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Found 162 results

  1. July 13, 2018 Midnight Manor Even now, Midnight Manor was one of the safest places in Freedom City. "Sea Devil and Singularity have made contact with Foreshadow. The plan is in motion." Redbird had been more subdued than usual lately - hadn't they all? Even with the evacuations the dead, wounded, and missing in Freedom City were four, maybe five figures; not to mention the heroes, no, the friends they'd lost. "Good." Through his radio link to the Manor, Harrier spoke with the slow, deliberate intonations of a man whose breathing came with difficulty. "Are you prepared?" He'd done his best to help them. They had a map of their destination, a rough sketch of its likely defenses, and more besides - Steve had stayed up all night, multiple nights, dictating to Redbird when Wander and Midnight had been deployed to the action. There was very little else he could do. While the others talked, Mark studied the screens showing the continued carnage of the fight in Freedom City - maybe it was all confined to an isolated few areas this time, maybe this was just touches of Hell on Earth instead of the real thing. He closed his eyes and thought of Nina and Richie, safely away from all this - unless all this spilled out over everything, and took them just like it had taken his friends in the DuTemps Building. When we get back here - I need to fix things.
  2. August 2, 2017 Freedom Medical Center Keeping things low-profile, as was the plan, meant that any image Mark had had of landing on the rooftop were quickly stifled by the reality of the need to look like any typical expectant family and friends arriving at the hospital late at night. Redbird dropped them off at the front doors and they headed inside, where the front desk attendant quickly directed them towards the secure elevator to the maternity ward. On the sixth floor. As the elevator ascended, an ominous rumble came from somewhere in the shaft - but Mark looked up and declared out loud, “No!” And with that, they continued to their destination, where as parents in labor but not particularly active labor, Mark and Nina were immediately handed a large pile of forms. Ready to walk around instead of wait, Nina handed them quickly to Mark. By the time they were about to head for their secure room, two visitors arrived. Iyar al-Iryani was the first of the extra guests to arrive, sweeping Nina up in a careful hug briefly stymied by another contraction. But Nina seemed to appreciate the company, and Iyar took her other hand. “Just think, Nina,” said Iyar with animation on her face. “Someday this day will be a holiday.” “You’re right,” said Nina, smiling at the thought. “This will be a good day - no, a great one.” “Thank you so much for all this,” Iyar said to Trevor and Erin, her accent notably thicker than her friend’s. “You will be remembered on this day.” She knew the Liberty League well enough to know who had planned all this. Exchanging a glance with Erin Trevor suggested, “Best left out of history books, maybe.” Having a commemorative plaque in their honor in some Socotran municipal park might be tough to explain down the line. Something reminiscent of a smile pulled at the corners of his mouth all the same. “Will settle for favourite American uncle.” Erin had stationed herself at the entrance to the elevator lobby, keeping an eye on the stairs and the banks of elevators all at once. She was close enough to hear the conversation, but far enough away from the action for comfort. Part of her job in the grand scheme of things had been screening content to show to Mark to keep him grounded in the reality of normal childbirth, and it had been… educational. Now that she was married and in her twenties, the idea of wanting children wasn’t nearly as foreign to Erin as it would’ve been even five years ago, but the getting of them was still a daunting proposition. “Yeah, aunt and uncle should work just fine.” “Oh, you guys…” Mark was close to tears, maybe because the moment was so emotional, maybe from fatigue, but Nina, still walking around, was articulate enough to say, “Thank you both so much. We owe you our lives, and so does our son, as soon as he makes his way out here…” Things got a little more complicated with the arrival of Martha Lucas, carrying a grandmother’s big bag of goodies over her shoulder and looking a little out of breath. Things weren’t exactly frosty between Mark’s mother and the rest of the Liberty League, but they weren’t quite friendly either - not with the lingering memories of what she’d done to Mark when he’d been in high school just before the barely-prevented end of the multiverse. But Mark had put those memories aside and obviously wanted his friends to do the same - especially today! Luckily they had this small suite of rooms and waiting room to themselves tonight - even in Freedom City, the metahuman wing of the hospital wasn’t so crowded in the dead of night when there wasn’t a major super-battle going on. Hot on Martha’s heels came Dr. Hussein, the Iraqi-born physician who was working as Nina’s primary ob-gyn. The hijab-wearing woman was no-nonsense and intimately familiar with all sorts of metahuman health issues, particularly maternal ones - she was exactly the kind of person Mark and Nina had been hoping to find. “All right, it’s time to go to work,” she said briskly. “Mother, let’s get you in your room - Father, we’re going to need you in just a few minutes…” Mark had been sitting his mother down and making sure she had her books and her