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  1. The battle was finally over, even if the damage would take weeks or months to clean up. Stesha didn't know if some parts of the Lighthouse were even repairable, but at the moment she couldn't bring herself to give a damn. She'd heard that the outer system fighting was over as well, and the skirmishes on Earth were just mop-up operations at this point, but it was all rumors until she met up with the rest of the extended League for debriefing. Her mind was numb right now, concentrated on the mundane chore of dissolving the large tangles of vines and roots that marked her battles along the corridors of the space station. As she approached one of the less-mangled docking bays, she heard voices, friendly human voices. "And then I swooped in from behind and drilled their nacelles with a laser beam!" Max Atom enthused, sketching his story in three dimensions with his hands as he entered the corridor. Behind him Johnny Rocket and Captain Thunder listened with patient amusement, occasionally chipping in details. There were a half-dozen heroes spilling into the corridor, a good chunk of the contingent who'd fought the outer-system battle, heading for the command deck where there'd be food, showers, and the League meeting. "And then one of those antibody ships started to buzz me," Max continued, "but Dark Star was right there and just pancaked it, like it was made of paper!" Stesha froze at the sound of the name, seconds before the man himself came into view around the corner from the bay. He looked exactly as she remembered of course, a velvet-black hole in the world, edged with just a faint trace of white light in the shape of a man and two glowing-white eyes set in the featureless face. "Derrick," she murmured.
  2. September 21, 2011 Freedom Hall Under normal circumstances, Freedom Hall might be evacuating through the teleporters rather than through the garden, but then it was only recently that Freedom Hall had gained the services of the famous Fleur de Joie. Lacking the power to journey into space, and having freshly returned from his unsuccessful visit to Heaven, Freedom Angel was focused on the people now, moving through the small crowd of citizens who had been called up as part of the League's emergency evacuation program: there were heroes' families here and dependents, a sampling of survival experts and doctors, anybody who could help set up a camp on an alien world and maintain it long enough for the heroes of Freedom City to save the day. "God is watching everything we do," Freedom Angel assured the small group of families; mostly Navy families from Lonely Point, who were next on the list, "and He watches over us even now. Have no doubt that with His guidance and with the courage and skill of the Freedom League and the other heroes of the world, we will save this planet and everyone on it." "So why do we have to go?" asked a combative-looking girl of about 12, giving the angel a suspicious look. "If everything's going to be okay, why can't I stay with my mom?" Her dad was holding her, hands on her shoulders, but it looked like he had questions for the angel as well, and even as he heard the little fwoop that signaled a successful transfer of the other group, the angel knew he had to say something to satisfy these frightened people. "Because we need your mom to help save the world," replied the angel seriously. "The base at Lonely Point is helping coordinate the League's war with the Gorgon and her creatures in the depths of space. And if your mom knows, and if all your families know," he added, speaking now to the larger group, "they'll be able to concentrate on helping save the world, not just worrying about the ones they love. It's a tough duty," he added. "I know you would rather stay here with the ones you love. But this is a sacrifice we have to make the world that we know and love can be guarded. Sanctuary is a fine, green place," he promised the others as he opened the garden door. "You will love it. Fleur, are we ready for the next group?" he called.
  3. September 20-27, 2011 Fleur, Freedom Angel, Psyche, Phalanx, Dark Star deal with the evacuees to Sanctuary
  4. Late July 2011 The Lab As secret as the arrival of Entity 31966 had been kept, the fact that the Lab crew had made the initial discovery and that their ranks held some of the finest scientists in the world meant that they were in a position to both know what was coming and have something to do about it. Harrier felt uneasy as he sat in the big conference room with Miss Americana waiting for the others to arrive: for all that his experience with Terminus technology gave him insights unmatched even by Earthly scientists, he was no Earthly technician to know how to build a solution for this crisis: the Terminus solution, to evacuate valuable assets from the threatened world and leave poisons in their place, was hardly viable for an inhabited planet. Instead he studied the yellow legal pad before him, making tentative notes with the white blue-inked pen in his hand, and nervously awaited the others. "I am sure you will solve this," he said to Miss Americana. Fresh from his now-frequent visits to Antarctica, Murdock looked tired. "The heroes of this dimension are extremely capable."
