Ada Byron looked around her laboratory space, then stepped over to tap a mover on the shoulder, speaking gently. “Be careful with that, it's very volatile.” She admonished.
“Not my first gig, lady.” The mover replied, unimpressed, shifting his grip on the large steel box he was carrying. “I've moved fusion reactors, biofeedback enhancers, the works.”
“Alright. I'm very sorry.” Ada nodded, stepping back. She looked around again, then added. “It just tends to fuse unpredictably at speeds over two miles an hour. If the compressors fail…”
The mover ignored her, carrying the box out. Ada faintly caught a mutter about 'goddamn supervillain wannabes' before he was out the door. She allowed herself to glare after him for a moment, then returned to packing. On reflection, he was almost certainly right. The 'Lightspeed Moving Company' was the only one left willing to move students off of the grounds of the Boston Institute Of Applied Villainy, and the mover hadn't been exagerrating his experience. Still… she double-checked the contents of the next box, absently.
“No problems with your machinery, I trust?” Ada resolutely kept herself from jumping with shock at the silky voice that came from the corner of the lab, where no one could possibly have gotten to without her seeing them. “It was extremely expensive, and I would hate to have to have a word with the suppliers.”
“No. No problems.” Ada looked up at the corner, unsurprised to see it shrouded in a deep shadow that was pooling its way outwards in defiance of the well-lit room. “The equipment you've provided has been exceptional. I just want to be careful with it.”
“Excellent, excellent.” In the corner, a figure had taken shape, hints of grey robes the only defining feature in what was otherwise a deep darkness. “And now that you have your degree, Doctor Byron, might I ask what you intend to do with it?”
Ada raised one eyebrow. “With all due respect, sir, I would expect that you already know. You've been funding my research into technomagical necrosis for the last three years.” She considered her secret patron. “I have to admit, your Majesty, I've been curious as to why.”
“Not curious enough to ask.” Rex Mundi pointed out.
“It didn't seem crucial.” Ada shrugged. “But then, you already know that as well.”
“Yes, your family much prefers robotics to biology.” Rex Mundi acknowledged, nodding his head once. “Let's just say that I found your initial theories fascinating, and am curious to see if you can perfect the process of adding technological powers to necrotized flesh. I can see many uses for such creations.” He added, with a trace of humour, “Besides, I find that it always helps to have truly brilliant scientists in your debt.”
“Should I be jealous, my lord?” Ada said with a slim smile, finishing her packing and placing the box with the rest.
Rex Mundi ignored the question. “I was interested to learn that you intend to move into full-time supervillainy. I would not have expected the life of a registered villain from you.”
Ada shrugged. “My zombies aren't nearly complete yet. Why not test them in a field where I can deploy them freely against people able to fight them? There's a villain-run company that's hiring scientists right now.”
“Ah, yes, Diabolico. Run by the illustrious Lord Grimlock, although I expect he'll be retiring in the next few years.” Mundi nodded. “Very well, then, it seems that things are progressing apace.”
“You just dropped in for that? A phone message would have had the same effect.” Ada pointed out.
“I was in the neighbourhood.” Mundi answered. The shadows began to pool around him again.
“Wait, your majesty.” Ada held up a hand, and Rex Mundi paused. “I have a question. Why me?”
“You asked me that a year ago, when I first offered my funding.” Mundi noted.
“And you didn't answer. Will you now?” Ada asked.
“Three reasons.” Mundi said. “First, your research is very interesting to me. If it can be perfected, there may come a time when the person who controls it also controls a potentially infinitely large army of super-powered beings. I would like to be that person. Secondly, the fools here at the Institute failed to see the promise of your work, and I absolutely despise seeing potential go to waste. And finally…” Mundi paused, taking a step back into the shadows. His voice echoed out from the space as darkness swallowed his form. “I always do my best to support the most talented super-scientists out there. Who knows – one day, one of them might replace me.”
Ada stared at the corner until the shadows that surrounded it faded back to normal. She was still looking thoughtfully off into space when the mover returned, and indicated with a cough that she needed to get out of his way.