“So, Wave, any New Year’s resolutions?” Nadia rubbed her hands together, watching the stage. Unlike previous years, the Patchwork Champions were being called upon to make an appearance at the city New Year’s party, to show that the problems of the last few months were behind them and everything was back to business as usual. At the moment, that meant that Timebender, Lucky Lad, and Ash were on stage introducing another local band and delivering pre-scripted jokes, while their friends sat in the crowd and enjoyed the ability to relax with the rest of the town.
“I don’t much hold with them.” Blastwave, bundled up in a heavy winter jacket, would not have looked out of place in a blizzard, let alone the barely-freezing weather that made up a typical Grovedale winter. “I figure, either you’re trying to improve yourself or you’re not. None of this ‘once a year only’ crap.”
“Fair enough.” Nadia said. “I never stick to mine anyway, I guess. But I’m resolving to work out more.” She made a muscle half-heartedly. “Ever since I went off active duty, I’ve gotten less fit.”
“Perils of office life, sugarplum.” Wave watched the stage absently as she spoke. “I’ll hit the gym with you, if you like. I’ve had to do some serious working out – way fewer Antihero attacks than I’d expected. About the busiest thing I’ve done in the last three months was bust a experimental tech ring running out of the port warehouses. Small fry.”
“Well, that’s good. Maybe next year will be quieter than this one was.” Nadia shook her head at the memories. “I mean, not just the Antiheroes, but all of the stuff with those villains charging in afterwards, plus the problems with Dragonfly, and then the months of job interviews. Everything’s finally settling down – maybe this time it’ll stay that way.”
Wave raised an eyebrow. “You believe that?”
“No,” Nadia admitted with a rueful laugh, “but if I keep saying it, it’s got to come true eventually.”
“Good luck with that.” Blastwave’s smile faded for a moment. “I don’t doubt that there’s a lot of trouble brewing for next year.”
Several blocks away, Spencer Ecchs and Ada Byron watched the New Year’s celebrations from the penthouse level of the Malefico Towers, lying arm in arm on the floor. The lights were dimmed, and the windows had been altered to telescopically view the entire celebration as though the two villains were present. Ecchs turned to smile at his fiancée. “This has been the best year ever. I can hardly imagine next year being better.”
“Next year, we’re going to be married. That’s got to be better, right?” Ada teased.
“Well, this year I fought the Antiheroes, so… ow!” Ecchs rubbed his shoulder. “Alright, next year will be much better. When did you get so violent, woman?”
“I suppose Nightshade’s rubbing off on me. Where are our subordinates, anyway?”
“Went out for a party, I think. Nightshade dragged Phil along, and Josh went with his friends.” Ecchs shrugged. “Didn’t really ask.” Leaning back, he smiled thoughtful. “You know, I’m going to decide that you’re right. Next year will be the best year ever.”
“Good, you’re learning already.” Ada’s eyes sparkled as Ecchs shot her a mock-glare.
“Watch it, my friends. The last year of this complacent world.” Clockwork turned from the screens, a dozen New Year’s celebrations displayed on them, to his three companions. “Next year, the Oligarchs will be the victors.”
“Hope so. Kaine fudged his bit.” Leaning back, Don scratched his hair.
“That’s… still ongoing. And our plans for Handyman are nearly complete.” Clockwork smiled smugly as Don raised an eyebrow.
“Dude, he quit the team! What’s it matter what happens with him?”
Across from him, the Witch Doctor rolled his eyes, taking a sip of champagne. “Leave the planning to those who understand the plan, boy. You can’t simply leave a nexus. Those who were present when it formed retain it unless it is disrupted.” He sniffed disdainfully. “It’s basic Nexus Theory.”
“That’s enough, Jason. We don’t all have your expansive training.” Warzone, helmet firmly in place, was sipping wine through a straw. “I am glad of this, though. It would have been a shame for all of our work with his home to go without cause.” There was a grim satisfaction to his words. “It remains one of my better canvases.”
“Well, then, my friends. Shall we toast to the future?” Clockwork held out his glass, and the others joined him. “To the day when the nexus is under our control, and the world follows.”
“To the future!” Taking a deep drink (except for Warzone, who settled for a long draw from his stray), the others settled back to imagine their futures.
“Hey. Thought I’d find you up here.”
Lucy glanced over her shoulder as Hazard stepped through the door behind her. “Hey, you. Don’t you have somewhere better to be?”
“Sure, I’ll just pop down to my family and say, ‘Hey, Dad! I know I’m from another dimension, and I’m a wanted fugitive, but want to greet the new year together? I brought wine coolers!” Hazard smirked, walking over and plopping down beside his compatriot. “Not bloody likely.”
Lucy frowned, looking down at his hand. “You did bring wine coolers.”
“Not the point. Want one?” Lucy nodded, and Hazard passed her a bottle. “The point is, Lord Mayhem’s at home, Shivarex is on assignment again, Psiborg doesn’t care about holidays, and who knows what Rex Mundi is up to. Maintaining his cover, I imagine, whomever that is.”
“He’s got more important things to worry about. Making sure the Oligarchs don’t beat us to the nexus, for one thing.” Lucy’s gaze went vague. “I didn’t come here to wind up second fiddle to a bunch of washed-up thugs and their second-rate pawns.”
For a moment, the two stayed silent, watching out over the tower’s outlook. Around them, white mountains stretched as far as the eye could see, frost rimming the clear screen that protected the pair from the night. “The waiting’s dying down. We’re going to have to move soon.” Hazard sighed. “I’d give it a couple of weeks, no more. And then things are going to get interesting.”
“They always do, Lucky my lad.”
“Please stop calling me that.” Hazard paused. “Anything you want to talk about? You’ve spent, like, the last two months moping around and surreptitiously monitoring Mayfly.”
“Alright, then.” He started to stand. “I’ll leave you to your thinking.”
“Wait.” Lucy looked up at him. “I wouldn’t mind some company. Quiet company.”
“I can do that.” Sitting back down, Hazard took a drink. “Happy new year, Lawless Lucy.”
“Happy new year, Lucky my lad.”