Holiday Cheer, Part Eight: Decision Time

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(December 25th)

Amber sat at the kitchen table, her head resting on folded hands, lost in thought. Across the room, Lucky poured himself a glass of juice, then sighed. “So, I had a talk with Ash.” He started. “It didn't go so well.”

“No?” Amber asked.

“No. He more or less pointed out that he is about a third of the Adari army right now, so he doesn't really see the issue. I tried to explain the whole difference between soldiers and heroes thing the way you did, but…” He broke off. “I don't think he quite got it. Ash is big on avoiding unnecessary violence, but he's pretty okay with the necessary kind. Which, given that he was originally programmed as an endlessly spreading killing machine, isn't actually that big of a surprise.”

Amber nodded slowly, not saying anything. Lucky crossed over and sat down across from her. “I'm out of ideas.” He admitted. “With Dudeman's blanket permission for any of us to go over, there really isn't anything stopping her now.” He reached to take a drink.

“I may go too.”

The juice stopped a half-inch from Lucky's mouth. “You know,” he said conversationally, “if I was anyone else I'd be choking right now. What are you talking about?”

Amber bit her lip. “The things Nadia said yesterday… we're a team. Jhim didn't want us coming, so I pushed it down and pretended it was going to be okay. But she's right. I can't let him walk into danger like that. I can't let either of them do it.”

“Me neither.” Lucky said. “That's why I'm trying to stop them!”

“You said it yourself, Lucky, we can't stop them.” Amber said.

“This is not a beat them or join them situation!” Lucky shouted. “I don't want them to die any more than you do, but I…” He stopped, and rubbed his forehead. “There has to be a way to stop her.”

He looked over, to find Amber watching him carefully. “Lucky, there isn't always a way out.” She pointed out.

“I'm responsible for this.” Lucky muttered. He looked up. “I can't do this, Amber.”

Amber took a deep breath. “This isn't like what happened to Optica.”

“This is exactly like that!” Lucky shouted again, before speaking more normally with effort. “I can't abandon Mayfly, especially not like this. But I can't… I can't kill anyone else. I don't want to be in this position.”

Amber stood, walking around the table. She laid a hand on Lucky's. “Lucky, look at me.” He looked up hesitantly. “Nadia isn't Optica. She's well-trained. She knows what she can handle, and she's handled worse than this war. You don't need to protect her – I'll be there with her. Stay here. Keep the home fires burning for us. Someone has to.”

Lucky slumped back. “I… no.” He shook his head slowly. “I can't stay here and wait. You're probably right, Amber. She'll probably be fine. I can't take the risk that she won't be.” He stood slowly, with a sad smile. “Besides, we're a team. We have to stand together, right?”

“Are you sure?” Amber asked.

“Not really no.” Lucky admitted. “I'm sure that I couldn't live with myself if something happened to one of you that we could have prevented. Anyway, what do I have to worry about?” He laughed. “I'm the luckiest man alive, remember?”

“Alright.” Amber smiled, letting his hand go. “I'll tell Dudeman that we're all going into the adaptation program. We're lucky we already have squad training, huh?”

“Yeah, lucky us, we'll be out of here in two months” Lucky smiled wryly.

“Nadia will be happy.” Amber added.

“Probably, yeah. I just hope this doesn't hurt her optimism.” Lucky shook his head. “How did we reach this point, Amber? Heading off to war?”

“Soft in the heart, hard in the head.” Amber grinned. “I think Dudeman's said that about you more than once.”

“That he has. Maybe he'll respect me more after this.”

“Anything's possible.” Amber nodded. “Come on, let's go give Nadia the good news and Jhim a heart attack.”

Lucky stood, then hesitated, looking around the room. “Next year is going to be a whole new world, Amber.” He paused. “No pun intended.”

“Nothing we can't handle.” Amber smiled again. “Let's do this.”

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