“Whose idea was this defense system?” Zeke cried out as a giant ape attempted to pummel him.
“Uh… that would be yours,” Alex responded, riding another like a mechanical bull. Zeke paused a minute.
“…oh.” He shrugged. “Well, at least it’s awesome.”
Alex gave him a questioning look in response. “Say again?”
“Come on. We couldn’t ask for a much more heroic challenge than this. Heroes fighting giant apes on the moon? That’s… that’s awesome!” Zeke repeated.
“Yeah, well, we’re gonna have to cut this short,” Peepers said, casting his Oblivion Ring. They were almost done here. There was one defender for each intruder, and Maytee’s was already down. Alex couldn’t be removed from his ape’s back, and it was obviously using up all its energy in the attempt. Chebon was having more trouble but looked perfectly unconcerned. The spells they had cast beforehand in anticipation of exactly this gave them the strength and agility to go toe-to-toe with these enemies with only a little difficulty.
Zeke latched on to the arm that was still trying to catch him and scrambled up it, delivering a solid blow to the ape’s head in passing before scurrying down the other side, a process he’d been repeating throughout the entire fight. The ape towered over him, preparing to strike him down… and he sidestepped out of its path as it fell flat. A second later another one fell on top of it, as Alex easily backflipped off of it.
“How’d you get here, by the way?” Zeke asked.
“Silly question,” Alex replied simply before turning to Chebon. “Hey, do you need help?” he called.
“No thanks!” Chebon replied, completing the spell he’d been chanting under his breath. His fist started glowing, and with a single uppercut he sent the ape spiraling downward to the ocean below.
Zeke decided not to think about that particular sentence lest he get a headache.
“Right, the device is that way,” he said, examining the map he’d made from his estimations and pointing toward a small mound. “It’s only just under the surface, I’d guess, otherwise the materials would block the signal.” The group moved toward the mound, and began digging. Chebon produced the explosives, and when they reached the control device, he set them adjacent.
“Great, now we can get out of…”
He should have known better than to attempt to say those words. At that moment, a dark cloud enveloped the moon. All five attempted to teleport away, but it was useless; nothing at all happened.
“I guess my timing was perfect,” a horribly familiar voice said, and a tendril of the darkness of the cloud spread down to the surface of the moon. When it retreated, Fallor was standing at the point of contact. Reacting instantly, Alex rushed at Fallor, but a bright seal appeared around the group, and he found it impossible to move beyond the edge of it.
“Same trick as last time?” Maytee inquired. “I’m disappointed.”
Fallor considered that for a moment. “Yes, I suppose it doesn’t make much sense to use a tactic that failed so miserably before,” he said. “So instead, here’s what I’ll do. One of you – my choice – will come on out and fight me. You win, I let you all go, you lose, and you all die when this thing explodes.”
“I’m prepared. Now then, I choose… Zeke.”
Zeke seemed to dismiss the notion, but soon found he didn’t have a choice, as the seal ejected him at high speed in Fallor’s direction, and he landed on the ground at Fallor’s feet. “I can’t believe you’re going to make me do this,” he said, picking himself up.
“It’s a little late for regrets,” said Fallor, waving a hand as a fan of dark energy streaked toward Zeke.
“Who said anything about regrets? This situation is just completely ridiculous!” Zeke replied, dodging low and charging, only to be interrupted by a wall of darkness pushing him back. Before he could see what had happened, a blast hit him from the other side, and he fell to his knees again.
“I agree,” said Fallor. “You look positively ridiculous right now.” Zeke tried to cast something, but Fallor interrupted with something Zeke could only identify as some form of telekinetic slap.
There was no time. Fallor wasn’t even casting spells; every spell he was using had already been cast. That meant he must have been preparing for this, watching and waiting for an opportunity exactly like this, and now he had it. As long as he kept this up, Zeke wouldn’t have time to even react. And even if the opportunity presented itself – what then? Zeke’s specialty was biomagic; he couldn’t get much use out of that here, there was no biomass to alter.
Fallor stood over him now, raising one hand, which began to glow. “Wait,” Zeke said. “What do you want?”
“Want?” Fallor repeated. “I want revenge, and now I’m about to have it!”
“You’re a planeswalker. I don’t believe revenge is enough to satisfy you.”
“Are you suggesting there is something better that you can give me?”
“Well, of course,” Zeke said. “How about… this world?”
Fallor considered it. “Go on.”
“Simple,” Zeke said. “We came up here to destroy a device that lets me control rats. Stop the bomb, and join me, and we’ll rule all of it!”
Behind him, Maytee let out a groan, of the “I-can’t-believe-we-trusted-him” variety. Zeke grinned. Everything was going according to plan.
“You know,” Fallor said, “I think I like that idea. It’s a simple matter to get rid of it…” He turned around and approached the bomb, conjuring a few protective layers. He stood examining it for a minute, as if trying to decide how he was supposed to deal with it.
“I suppose,” he said, “the best way to do this is to simply envelop it in a few layers before hasty disposal.”
He now began a very large, showy spell, not prepared like his earlier ones, but entirely new. As darkness began to swallow the explosive, a collective gasp came from the four captive audience members behind him.
AS he was about to complete the incantation, Fallor froze. The moon surface right in front of him was starting to swell. He glanced behind him, and saw that where Zeke had been, there was now a hole. He turned back to complete the spell, but at just that moment, the bulge erupted, and a very angry-looking Zeke hurtled forth, barreling into Fallor’s chest and knocking him off-balance. Before Fallor could right himself, Zeke struck again, and continued doing so with such speed and power, Fallor couldn’t even get a spell off.
For several minutes, Zeke continued in this pattern, before finally knocking Fallor to the ground. “Strength and speed enhancement,” Zeke explained briefly. “The only biomagic I can do anywhere, anytime. Now, give up and let them go.” The light faded, and the other four were freed. “You guys go on back,” Zeke said. “I’m going to take care of the situation here before I leave.” With a nod, they vanished.
Now that they were gone, Zeke began channeling power. “I hope you know what I’m going to do to you.”
“In excruciating detail. I’m a diviner, remember?”
“Yes, about that. Why did you come here if you knew you were going to lose?”
Fallor grinned that same creepy grin as every other time. “You think I’ve lost, do you? I think you’ve lost track of time.”
Instantly, Zeke knew what he meant. Behind him, the reaction had already started.
He braced himself against the massive explosion.
On the ground, the explosion could be seen from much farther away than the campus. Not even debris was left of the moon. The mission was a success and everyone knew it.
Zeke was missing. Fewer people knew that.
The team returned to report their victory, one smaller.
“I gotta say I didn’t expect that.”
“It wasn’t a favor to you. Hell, it wasn’t even intentional, not that I’m complaining.”
“Yeah, well, looks like we’ve got some time either way. Want to play cards?”