sketchpad, now with Nina heading off to the delivery room, he found another moment for Erin and Trevor. “Okay, guys - I’ll keep you updated as much as I can. In another couple of hours, you’re going to meet my son!” He hugged Erin, and he hugged Trevor, and seemed to take a moment to gather himself, pushing aside his own nerves and jangling emotions for the support role he was going to play. “I’m gonna be a dad!” And with that, he headed off to join his wife in their hospital room! Nina and Mark had discussed their birth plan with Trevor and Erin ahead of time, just to make sure everyone knew what was what. Nina had intended to use an epidural and take her chances with a possible C-section, but strong painkillers and other sorts of sedatives usually made her powers unstable. That meant a natural birth, albeit one spent mostly in the tub full of warm water that Mark had practiced making until he could practically do it in his sleep. Since this was Nina’s first pregnancy, what that really meant for the people outside the delivery room was a lot of waiting as the hours of the late morning crept by into dawn, punctuated by occasional sounds from inside the room (mostly of Nina’s music, an Eritrean pop star she found soothing) and texted updates from Mark. Hours ticked by - not enough for it to actually be light outside but it was definitely thinking about it out there . Martha Lucas set aside the drawing of Mark and Nina she was working on and immediately dozed off in her chair. Iyar talked with Trevor and Erin about the refugee resettlement service where she volunteered - and then the lights flickered, just slightly, then again. Though they came back on, the effect was unsettling, especially when Erin and Trevor’s communicators both chimed with the fuzzy, static-heavy sound of Redbird’s voice. “<empora> <ncursio> <ospita>. <eav> <nterferenc>.”
  3. January 20, 2017 Port Regal "It's beautiful," said Mark, peering at the image Nina had found. "I love the lacework on the veil - and you've always looked good in white." Perhaps white wasn't the traditional color under the circumstances - but when he'd mentioned that the other day Nina had not been terribly happy with him. "I'll take you over as soon as we're done talking to everyone." Sitting next to his fiancee on their living room couch, he tried to keep his stomach from lurching with excitement as he remembered the purpose of the planned conversation. He'd kept Nina's secret because he loved her, but it had made January one of the hardest months of his life. "It's fine enough," agreed Nina, tabbing over to the page for her personal notebook.. Looking at the dresses had been Mark's idea - having found a satisfactory one, she'd already moved to the next step. "After I wear it, I can donate it to the Women's Center - Malikah's getting married this summer and she can alter it as she sees fit." The dress would do for their civic service in Freedom City in a month. For the wedding to come in Socotra's Great Mosque, when she would be her father's...overthrower, she would need something much more elaborate than this. Mark gave no sign that he followed Nina's thoughts, instead kissing her on the cheek and rising to his feet. "Okay, it's 10:30...I should start the frittata so it'll be ready when they get here." Only an hour and a half left! Mark and Nina lived in a gated seaside development - just the place for two Freedom City residents who had wanted a house and Mark headed into the kitchen. "Everything will be okay," he said aloud, stepping around the bookcase and firing up the oven. "We'll have them over, we'll feed them, we'll tell them we're getting married in February because we're going to have a baby. It'll be a surprise - but everything will be great."
  4. December 2016 Hunter-White Mansion It was snowing outside, thick and heavy, unusually so for this part of New Jersey at this time of year. But that hadn't put Riley off - the wiry teen was working in the garage of the Hunter-White Mansion, putting in the hours for his part-time job here with classic cars. A lot of things had changed in his life and at the school in the last year - but not his job and his relationship with Erin and Trevor Hunter-White. He'd closed the garage door as he worked but left the outside door open, the direction of the wind meaning that only a small amount of snowflakes were actually blowing into the increasingly cold room. He'd turned off the room's heaters as he worked, and even his sensitive hearing could detect nothing other than the wind and the sound of his tools as he carefully tested the troublesome headlights of this 1931 Model A Ford. On and off, on and off, but he couldn't get a steady illumination despite what he knew were perfectly good bulbs. Must be the wiring, he thought as he stepped out over the running board, a fuzzy knitted hat atop his shaved head.
  5. September 2016 Lincoln Dancia had spent a week away from the office, covering a story about the new generation of West African nuns who were taking over an isolated Franciscan nunnery down on the Maurice River in southwestern New Jersey. it had been a fascinating story and a chance to meet people she might never have met, but the nunnery's remote location had left her isolated from world events. No sooner had she arrived back at the Ledger that she had a stack of urgent messages - including one from a familiar UNISON agent asking her to arrange a meeting with Triakosia at a remote cliffside lookout spot near Lonely Point. "This is an urgent meeting. Please let me know as soon as you've arranged it - and when we can see her there."
