“All I wanted was a big, dramatic showdown.” The villain formerly known as Crimson Sky sat hunched on the ground, cape pooled around him. “A chance to really show what I was capable of. And here I am, screwing up again. Crimson Sky.” He muttered the last words in disgust, and everyone present winced.
“We could still fight.” Lucky said helpfully. The Patchwork Champions were arrayed around Crimson, all of them looking faintly embarassed and uncertain – Mayfly still hovering in the air a few feet away, Jhim distracted as he surveyed the damage that the brief fight had caused, and Timebender and Lucky Lad standing by, carrying on the conversation. Following the revelation of his name, their erstwhile enemy had given up on fighting, sinking down and falling into a much more awkward depression. “We'll just add whatever name you pick next after the fact.” He glanced over, to find Amber staring daggers at him, and raised his hands helplessly.
“No, it's no use. I can't beat you without a proper moniker – how would that look?” Crimson sighed heavily. “It's not like I can say, 'Tremble, heroes, for you have been defeated by Chad', you know. Style matters. And you can't just add names after the fact. That makes people think you're wishy-washy, and villains cannot be wishy-washy. No way.”
“Fair enough.” Lucky considered, then nodded with a reassuring smile. “You definitely had us on the defensive there, though. You could tell people that.” He paused. “Chad?”
“That's my name.” Chad looked up slowly. “What's wrong with Chad?” He said dangerously. The wind started to pick up.
“Nothing! Nothing at all. Great name. Just… I just didn't know it, that's all. Good name.” Lucky said quickly. The wind died back down to nothing, and he tried to patch things up with a smile. “You know, I sort of liked Terrorfire.”
“You're just humouring me.” Chad said morosely.
Lucky considered whether he could seriously claim not to be, looked over at Chad, and gave up. “A little.” He admitted. “It wasn't that bad, though. And Crimson Sky was a good name, so it's not like you can't pick one.”
“Yeah, and look how that turned out. You would have to have played old video games, wouldn't you?” Shaking his head, Chad sighed again. “This was supposed to be a moment of glory, you know? Something to tell everyone on the front lines – 'I fought the Champions, and I was a match for all five of them at once'. So much for that.”
Jhim, who had been distractedly applying duct tape over the damaged paint of the nearest car, glanced over sharply. “Front lines?”
Chad nodded, missing the concern. “On Sayleen. You know how they're recruiting to help the Adari – well, I signed up a couple of weeks ago. I'm shipping out in January, once my training course is done.” He smiled lopsidedly. “Guess I'll see you there…” He belatedly noticed Jhim wincing and making 'stop' gestures, and trailed off. “That is.. uh…”
“Why would you see Jhim there?” Nadia asked, looking from Jhim to Chad. “He can't go to Sayleen right now. He's too much of a target.” Jhim winced again, and she looked hard at him. “Aren't you?”
“Well…” Jhim said slowly. Suddenly, everywhere except his three friends was very interesting, and his gaze wandered around the parking lot. In return, the three of them were paying attention to nothing but him.
“You're going back.” Amber said. It was not quite a question.
“Yes.” Jhim still wouldn't meet their eyes.
“And you found out…?” Lucky asked.
“A few weeks ago.” Jhim admitted.
“And you were planning on telling us when?” Nadia asked, with an edge to her voice.
“I was thinking the day before I left, like last time.” Jhim said slowly. Seeing the stormy expression on Nadia's face, he quickly added, “The team can handle itself without me, you've got Ash! And… I don't like long goodbyes.”
“You know, I think I've overstayed my welcome.” Standing quickly, Chad nodded to the group. “I suppose I should thank you for catching that before I got sued, but… whatever. I'll see you around. Have a good night.” With a quick wave, he launched into the sky, leaving everyone else facing Jhim.
Jhim pointed after Chad. “Um… he's getting away?”
“Nice try.” Nadia crossed her arms. “You're in trouble, pal.”
“See, this is exactly why I try not to tell anyone anything.” Jhim muttered.