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Avenger Assembled

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Freedom City Guidebook

Freedom City PBP: A How-To Guide



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  1. "I shot the third Raven in the dick on national television, dumbass," growled Ashley, enjoying the chance to slip into Watchdog's character and actually mean it for once. "You this obsessed with every girl, or just the ones that don't buy this...thing you're selling?" She asked as she looked him up and down dismissively. "Now now, there's no reason to fight," said Judy as she let Benny wrap her hands. "And it wasn't even national television," she reasoned, "technically people only saw that part if they looked for it on Youtube. Ah don't actually know much about hand-to-hand fighting," she admitted to Benny, "Ah've only ever fought things from a distance. Should Ah just watch?"
  2. The sound of a long-suffering sigh came from the far corner of the gym, and up stepped the Smith sisters. "Is it really just you two?" Watchdog was wearing her leather jacket and jeans; Judy had put her hair back in a ponytail and was wearing a grey sport shirt and shorts - the former of which bore a bold I CAN DO ALL THINGS in bright red. "Lame." "Oh, come on," said Judy cheerfully, "it'll be fun!" as she and Ashley walked up to join Claude and Benny. "You'll show them the moves that almost took down the Raven!" "That was with my gun," she said, sounding a little annoyed - but only a little. "Boys," she said by way of greeting before she showed Benny. "Gloves wrap my hands like tape. Had to punch a few guys to get that."
  3. Thanksgiving 2019 Lafayette, Louisiana The picture was of Ashley Tran with four other young women all of whom bore a striking resemblance to her - although none of them had her shade of pink-cotton hair. The five women were smiling and posing in front of a low-slung house surrounded by plants, one that looked rather different than the buildings Fa'Rua had seen on her trip to Terra (though really she'd spent most of her time inside buildings than outside of them). Guess who's home for the holidays! Laying on her mother's living room couch at about 1AM, Ashley judged that everybody was asleep, or at least asleep enough for her purposes. She'd wired herself up against jet lag, especially with what she knew was going to be a short visit.
  4. "Mah powers are inherited,' said Judy flatly. "They think an alien must have come to Earth and pretended to be human a couple of generations back, and passed the genes down, uh, through my family." Her eyes narrowed as she said, "They're called, uh, Stellarians, which Ah think is just a translation or something, because nobody knew they'd even been to Earth until the scientists looked at mah DNA. Even the Grue and the Lor don't know much about 'em, but they're not real friendly from what I hear." "That just means nobody's gonna judge you," said Ashley easily. "There are advantages to being obscure." She looked at the others, and said, "We, ah, got a tip on alien stuff the other night and it gave us more information."
  5. Watchdog slapped her hands to the side of her helmet and swore a word she usually didn't say in the presence of noncombatants - but luckily all of those were gone. Reflexively she threw herself in front of Chelone, even though she knew Danica could probably survive a fuel-air detonation above the top of her head. And then there was an explosion of bread flying into the air everywhere from Soliton, and Watchdog said more than one word. "Not if they can #(#$ing talk!" "<War! War!>" The pigeons screamed at Davyd as they took to the sky, their numbers so thick that they really did blot out the Sun! And suddenly, as if a connection had been made between Davyd and the flock, the birds seemed to scream - in a voice that _everyone_ could understand like the cooing of a billion birds at once. "The Star-Flock has brought war with their lies and tricks! You cannot fool us with your poison bread!" Suddenly an image came to Davyd's mind, an image borne through fluttering wings - there was a flock in the stars, a flock that was red and moved its shape, a flock that had come and tried to take their roosts from them! But they had chased the Star-Flock away - and promised _revenge_ if they ever returned!
  6. Judy put her arms around Leroy and put her head against his - and behind them Ashley did her best to keep her disgust off her face. "Ah love you, too. And what if you don't actually leave your family? What if you just make them...better?" "I really don't think this is a conversation you want to have in front of...other people," said Ashley with great firmness. Her body was tense like a livewire - but what could she do? She couldn't actually smack some sense into her charge, or Leroy for that matter. "Ah guess you're right. We'll talk later, love," said Judy, beaming at Leroy before she smiled at Mia. "Ah'm sorry, Mia, Ah didn't mean to leave you out just then."
