A Whole New World, Part One: Desk Job

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(January 1st)

“I can't believe you're still working.” Katy Lee leaned around the corner of the doorway, looking over Dudeman's desk. Behind her, Edgar Malloy gave his superior a helpless shrug, as she continued speaking. “It's New Year's Eve, Nate. Take the night off.”

Behind his desk, Dudeman was rhythmically flexing a piece of steel as he studied a report on his computer. He glanced up in momentary annoyance, before calming. “Oh, Katy.” He said slowly, glancing at the faded plastic clock on his desk. “I thought you would have been gone by now.”

“Just on my way out the door.” Katy replied. “You?”

Dudeman shook his head. “Too much bad news. The LAPD just pulled Anarch's corpse out of the harbour this afternoon, and a passerby in New Orleans found Paradox lying in a dumpster without his head last night. And no one's spotted Daemon in over a week – his trail just went cold.”

Katy furrowed her brow thoughtfully, stepping across to lean against the doorframe. “All of Lucky Lad's alternates are getting killed? Sounds like someone's taking steps to stop them multiplying.” She frowned. “What about the original?”

“No signs of danger, but I've appraised Moonbeam and Blastwave of the situation.” Dudeman continued to flex his iron bar. “But they've all come in the last week. I wish I could…”

“Nate.” Katy crossed the room quickly, slamming her hands down on the desk. Dudeman jumped guiltily, dropping the beam. “Are you, or are you not, going to go to a New Year's party?”

“Not.” Dudeman said shortly.


Dudeman glared at her. “I hate parties. Too many people, too much fake joviality.” He sat back in his chair. “I would much rather finish my work, go home, have some champagne and get some sleep.”

“Come on, old man. Just for a little while. You'll have fun.” Katy batted her eyes. Dudeman rolled his.

“You're not going to leave unless I say that I'll come, are you?”

“I'm very patient.” Katy smiled.

“Like hell you are.” Dudeman grumbled. “Fine, Katy. Where are you going?”

“I've already left the directions with Eddie.” Behind Katy, Edgar grimaced heavily, glaring daggers at the agent, who blithely ignored him. “Don't worry, it's just Agency folks and some friends. You don't need to be all laid-back and folksy.”

“Right.” Dudeman said slowly. He sighed. “Alright, I still need to finish some things. But I will be down before midnight.”

“I'm holding you to that.” Katy warned him. “If you don't show up, I will come to your house, and I will wake you the hell up.”

“Yes, yes.” Dudeman waved his hands at her. “Go. Have a good time. I'll be there before midnight, I promise.” He shook his head. “And the longer you stay here bothering me, the longer it's going to be before I'm done. Go and join the party – I'll just be another two or three hours.”

“Alright, fine. But I'll be keeping an eye out for you. Call when you leave.” Katy started out the door. “Eddie, don't let him stay past eleven-thirty.”

“Of course not, Director Lee.” Edgar said in a carefully neutral voice. She dimpled a smile at him, which met with the same expression. “I am always careful about the Director's well-being.”

“Right.” Katy grinned. “Sorry to offend you, Eddie. I know we can count on you.” She patted the long-suffering secretary on the shoulder, then spun around him and strolled past.

“Katy!” Dudeman called as she cleared the doorway. A moment later, her head popped back, and he said, “Don't forget your teleport beacon. If there's an emergency…”

“Yeah, yeah.” Katy grinned again, reaching into her pocket and pulling out a small blue crystal on a silver pendant. “You know, I think I was happier when you couldn't just teleport us back to base when there was trouble.”

“Please.” Dudeman smiled tiredly. “You're much happier knowing that you'll never miss a fight.”

Katy considered for a moment, then smiled. “Okay, yes, you're probably right.” She waved. “See you later, Nate.”

As she strolled out of the room, Dudeman looked over at Edgar. “I used to babysit her, you know.”

Edgar's raised eyebrow was eloquent. “Used to?”

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