They swiftly reached a small building nestled in the woods outside of Gotham Heights. As they approached the door, Batman started to reach for one of the many capsule-like containers on his utility belt.
Platinum smiled winningly and said, “I think I can save you some time. Allow me.” She extended her hand and reshaped one finger until it became a longer fiber that conformed to the interior of the door’s lock. In seconds, she had unlocked the door. Swinging it open, she gave a quick curtsey. “After you, gentlemen,” she said.
“Cleverly done,” said Batman, impressed. “A crime-fighter doesn’t need a utility belt with your group around.”
“We’re full of talents,” said Mercury. “Did you know I’m the only metal that is liquid at room temp–?”
Before he could finish his boast, Mercury was struck by a shadowy figure that darted forward out of the darkened lab to attack the heroes. Moonlight gleamed off its exterior, revealing a strange creature made out of a lustrous silver-white substance. It was roughly humanoid in shape but lacked clearly defined features.
As the red-colored Mercury sailed through the air, his friends took immediate action. Tin elongated his body until he became a scoop-shaped barrier that caught the indignant Mercury.
“Nice job, short stuff,” said Mercury. “I have a naturally high surface tension. Making that catch was pretty good!” Tin stammered his thanks as they prepared to return to battle.
Batman had leaped into the air and dodged the battling intruder with an agile acrobatic flip that enabled him to avoid the metallic powerhouse and land behind him inside the lab. He recognized a switch and flipped on a series of flood lights that revealed the being more clearly. Iron? That thing is made of what appears to be pure iron, he thought.
Indeed, the Metal Men had already started to grapple with their metallic opponent, and Iron had recognized the kindred nature of their foe. “He may be a brother to me, but he sure has a bad attitude!” he said as he tried to hammer the bigger being to the ground.
The Metal Man’s blows had some effect, but his enemy twisted suddenly and hurled him away with casual ease. He’s much faster than I am, thought Iron as he scrambled to return to the fight.
Gold and Platinum extended their own bodies into thin wiring that acted as a net to contain the attacker, but he ripped free even as they expanded wildly and he wrapped their wiring around each other.
“The big bully’s got some kind of nerve!” said Tina as she tried to unwind her body from the tangle she and Gold had become.
Gold nodded and said, “What he lacks in manners, he makes up for in battle prowess.”
Lead had blocked the metallic being’s path by becoming a wide shield. Batman took advantage of the delay to toss a few pellets at the metal brute’s broad back.
Mercury frowned as his effort to make the creature slip on his own flattened body failed miserably. “Sure, throw things at him. A fat lot of good that will do!” he cried.
Batman smiled grimly as the pellets exploded on contact with the iron being and created a frigid shell across his body. “That should slow him down a bit,” he said as he helped the Metal Men contain the stiffening being. As the creature became immobile, Batman said, “He’s certainly crudely formed, but I think he looks like one of the creations of Doc Magnus.”
Tina gasped and said, “Well, I don’t care for that remark at all!”
“I meant no slight to your feminine pride,” said Batman. “I just meant he resembles a prototype Metal Man.”
“Yes,” said Iron. “He is like me, but he differs in a couple of ways. He’s faster, he’s bigger, and he doesn’t appear to be able to speak.”
“He’s like a Metal Man without a responsometer,” added Gold. “I mean, he is solid and powerful, but he can’t change his shape, nor does he possess any discernable personality.”
Tin stammered as he suddenly emerged from within the lab, “The l-lab is a wreck, b-but I think some of Doc’s machines have been st-stolen.”
“And that guy was left behind to take care of anyone who came calling,” concluded Gold.
Mercury craned his elongated neck forward and added, “Iron is one of the most common of metals. You can’t expect him to behave with sophistication.”
“Mercury, you’re simply not that funny,” grumbled Iron.
“Nothing about this is humorous,” said Batman. “This makes it clear to me that whoever has Doc Magnus is bent on doing exactly what we feared. He’s using his genius for sinister purposes all his own.”
As they examined the freon-coated robot, Batman and the Metal Men grew more certain that the crude-but-powerful machine was a creation from the mind of Dr. Will Magnus.
“I hate to think that Doc’s ill again,” said Gold. “He was doing so well. We have to find him and help him.”
Tina clutched her hands together in an almost prayerful manner as she thought of the man she loved and how much she would like to gain his love in return. I know Doc cares about me, she thought. In spite of the way we walked out on him, in spite of the things he just won’t say or do, I can tell he cares more than anyone would ever guess.
“B-B-Batman,” asked Tin, “why is the robot unfinished?”