  5. Dark Star broke away as soon as he could. But there were quite a few briefings to do, well present really. As one of the foremost experts, and he used that term loosely, he'd had to explain what he knew several times over. But as soon as he could, he had something very important to do. He flew through the portal to their home on Sanctuary. Once his senses picked up where she was, he flew directly to her not wasting a moment. Pulling to a stop, he settled to stand before her. He didn't waste time with his normal happy greeting upon seeing her. "Stesha, we have a problem. It seems that the planet eater, Gorgon, is heading in the direction of Earth. 'She' will be there in roughly one month. This is going to be a massive effort amongst the world's heroes but...I needed to tell you. I just left a briefing; first moment I could get away really."
  6. Derrick stretched with a yawn. He didn't really need sleep, either did his wife. And thank goodness for that! Their little bundle of joy was up at all hours demanding to be held or fed or what-have-you. Not that he minded! Far from it! But he had to wonder how a set of normal parents handled such an exhausting task as caring for an infant. It was a bit exhausting even without the need to sleep. Still, he could honestly say (and when wasn't he really?) that this was one of the happier times in his life. He had spent the majority of the last several weeks here on Sanctuary with his wife and newborn child. Taking only a few hours here and there, most of it had been spent in peaceful if somewhat exhausting bliss. But it was time to get back to their routine. The universe needed them almost as much as their daughter did. And now that she was settling, somewhat, it was time to get to it. He looked around idly in the crazy baby gear cacophony that their home had become, looking for the communicator that would let them check in with the League, as well as their friends and others who needed them, back on Prime. Of course...he'd had no luck searching for the darn thing in the last 10 minutes or so. "Honey? Where did we put the communicator?" It might have been a bit surreal to some how 'normal' the pair of powerhouses could sound, but it was just natural to them. Sure, he could have changed and looked for it in a flash...but he was enjoying being husband and daddy a bit too much to just revert to being Dark Star easily.
  7. June 3, 2011 9 AM   Secure in his locked-down office, Warden Drummer stared at the broadcast again, his mouth a tight line of pure rage. "When I find out how he managed to build twenty robot bees in solitary in my prison, I will find whoever is responsible and I will murder them. I have been in the corrections business for twenty-five years. I know how to make it look like an accident!" He sighed, looking again around his office. Too bad there was no one around to hear it; that had been one of his more satisfying rants. With a curse, he picked up the secure landline on his desk and dialed the Freedom League...
