“I’m not going.” Shivering on her couch, Amber reached for another blanket. “Doctor Ecchs has dragged us outside five times in the last week, and it’s always nothing. Sometimes it’s a truly exceptional nothing. First he makes us chase Josh around the city, then he plants timers set to make balloons go off everywhere, then he steals the mayor’s favorite fountain pen and hides it in the park…” Grumbling, she shook her head. “These are not heists. They are pranks. We are not obligated to stop Doctor Ecchs from committing pranks.”
“Technically, yes, you are. By law.” Nadia grabbed the blanket and gave it a tug. For a moment, the two wrestled for the blanket, before Nadia took advantage of actually being standing to simply back away from the couch until Amber had to choose between holding on and falling over. “I know you always get fed up over these sorts of things, but you still have to go out.”
“Hey, Amber, you dressed yet?” Walking into the room as he did up the buttons on his coat, Lucky raised an eyebrow. “That looks like a no. Taking a sick day?”
“I should. Serve him right.” Grumbling under her breath, Amber sighed, pushing off her other three blankets and standing. “No, I’m coming. Give me a moment.” A blur of motion later, she was standing back in the room with her uniform on, including a dark green tuque. “What do you think?”
“Looks great. Let’s get going.” Lucky started for the door. “This time, the Doc’s down at McMarshall Park. No details, but I hear he’s making some sort of public announcement.”
“Lovely. Probably using remote drones or something to make us wait around in the cold.” Amber and Lucky walked for the front door. Darting around them, Nadia pirouetted in place for a moment as she reached to the kitchen counter.
“Wait wait wait!” Her arc carried her back to the pair, and she handed each of them a hot thermos. “Hot chocolate for the road.”
Lucky stared at the thermos, and then up at Nadia. “How did – when did you have time to make this? Ecchs called, like a minute and a half ago.”
Nadia gave him a knowing look. “He’s been calling exactly forty-three minutes later every time. I noticed last time. So for the past couple of days I’ve been heating them up just in case, and it paid off!” She stepped backwards with a grin. “Go get him.”
“You’re a dream, Nadia. Keep the couch warm for me – we’ll try and make this quick.” Nodding to Nadia, Amber slipped out the door. Lucky followed, whistling jauntily.
Nadia watched the door for a few moments, still smiling. Then, with a sigh, she turned and walked over to the couch, flopping down heavily and reaching for a blanket.
“Is there a problem, Miss Tyler?”
“Gah!” Nadia half-jumped, half-fell, landing on the ground in a tangle of cloth. She raised her head, glaring balefully at the corner of the room. “There is now, Ash. Stop doing that!”
“I would rather expect you to be used to it by now.” The shrub in the corner lowered its eyes submissively.
“Yeah, well, my mother always said I was a slow learner.” Groaning faintly, Nadia disentangled herself and got to her feet. “Shouldn’t you be in McMarshall Park right now?”
“I have several drones observing the area, but I will not devote the bulk of my attention there until later.” The shrub shrugged its leaves.
“Makes sense, I guess. Man, I wish I could hop between bodies like that. It’d save a bundle on transit costs.”
“I note that you are avoiding the issue.”
“Great. You’re getting better at understanding social dynamics.” Rolling over on her side, Nadia faced away from the shrub. “Now note that when someone does that, it’s polite to do the same. I’m fine.”
“I only worried that you might still be finding the transition to civilian life difficult.”
“I’m fine.” Her teeth clenched, Nadia did not turn around. “I’m here inside, where it is warm, while you’re out freezing your shoots off. What do I have to complain about?”
“You could…” Belatedly recognizing the question as rhetorical, Ash cut himself off. “Never mind. I cannot doubt your statement, of course.”
“Damn right you can’t.” Turning back, Nadia gave her friend a crooked smile. “Come on, Ash. You must have better things to do then try and console me. It’s been months. I’m fine. Now why don’t you make like a tree and scout out the park before the others get there, huh?”
“A very humourous suggestion, Miss Tyler. I will do so.” The shrub faded back into its usual stillness, and Nadia chuckled as she lay back. It was sweet that he cared, but Ash had nothing in his background to understand the difference between a twinge of regret every so often and actual depression.
She was fine. She was living a dream life. And as long as she kept saying it, she would believe it. She was already starting to.