“Huh.” Doctor Ecchs said for the second time in as many minutes, watching as the remains of his arboreal legion collapsed in on themselves, the flames licking upwards. “Remind me who you are, again?”
Reaching the others, Chad shrugged, looking up at the supervillain. “I don't know that we've met.” He said brusquely.
“But you have a grudge against me.”
“Quite a large one, yes.” Chad agreed.
“Huh.” Ecchs repeated. He shook his head. “Well, care to abandon it? I'm most of the way through conquering the world, here. You could have untold riches.”
“No, I'm good where I am.” Chad said after a moment. He raised his fist, and the flames surrounding the group began to flow through the air, surrounding him. “You may not be.”
“Oh, yeah, I'm very worried.” Ecchs shook his head dismissively. “Shivarex, Phil, you guys might want to get ready. We've got some heroes to torch.” He added a moment later. “Just as soon as…”
Behind the group, Psiborg rose silently to his feet. His skin began to glow softly as he raised a hand. “Di-di-d-d-d-d-” He said. A moment later, he collapsed back to the ground with the sound of tortured machinery.
The Witch Doctor flipped a small pistol in his grip. “The effectiveness of my blaster is going to start dropping.” He reminded Hazard.
“No problem.” Hazard looked back up at the platform. “Chad?”
“On it.” Chad was now surrounded by a vast, dense aura of flame. He flicked his wrist, and all of his launched from him, pulsing through the air to splash against the energy shields that cradled Ecchs' flying platform. Onboard, everything was momentarily obscured by flame, and Ada glanced down at the controls for a moment before smiling.
“Not nearly enough.” She reported to Ecchs.
“Get ready anyway, they'll punch through while we're…” Ecchs started. Then he broke off, frowning, as the flames dissipated. “Where the hell did they go?”
Below, the street was clear, aside from Shivarex and Phil, hunched behind an overturned car and looking slightly sooty, and the remnants of Ash's drones.
Ada was already typing furiously at her console. “Comm blocks are down.” She reported. “And… oh, Spencer, you're going to be upset.”
“Lay it on me.” Ecchs grumbled.
“The psibeacon triggered. They've been teleported away.” Ada said.
“Son of a…” Ecchs started. “Reverse it!” As he spoke, he was already starting in on his own console. Ada stepped over and put a hand on his shoulder.
“The beacon's already gone.” She said softly. “And unlike the others…”
“Yeah, yeah, no psychic residue on my teleporters. Nothing to trace.” Ecchs clenched his teeth. “Should have known.” He said after a moment. “Hazard's narrative powers are gone now, but they were at full over-powered when he was setting this up.” Shaking his head, he turned to the last person on the platform. “Whatever, we'll just have to take it one day at a time. Lucy, how are you feeling?”
Lucy, looking sweaty and exhausted, was leaning against the machine for support. She took a cautious step forwards, and Ada quickly grabbed her to keep her from falling. “Never better.” She mumbled. “We did it?”
“Damn straight we did, kid.” Ecchs smiled, reaching out to pat her on the shoulder. “Couldn't have done it without you.”
“Awesome.” Lucy gave Ecchs a thumbs-up, then sagged. Ada looked over to him.
“If you'd like to give your victory speech,” She said, “I'll just get Lucy back to base.”
“Righto. Can you pick up our crew once you're there?” Ada nodded, pulling out her teleport beacon and activating it. She and Lucy were surrounded by blue light, and then they were gone. Ecchs checked himself in a small reflective piece of steel, smoothed back his hair, and smiled. “Showtime.” He murmured.
With a flourish, he re-activated the communications override that Hazard had shut off. “People of the world, your attention please. I am Doctor Spencer Ecchs. Many of you will have heard of me by my moniker, however – Rex Mundi.”
His smile broadened as he spoke, until he was grinning. “A hundred and fifty years ago, give or take, my predecessor named himself king of the world. Now, I am enforcing his decree. As of this moment, I own you. I will be sending my proclamations to your governments over the next few weeks. They will not be onerous – I don't need them to be. Anyone who tries to disobey them, though… well, you know what? We all know someone's going to try it no matter what I say, so let's keep their fate a surprise.
“I know what some – maybe most – of you are thinking. 'Sure', you think, 'He beat the Patchwork Champions and their allies, killed one of them and sent the rest fleeing for their lives. But that was, like, nine people. What's he going to use to keep control of a planet?' It's a good question. Let me break it down for you.
“First, there's my army. Anything I built, I can control, and there is Malefico gear across the world, in the hands of most supervillains and more than a few governments. Don't try to override that control, by the way – it's set to explode if you do. Plus which, I have Ash. The few thousand of him lying down there? That's the tip of the iceberg. I have over a million of him already, spreading out through the whole planet, reporting everything they see. Every tree. Every bush. Every flower and blade of grass. Any of them could be reporting back to me.
“Secondly, there are my teleporters. The United States, Russia, the UN – they had psibeacons, but they died along with their orginizations. Atlantis is a pile of smouldering rubble on the bottom of the Atlantic again. Every psychic teleporter on the planet belongs to me, which means I can go anywhere, at any time, without warning, and you can't stop me. Nowhere is safe.
“Third, and this is sort of a big deal, your opposition has been shattered. The SEA is dead. The UNSC is dead. Half of the world's strongest supers are on Sayleen, and trust me when I say they're not coming back. You don't have any armies of supers ready to take me down.
“But all of that pales before the fourth reason. This here, right behind me, is a little something I call the Narrator.” Ecchs took a step back from the camera, waving at the giant machine that Lucy had been standing against. “It controls narrative law.” He leaned in, with a smile. “I control narrative law. I decide which idioms come true, and which are just empty words. I decide which stories matter, and how they end. I decide how the patterns of the universe are going to shake themselves out, and I can change those decisions whenever I want. In short…” He let out a bark of a laugh. “I am invincible.”
There was a very short pause, and then he added, “Oh, f.y.i, the first idiom that doesn't have narrative force anymore is the one where announcing yourself as invincible leads to instant karma. It's lazy irony, and I won't have it in my world.”
“Anyway.” Ecchs took a step back again, posing against the machine. “I don't just control your world, people of Earth. I control your reality. You'd better get used to it. Oh, and before I forget – Happy New Year.”
And with another laugh and a twitch of his finger, he cut the feed.