Aftermath, Part Two: Preparing Plans

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(March 22nd)

Nadia's funeral was sparsely attended, with under a dozen people standing around the priest. Nearly all of them were family members, still frozen with the suddenness of her death, standing around the coffin as it was slowly lowered into the ground. None of them, not even the priest, noticed that the grounds had a few more bushes than was usual.

Three blocks away, watching through binoculars, Amber did. “She deserved better.” She said softly.

Jhim laid a hand on her shoulder. “She did.” He agreed. “But people are scared. No one knows what Ecchs is going to do next, and being seen at a superhero's funeral might not be safe.” He shook his head slowly, reaching up to adjust a hat that wasn't there. Instead of his usual clothes, he was wearing a grey hoodie, pulled down to hide his antenna, and simple jeans. “I wish we could have gone.” He said slowly.

“We're not going to forget her.” Lucky said roughly. He turned to Eclipse, who was standing a short distance away, looking faintly uncomfortable. “I think we're ready to go.”

“Right.” Eclipse nodded. “I'll grab you first, Lucky. The others can probably…” He broke off uncomfortably, and Lucky nodded quickly. If they were spotted, the others could hold off Ash for a minute or two. They still had powers. Nodding with relief, Eclipse quickly took Lucky's hand, and the two of them were swallowed by shadows.

Moments later, they were in the safehouse two hundred miles away, carried through shadow pathways that Lucky was already forgetting as he stepped into the light. He nodded to Katy, who was sitting morosely in her chair, light filtering through the old blinds. The safehouse was on the outskirts of Baltimore, an old, broken-down house that the SEA had been using undercover for years, and with no sign that Ecchs had found it yet, it was one of the only places that Hazard's team of villains and the remaining SEA agents could gather safely. She glanced up, and smiled faintly. “Welcome back, Ladd.” She said, as Eclipse vanished away to get the others. “Did everything go well?”

“As well as it could.” Lucky said. “I know it was dangerous, but…”

“Don't explain.” Katy said. “I was at Nate's funeral yesterday, and that was probably stupid.” She considered. “That was exceptionally stupid, actually, but I couldn't not go. I can't make it for the others, but Nate was an old friend, and a teammate. I understand.”

“Yes, it's all very nice.” The low drawl came from the corner of the room, where a thin, dark man sat rythmically flicking a pocketwatch open and closed. He looked over at the others, as Eclipse reappeared with Jhim and vanished. “Closure achieved. Can we discussed what comes next, please?”

“Jack.” Katy said warningly.

Jack Silver shrugged dismissively. “We're at war, Danger Ace.” He said. “A war we've very nearly lost, and while we all lost friends in the last few weeks, I, for one, would prefer to take the battle to the enemy.”

“We can't. Not yet.” Katy said. The sound of the conversation was drawing the others – Augur and Blastwave appeared in the doorway, and Styx and Chad leaned around from the kitchen. Katy glanced around, waiting until the Witch Doctor, Oleander, Nightshade and Hazard were there as well. “Alright, everyone. Jack has a point.” Jack smiled sardonically and bowed without standing. The others ignored him. “We've spent a week and a half running scared, finding out which of our safehouses were comprimised and which were safe. Now we're here, and we're as regrouped as we're going to get. By my count, we have twelve powered people and two nonpowered ones. If we could get Ecchs into a straight fight, we could win, but that's not likely to happen.”

“There are still thousands of supers in the world.” The Witch Doctor objected. “I don't see how twelve is statistically valuable.”

“I know the statistics – probably better than you do.” Katy answered. “Most of the world's supers aren't on a tier to fight against Mundi. Like he said, half the ones that are are still on Sayleen, and if he's screwed up reality as much as he says, a lot of the rest are going to be busy containing the fallout.” She looked around. “I managed to get in touch with Weltgeist. She's informed me that she can't stop the machine, but she's gathering mystical allies, and they can contain it for a time. The sooner it's removed, the less lasting the damage will be.”

“And if she changes her focus to fighting Ecchs?” Chad asked.

“Then the damage will be permanent within a week, and she'll be corrupted too.” Katy answered. “Ecchs isn't a big fan of magic, anyway – we have it on good authority that most of the magician heroes and villains are suffering serious power failure right now.” She ticked off issues on her fingers. “With the world's largest superhuman organizations flattened, and a lot of villains taking advantage, the world's heroes are mostly trying to deal with their own problems. They can't find Mundi, let alone fight him. I heard Interpol is planning to try to attack him, but we need to be ready if they can't. We need plans.”

“We need to find Mundi's base.” Lucky said slowly. “We need to shut off his machine. It's the key. Without it, he's dangerous, but it's just seven people and a teleportation device. With it, he's almost unstoppable.”

“Oh, sure. We'll go door to door.” Jack snorted. “Listen, pal. The SEA couldn't find him with twenty years of searching, and they had a lot more agents, money, and clout. Plus which, he can move the damned base whenever he wants.”

“Enough.” Katy said firmly, before Lucky could counterargue. “Right now, we need to focus on slowing him down while we figure out our next move. There are other people we can get in touch with, other sources of information. I want everyone to start thinking of routes to take, primary concerns, that sort of thing.”

“Ash.” Augur said suddenly.

Everyone looked over in confusion, except for Jhim, who nodded with sudden understanding and continued speaking. “Of course! He's the weak link right now, because he's hackable. We know that. If we can hack Ash back, we can have our own army. Or at least shut theirs down.”

Katy frowned, looking between the two. “Ash is millions strong. Do you have any ideas where to look?”

“I might.” Nightshade spoke up. “Won't be easy, and even if it works, it'll take time. But unless someone has a better idea…”

“No, let's trust Ecchs' second in command to lead us to find backdoor codes for a robot supermonster.” Jack closed his eyes and rubbed his forehead. A moment later, he opened them to find everyone watching him. “What?”

“Do you have a better idea?” Amber pressed.

“I was serious. Sounds wonderful.” Jack shrugged. “If we're going to risk everything, let's do it on trust.”

“Bad idea.” Lucky and Hazard said in unison. Hazard hesitated, and Lucky continued. “We need to do it on determination.”

Everyone stared at the two. “Why?” Katy finally asked.

“I don't know.” Lucky finally answered. “I just know that unconditional trust isn't something Ecchs is a fan of. If he can start playing with narrative law quickly enough, that's the first thing he'll lay traps in.”

“Better and better.” Katy muttered. “Alright, determination it is. We will bring him down.”

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