  6. December 2015 Voidrunner When the big barracuda-like ship didn't follow them, Aquaria croaked in noisy relief before settling down into her seat. As she did so, she realized just how much her relief was mixed by fear. Despite impossible odds and impossible distances, things had come through for Sea Devil and Singularity, for Aquaria and Jessie. It wouldn't be long now before they were back in the Solar System - a concept she only hazily understood but that she knew meant they were close to Earth, and close to a return to the home she and Jessie had been trying to get back to for weeks. Close to trouble. She was acutely aware, twitching in her seat, of all that had happened - of how her pride had sent them to the stars, of how her anger had gotten that Surfacer killed, and of how all the stars of space had seemed to be against them on their journey. She knew, too, that her life in Freedom City was not her own - she was a symbol of the fear and loathing that Surfacers had for her kind, and a criminal to boot. With all that she'd done, what would happen when she returned? Blackstone again? Perhaps Atlantean custody? Or maybe just exile - a banishment to the waters off Freedom's coast where she was an outcast among all who lived beneath the waves. Turning to her still night-catatonic friend, Aquaria took a long breath and released it as a deep, almost subsonic, bellow. Jessie would be home in the world of her birth, surrounded by her people, away from the world that Aquaria had thrust her into. That was what mattered. Through the blood of sacrifice, I gain power, she thought, closing her big goggle eyes. Through the blood of sacrifice, we are free. Up front, the dinky little Terran comet belt station had just hailed the Voidrunner.
  7. Spring 2016 Greenbank Warehouse District The Gaia's Liberation Front meeting was going well - the activists inside were ready to move to direct action against the corporate oppressors of the planet. All was going well, Pierre thought as he stepped out into the alley to light a cigarette. Just as his match flared to life; a hatchet appeared at his throat. "Hey, jackass," Woodsman whispered in his ear, glad that for once he'd found a criminal shorter and slighter than he was. "You say a word and you're gonna be crapping that match out your ears!" Dammit, Riley thought, embarrassed, why is it so hard when I know people are watching!? "Yeah, you heard me. Now talk. Where'd you put the goddamned dynamite? Or do I have to give you a shave first?"
  8. Early spring was a good season for the rare auto restoration and preservation business, with all the aficianados and diletantes opening their garages and sheds after a long winter's hibernation. Soon there'd be car shows and leisurely Sunday drives in the nice weather, but for now Trevor was up well past his elbows in tune-ups and body work. Even with Riley Smith-Quinn from Claremont helping out, there was more work than could be done during normal working hours. By the time Trevor came in from work on the first Friday in March, Erin was long since home from work, camped out in the living room with half-a-dozen binders spread around her. "Hey," she greeted him with a quick smile. "Grab a shower and get in here, I've ordered Chinese. We gotta get some of these wedding plans knocked out before Alex takes matters into her own hands."
  9. "Okay, so what do you think about this?" Erin rested her back against the front passenger door of the Maserati convertible and studied the binder in her lap. She addressed her question to Trevor's legs, since they were the part sticking out from under the car. "We have the wedding in May, on the grounds here, over by that pond Aquaria's been mucking out. We get a trellis and a little platform built, rent a bunch of chairs, and have a florist do up a whole pile of flowers and cattails and stuff so it looks nice out there. Then we clean out the second floor ballroom, get a serious waxing done on the floor and have the bulbs in the chandeliers replaced, and have a reception in there? Easy, and we don't even have to go anywhere."
  10. October 2015 Riley sat alone under the tree, methodically field-stripping his crossbow, his physics textbooks tucked away in the thick grass at his feet. So Headmaster Summers, after a serious conversation with him and promises of a serious conversation with his instructors, had set up a meeting with a famous superheroine. He'd heard of Erin White, of course, and the students of Young Freedom who'd helped save the world so many times. He didn't really care about most of them, half of whose names he didn't even know, but Erin White was someone whose name he knew very well. Alone in isolation in the Goodman Building, Riley ran his hands across the words carved into the bathroom wall. My name is Erin. He'd heard plenty about the dimensional refugee, or at least enough to know he wanted to learn more. But she's prolly gonna talk with me about not shooting anyone in the damn head, he decided gruffly. Like I haven't heard enough of that already. No one looked his way as he held his impervium bolthead up to the sunlight - something which didn't surprise him a bit after that damn accidental video had gotten around. Everybody knew the story. Bolt in hand, he judged the bolt by the way it reflected the light, the glow showing how unmarred the surface of the bolt was. Impervium could be a tricky thing, especially when you were working with scraps.
