A Whole New World, Part Three: Losing Ground

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(January 8th)

“Damn traffic.” Jhim muttered, weaving through the city streets. “It’s 11:40. Where are they going?” The four Champions were sitting in his car as he tried to cross town to the Malefico building – Ash had gone ahead to create a perimeter and start scouting, and Blastwave had heading back to the office, muttering about checking the Accords for the exact point at which she could enter Malefico’s offices and melt Ecchs’s face off.

“Home, maybe?” Lucky was tuning the radio, looking for a station covering the ball drop in front of the Philidelphia City hall. “Wanting to ring in the new year with sleep, I would bet. I wouldn’t worry about it too much – it’s not like Doctor Ecchs is going to start without us.”

The radio crackled, and Ecchs’s voice came cheerfully across it. “Good evening, citizens of Patchwork City. I have taken over all local radio waves, to join the city’s power lines in my new dominion. So just sit back, relax, and hold tight, because this is WMAL. Music to conquer to. Now, while I get to work on my next takeover, here’s an old classic – the Beatles, with ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’. Enjoy.”

Amber looked sourly at Lucky, who turned and shrugged. “Okay, fine. Nothing serious.” He said sheepishly. “Who listens to radio, anyway?”

“What’s he doing?” Nadia, sitting behind Lucky, was frowning as she absently watched the street. “This is a little weird, even for him. If he pushes this too far, he could seriously get arrested.”

“Who knows why he does anything.” Amber replied, then frowned back. “But you’re right. He’s pretty risk-averse as a rule. I mean, other than mad science-based risks, but that’s no big surprise.”

As the others considered this, Lucky’s cell phone rang. Eyebrow raised, he flipped it open, turning the radio down with his free hand. “Hello, this is Lucky Lad. How can I help?”

“Good night, Mr. Ladd.” A deep woman’s voice on the other end. It was familiar, but Lucky couldn’t place it. “My name is Doctor Padmini Soni, with the SEA. You may remember me – I worked with your father in the aftermath of the Tethys incident.”

“Oh, yes, Doctor Soni.” Lucky searched his brain, as the others looked at each other in confusion. “I was just in the academy back then. How’s your husband doing?”

“Very well, thank you.” Doctor Soni replied. “But I’m afraid this isn’t a social call. Do you have a minute?”

Lucky glanced at the traffic. “By my guess, I have five or ten. What’s up?”

“I’ve been doing some last-minute calculations before I left for vacation – scanning dimensional energies and the like – and I’ve come across something rather odd. I was wondering if you could answer a few questions about your powers.”

“I’ll try, but I think your files are pretty thorough.”

“This is more recent.” Doctor Soni assured him. She paused for a moment, then continued. “In the past year, can you think of any occasions in which your powers should have activated, but did not?”

“Hmm…” Lucky considered that. “Hard to say. I can’t really tell when my powers are on. Oh!” He smacked his forehead, drawing a raised eyebrow from Amber, who was watching the one-sided conversation with bemusement. “The time I got sent to Sayleen, of course. But Dudeman said he thought Hazard was present, counteracting my luck. And then there was the time that Scourge almost strangled me to death, but again, he was countering my luck. I was almost eaten by horrors from beyond time last month. Not a peep from my luck powers – Josh had to save me. Are horrors from beyond time immune to narrative law?” Without waiting for a reply, he pressed on. “And I stubbed my toe a few weeks ago.”

There was a short pause. “Stubbed your…”

“Hey, it’s the first time it happened in my life, okay? Never stubbed my toe before. It was when we were fighting Crimson Sky.”

“Crimson Sky… that would have been the 3rd, then. Very interesting. What about in the last week?”

Lucky considered. “I accidentally picked up a bottle of expired milk from the store yesterday.” He offered cautiously.

“Very interesting.” Doctor Soni said. “Overall, however, you would say that your powers are as strong as ever? Stronger, perhaps?”

Lucky considered that one, too. “Well… other than the stubbed toe, I haven’t been hurt in a fight in a while. Hey, Amber, when was the last time I was hurt in a fight?”

“I don’t know. October?” Amber shrugged. “I don’t really keep track. You don’t get hurt that often to begin with.”

“Maybe a couple of months. What’s this about, Doctor?” Lucky asked.

“Lucky, listen carefully. If my calculations are correct, you are not safe.” Was the reply. “I don’t think your powers protect you if your alternates are in danger.”

“Wait, what? Why are my alternates in danger?” Lucky asked worriedly.

The phone beeped once. “I’m sorry.” Came Doctor Ecchs’ voice. “All phone lines are now under the control of Malefico. If you would like to make a collect call, Malefico charges only $9.99 a minute. 911 calls are unaffected.”

Lucky stared at the phone a moment, then closed it. “Dammit.”

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