Tear The World Apart, Part 21 - Debriefing

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(July 16th, 2008)

“And Hazard didn’t say anything else about what he was doing with Rex Mundi?”

Dudeman had commandeered one of the backup offices at City Hall in order to run debriefings of those of his teams that still had healthy agents on them. At the moment, that meant Timebender and Lucky Lad. Dudeman himself was sitting on his surfboard, which floated easily in the air, seeming unphased by its masters’ clear exhaustion. He considered the pair before him thoughtfully.

“He didn’t have a chance. Just that Rex Mundi had plans that would make use of us.” Lucky shrugged faintly, leaning back in his chair. “Psiborg cut him off, though, so I figure either he was about to blurt something important, or Psiborg doesn’t agree with those plans.” When Dudeman paused instead of nodding, he pressed on boldly. “So, since we’re still here – why were we really there, and why did you need Hazard and I to be present so badly?”

“Jesus, Ladd.” Dudeman hopped off the surfboard, throwing his arms up in frustration. “If you ever developed half a brain, the world would shudder. Were you even paying attention out there?”

Lucky’s eyes narrowed, and beside him, Timebender sighed under her breath as he responded in kind. “Yeah, I was. I saw my so-called bosses handing ultimate power over to Rex Mundi. It was sheerest chance that Magister had a counter – and don’t you dare say that was me, because we both know my powers don’t work back in freaking time.”

Dudeman sighed heavily. “One of these days… look. That gambit Eric pulled was dangerous on every level. If Judgment had twigged that it was a trap, he would have vaporized the lot of you. You and Timebender don’t have the years of practice hiding your thoughts that Eric has; we couldn’t risk the chance that Judgment would bring a psychic with him. As far as needing you – isn’t it obvious? Eric was keeping Judgment riled up, but any random event could have caused him to try to use his powers. His own anger came within a hairsbreadth of it. And the instant he tried to power up fully, he would have known he was being drained. And narrative law would have given him that random chance.” He shrugged. “Possibly, one narrative field would have cancelled out his advantages. Possibly not. We weren’t about to risk everything on it.”

“Great. Lucky for us that there were two of me.” Lucky slumped back in his chair. “Only now the other one really is evil.”

“Maybe.” Lucky and Amber looked up sharply at the noncommittal comment, and Dudeman shrugged. “You’re a pest, Ladd, and you’re way too trusting, but you never struck me as the villain type. Even when you were a villain, you quite frankly sucked at it – powers or no. So I wouldn’t count Hazard out just yet.” He shrugged. “Then again, who knows? Mundi is a very persuasive being.”

“You know, that might be the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me.” Lucky smiled tentatively. Dudeman shrugged again.

“It’s the nicest thing I’m liable to, so don’t get used to it. Anyway, you didn’t screw up today, which is creating a nice pattern I’d rather you not break – if we’re lucky, you won’t get the chance to.” He grinned at Lucky’s flat expression, and Amber stepped in before her friend could get angry again.

“So, what happens now?” Dudeman turned his attention back to her, and she gestured vaguely out the window. Outside, they could see a team of recovery agents working to repair the area directly outside. “The city’s been trashed, and… how many agents did you lose?”

“Fourteen dead, seventy-two injured badly enough to require medical leave of anywhere from a few days to a few months. The SEA will be operating shortstaffed for the next little while.” He sat back down on his board, looking thoughtful. “On the other hand, we killed at least twenty Antiheroes and captured fifty more. The organization’s been gutted, and without Judgment they won’t have a charismatic figurehead to arrange around. We’ll probably see fragmentation, random strikes. They won’t go away, but their threat potential has dropped like a rock.” He followed Amber’s gaze out the window. “As for your city, we’ve got the best construction we can afford coming in. Things’ll be choppy for a couple of weeks, then they’ll settle down a bit. Enjoy the downtime. Heal up.” He returned his attention to the two. “Agent Moonbeam was injured in the fighting, and will be taking a month’s leave to recover, but I’ll be stationing a pair of agents in the area for the time being. Haven’t decided who yet. You’ll know not long after they do.” He nodded firmly. “Now get out of here. I’ve got another twelve debriefings to get through today.”

“Yes, sir.” Amber saluted smartly, and Lucky followed suit after a moment. Dudeman saluted back, then watched as they walked out.

“A little hard on him?” The voice came from across the room, and Dudeman stiffened.

“You know, Derek, it’s technically a felony for you to pop into an SEA office without announcing yourself.”

”I have Omega-level clearance, I can manage.” Derek Ladd, also known as Nightlord, fell into a chair from where he had been standing. “Sorry I couldn’t make the fighting.”

“Your wife would have killed me.” Dudeman smiled, shifting position to sit alongside his former sidekick. “How’s the reconstruction?”

“Great, but all this popping around is hell on my back. We can’t all be slow agers like you.” Derek grinned widely, then sighed. “But I’m serious. Lucky’s a good kid.”

“That was never my complaint, whatever he might think.” Dudeman shook his head slowly. “He’s a serious menace, Derek, and you know it. We still don’t know how to contain it.”

“Isn’t that the whole point of this Hazard plan?”

Dudeman stiffened at the tone of his friend’s voice. “You don’t approve, I take it?”

“Given that you have effectively thrown my son to the wolves? No, not really.” Derek frowned thoughtfully. “I mean, I know he’s not really my son. But if Rex Mundi even suspects that Hazard is a double-agent… he will die. Flat out. No luck field will save him.”

“I know.” Dudeman shifted uncomfortably. “But he knew the risks going on. His narrative field, plus his background, makes him the only one with a chance of fooling Mundi and Psiborg long enough to find out who Mundi is. If we’re going to take him down, we need that.” He looked up. “Do you trust me on this?”

“Always.” Derek stood, cracking his neck. “But there’s no way I’m telling my better half. Alternate universe or not, she would kick my ass.” He sighed. “Have to get back to work. Call me when you’re done the debriefings – I think we need some stiff drinks tonight.”

“Your answer to everything.” But the words were spoken, lightly, and Dudeman nodded. “I will do that. Good luck.”

“You too. Hope this all works out.”

As Nightlord vanished, disappearing without effect or fanfare as easily as he had come, Dudeman sat back thoughtfully. For all his knowledge that this was necessary, he couldn’t help but worry that he was throwing Hazard to the wolves. “I hope so too.”

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