Professor Irons owned two large smelting factories; one in Pittsburgh and the other in London, England. But what no one knew, no one except the Red Spider, was that these factories had massive underground facilities. Since the robot knights had only been seen in the United States, the Spider surmised that they must have been manufactured deep beneath the Pittsburgh plant. Dan and the Spider had followed the sewers beneath the city until they were deep below the facility owned by the Professor. Dan had brought his flashlight but it barely broke through the darkness.
“Stop.” The Spider hushed as they came to an open walkway. Stepping out slowly, they stood on a metal staircase attached to the side of a deep chasm that went farther down into the dark. There were lanterns spread out sporadically along the stairs but the light was barely suitable for the naked eye. They had yet to encounter any guards but they’d heard their footsteps, the Spider had kept them out of sight but it was getting more crowded in the tunnels. They had waited until nightfall hoping to avoid any of Irons employees. They were mostly likely completely unaware of their employers evil intentions. As one of the largest employers in the world, it was safe to assume most of them would have no clue as to what they were doing; the new style of assembly lines made it impossible for one person to ever see the completed project. Most people toiled away in one section, on one piece of what would be a massive project. Irons had companies building everything from car parts to radios that were set to hit the market at any moment. Rumors of underwater vehicles and flying war machines were always being spread among the other industrialists; no one knew for certain exactly how far Professor Irons had pushed technology. The robot knights were incredibly complex devices and must have been expensive to make. If Irons was willing to let them loose on city streets, if he was willing to reveal the power he’d hidden from the world for so long, it could only mean he no longer cared for secrecy. Irons had sent those machine men out knowing full well it would bewilder the masses. He was revealing his secrets because he no longer feared repercussions. As the Spider had told Dan earlier, Jeremy Irons was preparing to meet his maker and his machine men were his way of daring the world to challenge him. To kill Alexander Kinkaid in the middle of the day, with a rocket fired from an airship, was nothing short of unrestrained bravado. Jeremy Irons believed no one could stop him because no one had ever come close before. Yet Irons had never met a man like the Red Spider before, either.
The underground tunnels were getting hotter the deeper they went. Miles of water pipes pumped in water that hissed inside the hot metal tubes. Dan worried that the pipes carrying hot water back to the surface could explode; they seemed to almost bulge with steam pressure. Since he could see nothing in the mix of shadows and light, Dan stayed as close to the Spider as he could. Deeper and deeper they went, miles below ground. Suddenly the Spider held up a hand and Dan stopped. Just a few levels below them was an armed guard standing outside a metal door. Unlike the rest of the facility that seemed to be a maze of pipes and corridors, their descent had lead to this single door with one lone guard outside it. The man was huge, however, and needed no partner, he wore all black military style clothing with a small black beret. They had been lucky that he had not heard them already, had he looked up the metal grating would have allowed him to see two men coming. The Spider raised his finger to his mouth to remind Dan to be quiet. Dan put up his hands and shook his head; he had no intention of moving or speaking.
With the grace and skill of a cat, the Spider leaped up onto the railing and crouched down. Making sure his scarf was tucked into place, the Spider suddenly dropped down two stories. Instead of landing in front of the guard however the Spider instead grabbed the ledge of the railing directly over the guards head. Taken aback by the man dangling in front of him the guard did not have time to raise his gun and using the momentum of his fall, the Spider swung both feet into the guard’s chest. The force and speed of impact slammed the man back into the door. As the Spider landed in front of him, the guard collapsed. Just to be safe the Spider removed his weapon and Dan heard the familiar hiss of the Spider’s Bite as he injected the guard with his secret blend of chemicals.
“Is it safe?” Dan whispered, silently walking down the stairs to stand behind the Spider.
“This door should lead to the Professor’s underground lair.” The Spider said. “Irons might be dangerous, but his age is his weakness. There would have be a bedroom, somewhere for him to rest down here as well as a bathroom.”
“My guess is he has a whole facility down here; labs, offices. Why else have all these guards?” Dan said confidently. The Spider nodded in agreement as they stepped over the unconscious guard. The door was locked.
“I mean he’s got to have a place for Jessica too. Why kidnap a beautiful lady and keep her in a dirty hole?”
Instead of answering the Spider removed the top off his weapon and screwed on another, larger device. Dan tried to get a good look at it but the Spider kept it concealed inside his hands.
“Won’t he be shocked when he sees us?” Dan said smiling. The Spider ignored him and leaned down to the lock of the door. The weapon he’d used to knock out the guard had been changed to produce a brilliant white hot flame.
“What the hell is that??” Dan said, stepping back nervously.
“I reconfigured the jet injector to serve as a blowlamp. The fuel won’t last long though and it won’t melt through this door.”
Dan watched the Spider cut a circle around the lock of the metal door and when he was finished, he stepped back beside Dan.
“You’ve had this all along?” Dan asked.
“You really are quite well prepared, aren’t you?”
“Preparedness could mean the difference between life and death. Now quiet, I don’t have enough kerosene to do this again.”
With that, the Spider kicked the door, his heavy boot slamming the door frame. The melted lock popped out as the door flew open. The sound of the lock hitting the floor echoed throughout the chasm.
“Hope no one heard that.” Dan said.
As they stepped into the room, the Spider realized he’d been both wrong and right about Irons fortress. They had indeed found a back door to his underground lair but they had come in through the personnel door. A dozen guards, some in their underwear, stood inside the dark room, their uniforms hanging in lockers next to them. Although they did not have their guns, the guards had years of combat experience and training. Dressed or not, the men started walking toward them. Defending the property of the Iron Professor was their job, but bursting into their private lounge, that was personal.
“These men look serious, Spider.” Dan said, trying to sound brave.
“Yeah. At least you aren’t dressed as a woman anymore.” The Spider turned and grinned at him and then tightening his gloves, the Red Spider threw the first punch.