Those Christmas Lights
„So Patch, you think we got away with it?“ Pride questioned hopefully, making the other guy smile.
„They can’t touch us,“ Patch answered, for the first time in weeks feeling self-assured. They’d got through to Citynet and at least given the Technos a good run for their money, even if Amber’s broadcast was cut short and manipulated in the end. But now, their propaganda machine was going in full force, creating actual damage and the Mall Rats had been foresightful enough not to leave any trails.
„Good, because I need more posters. I think our little campaign is starting to work.“ Pride nodded, his voice full of optimism and tired as Patch was, he felt the same way. Tomorrow would be another day full of hard work, hiding evidence in case the Technos would come raiding the Mall again, but in the end it would be worth it. They were going to bring Ram down and make him pay for all he had done.
It was a big maybe, but Patch thought perhaps he could even find some information about his brothers in one of those computer networks, once he had full access to them. He was definitely going to try. He had always been the one to take care of those two, he couldn’t stop now.
„I know it is.“ Jay’s voice coming from behind them very nearly made everyone in the cafe jump.
„I hope I’m not interrupting,“ the ever polite Techno continued. He and Ebony had turned up seemingly out of nowhere, but there was no threat in their demeanour.
„Have you left the Technos?“ Pride got onto his feet. Was their rebellion gaining more momentum? He hadn’t even hoped to see the disc with the evidence work this quickly, but Jay’s next words made it obvious it had:
„No – not officially. I think it’s better if I stay on the inside, don’t you?“
“We’re gonna work together, with you guys, to run Mister Megabyte out of town.” - Ebony smirked, announcing their decision.
„That’s great news,“ Salene looked relieved, but Pride still felt this was too good to be true:
„Won’t you be missed?“
Ebony and Jay exchanged knowing glances, clearly in a good mood and Jay dismissed Pride’s concern: „I think Ram has other things on his mind at the moment.“
„It won’t last for long though, so we need a plan of action,“ Ebony cut any further explanations short. She was in no mood to discuss Ram’s motives and moods more than she had to, trying to keep him at some distance was proving difficult. This was why she had told Jay about the Mall. Tonight was their chance to stay here and not get questioned by Ram later. Working on a way to bring Ram down was going to be a big project and the sooner they started, the better.
Patch had left the cafe, suddenly feeling like an unused accessory. Pride and Jay were focused on dissecting Ram’s motives, at times clashing with their own ideas on how this city was meant to be led in the future, but this didn’t bring them any closer to actually working out a plan how to overthrow Ram, despite Salene’s efforts to keep the boys on track. After about half an hour of this, Patch had excused himself. He didn’t think anyone even noticed him leaving, but they would notice his work tomorrow for sure.
Most doorways were already decorated and Patch now stood on a chair, trying to secure the Christmas lights onto the Phoenix statue, but it had been easier to plan in theory. Still, he was determined to get it done before morning, so when the kids wake up, they’d have a real Christmas surprise.
Ebony’s laughter startled him, enough to make him lose his balance and he had to grab a hold of the statue to stay on his feet.
„What the heck are you doing?“ she sounded amused.
Patch blinked, confused. „What’s so funny?“
„You are, with those wires. I’m beginning to doubt if those Mall Rats had any sense about them when they hired you to do their tech stuff,“ Ebony snickered.
„Don’t you people celebrate Christmas? It’s … traditions and all.“ Patch fumbled to find the words to explain himself, Ebony’s piercing gaze made him feel uncomfortable. He was certain she was sizing him up.
„It’s a nice change, alright? Knowing Ram could off us all if something goes wrong with your plan… doesn’t really help me sleep at night. So I’m doing this. It’s relaxing. Something to make the kids happy, too. And Christmas is a beautiful season, used to be. I’m just trying to bring a little bit of it back.“ Patch finished abruptly, suddenly aware of his rambling and surprised Ebony had even stayed to listen. People like her usually didn’t bother, but she was still wearing that strange expression on her face, an almost-smile.
„Maybe you should try that, too,“ he blurted out, uncomfortable as always by the prolongued silence, but as soon as he spoke the words, by the change in Ebony’s expression, Patch knew he’d made a mistake by suggesting this.
„You’re a strange little cookie, aren’t you? Beautiful season… I’m more busy running this city rather than think about holidays. You think I’d stand a chance against guys like Ram if I went to the streets to hand out chocolates or put up Christmas lights with the Technos? Leaders are meant to be respected. Sentimental values aren’t going to earn me any of that.“ Ebony shook her head, her tone suddenly somber as she looked around, taking in the decorations Patch had managed to hang up.
Christmas was something that belonged to the old days, her past, like school and living as a family with her sisters. It was all different now. She might share the building with those two, but she was alone now. She hadn’t observed Christmas for years. Maybe they did, here, in the Mall. Those Mall Rats were… different in that way - so damn positive in their outlook of life.
„Yes. You’re right. Sorry,“ Patch’s mumbling made Ebony snap out of her reverie and she quirked an eyebrow at him. Why was that guy even apologizing? It was totally unnecessary and sort of sweet. She could tell he meant it and that somehow deflated her wish to argue or defend her reasons.
And who said she had to put up decorations, to celebrate, anyway?
„You know, I think I’ll take your advice… about celebrating Christmas. Actually, I am going to make a gift for myself.“ A genuine little smile appeared on Ebony’s lips. „I can think of quite a few relaxing activities other than putting up those Christmas lights, maybe I’ll give you a tip on these someday. “
Ebony enjoyed the brief moment of confusion that registered on Patch’s face, followed by him focusing on the light chain intently again. She couldn’t be sure in this light if he was blushing, but by the apparent loss of ability to speak, she judged Patch had probably figured out what she meant and this put Ebony in an even better mood. She usually had to watch her actions every minute of the day and joking around with those Techno guards was out of the question, but this guy, he was totally harmless and she could let loose a little. There was only one other man in the world she could be herself with and that was Jay. She was going to find him and make them both a nice Christmas gift tonight. Salene had been ever so kind and offered they stayed the night at the Mall. Why not?
There was plenty of time to get back to the Hotel in first light. Like Jay had said, Ram was occupied with other activities and she was certain there were no Techno cameras in the Mall. This was the perfect opportunity.
„Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go freshen up a little. Merry Christmas!“