he was braced for attack, as it turned out the light from around the corner wasn’t coming from any sort of cannon, bomb, or even menacing robot. That would have made sense. No, what Titan found awaiting him as he headed down this new bend of the hall was far stranger than a mere defense mechanism. It was a catwalk, half-rusted steel stretched out over a deep hole and running to several elevators. He tested the metal carefully, expecting it to give way under his sizable weight, but found it didn’t even wobble. Looking closer, Titan realized that while the initial structure had aged poorly, new parts had been rotated in to secure everything in place.

                With each step, he waited, sure something from the dark chasm beneath his feet, with elevator rails that went deeper than he could make out, would come leaping up to attack him. Yet his movement was greeted only by the barely audible echoes of what sounded like some sort of distant activity.

                “Dispatch, put me in everyone’s ear,” Titan said, continuing without bothering to wait for confirmation. “Deadlift, you can go ahead and follow me in, just be careful. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure I walked into the top floor of a mining operation.”

                “Oh please don’t tell me this whole thing was just Old Man Caruthers digging for diamonds and trying to throw people off the scent,” Aether sighed. “If we unmask a Scooby Doo villain after all that destruction I’m going to be so pissed.”

                “Just throwing out a guess, but they might have been digging for ore,” Jeremiah said. “They probably dug out as much as they could and bought up the rest on the down low. Robots take metal, and unless you’ve got access to a really gifted Super, metal doesn’t make itself.”

                “That would have to be a lot of ore,” Gale told them. From her side of the mic, Titan thought he could pick up the muffled sound of wind and a small explosion. “Also, I met a welcoming committee. Not many of them, yet, but stay on guard.”

                “Yeah, be glad you’re not with us.” Aether’s voice was full of, not quite awe, but certainly a sense of being impressed. “We found the factory section that’s churning those bots out. Things are up and running, though most of them are incomplete. I think they sent every bot they had out after us today.”

                “Well, almost.” Jeremiah’s tone was about as close to worried as Titan had heard it since the giant mechs dropped from the sky. “I found what appear to be spare parts for a pretty sizable bot that doesn’t look like anything we’ve fought so far. Smart money says this place has a watch dog that was left behind.”

                Titan heard the sound of footsteps on the catwalk and swung around, ready to beat back whatever mechanical guardian had been sent to stop him. Instead he found Deadlift, who took a very healthy step back even though he was well out of punching range.

                “Sorry,” Titan mumbled, forcing himself to relax. “I’m a little on edge.”

                “And why wouldn’t you be? We’re just poking around a massive hidden robot factory, standing atop a patchwork walkway over what sure looks like an infinite hole to nowhere.” Deadlift took a careful peek over the side, then immediately pulled himself back to the center of the catwalk. “Okay, seriously, how in the hell did a place like this get built under our noses?”

                “From the looks of most of the stuff here, I think it was made a long time ago,” Jeremiah told them. “A lot of this equipment is crazy high-tech, but everything non-essential is still rusty and broken. This place might have been built back before Brewster was ever much of a metropolis. Old lair of a criminal who either went to jail or was buried is my guess, probably found by someone who didn’t mind a fixer-upper.”

                “Not the first opportunistic squatter I’ve had to oust,” Gale said. “When this is over, we probably need to catalogue this place and see what all is here. If it was an old villain’s lair, there might be useful files or documents.”

                “Hey, don’t go stealing my lines. I don’t run around kicking the shit out bad guys from mid-air,” Jeremiah replied.

                Titan ignored them, not because he disagreed, but because his focus for the moment was on making it across the rest of the catwalk. Near the middle, things had gotten a bit shakier, and while it continued to hold his weight Titan again found himself looking down to the empty gulf of darkness at his feet and wondering how long it would take him to climb back up. More importantly, he tried to figure out how he’d save Deadlift if the metal floor did give way.

                Mercifully, he didn’t need to think up an answer, as they both eventually made it all the way to the end of the catwalk and set foot back on the shiny silver surface that served as ground in this lair. Titan continued forward, coming to a fork in the path. He began down the right side, holding up his hand so Deadlift would wait, but within a minute he could feel the heat coming from up ahead. If they were mining ore, then they’d need a forge, and while it was possible his prey was hiding in there Titan found it highly unlikely. This much heat, from this far off, meant the temperature in the forge was more than any human without enhanced endurance could comfortably withstand. It was possible, true, but his gut said to check the other branch first before going after long shots.

                Backtracking to Deadlift, Titan headed down the left path, this one not putting up a wall of heat after the first minute. He called for Deadlift to follow, albeit at a safe distance, as they wound their way deeper into the hidden base, passing a few dusty workstations that had held up surprisingly well, and one ancient computer that looked like it weighed more than the desk it was sitting on. Along the way they got progress reports from the others, who were encountering similar findings.

                The one thing that began to worry Titan as they made their way further through the halls was that the others were dealing with patrols. Never too many and none so strong that they weren’t easily handled, but still the Heroes were fighting robots. Meanwhile, he and Deadlift continued to encounter a whole lot of nothing. It was unnerving, all the more so because Titan had thought this would be the most perilous path. Why was this one seemingly undefended?

                As it turned out, the answer to that question was waiting for him a few turns further down the hallway. In one angled step, Titan went from seeing more shiny walls to a massive room with a dome-shaped ceiling. From the number of shattered chairs and retro couches, Titan guessed that once upon a time this had been some sort of break or social room. That was long since passed, though. Standing amidst the wreckage that it had clearly created, purposely opening up the area, was a nine-foot tall robot unlike any that Titan had seen before. Thick limbs, glass eyes pulsing with green light, and all manner of small devices adorned the various nooks and crannies of its body.

                Titan didn’t even bother to turn, he trusted that Deadlift would take one look at the situation and know to stay back. This thing wasn’t like the smaller robots, this was something special. Maybe even a new model, a sneak preview at what would have come with the next encounter.

                “Hey guys,” Titan said, moving carefully into the large room. “Got a hunch that I found the watchdog.”

                As his foot crossed from the hallway over the room’s threshold, the robot bolted forward. That, Titan had been expecting. What came next, however, took him by surprise. It’s unwavering gaze stayed trained on him as its mouth parted and a thick, electronic voice echoed around them.