Chapter 68

                Titan was a bit surprised to see Juiced in action. From her swelling of muscle and size, plus the small amount of fight footage he’d witnessed, Titan assumed she would be a straightforward damage dealer like himself, punching and smashing through opponents with enough power to render their defenses futile. As it turned out though, Juiced had more finesse than that. She was a grappler, bringing her grabbed robot to the ground as soon as she had it in her grasp. The robot scrambled wildly, trying to free itself or turn a weapon on her, but Juiced was on complete control from the moment they hit the ground. Locks that were generally used to cause submissions against human opponents were employed to quickly and efficiently break the robot’s limbs and limit its mobility. Juiced wasn’t as fast at dispatching her opponent as a true heavy-hitter, however, she was more precise than almost any strongman Titan had even seen work. She probably wouldn’t fare well in a giant brawl, but one on one the woman was a force to be reckoned with.

                Kaiju fell more in line with what Titan had seen on the tapes and expected. His robot managed to fire off one of the beam attacks while closing in the massive reptilian beast, a blast of energy that struck Kaiju right on his scaled flank. The one part Titan hadn’t been expecting was that Kaiju’s red scales didn’t simply hold up under the attack, the reflected the beam upward into the sky. Clearly the robot hadn’t been expecting that either, and it stopped in mid-run while still firing the beam from its wrist canon. Most likely it was trying to calculate whether to risk another ranged attack or try and deal with its opponent in melee. Kaiju didn’t give it the chance to make that call, however. He barreled forward on all fours, then skewered the robot with one set of sizable, sharp claws. They slid through the robots tough exterior shell like knives cutting into a very silver cake.

                As someone who was in the process of manually ripping apart one of those robots, Titan had a good appreciation for how tough they were. These things had been built to take a beating, and they lived up to it, but Kaiju shredded his opponent like an fourteen foot tall food processor bent on destructions. Titan glanced down and saw that Juiced was finishing up with her robot, spreading the pieces she was snapping off in all directions as she followed his lead.

                Deadlift was the last one to deal with his opponent since he’d been doing ranged work. Unlike the others, he didn’t merely stand in place when one of the robots fired at him. Instead, he quickly rolled to the side, snatched up the concrete column, and hurled it at the re-orienting robot like it was made of foam. The robot dodged easily, through the resounding boom that resounded when the column landed was enough to startle anyone, man or machine. Deadlift wasn’t bothered though; he was sprinting forward, intercepting the robot in exactly the spot it had dodged to. He grabbed it quickly by the shoulder, then threw his opponent up into the air.

                Titan watched the metallic dot soar through the sky until it broke through the lowest layer of clouds, at which point he lost track of it. Deadlift might not be technically strong, but whatever he did was still damned impressive in its own way. When he glanced down, Titan couldn’t help but let himself smile. The last robot, having seen it’s counterparts be destroyed one by one, had decided to try and attack the only untested opponent still on the battlefield. It was making a rush for Topsy, who stood calmly as it raised an arm to fire one of the beam weapons at him.

                The beam of light crackled through the air, racing toward Topsy with incredible speed. When it was only inches away from the older man’s body, his defense kicked in. What appeared to be a black tornado encircled Topsy’s form, casting wind in all directions and tearing up the ground under his feet. The beam was shredded as it touched the swirling mass, whittled away to nothing under the relentless assault.

                While most of the Gentle Hammers had been strongmen, there had been a few whose abilities fell outside those bounds. Topsy and his power to creating swirling energy vortexes were one such example. The man might not be able to lift a car or shrug off a bullet, but when it came to taking and dealing damage there were precious few who could outpace him. Sadly, it was also why he’d never been able to rise as high as he deserved in the public’s eye. When one had a power of pure, unrestrained destruction it made people uneasy. Too often they would look at him and see what he might do if he went evil, rather than appreciating his efforts as a Hero.

                As the beam ran out, Topsy let the defensive tornado fall away. The robot raced forward, determined to handle this old man in melee since range was ineffective. As it extended a fist toward his stomach, Topsy reached out and carefully placed a hand on its metallic forearm. The robot seemed to swell for a moment, like a silver balloon being overinflated. Then it exploded outward, pieces being flung all over as the vortex Topsy had paced inside of it came roaring out. The only part of it in even remotely one piece was the fist and forearm Topsy was still clutching in his hand.

                Titan was impressed, not by Topsy who he’d always known was a force to be reckoned with, but by the strength of the Wild Bucks in combat. Even with he and Topsy pitching in, they’d handled themselves smartly and with skill. It didn’t make sense that this team had been completely crushed by the last generation of robots. This group was tougher than the last ones Titan had fought, and seemed a bit smarter too, so they certainly hadn’t downgraded. Something else had changed, clearly, but Titan didn’t know what. He just knew that these three had real potential.

                As he finished crumpling up his robot, the one Deadlift had hurled into the air became visible once more careening toward the ground at an incredible rate. Deadlift was already there, column heft over his shoulder, and as the metallic man came in range Deadlift took a steady swing. The robot wasn’t quite as demolished as Topsy’s had been, but there was no way it would be putting itself back together. Not without a lot of time and buckets of super glue.

                “Dispatch, our hostiles have been resolved. No injuries, no need for healing, but we could do with a little cleanup.” Titan walked over to the robot still pinned under the concrete slabs. It was struggling, but seemed to be losing power. “Even got one in somewhat decent shape, so tell the tech people to sharpen their scalpels. Or… I guess wrenches in this case.”