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"Gravity, get ready to cover us." Erich gasped through gritted teeth as he ran towards the exit, “Hangman’s in my old suit.”

“What!?”

Erich winced as the woman shouted over the comms, “Yeah, it seems it was a little less damaged than I gave it credit for.”

It had also apparently more or less survived having a building dropped on it.

In different circumstances he might have taken a moment to take pride in his creation’s longevity. As it was, the pain in his side somewhat soured that experience, especially tempered by the knowledge that if his shields hadn’t taken the brunt of the shot he would probably have been smeared all over the hospital walls.

“Michaelson!” Myra shouted through the comms, mercifully cutting off that line of thought, and Gravity’s ongoing yelling, “You better have every gun we have trained on those doors when we come out. Even if your guns can’t even scratch the suit’s paintwork, the motherfucker’s bringing plenty of goons with them.”

They were? Erich hadn’t even noticed. Then again, the sight of his suit, fully intact and bearing down on him, had done quite a good job of commanding his focus.

“Will do, boss.” Responded a man, presumably Michaelson. The guy didn’t sound happy, but he didn’t sound like he was about to flee either. “The Nazi’s are perking up out here, so a few of our people are busy, but we’ll have more than enough guns on that door.”

From behind them, they heard the patter of gunfire and then the sound of metal shrieking.

Likely just encountered one of my bots, Erich thought, dismayed by just how little time the drone had apparently lasted. From the sounds of things, Hangman had just smashed the machine aside and kept moving.

So much for his plan to nullify the telepath’s mind reading ability by using drones.

Erich and Myra burst out of the hospital and straight into a scene out of a war movie. The smoke had cleared, and fire was being sent every which way as Myra’s people blazed away at the Nazi’s. The cars that had filled the carpark they had inserted through had all seen better days as they were liberally filled with bullet holes.

Fortunately for his peace of mind, none of Myra’s people were using them for cover, given that the vehicles would provide next to no defense from bullets.

“Get over here!” Myra shouted, tugging him towards a set of pillars. Erich was about to complain about being manhandled as pain shot up his side again, but the moment he opened his mouth to speak, Myra’s head rocketed to the side as a bullet pinged off it.

That shut him up, and he willingly allowed himself to be shoved into cover, even as his side screamed in protest.

And a good thing too, because the moment he had sunk down behind cover, the double doors of the hospital all but exploded outward as the massive form of his old suit charged out of it.

“Holy shit!” Gravity cursed, unknowingly echoing his own thoughts.

“Light em’ up!” Myra shouted as skinheads spilled out of the hospital after the armored telepath.

Erich didn’t hesitate, and neither did the rest of Myra’s people, as a deluge of fire pattered against the suit’s glowing energy barriers. The people to the left and right of it weren’t so tough though, and a number of the skinheads that had been caught in the open were minced under the impressive amount of firepower.

The suit didn’t stop though, and Erich had a sudden terrible sense of déjà vu as he recalled his own first outing with the suit.

Only now he was on the other side.

“Scatter!” he shouted as he scrambled out of the way as the suit ran toward them, firing as it advanced.

A few of the White Tigers had heeded his words and dived to the side, but most hadn’t heard him, and were sent flying as the wide-angle pulse blasts detonated amongst their ranks.

Erich winced as people were sent sprawling by the energy weapon. The only exception was Myra who had just tanked the blast.

Then Hangman punched her in the face, and even from a half dozen meters away, Erich heard the crack as the purple woman’s head snapped back. She swung back almost instantly, but the suit moved with an eerie grace to step around the blow, before hitting her with a body blow.

Erich and the rest of Myra’s people fired into the melee, but with every moment that passed the New Brotherhood goons advanced further out of the hospital, forcing more and more of the White Tigers to change targets.

The mech’s fists smashed into the woman again and again. And again and again the bruiser tried to counter attack, only to be sidestepped by the slow-moving suit.

He’s pre-empting her moves, Erich noted with a complete lack of surprise*.*

“Root Command Charlie-Epsilon-Zulu,” he shouted, not really expecting a response.

Only, to his surprise, the suit froze mid-movement.

Holy shit… he thought, hope blooming in his chest.

…Then it blasted Myra with it’s pulse blaster, sending the bloodied woman sprawling, before turning it’s ‘eyes’ on him.

“Of course,” he sighed, as it started advancing on him.

“Voice recognition software, Erich.” Hangman said, voice practically oozing smugness even through the telepath’s artificial cadence. “Something you really should have invested in to begin with.”

Erich didn’t dignify that with a response as he dodged backwards, blazing away with his remaining weapons.

“Is that half-baked piece of junk really the best you could do, Mechromancer?” Hangman snorted disdainfully as the bullets ricocheted off his defenses.

“Shit. Shit. Shit.” Erich cursed, pain flaring in his side as he backpedaled.

“Come on, let’s get your sad story over with.” The meta grunted as he brought his guns up, only to grunt in pain as a green aura settled over his limbs.

“Not quite yet,” Gravity grunted with gritted teeth.

Erich looked over to see the woman crouched behind a nearby pillar, arms outstretched and glowing.

