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Found 10 results

  1. Electra

    Graduation Day

    Graduation Day “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.) Characters Player Characters Corbin Hughes (Cobalt Templar) Trevor Hunter (Midnight II) Mark Lucas (Edge) Eve Martel (Sage) Erin White (Wander) Notable NPCs Travis Hunter (Midnight I) Rick Lucas Martha Lucas Oliver 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 Redbird Physician Friendly Faith Martel (Seraph) Plot 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. Worn-Out Places 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. Familiar Faces 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. Aftermath 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. Links Graduation Day: Noise of Thunder Graduation Day: Worn-Out Places Graduation Day: The End of the Beginning Graduation Day: Familiar Faces Graduation Day: Leaves From The Vine Graduation Day: The Earth Died Screaming Graduation Day: There Won't Be A Next Time Graduation Day: Summa Cum Laude
  2. Ashton June 7, 2011 A couple of days after the Claremont kids finally had their graduation, the general word went out in the superheroic community that Richard Milhouse Lucas, the long-time sidekick to the Freedom League back in the 1960s and 1970s, had perished in the line of duty. Rick had been a difficult man for many of his old friends to get along with in the last few years as his bitterness towards the current generation of superheroes grew, but he'd stayed in touch with everyone and always been there when they needed help. He'd regularly played host to various parties and fundraisers for that generation of heroes as they got older, using the celebrity he'd gained from his time with the League and his best-selling series of 'men's super-adventure novels' to help his old friends who'd never gotten a dime from their work stay financially comfortable even in retirement. He'd gone into seclusion some months earlier, and hadn't been seen much sense. Only a select few heroes personally associated with the Freedom League and the upper tier at Claremont knew about Rick's descent into madness after his son's short-lived death; what he'd done to rewrite the world and how he'd nearly abandoned it in disgust before giving his life to keep Omega from attacking it again. All superheroes invited to the service were invited to come in full costume, while in lieu of flowers Rick's testament asked that they donate to his son's alma mater: Claremont Academy. And now that a long life had come to an end, if too early for those who'd loved him, it was a time for the memorial service Rick had requested: a memorial service was all they could have, since his body was now somewhere beneath what had once been another version of Freedom City cast deep into the Zero Zone. At the Lucas house, Mark was studying himself in his bedroom mirror as he adjusted his suit and tie, trying to keep his emotions in check. Downstairs, his mom was entertaining Duncan Summers and his daughter Jasmine, the headmaster and his daughter being the first to show up for the service despite it being some time away. For Mark's part, after some consideration, he'd sent invitations out to all his schoolfriends, even those who he knew had had little use for his father while he was alive. If they didn't show, that was fine: he trusted them enough to know they wouldn't disrupt what the moment was about. It was about family...and when he thought about Young Freedom, he decided with a nod to his reflection, that meant they belonged there too.
  3. Continued from >There Won't Be A Next Time June 1st, 2011. 8:05 AM   Young Freedom missed graduation, but then again, so did everyone else. The ceremony had been postponed the minute the five young heroes had disappeared from view, for all that they'd reappeared only five minutes later on the other side of town with the broken chestplate of Omega's armor and a wild story to tell. There were debriefings to come, no doubt extensive ones that would exhaustively pour over every detail of the fight at the end of reality and all that had come before it: the death of the multiverse, the trip to four worlds, the appearance and disappearance of Rick Lucas, and finally the seeming destruction of the Lord of Entropy himself. But first, Bolt's speedy trip back to Freedom Hall after the reappearance of Travis, Martha, and Erin's cat on the Claremont lawn had meant the League teleporters were already working. By the time the Young Freedom kids had given their hasty explanations to the startled Captain Thunder and headed inside for their debriefing, their missing loved ones, even Quo-Dis who was holding a very familiar orange cat, were waiting for them inside. For their part, Mark and Martha took a look at each other, Mark's look confirming what Martha had already known, and they simply embraced, the moment too sharp, too painful, coming after too much overwhelming emotion even for weeping. "I'm proud of you, Mark," Martha whispered fiercely. "So very proud."
