A Whole New World, Part Two: Starting Small

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(January 4th)

“I hate big public parties.” Amber grumbled, pulling her coat tigher around her. Beside her, Blastwave smirked and hugged her closer.

“Live with it, Amber. Life of a celebrity.” She smiled, looking around. “The rest of the team's having fun.”

It was New Year's Eve, and the Champions had been officially designated the guests of honor at the city's annual party. For the most part, this just meant hanging around the large outdoor arena on Jared Point, chatting with members of the public and reassuring the mayor that lots of important people would be by any minute now. In truth, it wasn't a very large party, as these things went. There were a few thousand people present, but most of the city had better things to do with their time.

Amber, for that matter, felt that she had better things to do with her time. But the mayor was always extremely careful not to schedule more public appearances in December than the group was contractually obligated to do, and the net result was that, every year, they wound up at the New Year's Eve party, while Doctor Ecchs called them up to mock them from his much warmer office party at Malefico.

This year, at least, Blastwave's powers were keeping the chill away. And Amber had to admt that the others seemed to be enjoying themselves. Lucky, as usual, was chatting cheerfully away with a group of people that he'd never met, but with whom he'd probably be fast friends with by the end of the night. Jhim and Nadia, both in uniform, were sticking close to each other as they fielded questions about the Champions' rumoured upcoming enlistment. It hadn't been a secret that they'd been able to keep. In fact…

Amber frowned thoughtfully. “Hey, Wave.”

“Mhm?” Wave asked absently, her eye on the buffet table. She began to slowly sidle towards it, and Amber followed automatically.

“Is it just me, or are Nadia and Jhim a little closer together than usual?”

Blastwave finally followed her girlfriend's glance, and nodded slowly. “You know, I think you might be right. Did they hook up?”

“They didn't mention it.” Amber shrugged. “None of my business either way, really.”

“But you're curious.” Wave grinned as she reached the table, pouring herself a mug of mulled cider, and then passing a second mug to Amber. “Bet Ash knows.”

“Ash knows a disturbing amount for a tree.” Amber chuckled, glancing over the assembly for him. She spotted him deep in conversation with a group of dignitaries, and shrugged again. “I'll ask him later.”

“Or you could just ask them. Now.” Wave suggested.

“No, no way.” Amber said quickly. “If they're not, that would be incredibly embarassing. Not interested.” She paused thoughtfully. “And speaking of embarassing, Ecchs is several seconds overdue on his mocking phone call this year. Wonder what's up?”

Instantly, her communicator buzzed. Amber and Wave shared a glance, as she dug it out of her pocket and fixed it to her ear. “I swear, he's watching us.”

“Could be. Spygor could be here.” Wave pointed out.

Amber considered that for a moment, then grimaced and twitched the comm on. “Patchwork Champions, Amber speaking.”

“Hello, Timebender! This is Doctor Ecchs speaking.” Amber rolled her eyes at the cheerfulness in her rival's voice. “Sorry I'm late calling, but we've just been having so much fun at our party that I completely lost track of the time. How's your party going?”

“Very well.” Amber said as calmly as she could. “Thank you for calling, Doctor. Have a good New Year.” She started to move to turn the comm off.

“Oh, I think I will. In fact, I've decided to start it early.”

Amber's handed hesitated a half-inch from the comm. “Sorry, what?”

“Heist. Now. I was thinking, oh I don't know, maybe just taking things over and seeing how far that gets me before someone stops me. Bet you can't.”

Amber gave Wave an incredulous look. “Doc, this is a major holiday. You can't launch a heist without advance warning. The fines…”

“I don't care about fines, Timebender.”

Abruptly, the lights went out in the square. A moment later, they came back on, then began to blink out rhythmically. As confused voices started to ask what was going on, Ecchs continued smoothly. “I've taken over the local power lines. Better hurry – who knows what's next.”

The line went dead. Amber ground her teeth, storming across the square in rapid-time to tap each of her companions on the shoulder. She skidded to a halt as the mayor interposed himself in her path. “Timebender! What's going on?”

“Doctor Ecchs is being a dick. As usual.” Timebender sighed. “Must have made a hell of a Christmas bonus, because he's decided to waste it on a New Year's Eve heist.”

“Ow.” Jhim winced. “The fines…”

“He doesn't care. Let's get moving.” As the team started into motion, Amber added with a wry smile, “At least we don't have to stick with the party.”

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