  7. "It won't be easy," Judy allowed in response to Danica's question, "but we'll find a way to make it work. It's not like we're gonna just run off and get married at the age of seventeen, that would be...hah, crazy." She smiled, then shifted where she sat to look at Lulu. "My parents don't know we're engaged," she admitted. "Ah mean, Ah didn't lie to them about the fact that Ah was dating a boy." Her smile tightened, just a little, that beauty-queen look the two girls had seen before. "They weren't crazy about that, but they know Ah won't do anything that would disgrace myself. And they're happy he's a good Christian boy." Ashley's eyebrows were furrowed, but she opted to say nothing at this point - she really wasn't Judy's real sister, after all, and up against the wall her protege couldn't actually see her face. "My, uh, real sisters know Ah'm getting special training to deal with mah powers, but they don't know where." The Cahill sisters were not quite as close in real life as the administration allowed the general public to believe, but Judy was _not_ going to discuss her family's dirty laundry with everybody. "They know about the, um, the alien thing, so they're not gonna just...explode like Ah did."
  8. "There's something up there," said Judy, the tone in her voice making Ashley swivel her red-helmeted head back at her. "Something inside the cave." She focused her eyes on it, orbs radiating like a cat's eyes against a bright light. "It's in the tunnel, like some kind of weird...sandstorm thing. Ah've never seen anything like it, but it's definitely not normal." She rubbed the radio transmitter on her wrist nervously. "Well...forget that, then," said Watchdog, her gun coming out. "We can't just go into a dark cave with a hostile."
  9. Oh God this is gonna suuuuck thought Richard. What he said was "Thanks, looks like a great ship!" It wasn't that he was ungrateful but being cooped up made him stir-crazy, especially if he was in a moving vehicle that was going so much slower than his own running speed. He zipped around helping make sure the ship was packed and everyone's supplies were geared up, and meanwhile he thought to his wife. Everybody's still secure. He'd zipped over back home during the briefing just to make sure; figuring correctly that she'd keep sending him all the pertinent information. He didn't need to tell her that if things came down to it up on the Moon, he'd back her play versus the one who'd threatened their kids, and f*ck whatever the others thought about it - she already knew that.
  10. Judy shifted awkwardly in her seat, looking away from Leroy for a moment. "Well, um, it's just you two, Danica, and Lulu." "And that's everyone who needs to know," added Ashley firmly. "That's right, I..." Judy seemed to consider for a moment, then pulled back on herself, her outward fires dimming. "Leroy, if...if we're getting married, we have to live together," she told him firmly. "And Ah...ah can't live on your world. You shouldn't live there either!" she said suddenly. "It's not right the way people live there, with the killing, and the torture, and all the horrible things you talk about!" Ashley was looking at her now, eyes wide, but Judy went on. "Ah want to help you, honey, but...we need to get you _away_ from there. That place is _evil_.'
  11. "The Secret Service doesn't have the same legal responsibilities that other law enforcement agencies do," said Ashley with a patient smile. As long as I don't see you or your mom breaking federal law, I'm not empowered to arrest you. She had a feeling that would be an awkward conversation, so she added, "This is...not my first time at Claremont. Knowing Summers is why she was willing to go along with the whole thing in the first place. But we couldn't put Judy here without someone to keep her safe." "Ah'd never been around anybody with superpowers before," admitted Judy. "Not except to shake their hand or something." She wasn't going to mention that she had actually met Micah's cousin back in Oklahoma. "Ah wasn't even around that time those terrorists tried to blow up Air Force One." "That was a real...mess," Ashley opined. "But it's done, and the First Family is safe. Anyway, I'm just here to protect Judy. I'm not very interesting."
