Then – June 1985
“I can't believe this.” Sitting in a large plush chair, Spencer Ecchs watched the television with shock. “They're actually going ahead with it! They're going to sign those Accords, and we'll never be able to be supervillains again!”
“Grow up, Spence.” Smirking, Damien Ecchs leaned back in his seat, watching the proceedings. He rubbed his goatee thoughtfully as he glanced over the podium. “Dad's right there on the platform, behind Colonel Diablos.”
“I know!” Throwing up his arms in frustration, Spencer rounded on his older brother. “How can he do that?! He's selling out twelve generations of family…!” He broke off as Damien snickered loudly. “What?”
“You. All fired up for the cause of the noble villain.” Leaning back in his chair, Damien looked up at the sky. “I'll try to explain it to you, Spence. Who knows? Maybe something will stick.” Straightening, he looked over at his brother. “Don't fall for the sort of claptrap that they were spouting at your academy. Being a villain's not about breaking legal rules. It's not about how many people you can kill, and it's not even about getting famous. It's…”
Spencer spoke alongside his brother, finishing the sentence with him. “…about taking what you want and not caring about who gets hurt in the process.” As Damien rolled his eyes, he gestured to the screen. “So where does kowtowing to a bunch of self-proclaimed guardians of order fit in, since you're so smart?”
“Rules work both ways. We've made a few concessions, but now they have all sorts of restrictions, and they're heroes. By their natures, they aren't going to walk as fine a line as we do around the rules.” Damien sat back. “It's all about letting people think that they've won while you fleece them for all they're worth. You just watch, Spence. A few decades, and heroes will be a meaningless institution.”
“Yeah, but so will villains.” Spencer watched the screen morosely.
“Stop thinking like a kid, bro. Villains aren't an institution. If we're rich, who cares what people think about us?”
Nightshade moped into Doctor Ecch's office, dreading the impending chew-out. She paused by the door as Josh walked up. “Hey, Josh. How mad is the boss?”
Josh paused in midstep. “Sorry?”
“The boss. Doctor Ecchs. How mad is he? Is he just in 'grumpy and sarcastic' mode, or is he in full-blow depression, or is he shooting people out of cannons?” Nightshade smiled nervously. “You can give it to me straight, I can handle the truth. I just want to prepare.”
“Uh… when I left, he was humming 'We're in the money'.” Josh shrugged. “And he sent me for a corkscrew.”
“Uh…” Nightshade stared at Josh in confusion. Then, with a deep breath, she turned and pushed open the door. “Boss?”
“Nightshade! My second-favorite vice president! Come in, come in! And Josh, I see you're back. Corkscrew?”
“Here you are, sir.” Josh walked up to the desk, handing the requested implement to a beaming Dr Ecchs. Sitting on the desk was a champagne bottle and several glasses; Dr Byron, Phil, and Tom Johnson were already present, looking cheerful.
“Have a seat, Nightshade! We're having champagne all around.”
“Could I ask why?” Nightshade took the proferred chair suspiciously.
“Because you made us a mint today, ma'am!” Johnson took the first glass of champagne. “Malefico just made close to two million dollars, all thanks to our brilliant CEO here… and the Patchwork Champions.”
“Okay, seriously, someone tell me what's going on. Now.” Nightshade took a glass bemusedly. Ecchs chuckled.
“Simplicity itself, my dear. We just tricked the city into cleaning up a million dollars worth of toxic waste that we would have had to dispose of ourselves, and then convinced them to give us the clean-up contract.” He beamed. “All because they think it was created as a byproduct of my latest scheme.”
A light went on. “You mean… that particle collider thing didn't work?”
“Of course not! That's not how particle acceleraters work.” Ecchs laughed. “I just used construction to hide me stashing all of Malefico's waste products under the thing, and then set it up to look like a bad fusing process when the Champions destroyed it. The old switcheroo, and they fell for it hook, line and sinker.”
“Isn't that… uh… incredibly illegal?” Nightshade raised an eyebrow. “I mean, actually illegal, as opposed to what we usually do?”
“Nightshade, we're villains.” Taking her own champagne glass, Ada smiled cheerily. “It's all about not getting caught, and we weren't. And no one will investigate, because we're cleaning it up. Problem solved.”
“Because they think we screwed up.”
Ecchs leaned back in his chair happily. “You're still a kid, Nightshade. That's what being a villain's all about. It's not all flashy capes and crazy robots. Sometimes it's just being the sneakiest bastard on the block.” He raised his glass high. “To sneakery.”
“To sneakery.” Nightshade took a confused drink of champagne. “And to winning for a change, even if we don't get to brag.” She laughed. “Which is a shame, because I would love to see Amber's face if she found out.”