“You imbicile.” The words were hissed at barely more than a whisper, but Jason Wydemere, more commonly known as the Witch Doctor, quailed nonetheless. Dressed in one of his traditional impeccible sand-colored buisness suits, he raised a hand to object to the statement.
“I don't see what investing my money matters to you. If I'm going to function properly as an oligarch, I need to get enough money to pull my own weight…”
“You didn't give a damn about that!” Finally angry enough to raise his voice, Clockwork roared the accusation at his companion, stalking away to stare out the window. “You were trying, once again, to pursue your idiotic, childish, and above all pointless vendetta against Spencer Ecchs! You thought that his minion was making an error that you intended to capitalize on. You wanted a chance to gloat about taking his money away. And it will cost you.” The Witch Doctor opened his mouth to argue, and Clockwork continued without pause. “Those gyms are already losing money. They'll be closing within two months. If I were you, I would start recouping my losses as best I could immediately by selling while most people haven't seen where this is heading yet. You might, if you are extremely lucky, get most of the money you invested back.”
“You can't talk to me like that, Clockwork.” The Witch Doctor growled. “You may be older than I am, but I am every bit as skilled as you. Without me, you would never have had an operational teleporter to Sayleen. You wouldn't have Dragonfly. You talk a lot, but I haven't seen you do much more than claim everything was going according to your plans.”
Clockwork turned slowly. “You have a point?”
“Absolutely. This whole thing's falling apart. Malleus Kaine is months overdue on defeating Lucky Lad. Jhim is still alive and the Nexus hasn't wholly left him. The war on Sayleen is not going well – it was supposed to be a lightning strike, but we're three months into it and it's dragging into a stalemate. And you haven't made any progress on arranging for the defeat of Timebender.” The Witch Doctor's jaw clenched. “On top of that, the SEA is on your case while Rex Mundi does whatever the hell it is that he wants. From where I'm standing, your plans are going just brilliantly.” Sarcasm dripped from his words like venom. “In fact, other than Dragonfly's success, we haven't really managed to succeed at any of the missions you've devised. Have I missed anything?”
Clockwork's voice went very flat, and the Witch Doctor took a half-step back as their eyes met. “You have a remarkable talent for missing the obvious. If there is one thing that knowing the odds has taught me, it is that nothing goes quite according to plan. So you should be delighted to know that we have our endgame lined up already. By the end of the week, I expect that Lucky Lad will be dead, Malleus Kaine will be a part of the Nexus, and it will be time for us to make our grand attack. Something that would have been easier, I might add, if you hadn't just wasted millions of dollars saving Ecchs from his own poorly-laid plan.” He kept Jason's gaze until the other lowered his eyes and stepped backwards. “Now, if you're through with your little crisis of faith, why don't you go and work on your own power suit. It is nowhere near complete.”
“Fine. But this is the last shot. If this doesn't work, I'm bailing.” The Witch Doctor shook his head as he turned to go. “I don't believe in you anymore, Clockwork. Prove me wrong.”
Clockwork waited until the door had closed, and then for over a minute more to be safe. Then, with a growl of rage, he grabbed the nearest object at hand and hurled it at the wall with all of his force.
Warzone's hand caught it a moment before impact. As he stepped through the door, the supervillain glanced down at the thing in his hand, then spoke easily. “You could have just told me you didn't like French artwork.” He raised the small statue in his hand to demonstrate. “I would have gotten you a different birthday present.”
Clockwork smiled for a moment, then sank into his desk. “It's going wrong, Chuck. Even the Witch Doctor can see it, and he's an idiot. Patriarch Kyall is furious – his troops are faltering, and he wants more support.”
“We don't have more support.” Warzone pointed out. “All of my Yocanu contacts are already in battle, and we can't afford to pay any more human mercenaries than we have.”
“I am aware.” There was a long pause, and then Clockwork sighed heavily. “If this doesn't work, we have to fall back on Plan B. Retreat to Sayleen, destroy the psibeacon completely, and work to shape it. There won't be any chance of victory on Earth.”
“I am well aware of that.” Warzone crossed the room, setting the statuette back on Clockwork's desk. “To be honest, I never expected this to succeed. We are quite rarely successful in our line of work, and this plan is extremely grandiose in scope. Greater, perhaps, than anything the Fear Force ever attempted.” He shrugged easily.
“Then why…?” Clockwork looked up. Warzone regarded him evenly, and he smiled. “Of course. Because we are born to try. I will manage this, Chuck. I can do it.”
“I trust you.” Warzone nodded. “If we fail, we will fail so gloriously that our names will resound through history. If we cannot capture the Earth, we will write our names across the stars.” Clockwork could hear his smile in the words, as he laid a hand on his friend's shoulder. “Ignore the doctor. He is weak, and short-sighted. We will have Dragonfly, and Kyall, and Malleus Kane. More than enough to do what needs to be done.”
“Very good.” Clockwork stood slowly. “We need to make plans in case the Witch Doctor turns on us.”
“Of course.” Underneath his helmet, Warzone smiled as he saw his companion's mind start to work, the abstracted look that meant another plan was in the offing. This was why he had joined once again – because whatever Clockwork decided, he was a master.
The world would tremble, and the stars would quake. And it would be glorious.