  12. Judy burst into light like a star igniting, declaring "God is good!" before embracing Leroy in a tight, bone-warming hug. She took his face in her hands and kissed him, looking up into his eyes with a face like the Sun. "Thank you, Leroy. I love you so much." Ashley tried to remind herself that this was pretty much the best possible reaction she could have expected as far as protecting Judy's secret, and that yelling "WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU KIDS" would be decidedly counterproductive. Well evidently she didn't need to show them the photoseries she'd prepared. She didn't comment at first about her secret, until she realized that Mia and Leroy were both looking at her. For a moment she entertained the brief possibility of saying, "Surprise, I'm not a lesbian!" but dismissed that one as a passing thought. "I'm not biologically related to Judy." "Ashley's story is pretty neat!" said Judy, glowing. "Can Ah tell them?" "If...you feel so led," said Ashley reluctantly. "Ashley is my hero," said Judy warmly. "She's the one who was there for me, and helped me with my powers, when there wasn't anybody else in the world. She was one of the Secret Service agents at the White House the day my...my powers blew up. And some people...some people got hurt, but everyone was okay in the end."
  13. "I...no, it's not like that at all," said Judy, "and the government doesn't just...just cut up aliens they find," said Judy. Ashley coughed and looked away, and for a moment there was silence before Judy spoke again. "The first thing Ah want you both to know is that Ah'm sorry. Ah do not like lying to people, and it has been very hard to lie to you, and to my other friends here, and to everyone else, for so long. It was for a good reason at the time, because we didn't know if we could be safe here - but Ah know now it was wrong, and Ah'm not gonna be afraid of the truth any longer." She flushed again, tucked her hair behind her ears, steeled herself, and spoke: "There was no other world. Ashley and Ah are both from this dimension. And my name isn't Judy Smith. It's Judith Claudia Cahill. Ah am the daughter of the President of the United States" She looked at Leroy, obviously on tenterhooks for his reaction. "Ah am so sorry Ah lied to you, honey," she said, her hand squeezing tight around his. "It was just because Ah gave mah word, and you know Ah don't go back on mah word..."
  14. "...Ashley, what's happening here?" Judy called Ashley over and the two of them studied the screen. "I...don't know," said Ashley with a shrug. "He must be writing text-to-speech. You sure you don't want me to take this over?" she said. "I've got some ways to focus his attention elsewhere." "No, it's fine," said Judy reassuringly, "I've got this." She studied Ben's email and tried to view it strategically. Ben, I've been inside a lot of places - and the one thing I've learned is that people aren't so different on the inside, whatever they're like on the outside. She studied the email, flexing her fingers, and it occurred to him that the easiest way to distract Ben would be to tell him about her own connections to the Grue. But those were lies; and she didn't want to lie to Ben. I'll go ahead and put you on our mailing list. You never know, it might do you some good. She considered for a moment, then asked - What do you want to do when you graduate?
  15. Judy turned a surprising color and swallowed hard - behind her, the skin around Ashley's eyes tightened and she said nothing. Though a part of Judy wanted to melt her way through the floor and escape, she told the truth - as she had promised herself she would. "Ah am telling Leroy tomorrow," she said. "Ah never liked lying to him, but once Ah started Ah couldn't stop halfway through a date and say 'by the way, sugar, Ah am a bad person who doesn't deserve you at all...'" She twisted the ring on her finger and said, "If he breaks up with me, that's fine, it's what Ah deserve." Ashley frowned and said, "It is not your fault you were put in this situation, it just...happened." What she wanted to say was that it was her parents' fault, but of course she wasn't going to say _that_ in front of Lulu and Danica...or Judy, for that matter. "Judy and I have, ah, talked about her relationship with Leroy. But that's not my call to make."
  16. Can Judy see anything inside the cave? She can see infrared and ultraviolet light.
  17. Judy's face fell - he was such a good boy, and what had she done for him but lie? She wanted to take him to her side and kiss him sweetly, knowing she might never get such a chance again, but in case this was their last day together she couldn't treat him so anymore. Instead she hugged him warmly and said, "Oh, thank you, Leroy, these are so nice...and Ah didn't get anything for you!" By the time Mia arrived with gifts of her own, Judy was almost in tears, wordlessly hugging her friends and murmuring thanks. Ashley stepped in at this opportunity, carefully setting down the knife and patting Judy on the back until she was able to compose herself. When she had, Ashley stepped away to close - and lock the door behind the two new arrivals. "Ah'm so glad you both are here," said Judy, looking anxious as she looked from Leroy to Mia. "As you know, we're going away for our usual Thanksgiving visit, but before we go, well...Ashley and Ah have been talking, and we decided between us that we needed to be honest with our friends, because that's what good people do, and because that's, well, what God tells us. You both are good people, and we trust you, and Leroy, Ah _love_ you..." She shifted in her seat, giving him a long, meaningful look, and blushed. Ashley watched up against the wall as Judy said, "We need to tell you the truth about where we really come from. And who Ah really am."
