A Whole New World, Part Ten: Darkest Hour

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(February 16th)

“Alright, let's see…” Turning his attention from his long-range displays, Ecchs glanced over his monitors, then groaned. “Oh, you have got to be kidding me.” He muttered.

“I am very sorry… my lord…” Shivarex panted, swinging with brutal force at Timebender. Quick as a flash, she was around behind him, delivering seven kicks to his back and then spinning away as a troop of ninja trees grew from the ground and lashed out with their claw-like branches. A few feet up, Handyman and Mayfly were swooping in low, scattering Ultiminions left and right, while Lucky danced and spun between rows of trees, who were in the process of destroying each other with accidentally-placed grenades. “They are… surprisingly resilient… perhaps with more assistance?”

“Yeah, not happening.” Ecchs grumbled. “Mayhem is busy setting everything up on Sayleen, Lucy's up here, and there's no damned way I'm sending Psiborg in before you neutralize that damned Atlantean suit.” He shook his head. “Bloody Alpha Team. Well, hell with this. If you can't kill them, at least keep them busy. I'm moving to Phase Three.” He looked over to Ada, who nodded.

“Readings are off the charts.” She said, then added “And I would like to note that we specifically improved Ladd's powers to the degree that they're rubbing off on his allies.”

“Is that what's happening?” Mayfly asked, turning a pirouette that deflected a pair of shurikens, grabbing one in each hand and returning them to their owners point-first. “Oh, and we can totally hear you, by the way.”

“Like I care.” Ecchs snorted. “Phil, any sign of Hazard? No? Good. Get down to street level and help Shivarex, he's having some trouble.” He shook his head, turning back to look at someone just off-screen. “Lucy, are you ready?”

“Sure.” The response was a bit tremulous, buoyed by bravado, as Lucy stepped into view. Out of her armor, she was wearing a padded black jumpsuit. “I can't wait.”

“Excellent.” Ecchs smiled darkly. “Take a look, Champions.” Under his breath, he added, “Who knows, it might distract them enough to get them taken out.”

“We can still hear you!” Timebender yelled, vaulting three Ultiminions, stealing a pair of pine cone grenades from a tree zombie, and dropping them into clusters of enemies that Handyman was herding into position with volleys of laser fire.

“Still don't care! Take a look at this!” Ecchs waved one hand majestically, and the screen rose. Behind him, Lucy was standing in front of a complex-looking amalgam of steel and bronze, glowing bright green, with ceramic highlights. In the centre of the device was a green orb, surrounded by a hundred tiny silver bands, on which Lucy was in the process of laying her hands. “The best of modern technology, mixed with Atlantean science and a dab of magic. Look familiar?”

Timebender actually froze almost long enough for Shivarex to land a blow, recovering barely in time to roll with the blow, coming to her feet fifty yards away to gape. “One of Magisters' Banes?! But they're gone! They were all used!”

“Oh, come on.” Ecchs rolled his eyes. “You people think so small sometimes. He built three of the damned things. You think I couldn't put together a fourth? I mean, okay, it took me about ten years to get the thing working, and I couldn't have done it at all without Ada – thank you, dear.”

“You're welcome.” Ada smiled. “I'm starting the transferance.”

“But I'm not done gloating… oh, all right, fine.” Ecchs pouted.

“Too much gloating before conquest is bad for you.” Ada reminded him.

“I know, I know.”

As the two bantered, Timebender called to Mayfly and Handyman. “We'll hold these guys off! Get up there and shut that thing down!”

“Yeah, I don't think so.” As the two rocketed into the air on wings and jetpack, Ash took off after them, his many bodies climbing the surrounding skyscrapers with terrifying speed, firing thick vines to swing across the road at the two heroes, claws flashing and sharp-tipped leaves filling the air with a hailstorm of vegetative death. On the ground, the main doors opened and Phil came charging out, his tendrils lashing out at Timebender, who leapt over them and let them impact with two more Ultiminions. Undaunted, the creature pressed his attack, while Shivarex tore a streetlamp from the concrete and begin wildly swinging at Lucky Lad. Lucky slid under the first blow, then hopped on top of the streetlamp and rode it across the road, where he rolled off to safety.

Ecchs watched as Handyman laid down covering laser fire, and Mayfly let off a stream of tiny missiles to open a path. He pressed a button, and the platform rose into the air, lasers firing down into the fray. Mayfly took the lead, ducking and weaving through the confusion with ease. Slightly behind her, Handyman's attention was turned downwards as trees grabbed at him, forcing him sideways to slam into a building wall. The scientist shook his head. “You know, she really frustrates me.” He remarked to Ada.

“Really? I thought you liked her.” Ada commented.

“Ehn.” Ecchs shrugged. “She's persistent, I like that. But she is basically the embodiment of everything that heroes stand for. I mean, look at her go. Who is she? Nobody. Some random girl who got sucked into a mess, and Lucky took a chance on her. She shouldn't be that good. She isn't that good. But she's freaking unstoppable.” He shook his head. “She managed to lose a suit, and she gets another one. She comes within an inch of death more times than I care to remember, and she's totally fine. The Oligarchs were right to target her first, but they underestimated her. She is what narrative law wants heroes to be, and it's bloody infuriating. I'm ten times smarter than her, and she's still getting closer.” Below, the last of Ash's bodies narrowly missed pulling Mayfly down, and she rocketed ahead, above the tops of the skyscrapers. Laser fire poured after her, and she continued to close. “I mean, seriously, look at that.” Ecchs practically growled. “I achieved my position through endless work, endless planning. It fell into her lap! What have I got in comparison? Super-science, which is doing jack all. Infinite cunning, which she damn near completely ruined through a momentary whim.” He sighed, raising his remote again. “Her old suit, I could have disabled with the press of a button. But no, she got a new one. One I didn't build. Although…” He shrugged, and pressed a combination on the remote. “I do know where she keeps it at night.”

Fire blossomed across Mayfly's wings.

For a moment, as the battle froze, momentum carried her upwards and towards Ecchs' platform as her wings flickered out of existence. Then she fell.

The impact left cracks across the pavement, knocking Ultiminions sprawling. Timebender, faster than anyone else, was at her side before most of the battlefront had realized what had happened. She checked down, then looked up in shock.

“She's dead.” She said faintly.

Up above, there was a slight beeping sound. Ada glanced down, then looked up to Ecchs. “Done. The Nexus is ours.”

Ecchs smiled darkly. “I win.”

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