End Of A Dream, Part 6: Losing Balance

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“So that was the big thing that the Doc had you working on?” Nadia chuckled, shaking her head, when Bryce nodded.

“Yeah. He couldn’t very well have her double-check his work, right? So he had me doing stuff on the sly.” He shrugged easily. “And now that it’s done, I’m heading back home to face the family.” A face made his opinion of that clear.

“Well, I hope it works out for you.” Nadia smiled wryly. “If you get through your work quickly, I have it on good authority that a spot is opening up here.”

“Oh, no. If there’s one thing that I’m not going to do, it’s fight a family member on official business.” Thinking over his last statement, Bryce belatedly added, “Besides, I wouldn’t count you out just yet.”

With a heavy shrug, Nadia glanced down the street. She was sitting in front of the Malefico building – Bryce’s father was sending a helicopter over to pick him up, and she’d decided to stop by and see him off on a whim. “You know what they say. Lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice.”

“Mathmatically, that’s not true. Lightning strikes the same place many times. That’s sort of how it works.”

Nadia quickly changed the subject. “So, I guess you’ll be back in town for the big wedding.”

“Plan to, yeah.” Bryce started to stand as a shadow passed overhead, then broke off as he saw it was nothing but a cloud. “I expect it’s going to be a hell of a bash. Think you’ll be invited?”

Nadia nodded. “Oh, probably. Ecchs likes to show things off.” She stood slowly, as a faint sound came. “That’ll be your ride, I bet.”

“Sounds like.” Bryce stood properly this time. “Take care of yourself, Nadia. Sorry things didn’t work out the way you planned, but… well, you never know. I thought I would be a villain, but here I am.”

“You never know. Good luck with your career, Bryce. Keep in touch.”

“Will do.” With a wave, Bryce turned and passed through the doors of Malefico. Nadia shook her head as she watched him go, then started the five-block walk back to her bus stop.

A half-hour later, she knocked on the door of Amber and Lucky’s apartment. Lucky opened the door. “Hey, Nadia. Everything okay?”

“Yeah, it’s cool.” Nadia yawned, stepping past Lucky and into the hallway. “I was just seeing Bryce off. He’s a nice guy – especially for an Ecchs.”

“Yeah, surprising.” Lucky led the way into the kitchen.

“So, where’s Amber at?”

“Oh, she’s just reviewing… uh…” Lucky trailed off guiltily.

“Oh, for god’s sakes!” Throwing up her arms in frustration. “Reviewing applications. You can say it! I’m not made of glass, and I wish you’d stop treating me like I was.” Setting her jaw, she strode into the dining room before Lucky could think of a reply. “Amber. How’s it going?”

“Hopeless. A bunch of glory hounds and… uh… oh, hello, Nadia. Didn’t hear you…”

“I was just telling Lucky to stop walking on eggshells around me. Don’t you start.” Nadia glared heavily at Amber, and then sat down across from her. “Give me those. I may not have years of experience, but I think I’ve been on the job long enough to filter this down a bit.”

“I didn’t want to…” Amber broke off. “You know what, if it means I don’t have to read through these stupid things anymore, I’m all for this.”

“Thank you.” Nadia started looking over the paper she had grabbed. “I want to do something right now. Besides, if you don’t employ me, I’m technically violating my parole, so…” She broke off. “The Seven-Foot Eyeball. Seriously?”

Lucky leaned over her shoulder and laughed. “Now, there’s an unfortunate person. What are his powers?”

“Frost breath.”

“What?!” Lucky started to crane in, then stopped at the suppressed grin on Nadia’s face. “Cute.”

“Thank you.” Nadia carefully placed the resume to one side. “Seriously, guys, this sucks, but I can deal with it. I haven’t given up yet, but I’m going to be philosophical about this. I’m still here.”

“True. Things could be wor…” Lucky broke off. “Crap. Did I just say that?” He looked around nervously. “I think we’re okay. No explosions, no emergency phone call…”

There was a faint knock on the door.

“Dammit.” Muttering under his breath, Lucky walked over to the door, opening it with a faint cringe. Nadia and Amber leaned out into the hall, just in time to see him backstep in surprise. “Jim? What’s wrong.”

Jim was standing in the doorway, a haggard look on his face. “Everyone… I’m leaving the team.”

“The hell?” Amber’s jaw dropped, matching that of Lucky. Nadia was just looking at Jim worriedly. “What happened?”

Jim looked down at the crumpled letter he was still holding in his hand. “My father has died.”


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