  8. Stesha was sleeping when the portals began appearing, not very heroic, but quite necessary nonetheless. She did a lot of sleeping these days, when the opportunity presented itself. Nevertheless, when the "All Hands" signal began broadcasting on her League radio, she didn't hesitate. A long green cloak over black and green maternity clothes passed for a costume these days, and as soon as she managed to get her shoes on, she was ready! Fleur de Joie teleported through the plant network to Hanover, and was immediately swallowed up by a time portal. She was so shocked for a moment that she didn't understand what had happened. She obviously wasn't in Freedom City anymore. She was standing on a hill overlooking a vast and beautiful wilderness that stretched away as far as the eye could see. In the other direction, an ocean gleamed like a blue jewel under a placid sunny sky. In the distance, thousands of shapes flew around a low mountain range... no, wait. Not any shapes, and not mountains. Those were giant bees, and the mountain range was some kind of giant bee metropolis... so this had to be Sanctuary. Not the Sanctuary she knew, but one she'd dreamed of in her heart, one that had decades or centuries of love and devoted care poured into it. The portal she'd gone through had taken her forward in time, she strongly suspected, but not in her own world, in the time of the world she'd built. For a moment, she was too dazzled to even be afraid, or to worry when and how she would ever make it home. "Look at it," she murmured, running her hands over her round tummy. "Look how beautiful it is. It's more than I ever imagined. I wonder how long it took to make all of this happen..." Cleaning the ocean alone had surely been the work of a lifetime, but how long would her lifetime be? That was an answer she didn't have, but if it wasn't long enough, then someone else had obviously taken up the mantle. She was shaken from her reverie at the sound of a voice behind her. "Stesha? My love, is it you?" She turned around and saw Dark Star, standing just a few yards away, his blank face and body revealing nothing, as usual, but still enormously reassuring. "Derrick, thank god you're here!" she exclaimed, hurrying over to him. "I thought I was all alone here, and I don't know how to get back. Do you know when this is? Did we really come forward in time?" Even as she stepped towards him he was changing, undergoing the familiar transformation from demigod to the man she loved, except now he was different. She stopped short, just before going into his arms. This Derrick was older, with shocks of silver in his hair and lines in his face, a man who looked as though he'd carried burdens that were far too heavy for far too long. But when she looked into his eyes, she knew it wasn't a doppelganger or a deception, it was really him. "Derrick?" she asked, her voice a whisper. "You came forward," he told her, his voice cracking at the edges with unspoken emotion. "You came forward into the future and saw Sanctuary in a thousand years' time, looking from this hilltop. When you went home, you told me about the trip, where you'd landed and what you'd seen. And I.. I remembered, and I came here, so that when you arrived, I would be here waiting for you. It's been so long, but I had to speak with you one more time..." With that, he took her into his arms and kissed her, a kiss full of desperate longing and loneliness and love, gentle despite its passion. It was very unlike the Derrick she knew, and yet so like him at the same time that she couldn't resist putting her arm around him and returning it. Bittersweet as it was, the moment couldn't last forever. Stesha still needed to know what was going on, and finally she pulled away. "Why did you come?" she asked him. "I mean, isn't it risky to tamper with the past, even like this? How did you know exactly when I would be here?" "I didn't," he said, his voice rough as he lay a hand lightly on her stomach. "I've waited here ten years, just for the chance to speak with you, with you as you are now, before anything else. There are hard times coming, my love, and I needed to tell you how immensely sorry I am that any of it has to happen. I know that it will be difficult to understand, and perhaps impossible to forgive, but for so many years I have regretted that I was never able to ask your forgiveness." "Ask forgiveness for what?" Stesha asked, suddenly afraid. Not of this Derrick, or even of the situation she found herself in, but for whatever he had done that so haunted him over the centuries. "What's going to happen? Maybe there's a way to change it, to make things right, if you tell me..." Derrick shook his head. "A thousand years I've asked myself what I could have done differently, if there wasn't something I could've changed, a duty I could've ignored while still remaining true to who I am. This ten years it seems I've thought of nothing but that. There are immutable principles in the universe, though, and one of the first and deepest is that heroes must act to preserve life, wherever it is endangered, and whatever the cost. But if I'd had any choice in the matter, I promise I never would have done anything that hurt you, or hurt our child. And I'm so sorry." Stesha blinked with confusion, trying to sort out the thousand thoughts and feelings rushing through her head. "Derrick, I..." He reached out and took her hands, and only then did she notice that her body was already starting to fade, so that he could barely hold onto her. "I will always love you, Stesha," he promised, looking into her eyes. "A thousand years, a million. Forever." "I love you too," she told him, trying to squeeze his fingers with hands that were barely tangible. "And whatever it is, whatever happened, I forgive you!" One last second of contact, as the world turned to white and gray around her, and then he was gone, and Sanctuary was gone, and Stesha was left standing next to a tree in one of the Hanover business parks, as though nothing had ever happened. She stood there for a moment without moving, long enough that a passing civilian asked her if she was all right. "I'm fine, thank you," she said with a reassuring smile, then disappeared into the plants and back home. The all hands signal had stopped, it seemed like things were starting to come under control. Unable to help herself, she picked up her cell phone and called Derrick. "Honey, could you come home?" she asked, not liking the weakness in herself, but not wanting to sit alone with all these worries and fears. "What is it, sweetheart?" Derrick's worried voice came over the phone. "Is it the baby? I'm out in Hanover with the dimensional cleanup, I can be there right away..." "No, no, it's not the baby" she reassured him, taking a deep breath and getting ahold of herself. "The baby is fine, I'm fine. Go ahead and do the cleanup, and I'll talk to you tonight. I love you." "I love you too," he told her, though already he sounded a bit distracted by his work. "See you tonight."