  11. Hunter Manor was quiet that evening, stately as ever in the waning summer light, with the sort of dignity that belied its crimefighting secret identity. The peace was marred momentarily by a rush of black inkblots appearing from nowhere, swirling into a vortex, and then disappearing, leaving behind three people on the front porch. Erin smoothed her hair as the last dots disappeared, finally used to the weird method of transport after all these years. "Come on," she urged the others. "Not likely anybody's going to notice you here, but why take chances?" She opened the front door wide and walked in, automatically checking to make sure all was well. The doors opened onto a handsome foyer, slightly dusty, with the air of a place that was pretty well cared for, but could use a housekeeper once a week. "Hey Trevor, you home?" she called into the house. "Mark and Mike are here, Mike needs a place to hide out!"
  12. July 1, 2015 Project Freedom The sunlight streaming in the window woke Ackwareeaa from dreams of the sea. Opening her eyes, Aquaria smacked her green-white lips for a moment, taking stock of the day - before she realized what day it was. "We are getting out today!" She bounded out of her tub at those words, splashing just a few drops of water on the ground as she excitedly hopped around, legs bent and palms flat against the concrete floor of her room. "Woo-hoo!" She wanted to jump into the bathroom and yell to Jessie, but she couldn't hear her friend moving around and didn't want to scare her. Jessie didn't like to be scared. Leaping up onto the wall, she padded along the walls to her closet, carefully picking her way past her many art therapy pictures still stuck to the walls. Once at her her closet, she began sorting through her very small personal wardrobe for what she was going to wear, leaning into the tiny corner with her long, long arms. She needed to look like a Surfacer if she was going to go out among them - today especially! She settled on what she usually did - a white T-shirt that hung oddly on her triangular torso, Capri pants that fit her legs, and...she looked down at the bottom of the closet, where her enemies were waiting for her. A frown crossed her muzzle as she bent down to pick them up, holding one each between fingers and a thumb. They were long by Surfacer standards and bulgy at the ends; and too dry even when she put in the special moisturizing inserts. Shoes. She didn't really understand why Jessie had dubbed these "clown shoes" - her nose was green and white, not red, and she didn't look anything like those costumed Surfacers, but the name had stuck. "I'll put you things on last," she informed the shoes before returning them to her closet corner. Opening the door to her bathroom, she checked the shared clock in there. "It's only six-thirty! Jessie's probably still sleeping," she fretted, wriggling her tongue back and forth in her mouth against all those Ss. "I will get ready first and surprise her. Okay, Aquaria, time to get ready," she told the Deep One in the mirror, experimentally flexing her throat sacs as she spoke, bulging her neck out as big as a Surfacer's closed fist. "I am a good member of society! I am first! I have a job for the Hunter family in North Bay. I am a groundskeeper! I am going to live in the DuTemps Building in Room 437 with my best friend, Jessie White." She raised two thumbs in front of the mirror, then realized her crest was sticking up! Not wanting to embarrass herself, she reached up to begin patting it down. "<I am calm. I am cool,>" she told the face in the mirror. "<I am...speaking Lemurian.>" With an effort, she forced her mouth back to the odd shape of English. "Bre-ek-ek, coax, coax...bleah. I am somebody people want to live near. I am...awesome!" She picked up a towel and wrapped it around her head. "Ooh, look at me, I'm a Surfacer!" she said in a dry, growly voice that was her best imitation of the Surfacer accent. "I wear clothes and eat plants! I My skin is made of sand, I think I need some lotion, don't you! Hee-hee!" She turned and banged on the door to the other room. "Jessie!" she called. "It's this day!"
  13. Date: Late August, 2015 "Just a minute!" Alex called out from behind her closed bedroom door and where she was eyeing the articles of clothing already discarded across her bed. "Almost ready." Now, she'd never been one to really debate a clothing choice. Alex, after all, embraced her own aesthetic with a whole hearted cheerfulness but apparently the one thing she didn't own was something fit for crime fighting in muted colors. She wasn't sure which of them had brought up the entire idea of getting 'back on the horse' so to speak of super-hero'ing but as it was a chance to spend time together with her best friend and, also, a chance to fly - passing it up had never even crossed Alex's mind. Of course she could wear her old costume. It wasn't like she'd grown much since high school, but Psyche's short skirted ensemble would probably have read very differently on a twenty-something lady. Alex really didn't need to see that appear on a magazine cover. Ever. "Okay, I think I'm ready." She stepped out after pulling the turtleneck on over her head and grabbed a light sweater, giving Erin a hesitant look. "Is this okay?" At least the jeans were dark blue but over that she'd put on a turtleneck that could most charitably be described as 'pumpkin'. The sweater was black, at least, but shot through with a sparkly silver yarn. It would have been perfect for Halloween but since it was August, it was really just Alex. "It's a black sweater!"
  14. From the album: Alder's Artistry

