A Whole New World, Part Six: Touchdown

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(January 25th)

The Malefico buildings were dark and silent. Around them, in deserted streets, the streetlamps flickered out the tune of ‘Auld Laud Syne’, which was currently playing over the radio. Piling out of their car, weapons at the ready, the Champions hesitated and looked around in confusion. “Where is everyone?” Timebender asked slowly.

There was a whisper of motion, and Ash appeared beside them. “I am glad that you are here. My drones have Doctor Ecchs surrounded, but I am having some difficulty… reaching him.” He admitted after a moment.

“Where?” Lucky asked.

In response, Ash pointed above and to the left. Peering through the streetlamps’ flickering gloom, Timebender made out a large black shape above them, blocking out stars. “He is running dark. Visibility from street level is almost nonexistent.” He said. “But there are drones stationed on every rooftop. If you have your jetpacks present, Handyman, I believe we can mount an aerial assault.

“That works for us, but how will you get up there?” Mayfly was already sizing up the space between herself and the building.

Drones will throw one another. It is quite efficient.” The tree replied. “But be cautious. There are significant anti-air defenses on that platform, in addition to Ultiminion support. I have not seen Phil or Nightshade as of yet.”

Lucky looked up. “He’s got to know that we’re here.” He pointed out. “I bet you the lights come on any moment now.”

A spotlight lanced down from the platform above, starkly illuminating the Champions, who winced and covered their eyes – with the exception of Mayfly, whose goggles adapted quickly, and Ash, who didn’t care. “Got it in one, Lucky.” Ecchs chuckled happily, his voice booming out over the loudspeaker, and cutting into the car radio behind them in the same moment. “Greetings, Champions! I am so very glad that you made it. I didn’t want you to be late for my ascension.”

“It’s a little early in the year for you to go crazy, Doc.” Timebender yelled up. “Shut this thing down now, before the SEA gets angry.”

“Ah, Timebender. Your bluster is music to my ears.” A holographic projection of Doctor Ecchs and Doctor Byron sprang up in front of the group. Ecchs was standing cheerfully, with a remote control held in one hand, his coat billowing behind him in the wind up on the platform. His clothes were clearly wrong for the season, but he didn’t seem to notice the cold. Behind him, Ada was dressed more sensibly, in a large black coat that hung down to her knees, and was watching the exchange with a faint air of amusement. “I haven’t gotten any calls from the SEA.” Ecchs continued blithely. “I wonder why that is.”

“You took control of the city’s phone lines.” Lucky answered. “They can’t call you. But you can bet that Blastwave…”

Ecchs didn’t let him finish. “Did I? Ada, did I take control of the city’s phone lines?” he asked over his shoulder, looking confused.

“No, dear.” Ada answered sweetly.

Lucky raised his phone. “Want to hear?”

“Let me finish, Lucky. It’s rude to interrupt.” Ada admonished him gently. “As I was saying, Spencer, you didn’t take control of the city’s phone lines. You took control of the planet’s phone lines.”

“Oh, right.” Ecchs snapped his fingers. “I suppose the world does include the city, doesn’t it. You should really be more specific about these things, Lucky. Vagueness has been the downfall of many otherwise successful people.”

There was a short pause, before Mayfly said, “Sorry, you what?”

“Took over the world’s phone lines. And television signals, and radio, and internet…” Ecchs chuckled. “Smile, Champions! You’re on every channel! We’ve even got subtitles running in most of the world. There are probably close to two billion people watching or listening to you right now. More every minute. Sweet, huh?”

Amber raised a hand. “Point of order. I don’t believe you.”

“Well, that’s a shame.” Ecchs shrugged. “It must be hard to be so suspicious all the time.” He gave her a look. “Come on, girl. It would not be the first time in history that someone has done that.”

“Even assuming that you had that kind of skill, that kind of takeover contravenes so many Accords…” Timebender began, then broke off. “It’s way over the line, Ecchs. Way, way over.”

“Oh, is it.” Ecchs replied flatly. “I’d never guessed. Stupid of me, really.” He gave the group an exaggeratedly innocent smile. “But, hey, that’s me. Stupid ol’ Doctor Ecchs. Hell, I don’t even know what these buttons do. Take this one.” Ecchs studied the remote with feigned confusion. “It could do anything. It could take over the Hoover Dam, or American Idol, or…” He pressed it, his expression not changing. “Or Ash.” He offered.

“If you actually expect us to fall for…” Lucky broke off. Ash had turned, and was watching the others with a total lack of emotion. “Ash? Buddy?”

Download complete.” The words came from a thousand synthesizers, as trees began to fade into existence up and down the street. “Greetings, Doctor Ecchs. Who should I kill first?

Ecchs’ smile was full of dark amusement. “Come on, Champions. Did you really think I would let anything out the door that I couldn’t hack into?”

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