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Summer 2022 Freedom Federal Building The Patriot Cycle, powered down and disguised as a regular motorcycle, parked in the ample parking garage of the Freedom City Federal Building. It was after hours and largely empty, though the scattered few cars Ashley and Carmen had passed on their way in showed that it wasn't completely abandoned. They weren't even alone on their level. "Good evening, Patriot, La Puma Negra," said the smartly-dressed young blonde woman who was there to greet them. She'd gone heavy on the perfume to Carmen's senses, enough that she smelled more like Elizabeth Arden than anything else. She was younger than Carmen might have expected for someone with such a high-level job. "Hi Daisy," said the Patriot, matching her secretary's tone. She was in full costume tonight, geared up and helmeted, and had suggested Carmen do the same 'or whatever you're comfortable with.' "All quiet?" "So far," said Daisy, a faint smile tugging at her bright red lips. "We've learned not to say 'everything's fine,'" said the Patriot, returning her secretary's look. "That's a curse. So, any questions before you get the tour?"
May 4 2012 After all the exhaustion of the last few months, it had been a welcome relief for Mark to get invited to the get-together at the Socotran Consulate for Nina's brother Morakot. Or be informed by Nina over breakfast that they'd be attending, anyway. "Personally, I never thought Morrie was going to get married," she told Mark breezily as she sat back in her chair and drank her dark, strong-smelling Arabian coffee with a thoughtful expression. "But he's nearly forty now and he's not getting any younger. Father does value family, and he does control the purse strings. You can't be a gentleman bachelor forever, not and enjoy the lifestyle of a prince of Socotra." Morakot al-Darsah, Mark knew, had been something of a playboy in years past, his dark skin, good looks, and well-groomed mustache making the wealthy prince a star of the tabloids of a previous generation: he'd even once squired Princess Diana around. He'd made it a point to be up to date on Nina's family after they'd started dating. "So he's announcing his engagement here in Freedom City? He must be marrying somebody local." He put his mind to the thought of all the eligible women in town interested in marrying a handsome prince, but there were too many possibilities. "And you don't know who, or you'd have told me already." That got him one of Nina's more predatory smiles. Mark had the idea Nina didn't always appreciate it when he was clever, but she seemed to find it interesting all the same. "You seem to have my number, Mr. Lucas. Anyway, yes, it is a mystery! He's been out of the public eye lately, you see, going to all those clubs of his and spending Father's money like it's made of water. So Father has used his influence with the consulate to make sure you and I both have tickets to the soiree next week. The better to keep an eye on my errant brother, and to make sure he's not about to disgrace the family." "A courtly evening with you? I'd be honored," said Mark with a wink. "You should wear that black dress of yours, the one that shows..." He demonstrated with his hands, and Nina laughed. "I can get my good suit." Sobering a little, he added, "We should bring Trevor and Erin too. They're smart and they're observant, and they're good in a crisis." Very good, as it happened, but there was no need to dwell on the fine details in front of someone who wasn't in their circle of trust, even if she was in his. Kind of. It was complicated. "Your schoolmates. Yes, hmm, I remember them." Nina and Mark had never actually discussed where those superheroes had come from when the Nazi transdimensional assassin had come to kill her for her father's defiance. "All right, I'll make sure there are two tickets..." That evening, with Nina off at her late-night class, Mark called Trevor's 'workphone', figuring that if he got lucky, he'd catch Erin and Trevor together. And as it happened, he did!
