Chapter 67

                When the robots burst into view, Titan could feel the Wild Bucks tense behind him. It was no wonder, they’d been knocked on their asses by the last iteration of these things and that was with two more members on the team. Of course, last time Topsy clearly hadn’t been there, Titan knew that just from the fact that any robots had managed to walk away. And he hadn’t been there either, which meant for this was going to be a very different fight than the last time.

                A beam of a pinkish red light tore out of one of the robots, lancing across the concrete on its way to the Heroes standing forty feet away. As the beam struck the ground it left cracks and scorch marks, enough to make it rough driving terrain but not so much that a tire would get stuck. Titan calmly angled himself in front of the team, taking the beam across his chest before it petered away to nothing. In truth, he doubted something that weak could have hurt anyone besides Deadlift, but it didn’t hurt to start things off with a nice show of force. Titan also found it interesting that the robots had upgraded their ranged attacks. Part of him wondered if that was in the hopes of taking out Supers like him before they could get in close.

                “I’m heading in,” Titan announced. “Kaiju, I want you to circle around to the northeast; that’s the easiest exit they’ve got so I want you to make sure they don’t use it. Deadlift, as I recall you can throw those big objects, so give me some ranged support. Juiced, from what I’ve seen on tapes you’re pretty mobile, run along the outsides of the crowd and pick off the distracted ones. Topsy… well you’ll know what to do if it’s needed.”

                Titan burst forward without even waiting for a single member of the team to confirm their orders. Part of this was so he could surprise the robots and hit them before they were ready, but he also wanted to show the team that he trusted them. He’d told them what to do and left them to do it, just as though they were competent Heroes instead of recent screw-ups. Only they could prove which of those definitions truly suited them.

                As he drew close the robots tried to spread out, clearly expecting his charge after their last battle. Titan let them, there was no way he could keep all of them wrangled in a single spot without a Hero with some crowd control powers knocking them about. He instead focused on the two nearest to him, grabbing a piece of each robot with one hand and lifting them into the air. From around him, Titan could hear the crackle of charging weapons and saw the robots shuffling to encircle him. No doubt about it, this was a tactic they’d developed for dealing with strongmen. Trying to overwhelm his resistance to damage by attack simultaneously on all fronts was actually a pretty good plan, in theory. Hell, it probably would have even worked… against someone else.

                It was impossible to see over the series of multi-colored flashes that struck him from all sides, so Titan didn’t bother trying. He focused on the two robots in his hands, smashing them against the ground and each other  over and over until there was nothing but metallic shards to be collected. If the last generation had been able to self-repair, he had to assume these could too, so he wanted to make good and certain these things stayed down.

                The group attack died out at last and Titan blinked away the spots in his eyes as he swept the battlefield for fresh targets. One of the robots that had spread out was pinned between two massive pieces of concrete that had crushed it from above. Another was trying to pull itself up as Juiced hammered it over and over again with her fists, shattering the concrete with each blow. Kaiju still stood ready, but untested, as none of the robots had made any attempt to flee. Fifty away, Topsy was watching patiently as Deadlift hefted up another slab of concrete and took aim.

                Four out of nine in the first scuffle and with no casualties save for another of Titan’s costumes. He quickly made note of all the burns and tears in the fabric and shook his head. If that order didn’t come in soon he was going to be fighting crime in sweats and a T-shirt.

                Titan leapt forward to grab two more of the robots, hoping they would circle up around him once more. He’d already suspected he could take what they could dish, but now that he knew for certain keeping them trained on attacking him was the best case scenario. Unfortunately, it seemed the robots had also realized the futility of trying to gang up on him, as they scattered the moment he moved. The three he wasn’t reaching for simple bolted, but the closest robot threw itself forward, directly into Titan’s path. It was such a strange action that it took him a moment to realize what this tin man had done.

                The robot had sacrificed itself, and in doing so it had allowed the other bot Titan was reaching for to elude his grasp. He blinked in surprise as he tightened his grip against the struggling metallic opponent. Titan had dealt with many a mechanical creations in his Hero days, and he couldn’t think of any that were programmed well enough to respond to a threat with an act of sudden self-sacrifice. All of their tactics were rooted around attack and defense coordination. Either this one had been programmed by someone with the brains to set up default responses to an incredible number of scenarios, or it had been given enough agency to make complex calls on the fly. Whichever one it was didn’t actually matter: they both spoke to a creator that was much smarter than what Titan had been expecting.

                He quickly scanned the field, seeing what the other robots were doing. One had charged Kaiju, another had been snared by Juiced as it tried to bolt, and two were running toward Deadlift and Topsy. Titan began dismantling the robot in his arms quickly, but not as quickly as he could if the need were dire. He was the one who had told Topsy these kids needed to score a solid win.

                Time to see if they’d be able to pull it off.