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This story arc has been published as a novel!

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---

So Wet Have My Sleeves Become

Nereid held up roofs with pillars of water, halted the flight of chunks of pavement, stopped water mains from gushing into the combat zone, and lifted debris according to the direction of rescue workers, all with Sophie either over her shoulders in a fireman's carry or at her feet where she could protect her. She never had a free moment to turn her over to those rescue workers.

Pavement was disrupted for a block or two around the combat site, and that meant that buildings and their foundations were likely disrupted. Within about 3 blocks of the fight, most of the buildings were badly damaged, and windows were broken out to about 6 blocks. Small, flingable objects like cars and motorcycles had been thrown around by the vibrations and pavement disruption. Santa Ana was keeping the gas mains in check, while Nereid alone was keeping the water mains from bleeding out into a downtown-coating glacier.

The sun had long since set when the Ultimate landed next to her.

Nereid was too tired to be startled, but she did make an effort to focus on the superwoman. The Ultimate was shorter than she was, middle-aged, round, and had dark brown skin. She kept her hair in a close-clipped natural, like Simon's mom kept hers, though a little more squared-off on the sides. There were threads of silver laced through the black hair, though, unlike Professor Canis, and worn lines around the Ultimate's dark eyes. She was wearing a black and grey spandex outfit that covered all of her from the chin down.

The Ultimate cast a sharp gaze over her. "Nereid, right? One of Brainchild's teammates?"

Nereid nodded and scraped her straggling hair out of her face with one stiff, numb hand. She suddenly realized that she was freezing. She was soaking wet and shivering hard. Her brain -- which, she thought, was never sharp at the best of times -- felt like it was attempting to ford a river. "She used something to stop his winds, and then he looked at her and she just fell over. I tried to wake her, but it didn't work, so I kept her with me. Was that all right, even though it's cold? She was wearing her insulated uniform."

The Ultimate's grim face softened a little. "Just right." She bent and picked up Sophie effortlessly with one arm and extended the other to Nereid. "Let's get both of you to the hospital."

"I'm not hurt," Nereid said through teeth that started to chatter uncontrollably. "They might need me."

"They'll do all right without you now." The Ultimate carefully put an arm around her waist, and Nereid held on as they lifted into the air. "You did pretty well, Pacifica."

"Thanks," Nereid said, laying her head on the Ultimate's shoulder.

She must have slept some, because the next thing she knew, she was warm and dry and lying in a hospital bed. There was an IV in her arm.

Wire was sitting in a chair next to her, reading a book. Nereid squinted a little and saw that it was the Fat Lady's autobiography, On a Massive Scale.

When she moved her hands, she realized that a few of her fingers were bandaged. She stared at them, not comprehending.

"Frostbite," Wire said, lowering the book but leaving her thumb in it to mark her page. "Just a touch. You'll be all right in a day or so, they say."

"Oh," Nereid said, blinking at Wire. Then her brain engaged. "How is Soph-- Brainchild?"

Wire grimaced a little. "They're... not really sure what happened to her. She hasn't regained consciousness, and they can't find anything else wrong. Her EEG is... not normal. They won't tell me more than that."

The more Nereid woke up, the more wretched she felt: achy, hungry, and miserable. This news just added more misery, and she burst into tears.

"Hey," Wire said, looking concerned and leaning forward to take her hand. "Hey, don't cry. You'll get your bandages wet, and the nurses will have to change everything."

"Oh, like you care," Nereid said, not bothering to rein in the bitter edge, but not pulling her hand away either. Her muscles hurt too much. She tried to stop herself from leaking, though.

Wire put her book down, and said, "I deserve that."

Nereid looked at her, feeling a little wild-eyed. Had she ended up in some alternate reality? Her mom and dad had once; Dad didn't like to talk about what happened to him, but Mom had ended up a queen or something.

"Look," Wire said, staring down at Nereid's hand, "you did really good out there yesterday. It's all over the news. Your mom and dad have been just about fit to bust with pride." She looked up. "They're getting something to eat, by the way. I just stepped in so they could go out."

"Thanks," Nereid said. "Really?" Yesterday? How long had she slept?

"Really," Wire said. "Between you and Santa Ana, you stopped a much bigger disaster from happening. You kept the shelters from flooding in downtown, too."

"Oh," Nereid said. It had only made sense at the time to stop the water mains.

"The Ultimate said that maybe the Gold Stars need to update their files on you," Wire said. "She thinks your power is bigger than the review a year ago rated it."

Nereid blinked at that. Her rating had been a modest class 3, like her father's.

"Anyway," Wire said, "the team met, and we'd like you to stay as a permanent member." She squeezed Nereid's hand gently and released it.

The cynical part of Nereid's brain was apparently awake, because she wondered how much this reconsideration had to do with a combination of the news coverage and the Ultimate's comment. "So I'm useful now?" she said before thinking about it.

Wire had the grace to wince and blush. "I'm sorry about that."

Nereid made an effort to shrug casually and lie. "No biggie."

A silence stretched between them. Then the door opened, and Flo and Ebb came into the room.

Flo's face was wreathed in smiles as soon as she saw Nereid awake. "Sweetie!"

Ebb, as usual, was so moderate in his response as to be nearly unconscious. "Hon."

Wire got up hurriedly. "Well, I'll leave you all alone. Nereid, think about it, okay?" She flashed her charismatic smile around at the three of them and fled basely.

Flo descended upon Nereid with hugs and kisses, and eventually Ebb rubbed her shoulder affectionately. Nereid made an effort to focus on them and not think about the Ultimate, the Young Cosmics, or Sophie, and almost succeeded.

---

From Jude:

I think I've concluded my ChipIn experiment for now, and I want to thank everyone who donated for bonus episodes! If you feel like tossing some cash my way so I can buy a chai latte periodically, I certainly won't object. :) Please also keep commenting -- that's one of my biggest motivators! -- and clicking to vote for Wonder City Stories on Top Web Fiction, and recommending the stories, and everything else you all have been kind enough to do. WCS will continue to post every Monday as we continue the denouement of Volume 1.









Vote for us at Top Web Fiction!

Date: 2010-08-09 09:36 pm (UTC)
sythyry: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sythyry
Very nice. Saving people from the aftermath of a major superhero battle seems like a truly crucial part of the job, and one that I don't often see in comics.

Poor Nereid...

Date: 2012-01-27 11:11 pm (UTC)
the_leaky_pen: (Default)
From: [personal profile] the_leaky_pen
Agree on all counts with both you and Sythyry. Post-fight damage control is an important job and often ignored in hero books, which is annoying.

And Nereid definitely deserves better than she's getting.

Date: 2012-01-28 05:08 pm (UTC)
heavenscalyx: (Default)
From: [personal profile] heavenscalyx
Poor old Nereid.

Date: 2015-01-23 03:59 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I kind of wish Neried had just raised two middle fingers at Wired.

That unworthy bitch. :D

Love On a Massive Scale

Date: 2016-06-27 03:47 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
On a Massive Scale is such a perfect, hilarious, apt autobiography title on so many levels that I just had to leave this comment. Made my evening.

Re: Love On a Massive Scale

Date: 2016-06-27 07:12 pm (UTC)
heavenscalyx: (Default)
From: [personal profile] heavenscalyx
Thank you!

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