Chapter 122

               Despite his initial impulse, Titan forced himself to stay calm as he watched the robot begin heading toward the hallway. Being angry, while useful in the right moments of battle, did jackshit to aid clear thinking. Stepping into this trap was bad enough; he couldn’t afford to stay snared while that bastard went after the other Supers. In terms of power alone, they were probably better, but the way it had been so perfectly equipped to deal with him left Titan fearful that he wasn’t the only one it knew how to stop. Especially separated as they were, it might just manage to get the upper hand. Even if it succeeded once, that was too many times. He had to think of something, fast, to keep the damn robot’s attention on him.

                Yanking free one of his projectiles, Titan let the steel ball fly directly into the metal back facing him. It pierced the surface cleanly, so cleanly that Titan realized he’d put more power into the throw than intended, before bursting out the other side and slamming into the ground. The robot, now with a small hole running through its body, turned to look at Titan, yet remained silent.

                “I didn’t think we were done having our match,” Titan said, another orb dancing along in the palm of his hand.

                “A quaint notion. My brothers might have fallen for that, prioritizing the immediate threat over what seem to be secondary ones. But today you showed Father that we are weakened if we rely on his instructions alone. I was made greater, smarter, closer to his image. And I know a petty attempt at distraction when I see it. You are neutralized, Titan. Accept it gracefully, as a good resource should.”

                “For someone who’s so smart, you don’t seem to know shit about how comms work.” That voice came from neither Titan nor the robot, but rather from Deadlift, who had darted around the corner. Over his head was a massive bucket, so large it must have been scraping the hallway’s ceiling, securely nestled inside a dense section of metal at least three feet thick. Even a normal strongman would have struggled with the load, or at least been slowed by it, but Deadlift moved as if it weighed no more than a thought, which for him it likely didn’t.

                “The asset known as Deadlift. High strength capacity observed but minimal ability to withstand damage,” the robot said. It’s left hand began to glow with an ominous green light, one that Titan had no doubt would cut through the younger Hero just like Jeremiah in the ravine, only Deadlift didn’t have any healing powers. “Permanent neutralization will be-”

                Whatever the robot’s opinions on neutralization might have been, they went unheard as Deadlift swung his bucket forward. While the metal shittalker was no doubt expecting some sort of solid mass, Titan’s vantage point afforded him a peek inside the container, to the red hot liquid bubbling about within. Deadlift had raided the forge, which explained why there was a massive container between his hands and bucket, and as he swung forward the golden-red liquid sprayed through the air in a wave of molten destruction.

                Moving with appropriately inhuman speed, the robot darted to the side, getting clear of the fiery goop before it had entirely left the bucket. Their opponent came up with its arm raised, a muzzle sliding out from between its ring and middle finger as the whole hand restructured itself into a ranged weapon. Taking aim, it again almost looked like it was smiling just before it squeezed off the shot.

                “You missed,” it declared, and fired on Deadlift.

                The beam of energy, no doubt meant to tear flesh and organs apart down to their very molecules, failed to pierce its target. This was not the fault of the robot’s aim or the gun’s firing. Rather, it was because a massive slab of muscular torso, still coated in burning hot metal, raced forward and put itself between the beam and Deadlift.

                “No, he didn’t.” Titan could actually feel the heat from the molten liquid as it dripped down his skin, which spoke volumes to just how hot it really was. Deadlift hadn’t managed to completely coat Titan in the stuff, but he’d gotten good coverage. Enough to instantly kill a large number of those damn tiny robots crawling on his skin while the residual heat cooked the rest. With no mini-bots to target, the gravity field couldn’t lock on, and Titan was once again a free man.

                “Thanks for the assist,” he said, never daring take his eyes off the robot, who still had a gun trained on him.

                “I might be a rookie, but I still know enough to listen in for a teammate having a tough time,” Deadlift replied.

                “I can see that. Now why don’t you slip back into the hallway real quick. This is about to get nasty, and I don’t want any collateral damage.” Titan darted forward, well aware that Deadlift would need a distraction to get clear. That was something he was happy to provide, as all the anger he’d been keeping at bay finally had an outlet, and it was the momentarily befuddled mechanical bastard right in front of him.

                The robot opened its mouth, probably to say something or make a quip, but Titan didn’t bother listening. It had been too long, he’d gotten used to working as a corpie, there were all manner of excuses he could make for himself about why he’d fallen into such a simple trap. None of them would have mattered, though. Not if he let his fellow Heroes pay the price for his mistake. Thanks to Deadlift, he’d gotten a second chance. As a man who knew how rare those were, Titan had no inclination to waste it.

                His first punch shattered its left arm, the one it had used to try and kill his friend. As he attacked, the robot tried to throw more of the mini-bots on him, but the liquid was still burning strong and they dissolved as soon as they made contact. The heat was adding something extra to his punches as well, flecks of molten metal spraying onto the robot and sizzling atop its exterior. The left arm was scrap in seconds, smashed apart with extra blows to ensure it couldn’t be put back together.

                “This is improper!” The robot was backpedaling, trying to put distance between itself and the rampaging Titan. “You are an imbalanced resource! That asset shouldn’t have even been here, let alone been skilled enough to aid you. You shouldn’t exist.”

                “There are plenty of people who agree with you, go ahead and get in line.” Titan kept after it, refusing to allow any chance for new plans to spring into the damn thing’s head. This was how he should have attacked from the start. It wasn’t his job to play with these things, taking his time and enjoying the fights. He was supposed to clear the path, no matter what lay ahead of him. Another strike, and this time the robot’s right leg was broken away, turned to shards under Titan’s stomping feet.

                A flash of red light filled the air as the robot fired from a gun on its right hand. The laser hit well, right in Titan’s torso, but only succeeded in leaving a small red dot on his chest. That alone was pretty impressive, by Titan’s standards anyway. Seeing the attack fail, his opponent kept trying to flee, crawling away slowly with its remaining limbs.

                “Why?” The cocky tone had faded, what remained was pleading, so close to human it nearly made Titan hesitate. Then he remembered the attempt to kill his teammate seconds ago, and he continued his pursuit. “Why do you exist? Why do you continue breaking the parameters?”

                Another audible crunch as Titan wrecked the last leg. The right arm swung around, trying to clock him with a half-hearted punch, and he caught it effortlessly. The robot stared up at him, its last limb captured. Small compartments on its chest opened, throwing off miniature bombs and laser blasts that bounced uselessly off Titan’s looming body.

                “Why won’t you quit? Why won’t you just die?”

                “That’s easy,” Titan said, ripping the last arm free from the robot’s body and wrapping his mighty hand around its dense head. “Because I haven’t earned the right yet.”

                One tug, and the head was clear of the torso. Less than a minute later, the body was reduced to scrap, and Titan stood over it, waiting to see if enough remained to try and repair. Only when it remained still did he relax, turning the robot’s head around in his hands as he looked at the destruction scattered throughout the room.

                “When you die, it’s over,” Titan said, all too aware he was talking to a lifeless hunk of metal. “No more work, or fear, or responsibility. I don’t deserve that kind of peace. Not until I make amends for all the things I’ve fucked up.”