207 The Machines
While Zoey focused on trying to get through the door, Max watched her back. He kept his gaze roaming between the three entrances while he maintained a ready state in case something they were not expecting showed up.
Meanwhile, the noise of the city kept getting louder, and the bedlam was not the only thing happening. The hallways that Max could see leading away from the entrances to the room were slowly filling up with smoke and steam as the machinery embedded into the walls grinded and roared.
After several minutes, Zoey still had not gotten through the door, and the city's noise had reached a mind-numbing crescendo that Max knew would have deafened him had Zoey not provided some foam ear-plugs.
Then, as he maintained his guard, Max saw something moving in the smoke-choked hallways beyond the range of his vision. First he only saw movement in the left hallway, then it was the left and the right, and finally all of them showed shadowy figures moving towards them through the dark smoke.
Max's warning pulled Zoey's attention away from the door for a moment. She saw the same thing he did, and just as she looked, they both got their first good look at what was coming towards them.
They were androids, hundreds of them, slowly making their way onto the bridges and blocking their escape routes as their glowing red eyes stared at the two of them. Neither Zoey nor Max had encountered any androids like the others had on the underside of the city, but Zoey had seen the footage from the Eves, and quickly recognized the machines as similar to the ones that had been encountered by her crew.
There was one difference though… these androids were not old and rusted, not half-working piles of trash that could be easily disposed of. These were brand-new androids, freshly manufactured, and Zoey knew they would not be so easy to deal with.
Was this some sort of defence force or mechanism? Had Serena intentionally triggered this with the intent to kill them? Or was it just the city doing what it was designed to do? Zoey didn't know, but she had a feeling that her answers were behind the door before her.
"Max, can you hold them off?" she asked, laying a hand on his shoulder.
He looked up at her and nodded with confidence, then with a roll of his shoulders brought forth his magic power to enhance his body, connecting to Leviathan and drawing power from the link as his eyes flashed with violet light. He was not going all out this time, so the violet aura did not appear like before, but Zoey could sense the massive increase in strength that Max had just gained.
Before she went back to working on getting the door open, she set Max's Eve to monitor his vital functions closely. She wasn't convinced that such a large increase in strength didn't have any drawbacks.
Zoey then thought of something and in a flash used her interface to fashion the Mk1 Prototype Armament into a long and heavy rod, then handed it to Max for him to use on the androids. Even with his strength, the sheer amount of machines headed across the three bridges would not be stopped by fists alone.
Once that was done, she focused on the door, completely confident that Max would protect her while she worked.
Max stepped out into the middle of the gap where the bridges met, testing the strangely comfortable weight of the weapon that Zoey had borrowed him. The machines that were now halfway across the bridges were all locked onto him, their red eyes giving off an eerie, unsettling atmosphere that was hard to ignore.
The nearest androids suddenly started to run, charging towards Max, their purpose clear as their metal jaws opened wide to tear his flesh and their arms reached out to grab and crush him. He remained calm, taking a steady stance and letting Leviathan's strength flow as the first machine approached.
There was a loud BANG, followed by a crash as Max swung the heavy Mk1 Prototype Armament and smashed the first android that entered into range so hard that it flew off the bridge and slammed into the wall on the opposite side before falling silently into the deep darkness below.
The other machines never even blinked, nor did they stop coming at Max, their cold, unfeeling purpose did not leave room for anything else. Max also did not stop, bringing the Mk1 down on the next android with a mighty overhead blow, crushing its head into a mess of crumpled oil-soaked metal.
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Max was only a boy, with still growing to do. This meant that the androids were far taller than him, and had a longer reach, but with Leviathan's power and the Mk1 equalizing the reach difference, Max quickly solidified his place as Zoey's protective wrecking ball, smashing the machines into scrap the instant they drew near.
The clanging and scraping of metal on metal as the androids tried to crowd onto the landing and bury Max in a tide of machines was punctuated by the smashing and crushing of metal casings as they were disposed of with ruthless strength and heavy blows from Max and the Mk1. In the background, the city's machinery continued to sing, its discordant song acting as an industrial symphony for the battle taking place atop the bridges.
Meanwhile, Zoey was furiously directing her mini spider drones to work faster. Thanks to her engineering experience, she had finally been able to identify the key input valves that fed the hydraulics that operated the door, and was now working to sabotage the seals by having her drones literally dig through the metal. Once the seals were damaged, the hydraulic pressure that kept the door's latches sealed shut would release, allowing her to open the door with relative ease.
While she worked part of her senses were constantly tuned to the battle behind her in case something happened. As much as she trusted Max, they were dealing with a lot of unknowns with these androids, and he was still a very inexperienced boy. She had a responsibility to watch over him regardless of the circumstances after what had happened to him last time.
Suddenly, Zoey heard a snap and loud hiss coming from the door before her.
One of the seals had finally broken!