“Is there a problem?” Ada Byron glanced over at her husband. Doctor Ecchs was sitting at his desk, frowning thoughtfully at his computer screen. Phil, sitting cross-tendriled in the corner nibbling on a quiche, glanced over curiously.
“Possibly.” Ecchs looked up from his screen with a thoughtful frown. “The SEA is mobilizing early. I've got a few sources watching them, and they're teleporting their top agents in.”
“Ith it connected?” Phil asked curiously.
“God, I hope so. That's all I need, some massive alien invasion the day I try to take over the world.” Ecchs grumbled. “No, I expect this is related to us. Which means… we have a leak.” With a gesture, he brought his shadow cloak online, and darkness flickered to cover his face and body. His voice, distorted into that of Rex Mundi, spoke into his communicator. “Lucy. Is everyone ready for deployment?”
“Um… not exactly.” On the other end of the line, Lucy bit her lip. She was wearing her power armor, and glancing around with a hint of worry. “Lord Mayhem and Shivarex are here with me, but I haven't seen any sign of Hazard. I was just about to call him and ask what the hell was up, actually.” She offered.
“Don't bother. He's changed sides.” Rex Mundi spoke with authority. “We'll have to adapt the plan without him. Deal with Ladd yourself.”
“Seriously?” Lucy sighed heavily. “That sucks. I kind of liked him.” After a moment, she shrugged. “Gotcha, boss. See you on the flip side.”
The line died, and Ecchs gestured again, causing his cloak to wink out of existance. “Crap.” He shook his head. “That could change things. Ada, retune the sensors – we're going to need them. At least he can't actually do much more damage than Lucky alone could.” He looked down. “Now, let's see. What other loose ends…?”
“Doc!” The doors to Ecchs' office slammed open. One snapped the doorstop, burying its handle in the wall as Nightshade stormed through. “What the hell is going on?”
“Right.” Ecchs mumbled. Smiling, he looked up. “Not sure what you mean, Nightshade. I thought my memo was pretty clear.”
“Even for you, this is crazy.” Crossing the room, Nightshade faced Ecchs across the desk, waving the printed memo in his face. Phil looked worriedly between the two, as Ada took a surreptitious step forwards. “Do you know how many Accord rules you're about to break with this plan? And where the hell is Josh?”
“Josh is not coming.” Ecchs sighed. “He was a very good assistant, but I don't think I could rely on him for this, so I sent him home early.” Recovering his good cheer, he chuckled. “However, as to your first question – you've forgotten my lessons already? Being a villain is about…”
“Yeah, yeah. Sneakiest bastard on the block, I remember. And not getting caught.” Nightshade said with emphasis. “Which you will be, because you're being almost painfully obvious…” She trailed off, and winced. “What's the real plan?” She finally asked in a small voice.
Ecchs looked over to Ada. “Told you she'd catch on without me spelling it out.” Ada shrugged, and he turned back to Nightshade. “Rex Mundi's coming to town tonight.”
“I see.” Nightshade nodded slowly. “And we're reinforcing against him?”
“We're joining him.” Ada answered.
Nightshade looked at her for a long moment, one eyebrow raised. Then she looked over to Ecchs, who nodded. Then to Phil, who gave a more enthusiastic nod. “I… see. Rex Mundi. The guy who tried to kill my dad. Twice. And my sister. Also twice. And me, once.”
“Well. I don't think he was really trying, those times.” Ecchs dissembled.
“Psiborg literally tried to blow them up last year.” Nightshade pointed out grimly.
“Okay, yes. A little. But just the once.” Ecchs shrugged. “The point is, Nightshade, this is it. The big one. We can be on board, or we can be collateral damage.” He steepled his fingers. “There's no neutrality. Not this time.”
“Right.” Nightshade frowned heavily. “Only, the thing is… the SEA isn't going to go for that. Neither are heroes in general.” She looked at the others. “So a lot of people are going to get killed before this shakes down, one way or the other.”
“That's probable.” Ecchs admitted.
“That's what I thought.” Nightshade's hand lashed out, grabbing Ada by the wrist. “I don't know what you're reaching for, Ada, but don't. I'm feeling a bit nervous right now.”
“Sorry.” Ada very carefully refrained from straining against Nightshade's grip. “You seemed a bit… wound up.”
“You bet I am.” Nightshade looked back to Ecchs. “The thing is, Doc, I'm a crap liar, so I'm not going to bother trying. I do not get along with my sister, and I enjoy having the chance to beat some of that smug righteousness out of her. But I like this system. It works. It works really well, and it's made us all rich. Why do you want to mess with it?”
“Because I can.” Ecchs said simply. “Because I found a way to rule the world, and I want to see if it will work. And because the best part of any scheme is the moment that everyone realizes just how much they've been played.” He sighed. “But you're going to try to stop me.”
“Try?” Nightshade raised an eyebrow. “If Ada moved a muscle, I'll break her arm. If you move a muscle, I'll break your ribs with her as my weapon. And no offense, Phil, but we both know you can't stop me.”
“True.” Phil admitted sadly.
“Good points all around.” Ecchs said slowly. “But you won't actually do anything.”
“Really. Why is that?” Nightshade said.
“Because Psiborg's already in the office.” Ecchs shrugged.
Nightshade's eyes widened. Before she could respond, her hand moved on its own, letting Ada go. A moment later, she collapsed unconscious to the ground.
Ada rubbed her wrist, masssaging feeling back into it. “That's a shame.” She said softly.
“Very much so, but not unexpected. Phil, drop her in a holding cell for now. I don't really want to kill her.” Ecchs shook his head. “Psiborg, go to the local SEA branch and kill the agents. Watch out for Moonbeam, she's a psychic – might be able to delay you some.”
The corner of the room rippled, as Psiborg became visible. He nodded once. “As you command, my lord.” A moment later, he was gone.
Ecchs sat back in his desk with a slight smile. “And away we go.”