Nadia sighed heavily, sitting down on a bench. Behind her, the doors of the Malefico building hissed open and Bryce walked out. Glancing around, he spotted her and walked over. “Well, I tried.” He gave her a sympathetic smile.
“Yeah, it's about what I was expecting.” Nadia shrugged glumly. “I didn't really think he would go for it, but I was hoping he'd think he could slip a control chip or something past me and would go along with it.”
Bryce sat down next to her. “Well, if he had, are you sure you would have caught it?”
“Hell, yes.” Nadia shrugged again. “Moot point, now. I'm pretty much out of ideas.” She sat back on the bench, looking up at the sky. “There aren't that many super-scientists out there, and they're mostly busy with their own things. I can't exactly learn to be a superhuman, and my actual combat skills are way behind where they'd need to be to enter as a nonpowered hero.” She grimaced. “To be fair, the requirements for a non-powered hero are through the roof.”
“To be fair, there's a reason for that. It's a good way to get maimed.” Bryce considered. “What about Handyman? You said he made that suit for you. Couldn't he make…?”
“Maybe, but I'm not asking him.” Nadia looked back down, to meet Bryce's eyes. “Jim's stuff doesn't last. And the more complicated it is, the faster it wears out. Furniture and armor is one thing – this'll last for months if it doesn't get shot up – but anything complicated takes him a long time to put together.”
Bryce frowned. “Doesn't he have a duct tape car?”
“Only the frame. The engine's metal.” Nadia shrugged again. “Thing is, I think Jim really would try to make me a suit if I asked him. And in trying, he'd stop making all the stuff he needs to be a hero. So screw that plan.” Waving the matter away, she continued blithely. “I don't have any magical talent, so no order would have me. I'm not the sort to attract powerful relics. I'm not the sort to attract anything, really.” She looked down at her hands, sunlight playing across her fingers as a cloud passed overhead. “And I'm just about out of time.”
“Sorry, what?” Bryce raised an eyebrow.
“In another week, the SEA's going to have to declare me nonfuctional and remove me as a registered hero. Lucky's already talked with Judge Moore, and I can work out the rest of my sentence as an SEA archivalist instead of a front-line hero…” She broke off, teeth gritted for a moment, and then forced a smile. “The Patchwork Champions and their secretary.”
“Ouch.” Bryce sighed heavily. “I'm sorry to hear that…”
“Yeah.” Nadia stood slowly. “Well, I should get going. See if any of our inquiries panned out.” She waved a hand vaguely, starting down the street. “See you around, Bryce. And thanks for trying.”
“Any time.” Bryce turned to go back inside.
“… Bryce?” The voice was faintly confused. Bryce turned back.
“Is there a problem?”
“Why are you still here?” Nadia, jolted from her despondancy, had a perplexed look on her face. “It's been, like, two weeks with nothing going on that would be useful for you. Isn't your dad worrying about you?”
“My father can do what he likes.” Bryce shrugged. “Uncle Spencer asked me to help him with a big project he's working on, and I couldn't say no. It'll be done in a few days.”
“Ahh, that makes sense. Good of you.” Nadia quirked a smile. Bryce returned it.
“That's what they keep saying. Take care of yourself, Ms Tyler.” With a wave, Bryce turned and entered the building. As the doors hissed shut behind him, Nadia kept her smile for an extra moment before sighing heavily. Shaking her head, she turned to leave.
Nadia paused, and turned around. Phil and Nightshade were hanging halfway out of a pair of third-story windows. She raised an eyebrow at them, yelling up. “What?”
“Heard about you asking the boss for a new suit!”
“Just wanted to say…” Nightshade paused to pull out a megaphone. Then she started to laugh uproariously. Across from her, Phil did the same. Nadia watched the two of them, lips pursed and arms crossed.
After about thirty seconds, she grumpily reached into her vest pocket. “Are you two about done?”
Phil and Nightshade glanced at each other. Nightshade considered carefully. “Mmm…. no.” The two resumed laughing.
“Right.” Pulling out a small sphere of duct tape, Nadia wound up and threw it as hard as she could upwards. As she turned to walk away, she was rewarded by the dull thud of the ball, carried by the extra force that Jim had worked into it, slamming into Phil's head. A moment later she was rewarded by the second thud of Phil slamming into the pavement.
“Nice shot.” Nightshade's approving voice mingled with Phil's groan from the ground.
Nadia smirked as she strolled away. At least something had gone right.