  18. The day after A Changing World Daystar and Watchdog's room Well the secret was out and the world hadn't ended. Ashley and Judy were boarding a plane the next day for their flight back to DC, where the First Family would serve meals to carefully-vetted homeless families in the area. Maybe they'd come back and everything would be the same. Ashley closed her eyes and remembered the nightmare - the school in flames, children and soldiers dead, all because of her. She opened them, and saw Judy sitting on her bed, holding the family Bible she'd been reading the night before. She was back to a passage Ashley knew was important to her: "But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, That shines brighter and brighter until the full day." "Do you really want to do this?" Ashley asked Judy quietly. Judy glanced her way. "We haven't known Mia that long, and Leroy...Leroy may want you to tell him on his own." He may go tell everyone. Oh well, that would be one way to handle the end of the relationship. "Ah need to tell them both. Ah know them the best of anybody who is still here...and Ah love Leroy. Ah'm..." She twisted the ring on her finger. "Ah'm gonna marry Leroy, and he deserves to know the truth. Ah have mistreated him." "It wasn't your fault," Ashley added softly from where she sat on the bed. "He's a very nice boy, and he's been very good to you. But what's going to happen when this place is done?" When there was a knock at the door, Ashley got up to answer it.
  19. Ashley was quiet for a moment, her face impassive in a way that Danica and Lulu had seen before but never really understood. "Yes," she finally said, meeting Danica's eyes levelly. "I'm twenty-seven, give or take a few months. After I graduated from Claremont eleven years ago, I quit being a superhero and joined the Secret Service. That's where I was working when Judy manifested her powers." "Ah don't know what would have happened without Ashley," said Judy quietly, putting her hand on Lulu's. "Ah know you guys don't follow the news very much, but if you remember that terrorist attack at the White House last year? That was, um, that was me," she admitted softly, reaching back to tug at her hair. If Ashley was impassive, Judy certainly was not, her face tight with memories of pain. "It wasn't safe for me to stay in the White House," she said, "not with powers like mine, so it was better for everyone if Ah stayed away until Ah could control things..." A flash came through where she touched Lulu - a feeling of terrible, agonizing loneliness, and opening her eyes as Ashley stepped into her hospital room... She scrubbed her hand across her eyes, and Ashley disengaged from Danica long enough to put her hand on Judy's shoulder. Judy went on. "Ah lied because my parents asked me to lie so everyone would stay safe, even though before that they told me that liars go to Hell!" Her hand tightened around Lulu's, and there was remembered pain there too.
  20. Sounds good! We'll see what everybody makes of the birds...
  21. "Oh, of course," said Judy sympathetically, not buying it for a minute. "Mia, if you want to keep watching your movie, Ah won't say anything else about it. Ah just didn't understand the humor, that's all." She smiled at her, patting her on the arm. "Here, sit down on the couch with us." Ashley was still in position in the rear of the room, though she had moved to sit on the room's broad windowsill so that her knees didn't lock up. "Ah remember when Ah was little, my daddy got his haircut and I asked him, "Daddy, did you get your hair cut?" and he said 'No, sugar, I got them all cut.' Then he'd laugh and laugh." Ashley blinked as it occurred to her that the President was, as far as she knew, _still_ telling that joke. "Getting a new sister can be a surprise," she offered. "But it's not so bad," she added with a smile in Judy's direction.
  22. Judy considered her response carefully for a while. Did he write this with speech-to-text? Ben, I'm sorry you feel that way - you're always welcome to join us if you see us in prayer. You might even enjoy the experience, or at least get a chance to try something new. High school is a chance to experience things besides what our parents taught us, right? Her mouth twisted in a smile as she wrote that, but she kept it in there. She considered adding something about how she wasn't 100% white herself, but she didn't know Ben well enough to have that conversation. I know I've had a fine time every time I've been in a synagogue, and I'd want to make sure you felt just as welcome with us. Speaking of feeling welcome, you should know that if you're trying to be friends with a girl, you shouldn't tell her how you're going to get into a fight with her sister. Ashley's seen some very bad things and wants to keep them from happening to me, and if that's a problem for you, I don't think we're going to be good friends. She considered that for a moment, chewing on a pencil, then added I don't like talking about powers and fighting very much. I'm here at Claremont so I can turn my curse into a blessing for others, and so I can get a good degree and get into a good college when we graduate. How about you? Judy.
