“Graduation Day” is a dimension-traveling plot arc that took place in early summer of 2011. As the senior students of Young Freedom prepare to graduate from Claremont Academy, the detonation of reality-destroying bombs across several universes threatens to drag the entire multiverse into the Terminus. Saved by a timely warning, Young Freedom travels across dimensions and through time to find and disarm the bombs, a journey that culminates in a showdown with Omega on a world already destroyed by the Terminus.
(For the members of Young Freedom, the events of Graduation Day spread over several days and nights, but thanks to the exigencies of time travel, the entire arc took place on the morning of June 1, 2011 in the Prime timeline.)
- Travis Hunter (Midnight I)
- Rick Lucas
- Martha Lucas
- Quo-Dis (Ultiteen)
- Dr. Verrill H. Archeville
- Radio Freedom (Nightlife, Cobalt Ranger, Wonder, Edge, Sage, DJ Breakdown)
- Young Freedom 2035 (Lucky Strike, Psilent, Vril Knight, Amaryllis, Fusion II)
- Red Falcon
- Physician Friendly
- Faith Martel (Seraph)
Noise of Thunder
It is the morning of June 1, graduation day for the Class of 2011 at Claremont Academy. In the dorm, Young Freedom teammates Mark and Erin share a moment of commiseration over not having family coming to watch them graduate, since Erin's family is dead and Mark's parents have been absent from Earth Prime for many months. Down on the lawn, Corbin flirts with his girlfriend Quo-Dis as the two help set up chairs for the ceremony. Trevor drives his grandfather Travis Hunter to the school, where he meets up with Eve, who has just regained her ability to speak after her traumatic empowering. Travis knew Eve's grandmother, herself a superhero, and the two become acquainted while the rest of Young Freedom gradually gathers together. The seniors discuss their future plans and Corbin presents everyone with framed prints of a drawing he made of the team.
Suddenly, Martha Lucas appears from thin air and warns the team that they must be ready immediately or it will be too late. As the sky darkens and the earth trembles, Young Freedom prepares for action, but before they can do anything, the world is awash in a curtain of black flame. Edge tosses up a reality forcefield around the team, leaving them to watch helplessly as the world, then the universe, then all the universes are devoured by the fires of the Terminus.
After a brief period of unconsciousness, the team wakes up in what appears to be the Lucas house, though it has been turned on its side and they are all laying on one wall of Martha's studio. The members of Young Freedom who participated in the last round of Lucas Family hijinks (House of L) are very angry with Martha and Rick Lucas, who apparently saw this coming and did not intervene soon enough. Corbin is agonized over the loss of Quo-Dis, who was supervising evacuations and out of range of the forcefield, while Eve tries to cope with the sudden psychic shock of a thousand billion deaths. Travis Hunter, who was caught up along with the teenagers, takes a moment to regret how far Rick Lucas has fallen from his father's legacy. When Erin puts a fist through the wall in frustration, they realize that outside the house is nothing but empty void.
Rick absorbs the anger and frustration directed at him, but insists that it is not too late, that he has a plan by which the multiverse can still be saved. With the help of a friend, he has isolated the four universes where reality bombs were placed, and can send Young Freedom back through time and out through space to disarm them. These universes are all linchpins in their own way, and if even one bomb detonates, the results could be catastrophic. With further questioning, Rick's “friend” reveals himself: it is Erin's pet cat Oliver. Although before this point only Eve knew of Oliver's great intelligence, it quickly becomes obvious that he is the brains of the operation. He quickly explains what the team must do and where they must go, but there isn't much time for explanations. The agents of the Terminus are seeking out residual pockets of reality like the one they are in now. If that pocket is snuffed out, all hope will be lost.
The four worlds the team must save are:
- Earth-J-Nazi-1: Commonly known as Erde, a timeline where the Nazis won World War II and the United States is an occupied and subjugated nation. Several members of Young Freedom visited Erde in 2009 on a school trip.
- Earth-M-Lucas-1: An alternate dimension created by Rick Lucas to allow him to fix all the problems he perceived in the world. This timeline briefly supplanted Earth Prime in summer of 2010 before being undone, but not before it had taken root in the multiversal structure.
