House of L
“House of L” is an alternate universe plot-arc that took place over Memorial Day Weekend (May 31-June 2) 2010. After an Omegadrone attack claimed the life of Mark Lucas (Edge), his grieving father used previously unknown powers to rewrite reality in a way that suited his views of what the world should be like. Mark's friends from the Claremont Academy, among the only ones able to remember the original timeline, had to face him down and set the timeline right, though at personal cost to several of them.
- Travis Hunter (Midnight I)
- Elizabeth Lawlett (Spellbound)
- Martha Lucas
- Faith Martel (Seraph)
- Duncan Summers (Raven I)
- Jasmine Summers (Jasmine Sin)
House of L
It is Memorial Day in Freedom City, and the students of Claremont Academy are scattered to various leisure activities. An emergency call goes out, first to Young Freedom, then to the League and other students, warning of something terrible happening at the Lucas residence. The great popularity in the hero community of both Rick Lucas and his son Mark ensures a swift response by many heroes, where they find the immediate aftermath of a fight with several Omegadrones and a robot copy of Shadivan Steelgrave. Before anyone can intervene, Mark inadvertently sets off a booby trap bomb in the Steelgrave robot, which explodes, sending a large chunk of shrapnel through his chest.
Though it is obvious to some that Mark is already dead, he's immediately teleported to the hospital where various doctors and heroes with healing powers work to save him, while others keep vigil. None of their efforts are successful though, so attention turns to comforting the grieving parents. Rick Lucas will accept no comfort, instead turning and lashing out at his old colleagues, even as unsuspected superpowers well up inside him. He uses his newfound abilities to dissolve Captain Thunder and Bolt in a swirl of black inkblots. As members of the Freedom League try to restrain him, he bursts out in fury, revealing the power of his djinn roots as he screams “I WISH EVERYTHING WAS THE WAY IT'S SUPPOSED TO BE AGAIN!” Even as the members of Young Freedom rush to take cover, the world goes dark.
One by one, the Claremont students wake up, disoriented, seemingly in the bedrooms that are familiar to them, but with a feeling of disorientation as they realize the lives they remember now are not the lives of the timeline they just left. Each student has memories of a lifetime in this new timeline, but at the same time, they seem to be the only ones who recall their old lives on Earth Prime.
- James wakes up on a spaceship, recalling that he is no longer a prince of Hell, but the playboy exiled prince of a starfaring world called Lucifer-1. His codename is Hell-Ion, and he lives about his ship, crewed by an affectionate AI named Persephone.
- Chris finds himself the adopted son of Duncan and Jasmine Summers, living with them and carrying on the Raven moniker. No explanation is given as to the fate of his own parents or Callie Summers, the current Prime Raven. Eve is his girlfriend, and “Geckoman” on this world is an animalistic villain. His Prime girlfriend, Liz Lawlett, never reformed to become a hero here.
- Trevor wakes on the anniversary of his parents' tragic death, and is comforted by his young and vital grandparents, Travis and Margery. A super-serum has kept them both healthy and active in the hero community well into their eighties. He is now known as “Kid Midnight,” and drives a rocket cycle with a giant clock on it.
- Eve is woken by her cousin Faith, who remembers nothing of her life on Prime, on the day of Eve's citywide recital. A hot young musician, Eve has a beautiful voice, a singing career, and psychic powers as well.
- Erin falls out of the sky and lands on the lawn of Freedom Hall, her temporal inertia and extra-dimensional origin preventing her from being integrated into a new life. Instead, she has been replaced by a native version of herself with a living family.
The students spend the morning trying to figure out their new lives, even as their paths begin to intersect. Erin is chased halfway across Freedom City by her double and several other superheroes who believe she is the villainous “Rednaw,” keeping ahead of them thanks to her double's habit of stopping to make speeches or talk to other heroes. The native Wander calls Kid Midnight for help, even as James remembers enough of how to work his ship to beam Erin up and out of danger. The resulting byplay makes it obvious that in this world, there is a love-triangle of sorts at work between Wander, Kid Midnight, and Hell-Ion, a fact that makes all three students uncomfortable. They begin investigating the changes in the world, and realize that in this universe, Rick Lucas died saving the Centurion during the Terminus Invasion, and the Freedom League is still composed mostly of its WWII roster. They witness the capture of Dr. Mayhem, who also seems to remember reality on Earth Prime. As he rants and tries to make the others remember, he is swallowed and erased by the same black dots that dissolved Captain Thunder and Bolt. Apparently everything in this world that does not play by Rick Lucas' rules is removed, permanently.
Meanwhile, Chris goes to try and find Liz, his girlfriend on Prime. When he finds her, the reformed villain spellcaster is now a Wizard-of-Oz style wicked witch, who cackles and throws fireballs when he tries to question her. He is having a harder time than the others trying to reconcile his real memories with the implanted life he's been given. Provoked by the changes in Spellbound as much as by her attacks on him, Chris begins returning her attacks, a no-no in the sanitized and chivalrous world Rick Lucas has created. Erin teleports down to help him, since she is exempt from the rule against hitting girls. They win the fight, but that doesn't stop the ink blots from attempting to rewrite Chris! A tendril of ink strikes him in the head just before James teleports them away.
