Epilogue, Part Three: Nothing Lasts Forever

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(January 17th)


Doctor Spencer Ecchs finished typing with a flourish, and leaned back to look through the bars of his cell at his visitor. “There you are. Should let you find any remaining rogue Ash drones by retrofitting old Cold War satellites. You'll want to have someone check that, of course.” He said with a smirk, gesturing to the computer terminal buried in the wall.

“Of course.” Lucky Ladd II, more commonly known as Hazard, sat back in his chair and regarded his one-time employer/creator/nemesis. “I'm a little surprised.” He added. “They gave you a computer, and you haven't used it to break out yet.”

Ecchs chuckled, spinning his chair around to face Hazard, and the two looked at each other carefully. Ecchs' prisonwear was standard for supervillain prisoners, with no clasps, buckles or pieces of metal that he might convert. “It's pretty basic stuff.” He said with a smile. “Only the monitor and keyboard are in reach, and they fold into the wall when not in use. The computer's not connected to any system, and they plug all of my work into a second unconnected terminal while they examine it. If there's anything they don't completely get, it comes back to me unused.” He shrugged. “It's flattering, really. I get all the fun safety measures.”

“You're being treated well, then.” Hazard said.

“Sure. I've got Phil to watch my back in the yard, and the guards are all a little bit scared of me.” Ecchs' eyes sparkled. “Give me another month, I'll be running this place.”

“I believe that.” Hazard said sourly. Markham's Ultramaximum Security Penitentiary was the world's most secure facility, storing the world's most dangerous supervillains. Even then, he wouldn't put it past Doctor Ecchs to have them eating from the palm of his hand. “Shame your wife couldn't be here.”

“She will be.” Ecchs said with a thin smile. “Give it a year.”

“You think you'll make it that long?” Hazard asked slowly. “After everything that happened, I think the death penalty is a serious likelihood.”

Ecchs laughed. “Not happening, Lucky.” He said with a smile. “You just watch. The folks around here are going to get used to the stuff I think up. Even if they don't… the trial's going to last longer than that. Just finding an unbiased jury should take up the next eight or nine months, never mind the trial itself.”

“And you think Ada's going to come back by then?” Hazard shook his head. “You don't even know for sure that she's alive, let alone that she can build the tools she needs to get back to this world.”

“Oh, I know she's alive. And I trust that she'll find what she needs.” Doctor Ecchs shrugged. “Don't underestimate her.” He sighed. “Of course, it'll be a long time before I'm anywhere near where I was. No Psiborg, my network of contacts is trashed, my gear has been broken up or sold off…” He sighed. “Even my company's gone. Did you see that?”

“Must be upsetting.” Hazard said neutrally.

“Actually, I'm kind of proud of them, pulling together like that.” Ecchs admitted after a moment. “Don't tell anyone I said that.”

Hazard chuckled. “You're one of a kind, Doc. You know that?”

“Yeah, I'm a real piece of work.” Ecchs sighed, sitting back and looking around his small cell. “But that's not the only reason I know that things are going to work out. It's simple narrative theory.” He met his former students' eyes. “I'm the biggest, baddest guy around. And what we did, back there – we made sure that the story wouldn't end. That stories won't end. It's going to take a lot of work to beat that.” He tapped the ground. “Prisons can hold a man, Lucky. They can't hold an idea.”

“Maybe.” Hazard stood, shaking his head. “But your idea is going to lose, Ecchs. The Champions won, and they'll win next time, too.”

“That's a distinct possibility.” Ecchs admitted. “They just might win every time, from now on. But you can't stop playing just because the deck's stacked against you.”

“If anyone ever tries to break you out, we'll stop you.” Hazard said.

“You can certainly try.” Ecchs laughed again. “Who would have thought, after everything that you did, that you'd be a frontline SEA trooper.”

“I'm not letting this world become like mine.” Lucky said. “Mayfly taught me that the world could be a better place.”

“Yeah.” Ecchs' smile slipped. “That's the only thing I regret, you know? A lot of people died, and I don't really give a crap about them. But her… well. I made my choice.” He sighed, standing, and slid the chair over to one wall. “Now look what you've done, you're making me maudlin.” Lying back on the floor, he waved an arm vaguely. “Nice talking to you.”

“Yeah.” Hazard sighed, turning to go. “I wish you'd been happy to just be Doctor Ecchs.”

“Times change, Lucky.” Ecchs said from the floor. “That story was over.”

“So's this one.”

Ecchs listened as Hazard's footsteps echoed down the corridor. He sighed, staring up at the ceiling through the simply eyeglasses that had replaced his expensive technological ones. There was a faint shimmer on one lens, and a set of words formed on the inside of the lens.

'Love you. See you soon.'

Ecchs smiled, and reached up, wiping the words from his glasses. He whispered softly, “Love you too, honey.”

Worlds away, an impossible distance, Ada Byron turned away from the first interdimensional transference machine, watching as her projection was disrupted, listening to the faint sound echoing across realities to her. She smiled.

Nothing would keep them apart forever.


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