- Earth-C-Future-2 A timeline where the linear passage of time is accelerated, whereby people who are teenagers or young adults on Earth Prime are substantially older in this universe.
- Earth-Z-Omega-1 A near-Prime timeline that was destroyed in 2007 by a virus released by Physician Friendly and the forces of the Terminus. Wander's home timeline.
Travis Hunter elects to stay in the reality bubble with Oliver and the Lucases to avoid slowing Young Freedom down. With a wave of his hand, Rick Lucas sends the team to save the multiverse.
The End of the Beginning
Young Freedom arrives on Erde at night, in the ruins of a North Bay home belonging to a Jewish couple who are neighbors to the Hunter family. Midnight recognizes where they are, as well as the fact that these ruins seem to be only a few years old, rather than relics of a decades-old attack. Outside, they see the Hunter Estate being surrounded by Nazi tanks and helicopters. It is clear that this is Midnight I's last stand against the invading forces, and despite their urgent mission, the team can't just stand by and do nothing. They go into action and defeat the first wave of Nazis to buy Midnight I some time. During the attack, Midnight II displays a brand-new power by turning into smoke and vanishing midair, much to Wander's chagrin. After the fight, Sage probes one of the captured soldiers for information on the reality bomb, then, with a somewhat dubious invitation from Midnight I, everyone enters Midnight Manor through the wall-clock door in the Hunter Estate.
The Erde 1953 version of Midnight Manor is much different from its Prime counterpart, lined with Grue armor plating and bristling with weaponry, it is part bunker for Midnight and part reliquary for the dozens of dead heroes whose effects and photographs are saved here. Midnight is the last of the American heroes, and it appears that his time is running out quickly. He reveals that Rick Lucas told him they were on their way, and offers to lead them to Von Braun Island, where the reality bomb is being kept and studied by the Nazis. Midnight II takes him up on the offer, and the team promises to cause plenty of collateral damage to the Nazis, even though they cannot stay long enough to help more. They travel through Freedom City in the Night Cruiser, passing through checkpoints with the aid of false papers and Midnight I's knowledge of German. When they reach Von Braun Island, he drops the team off and goes to create a diversion while they sneak inside.
No sooner does Young Freedom penetrate the building than they are confronted by Doktor Verrill Herman Archeville, Nazi superscientist and, on Earth Prime, grandfather to Doktor Victor Archeville. He sets four Nazi supervillains on them, Red Eagle, Madame Blitz, The Owl and Sea-Wolf, obviously expecting them to be an insurmountable challenge to the mostly unpowered American resistance. The Nazis are totally unprepared for the force they are confronted with, and in moments the four villains are neutralized and Wander is squeezing information about the bomb out of Archeville. Archeville implies that he knows at least something about the forces in play, and that he considers himself to be on the side of the Terminus. He is rewarded with a bat to the head as Midnight and Edge disarm the bomb while the others keep watch. They extract a cosmic rod from the bomb and tuck it aside in case it could be useful later.
Just as the bomb is disarmed, The Owl attempts another attack on Young Freedom, but is dispatched from behind by Midnight I. Wander gives him Archeville to use as a hostage to secure his escape, while Cobalt Templar tells him the location of a power ring he knows about that could help the resistance. Even as Rick Lucas' teleportation effect kicks in, the Nazis enter with guns blazing and Midnight I retreats to the shadows.
Young Freedom materializes on a sunny afternoon in what appears to be the mid 1970s. It quickly becomes apparent, though, that the year is 2011, and this is Earth-M-Lucas-1. The team is mistaken by a police officer for a team of local troublemakers known as Counter-Freedom, and are soon confronted by their in-universe counterparts. The white-bread Young Freedom of their last visit has been updated to a funkadelic collection of disco-themed heroes who now call themselves Radio Freedom. Though several of the codenames have changed (Wonder for Wander, Nightlife for Midnight, Cobalt Ranger for Cobalt Templar), the only change in the roster between universes is the retention of “DJ Breakdown,” where on Prime that notable had been ejected from the team in 2010. After a bit of initial friction, Radio Freedom agrees to help their counterparts locate and disarm the bomb planted in their reality. As they head to Claremont to regroup, the universal counterparts compare life stories.
