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  1. November 2010 It was early November when all the members of Young Freedom, well, all the ones on campus regularly, were summoned to the headmaster's office. Though some arrived fearlessly and others with trepediation, all of them were met with Duncan Summers and a man who was a familiar face for all of them but especially familiar to those who had helped save his life. King M'Balla, the White Lion, had recovered entirely from his trip to the Lost World, and looked a charismatic, chiseled figure in a neatly-pressed suit. His voice was low and dignified as he greeted all the teens by name, his handshake firm without being bone-crushing. He had a very faint accent, but his English was otherwise perfect. "It is a pleasure to see all of you again, and some of you for the first time." He smiled, nodding to Midnight among others. "I am an old hand with super-teams. I know how quickly you come and go. I have come to America for two reasons. One to thank you again for coming to my defense earlier, and the second to invite you to Dakana as my guests." "Mmm." Summers folded his hands, looking up at the students as they found their seats. "The White Lion and I have arranged for the members of Young Freedom to spend the week before Thanksgiving in Dakana as guests of the King. This will be a working vacation," he added with a firm look at everyone, "one in which I will expect all of you to return with a report on your observations of the kingdom, but...it will be a vacation nonetheless, as you will be excused from all but ongoing assignments for that week. Are there any questions?" Mark raised his hand and M'Balla's eyebrows furrowed briefly before he said, "Yes, Mr. Lucas?" "Are we going to see Lion, the great and powerful spirit of the people, who empowers the line of kings as his champion? Or travel to Ayesha the Immortal's realm and battle the great enemy of the Lion clan, the immortal Egyptian princess who ever seeks a worthy man as match for her great and deathless realm as co-ruler?" "....no," said the king gently, wincing ever so slightly. "I prefer to fight my own battles, rather than send the sons of my old friends and their friends to fight my enemies for me. We will climb the slopes of Kilimanjaro, dig for daka crystals with our own hands, and see the world outside of Freedom for a little while. I can promise you all adventure, but danger will, inshallah, pass us all by this time."
  2. The Freedom City Medical Center was seen as a safe haven to many before the announcement earlier today. Its staff was measured in the thousands and had state of the art medical equipment; there was no where in the world where you could get better attention. As violence swept the streets, the hospital was soon filled to the point of breaking. Now if Atlas's threat comes to pass, the hospital could very well turn into a feeding ground with a death toll measured in the thousands.
  3. A couple of weeks after prom, Mark invited his friends over to his house. Well, the people who still were his friends: he wasn't really talking much to Eddie these days, but most of his colleagues from Young Freedom were on the list. He was standing outside the door of the Lucas house to greet them when they arrived, the lawn looking just a little grubbier and the house a little dingier than when the Young Freedom members had been there last. Mark himself was out of costume, but also out of the black, depressing clothes he'd been wearing most everywhere but prom for the last couple of months. In a white shirt and slacks, he looked downright respectable.
  4. 9:45 pm, March 12, 2010 The pops of pistol fire echoed over police band. "Requesting immediate support on Erin Drive! We are under attack by multiple unknown assailants!" More shots rang out, followed by a high-pitched squeal of pain. "Plants! The damn pl..." The channel went dead. "Rodriguez! Officer down!" Heavy breathing and running footsteps. "Officer down! Need EMS at..." A strange, wet splat echoed in the microphone. Silence. "Units 14 and 15, situation report. Officer Rodriguez, Officer Johns, please respond." All units be advised. Officers down. Shots fired in the vicinity of 315 Erin Drive, Lantern Hill. Units A14 and A15 on scene. Suspected meta-human activity. EMS, Fire and STAR en route. ---- Minutes earlier... A green meteor streaked across the misty skies of Freedom City. Long and needle-like, the falling star cut through the rain and twinkled as it neared the horizon. With a burst of green light, one thin, green line broke into five, showering Wharton Forest and northwestern Freedom City. The winds whipped up in protest. Deep in the heart of Wharton Forest, a small, twisted tree stirred. Leaves sprouted and the trunk bent to look at the sky. Glowing yellow eyes shined from deep within the foliage. A low rumble emanated from the branches themselves. Those of telepathic persuasion felt a dark signal creeping from the forest. My children, the Prophesy is at hand. Bring me the shards of the Green Star. Tonight we shall reclaim the city in the name of the Green!
