Countdown, Part Four: Damage Report

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(July 19th)

“Alright, everyone. Emergency band meeting.” Spencer Ecchs stood at the head of the table, looking at his five minions. “Everyone here?”

“Ash isn’t here.” Lucy pointed out. Sitting at the far end of the table, she was in full ‘uniform’ – her red power suit, with its helmet sitting on the table next to her. Ecchs ignored her.

“Great.” He said hurriedly. “We’re good. Alright, we’re just going to get a quick rundown on our situations, and then we’re going to turn this thing back to where it was a few months ago. Ada, you’re up first. Let’s hear the Liberation situation.”

Ada frowned. “Spencer, should we really be starting…”

“Yes.” Ecchs interrupted. “Absolutely. Start with the little guys.” Around the table, Lucy, Lord Mayhem, and Shivarex all straightened abruptly as his words registered.

“Very well.” Ada said dubiously. “The Liberation forces’ large-scale recruitment drive is, at the moment, effectively over. We managed to prevent more than a few recruitments, and to kill a dozen would-be recruiters, but that phase of their operations should be considered a win for them. At the moment, after casualties from their run-ins with our forces are considered, the Liberation forces number somewhere between sixty and eighty seven-person cells, scattered across the Earth. Most of them are taking their time attacking our production facilities – we’ve lost close to twenty Ultiminion production facilities, over half of our Tony labs, a third of our vehicular factories…” She shook her head. “Destruction of active personnel is much more limited. None of the villains who have accepted Mundi’s rule in exchange for help have been targeted, and only Ash drones and Ultiminions have really been taken out in anything like large numbers. As near as we can tell, they’re trying to choke off our growth, and they aren’t doing too badly. They also have enough magical forces and Atlantean remnants to have a decent chance of holding off or even defeating Psiborg if he appears to fight them.” She glared over at Ecchs. “The most serious issue, of course, is that they have two Narrators of their own, able to see every change we make to narrative law. This means we can only use sudden narrative changes as short-term attack projects, and even that won’t work if either of their prime teams are in the operation we are up against. Fortunately, they haven’t been able to find us, and their teleportation capabilities remain regional, rather than national or planetary. Their ability to converge on a single location is very limited – I wouldn’t expect them to be able to deploy more than three or four teams to a given operation.”

Ecchs nodded. “Psiborg, take over. Antiheroes.”

Much the same as Ada’s report, but less in every category.” Psiborg answered momentarily. “{{I estimate only twelve to fifteen cells of operatives, with a maximum of three magic-users and only one Atlantean device at their disposal. Furthermore, while some agents they still have with the Liberationists are passing on narrative information, it is always several days delayed, making our ability to use sudden changes to our advantage as powerful as ever. They have killed several of our thralls, but have already lost as many members as the Liberation forces, in less than a third of the time, with less than a quarter of the total numbers. I estimate that within two months, they will be reduced in strength to the point that the remains will be forced to join with the Liberation forces or die. Not a significant threat.”

“Good, good.” Ecchs glanced over to Shivarex and Lord Mayhem, who were on one side of the table. Shivarex was wearing casual clothes, and was leaning back in his chair while he waited for the group to get to the point. Lord Mayhem was sitting tiredly in his chair, looking worn out. “No changes on the extra-terrestrial or rogue villain fronts, I assume?”

Shivarex shook his head. “**I cannot access Sayleen for fear of their counter-insertion, but all other areas of the galaxy are currently not paying attention to Earth. I anticipate that Sayleen is currently trying to breech our blockade.”

Mayhem shrugged. “No sign of the Oligarchs. They slipped right under the radar while we were distracted. I assume they’re biding their time – that was always Clockwork’s preferred trick.”

“Right. Which brings us to our last problem…” Ecchs bit his lip. “Weltgeist.”

Everyone looked at each other, except for Ada, who was staring grimly at Ecchs. Lucy raised her hand tentatively. “I thought you told us she would be busy for the next two months?”

“Yeah, about that…” Ecchs rubbed the back of his head. “I made a minor miscalculation, and it’s going to hurt. My calculations assumed that my narrative alterations would corrupt global culture to the point that Weltgeist would try to overthrow me. That’s happening. But, uh…” He trailed off. “I forgot something.”

“What?” Lucy asked curiously.

“Ash.” Ecchs muttered. Psiborg’s eyes began to widen. Shivarex frowned thoughtfully. Lord Mayhem simply raised an eyebrow, and Lucy furrowed her brow in confusion. Before any of them could speak, Ecchs continued. “I calculated Ash as one individual, because that’s what he behaves like. It’s not… technically… what he is. He’s more of a horde in the form of a collective, acting according to a single directing force.”

He is a culture.” Psiborg supplied helpfully. Everyone began to look worried.

“A culture that we helpfully spread around the world, leaving everyone on the planet watching their trees for signs of life.” Ecchs nodded. “A culture which, after I started dropping spy flowers in every city and every wild area I could reach, had more members than China.” He rubbed his forehead. “Weltgeist has taken on most of the characteristics I programmed into Ash. Unfortunately, she’s also loyal to herself, not to me. She’s begun using techno-magical communications to hack Ash’s programs, converting nexuses and drones to be loyal to her instead of me, and then using them to create more.”

“How bad is it?” Lord Mayhem asked quietly.

“At the moment, we estimate that Weltgeist has converted approximately .5% of the world’s biosphere. Her progress has been slowed by a lack of scrap metal, but she’s compensating for that by beefing up Ash’s magical processes. If left unchecked, the damage will lead to climate-wide extinctions within two months, and there will be no plants left living on Earth within four.” Ada answered. “We have our own Ash destroying as many enemy drones as possible, but anything that he knows, Weltgeist knows as soon as she interacts with one of his drones. His efforts will, according to my projections, buy us an additional two weeks. ”

“So.” Ecchs said into the shocked silence. “I’m looking for ideas. We’re turning pretty much everything we have against Weltgeist, as of now. We’ve informed the armies of every nation of Weltgeist’s plans. We’ve passed information on to the Antiheroes and the Liberationists. Next?”

“Next, we batten down the hatches.” Lord Mayhem pointed out. “We’ve basically just announced that we’re wide open.”

“I’m aware of that.” Ecchs grimaced. “It was that, or let her win.”

“Not disagreeing. But you really think no one’s going to take the shot? Our armies don’t go away if we do. Anyone who can overthrow us gets our stuff, and the fight against Weltgeist doesn’t lose very much.” Mayhem continued reasonably.

“I hate to suggest it,” Lucy said quietly, “But why not make narrative law oppose combining magic with technology?”

Ecchs frowned. “We lose you if that happens, and we lose about a quarter of our troops.” He sighed slowly. “But you’re probably right. We need to arrange the laws to oppose Weltgeist right now. That’s the big thing.” He looked around once, and then nodded. “Alright. Everyone give it a good think-over, and get back to me. I’m going to get to work on the narrative.”

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