From Claremont, the united teams go to ASTRO Labs, where DJ Breakdown is a junior staff member, having failed to make it big in music. The reality bomb was discovered and brought here for study, theoretically putting it in an ideal position for disarmament. The moment they begin, however, DJ Breakdown begins playing his guitar, ensnaring his own teammates in a mind control effect. He reveals that he is aware of the origin of his timeline in the madness of one rogue hero, and declares his intention to allow the Terminus to destroy this world in the hopes that he will be handed another by his new master, Omega. Under his control, the members of Radio Freedom begin to attack Young Freedom. The battle is joined, and it seems that the members of Radio Freedom, although mind-controlled, are fighting as best they can not to attack. In a moment of ironic justice, Sage picks up a luxury car and smashes it into DJ Breakdown, echoing the attack that got Breakdown of Earth Prime thrown off Young Freedom. Midnight uses a device to nullify the sound in the air around DJ Breakdown, snapping his mind control and releasing Radio Freedom from thrall. The combined efforts of Cobalt Templar, Edge and Wander put DJ Breakdown down for the count.
With the fight over, Radio Freedom imprisons their former comrade while Midnight disarms the second bomb. The EML1 team is clearly rattled by the defection, but offer their thanks to Young Freedom for stepping in to save the day. Since Rick Lucas' teleport is not immediately forthcoming, both teams return to Claremont for food and rest. Wander replaces her damaged uniform with an unfortunately disco-fied version, then she and Midnight spend a quiet evening together, knowing that soon they'll be traveling to her dead homeworld. Cobalt Templar and Cobalt Ranger talk about Quo-Dis, Templar giving his counterpart dating advice to help him work up the nerve to ask her out. The two Sages continue a discussion from earlier about costumes and attitudes, coming to a cautious agreement, if not real friendship. Edge, left to his own devices, goes to bed and wakes up to find Rick Lucas sitting by his bed. Rick tells his son how proud he is, then passes Mark a mysterious artifact for safekeeping before teleporting the group to the next world.
Leaves From the Vine
The team materializes once again on a sunny day in Freedom City, this time in the year 2035. Not much seems different until they begin to notice memorial banners marked with the date “6/21/34” and the motto “Never Forget.” Closer inspection reveals that while the buildings in downtown Freedom City are beautiful and adorned with the mark of a futuristic technology, they are almost all badly damaged and under repair. Before they can investigate, Young Freedom is confronted by a native super team, this one composed mostly of familiar-looking strangers. Cobalt Templar recognizes one young woman as his future daughter, Jessica (Vril Knight) who he met on a previous trip to his own future. This futuristic Young Freedom is led by a young powerhouse named Lucky Strike, who introduces her teammates Vril Knight, Amaryllis, Fusion and Midnight. The new Midnight appears uncomfortable at the introduction and requests to be called Psilent “while he's here.” Lucky Strike explains that they have been briefed about the Prime team's mission and are ready to help.
Wander, one of the few Claremont students to be fully privy to the history of the time-displaced student Zephyr, notices similarities in that story to this reality, and asks if any of them knew her. It comes out that this is likely Zoe Harris' home timeline, and the disaster the city is recovering from is the same one that she raced into the past trying to prevent. Lucky Strike reveals that she was briefed by her grandfather, Rick Lucas, which causes Mark a moment of consternation. Midnight and Sage, trained observers both, begin to realize that Lucky Strike is the child of this universe's Mark Lucas and Erin White, while Psilent is almost surely the result of a genetic union between Trevor Hunter and Eve Martel. Amaryllis is a known quantity, already born and named on Prime, with Fusion almost certainly the legacy of her superheroing mother. There's not much time to consider any of that, though, since the third reality bomb is already being held in containment at Freedom Hall, waiting for disarmament. The two teams travel there via teleport beacon, arriving in a Freedom Hall rotunda that has been painted with a memorial to the heroes who died in the 2034 attack. Of the original two iterations of Young Freedom, Wander and Edge were the only survivors.
