Chapter 123

                It took some time for Deadlift and Titan to continue on, mostly because the latter paused to try and get as much molten liquid off his body as possible.  As the material cooled it became easier, a few flexed muscles could shatter the hardened metal, but it still required a solid five minutes before Titan felt he’d wiped away enough to continue. During that time, Deadlift said nothing, merely watching in amusement as the older Hero was annoyed by a substance that would have killed most people, Supers included, outright.

                “You really are indestructible, aren’t you?” Deadlift noted as Titan finally stopped trying to clean himself off. “I had a hunch that stuff wasn’t going to kill you, I mean I’ve seen you take a lot of damage, but you didn’t even lose a step. It could have just as easily been room temperature water for how much it bothered you.”

                “No one is invincible, or indestructible, or unkillable,” Titan replied automatically. “Not me, not people like Jeremiah, no one. Always keep that in mind. When Supers forget that, bad things happen. Sometimes they go out of control with power, and need to be brought down. Sometimes they lose their nerve during a tough fight, and innocent people die. But no power is perfect, and as someone who has spent a big chunk of his life training and fighting other Supers, I should know.”

                Titan looked around the room, noting that there was only one exit out aside from the hallway they’d entered through. With nowhere else to go, their path forward was obvious. As they began to leave, however, he noticed that Deadlift was keeping closer than before. It was tempting to chastise the rookie, but given that Deadlift had just saved him, and possibly the rest of the team, Titan held his tongue. The kid was showing good judgement so far, if he wanted to stay closer then that was his call. For now.

                “You know, I’ve gotten that speech from a lot of people, Dean Bishop key among them. Yet every time I see more of what you can do, I find myself wondering just how true it is. Maybe someone could have killed you when you were young and inexperienced, but now… I watched you lift a mech today, Titan. And shrug off who knows how many attacks. You’re really going to stand there and tell me you’ve never once considered the possibility that you might be the exception to the rule?”

                Without warning, Titan stopped walking. He turned to face Deadlift, all too aware that their comms were still on. That was fine, though. This was something the others should hear, just in case they ever needed the information.

                “Strong as I am, Deadlift, I’m still vulnerable to things I haven’t faced before. True, after years of Hero work that’s a small category, but it’s a big world with new Supers appearing all the time. And to answer your question, no, I’ve never thought myself invincible. Because I know how the DVA plans to kill me if I ever go out of control.” Lifting his hand, Titan delicately tapped the side of his temple three times.

                “There’s a Super out in Kentucky with the power to manifest brain aneurisms. Never went Hero, since he didn’t think his power was suited to protecting people, but sometimes the DVA taps him to bring down especially dangerous or troublesome criminals. Temporarily Authorized Hero Asset, same exception they used for Hexcellent and Eli. I’ve got no resistance to that ability, and I’ve never been called on a case to fight anyone with similar powers. That’s how they’ll kill me, if I ever go rogue.”

                “Holy Hell,” Aether whispered over the comms. “They told you about this? Just gave you the name of your executioner in case ever you stepped foot out of line?”

                “Actually, Titan was the one who suggested we keep the aforementioned Super on retainer, just in case.” Dispatch was as calm as ever, slipping in only to correct a misassumption in the conversation and then going silent.

                “Why would you do that?” Deadlift asked.

                “Jeremiah, Gale, either of you want to field this one for me?” Titan asked.

                “Because Heroes need to be aware of their mortality,” Gale replied. “For those of us like me and Deadlift, because it keeps us smart and safe in dangerous situations. And for those like Titan and Jeremiah, it keeps them grounded, reminds them that even their actions have consequences.”

                Deadlift stared at Titan with new eyes, though whether they were filled with respect or the belief that he was a madman Titan didn’t have time to puzzle out. He merely turned back around and continued walking down the mysterious hallway, idly wondering if he’d have to fight another of those talking robots. He hoped not, there was something about destroying an opponent who could have conversations that left a bad taste in Titan’s mouth. AI was impossible, as far as the official records went, but that didn’t mean it would stay that way forever.

                “As an aside, the DVA also probably has assets that Titan isn’t aware of to tap, backups in case he decides to snuff out his threat in advance,” Jeremiah added. “I’ve poked around enough to know they’ve got contingency plans for me, and I’m nowhere near as dangerous as he is. Well, not as immediately dangerous, anyway. Given a little time and research, I can be a real bastard in my own right.”

                “Yeah? Well you need to get your bastard ass over to me,” Gale said. “I could be wrong, but I think I just found what we’re looking for.”

                Before he’d even realized he was moving, Titan’s hands had already formed fists. All that destruction, all those people hurt or worse. If he was mad, then Gale must be outright murderous. They had to pray she’d found the computer rather than the Super, otherwise no one would be able to stop her from taking revenge if she decided to.

                “Did you find the computer or the guy who built it?” Titan asked, unclenching his fists so that he could cross his fingers.

                “Both, I think. It’s… well it’s pretty damn weird if you want the truth.” The anger Titan had noticed in her earlier seemed to be ebbing, replaced with confusion. “I’d love some second opinions, especially from those of you who actually know something about tech.”

                “Great idea, but how do we get to you?” Deadlift asked.

                “Using the communicators for coordinates, I believe I can offer rudimentary directions to Gale’s location,” Dispatch offered. “I have been mapping the facility as you each progressed, and there are several areas where I suspect paths intersect. In the event I am incorrect, the barriers between hallways would be easily overcome, be it by strength or intangibility.”

                “Oh good, so I might have to punch through walls in the middle of an underground lair with who knows how much rock overhead. Nothing to worry about there.” Despite his grumbling, Titan trusted Dispatch’s judgement; there was really no other option as a Hero. And if Gale really had found something interesting, he wanted to get there as soon as possible.

                “Alright Dispatch, tell us where to go.”