  5. James nodded to himself as he took a seat. He’d sent the message to the others once he was ready. He didn’t want to meet at Claremont, not with nigh-omnipotent Summers there. He hadn’t said much in the message besides that he needed to meet with them about something relating to the “L†event. At the moment only Persephone and Phantom knew what he had in mind. While this wasn’t exactly super secret, it wasn’t something he planned on broadcasting either. This was more…off the books kind of thing. He waited for them in a parking lot of Dairy Queen, sitting on table and eating an ice cream.
  6. James sighed, steeling himself. He talked to girl, seduced them, charmed their socks off (literally sometime) without batting an eye. He'd seen monsters and horrors without flinching. He visited hell, regularly, cry crying out loud. There was nothing he was afraid of. So why the heck was he so damn nervous? Come on. Time to man up here. He squared his shoulders and took a deep breath. He settled his face and mind as best he could. He took a step and vanished. He reappeared outside the gates of Claremont. There was still some respect in him for the place, despite not going there anymore. Jumping past the gates seemed a...violation somehow. A little walk wouldn't kill him. He nodded and greeted people as he walked towards the buildings. He'd check Erin's usual haunts first. The gym, the lounge and the like before trying her room.
  7. 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.
  8. Once upon a time, before the end of the world, Erin White had been a much girlier girl. She'd had fun at sleepovers with her friends, giving and receiving makeovers and talking about boys. If everything hadn't gone careening off the rails, she would've gotten professional instructions from the Avon rep that Kathy's mom had booked for her birthday party, but even so, Erin could put on makeup without looking like a fool. But that had been in another lifetime, and she just didn't anymore. For a long time, there was absolutely no point in it, between one thing and another, and then, when she'd been released from quarantine and gotten used to being around girls who cared about their appearances, she had no money for that kind of thing. It was easier to pretend not to care and just make sure to keep her skin clean and avoid zits. Now, though, she had a job, sort of, and a scarily amazing dress, and she was going to a fancier party than anything she'd ever been invited to before. If there was ever a time, it was now. She wished Alex was around to help, but at the same time, doing it on her own protected her ego when she scoured clearance racks and tested what sort of products worked on super-resilient skin and hair. The curling iron and hair doo-dads she could borrow, at least. With Oliver watching encouragingly from the counter, she co-opted one of the girls' bathrooms on the day of the dance and spent literally most of the afternoon getting ready. Training and homework be damned, just this once. Maybe she had no chance of fitting in, but she wanted to at least look the part. All in all, she thought she did a fairly good job. After experimenting and deciding that she couldn't put her super-straight hair up in any sort of complicated arrangement by herself, she let it go and just curled the tendrils near her face, holding the rest back with a couple of sparkly rhinestone combs. The makeup was understated, it had to be with her pale skin, but it set off her lips and made her eyes look bigger and darker. She'd borrowed the shoes, too, strappy red heels that added inches to her height and a sway to her walk that she'd had to practice with a little. The dress, however, was doing most of the heavy lifting in the ensemble. Despite her concerns, Frank had done an amazing job on it, creating a calf-length showpiece in deep red charmeuse that clung as much as her costume did but somehow made her look a whole lot more feminine. He'd gone with a little more cleavage than she'd hoped, but not as much as she'd feared, so she figured they could call it even, since he'd also included the matching shorts and slit the skirt enough to let her work if she had to. Frank obviously knew his customers. The earrings and the necklace she'd found were rhinestones too, and people would probably notice at a shindig like this, but there was no help for that. They looked pretty. Oliver purred his approval as she looked at herself in front of the mirror one more time, getting up and stretching after his long stint playing moral support. "Wish me luck," she told him with a crooked smile. "I think I might be better off going into a war zone than doing this. But it'll be an adventure." Tucking her bat and her wallet into the little matching evening bag, she headed out to the common room to wait for Trevor.
  9. And then the kids were elsewhere. They were gone from the false reflection of Freedom Hall, standing instead on the lawn of the Lucas family house, standing among the rubble of the battlefield that had killed Mark just a few hours earlier. Except he was alive, standing there amid the group of teens, and Rick and a shell-shocked looking Martha were standing there just a few yards away. "Dad!" Mark broke from the crowd and ran to his father, just as Martha called her husband's name and ran to him. But even as they did so, the teens saw the black, inky shapes beginning to break away from Rick, flaring up into invisibility like rising soap bubbles as they left his body to flare upwards and vanish in the sky. "I'm sorry, I can't stay," he was apologizing over his family's pleas, arms around Mark and Martha both as he slowly, inexorably vanished elsewhere, some place beyond even James's dimensional vision. "The universe can't survive two reality warpers, not and let humanity keep its freedoms." He hugged Martha. "I'll see you again soon. I promise. I love you so much, heart of my heart..." He hugged Mark, his body now so thin as to be translucent. "I love you, Mark." He pulled back, on the edge of vanishing. "You've always been my hero, Mark! Always!" And with that, with a single, devastated cry from Mark's mother as she collapsed into her son's arms, Rick Lucas was gone.