Despite the quick action of the united Young Freedom teams, they reach the underground bunker just in time to see the reality bomb being stolen by a group of T-Baby nationalists called The Wolfpack. The Young Freedom of 2035 have dealt with this group before and with Midnight's help are able to track them to their headquarters on an unfinished nuclear fusion reactor situated on an artificial island. The teams teleport there, into the middle of an evacuation scene. The fusion reactor is about to collapse and release waves of deadly radiation if no one stops it. The Wolfpack confronts the massed Young Freedom teams, only to immediately surrender and beg for help in saving their own lives. They tell the team that they'd been deceived by their leader into believing that the reality bomb was a weapon intended to wipe out all T-Babies, and had stolen it in self-defense. The moment they had the bomb in hand, they'd realized it was a creation of pure Terminus energy itself, at which point their leader had blasted one member of the Wolfpack into the fusion reactor and teleported away. Not only did that blast destabilize the fusion core, it made a huge monster out of the hapless Wolfpack technician, who is now attempting to destroy everything in sight.
With so many concurrent threats, the two Young Freedoms split up into groups. While much of the New Young Freedom handles the evacuation, Psilent accompanies Midnight and Sage to deal with the reactor while Edge, Wander, Lucky Strike, Cobalt Templar and Vril Knight all team up to fight the altered T-Baby. With the T-Baby subdued, Lucky Strike takes a moment to warn her parents not to get together, because things did not work out well for them in her dimension. She is cagey, but Mark hears enough to realize he wouldn't like himself in this universe. Vril Knight, on the other hand, assures Cobalt Templar that things between him and Quo-Dis in this world were good, and he shouldn't be afraid. Meanwhile, in the reactor core, Sage uses her telekinetic abilities to stabilize the reactor, exhausting work even for someone who hasn't spent several days fighting her way from dimension to dimension. With the reactor stabilized, Midnight disarms the third bomb, ending the threat to this universe. There is just time for a brief goodbye in which Midnight and Sage comfort and encourage their orphaned future offspring before Rick Lucas' teleportation effect kicks in. Young Freedom is swept away once more, this time coming out in the path of danger as the Space Needle threatens to collapse directly on top of them!
The Earth Died Screaming
As the Space Needle collapses, the members of Young Freedom scatter, using reflexes, powers or luck to avoid serious damage from falling debris. When the dust settles, they find themselves on Earth-Z-Omega-1, just a few days before the start of their journey. This time, instead of being deposited in Freedom City, they are in Erin's hometown, Seattle. This world is not as dead as it once was, for the team can see a fight playing out in the sky high above them. One figure seems to prevail, but then crashes to Earth as well, very near Young Freedom. They race to the scene to find a grievously injured Furion and his sentient hovercycle, wounded and exhausted after fighting Omegadrones over Seattle. Midnight is able to stabilize the Furion, who identifies himself as Red Falcon, and his cycle companion as Redbird. He tells the team that Omega has co-opted all of the East Coast, including Freedom City, and to even approach will be to court grave danger. For the moment, though, none of them are in any condition to fight, exhausted, bruised and dispirited. Redbird is also in need of substantial repairs from an expert mechanic.
Wander warns everyone not to enter any of the nearby buildings, then takes off for parts unknown, promising to return shortly. Midnight is needed to repair Redbird's systems, but is able to transfer his knowledge into Sage to let her take over repairs while he follows Wander with help from Edge's teleportation. Erin and Trevor wind up at Erin's home, which is desolate and weatherbeaten after years of complete neglect. Erin, who has not seen her home since the beginning of the outbreak that destroyed her world, is looking for clues to her father's fate. Trevor investigates and realizes that Roger White did not die of the flu, but instead committed suicide after sending his family to safety. Erin, while still grieving, is relieved to know that at least he did not suffer as she'd feared. She collects several mementos from her home and puts them in a bag, then she and Trevor go to find camping supplies before returning to the group.