    Illustration from the end of this thread. Complete!

    © K Keppeler

  15. From the album: Alder's Artistry

    Tweaked the hair to make it more auburn

    © K Keppeler

  16. From the album: Alder's Artistry

    Updated version of the old profile picture I did for Wander / Erin for Young Freedom

    © Alderwitch

  17. Electra

    Midnight Elegy

    Monday, April 13, 2015 10:30 AM Earth It was a Monday morning when Erin made it back to Earth, nearly six full weeks after she'd taken off for her first space adventure since her Curator-enforced vacation. She blasted in out of a clear blue sky, her life-support suit holding in both her oxygen supply and her wildly triumphant shout as she and Redbird made their re-entry at white-hot speeds. As soon as they dropped enough altitude for there to be atmosphere, she pulled off her helmet and drew in a deep lungful of air. "God, it's so good to be home!" she crowed. "Space is nuts. Let's leave it to the aliens for awhile," she suggested to her AI companion as they arced towards the familiar skyline of Freedom City. She was half-tempted to dive off the motorcycle at twenty-thousand feet and splash down in the Great Bay, wash away the grime of a month and a half without a proper water bath. Sonic cleaners did an adequate job of keeping dirt and smell at bay, but she never truly felt clean after using one. That would wait, though. Instead, she steered the motorcycle northward, towards home. "I guess maybe we should've called ahead," she decided. "He'll probably be in school at this hour. But that just means we can surprise him when he gets back." In just a few minutes they were touching down on the smooth paved roundabout in front of Hunter Manor, which was currently picturesque with a full spread of carefully tended flowerbeds and green lawn. Erin took another moment to enjoy solid Earth beneath her feet, then vaulted the front steps to go in the front door. "Hello, I'm home!"
  18. Lor Timemark 1329.8 - March 1, 2015 Garron-9, Garron System Trooper Ekna Veiu sat strapped into the back of the transport ship between a Lor mentat clone with a lantern jaw and a member of a scale covered species he couldn't name and tried to steady his breathing. He'd never planned to be a soldier but then the Communion had ripped through the Khanate, leaving the precious few survivors to flee or be turned into monsters. The Lor loved to talk about never forgetting Lor-Van but they hadn't been the only people to lose a homeworld and they weren't the only ones who'd wanted to fight back. Ekna was seventeen stellar cycles old; that had seemed like so long sitting around on his family farm waiting for his life to start, old enough to enlist with the Coalition forces, certainly. As the ship shook from atmospheric turbulence and he clenched his grey-green hands all he think about was whether or not he'd see his eighteenth cycle celebration. There weren't any enemy ships in the skies above Garron-9, at least. There didn't need to be. What had once been a densely populated border world with almost a billion inhabitants was now a solid sphere of computronium, a planet-sized server to add to the Communion's processing power. A billion people converted into raw materials and 'antibodies', the mindless, shrieking foot soldiers of the enemy. This was only Ekna's second deployment but he'd already gotten to see those up close and personal. They'd lost that moon but he'd acquitted himself well, getting his wounded sergeant to safety. They'd given him a commendation for that. They didn't mention the rest of his squad when they shook his hand. He didn't mention the night terrors he'd had ever since. That was how he'd ended up as part of one of four