In our world, when his son and his friends rejected the Utopia he'd built, a grief-stricken Rick Lucas recognized the error of his ways and fled into the multiverse in shame. But in a world perilously close to this one, when his son and his allies attempted to overthrow the worldwide dictatorship he'd constructed in order to put the Lucas family in command of the world, a bitter, vengeful Rick Lucas fled into the multiverse to plot revenge on his wastrel son and his callow gang of hooligans at the Syndicate Academy Two Weeks After the Events of 'A Trip Between Two Worlds' Duncan Summers listened as a rather battered Psyche told her story, the young telepath recovering far better than most students would have after the experience she'd had. Erin's sudden nighttime assault had nearly killed the sleeping Alex, only Psyche's incredible mental speed letting her reach into Erin's mind and shut down her attacker. It had only taken him a few minutes of evaluation to confirm what Nurse Joy and Ms. Harcourt had already told him: this Erin White, with the blood under her fingernails and haggard face, even in psychically-induced sleep maintained by the best psychics at the school, was not the Erin White of their world. And that particular disease seemed to be catching. Luckily, the school was prepared for that. Though dopplegangers of Kid Cthulu, Rift, Midnight II, and Edge had all appeared in bursts of magical energy around campus, the new inter-universal security system that Mrs. Harcourt had installed in previous weeks had worked like a charm. Though the dopplegangers had unfortunately escaped from campus, he was completely confident that Young Freedom, the Alterni-Teens, and the Next-Gen would track down the warped, morally inverted doubles of his students. It's a good thing we're prepared for incursions, thought Summers, bending down to pet the unhappy cat curling his orange tail around the headmaster's cane. If we were oriented towards offense rather than defense, who knows how long they could have kept up the imposture? -- Mark Lucas rarely had particularly elaborate dreams. Indeed, usually he didn't remember anything about them. Tonight, though, his REM visions were exceptionally unsettling. He was confronted by a vision of his father: not the father he knew, but a grim, furious version of Rick Lucas with a goatee and eyepatch, wearing a black and red leather uniform as he confronted his son. His 'father' informed him that he and his friends were being tested, tested to see if good really was better than evil, if courage was a stronger talent than cleverness. He wasn't alone, he realized: Erin, Trevor, Blake, and Warren were all there too, each as paralyzed and mute as he was in the dreamscape! Before he could respond, he was suddenly plummeting into a deep black void... -- Mark woke up in bed, starting awake with a cry, and then nearly fell out of bed entirely when he realized he wasn't alone in his room. Or his bed. "Dreaming about that witch again?" asked Daisy Gibbons. The beautiful blonde prom queen yawned and stretched, giving Mark a smile that didn't quite reach her eyes. "Don't worry, Pathos and Assault aren't going to harsh your buzz today, not unless those Loonies get their heads handed to them ahead of schedule. Are you getting up?" "Uh...yes?" Mark looked around wildly, staying in control of himself by sheer force of will. Don't panic. Figure out what's going on. Daisy wasn't actually naked, thank God, but she was in a skimpy harem-girl outfit that didn't look like comfortable pajamas. She had scars on her body that looked new, some on her stomach and some on her back, where a large S-brand was clearly visible. A more thoughtful man might have panicked, but Mark was all about rolling with what was going on. "All right," allowed Daisy, her bare shoulders relaxing as she slid out of the king-sized bed and headed for the kitchen. When the hell did I get a kitchenette!?! thought Mark as Daisy went in, the door she opened showing that Mark and Mike's dorm room had been transformed into a suite as big as a luxury hotel's. "Bacon and eggs as usual, and..." She stuck her head back in the room and gave Mark a stare. "When did you shave off your beard?" she asked him. "I'm trying something new," Mark improvised as he sat up, trying to figure out where his pants were. Surely all this black leather couldn't be his. "Do you like it?" he asked her, giving her a half-smile. "I like anything you do," Daisy told him without hesitation, something behind her eyes closing off as she stuck her head back in the kitchen. Something in her eyes even got through to Mark, and he felt a little sick. Oh God, did I actually go to Hell this time? C'mon, none of it was illegal and everyone had fun! When Daisy was gone, Mark started looking for his clothes in a hurry, and his commlink to go with it. Last time he'd gone to Hell, his friends had come to rescue him. If that dream had been a reality...well, he owed them all his life already.
It took some doing, but if there was a student unaware of the end of the year party at the new AEON building, it wasn't for lack of trying. Now, while some students had... concerns over Alex being the entire decorating committee, when they arrived at the large ballroom near the top of the luxury building, those doubters were pleasantly surprised. The entire room was decked out in creams and dark blues, gold serving as the accent. It was both a nod to the school colors and an elegant color scheme for the high quality linens. There was a dance floor, of course, and a dj set up in the corner along with a small stage. In another corner, a photographer was set up to do professional photos. It was staffed with AEON personnell who had been gently coached to look the other way at any sudden displays of power. Alex had been over seeing the set up for much of the day, but she did vanish to her office to change and reappear shortly before the doors were scheduled to open. As tasteful as the ballroom was, it was no surprise that Alex was a bright spot of color in a dress that started in a butter yellow color at the neckline and slowly deepened to a deep red at the fluttering hem around her ankles. She was standing in the center of the dancefloor, looking up at the net of balloons attached to the vaulted ceiling, making certain that it wouldn't drop away early.