Echoes Long Forgotten, Part Four: Cunning

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“Ohhh, my head…”

“Welcome back to wakefulness, Spencer.” Ada Byron looked up at the others, rolling her eyes with an indulgent smile. She, along with Nightshade, Phil, Bryce, and a nurse, were clustered around the doctor where he was laying on the ground. “He's going to be fine.”

“What happened?” Dr Ecchs rubbed at the back of his head, wincing.

“As far as I can tell from piecing together what Nina and Bryce said?” Ada chuckled. “Bryce told you he wanted to go into heroism, you decided to unload one of those theatrical heart attacks that you've been practicing – and don't tell me you haven't, I've seen you – and then you clocked your head on the corner of your desk on the way down and almost choken on your tongue.” Smiling brightly, Ada waved the nurse away. “Theatrics, dear. They'll be the death of you yet.”

“Worth it.” Sitting up gingerly, Ecchs paused and put a hand to his forehead, his eyes bulging for a moment. “Well… maybe not worth it. Do we have painkillers?”

“Heah.” Phil reached out with one of his lower tendrils, poking Ecchs in the arm before anyone could react, and then withdrew. Ecchs smiled, cracking his neck tenatively.

“Much better, Phil. Thank you.” He looked over to Bryce, who was watching dubiously. “Among the many poisons that Phil can produce is a mild anaesthetic. Makes everything a bit tingly, but it deadens pain like nobody's business.” Clambering to his feet, letting Ada support him, he frowned. “Now. What's this about you going into the hero business?”

“Pretty much just what I said.” Bryce sighed heavily. “I'm not cut out for the villain business, Uncle Spencer. My heart isn't in it.”

“But at the reunion, Harold was so talkative about your grades. He said you were top of your class.” Ada spoke gently, taking a seat on the edge of the desk. Nightshade spun to look at her.

“Wait, wait. You know about the Doc's family?”

“Well, yes. I went to the reunion with Spencer in March, remember?”

“March? Is that where you were? I thought you guys were working.” Nightshade frowned thoughtfully, starting to turn back to Bryce. Then her eyes widened suddenly and she spun back. “Wait, wait, wait. March? As in the end of March? Is it that time every year?!”

“Yes.” Ecchs sighed.

“Why does no one tell me these things?!”

“We do. You ignore us.” Turning back to his nephew, Ecchs gestured to him. “Bryce, do go on.”

“My theory marks are good, and I like a good trick plan, but… the thing is…” Bryce sighed heavily, dropping back into his chair. “I feel bad for people.”

“Ooh, conscience. Bane of every villain.” Ecchs shook his head sadly. “Have you tried just pretending to be evil? I've heard sometimes, if you do that you can become evil eventually.”

“I don't want to become evil, though! I don't… I don't like villainy. I really like helping people.”

Ecchs shuddered. “You poor thing.”

“Uncle Spencer!” Bryce ground his teeth together, standing quickly. “Look, I know this isn't what our family does, but it's what I do. It's what I am, and I don't want your pity…”

“Woah, woah. Sorry. You're right, of course.” Ecchs shook his head. “There's nothing wrong with heroism. Inherently.” He sighed, shaking his head. “It's just… man, Harold must have flipped his stack when he found out.”

“Um…”

Everyone turned to look at Bryce. Ada spoke dryly. “You haven't told him.”

“No. I'm sort of afraid he'll… well… flip his stack.”

“You haven't told him.” Ecchs stared at Bryce disbelievingly. After a few moments, a slow, understanding smile spread across his face. “You haven't told him.” He pointed at Bryce, grinning, then turned to his confused employees. “He's using me as a human shield. He knows Harold and I don't get along, so he's having me do it for him. Bryce, that is sneaky, underhanded, and brilliant. Are you sure you aren't a villain?”

“Pretty sure, yeah.” Bryce smiled sheepishly. “I knew you'd love to be the one to tell Dad that one of his precious plans wasn't going right. Anyway, I really am here to get some hero tips, too.”

“Mm, fair enough. That's good. You've still got the Ecchs cunning, and that's the important thing, really. I mean, ruthlessness and amorality are all well and good, but you can go far with compassion as long as you've still got smarts. Let other folks solve problems with their faces. We use our brains.” Ecchs stood abruptly. “Yes, you're… owowowow.” He sat down almost as quickly, clutching his head. “Painkillers not that good, apparantly.”

“Oh, yeah.” Nightshade spoke wryly from the corner. “Classic Ecchs cunning.”


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