  10. Flashes of ionic energy propelled the young heroes to an all-too-familiar place; the spots on the sidewalk where they'd watched Mark Lucas die just a few hours earlier. If time itself hadn't changed, that is. The Lucas house was a quiet, peaceful place in an idyllic neighborhood, just as it had always been in the real world for the heroes who'd visited there. An unfamiliar old man, looking as old as Trevor's grandfather in the real world, clad in a sweater-vest and bow-tie was trimming the hedges of the house next door, humming an amiable tune as he worked. There was no sign of the horrific events that had happened in this place earlier today, but of all the places in Freedom City, why would there be?
  11. A wall of black, whirling dots of ink exploded over everything, battering through James' dimensional barrier an instant after sweeping away the whole world around it. And then... - James Prophet woke up to the gentle beeping of his compu-alarm, the whirring of his electro-bed a gentle reminder of the very pleasant way he'd fallen asleep. He sat up wearily, listening to the hum of the stabilizers that kept his flying saucer in orbit of Earth. Rising to his feet, he caught sight of his face in a reflective surface of polished metal and paused. Wasn't that right? He was Hell-Ion, the half-blooded son of the crown prince of Lucifer-1, the biggest planet in the Antares system whose inhabitants had evolved red skin and ionic-wielding powers to protect themselves from the sun's red radiation. But he'd sided with his mother's people, not his father's, and become the guardian of the planet he'd once hoped to invade. Was that right? No. No, because when he looked in the mirror, he saw who he was. He was James Prophet, prince of Hell. This other life was patchy, with elements of his backstory hard to recall exactly, as if no one had ever bothered to write the story down completely, but he could remember his lives enough to know which one was real. - "Raven." Chris Kenzie woke up in a sitting position, peering through his mask at a very familiar face. His adopted father, Duncan Summers, was looking down at him with one of his characteristic indulgent smiles. "You fell asleep in costume again." Poking him lightly with his cane, he said, "Get upstairs and get some breakfast before your mother has my hide." The laughing acrobat was soon on his feet, running up the steps of the Ravencave to join his adopted mother, Jasmine Summers, for a hearty bacon and eggs breakfast. It was over breakfast, sitting with his new family and laughing and talking, that he caught sight of his face in one of Jasmine's highly polished plates. And the new life suddenly half-melted, as fast as it had come. He could remember patches; his adoption, his home, his family with Duncan and Jasmine, but other things were less sure, as if they'd been changed in an awfully fast hurry. He was Chris Kenzie, Geckoman, and he remembered that much with perfect clarity. - Erin fell thirty feet, landing on her feet in a lush, luxurious lawn. Coming to her senses, she realized she was standing beside the old Freedom Hall, the massive old mansion that had stood there before the Terminus Invasion and had once been the headquarters of the Freedom League. The sound of traffic was loud in her ears. Peering through the giant hedge between her and the street, she saw a scene like something out of an old movie; classic cars, men in suits, and women in needleskirts and pillbox hats that reminded her of pictures of Jackie Kennedy. But she hadn't traveled in time, she saw, not when she saw a young man walking along and listening to his iPod. The last thing she remembered was the end of everything. - Trevor Hunter woke up with a feeling of great loss, the way he always did on the anniversary of his parents' deaths. But Travis was there to comfort and steady him, as always, the greying-haired champion of justice a rock as they carried flowers to the graves of Ted Hunter and Janet Pryce-Hunter. Behind them was Margery, his grandfather's never-failing secretary, who'd stayed young and vital as long as Travis had thanks to their infusions of the Infinity Formula Midnight had taken from Wilhelm Kantor. It was raining just a little, enough that the smooth, polished marble reflected Trevor's face back at him as he and his grandfather recited the oath they'd taken to avenge any unjust killings like those that had taken his father and Travis' son. And it was then he remembered that his parents were alive. They'd abandoned him for Paris, left him in the care of an old man who lived alone, his favorite secretary long since dead. Patchy as the false life was, he could remember details of it, but there was no doubt in his mind about which story was which. He was Midnight II...but not this Midnight II. - Eve woke up as her cousin threw a pillow at her face. "Eeeeve! Wake up! Wake up you silly sleepyhead!" Faith gave her a big raspberry. "You'll be late for your recital!" "Fine, fine," grumbled Eve, who'd never been a morning person. She slid out of bed, headed for the bathroom, and started brushing her teeth. She looked in the mirror, saw the toothbrush blocking her mouth, and remembered. She was the hottest teen musician in Freedom City, she was a powerful psychic teen hero, she had a cute boyfriend with a nice smile. But that was a lie, wasn't it? She was Sage, and she remembered everything.
