Chapter 18

               They were outside the mall when Dispatch’s voice crackled in Owen’s ear, only a few yards from the town car that would whisk them away to their next location.

                “Titan, you have hostile constructs closing on your location. Elemental Fury wiped out the first wave, but a second appeared and scattered in various directions. One cluster is on a path that will intersect with your location in less than five minutes. Can you respond?”

                Owen had stopped walking when he heard Dispatch speak, leading Hexcellent to shoot him a look of confusion. He held up one finger, gave a small shrug of apology, then replied to Dispatch.

                “I can. One the Supers from my PEERS team is with me; do we have time to get her clear?”

                “Negative. The constructs caused several accidents, leading to traffic congestion on every applicable route to safety. We have teams clearing, but until they’re done getting in a car will put her at higher risk.”

                “Excuse me, did you just ask if I could ‘get clear’?” Hexcellent said, narrowing her eyes and sticking a hand on her hip. “If something’s going down, I’m one of the people helping, remember dipshit?”

                “We’ve got robots or something like it less than five minutes away. If they come, it’s possible they’ll go after you, and I don’t want to get you in trouble for engaging in combat,” Owen explained. “Unfortunately the roads are jammed, so you’re stuck here.”

                “Well that sucks, but they’re coming to us, right?”

                “That’s what I’m told.”

                “Then if I get attacked I can respond in self-defense. Just because we can’t start shit doesn’t mean we can’t end it when some other douchenozzle does.” A wry, daring smile lit up her face at the prospect of sanctioned battle. Owen again found himself wondering why a woman like this hadn’t found her way into the HCP. It was a curiosity that would have to be sated another time.

                “Alright, I’m ready to respond and I’ve got a PEERS with me for helping with the civilians. What can you tell me about these things?” He turned away from Hexcellent, not because he thought his words would in any way be muffled, but rather as a polite way of distinguishing that he wasn’t speaking to her. Dispatch didn’t require any indicators; she always knew what was conversation and what was for her. It was one of the many strange, yet useful, aspects of the mysterious voice.

                “You have four heading toward your location. They have strength and resilience on par with a Standard-Class strongman, laser weaponry on par with a Standard-Class blaster, and reaction speed at elevated human-levels.”

                “If that’s all there is then I don’t see why they caused such trouble,” Owen prodded.

                “I was getting to that. They also show adaptability to tactics, learning from the mistakes of others. Given your skillset, I do not foresee it being an issue. The other unique capability of these constructs is that they show minor regeneration. Disabled units would re-enter combat after being let alone for some time. They cannot heal beyond complete dismemberment or destruction, however.”

                Owen stretched out his arms, tensing every muscle from his shoulder to his fingers. After a moment, he rose up on his toes, adding his legs to the procedure. He felt the mild strain in his tendons, and for an instant he was intimately aware of every fiber of muscle in his massive body. Ever-so-slowly, he released the stretch, pulling his arms back in and lowering down on his feet. It should only be a minute or so now.

                “Hit them hard, hit them fast, and don’t stop until they are scrap. That it?”

                “That will neutralize the threat. We have others trying to gain information out of their wreckage and systems, but I’m aware your talents lay in other directions. They have continued on their current course and will be breaking into your line of sight momentarily.”

                With a squint of his eyes Owen could make out the shimmering shapes of four sizable humanoids running toward him. They were big, probably a little taller than he was. Not that it would help. He pulled back his left leg and judged the distance. It had been a while since he pulled this trick; Owen hoped he hadn’t lost the touch.

                “So, am I finally going to see the legendary Titan let loose on some motherfuckers?” Hexcellent’s tone was light but she’d positioned herself several feet behind him. Her attention was split, eyes darting between her teammate and the mall entrance where shoppers were already beginning to line-up and point.

                “I’ll do my best to put on a good show, but to be honest this is probably going be a pretty boring fight. Stay ready though, if any of them get past me you’ll have to draw attention from the humans.”

                “Big Henry ain’t exactly a subtle sumnabitch, if you hadn’t noticed,” Hexcellent replied. She hadn’t summoned any of her demons yet, but Owen had seen how quick she could pull them. It was the right call, bringing them out might panic the civilians. Best to let him settled things quickly.

                With a nod to Hexcellent and a minor grunt, more out of habit than effort, Owen pushed against the concrete with enough power that it cracked under his boots. The force of the jump sent him sailing forward in an arc more long than high, carrying him across the parking lot to where four metal behemoths were just arriving on the asphalt.

                Whether it was luck or skill, Owen hit his mark dead-on, landing only a few feet away from the cluster of constructs. The concrete sprayed them as he effortlessly tore through it with his landing. Before any of them had a chance to register him as a threat, Owen sprang. He darted up to the two on the left and slammed a hand into the torso of each. Flexing his fingers, he easily shredded their armored facades and gripped the firm inner workings that kept them moving.

                His guess had been close on their size; each was nearly half a foot taller than him. Despite this, he showed no apparent effort as he lifted the two constructs off the ground, spread his arms, and then clapped them together like two high-tech tambourines. Sparks and shards of metal rained down on Owen, who ignored it all just as he’d been ignoring the flailing blows that the two bots had been pelting him with since he arrived. He pulled them apart and them banged them together again, and again, and again. After the fourth strike there was barely enough left to hold, let alone smash, so he dropped the remains of his first victims and turned to the other two.

                This was the first time Owen got a good look at them, as he’d deformed the ones he held too quickly to get a mental picture. Each one possessed a small, dome-like head, as though someone had spray-painted a bowl and turned it upside down. They had awkward, triangular torso and fore-arms that were vastly over-sized and out of proportion. That anomaly explained itself quickly, as the one on his right raised its hands and fired red beams at Owen’s chest.

                Oh yeah, he’d forgotten about the lasers. Owen dashed forward to the one attacking him, ignoring the slightly singed smell of roasting costume, and grabbed it by one of its triangular shoulders. If the robot had the capability of feeling surprise, it certainly didn’t get an opportunity to. With another hand snaring its waist, Owen ripped the metal warrior in half as easily as one would tear serrated paper. Just for good measure, he quickly tore it into a few more pieces before scattering them about with a whip of his arm.

                Spinning on his heel, he found the last one shuffling on its feet. Dispatch had said these things learned, and were adaptable. It was probably trying to compute a strategy to overcome him.

                “Good luck with that,” Owen chuckled. The robot stopped shuffling for the barest of instants, and Owen pounced.

                It was too bad, really. He had wanted to put on a better first exhibition for his new teammate.