The Perfect Plan, Part Nine: Party Time

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(November 6th)

The sound of electrical discharges filled the hedge maze, sending the scent of ozone wafting through the air. Crouched in the middle of the maze alongside a supervisory Ash, Nina and Amber looked everywhere but at each other.

“In retrospect,” Amber finally said, “We should have said half an hour for energy modifications.”

“You think? What gave it away, the plasma beams or the EMP shockwaves?” Nina chewed her nails worriedly. “I only rented those robots. I mentioned that to them, right?”

“Do not worry, Nightshade. I am keeping track. To date, only four of the robots have been irreparably damaged.”

“Yeah, great. Four very expensive robots.” Nina shook her head again. “How’re the reissues going?”

“Quite well. I do not believe that the guests have realized that only sixty robots are in the maze.” Ash paused, reflected, and revised his statement. “Fifty-six robots, that is.”

Amber snickered. “Look on the bright side, Nina. They’re not unloading at each other. And Ash is here…”

The foliage trembled, as a blast of electricity sent leaves and branches retreating in a frenzy. A moment later, Ada Byron and Sylvia Ecchs were staggering into the clearing, laughing cheerfully. Sylvia looked over, and waved happily. “Nightshade, dear. Aren’t you fighting?”

“Supervising.” Nightshade frowned. “Weren’t you paired with Julie?”

“Lost her in the maze, ran into Ada.” Sylvia smiled, reaching into her pocket for a cigarette. As she raised it to her mouth, Ash made a metallic coughing noise.

“Pardon me, madam, but there is no smoking in the maze. Fire hazard.”

With a disgruntled look, Sylvia put the cigarette away. “Oh, very well. It is a very interesting maze, Ash. I may have to poach the scientists working on you.”

“One of them is currently in Malefico’s Polish office. He may be glad to be poached.” Ash suggested blandly. Sylvia raised an eyebrow, then chuckled and nodded, turning to Nightshade.

“So, when does the second phase start?”

Nightshade blinked. “Second…?”

Ada nodded, glancing around. “Oh, yes, we’ve all been discussing it. This has been fun, but it’s getting a bit… well, repetitive, really. I think we’re about ready for the next step.” When Nightshade continued to look blank, she smiled maternally. “Oh, I know I’m not supposed to know about the surprises, but I saw the internal circuitry inside one of the robots that Sylvia cracked open. When do they deploy?”

“Hang on.” Amber said, brow furrowed. “There shouldn’t be any extra circuitry in there. We were just going to let this go on for another fifteen or twenty minutes and then hit the bars.”

“Really?” Ada frowned thoughtfully. “That’s odd. Perhaps I should take a closer look, then. I just assumed it was part of the party.”

“As did I.” Sylvia added. “If not, we might have a bit of a problem, what with the weapon matrices in there.”

“Weapon…?!” Nightshade turned to Ash. “Have any of the robots started acting… violent?”

“No.” Ash shook his branches. A moment later, the ground shuddered as if an earthquake had hit. Nightshade and Ada lost their footing, stumbling to the ground. Sylvia simply grabbed one of Ash’s limbs for balance, and Timbeneder slowed herself to adapt before it became an issue. “Allow me to rephrase.” Ash said. “Yes.

Flame boiled through the hedgeline in front of them, revealing a shirtless blonde man with a massive silver flamethrower growing seamlessly from one arm. As Ash leapt forwards, sending off an array of leaf knives, the robot pivoted his chest a hundred degrees to the right, incinerating the leaves and forcing the tree to retreat. The robot boomed in a deep, metallic voice, “Greetings, Ada, from the Witch Doctor! Even your bachelorette party is not safe!” It turned its flamethrower towards the assembled heroes.

A moment later, its head exploded in a shower of superheated metal. Amber took cover behind Ash, who batted fragments aside, then peeked out to see Sylvia Ecchs, heavily modified taser in her left hand, lighting a cigarette from the flaming foliage. Looking over at Ash’s noncommittal expression, she shrugged. “I think we’re a mite past fire hazards, darling.”

After a half-second, Ash nodded. “Very well. I am reading weapon discharges from every robot. The bachelorette party is joining battle.”

“Well then, we’d better get involved before all the good robots are blown up.” Ada said cheerfully. “Are you three coming?”

“Oh, sure, why not.” Nightshade groused, breaking into a jog to take the lead as the team moved into the now-fiery maze. “I mean, I was thinking of standing here and catching fire, but this works.”

Sylvia grinned. “Take note, Nightshade. This – this is an excellent phase two.”

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