With Redbird repaired, the team makes camp and settles in for the night. Redbird tests various people and decides that Midnight has the appropriate fast-twitch muscle reflexes to adequately pilot the Furion technology if necessary. Everyone beds down except Wander, who stands watch until the next morning when they wake and plan a strategy to travel underwater to approach Freedom City unseen while Sage provides psychic jamming and Midnight obscures electronic detectors. Redbird is large enough to hold all of them at once, leaving only the question of how to destroy enough of Freedom City to disrupt EZO1's link to the Terminus. Edge claims that he can and will destroy the entire city with his powers once the last bomb is disarmed. That settled, they depart.
There Won't Be A Next Time
Red Falcon and Redbird carry Young Freedom all the way to the edge of Freedom City, traveling by water or under psychic cover. Once airborne over the city, they see that it has been totally overcome and altered by the Terminus to the point of being unrecognizable. Freedom Hall, where the bomb is located, is surrounded by thousands of Omegadrones. Wander leaps straight into the middle of the pack and begins fighting, while the others fight from the air. In moments, a path is cleared into the building. Young Freedom runs in, while Red Falcon and Redbird stay behind to keep up the fight. Inside, they find a laboratory set up by Physician Friendly, the creator of the virus that destroyed EZO1 in the first place. He appears to have been unprepared for Young Freedom's speed and is flat-footed and alone. As Cobalt Templar investigates the contents of several large caskets around the room and Midnight approaches the reality bomb, Wander drives her broken bat through the sadistic physician's skull, killing him instantly. The caskets he'd probably planned on opening contain zombified versions of someone important to each member of the team: Quo-Dis, Martha Lucas, Faith Martel, Travis Hunter, and a zombified version of Trevor as well.
Though the members of Young Freedom are appalled and disturbed by the scene, that does not stop them from quickly taking on the zombies. Cobalt Templar is especially affected by the sight of his zombified love, but he proves his mettle by recovering and using his powers to heal a badly injured Sage. The team destroys all the zombies, then finds Red Falcon and Redbird still alive, though in need of healing as well. With all the reality bombs disarmed and the apparently ranking Annihilist executed, Young Freedom's work seems to be done. They leave Freedom Hall with the nagging sense that despite the grueling battles of the past three days, it was all just a bit too easy. Even as Midnight warns the others of a trap, the air is suddenly black and red with Omegadrones as the Lord of the Terminus himself descends in front of them and demands to have words with them. Behind him, the air seems to rip apart as the Doom Coil begins to form, eating away at the world around them as it twists and grows.
With no other options, Young Freedom falls back on the tried-and-true strategy of refuge in audacity. Without so much as a pause, Wander leaps in to attack Omega, leaving herself vulnerable by devoting all her strength to landing a bare-knuckled blow on his armor. She hits directly in the glowing center of his armor, driving him back a single step as the massed Omegadrones rain fire and energy bolts down on her. Even with all her power and training, it's obvious she can do nothing without the joint efforts of Young Freedom. Edge steps forward, calling out encouragement to his friends while Cobalt Templar uses his ring to create a perfect sword made of pure energy and passes it to Wander. Midnight blankets the drones in mist to keep them from seeing or aiming, then begins assembling a device of his own invention. It all seems to be for naught as Omega blasts a defenseless Wander with a bolt of pure entropy… until the acrobatic Sage intervenes, drawing the power-seeking bolt into pursuing her instead, even though it will surely be fatal when it hits her.
As Young Freedom faces off with Omega, Red Falcon slips the sphere containing Redbird's mechanical consciousness out of the bike and passes it to Edge. Shouting defiance in the best tradition of the Furions, he then rides the bike straight into the fires of the Doom Coil as it forms, disrupting it and buying time for the others to continue their fight. With sword in hand, Wander leaps for the Lord of the Terminus, stabbing so deeply into his armor that it begins to disintegrate around him while he screams for his followers to kill her. Cobalt Templar joins Wander in the attack, using his own sword to batter at Omega while Edge scours Omegadrones from the sky as fast as they can pour in. Sage is still keeping just ahead of Omega's horrific entropy weapon, but at any moment, a single slip could mean doom. Midnight suddenly steps back into the fray, armed with the device he'd been working on: a modified railgun that shoots not bullets, but cosmic rods. Aiming at the breaks in Omega's armor, he shoots all four rods deep into the tyrant's body, a mortal wound. The team watches as the rods ignite and burn Omega to ashes, leaving only charred armor behind.
