As the three jetpack-clad heroes landed lightly on the metal platform below them, Dr Ecchs turned to face them. Behind him, a towering mass of gears and tubing rose over his head, letting off occasional bursts of steam. He took a step forwards, flanked by Dr Byron and Nightshade. “Greetings, Champions. Nice of you to stop by and see my ultimate triumph.”
“We'll see about that.” Timebender yawned pointedly. “Oh, news flash – the control platform typically goes under the blimp, not on top of it.” She pointed below the large metal deck, to where two long, rigid balloons were keeping the structure aloft, propellers sending the device slowly across the city. “I mean, we're all used to you doing things backwards, but this is a little silly.”
“Hmph. That just shows your lack of imagination. One may put one's command deck wherever one chooses, and I happen to rather like the open sky.” Ecchs waved dismissively. “As you might have noticed, if you payed more attention.”
“Great, that's great. What's all this about a missile?” Lucky glanced around, then added, “And where's Phil gotten off to?”
“I don't need Phil to defeat you, Champions!” Ecchs grinned triumphantly. “In fact, I hardly need to defeat you at all! My Broad-Surface Delivery Method will guarantee that this mission is a success, and you can do nothing but watch as the whole world turns upside-down, casting you into a torrent of despair and shock when you consider the power of my life when compared to the pathetic remnants that you cling to!” As he launched into an ever-expanding monologue, detailing his advantages and gifts as compared to the Champions, Handyman leaned forwards.
“So, did he mention what we have to break? I mean, that big machine's a good guess, but…”
“Could be.” Lucky considered the towering machine carefully. “We could always just wander over and start smashing. Or we could listen to the monologue for a few minutes, see if he lets anything drop.”
“We could…” Timebender trailed off, listening for a moment. Ecchs was now reading off a list of grievances that would shortly be addressed. “Screw it. Let's do this.”
As she spoke, she launched into motion, a blur of speed that raced across the deck. At the same moment, Handyman drew a brace of grenades and started tossing them across the deck, drawing a startled curse from Nightshade as her attempt to clothesline her sister was suddenly interrupted. Lucky broke into a jog, dodging around explosions as jets of flame began firing from the deck. Ecchs broke off his monologue with a grimace. “Oh, come on, now. That's just rude, cutting me off like that!” He took a quick step to one side, pulling several levers. A glowing forcefield sprang into life around the machine, a moment before Timebender reached it. She swerved to one side, skidding to a halt. Ecchs grinned. “There, see? That's what you get?”
“Hey, Doc. You're not in the forcefield.”
Ecchs hesitated. “Sure I am.” He made some waving motions with his fingers. “See the air rippling in front of me? Spooooky….” Trailing off in face of Timebender's flat look, he grimaced again. “Okay, there may have been a slight oversight.”
“By you, perhaps.” With a slim smile, Ada reached past him and flicked another switch. A red bubble of energy popped up around her and Ecchs, encompassing the force-field system. “When you mentioned this platform would be launching soon, I thought I would make a few minor modifications.”
Ecchs grinned widely. “Ada, I don't say this enough, but you complete me.”
“Oh, Spencer, you don't have to say that.” Ada blushed faintly.
“Yes, please don't.” Nightshade rolled her eyes. Ecchs ignored her.
“No, I mean it.” He raised a hand, encompassing the platform. “When I was young, Ada, I thought I was going to be the best. I thought I was going to be king of the world, rule over everyone. But then I got older. Time moved on, and it left me behind, and I gave up on those dreams. And then I met you.” His smile softened, and he turned to face her directly. “And you made it all real again, made my dreams come alive.”
Ada's blush deepened. “I don't know if this is entirely the time for…”
“No, it is. Because when I look at my life, and I think of it without you, I know that it's pointless. Ever since I met you, nothing else has mattered as much as having you by my side. Hell, without your forcefield, I wouldn't have been able to do this.” With a flourish, he pressed a large red button. Timebender winced as the back of the massive machine cracked open, and a missile fired upwards. It passed through the forcefield without harm, flying upwards into the sky. A moment later, it exploded in the air, sending trails of fire arcing across the sky. Everyone turned to watch them fill the air with burning letters.
Ada Byron, will you marry me?
Ada turned back to Spencer in shock, to find him holding a small silver ring in his hands. Her hands hung loosely at her side. For a moment, they stood there in tableau.
And then she threw her arms around him, and let out a shriek of joy. “Oh, Spencer, I will!”
Nightshade and Timebender looked at each other, and then to the two mad scientists. Timebender smiled. “That is so sweet, and completely crazy.”
“Yeah. Great.” Nightshade tried to hide her own grin. “So… are we still fighting, or what?”
“Damned if I know.”