“Do something Erich.” Gravity grunted, sweat streaming down her forehead from the strain of holding the struggling suit in place. “Your ridiculous suit is too fucking strong for me to hold for long.”

“Right,” Erich nodded, frantically looking around as he dismissed the peculiar sense of déjà vu.

Shields, down. Guns, not worth a damn. Exoskeletal strength, pathetic. Battery, comprom- Ah.

“Arm one, detach weapons system and extract battery.” He hissed frantically.

“Acknowledged.” The suit said in time with the sound of one of his weapons clattering to the floor. “Warning: Removing power source will cause catastrophic suit failu-”

*“*Root Command, extract battery.” He hissed even more frantically.

“Acknowledged.” The suit intoned, reaching behind his back to clumsily yank out the compromised power core with a spray of sparks, before freezing as the whole suit ran out of juice.

Lamenting his refusal to install a backup power supply, Erich tried to reach behind himself to grasp the power core, only to grunt with frustration at the fact that the awkward angle left it out of reach.

Which left him looking rather ridiculous as he flailed behind himself.

“Erich!?” Gravity hissed.

“Working on it!” He shouted back in frustration, before jumping up and slamming his back into the floor.

Pain exploded out from his side, and his breath exploded from his lungs as he hissed in pain, but he heard the cracking sound he wanted.

At least, I hope that’s the arm cracking, he thought as he considered not just his bones, but the incredibly volatile energy system he was bashing into the floor.

It didn’t really matter in the end. Clambering up slowly – a feat made more difficult by the all the dead weight that was his suit – the engineer slammed his back into the floor again.

And again.

And again.

Until finally he heard the snap he had been waiting for.

“Faster, Erich!” Gravity hissed as the suit in front of her audibly whined as it’s servos strained against her powers, “Whatever you’re thinking of doing, he sure as shit doesn’t like it.”

Erich barely heard her. Drenched with sweat, he sprawled onto his side and scooped up the detached arm; the sparking Artificer-Tech battery still held in it’s feeble grasp.

This is going to suck so fucking much…

He hesitated for just a moment, before he jammed his index finger into the device’s insides through it’s cracked case. It was like dipping the digit in lava. Biting his lip to stifle the shriek of pain he wanted to let loose as the material of his glove started to adhere to his skin, he found the wire he was searching for and pulled it loose before yanking his hand away.

Well, at least it didn’t instantly explode in my hand, he thought as he pivoted.

He had never had much success with ball games. For all his ability to calculate the physics involved in the creation of an ideal throw, his ability to put it into practice was limited. Which was why he was so surprised when he lobbed the battery and his ungainly projectile arced lazily through the air to clang directly against the Hangman’s helmet.

Ideally, that would have been the moment his hastily improvised explosive device did explode. As it was, it clanged against the helmet and tumbled to the ground with a clatter.

Then it exploded.

Both he and Gravity were thrown from their feet as a vibrant pink fireball engulfed the suit. Erich’s side exploded with pain again - and this time he definitely heard something crack - as he was sent sprawling against the concrete.

Wincing as he clambered onto his elbows, ignoring the litany of aches and pains from his body, he saw that the spot where the Hangman has been was utterly shrouded with smoke.

Oily purple smoke.

“Yeah, let’s try and avoid breathing any of that in.” Myra huffed as she strode over to him, gingerly clutching her shirt torso, where a blood patch was forming in her shirt.

Seems that bulletproof is not the same as blaster proof, he thought grimly.

Dismissing the woman from his mind, he called out, “Gravity, you still alive?”

“For now.” The woman grunted back from wherever she’d landed.

Erich nodded, “Right, well keep an eye out, he might still be-”

As if on cue, Hangman strode out of the smoke, his suit cracked and smoking, but still mobile.

“Motherfucker…” Myra hissed as she brought up her gun, “How fucking tough do you build those things?”

Erich didn’t grace that question with an answer as he scrambled behind a nearby car.

From his hiding spot, he saw that the suits barriers were completely gone, as armor plating crumpled or fell away as the heavy duty rounds of Myra’s oversized machine pistol slammed into the suit. Internals he was intimately familiar with were exposed to the light of day as the suit raised its arms to deflect some of the firepower headed it’s way. He saw one of the forward lights spark and fail, and realized that the bastard must have tried to use the system’s ‘flash’.

Not going to happen, he thought smugly as he took in the battered state of the construct.

For just a moment, Erich almost believed that Myra’s attack would be enough to finally end the telepath.

But when her magazine ran dry the suit was still standing. One of it’s arms had been completely shredded, and he could see blood as well as coolant leaking through the rents in it’s armor, but the other limb was all but untouched.

Myra didn’t even have time to attempt to dodge before she was blasted from her feet once more by a wave of pure force. Her gun flew from her hands as her limp body was sent skidding across the carpark like a ragdoll.

“You people are beginning to get on my nerves.” The suit’s damaged speakers crackled, the whole machine ominously turning towards Erich’s hiding space.

…Shit.

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A note from SoggyRedToast

Phew, as of this morning book one is complete, and I'll be sending it off to the editor tomorrow (Yay). I'll also be posting the remaining chapters up to non-patreon services over the next few days.


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SoggyRedToast

Bio: A supervillain in the making

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