  4. Continued from >The Earth Died Screaming   Earth-EZO1 was a stark world of grim horror and sere beauty. Redbird's fast flight over the western United States showed them a world of dead cities and empty ruins beneath. Most cities had burned by now in their long untended period; Boise, Denver, St. Louis, and the rest were shells of what they'd once been. Streets were clogged with the rusting shells of cars and debris, and even unburnt buildings had begun to sway and fall. They were, at least, too high up for any lingering smells from beneath, though most of those had faded with the years of quietude. On another day, they might have appreciated the natural beauty beneath: the Misssissippi free of man's pollution, trees growing where cities had once been, a herd of bison stampeding beneath them in Missouri, what distinctly looked like a lion watching them as they skipped through Appalachian peaks in the Carolinas. But there was no time for that now, not with where they were going. Undersea was all quiet darkness as Redbird, with Midnight's skilled hands on her handlebards, took them beneath the waves. The ocean was dead of people; the Atlantean genocide having been one of the first outbreaks of the hero flu, but here too there were fish at play and the sunlight passing through the waves. There was life here, if no human life, and a vast universe beyond them. This world was more than just a tool for saving all reality; Earth-EZO1, for all its horror, was a world worth saving too. As they passed under the water, lit only dimly by the glow of Redbird's lights and the shimmering blue of Corbin's cold fire, Mark looked around at all the faces of his friends, thinking about the people underneath the masks. Erin, Trevor, Corbin, Eve, and their new friend Red Falcon, who with his plasma rifle would be defending Redbird even if they all had to leave it behind. They'd all come so far, over so many years and so much time, and now they were about to face their greatest challenge yet. They were approaching the river now, Edge riding behind Sage in one compartment, Cobalt Templar and Red Falcon on another side, and Midnight grim and determined behind the wheel with Wander behind him. For just a second, Mark closed his eyes and saw his mother's face, then his father's. Goodbye, Mom. Goodbye, Dad. And then they were erupting out of the water and Freedom City was given over to the forces of Hell: grim Terminus towers rising where once the Pyramid Plaza had stood and on the site of where City Hall had been, the downtown of Freedom City transformed into a Terminus hellscape of firepits and belching machinery: and as Redbird roared towards the battered bulk of Freedom Hall, he saw the Omegadrones beneath look up. "Let's do this! For Freedom!"
  5. Continued from >Leaves from the Vine   Earth-Z-Omega-1 Edge froze in shock as the toppling tower came down right where he was! Unable to dodge in time, instead he stood his ground and fired back. "NO!" His eyes glowing black, he fired straight upwards as the reality of this dead world warped around him at his will. He would not die because of a falling building! Mark Lucas would not let this, or anything else, stop his friends in their efforts to save all of existence from the dark machinations of Omega! At his command, the falling debris broke around him like a tide breaking around a rock, the so-small clear zone around him the only island of sanity beneath the avalanche of falling steel, concrete, and glass. A falling brick bounced against his back, knocking him to his knees, but Mark did not fall as the collapsing debris fell around him, his powers warping the very air and very rocks to keep his friends from being buried by the avalanche, even if he wasn't able to save all of them from the damage produced by the collapsing Needle. Before he even focused on the aerial battle, he called out over the echoes of the collapse, "Young Freedom! Sound off!"
