Stupid giant robots, Mavis Foster cursed in her head. Stupid robots, stupid idiot scientists, stupid movies that depict giant robots as unstoppable machines and unintentionally inspire aforementioned stupid idiot scientists.
She dived to the side to avoid being crushed by the massive robot's foot, which flattened the grass where she had just been. The stupid thing was half the size of a skyscraper, and if that wasn't bad enough, it was being piloted by one of the most ingenious inventors in the world: Kegan Kennedy. The older brother of one of her best friends, Kegan had been a thorn in Empire's side for a long time. His intellect was matched only by his eagerness to cause a lot of damage and engage Empire in long fights. Thankfully, his inventions were not invulnerable; his brother Kane-Mavis's close friend-could often find flaws in their design which would help Mavis defeat them.
"Kane, I could do with a weakness right about now," Mavis said into her comm unit as she leapt up and grabbed hold of a thin part of the robot's ankle. She wrapped her arms and legs around it, hoping to buy Kane some time.
"I'm trying, Mavis," came Kane's voice in her ear. "I'm trying! I've got the blueprints here but I can't-."
"MAVIS!" shrieked the voice of Mavis's field partner suddenly.
Mavis couldn't react in time, and the simple reason for that was that she had no idea what she needed to react TO until the robot's large hand had already pinned her against the leg. She held on with all her strength, but the robot was stronger than her, and it managed to rip her off its leg and toss her aside like a leaf stuck to a boot. Mavis's head was flung back, painfully jerking her neck, but when she hit the ground, she managed to land in such a way that she avoided breaking any bones. Her bare arms scraped the rough tarmac, leaving red grazes and cuts down them.
As she rolled to a stop, Esther van Dyke dropped down from out of nowhere and came to her side.
"I'm okay," Mavis coughed, before Esther could ask. She pushed herself into a sitting position, inspecting the red wounds down her arms. She had around a dozen scrapes and cuts, but only three were bleeding. "I'm fine. Kane?"
"I think I have something but I'm just making sure I'm absolutely certain before I give it to you. What happened?"
Instead of replying, Esther quickly pulled Mavis to her feet and dragged her away from the robot, which was now stomping towards them. Mavis winced each time she stood on her right ankle, which appeared to have taken some of the impact. It wasn't broken, but it was at the very least sprained, and that added to Mavis's pain, despite Esther's efforts to reduce it.
"Use the grappling hook," panted Mavis. "Get up to the head. Kegan will be in there."
"No, don't do that!" Kane suddenly yelped. "There's an electrical forcefield surrounding it; you'd be electrocuted with a thousand volts in an instant."
Mavis and Esther exchanged a pained glance. "I don't even know how painful that would be but I'm definitely not going to risk it," the latter said. "Have you got that weakness yet, Kane?"
"Yes, I think so!" Kane sounded somewhat triumphant. "Okay, so there should be a grate somewhere underneath the robot's left arm. Can you see it?"
"Our left or your left?" demanded Mavis.
"The robot's left!"
Both women stopped moving and looked back up at the robot, spotting a small grating just underneath its elbow.
"I see it," said Mavis. "How do we reach it?"
"It hides a vent," Kane explained. "So if you open it, you should be able to crawl from the robot's arm up to its head."
Esther got out her grappling hook gun and shot the hook up to the vent. It took her a single try for her to snag the hook on the grating. Tugging on the rope attached to the hook to make sure the line was secure, Esther turned to Mavis. "Are you coming?"
"No, I'll be too heavy," Mavis replied reluctantly. "You go up there, I'll distract Kegan."
Esther opened her mouth to argue but thought better of it. "Alright. Just...be careful."
"I will. You too."
With one last smile at her partner, Esther activated the repelling mechanism, and held tightly onto the handle of the gun as she flew upwards towards the grating. As she got closer to it, the grate began to creak, to her concern. Just as she reached it, it fell off completely. Thankfully, Esther reacted in time to grab the inside of the vent, saving herself from falling two hundred feet. She swung into the vent and began crawling diagonally upwards, towards the head.
