Echoes Long Forgotten, Part Seventeen: And That's Not Including The Oil Change

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(October 17th)

“No, I understand.” Blastwave dropped her phone into its cradle without saying goodbye, her teeth grinding. She looked across her desk at the others, then shook her head. “I was hoping that orbital surveillance might have picked something up, but whatever stealth system that bastard was using, it's top-notch. The SEA couldn't get a thing.”

“That narrows down our list of suspects. There aren't a lot of groups out there that could put something like this together.” Sitting across the table, Moonbeam shook her head. “Rex Mundi's the top bet, of course, but not the only one. We're going to have a long talk with the Witch Doctor, see if we can't shake anything loose.” She grinned abruptly. “We do have one bright side. We've got the signature on that suit, now, and we're watching for it. If he shows up back in town, we'll know within seconds.”

Nadia nodded slowly. She was sitting quietly in a chair, with the rest of the Champions surrounding her – the doctors had insisted that she keep a crutch at least until her suit was looked over by the SEA's engineers, but had otherwise released her with nothing more than advice to keep taking the pain medication. “Unless he changes it.”

“Not likely. They build suits entirely around psi crystals. Changing one would take months, maybe more.” Moonbeam smiled reassuringly. “You did okay, Mayfly. You were totally outclassed on a power scale, but you still held your own until backup arrived.”

“Yeah.” The reply was not reassured. “Seems like I get knocked out of commission a lot, lately.”

The others exchanged glances. Jim started to speak, but Blastwave cut him off. “I'd noticed that.”

Amber looked up sharply. “Wave, you can't blame her for this.”

“For the trap? No. But you shouldn't have gone out on active duty at all.” Blastwave leaned across the desk. “You knew there was a powerful super out there, and you still went off alone. In my books, that's reckless and stupid.”

“What did you want me to do?” Nadia shoved her chair back as she rose, her face going red. “Tony was on the rampage! People could have been hurt!”

“You should have called Ecchs and brought him in! It was his damned monster in the first place, he's still partially responsible! And people could have been hurt while Dragonfly was chasing you across inhabited areas of town, too.” Blastwave raised a hand tiredly, before anyone could speak. “That came out wrong. Let me rephrase.” She made eye contact with Nadia, her face grimly set. “You have got to be more careful. I've seen your reports. You have style. You have some skill. You've certainly got spirit. What you don't have is sense.” Shaking her head, she sat back in her chair. “The more I get to know you, the less I'm surprised at how your life has played out.”

“Thanks for your advice.” Nadia coldly turned around, grabbing her chair and shoving it against the wall. “I'll certainly keep it in mind in the future. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to check on my suit.”

Nadia stormed to the door before anyone could, or would, speak, giving it a massive slam as she left. Jim rose quickly. “I'm going to go see if she's okay.” He quickstepped to the door, smiled apologetically, then slipped it open and stepped into the hall. As the door clicked shut behind him, Amber winced.

“That wasn't the most diplomatic way to put that.”

“I'm not a very diplomatic person.” Blastwave sighed. “You might be right. But it was true, and I don't think she was listening. She's gotten lucky three times now. Eventually, she won't.” After a moment, she waved in the direction of the door. “You two had better go after them, or she'll think you don't care about her.”

“Yeah.” Lucky stood, nodding to the two SEA agents. “Thanks for the help against Tony.”

“It's our job.” Moonbeam inclined her head. “Once Nadia calms down, tell her that we're glad she's okay. Okay?”

“Okay.” Lucky and Timebender headed out the door and down the hall, taking the stairs to the lab situated below the SEA's offices. Lucky shook his head. “Your girl doesn't pull her punches.”

“I know. But she is right.” Amber sighed heavily, taking the stairs two at a time. “We'll just have to figure out a way to get that across to Nadia – subtly.”

“Joy.” The two reached the bottom of the stairs, opening into the lab. They found Nadia and Jim sitting to one side. Nadia quickly wiped at her eyes as they came into sight, then forced a smile. Lucky waved to them. “So, what's the news?”

“Don't know yet.” Nadia shrugged. “The technician should be out any… oh, there he comes.”

“Good evening, Ms Tyler.” The technician was a portly man with short black hair, He smiled worriedly to each of the Champions in turn. “I've taken a look over the systems.”

“Alright, what's the damage? How long until the suit's repaired.” Nadia spoke with a twist in her lips, clearly suspecting that she wouldn't like the answer.

“Ah…” The technician hesitated. “Well, there's pretty severe damage to the mask, which is bad. Sensors are shorted out. Comm system's dead…”

“That was on purpose.” Nadia interjected faintly. The technician nodded halfheartedly.

“Well, it's far from the worst, so I wouldn't worry about it. Your left side servos suffered catastophic failure, which has shattered the mechanisms across the lower bank and shorted out all of the buffer coils. The gloves are total write-offs – something crushed them into fragments. I'm a little surprised you can still use your hands.” By now, the mechanic was sweating faintly, as four pairs of eyes bored into him. “And then there's the central chassis. Repeated heavy impacts to the corital layer, aggravated by energy backwash and extended use while damaged.”

It was Amber who spoke up. “Could you maybe pretend for a minute that none of us understands you…” Jim coughed, and she revised. “… that three of us don't understand you, and tell us exactly what that means?”

“Means it cracked two of the three psi-crystals . Badly. You put any strain on the system, there's a good chance they'll shatter, and take the third one with 'em. If you activate the self-repair circuits, the whole thing will blow. ” The technician shrugged helplessly. “And I can't replace a psi crystal in a machine like that. Maybe the original maker could, if the circuits weren't smashed to hell.” Everyone stared at him in shock as he gave Nadia a sympathetic look. “Sorry, ma'am. You're grounded.”

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