Lords of Chaos, Part 3 - Geometric Progression

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(June 29th)

“Welcome back, sir.” Edgar Malloy nodded to Dudeman as the SEA commander entered his spartan office. “Was your mission a success?”

“Partially. We captured fourteen Antihero supporters, as well as Typhoon, but Skew got away.” Letting his alien surfboard slide over to the far wall, where it sank to the ground, Dudeman dropped into his seat and stared across his empty desk. “Again.”

“Well, that is what he's good at.” Malloy supplied reassuringly.

“As long as he's at large, all of our prisoners are at risk of release. And coupled with the Oligarch situation…” Dudeman sighed heavily. “Too much work, Edgar. I'm getting too old for this.”

“Nonsense, sir, you're as young as the day you got your powers.” Edgar replied.

“Like hell I am.” Dudeman sighed. “I'm almost seventy years old. I may be aging slowly, but I'm aging. Twenty years ago, a punk like Skew wouldn't slow me down.” He shook his head.

“At least you have a wealth of experience to share with the new guard.” Edgar offered. “Speaking of which…” He reached into the cabinet at his side, taking out a sheaf of papers. “The latest report from Patchwork City. Eclipse has appraised Agents Moonbeam and Blastwave of the Scourge threat. Will you be…?”

“Hell, no. I'm busy. They can deal with Scourge.” Dudeman frowned, taking the report and skimming it. “Have they been warned about the likelihood that Rex Mundi may send an agent to capture him before we can?”

“Of course.” Edgar smiled. “Eclipse knows what he's doing.”

“I know, I know. Kid's pretty good.” With a shrug, Dudeman flipped through the report, glancing over it. “Ah, you've got the lab report attached…” He broke off, staring at the paper.

“Sir?” Edgar looked over. Ignoring him, Dudeman reached for his phone, dialing a number.

“Ah, Nathan. I was wondering when you would call.” The voice at the other end of the line was crisp and clear. “This is about Lucky Ladd, I assume?”

“Of course it is.” Doctor Padmini Soni was one of the SEA's top scientists in the field of dimensional studies, and Dudeman had assigned her to work on the issue full-time several weeks earlier. “I'd really like to know what these numbers mean.”

“Your information is accurate – and I won't even ask how you got it. Rex Mundi's minion, based on the hair sample you gave me, is a genetic match for Lucky Ladd, with normal variance for dimensional transit alterations. I would guess she is a gender-altered double from an alternate reality. The same is true of Anarch, Daemon, Scourge and Paradox.”

“How is that possible?” Dudeman's voice was tight. “This 'Lucy' has been sighted as far back as two years ago, and Paradox has been a thorn in our side for almost four. Combined with Hazard's appearance two years ago, and the others… why haven't the laws of singularity kicked in? There shouldn't be more than one dimensional alternate…”

“I know the laws, thank you.” Doctor Soni's voice was grim. “They don't matter. Lucky Ladd's power allows him to modify narrative law. This, in and of itself, is not unique, but he modifies it to survive, subconsciously. Think of it as a guardian angel.” She took a deep breath before continuing. “Other people have had powers like this in the past, but not recently, and the last fifty years have seen a steady upswing of dimensional alteration events.”

“I'm aware of all that.” Dudeman almost growled. “Explain the part where Ladd duplicates himself every year.”

“It's simple. Statistically, a certain percentage of dimensional alterations will create scenarios in which altered forms of Lucky Ladd exist. Furthermore, in a percentage of these, those forms will be sufficiently different from Ladd's normal state that his powers will act to protect these alterations from dissolution if the world is restored to normal. This is, in fact, what created the alternate we call 'Hazard'.”

Dudeman nodded slowly, aware that Doctor Soni couldn't see him. “I see. So we end up with a steady progression of new Lucky Ladds. That's great. One of them is bad enough.”

There was a silence on the other end of the line, followed by, “You didn't finish the report, did you?”

Dudeman frowned again. “What did I miss?”

“It's not a steady progression. Ladd's powers are sufficient to cause narrative law to treat each of his alternates as a distinct being. When dimensional events happen, multiple Luckys appear, and if any of them are sufficiently different from their originator, their powers act to try and return them here when reality switches back. My calculations are imperfect, since we don't know exactly when three of the five alternates came through, nor do we know if there are others. But according to my estimates, the first probably appeared no earlier than 2005. That would be Paradox. 2006 saw the arrival of Hazard, while 2007 most likely generated Lucy and Daemon. If my calculations are accurate, that would leave room for three more in 2008, including Anarch, and two so far this year, including Scourge. By the end of the year, there will be twelve Ladds in the world. Five years from now, we'll be looking at a few hundred. Ten years from now, Lucky Ladd will make up a majority of American superhumans, while fifteen years from now he'll be a majority of superhumans worldwide. I'd guess in forty or fifty years he'll outnumber the rest of the planet combined, assuming that much narrative pull doesn't end existence.”

Dudeman closed his eyes and imagined a world made up of nothing but Lucky Ladd. “Please, please tell me you can fix this.”

“Damned if I know. In the short run, removing one or more non-original Ladds will do the trick – we're still at early stages here, and slowing the process down by a year every year won't be too hard. We just need to be back down to eight Luckys or fewer by December, and then to remove four every year.”

Dudeman sat up straighter on his desk. “Are you suggesting that I start ordering murder?”

“Or toss them into a true alternate reality – although that just displaces the problem. Temporal stasis might do the trick, if it's all-consuming enough.” The doctor's voice was grim. “This isn't a short-term problem, but we have to start working on it now. My recommendation? Anarch's a monster. So are Daemon and Paradox. Issue shoot-to-kill orders, and worry about finding the ones that I think should be around but haven't been seen.”

“I will take that under advisement.” Dudeman growled, then slammed the phone down before the doctor could suggest something else. He glowered bleakly at the wall for several moments.

“Bad call?” Edgar gestured to the desk, and Dudeman glanced down to see his phone in pieces across it. He sighed.

“I'd say so.” He looked up at the ceiling. “I always said I wanted to wring his scrawny neck. Damned universe just had to take me literally.”

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