Then And Now, Part Five: Clean-Up

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(January 16th)

Then – September 2002

“So, do Mom and Dad know?” Lying flat on her back, Timebender tried not to pant as she stared up at the ceiling.

“Yeah.” Lying opposite her, their heads nearly touching, Nightshade was facing the opposite direction. “Just told them this week.”

“Must have gone brilliantly.”

“Ehn, Dad was already so mad at you…” Nina trailed off. “Okay, yeah, he kind of blew a fuse. He's not really talking to me right now. His loss.”

“Man, Nina. I just… I don't know. Villainy?” Amber tilted her head back to watch her twin sister.

“Oh, please. It's like a 9-5 these days. Dad's just stuck twenty years in the past, when villains did big things and killed people. Now it's all schemes and rules. Almost too structured for me, honestly, but I'm making do.” Nina shrugged. “Think it's safe to get up yet?”

“I'll check.” Amber started to sit up, then dropped back to the ground as several lasers crossed over her head. “Nope. Your boss is a piece of work, you know that?”

“Hey, if your partner hadn't pushed him off his platform, he'd be up there holding the city ransom while you were down here hiding from angry lasers.” Nina grinned. “Seems like a decent enough plan to me.”

“Yeah, except that the only one up there is my partner, not yours. Some plan.” Amber shook her head. “Face it, Nina, you've signed up with another loser.”

“Okay, so he's a bit of a sap. But he's really determined.”

“Thank you for the vote of confidence.” Ecchs spoke up sourly from across the room. Nina craned her head to look at him.

“Oops. Sorry, Doc, I thought you were unconscious.”


“So, what's the damage?” Sitting on the edge of the park, Lucky watched as teams walked back and forth with environment suits and geiger counters. Ash had already departed, concerned about possible radioactivity damaging his circuits, and Timebender was standing nearby watching with concern.

“Looks like the interruption came at a bad time. All the rock fused into radioactive materials, but they're not stable ones. You've basically got a lot of waste material under the park.” Blastwave, standing a few feet away, shook her head. “On the bright side, nothing outside the park itself is contaminated. I'm going to have some words with Ecchs – messing with nuclear materials in a city area is dangerously close to the line.”

“I'll try to sound surprised. So Ecchs is going to need to clean that stuff up?” Timebender watched the park thoughtfully.

“Nope.” When everyone twisted to look at her, Blastwave shrugged helplessly. “It wasn't direct or deliberate action on his part that caused the fallout, it was bad-stage interference. The bill's going to have to be footed by the city. Figure Patchwork City's out maybe a million dollars for proper disposal.”

“Oh, great.” Groaning softly, Timebender massaged her forehead. “The mayor is going to want our asses on a platter. I bet Ecchs did that on purpose.”

“What, designed a machine that would revert his plan to waste materials if it was interrupted?” Blastwave raised an eyebrow. “That sounds just a touch paranoid. The timing alone would be…”

“Doesn't matter. It's totally his style.” Sighing heavily, Timebender dropped onto the bench. “We might have beaten his scheme, but we get hosed in the bargain. He loves tricks like that. It's about the only way he ever gets one up on us.” She waved vaguely in the direction of the generator. “Is there at least enough scrap to pay for a chunk of the cleanup?”

“Oh, hell, no. The scrap is radiated too.” Blastwave sat next to Amber, nudging Lucky aside. “Cheer up, hon. Another few minutes and it would have covered two city blocks.”

“Is that our tack with the mayor? Sorry, but it could have been worse?” Amber eyed her girlfriend dubiously.

“Hm…” Blastwave considered, then grinned. “Here's a thought. Claim it wouldn't have worked. You saved the city from a hundred million dollar cleanup, or maybe even needing to cordon off a whole neighbourhood. He'll like that.” She winked. “I'll keep my lips sealed about whether or not the machine could have worked… hell, maybe your story would even be true.”

“Doubt it. The stuff Ecchs builds doesn't always work exactly the way he wants, but it always works. This seems like too much of a screw-up.” But Amber was smiling despite herself. “Still… yeah, I think that could work. The mayor's still going to yell our ears off, but… you're a lifesaver, Wave.”

“Thank me later. I've got work to do.” Grinning, Blastwave stood up and returned to the park, overseeing the investigation. Amber turned to Lucky.

“Come on. If I'm getting chewed out, you're coming too.”

“Damn. I thought I was supposed to be lucky enough to avoid that sort of thing.” Sighing heavily, Lucky stood and followed Timebender.

“I'm just hoping some of it rubs off on me.” With a crooked smile, Timebender led the way down the street.

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