Aftermath, Part Three: Facing Losses

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(March 27th)

“Lucky, can I talk to you for a minute?” Amber asked, looking at her friend. Lucky looked up from the wobbling table at which he sat.

“I don't know, I've got a hot solitaire game going on.” He said wryly. “What's up?”

Amber walked over and grabbed the room's second chair, dropping it opposite Lucky and sitting down. “How are you doing?”

“Not very well, actually.” Lucky admitted, looking down at the spread. “Turns out I'm actually kind of crap at solitaire. Who knew?”

“Not what I meant.” Amber answered evenly.

“How should I be, Amber?” Lucky asked softly, not looking up from the table. “I'm dead weight on this team, and you know it. Hazard at least has months of tactical information and a robot suit – once the Witch Doctor finishes debugging it to get out Ecchs' traps, anyway. I've got some basic tactical training, enabling me to hold my own against a typical mugger – provided he's not armed, anyway.” He moved a card sullenly.

“You seemed energetic enough this morning.”

“I was running on leftover anger.” Lucky snapped. “Reality has set in. You might have a chance. I'm done.” He turned over a card, looking at the table, then swept the spread into a pile with a sudden vicious movement. “My luck's gone, Amber! Ecchs hijacked my powers to make his superweapon, he killed Nadia so that it would work, and there's nothing left that I can do!”

“Lucky…” Amber started. Lucky cut her off.

“Don't.” He shook his head. “Don't you dare tell me not to give up. This isn't giving up, it's recognizing the facts. What can I do?”

“I don't know.” Amber admitted. “But we've been talking about it. From what Hazard and Wydemere understand about the Alpha Team, the Patchwork Champions should still have residual resistance to Ecch's narrative modifications. It's why he wanted us dead. Just having you on the team, confident, will make it more likely that we'll succeed.”

“Great. So don't feel bad, Lucky, or everyone dies. Very helpful.” Lucky muttered, gathering up the cards.

Amber slammed her hands down on the table. “Do you think you're the only one who feels responsible?!” She yelled. “I can't sleep at night! I was the team leader, I should have been able to protect her, and I couldn't!” She leaned back in her chair. “Neither of us could.”

“I brought her onto the team.” Lucky finally said. “You said it was a bad idea, and I convinced you it would be good for her.” He chuckled unhappily. “Good for her. What a laugh.”

“It was good for her.” Amber and Lucky looked over in surprise as Jhim walked through the door, dropping his hat on the edge of the table. “She loved being a hero, making a difference. Even when she lost her powers, she was willing to stay a secretary just to be close to it.” He looked over at the other two. “She talked about it sometimes, you know. What her life was like before, how she was so desperate to matter that she stayed with Don. You gave her a reason to matter. Don't take it away now that she's gone.”

Lucky swallowed heavily. “Everything's changed, Jhim. I was always safe. My friends were always safe. But now anyone could…”

“No.” Jhim said firmly. “We're not going to die. Our friends are not going to die. We're going to keep them safe, and then they'll keep their friends safe, and we will just keep expanding that net until everyone is safe and Ecchs is gone.” He nodded once. “Do you think Nadia would believe that we would surrender? That we would die?”

“No.” Admitted Amber, smiling despite her self.

“Damned right she wouldn't.” Jhim made a fist. “So neither will I. We are going to make it through this, no matter what happens, and to hell with Doctor Ecchs.” He looked over at Lucky. “You need a way to matter? Just keep fighting, and I'll equip you. Whatever it takes to keep Nadia's memory alive.”

“Whatever it takes.” Lucky nodded slowly, looking down at the cards and then up at the others. “Alright, Jhim, I'm in. When did you become a motivational speaker, anyway?”

“Practice.” Jhim shrugged.

“You almost never speak.” Amber said bemusedly.

“Practice.” Jhim repeated firmly.

“Sure, whatever.” Amber shook her head. “I need to get some food. You guys coming?”

Jhim nodded, but Lucky held up a hand. “I'll be with you in a minute. Need to clean up these cards.”

“Alright, we'll be in the kitchen.” Amber said, ducking through the door. Jhim followed behind her. Lucky waited a moment, then started gathering up the cards.

“It's not going to be that easy to push forwards, Nadia.” He thought to himself. “But I'll try not to mess up again. I'm sorry.”

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