Finest Hour, Part Thirteen: Confrontation

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(November 29th)

Nightshade and Handyman nodded as Timebender and Lucky Lad zipped up to them, the latter slowing to match their speed. “Glad you could make it.” Nightshade quipped. “I was starting to think you were going to leave all of the fun to us.”

“Wouldn't dream of it.” Timebender shook her head. “I've been looking forwards to this for months.”

“This is Hazard.” Hazard's voice came over the comm, and the others paused in their talking. “We're at the – yikes! - engine room, and we're engaging Lord Mayhem and – aah! - Lucy Ladd. Everything's…” He broke off, and electrical noises filled the room. “I'm going to say okay? It's just Eclipse and I left – the others were fighting the Oligarchs.”

“Understood. Hang in there, and don't let them affect the engine.” Timebender looked forwards. “Lucky, how close are we?”

“I'd guess one more staircase.” Lucky said, pointing up. The others nodded, and Nightshade slammed her fists into the next door, tearing it off its hinges as the group started upwards. Laser turrets swivelled and fired, as Jhim and Lucky shot through them in a hail of laser fire and Amber used her speed to grab her friends and pull them out of the way of the returning blasts.

“We're almost to the control room.” Timebender radioed. “Any sign of the rest of the Council?”

“This is Blastwave.” The tired voice came over the comm. “Shivarex and Psiborg are dead, but we have nothing left to get to you with. Anyone still in the building is on their own.”

“Understood.” Timebender looked to the others. “Everyone ready?”

“Three against four?” Jhim nodded grimly. “No problem.”

“Good.” Nightshade said, as the group reached the top of the stairs. A massive pair of steel doors stood in front of them, barred and bolted shut. “Because this is it.” She looked to the circle of Champions around her. “Let's do this.”

Timebender frowned. “Hey! That's my line!”

“I never get to say cool catchphrases.” Nightshade shrugged, and kicked out, sending the double doors crashing inwards. The four charged through.

“It's over, Doctor Ecchs!” Timebender shouted, fists up at the ready.

“It most certainly is.” Doctor Ecchs swiveled in his chair, smoothing down his jacket. His glasses glinted in the bright light of his control room, and he smiled evilly as he pushed them up. Beside him, Ada Byron was suited up in a pale red battlesuit, twin cannons on her arms raised towards the Champions. On his other side, Phil rose from his own seats, his dozens of tendrils coiling around the base of his chest as he raised his claws. “This has been very exciting, Champions. Thank you for removing my enemies for me. Are you ready to surrender?”

The Champions gaped. Jhim raised his pistol. “You're insane, Ecchs.” He said flatly. “Your most powerful agents are dead. Your army is destroyed. You've lost your psiportal, and we've cut your agents off from the narrative engine. You have no backup lair to retreat to, and you're outnumbered.” He frowned. “It's time for you to give up.”

“No, I don't think so.” Ecchs rose from his chair, crossing his arms behind his back. “You've removed the Antiheroes, Weltgeist, the Oligarchs and even the leaders of the Varrn Sayleen. I admit that I'm not happy about what happened to Shivarex and Psiborg, but that's the price of business. But I'm afraid that I have one last weapon at my disposal.” He smiled. “Did you really think I wouldn't?”

“Let me punch him.” Nightshade said. Ecchs held up a hand.

“Before you do, you should know what I will do if you don't surrender.”

Timebender glanced at the others, then sighed. “Alright, Ecchs, I'll bite. What's your plan?”

“I will destroy the universe.” Ecchs said seriously.

There was a stunned pause. Even Ada and Phil were staring at him. “You can't be serious.” Jhim whispered.

“Oh, but I am. You see, I don't actually need to be at the narrative engine. I programmed certain contingencies into it.” Ecchs held up a hand, ticking his fingers as he spoke. “If I die, it will explode. If I fall unconscious, it will explode. If you turn it off, it will explode. If anything interrupts the signal travelling between it and myself…”

“And we should care because?” Nightshade said.

“You should care because quite a lot of the power of that machine is now going towards holding Lucky's capabilities back.” Ecchs shot back. “Fun fact – just because I conquered the Earth, didn't stop new Luckies from appearing. In fact, I boosted the process by an order of magnitude. Summoned hundreds of him, linked them together, wove their power well past the point that would have occurred naturally, and then removed them. It was easy – none of them had any powers once they appeared, and they simply made the engine stronger by the day.” He smiled darkly. “Here's an interesting logic puzzle for you. What would happen if narrative law were stronger than the laws of physics?”

Lucky swallowed. “It's true.” He said, eyes unfocused. “I never noticed. Some of the narrative laws that Ecchs wrote in… they're just 'physics works'. If those were gone…”

“Narrative law will overwhelm physical law. Gravity will become less important than resolutions.” Ecchs grinned. “And resolutions are the most powerful thing in narrative law. So if the machine is destroyed…” He made a small exploding gesture. “The universe will resolve. Permanently. It will be very, very impressive.”

“Why would you do that?” Timebender said quietly. “You'd die. Everything would die.”

“Oh, I didn't tie the machine to myself until today. And I intend to include a workaround in the future, so that a few people that I trust entirely can save the world in the event of an accident. But in the mean time…” Doctor Ecchs shrugged. “You can't touch me. If you try, I will destroy everything.”

He smiled. “So. This was fun. How would you like to surrender?”

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