  6. Continued from >Familiar Faces   Earth C-Future-2 With just enough warning to grab what they needed, Young Freedom slipped from one world to another in the early morning light of a clear summer's day. Within moments, they found themselves in a new world: this time in suburban Kingston, right under the WELCOME TO KINGSTON sign installed just a few years ago by the City Council. Pulling his costume all the way on, Mark pushed his thoughts about his father out of his head and looked around. It looked like everyone was dressed and in costume, though no one had had much warning about getting their clothes on and ready to go. For a moment, he thought they'd somehow solved everything and gone back to their world: Kingston in 2035 didn't look that different. Sure, the car in the suburban garage they were next to looked electric and had the sleek, efficient lines of something from a science fiction movie or car company special showroom, and sure the billboard down the street was a shimmering spectacle of light. It took him a few moments to take in the black. Black banners were hanging on every house, each with a date emblazoned in silver: 6/21/2034: NEVER FORGET! Turning around, he gasped at the sight of Freedom City; shining towers rose high in a monument to futurity, but every single one was under repair, with the marks of devastation visible even from this distance to his inexpert eyes. What had happened here, and what were they rebuilding from? Before he could react to the grim monument in suburbia and the recovering city before them, suddenly there was a cascade of light in front of them on the green lawn and five superheroes formed up out of what was obviously a very advanced teleporter's beam. In the lead of the largely female group was a >tall brunette in white and blue, a pair of dice on her costume's chest showing snake eyes. Next to her was a >muscular young man in all black, long ribbons extending from the back of his head like a novel kind of cape, a familiar symbol on his chest. Next to him was a young woman >Corbin almost recognized, her face like the young woman he'd met who claimed to be his daughter, but with a costume subtly different, more like Quo-Dis' than anything else and cast in purple from the ring on her finger. In the rear were two older women; >one with green hair and a purple and black outfit, and behind her a gleaming metal battlesuit with waving metallic tentacles like a robotic octopus. The group eyed each other for a moment before the ring-bearing girl said, her serious look suddenly cracking to pain, "You'd...you'd better be who you look like!" "Stand down, Vril Knight," said the dice lady, giving her ally a serious look before looking at the others, shooting a wide-eyed glance at Erin and Mark before mastering her own facial expression. "I'm Lucky Strike. Welcome to 2035, Young Freedom. We've been briefed on why you're here and we've located your target. Please, remember that you're from the past of an alternate world." It sounded like she was talking to her own team as much as Young Freedom. "You can't...you can't change what you see here. This is Midnight, Vril Knight, Amaryllis, and Fusion. We're here to help you get to Freedom Hall safely." "Call me Psilent," replied 'Midnight', his voice raspy and dry, with just the faint hint of a French accent. "While he's here."
  7. Continued from >The End of the Beginning   Earth-M-Lucas-1 Young Freedom left the grim darkness of an Erde morning and found themselves beneath a blue, sunny sky. They were in a clean, well-maintained alley in what was clearly downtown Freedom City: the trashcans all had their lids, none of the windows were broken, and there was no sign of Nazis. Visible to their left was the Pyramid Plaza, the triple towers rising high against the clear morning sky, the American flag flying high overhead. For a moment, anyway, those of them not familiar with other dimensions could think they'd all gone home. That was, at least, until the black Pontiac Firebird Trans Am came roaring down the street opposite, and the first blasting sounds of funky disco came their way from its overpowered speakers. Outside, the streets of Freedom City looked to be pulled from the pages of the 1970s seen through a warped modern lens: men with elaborate mustaches and half-open shirts that showed off their hairy chests walked alongside ladies in brightly-colored wide-hemmed bell-bottoms, over their heads computerized billboards advertising a too-young Farrah Fawcett starring in the latest Michael Bay movie. The streets were certainly more diverse than they'd last seen, with muscular black men with magnificently coiffed hair in the company of ladies with impressive afros: indeed, from the lady speaker on the corner calling for equal rights for all men and women to the hippies playing in the park, it looked as if someone had gone around and collected as many oppressed minority groups as they could and dropped them on the funky streets of Freedom City. Suddenly, a startled exclamation came as a policeman walking by the alley spotted the quintet of dimension-lost heroes. In a hammy Irish stage accent that nonetheless sounded all too real, he exclaimed, "It's...it's...oh mother of Mary, it's Counter Freedom!" He took out his whistle and blew it as hard and loud as he could. "I knew you crazy criminals would be back one day!" he called, whipping out his gigantic belt radio as he backed away from the teens. "You just stay back! The Freedom League will set you whippersnappers right!"
