Echoes Long Forgotten, Part One

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(August 25th, 2008)


The hallway was well-lit, shades of gold and red giving it an oddly imperial cast. The two soldiers, dressed in a dark grey uniform with crimson trim, paused in front of the intercom and took a deep breath. One turned to the other. “Flip you for it.”

“Oh, come on, Frank. It's not that bad.” The second soldier stepped forwards to the intercom and pressed down the button. “Sir? I don't mean to bother you, but you wished to be informed as soon as the latest data arrived.”

“Of course, Corporal Langley. Please, come in.” The voice was cool and urbane, and Langley set his shoulders and stepped up to the door, which hissed quietly open. The room inside was shrouded in darkness, and he peered in worriedly, risking a glance over to his companion, who shrugged helplessly.

“Sir?”

“You're a brisk walker, Corporal. You arrived fifteen seconds before I… ah.” The room's lights rose in a single, smooth motion, casting a warm glow across the stark contents. The bed, sitting to one side, was empty; the room's occupant was instead sitting at a desk next to it. He turned to face the corporal with an easy smile. His bronzed warsuit showed a few marks where it had been let out over the years, but still managed to feign a basically athletic trim. “I assume that our friend has completed the suit for us?”

“Yes, Master Clockwork.” Langley inclined his head. “And our data indicates that, as you predicted, the last of the copycat villains have registered to do battle with the Champions. The city has been stripped back down to its resident heroes and villains once again.”

“Finally. It never ceases to amaze me how predictable people are in their hunt for fleeting fame.” Clockwork nodded. “I will review the information. You may prepare our men for the first infiltration.” He paused a moment. “That will be all, Corporal.”

“Yes, Master Clockwork.” Langley stepped backwards, letting the door hiss shut in front of him, then rolled his eyes. “Drama queen.” He muttered the words under his breath, walking smartly towards the elevator. Frank stifled a grin, hurrying to catch up.

“What was all that with the lights?”

“Oh, damned if I know. He likes to show off how he can always guess our routines.” Langley sighed heavily. “I tell you, I know he's important to the boss's plans, but he's a total… ahh…” He straighened abruptly as the elevator opened. “Commander!”

“At ease.” The towering figure that stepped out of the elevator looked at the two soldiers, then nodded approvingly. From beneath his heavy metal helmet, his voice echoed hollowly. “I was informed that Clockwork is awake.”

“Yes, sir. He's just reviewing the latest data, sir.”

“Excellent. Carry on, soldiers.” Warzone practically stalked past the two, who stepped quickly to one side to let him pass before hurrying onto the elevator. As the doors slid closed, he caught one of them whispering, “Must really be time, if the boss is up already.”

Ignoring the comment, Warzone continued on his path, stopping before the doors. He tapped once on the door, then stepped through without waiting for a reply. “What's the prognosis?”

Clockwork, still sitting in his chair, glanced over at Warzone as he opened his eyes. “Everything that we expected. Rex Mundi is still recovering from his expenditures for the fight – for the moment, at least, our path is clear to usurp his would-be victory. I've identified two of the elements that he needs, and we're almost ready to set the first one into motion.”

Warzone nodded brusquely, sitting on the edge of Clockwork's bed and regarding his compatriot. “I would prefer a straightforwards assault. Why such a roundabout plan?”

“Aside from the fact that our organization is still a fraction the size of the SEA? We need to usurp the Nexus, old friend. A simple conquest could send it into remission for another generation.” Clockwork shook his head. “No, risky though it is, this is our best plan.” He grinned suddenly. “Come on, we've played it quiet for years. Why get impatient now?”

“Because we've played it quiet for years.” Warzone's voice held no humour in it. “I long for the days when I fought openly. I jousted with Dudeman, and my soldiers held their ground against the Imperium's advances. You matched your wits with the likes of Magister and Sirenguard. And now we have been reduced to skulking around the edges of the world, watching giants duel without us.

Clockwork sighed, turning fully to face his companion. “You're still sore about the Antihero attack.”

“It was not how I would have liked a great one to fall. Enemy or not.”

“I know. But you remember the first time.” Clockwork shook his head. “We tried to fight Judgment head-on, and we were slaughtered. I'd rather see them win through tricks.”

“Hmph.” Warzone rose abruptly. “You will tell me when our own tricks are prepared?”

“Of course. And there may be a chance for a proper battle yet.” Clockwork nodded. “Now, I should get back to work.”

Warzone nodded once, striding to the door. As it opened, he glanced back. “Out of curiousity, how long were you sitting in that chair?”

“Ah, you were listening in? Not long at all.” Clockwork tapped the elaborate circuitry wired into his brow. “I have a proximity alarm to tell me when people arrive on my floor. It lets me get my sleep.” He made a face. “Unfortunately, it meant I had to reach that chair pretty damned fast. Your corporal really is a brisk walker.”

Warzone chuckled, a low rumble. “Now, that sounds more like your style.”


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