Trevor teleports down to find Eve, who has been at her recital, preparing to sing in the city recital. Unlike the others, she has deliberately ignored the memories of her own life, enchanted by having her voice back and the beautiful world she seems to live in. Notes of wrongness creep in despite her best efforts, however, and when she reaches the stage, she is too undone to sing, and leaves the stage. Trevor follows her and convinces her to join the others.
Up on the ship, they debate their options and decide that they must return the timeline to the way it was, no matter the consequences to them personally. Although many heroes who died on Prime are alive here, and the world is free of much of the conflict that plagues Prime, it's all a facade, maintained by the dissolution of anyone who disrupts the peace. In addition, it's obvious that millions, perhaps billions of people from Prime simply do not exist on this world, their homes and lives replaced by iconic representations of wild jungle or savanna, or simply erased. To restore the timeline, the team is going to have to confront Rick Lucas and stop him. They decide to go and find Mark.
Bringing Down the House
The students teleport down to Mark's house, where Eve senses Mark's mind, alive and conscious, but terrified and disoriented. He is trapped in his room with no way out. They approach the house and meet Mark's mother Martha, who appears drunk but also strangely lifeless, as though her will has been drained away somehow. She allows them to go upstairs, where they find Mark trapped behind a wall in a bedroom with no door. A joint effort by Mark and Trevor allows him to break through the wall, where his teammates try and fill him in on what's been going on. Martha begins to recover her memories of Prime, but passes out from the shock and strain of seeing Mark alive and trying to reconcile all her conflicting memories. Eve locates Rick Lucas where he is hiding, in the computer room of Freedom Hall, and the students call him out for the final confrontation. He teleports the entire house to Freedom Hall, which is standing open and empty.
The students enter the Hall and confront Rick Lucas, who explains that his world is not finished, that he just needs to keep working on it until it's an entirely perfect place. He's going to use his powers to make everything better, the way superheroes are supposed to! One by one, the students reason with him, trying to convince him that he cannot be the arbiter of life, death and morality, and that the world he's creating is no utopia. When Chris angrily demands to know why his reformed girlfriend was unreformed, and the highly competent and trained female Raven was replaced by a callow teenager, it is revealed that the black dots have transformed Chris into a robot, who Rick Lucas tries to denounce as a trick of the Foundry. No one is buying it though, least of all Chris.
Rick tries to point out all the good he has done for the teenagers themselves. Trevor's grandparents are alive and healthy, James is no longer tormented by the demons who haunt his dreams and try to influence his actions. Eve has her voice back, with fame to go with it, and although he couldn't help Erin herself, the White family is alive and well, untouched by tragedy and with a heroic daughter. And of course Mark is alive and well again. Rick will not accept the possibility of any timeline being correct if it means his son has to die. Mark steps forward and rejects the 'gift' his father has bestowed, pointing out that it is a hero's duty to lay down his life when the world is at stake, just as Rick's hero the Centurion did on Earth Prime. The other students step up as well, each one willing to throw away the life Rick would give them here in favor of the real world they left behind. Despite Rick's immense world-shaping power, they prepare themselves to fight. As Rick surveys the teenagers lined up to battle him, he laughs brokenly and says no more children will die today, even as the world fills with black dots.
As the dots clear, the students find themselves back on the lawn of the Lucas residence, surrounded by other heroes and the remains of a fight with Omegadrones. They are back on Earth Prime, but Mark is with them, alive. Rick has rewritten reality one more time, but at a price. As everyone watches, he tells Mark and Martha that he cannot stay in this world anymore, that Prime cannot tolerate two powerful reality warpers without the risk of somehow enslaving the populace. He promises Martha he will see her soon, then vanishes into thin air, beyond the reach even of the psionically and dimensionally sensitive heroes. As Mark and Martha begin to mourn, Mark asks everyone to just leave them alone for awhile. With mixed feelings, everyone disperses, leaving them to their grief for the moment.
Following the events of House of L, there were several subsidiary threads for characters dealing with the aftermath of the crisis. In addition, the sitewide Vignette topic for June 2010 was “House of L Revisited, which gave players who did not take part in the adventure to reimagine their character through the lens of Rick Lucas' mad fantasy.
After experiencing life as part of the Summers family, Chris goes to confront Duncan Summers about what happened and what he saw in the altered timeline. Summers, though angered and saddened by what his old friend Rick Lucas did, refuses to crucify the man for what he did in a moment of grief. He also shares a moment of private pain with Chris, who leaves not entirely satisfied, but educated.
Eve of Midnight
When the fighting is over, Eve and Trevor share a private moment where Eve comes to terms with losing her voice and her aspirations once again. Trevor thanks her for the sacrifice that helped bring his parents back, and the two bond over coffee and a few short jokes.
House of L Revisited
Sixteen vignettes revealed the lives of other assorted heroes in the rewritten timeline, some of whom fared better than others. A few, like Dark Star and Fleur de Joie, slid easily into the reimagined world of goodness and peace that Rick Lucas created, while others, like Avenger and Phantom required such extensive revisions as to be hardly recognizable. The extremely unlucky Zephyr found that, like Wander, her temporal inertia protected her from initial rewriting by the black dots, but that did not mean she could live peacefully in Rick Lucas' paradise. And much like Raven II, there is no room in the new world for a minority female legacy character like Elena Gurrero's Scarab when the original can be restored.