  9. Time: January 10, 2010 Place: Archetech The room was dark and quiet, mechanical humming and the whoosh of air recirculating the only noises that could be heard. Stesha lay on an uncomfortable bed, half-propped up by the lifting back and a couple of pillows. She looked at the blank screen in front of her, then over to Derrick where he sat on a stool next to the bed, and squeezed his hand. "I feel like we're waiting for a movie to start," she joked softly. He just smiled and brushed his lips across her forehead, even as the door to the hallway opened to let in light and the businesslike clicking of high heels. "Sorry to be a little late," Miss Americana told the couple, a white lab coat thrown on over her uniform. "You know how it goes, but I'm glad we didn't have to reschedule. I've been looking forward to this. Are you both ready?" "Absolutely," Stesha said with a grin. "I want to see who's kicking me all night... besides you, honey," she teased Derrick. He blushed. "You're certain there's no risk, right?" he asked Miss Americana. "Positive," Miss A assured him, sitting down on the opposite side of the bed and lifting up Stesha's maternity smock. "3-D ultrasound is just as safe as regular. We're just going to have a look." Stesha giggled as the gorgeous doctor poured gel lubricant onto her bare tummy. "It's cold!" she announced, shivering more with excited nerves than with the actual temperature. All eyes were riveted to the screen the moment Miss A picked up the wand and began applying it to the taut skin of Stesha's abdomen. "Oh..." Stesha murmured softly as the picture came into focus, her fingers clasping Derrick's. "Look, it's our baby..." At this stage, the newest member of the Lumins family looked a lot like something Dark Star might have encountered out in deep space, with a head half the size of its entire body and eyes that dominated the top entire half of the head. The surprisingly detailed picture showed the baby's tiny hands up in front of its face, its eyes closed. As they watched, one infinitesimal thumb went into the mouth. Stesha cooed, and Derrick wiped his eyes with a tissue. Miss Americana flipped a switch, and the quiet room was suddenly filled with a quick galloping noise. "Heart sounds good," Miss A told them. "You can keep watching while I move the wand around for some measurements. I've got a pretty good guess as to the sex, unless you want it to be a surprise." Stesha looked over at Derrick, her own eyes wet as she smiled at him. "We want to know," she said definitely. "I've been bursting to know for weeks! How can I get started on the serious shopping otherwise?" "Fair enough," Miss A acknowledged. She captured a picture of the screen, moved the wand a little, repeated the process. "The little one's not shy, that's for sure. Unless I'm very much mistaken, and I rarely am, you all are having a little girl." She smiled a little at Stesha's cry of delight and kept taking measurements while the couple took in the news. "A little girl," Stesha sighed dreamily, looking at the screen. "Somehow I was sure she was going to be a girl. Look at her, isn't she beautiful?" "Just like her mother," Derrick agreed, his voice thick with emotion. He leaned in and kissed her again, for once not seeming to care that anyone saw. "She's perfect." "She's mad," Stesha told him with a breathless laugh. "She's kicking the probe. I don't think she likes us messing with her." She rubbed her stomach above the gelled area, lightly and reassuringly. "It's all right, baby," she told their agitated daughter. "We can see how pretty you are now, we'll let you go back to sleep soon. We love you so much! I can't wait till we get to see you face to face." Stesha lay back and looked at Derrick, swamped with euphoria and love. "I guess it's time to start thinking about names now, too!"
