End of a Dream, Part Eight: A Slight Detour

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“So, Manowar is charging straight at me, screaming that he'll never go back to prison. At least… he thinks he is. A moment later, his foot clears the bridge's railing, and he suddenly realizes that the whole thing is six inches offset.” A round of chuckles filled the car as Danielle attempted to mime Manowar's shocked expression. Jim, driving one last time, glanced over at her with a grin, as Amber, Lucky and Nadia watched her through the rearview mirror. The highway was rolling by under them, and the first signs noting the turnoff for Jack Torrence International Airport up ahead. “Manowar starts flailing his arms – and, by some random fluke, manages to grab the edge of my cape. He topples over, and now I'm going towards the edge like a bat out of –”

“Don't mean to interrupt, but you might want to pull over now.” Blastwave's voice cut in clearly across the car's speakers – Danielle had linked her earpiece into the speaker system so that Wave could join in. Wave had opted to fly rather than trying to squeeze into Jim's trunk, and the others had agreed that she shouldn't feel left out. “There's someone coming.”

“Right.” Jim pulled over smartly, looking thoughtful. He glanced to the others. “Wonder what this is about?”

“I think we're about to find out.” Lucky gestured towards the setting sun, where a large black object was flying towards them from the direction of the city. As the group piled out of the car, they got a better look at it – it was roughly cylindrical, with a flat side on top and several hoverengines beneath keeping it aloft. Yellow lines honeycombed the device, and dozens of small holes were marked into its front and sides. On top, four figures stood, and the group sighed in understanding and annoyance as they made out the dramatically posed Dr Ecchs in the lead, one arm on his hip, looking for all the world like he was trying to imitate Washingston crossing the Delaware. Behind him, Nightshade lounged against a control panel while Dr Byron operated it, and Phil was quietly sitting near the front, idly passing a tendril between his pincers.

“Not so fast, my mysterious nemesis!” Dr Ecchs raised a megaphone as he spoke, his words sounding clearly across the space between them. “While I can't blame you for fleeing from my glorious self, I think you will find that you can't escape without a fight!”

“Jesus.” Amber rolled her eyes, turning to Jim. “You want us to get rid of him? I know this is a bad time…”

“No, it's fine.” Jim reached into his coat pocket, pulling out his faded blue mask. As he fitted it on, he quickly and quietly wiped at his eyes, before turning a grin to the others. “One last time – for old times' sakes.” He reached to his belt, and then paused. “Uh…”

“Looking for this?” Nadia reached under her own coat, pulling out a small grey gun and flipping it to him. “You didn't bring it along, remember?”

Jim caught it out of the air, flourishing it with a spin around the trigger. “Thank you, Nadia.”

Danielle caught Nadia's hand. “We should get back before things get violent.”

Nadia considered a moment, then shook her head. “I've got my body armor, and a spare gun. And I'm not officially unheroed for a couple more days, and it's Dr Ecchs, not someone who wants us dead. Just this one last time, I want it to be the four of us.”

Moonbeam glanced over to Timebender, who was watching the others thoughtfully. Catching her eye, Timebender nodded. “Yeah. One last battle for the road sounds good.” She turned her attention back to Ecchs. “So, I assume you have something particularly half-assed to throw at us, since you've been busy with that wedding proposal.”

“Oh, on the contrary.” Ecchs's grin was malicious, as Nightshade and Phil strode to the sides of the flier and dropped down to the ground. “You see, I had to develop something to keep Ada from wondering what Bryce was working on, so the two of us concoted our most fiendish creations yet. Allow me to introduce to you – our explosive zombie robot locusts! Or, as we call them, blowcusts!” He extended his arms majestically, as Ada threw a switch. Below them, the small holes that dotted the craft extended tubes. Each tube began disgorging tiny buzzing devices, which flew forwards towards the team. As everyone threw themselves for cover, the blowcusts spun, unable to reorient quickly enough from their extreme high-speed launchs, and slammed one after the other into the car. In moments, hundreds of them were stuck to, lying near, or sprawled across the car. And then, with a tiny click, one of them went off.

The chain of explosions stretched around the car, and back almost to the flier – only quick action by Ada shutting down the machine prevented the chain of blasts from reaching them. Each explosion was small, but they numbered in the hundreds. Pieces of duct tape and metal showered down across the side of the turnoff, and cars passing on the highway slowed to watch the fireworks. Ecchs swallowed heavily. “Wow. That's some… that's a good blast yield. That's at least 30% more than we expected.” He glanced over to Ada. “We don't know our own strength, honey.”

“My car.” Handyman's voice was faint. “You blew up my car.”

“Maybe. A little. Yeah.” Ecchs scratched the back of his head. “We're, uh, we're going to have to limit deployment a bit more, I think.”

Handyman shook his head in disbelief. He turned to Lucky. “Looks like you're a pedestrian sooner than planned.”

“Awww, man….” Lucky was staring at the car forlornly. He shook his head. “Anyone want to run away from the exploding insects?”

“Not a chance.” Nadia grinned. “But I'm going to hang back and snipe, if you don't mind. Hospital stays are only fun so often.”

“Sounds like a plan.” Timebender looked to the others in turn, and felt a smile come to her face. She turned her attention back to the flier, as Phil and Nightshade picked themselves up from the ground where they had thrown themselves. “Let's do this.”


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