Finest Hour, Part Three: The Centre Cannot Hold

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(September 27th)

“Huh. That’s odd.” Doctor Ecchs shook his head fiercely, looking over his controls.

“What?” Ada Byron looked over sharply at him. The control room, the centre of Malefico’s shadow operations, was flashing with warning lights and important alerts. Dr. Byron had been busy coordinating the exterior defenses, while Ecchs prepared for psijump and Phil monitored the building’s systems for signs of more intruders. In the corner, the massive psiportal, built by a previous Rex Mundi a few decades earlier, sparked and flared as it powered up to jump the entire contents of the building. Atlantean psiportals could never have handled it, but that Mundi had had centuries of experience to draw on.

“Backup base is offline.” Ecchs hit a few more buttons. “Ohh, that makes sense.” When he realized that Ada and Phil were now staring at him in concern, he sighed and rubbed his forehead. “Weltgeist got the location of the secondary base from Ash. I didn’t realize he knew it. He shouldn’t have – he must have followed one of my drones without telling me.” He started to smile. “So that’s where she’s been hiding. Oh, very smart, Weltgeist. Might even have worked – her drones were offline, I never would have known that they were there.”

“But you did.” Phil pointed out, then added. “Incurthion at back loading dock.”

“Deploy mantidrones.” Ecchs responded. “And yes, I did. The Antiheroes just hit the base. Hard.” He frowned thoughtfully. “Wouldn’t have pegged them for being allied with the Resistance. You think you know someone… so who is it?”

Phil squinted at the screen, tendrils tapping a quick staccato on the specially-reinforced keyboard. “I thee Warzone and Dragonfly.”

“Warzone and…” Ecchs broke off. “Is that how it’s going to be?” Reaching next to him, he flipped his comm open. “Joshua, talk to me. Any strange readings?”

After a moment, Joshua answered tersely. “I don’t know, Mundi. You never explained to any of us how this machine works.” He paused, then added, “But there are a lot of purple lights active on the displays. I don’t recall seeing more than one or two in the past.”

“Mm.” Ecchs nodded slowly. He looked over to Ada. “Purple.”

“Purple.” Ada nodded back.

Phil looked from Ecchs to Ada and back again. He waited patiently for a moment, then asked, “Purple?”

“Purple means heavy narrative interference. The engine’s stretched to capacity.” Ecchs’ fingers flew across his keypad. “We need to get out of here, and fast. Unspooled narrative threads are converging, and there is going to be fallout. I’m skipping the engine over to the other backup base.”

Ada blinked. “There’s another backup base?”

“Several. But this one, even I don’t know the location of.” Ecchs triggered his comm again. “Psiborg, transmit tertiary base coordinates to the psiportal. How’s it going down there?”

Poorly. There are several Resistance agents present, utilizing heavy commando tactics. They possess at least three Atlantean weapons.” Psiborg replied. “Coordinates sent.

Which was, of course, the moment that every light on the board turned crimson.

The psiportal flared a brilliant blue, and then fell silent. In its wake, the control room shut down, lights and panels going dark. A fraction of a second later, there was a second flare of blue light, as ten armoured figures appeared in the room.

Ada and Spencer were caught off-guard. The two were still rising from their seats as the figures raised long grey guns to fire. In that instant, a storm of tendrils exploded across the room, faint hints of motion in the shadows, a flurry of green and purple that caught guns, left shallow cuts across the lead guard, and in two cases physically intercepted bright blasts of crimson light that pulsed towards Ecchs. A moment later, as four of the lead figures collapsed and the others fell back behind cover in disarray, Phil was shoving Ecchs and Ada towards the door, and the three spilled out.

Phil panted heavily. “That is tho much eathier when I don’t have to hold back.” He said slowly.

Ecchs spoke almost wailingly, even as he triggered the manual lock that would seal the control room. “No one else has a psiportal!”

Ada was looking down at a strip of grey material dangling from one of Phil’s claws. “The Sayleen do.” She said grimly.

“No. No.” Ecchs shook his head. “First off, there’s no way. The Sayleen portal is one-way. With Atlantis gone, they shouldn’t have been able to do anything. Secondly, even if they could, our portal…” He broke off in realization. “Our portal was blocking signals from off-planet.”

“Until we spooled it up for total transportation.” Ada finished for him. “Now they control the psiportal.”

“For now.” Ecchs shook his head, as the sound of detonations echoed through the hallway. He looked back at the heavy metal door of the control chamber, which was starting to buckle and twist under the pressure of repeated blasts. “Alright, this is bad, but not insurmountable. We need to get to the main power console. Phil, lead the way.”

“Then what?” Ada asked.

“They want a narrative tangle?” Ecchs smiled maliciously. “Oh, I am going to give them one.”

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