A Whole New World, Part Four: Early Warning

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(January 11th)

“Eleven-thiry, Director.” Edgar's carefully correct voice intruded into Dudeman's mind. The Agency director looked up in surprise, glancing at his computer clock to find that it agreed with his secretary's assessment. “You did promise Director Lee…” He said leadingly.

“Yes, yes, I know.” With a sigh, Nathan stood and rubbed his forehead, closing the program with a click. “Too much work to do these days, Edgar.”

“Only because you've never delegated.” Edgar suggested, handing him his coat. “If you would bring a few more directors in, you might have more time off.”

“We don't have enough active field agents to move them to part-time duties.” Nathan pointed out. As he walked for the door, his surfboard slid smoothly into the air, following the two men out into the hall. “It's bad enough that I'm behind a desk half the time these days.”

“Perhaps you need to revise the tradition of only handing senior administrative positions to former active agents.”

“No.” Nathan said after a moment. “I need people who know what the front lines are like.”

“Very well, sir.” Edgar shrugged very slightly, reverting to type.

Nathan glanced sidelong at him, but Edgar was simply looking resolute. Hiding his smile, he reached to tap the elevator button.

“Nathan! I'm glad I caught you.”

Nathan's shoulders slumped slightly. Turning, he smiled politely. “Doctor Soni. I was just leaving…”

“Before you do, you might want to hear this.” At just over six feet tall, Padmini Soni was one of the few people in the building who could just about look Dudeman in the eye, and she did so now. “Because I know how Rex Mundi's been killing Luckys, and I know why. And it may be urgent.”

Dudeman glanced over at Edgar, who was frowning worriedly. He sighed. “Call Katy and tell her I've been unavoidably detained. Promise her I'll be there in ten minutes.”

“Yes, sir.” The words were completely without judgment. Dudeman felt it anyway. Ignoring Edgar, he turned to follow Doctor Soni.

“So, let's hear it. Why is this urgent?” He asked.

“We made a mistake when we classified Lucky's powers, Nathan.” The doctor said softly. “We believed that he could modify narrative law to protect himself.”

“I remember that, Padmini.” Dudeman said tersely. “What was the mistake?”

“He's not modifying narrative law. It would be more accurate to say that his birth created a narrative law dedicated to his protection.”

“And the difference is?” Dudeman tried not to sound grumpy. He almost succeeded. Padmini didn't even notice.

“The difference,” She said tensely, “Is that every new Lucky that comes into existence is birthing an identical narrative law. I have evidence that these laws then merge, because the universe can't tell the difference between each Lucky. In essence, every Lucky increases the law's total power, and then promptly forces it to divide its attention. The net result is even power distribution.”

Dudeman frowned suddenly. “Unless the law is overtaxed.”

“Exactly.” Doctor Soni smiled briefly, before turning grim again. “When one Lucky is in serious enough danger, it begins to tax the resources of the others. If two combat each other, their narrative forces strain to the limit, and ultimately can't protect them. By sending one of his Luckys after nonaligned ones, Rex Mundi can effectively depower his targets.”

“Well, that explains the general lack of large-scale explosions and the like.” Dudeman mused. “But not the urgency.”

“Nathan.” Padmini turned to glare at him. “For all intents and purposes, Lucky's power only triggers once in his life. Narrative law takes care of the rest, and the newly-birthed narrative law doesn't vanish when he dies. Presumably, under normal circumstances, it would just become unavailable.”

Dudeman stopped dead. “But if there are multiple Luckys…” He said with sudden understanding.

“They all get stronger. Rex Mundi probably already knows this – he's had years to test Hazard and Lucy. And in the past week, he has killed every alternate Lucky that we know of. I think it's safe to assume that at this moment, only his two alternates and the original are left.” The doctor shook her head. “Which means…”

“If he removes Ladd, he has control over his narrative field. And he wouldn't remove the others unless he was ready to move, in case we noticed. Which means that an attack against Ladd could come any day now.” Dudeman nodded. “Thank you, Doctor. I have to look into this.”

“Of course. I'll be in the lab. Good luck.” Doctor Soni shook Dudeman's hand, then turned to leave. Dudeman let her, heading back to his desk at a jog. “Edgar! Call Blastwave and Moonbeam in Patchwork City, find out if anything abnormal is happening. General Code Green to all active agents. Start pulling the top of the active list back to base and prepare for outbound teleport.”

“Sir?” Edgar looked mildly shocked.

“This is it. Mundi's going to make his move tonight, unless I'm wrong.” Dudeman frowned. “I just don't know why I haven't gotten advance…”

At his hip, “Surfing USA” began to play. Reaching into his pocket, Dudeman flipped out his cellphone. “Dudeman.”

“This is Hazard.” The voice on the other end was borderline panicked.

“This isn't a secure line!” Dudeman almost roared.

“No time. Word came down, we're moving in five minutes. Bastard didn't tell anyone.” Hazard said quickly. “I can't get any more intel…”

“Get out of there. Too much chance you've been compromised.” Dudeman said quickly. “And thank you.” He hung up the phone, looking to Edgar. “Confirmation. Get those agents in here.”

“Yes, sir.” Edgar saluted, then ran for the phones. Dudeman looked past him. Finally – tonight, Rex Mundi was going down.

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