  10. Blackstone Prison is what allows the citizens of Freedom City to sleep at night. They know that all of the super villains Freedom City seems to attract are safely locked up inside the formidable walls of Blackstone. That security blanket was shattered as a large scale break out attempt larger than any since the Terminus Invasion began mere moments ago. The Blackguards were fighting valiantly, but it was only a matter of time before they were overrun. Prisoners were already making it to the surface, there only saving grace was that the least powerful of the villains were kept closest to the surface. The longer the prisoners went uncontained, the more likely the guards were to be overrun by Freedom's most wanted.
  11. Given it was a summer class, it was far from required but it certainly helped give those students in attendance a leg up. Not to mention it was certainly not a class you’d find in any educational institution outside of Claremont. Xeno-linguistics, Xeno-diplomacy, astrophysics as well as a little smattering of other sciences were the focus of the class. Despite what some might consider the topic to be, the class was anything but boring. Nor was it exceptionally hard though it often went a little over the scheduled time. Dark Star was, and this was not entirely unusual given his busy schedule, a few minutes late for class. He floated down through the ceiling. “Good afternoon class. My apologies for my tardiness. There was a small earthquake in China.†He looked around, making sure everyone was present and telekinetically marking off his attendance sheet. “Now, today’s lesson will be a mix of topics. Please bring your notebook and something to write with.†He nodded to himself before continuing. “We’re going to a lovely little world just on the other side of the core. In fact we’ll be visiting this particular planet each class over the next week or so. The local geology is quite interesting. Rhysium is an extremely rare mineral that many species use in construction of starship weapons and armor. It doesn’t exist on Earth outside of the odd asteroid. On this world, it exists in abundance. If the planet wasn’t so far out of the way and hard to detect it would certainly have been a mined long before now. We’re going to study it in its natural environment.†“Now, the indigenous people will not be able to understand a word you’re saying. Part of today’s assignment, in addition to the mineral studies will be in Xeno-linguistics and diplomacy. The people are essentially non-violent. You will take some steps in basic communication attempts, learning to convey basic concepts. Learning to communicate without common ground is an enlightening experience.†He gestured, opening a wormhole. “Any questions or is everyone ready?â€
  12. Several of Freedom City's heroic types received a large invitation slid under their door around the middle of June; the cards appeared to be handmade either by someone in their late teens or perhaps merely addicted to clip art, glitter and caffeinated soft drinks. Some people did not get hard copies at all, due to Lynn's unfamiliarity with their current living arrangements, but she still made sure the word got around.
  13. After the near disastrous encounter with Darkstar and Stesha Jack moved through the void for a short time to figure out where to look next. First thing he had to find out was exactly when it was. Luckily he had a good disguise that few to none would question shaking down informants for the 'word on the street'. Thus he stepped out of the void on the roof of a small apartment complex on the Westside of freedom looking for a likely target. His earlier encounter and relative inexperience with field work left him not putting his all into hiding but he cut an imposing figure where he lurked on the roof.
  14. Getting reservations at The Starlight Room was easy for Moira. The owner was more than glad to listen to her offer. A night of dinner and dancing for her friends in exchange for a night of dinner and dancing with her was all he needed to hear. Now for the not so easy part: Getting the two together on one night. Stesha asn't that hard to find. and chatting her up about the nice guy who did nice things was a big confidence booster. Getting Dark Star to turn into Derrick was another story. It took some coercing, but she finally managed for him to be solid for one night. Having the two custom fitted for their attire cost a fortune. It was almost showtime. She met with Derrick to give him his rose to be presented to Stesha. She met with Stesha to cover up any last minute doubts. Getting out of their way before they met each other, she let nature take it's course.
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