Countdown, Part Five: Buying Time

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(July 26th)

“Ecchs has taken the bait.” Danger Ace reported over the comm. “I sure hope that we have the location of his base, because we're out of time.”

“I am frankly astonished that it took him this long.” Leaning back in his seat, Chad was idly flicking sparks back and forth between his fingers.

“I'm not.” Nightshade smirked. “And I'm waiting for someone to say it.” The room fell silent. She looked around. “Oh, come on.”

Jhim smiled faintly. “I will. You're a genius, Nina.”

“Nightshade. Not Nina.” Nightshade answered, but with a smile of her own.

Lucky wasn't smiling. “I still hate this plan.” He muttered. “We've deliberately let Weltgeist turn into a threat to the world.”

“A threat that everyone can handle, no problem.” Nightshade reminded him. “Ecchs always thought of Ash as an individual, so I figured he wouldn't clue in that the big lugs would taint Weltgeist that way. Anyway, don't forget that Danger Ace's friends ran the numbers. As long as we can take out that narrative engine in the next week, Weltgeist will turn heroic again, at which point she can detonate her drones and return to normal. No sweat.”

“Some sweat.” Danger Ace said. “We're taking a big gamble with your plan. Has Spygor come through?”

“Absolutely. And you're not going to believe it.” Blastwave pressed some keys, sending the data to her boss. “I sure didn't.”

Danger Ace looked it over. “You're right. I don't believe it.” She said after a moment.

“Guaranteed. Our only problem now is spreading it to the other cells without the Antiheroes catching on.” Blastwave replied.

“I'll handle that. The Antiheroes may have infiltrated us, but two can play at that game.” Danger Ace said with a smile. “We won't have many cells for the attack, anyway. Intercontinental travel is beyond the majority of them. I'm guessing two or three smokescreen attackers, and Alpha and Beta teams attacking Mundi's compound directly. If we can neutralize Weltgeist and the Antiheroes, it should be enough.” She considered, then looked up. “We'll give it three more days. Weltgeist is starting to be pushed back, and is losing the metal supplies she needs to produce more drones. As we expected, she's responded by stepping up her absorption of Ash drones to compensate for the forces being destroyed. Once Ecchs is more fully committed, we move.”

“Understood. Beta Team out.” Blastwave shut off the comm, and turned to look at her team. “Alright, everyone. Three days. Get everything you need, because this could be ugly.”

As the others filed out of the room, Amber hung back, catching Blastwave's hand as she started past. “Three more days.” She said with a smile. “It's going to be nice to sleep in my own bed again.”

Blastwave didn't smile back. “If we win.” She reminded Amber.

“Oh, we're going to win.” Amber manuevered Wave to the nearest couch, and sat her down. “We are going to win because we have put too much time and effort into this to not win. We are going to win because Nina's plan to neutralize Ash actually worked, which is a sign from the heavens. We are going to win because Spygor is a freaking genius, speaking of miracles.”

“That I did not expect.” Wave admitted, leaning into Amber. She let herself smile, for just a moment. “He seems very happy to be included, too.”

“Poor guy. I should have arrested him once or twice, just so he'd feel like he was part of all that insanity.” Amber laughed.

Wave took a deep breath. “And what happens after that, Amber?”

There was a long pause. Amber looked down at Wave, nestled in the crook of her arm. “Not sure what you mean.”

“Really?” Wave said with a raised eyebrow. “In three days, if we win, Beta Team is dissolving. Patchwork City is no longer going to be a major hub of criminal activity. Malefico is going to be shut down by the Feds. Half of the SEA has been obliterated, and supercriminals have had months to entrench themselves across the planet. I'm going to be running from assignment to assignment for a very long time.” When Amber didn't answer, she pressed harder. “What are you going to be doing?”

“… I don't know.” Amber finally said. “Probably going to Sayleen. We don't know what's been happening over there. Jhim's been going quietly frantic. He never says anything, but I can see it in his eyes. They're going to need his help, and they might need ours too.”

“So. Where does that leave us?” Wave said softly.

“I don't know that either.” Amber answered. “I've never had an interplanetary relationship before.”

“Me neither.” Wave admitted. “Although I did have an interplanar one, once.” When Amber raised an eyebrow, she shrugged. “It was kind of complicated. Magic stuff.”

Amber nodded slowly. “I can tell you this much, Wave. We've survived everything that's been thrown at us so far. The Antiheroes, the Oligarchs, Rex Mundi… to hell with all of them. I'm not letting go of you that easy.”

“Yeah, it'll take more that successive near-apocalypses to shake me loose.” Wave laughed. “I mean, hell, I work for the SEA. We get three near-apocalypses a year. I think we're actually behind quota this year.” She tightened her grip on Amber's hand. “But this isn't going to be an easy fight, Amb. For the next three days… I want to spend every moment with you.”

“I think I can do that.” Amber said quietly, leaning in to give Wave a gentle kiss. “And we'll make every second count.”

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