  8. Continued from >Worn-Out Places   The black dots faded, leaving behind them an ominous natural darkness. They were all standing on a cracked concrete floor, the distant sound of rumbling machinery and gunfire echoing in their ears. The air was rank and still with the heat of summer, and the sound of scuttling rats was at least as loud as the noise outside. And inside they were: the room around them seemed to be a damp, ruined basement, with only the broken remnants of stone steps leading up to ground level. As the heroes walked closer to the steps, thin rays of moonlight stabbed through the edges of the ruined ceiling. The bits of rubble shifted and moved under their strides, stirring up full regiments of fleeing rats in their wake. It was Trevor who recognized where they were first, thanks both to his piercing gaze and a sudden, nagging familiarity with the room. They were in the basement of the Rothsteins, the elderly Jewish couple who lived in the same sprawling block of mansions as his grandfather, a convival enough bunch whose main virtue as neighbors was being too busy with their poodle-breeding hobby to worry much about their elderly chemist neighbor and his quiet grandson. Standing in the rubble of their home, looking fresh enough to have been destroyed just a few years ago, it wasn't hard to guess what had happened. For his part, Edge led the way: with a gesture from him there were new stone stairs to climb, and he was up pushing open the door to gaze out at the scene outside. And what a scene it was: three night-black helicopters were whizzing by overhead, making a beeline for the shape of a very familiar house, leading the way behind a half-dozen armored vehicles coming out of a darkened city with a broken skyline lit only by searchlights. The Nazis were out in force tonight, and they were heading straight for the Midnight Manor. The helicopters were going to be in range of the Manor in seconds...
  9. Continued from >Noise of Thunder   Mark felt first a whiteness, pure and all-embracing, then terrible, all-encompassing blackness, as if a quiet non-existence had been replaced with the certain knowledge of absolute destruction. And then he was waking up, his face pressed to an unfamiliar wooden surface that it took him a bizarre second to recognize: he was pressed against not the floor, but the far wall of his mother's art studio, surrounded by the furniture, art supplies, and his mother's scattered colored pencils that had all evidently taken a hard spin to the left at some point when the local gravity had taken a hard turn in the wrong direction. Pulling himself to his feet, he gazed around a room cast sideways and lit with an eerie red glow from outside. He counted off with his eyes: Wander, Midnight, Cobalt Templar, Sage, Trevor's grandfather, even his mother, all of them cast askew by the warped gravity just as the room's contents had been. Ignoring the shuttered window for a moment, not to mention of seeing the whole world swept away into nothingness, Mark focused right on Martha. "Mom? Are you all right? What happened?" He couldn't quite keep the judgement out of his voice; he'd had good reason to be angry with his parents for a long time now! For her part, Martha was dusting herself off. "Oh, Mark..." She embraced him. "I'm so sorry it happened like this, and that I left the way I did...but I saw you'd be all right and I had to spend what time I could with your father. I don't know if you can forgive me...but because we're all here, it was for a good cause." She let out a breath. "Your father is waiting for us in the study. For all of us. He'll explain everything."
  10. June 1, 2011 8 AM Mark stood in his dorm room, peering out the window at the junior students working to set up the stage, folding seats, banners, and other paraphernalia of a Claremont graduation. Mike had already moved his stuff out, leaving a hollow space on one side of the room. The Class of 2011 was just a couple of hours from graduation; he was just about to finish high school. He didn't feel quite as triumphant as he'd once thought he would. Maybe it was because he was alone; he'd have a few cousins in the crowd, but neither Rick nor Martha Lucas had made any sign of coming to their son's graduation. They'd made no sign at all of where they'd gone, just a month earlier, and made no sign of coming back. His parents were gone. And worse, it looked like he'd be going too: he was happy about the thought of working with UNISON, and loved the idea of going to Africa to work for people who needed the kind of help most superheroes couldn't give them. But it still meant going away from the city that had been his home his whole life, from the friends and extended family he'd known for so long. He checked his watch, then gathered up his bundle of graduation stuff (just so he wouldn't lose it), and decided to head upstairs to where at least one friend would probably be. He figured this was one night she probably hadn't spent at Trevor's. Amid the hustle and bustle of his fellow students getting ready for graduation, Mark knocked on Erin's door. How many more times am I going to do this?, he asked himself. Not many. No one I know will be living here soon! That thought was soothing enough to relax him, at least for the moment. He wasn't really good at dwelling on things for long, not even on a big day like this. They were all moving on, after all, and surely the always-prepared Erin had more in mind for the future than he did.
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