“I want to fly.”
Nathan was dead. That was the only thought that Lucy could lock onto, as the world came crumbling down around them. Far off, she heard Andrew scream, as shattered Akagari starliners rained down on the city. Her old friend did his best, trying to close the distance between them as the sky turned green and the stars winked out, but compared to the shattered fabric of reality around them, his ability to bend time was nothing. An eddy caught him up, unmade him in a moment, and Lucy couldn't even bring herself to notice. Nathan was dead, and she could only wait to join him.
Ahead of her, a bubble of blue light crackled and pulsed. For moments at a time, arcs of light lanced out, stabilizing the areas around them, then collapsed back into the bubble's heart. Inside, a team of strange superheroes looked out over the landscape. The strangers, Nathan had called them. Visitors from another world, a world that they claimed was intact. Not ruined by decades of successive alien invasions, shattered by nuclear detonations and mysterious plagues. For the world that they had described, the peace and prosperity, Lucy hated them. But Nathan had believed them, and he had convinced her to help them. Her luck, her powers, were the only chance that they had of dissolving this world and restoring the true one. Nathan had convinced her.
And now he was dead, moments before the world apart. A quiet corner of her soul was glad. He'd never been able to watch people suffer. The sounds of his world dying would have torn him apart. Lucy found a smile deep inside her, tentative, and raised her head to watch the world die.
“It's crazy, Nathan.” She had protested. “You don't have powers. What are you going to do, steal a Yocanu battlesuit? Leave the heroics to people like them. Keep yourself safe.”
“I can't sit and watch, Lucy.” He'd answered with one of his cocky smiles. She hated him for that smile, sometimes, for the easy way that he believed that everything would turn out for the best, but she nodded anyway. She didn't want to disappoint him, because he was the only good thing in this world. “Listen. Intrepid says that they can fix this, restore their world. Billions will never have died. We have to help them.”
“And then what happens to us?” She'd asked, solemnly. Nathan didn't answer. He didn't have to. He already knew.
Lucy shook her head, looking down at his body, cradled in her lap, as the moon warped and twisted, its shattered hulk mending and turning white as she watched. For a moment, the beauty of it caught her breath, and she started to whisper to Nathan, to wake him to see it. He would want to see that he was right.
She stopped herself just in time, gave up and watched in silence. The sky turned dark with night, the world dissolved. Lucy closed her eyes and waited for the end. She'd only come because of Nathan anyway.
She felt, rather than saw, the tingling across her spine. She felt Nathan's body dissolving through her fingertips, and she tried to pull herself after him, but something was holding her, forcing her away from him. She tried to open her eyes, but everything was darkness, and she felt her mind fall away. Faintly, she thought that it was over, at least.
“I want to fly.” They'd been alone on the rooftop, with the sun rising in the east. Nathan and Lucy had been out scavenging for food, trying to feed their ragged band of survivors, when a creature in the ruined street had caught their scent. It had been sheer luck that had allowed them to reach the fire escape and climb above its ability to follow, and now they sat and waited for it to become distracted and leave.
Lucy had turned to look at Nathan in surprise. “Fly?” She'd asked faintly. “Where?”
“Anywhere. Just feel the wind under me, feel free.” He'd looked down over the city. “Anywhere that isn't here.”
The darkness faded slowly. She frowned, reached down to hold Nathan's body again. It was gone.
Lucy's eyes snapped open. She was inside a building, some sort of storage room. Around her, she could see the fading outline of a sudden blue spike of energy that had struck her, pulled her along in the wake of the heroes like a barnacle on a boat. On the other side of the wall, she could faintly hear them speaking, congratulating each other and laughing as though a world hadn't just died around them. She supposed, hollowly, that they must be used to it.
She was still alive.
She collapsed to the ground, unnoticed by her destroyers as they cheerfully left, their mission complete. None of them considered the possibility that someone might have hitched a ride on their safety bubble. The chances against it were astronomical. Just her luck.
She stood slowly, waited for them to vanish into the distance. The last thing that she wanted to deal with right now was their smug moralizing, their heavy-handed attempts to help her. More than anything, she wanted to see this new world that Nathan's death had bought. See if it had been worth it.
The building was deserted, a grocery store closed for the night. Lucy grabbed some food without a second thought, glancing at the bounty she'd only heard of before before slipping out a side door and leaving it unlocked. Let someone else deal with it.
As she vanished into the night, two figures watched her. One spoke. “Shouldn't we pursue her, your Majesty?”
“Not yet, Psiborg.” Rex Mundi answered. “Give her a month or two to see the world. I've got a good feeling about this one, but she needs to mourn for a bit, and to get angry. Trust me. It won't take long, and then we'll approach her.”
“I only ask because your proposed army of Lucky Ladd alternates is currently…”
“I'm aware of the issues I've been having.” Mundi snapped. His calculations called for the recruitment of twenty Ladds by the end of 2009. Currently, he had one. “She'll do, trust me.”
“I always trust you.” Psiborg said, (somewhat inaccurately, Mundi felt). “I only offer my concerns.”
“Offer them later. The plan goes ahead.” Mundi triggered his teleporter, leaving the alleyway. Everything was falling into place. Everything except the alternates.
He needed them soon.