Then And Now, Part Four: Speaking In Tongues

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Then – January 2002

“Well… I'm stumped.” Throwing his arms in the air, Spencer Ecchs dropped the small machine that he was holding back to the table, and looked across it to his companion. “Are you sure that this thing used to work?”

“Abtholudly.” The creature sitting across from him shrugged its many-layered shoulders, reaching up with one mantis-like claw to scratch at an itch on one of its head-tendrils. “Uthed ta worg pehfecdly undill da latht pord before dith wan.”

“Hrm.” Spencer considered the device for a few more seconds while he parsed his companion's words. Then he sighed. “Look, I'll level with you. No one around here has the faintest clue how to manage stable dimensional travel. Oh, we get un-stable dimensional modifications all the time. But stable ones? Nah.” He sat back in his chair. “With that in mind, I'm pretty much working in the dark. Oh, the SEA would love to take a look at this little number and try to reverse-engineer it, but they're not going to do any better than I will. There's some critical bit missing, and the means to make it might not even exist on our world. Honestly, buddy, I don't think I can get you home.”

“That'th fine.” The creature tried to mimic a human smile, with a rather intimidating result. “Didn'd musch laik id dere anyway. Th'why ah lefd. Altho, thingth ah dasdier heah.”

“Mm.” Ecchs considered that last sentence carefully. “You know you're not allowed to eat people or pets, right?”

“Ah godd da breffing.”

“You… oh, got the… gotcha. I need to do something about that. I can barely understand you half the time.” Ecchs glanced over at the defunct dimensional traveller, then shrugged. “Well, as long as you're here, I have an offer to make. I'm starting up a new company – how'd you like to get in on the ground floor?”

The other being nodded slowly. “Thoundth laik fun. Ah think I cauld wook fah you. What'th it cawled?”

“Malefico.” Spencer Ecchs smiled, standing from the table, and carefully held out a gloved hand. The creature took it as gently as possible, shaking it. “I think this is going to be the start of a beautiful friendship, Phil.”


Now

“Alright, Phil, we've done this a hundred times. But if you want to make it a hundred and one…” Lucky dashed forwards, ducking under a twisting tentacle and kicking at Phil's chest.

“It'th been at least two hundred, I think.”

Lucky paused in shock. “Hang on, that was actually legible. What the hell did you ow.” Clutching his arm, he staggered backwards almost drunkenly.

“The doc finally got the telepathic thinthithither working.” Phil grinned toothily, his tongue lashing out at Lucky. “Workths like a charm.”

“Aside from the lisp.” Lucky ducked under the blow, his left arm dead at his side as he rolled across Phil's path. “But I have to agree, it sounds good. What took him so long?”

“Oh, you know. Hard to get the tokthinth to thynch up.” When Lucky blinked again, Phil raised two tendrils expectantly. “The tokthins? The poithon that I uthe to thpeak?” He shook his head slowly. “Why did you think I had tho many kindth?”

“Urm… super-powers. I never really thought about it.” Lucky ducked left, faked right, and then rolled back a moment before Phil's tendrils slammed into the pavement in front of him. “Seriously? You use those things to talk?”

“Urg! You've known me for how long?”

“Six years.” Lucky admitted sheepishly.

“Thikth yearth! And you never even athked!” Phil sent another barrage of tendrils towards Lucky. “That'th very inthenthitive!”

“Yeah, well, so's spraying me with saliva every time you talk.” Lucky paused, speaking again as he started to topple over. “Oh, crap, your saliva's also poison…”

“Hah. Who'th the big guy now, hero?” Phil stepped forwards and leaned down to look at the mostly-paralysed Lucky.

“Still me, since you forgot you were supposed to be blocking Timebender too.” Lucky managed a bright smile from his position on the ground.

Phil looked at Lucky. Then he looked over his shoulder to the wide-open door leading to the particle accelerator. Then he looked back at Lucky. “Oh, thit.”

The low hum coming from inside the Van de Graff generator abruptly turned into a high-pitched squeal. A moment later, Dr Ecchs roared out of the structure, jet boots at full power. “Run for your lives! It's gone into overload! Every being for themselves!” Without waiting for confirmation, Phil broke into a shambling run, his tendrils sliding over one another with rapid speed as he retreated. Nightshade went into a sprint in the other direction, as Ash vanished into the brush.

A second after that, Timebender blurred out of the building, pausing just long enough to grab Lucky. “You heard the man! Move!”

“Kinda poisoned. A bit.” Lucky said embarrassedly. “Anyway, I think I'll be fine -”

The top of the generator popped, and arcs of crackling electricity shot fifty stories into the air as pieces of metallic shrapnel rained down. A moment later, the tower of the generator tilted, groaned, and fell sideways, slamming into the ground with a brutal impact. Timebender knelt, covering her head, as rubble collapsed around them.

As everything went quiet, she dared to look up. She and Lucky were surrounded on all sides by chunks of razor-sharp metal ranging in size from a person's hand to a yard across. Miraculously, the falling debris had missed them both, a tiny area of safety amidst the devastation.

Lucky grinned. “See? Fine.”


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