Tear The World Apart, Part Twenty-Two: Council Of Darkness

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(July 18th)

Several thousand miles away, Hazard had no idea that there was a conversation going on about him. He was, instead, focused on the visitor about to arrive in the pale beige bay of Rex Mundi's underwater fortress. Once, it had been an Atlantean temple, with brilliant blue glass and cool pottery enhanced by unreproduceable means to withstand the pressure of the deep sea, and placed deep beneath the waves as a testament to the power of the Atlantean people. Now it was a very different sort of testament – one to the secrecy and power of the King of the World.

At the moment, Hazard was in Psi Bay Four, where a scavenged and repaired Atlantean psibeacon was sparkling to life – a pillar of white crystal, carved with the whorls and sigils of Atlantean power, resonating across the marble platform below. He had divested himself of his power suit, and was wearing his more traditional uniform, and straightened as pale white lightning began to crackle across the apparitioning platform. A moment later, a woman flickered into place on the platform. Hazard nodded to her politely. “Dr. Byron. Glad you could make it. Did you have any trouble shaking Ecchs?”

“A little, but he was almost as tired as I pretended to be.” Ada smiled vaguely. “Which way to the conference room?”

“Just through here.” Hazard lead the way; he had learned his way around the identical, winding corridors of the temple, each lit by flickering blue lights, and found his path easily. “Welcome to the inner circle. To be honest, I don't think there was one before today, but there's still not many of us in it.”

“Mm.” Ada nodded, her attention clearly elsewhere. “Interesting choices.” Hazard glanced back at her, but she did not explain. “Will Psiborg be joining us? I heard that he was… incommoded… during the attack.”

“He will be, but he's only semi-functional. He'll be spending most of the next while in the repair bays fixing himself.” Hazard glanced towards the briefing room. “He was lucky to survive that explosion; his shields were totally down when it started. It's the worst I've ever seen him – and I saw footage of him after New York.”

Ada nodded. “Wonder if he'll let me help?”

“Doubt it.” Hazard shook his head firmly, gesturing down one of the corridors. “He seals off the bay completely every time he gets to work.”

“Yeah, he's paranoid that way.” The voice came from up the corridor, and Ada caught Hazard surpressing a wince. “Good to see you again, Ada.” The woman from earlier in the day tossed off a salute to Ada. Like Hazard, she had removed her suit, and was now wearing a smooth black dress that pooled around her feet. Blond hair cascaded halfway down her back, set off by a pair of blood-red earrings that glittered against the blue light. She turned her attention to Hazard, taking a step towards him. “You're looking tired. You need to relax, Haz.” One hand came up to brush across his hair.

Twitching, Hazard pushed past her, his own hand raising to push hers aside. “No, Lucy. Just… no.” Without waiting for a reply, he walked past her into the official briefing room.

Lucy rolled her eyes, her jaw clenched. But she laughed easily, turning conspiratorially to Ada. “Prudish, isn't he? Looks like it's just us girls holding things back now – let's get going.”

Ada nodded easily, and the two women ventured into the room. Inside, six chairs were set up in a semi-circle, a stone table gleaming grey in the light. Unlike the pale blue of the other rooms, this room was a brilliant white. Hazard and Psiborg were already sitting at two of the tables, alongside an older man with graying hair, a crisp military-style uniform in shades of deep blue, and a thick mustache. He raised his eyes to look at the newcomers, and nodded smartly. “Good evening, Ms. Byron. You are well?”

“It's Doctor, milord. But yes, quite. I managed to escape the worst of the fighting.”

“Bloody good, wasn't it?” In his day, Lord Mayhem had been a stalwart of the villainous lines. Now, his once-ferocious powers were waning, but his tactical capabilities were as sharp as ever. Ada had been surprised to find him in Mundi's camp, having heard that he had retired years before, but she was glad to have his experience. She glanced at the empty chair, and Mayhem quirked a half-smile. “Ah, yes. Shivarax was forced to deal with some matters back home. He'll return later.” He half-rose, clearly about to pull out Ada's chair, and then caught himself and sat again. She concealed a smile, amused despite herself. Mayhem was a very old-fashioned man in many ways, but there was something charming about it.

“Thank you all for coming.” The far side of the room was plunged into shadow, and threads of smoke coated the floor. Ada and Lucy quickly found their seats, as the vague shape of Rex Mundi stepped forwards. As usual, his voice was heavily masked, a vague deep sound that resonated through the room. “I'm afraid that I am connecting remotely; I was unavoidably detained. For the most part, the purpose of this meeting is for you five to discuss strategies and compare notes. This is an unusal step for the Mundis, as I'm sure Psiborg will be happy to verify.”

Very much so. I am still uncertain about the value, but…” Psiborg gestured downwards. His legs had been replaced by simple replacements, and one arm still hung limply at his side. “I think recent events have shown that information can only be a good thing.

“Rex…” Ada spoke up tentatively. “I'm honestly not sure why I'm here. The others I understand, but me…?”

“Because you were unafraid to disobey and contradict me, for what you considered the right reasons. It is a valuable asset to have, as annoyed as I was when you did it.” He paused. “And that is another case where information might have been valuable. If you had told me of your intentions, I would have disapproved.”

“Well, better to ask forgiveness and all that.” Ada shrugged. “Jason's a lost cause. Spencer, on the other hand, has potential.”

“Yes, but I didn't want you here. I wanted you there.”

There was a short pause. Everyone glanced at each other. Lucy spoke tentatively. “Here?”

Mundi did not reply immediately. “This matter is done, now. And it is just as well, since Grovedale seems to be shaping up to be the next global nexus.” He paused significantly. “I will leave you to discuss events with one another, without my interference. I trust it will not be problematic.”

In an instant, the shadows winked out, along with Rex's image. The smoke curled around the floor, fading into hidden grates and vanishing.

Lucy broke the pause. “He was talking about Grovedale, wasn't he? He's in Grovedale right now, isn't he?”

I think that we are not here to discuss Rex Mundi's identity or location.

Lucy sighed heavily. “Fine.” There was a brief moment, and she added under her breath. “Spoilsport.”

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