There is no time to savor victory, though, as the world continues to char and collapse around them. Millions of Omegadrones are still bearing down, while the fires of the Coil eat away at what was once Freedom City. All at once, Rick Lucas is there with them, shoving everyone but Edge back through a dimensional portal to safety while he and his son remain behind to seal up the holes in the multiverse. In moments, Young Freedom is back on an intact Earth Prime, standing on the steps of a Freedom Hall that shows not the slightest sign of disturbance, much less complete destruction. Jubilant to be alive, everyone celebrates for a few minutes, until Mark reappears. He informs them that the holes are patched, and that Rick Lucas has elected to take Earth-Z-Omega-1 into the Zero Zone and hold it there himself forever, to keep Earth Prime safe from another attack from that direction. Moments later, the charred armor of Omega falls out of a final portal, the only evidence of their amazing story.
Summa Cum Laude
Back on Earth Prime, Young Freedom learns that graduation exercises were canceled for the day when the five of them apparently disappeared into thin air just before the ceremony. No one else remembers the end of the world, just a moment of darkness and shaking, which is probably just as well. Redbird comes back to life and begins speaking from inside Erin's backpack, asking for Midnight. With Red Falcon dead, Trevor is more than willing to take on responsibility for the alien AI the Furion left behind. Before the debriefing sessions, everyone is reunited with their loved ones, even Oliver, who seems content to be silent for the moment. Corbin is desperately happy to see Quo-Dis again, while Trevor tells Travis about everything that happened during the mission and Mark comforts his mother. Despite everything that happened in the past, Mark's friends rally around him and offer condolences for his father. Rick Lucas had his moments of villainy, but he died a hero saving the multiverse, and that makes up for a lot.
Unfortunately, the Freedom League is not as willing to forgive and forget, and while they do not precisely disbelieve Young Freedom's account of all that happened, several of them seem convinced that the entire business was an illusion created by Rick Lucas. The chestplate of Omega is an impressive bit of evidence, but even that can be explained away. In the end, it's hard to decide what the League actually believes and to what extent. Frustrated and angry, Mark teleports away with his mother, leaving the rest of the team to make their own way home. They step outside and encounter Hope, a Claremont exchange student originally from Erde. Rather than her usual costume of fatigues and antique guns, today she is dressed in a trenchcoat and fedora reminiscent of Midnight I's costume, but made of the same glowing energy that powers Corbin's ring. No matter what the League believes, the actions of Young Freedom have apparently made a number of substantial differences.
With that bit of encouraging news, the members of Young Freedom disperse to their various homes, or to each others' homes. Graduation is postponed but takes place a week later. All of the graduating Young Freedom seniors are awarded the Summa Cum Laude designation for their displayed mastery of the school's teachings.
The events of Graduation Day led directly or indirectly to a number of changes in Freedom City and its heroes.
- Wander's cat Oliver revealed his true nature as an interstellar operative who had cultivated her and given her extra powers in order to allow her to fight Omega. When she elects to remain on Earth rather than to carry on the fight in the multiverse, he removes the powers and departs, leaving her with his son Charlie to keep her company.
- Upon seeing Omega's armor and hearing of his destruction, Dr. Archeville's evil alter-ego takes overt control of his body, leading to the devastating villainy of ArchEvil.
- Midnight II adopts the Furion AI pilot Redbird, and in the way of Furion equipment, she adopts a persona more copacetic to his personality. Midnight adapts a number of his vehicles to accommodate the AI, and she begins assisting him in his work.
- After their trial by fire against the Terminus, and with the other members of Young Freedom graduated, Sage and Cobalt Templar assume leadership of Young Freedom and recruit other members to fill out the roster again.