  12. It was a quiet Memorial Day weekend around Freedom City, one quiet enough that many of Freedom City's superheroes (including its teenage contingent) went out of town to visit their families over the weekend, or go elsewhere with their families to enjoy the long weekend. Claremont Academy was hosting a barbecue for the kids who had no place to go, but there were plenty of other things to do in and around campus. Until, that is, the emergency alert went off: it rang first for the members of Young Freedom, jangling through the communicators they all carried, but then it began beeping frantically all across campus. This was a school emergency, requiring the attention of many of the teenage heroes at Claremont who weren't affiliated with Young Freedom. The Freedom Leaguer Siren had been visiting campus for the holiday, perhaps to visit her old friend Duncan Summers, and she quickly took charge of the emergency. "Everyone who can help, follow me! If you can't get yourself quickly, find a teleporter, flier, or speedster, and follow the distress call." She took out her League transponder and fiddled with it quickly, her scientist's fingers moving fast over the hand-sized piece of high technology. "If you have to get there on your own, use League coordinates 08401-08406. That'll put you in Ashton, right at...oh, by the loa, it's Rick Lucas' house." Siren had been on the old Freedom League; the ageless beauty had been there since the 1960s. She knew Rick Lucas, the former mascot-cum-junior member of the Silver Age League, and of course his son, Claremont student Mark Lucas, very well indeed. "Quickly now!"
  13. 3 or 4 years ago, April Fool’s Day; early morning at the Prophet Mansion: James slowly and gently closed the door, breathing a sigh of relief. He looked around the door carefully, making sure that no sign of his little ‘trick’ could be seen. Satisfied, he slumped his shoulders in exhaustion as he quickly walked down the corridor. Sure, didn’t seem to need much sleep anymore but that was relatively new. And he’d been up all night arranging this little practical joke. He finally got his room, the smallest and most removed room in the entire place. It was in the basement unsurprisingly. Getting there, he flopped down onto his bed, reviewing the plan in his head one last time. It had taken him weeks and weeks to quietly collect whipped cream and keep it hidden, not mention relatively fresh. Then, filling hundreds and hundred of balloons with it and leaving them out long enough for the cream to go bad had been a real trick. It wasn’t like they left him unattended for long. Or that they didn’t search his room regularly. Well, he couldn’t prove the last one, but he suspected it. The actual placing all of them outside the various doors was easy by comparison as was rigging them to pop/explode when the door was opened. Now, hopefully when his ‘loving family’ **scoff scoff** opened their doors in the morning, they’d be treating with one heck of a stinky bath. He just had to make sure he was somewhere far from there when it happened. Which brought him to his second plan. He reached over and picked up a set of shiny keys off the dresser and smiled. He thought his Uncle’s car was pretty cool but had never been allowed near the thing shockingly enough. But now…now was the time for a test spin. After another moment, he got up and stretched. He’d never get out of the house without being noticed. It was a minor miracle he hadn’t been noticed setting up his little ‘prank’. But as he’d recently discovered, he had new abilities to help. He concentrated and a moment later he appeared in the large garage, staggering a little. He was still getting used to that. He moved over to his Uncle’s prized car. A beautifully restored red and white muscle car. A Chevelle. Very nice. He twirled the keys in his hand as he approached the car, grinning. He crouched down and placed a little something under the car before getting in the driver’s seat. Starting the car up, he slowly backed out. Where the car had been was now empty, save a tiny matchbox replica that is. He was just gonna drive it around a little, and then park it somewhere else. It’d drive his Uncle nuts to see just the little toy car and go looking. And what could go wrong with James just driving it around a little?
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