Meanwhile, Mavis was down on the ground, clutching onto the ankle of the robot again. This time, she was ready for when it reached down to pull her off, and she managed to swing herself round to the other side of the ankle so that the robot's hand missed her. She continued doing this, becoming more than a little dizzy, until she lost her grip and dropped back down to the ground. Allowing herself a moment to get her bearings back, she then hopped up onto the robot's other leg and the cycle continued.
By this point, Esther had reached the neck of the robot. She quietly lifted the grating above her to the side and peeked over the top. She spotted Kegan sitting in a chair in front of a wall of monitors, hitting buttons and pulling levers on the consoles in front of him.
Esther leapt up and grabbed her gun in one smooth motion, aiming it directly at the back of Kegan's head. "Shut it down," she snarled.
Kegan appeared not to hear her at first. Just as she opened her mouth to repeat her words, he suddenly said, "I bet my brother's listening, isn't he?"
Esther paused, hearing Kane's voice in her earpiece: "Take him down, Esther. By whatever means necessary."
"Wow," commented Kegan, pressing a button on one of his consoles. "You'd think we weren't related at all."
"You heard him just now?" Esther asked warily.
"I hacked your communication channels a few minutes ago," replied Kegan. "Hello, Kane."
There was a pause. Then: "Shut the robot down, Kegan."
"No, I don't think I will," Kegan said casually. "And you'll leave me alone if you know what's good for you."
"Why?" demanded Esther.
"Because something tells me Kane's missing his little siblings," Kegan said, smirking.
Esther inhaled quietly but sharply as she understood what Kegan meant. Apparently, Kane had worked it out as well. "Have you done something to them?!"
"Not yet, I haven't," said Kegan, the look on his face clearly showing Esther that he believed he had won. "But if you want them returned to you in one piece, I suggest you back off."
"Y-You're bluffing," Kane growled, but his voice didn't quite match the bravado of his words.
"Knew you'd say that." Kegan held down a different button on his console and spoke into a microphone. "Rhiannon, give the boy a little jolt."
A female voice giggled over the speakers, then came a short zap sound and a male scream of pain. Esther, who didn't even recognise the voice, flinched. From Kane's end, there came a pounding noise of fists on a table, then his voice sounded, full of rage and fear: "Leave him alone! Leave THEM alone!"
"Kane?" came a small, fearful female voice. "Kane, help!"
"K-KANE!" A male voice, full of pain.
"Kirk…!" Kane gasped softly. "KEGAN, LET THEM GO!"
Kegan shut off the channel and chuckled bitterly. "So you believe me now. Good."
"THEY'RE CHILDREN, KEGAN! CHILDREN, AND YOU KNOW IT!"
Esther cocked her gun and moved the barrel closer to Kegan's head. "Shut the robot down! NOW!"
"You won't shoot me," Kegan said casually. "Cuz if you do, the kids' location is lost forever, and I've told Rhiannon that if anything happens to me, she can do whatever she likes to the poor kids."
"Esther, don't shoot!" pleaded Kane's desperate voice. "Please!"
"I can't just let him walk free!" Esther snarled, her eyes fixed on Kegan.
"Stand down, Esther!" commanded Mavis's voice suddenly, shaken but undoubtedly firm. "That's an order."
Even though Esther was four years older than Mavis, the younger girl was both the most experienced agent and the leader of this mission. If Esther disobeyed, not only would she be essentially condemning herself to a court martial, she would also be putting the lives of three children at risk, and that was something she could not in good conscience do.
Growling aggressively, Esther lowered her gun. Before she could turn away, she caught sight of Kegan's triumphant smirk, and that made something snap inside her. She lashed out with her gun, slamming it into the roboticist's head and knocking him sideways in his chair. She didn't hang around to see whether the blow knocked him out or not.
Meanwhile, Mavis, who was working through the horrified pounding in her chest, was crossing some wires in the robot's leg, to try and deactivate it. She glanced up briefly as Esther parachuted down from the robot's head, but that was when she managed to sever the right connection in the leg. It sparked abruptly, causing Mavis to yelp and scramble backwards. This spark set off a chain reaction of miniature explosions all up the robot's leg, torso, then arms.
Mavis's own arms still stinging, she took off after Esther, who was running across the grass towards the motorbike they had come to the scene on. As they shot off down the road, Mavis hardly dared look back.
She hoped Kane was doing okay.