Tempo and the Robots
The waitress came by again and the coin pile grew smaller. Two voices rose above the general din and caught the bard's ear; two children were arguing.
“Tempo could take out King Stryss with no problem.”
“No way! Stryss would stomp Tempo into the ground. What's one hero going to do against an army of Strysiavanyan robots?”
“Take them apart, that's what. He can stop time! How do robots beat that?”
“By being crazy fast and getting him before he can stop time!”
The Storyteller chuckled. “You two have been fans of the World of Heroes for a while, I see.”
The argument subsided as the children nodded. “Our momma bought some of the comic books and taught us to read with 'em,” the boy defending Stryss said.
“We didn't have very many, so we read the same ones a lot. We had the entire Tyrathi Invasion story though!” the girl added excitedly.
“It is a shame Cathy can't make the books any more...” the bard lamented. “But, that's why I'm here, after all. Cathy Travis herself told me this story, and asked me spread it far and wide. You kids might not know this, but King Strys really does live in Strysiavanya, which is a real place. It's waaaay to the East of us, across the ocean, but that doesn't make the King any less dangerous. In the World of Heroes, Strys tried to gain a foothold on one of the derelict Tyrathi cruisers, but Ten Kelvin and Protanya put a stop to that, as you two know. But what you don't know is, he also sent a squad of elite robots to a place called Oregon to take over Tempo's secret lab. You might know Oregon better as part of what is now the North-West Frontier.
“First, they had to find the lab. They had several different kinds of robots, from small scouts the size of a fly, to great hulking soldiers,” the bard buffed up his chest and sat up straight in an effort to demonstrate the size of the robots, “whose only purpose was combat. They sent a hulk to wreck up some buildings in a coastal town. Tempo showed up, stopped the Brute with a Time-Stopper grenade, and went to work with a welding torch, a wrench and a screw driver. The squad had lost some of its offensive capability, but two Flies were able to follow Tempo back to his lair.”
“Why didn't he use his super-speed to get back without being followed?”
“Well, he's super quick to you and me, but to him, he still has to walk all that way. So he flew in his jet plane”
“Time's Arrow!” the girl shouted.
“Exactly. He didn't notice the two Flies following him though, and they led the rest of the squad there. Now, Tempo's no dummy, so his Time Cave is protected by--”
“What's with all the caves?”
“What?” the Storyteller's train of thought had been derailed at this interruption.
“All the caves. The Bearcave, the Time Cave, even the old heroes had caves. Batman's Bat Cave, Superman's Ice Cave..”
“That was the Fortress of Solitude.”
“Whatever. It was still a cave made of ice.”
Before the children's bickering could go much farther, the story teller interrupted. “Well, the Bat Cave and the Bear Cave are actual, natural caves. Tempo's cave is man made, but it's still a hole in a cliff wall somewhere on the coast. But I can see what you're saying. How 'bout we call it the Time Sanctum? Sound good?” The children nodded agreement. “Okay. I'll talk to Cathy about making it official next time I see her. Now, the Time Sanctum was well defended, so the Flies didn't dare follow the jet in to the hangar. The squad gathered outside, and waited. They found that Tempo often left the hangar door open during the day so he could enjoy the ocean breeze while working, and he would almost always watch the sun set in the evenings. Eventually they tested the defenses of the open door by sending a Fly in. It wasn't supposed to make it. But somehow it did.
“The next day, a Spider robot tried. The spider's body was as large as a baseball, and had four metallic legs and a single red eye. The Spider made it through and found a place to hide. That night it shut down the defenses.
“Many robots repelled down the cliff to enter through the hangar. The smaller ones skittered down the hatchway on the ground above, sliding down the ladder to the back door of the Sanctum. Normally all kinds of alarms would be going off, but because the system had been shut down, everything was quiet.
“Tempo was on his way to bed when he saw a humanoid soldier bot at the other end of the corridor. Quick as a whip, the Quantum Pistol was in his hand and the robot had a dozen new holes. Before the dead bot could hit the floor, Tempo was down the hallways and in the hangar.
“He stopped in his tracks as he saw three hulking Brutes, seven more humanoid soldiers, fully armed and armored combat bots, a dozen spiders and two small tank-bots the size of a dog. He cursed under his breath, dialed the Hand of Time to full throttle and let loose with this quantum pistol. The pistol's shots were slowed down considerably from his perspective, but still moving pretty quick. Before the first shot hit its target, one of the spiders, bullets were on course to hit each and every bot Tempo could see. With the destruction of the lighter bots assured, the hero considered his options. He could take down the Brutes the same way he had in town, but that would take a while and he'd have to be in real time for most of it. He noticed one of the Brutes was still very near the edge of the hangar door.”
“Tempo is your favorite hero, isn't he, lass?” The girl nodded. “You're close. A punch wouldn't be enough to knock the Brute backward, but a bull rush might. He had to get the timing right though. If he dropped to normal speed too early, his momentum would be lost. Too late and it would be like jumping in to a solid wall. Tempo backed up as far as he could, then ran full speed at the Brute. He leaped and kicked and just before his foot made contact, he closed his right hand and dropped back in to normal time, kicking the Brute in its chest. He'd timed it right. He hit with enough force to make the hulking robot stumble. Back in to the accelerated time stream and Tempo jumped from the now-stationary, falling robot to land safely back in the hangar. One down.
“During that brief moment of real time, the bullets had all connected. The spiders were out of commission, two combat bots were damaged, but the rest just had minor scratches. He wondered how to get rid of the tanks and the armored bots. He tossed out a few time grenades and dialed back to normal time as a plan formed in his mind. Tempo spoke to the robots, saying 'Take a message back to Strys for me. Tell him to leave me alone.'”
“Is that really what he said?”
“As far as you know, yes. Yes it is. While the Strysiavanyain robots stood immobile, Tempo climbed in to the cockpit of his jet. He turned the engines up full throttle at the same moment he remotely turned off the grenades, blasting the invaders out the hangar to join the other one, who still hadn't quite hit the rocks far below.
“He climbed out and turned the defenses back on and closed the hangar door, then tracked down the remaining robots and dealt with them the old fashioned way before going to bed.”
“See! I told you Tempo could beat an army of Strys' robots!”
“He couldn't beat them if he weren't on his home turf though! They'd overwhelm him just with sheer numbers!”
“Pfah! Numbers don't mean anything when you can stop time!”
The story teller chuckled and finished his drink. He hadn't solved their argument, but he hadn't really meant to.