The Rise Of Darkness, Part Six: Calling On Experience

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(May 12th, 2010)


“Hello, Rex.” Joshua Smythe-Vallen did not open his eyes. Instead, he slid a knife out of his pocket, turning it end over end between his fingers. With a crackle of energy, he let it fly, and it streaked across the room at the speed of sound to slam into the exact centre of the target he'd placed thirty meters away. Lightning crackled from it to the small poles carefully set on either side of the target. “What do you want?”

“You've never told me how you do that trick, Lord Mayhem.” Rex Mundi said softly, flowing out of the shadows behind Joshua.

“You've never asked.” Mayhem answered. Opening his eyes, he turned to face the other. “Your teleporter charges the air as you arrive. It has a very distinct sensation.”

“Hm.” Rex Mundi answered noncommittally.

“You know that you don't have to come in person, yes?” Joshua wiped his brow, tossing the rest of his knives to one side, where they clattered into a small basket. The former supervillain's gym was spartan by modern standards, outfitted with targets, ropes hanging from the ceiling and racks of weights instead of more advanced training gear. “I promised you that I would acquire the information, and I have a full writeup already prepared. I was about to send it to the address you specified.”

“I never had any doubts.” Rex Mundi answered smoothly. “I apologize for interrupting your practice, but I am working on something of a tight deadline. I thought I would stop by to converse with you.”

“Ah.” This time, it was Joshua's turn to be vague. “Not to worry. It was interesting, actually. Been a few years since I've really gone into the field.” Taking a gulp of water from a rubber flask sitting on top of a cabinet full of various metal weapons, he considered his words for a moment. “The details are all on computer, but I memorized the generalities. According to my search, there are only three groups that currently have active interplanetary teleportation engines. The United Nations has Atlantis and the Impulse Port, of course. They've talked big about having secret backup teleporters, but it's a myth. They can't build another teleporter without dismantling one of Atlantis's existing interplanetary engines, and there's no point in that. Clockwork still has the one that the Fear Force stole from you back in the 70s, although God alone knows how he's managed to maintain it for so long. Finally, the Russians have just recently finished upgrading the device they acquired from the Trox, which runs on the same basic principles. At the moment it's still ballsed-up, but it should be operational within a year. All three work on Atlantean principles.”

Rex Mundi nodded. “Excellent. No magical group, then?”

“Not that I've found, and believe me, I looked. There are a few rumours, of course – a few spirits said that Fenris has an artifact that can carry him to any place within Earth's magical field, provided it isn't protected, and the Banshee might be able to teleport back to Earth if they were stranded on another world and their home territory was here and intact, but nothing more impressive than that. It doesn't account for individual heroes or creatures, of course, but even then only the psychic teleporters can get off-planet as near as I can tell, and they can only do it by hijacking the Atlantis beacons.”

“Excellent.” Rex Mundi nodded. “I will trust your judgment, then. Thank you, Joshua. You have saved me months of effort tracking this information down.”

“And burned through most of the favors I still owe you.” Joshua pointed out. “I realize you aren't likely to say much, Rex, but what's going on? You've been quiet for years, just popping in once or twice a year at best, and now… over the last year, I've done more work with you than in the fifteen years before that.” His eyes narrowed. “You're planning something big, and I'm curious about why.”

“Because that's what I do.” Rex Mundi said neutrally, stepping back towards the shadows that engulfed the edge of the room.

“I don't think so.” Mayhem answered slowly. He considered Rex Mundi slowly. “When did he pass the crown to you?”

“He?” Rex Mundi asked.

“The previous Mundi. The one that I worked with in the seventies. He was slowing down, getting patient. You're… not. This year, obviously. Before that, though? How long has it been?”

There was a short pause, and then Rex Mundi chuckled hollowly. “Long enough. You must understand that I have no intention of telling you exactly when the change took place… but you are correct. I am not the Rex Mundi of the previous age. And you are correct about my plans, as well, although they're years away from completion.” He leaned forwards. “To tell you the truth, Joshua, I did not come here just to get the information from you. I want to make you an offer.”

“I'm listening.” Joshua said eventually.

“My plans are going to require expertise, tactical knowledge, and experience. I have the first. I lack the second and third. I have a small legion of villains – and heroes – who owe me favors, but I am beginning to think that I need more than that. I need villains who are committed to my goals, and to me. I need generals.”

“I'm retired, Rex.” Joshua pointed out. “It was fun to be back in the field for a few weeks, but I'm getting too old for this fighting the heroes crap.”

“Even for one last attempt? It may take some time to gather the pieces together, but I have a plan that, if it is successful, will give us the world. I'm working on the first phase right now – the most delicate one, to be honest.”

Joshua considered. “What is the first phase?”

“Destroying the Antiheroes.” Came the response.

There was a long pause, and then Joshua nodded slowly. “I can see why tactical analysis would be considered important there. Judgment is terrifying.”

“I expect it to take another two to three years to push them to that point, and I will be putting my other plans into effect at the same time. It's a chance to humiliate the heroes, Joshua. More importantly, it's a chance to matter once again. Remind them of who we are. Are you interested?”

Joshua glanced over at the target on the wall, a vaguely human form riddled with knife holes. He let a small thread of electricity play over his fingertips, and then looked up at Mundi, cutting the flow off with a snap of his fingers. “I'm interested in the first phase, at least. After that… we'll see.”

“That's the most I could have asked for.” Rex Mundi replied.

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