“Tin, I can only guess that Magnus didn’t have time to complete the job,” replied Batman. “He or his captor needed the resources of his lab immediately. I think our best tactic is to anticipate his next target. Lab equipment isn’t enough without raw materials with which to work.”
“Iron is the most abundant metal on Earth next to aluminum,” said Iron, “but in this lustrous silver-white form, it suggests raw ore.”
“I agree,” said Batman. “That’s why I want to check out two locations. The Gotham Iron Works and Slater Slope both have plenty of iron in such a state.”
Mercury said, “Bats, why don’t you want to stake out mercury deposits, or gold, tin, or lead, for that matter? Surely he’ll need all our elements to build more of these goons.”
“That’s logical in and of itself, except for one thing,” said Batman. “Prior to Doc’s disappearance, Gotham City was hit with a rather odd robbery.”
Mercury snorted and said, “What’s so strange about that? Gotham City is the bizarre crime capital of the world.”
“Iron ore was taken from a freight service that was headed to Bludhaven,” said Batman. “The driver never saw his assailant. At the time, it merely seemed to be a curious robbery. Now, along with what we know from your story and our experience with the metal being, we can assume that iron is the primary target.”
“There goes my status as the most precious metal,” said Gold. “Iron, old pal, you seem to be the golden boy, so to speak.”
Iron shrugged and said, “This is puzzling, to say the least. What property of mine makes me or my type so essential to this new scheme?”
Batman placed a hand on the Metal Man’s arm and said, “We’ll find out, and we’ll find Magnus. I suggest we divide up. Tina, Gold, Mercury, and Tin will visit the Iron Works, while Iron, Lead, and I will go to Slater Slope.”
The Metal Men nodded in agreement. Batman was a capable leader, and they respected his decisions. They also viewed him as a friend.
The Gotham Iron Works erupted into a scene of battle as the four Metal Men ran directly into several silver-white humanoids that mirrored the previous one in appearance and conduct. They silently lowered the iron-filled containers they were carrying and turned to confront the heroes.
“Spread out!” commanded Gold. “We know what to expect from them now. They’re strong and fast!”
Mercury said, “Well, then, let’s give them the unexpected!” He elongated his body and began to project spheres of mercury in their path. His tactic delayed the creatures as they tried to avoid the slippery spheres.
Gold’s amazingly thin body slipped beneath their feet and sent them reeling. One ounce of gold can elongate up to three-hundred square feet, so becoming this thin is not a problem, he thought.
Platinum had turned her legs into springs, and as she bounced out of the path of the nearest robot, the metallic beauty deftly extended one arm and blinded one of the iron beings by wrapping it around his head. He gripped her arm and squeezed until she felt herself flatten into a thin sheet. She felt no pain, since platinum can be flattened in some cases into the thickness of one-hundred atoms. Still, she saw her efforts to do more than contain the brute were rapidly failing.
Tin had spread his own body around an iron robot and then swung himself forward so that the heavier robot was dragged into the path of one of his allies. Tin released the robot just before it could break free, and he smiled with relief as the iron titans slammed into one another and clattered to the ground.
Gold smiled and said, “Nice going, Tin! Let’s use them against one another.” He linked hands with Tina as she retracted her body, and they formed a network that enabled them to confine the robots briefly.
Mercury regrouped and hurried over to activate a series of controls on a nearby machine. “The blast furnace will hold them,” he cried.
Gold, Tin, and Platinum anchored their bodies and then herded the iron men into the opening. Mercury’s slippery body aided them as the iron men fell into the heated opening and failed to regain their footing.
“Oh, dear!” said Platinum. “I can’t stand to watch! It’s almost like doing this to Iron!”
“Hmmmph!” said Mercury. “You weren’t too prudish to shove that Iridium babe into a vat of acid when Doc made that second string of Metal Men.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Amazing School for Robots,” Metal Men #31 (April-May, 1968).]
Tina sputtered indignantly, “Well, I never! That was different! She wasn’t made of one of our elements!”
Gold hid a smile as he led the furious female away from the furnace. “It was necessary,” he said. “Destroying these robots is a better alternative to allowing them to live as mindless slaves of a bad master.”
Tina gasped and said, “Gold! How could you say such a thing?”
“Sorry,” said Gold. “I don’t mean Doc is bad. I just mean they have no freedom, and that’s wrong even when the creator is benign.”
“A-a-and Doc can’t help himself,” added Tin. “He’s s-s-sick or under some kind of mind control. That’s my theory.”
“When I want your opinion, I’ll give it to you!” said Mercury.
“Enough!” said Gold. “We’d better rejoin Batman and the others. If he is right, then the Slope may become a scene of battle, too.”