  23. The vast horde of pigeons, which really was much larger than any flock any of the other heroes had ever seen, went mad! The birds suddenly took off, flapping and shrieking, in a blinding rush of wings and talons that didn't do any direct damage but pinned the heroes in place like they were trapped in a blizzard of very angry birds! The radio volume around Vox was almost deafeningly loud, and Benny and Mia had their own problems to deal with. <You were warned, Star-Flock!> The pigeons shouted at Davyd. <The Star-Flock was warned! NOW THERE WILL BE A PENALTY!> The birds seemed to be forming a particularly thick cordon between Davyd and the others, so much so that the shapeshifter was barely visible. As the volume of shrieks went up, Ashley grabbed Judy by the arm and pushed her towards Danica. "Chelone! Shell!" she called even as she reached into her belt to prime a grenade.
  24. Eiros and Charmion: Eiros and Charmion are Stellarians; rather young ones given their interest in Terran civilization. Upon learning (by accessing Lor records for a lark) that their 'little sister' lies trapped within a mortal shell on this planet, they've taken a great interest in looking for Daystar. When they choose to, they resemble pretty, slightly androgynous siblings with fiery gold hair and brilliantly blue eyes - when not, they look like swirling plasma in a vaguely humanoid shape. They love light - and the fire it brings. They address each other as "dear sister" and "dear brother". Gelb Herzog: Wolfgang von Kempelen was a German mad scientist who invented a gun that could turn anything to gold - anything he wanted! Smarter than many of his breed, he used his gold gun to turn things to GOLD and sold them for CASH. But things got a little out of hand and the Raven brought him in about ten years ago, with help from the young heroine Copycat. Technically busted for counterfeiting for trying to make his own gold coins, "The Gold Duke" is due for release on parole soon, and he still knows how to make that gold gun... Monos and Una: Monos and Una like to say they're Thần-Thiên, 'heavenly angels', come from beyond the Veil to bring knowledge about what lies beyond the Veil of Death. But that's not true; at least we hope it isn't. A ritual summoned them to Earth during the last days of the Vietnam War, and they brought knowledge and enlightenment to whole villages then. But then the war ended and the new government sent troops against them - first soldiers they could teach things to, then more soldiers, then specialists against their kind. They fled the country after that, and eventually settled in America. They look a bit like very handsome East Asians who dress in black outfits, albeit with shining white wings when they unfold them. Monos uses magic. Una uses knives. Scheherazade: Scheherazade is a scientist from an alternate history; a world where science and culture came to her native Arabia a century or two after the birth of the Prophet, and soon spread around the world. By the time she was born in what was to her the year 1198; human civilization had uplifted everyone into perfected versions of themselves. She herself is a genetically engineered cyborg with heightened senses, strength, and beauty, with a passion for a slightly anachronistic take on Arabian fashion. She's not quite a villain despite what seems to be substantial energy-manipulating powers and the occasional clash with superheroes for "experimental purposes" - but she doesn't care much about us either. When she makes an appearance, it's because something _big_ is about to happen to our strange, dysfunctional universe. It's going to make a really great story when she gets back home.
  25. The evening of Tech Compliance Ben, Thank you very kindly for your letter today. I appreciate that you are thinking about my sister and I. I'm sorry about what happened at Tech Club today, and I hope you feel better soon. But you should know that it's not a secret that Ashley and I are from another dimension. We are comfortable with who we are. Speaking of which, I was wondering if you'd be interested in joining me at See You At The Pole this Saturday. It won't be as big as the one in September, but we have some big plans. I know it's getting a little chilly for outside times, but there's hot cocoa and good times, and there's some really good fellowship. Yours, Judy Smith Judy looked at the message, nodded, then pressed send.
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