squads deploying to Garron-9 with a simple mission: fight their way through and take down a communication relay, in theory briefly blinding the Communion in the adjacent sector long enough for something apparently above his pay grade. Troopers didn't need to know the big picture, he guessed. He looked up from his knees and immediately regretted it as he saw the Grue strapped in across from him scowling right at him. At least Ekna thought the Grue was scowling. It was hard to tell with no mouth. He immediately looked back down regardless. Most of the other troopers were more experienced soldiers and most of them had experience fighting against those who were suddenly their allies. Tensions were always high but the calm before the storm was always the worst. Then again, at least he knew what a Grue was. Each squad had been assigned a commander for the mission, though Ekna got the impression the rank wasn't exactly official. One of them was a stern Lor officer with no patience for excuses; he'd met a lot of those in the past months. The Zultasian told a lot of jokes and laughed loudly, all swagger and confidence. Ekna had never seen anything like the grey skinned woman with the cybernetic tail, though, and even though the forth commander didn't look all that much older than him he'd heard some of the other soldiers say she wasn't really Lor but Terran and everybody had a friend of a friend with a horror story about a Terran. Ekna risked glancing up again to the back of the transport where all four of them were standing, holding onto handing straps and conversing.
  19. Go ahead and describe how your character got to this point and what they think about the others!
  20. April 24, 2015  Lantern Hill  The McCay Bridge, one of the oldest in Freedom City and the furthest upriver, got little use by the second decade of the 21st century. The traffic that the 19th century builder had hoped to capture had gone south to Freedom City proper in the years before Lantern Hill and Freedom merged together - and even Route 6 which runs through this part of town and over the Wading had gained a real bridge back in the 1940s during its initial construction. In need of repair, the McCay had long since been closed to truck traffic and was primarily used by commuters going back and forth between Hanover and Lantern Hill.  On the night of the 24th of April, Monsoon sat on one of the brick towers of the McCay and looked out at the water below, feeling the distant pressure of its movements. She'd grown up on an island filled with water and so Freedom City's amount of rivers had been pleasantly familiar - albeit sometimes unpleasantly cold. She could stand the bottom of the sea as befit a daughter of Typhoon, but the waters around Freedom City were cool this time of year! In summer-time, when the sun's rays warmed even the bottom of the river, then things were comfortable. She checked her smartwatch, wondering if her partner for the evening was going to arrive on time or not. She'd only met Travis Hunter a few times but had respected the drive that had remained in the old man - and respected him more when she'd seen the grief his death had brought Mark. Maybe she'd never had a grandfather, but she knew the obligations that came with family - and the grief that came when it was taken away. Not for the first time that evening, she thought of Socotra. 
  21. December 25, 2014 Freedom City Midnight Manor Late in the evening on Christmas Day, a Deep One sang an eerie song in the Midnight Manor, her body silhouetted by the darkness outside. "BUT I GET UP AGAIN! YOU'RE NEVER GONNA KEEP ME DOWN! WOO!" As her song finished and the strains of Tubthumping vanished into the quiet of what was sometimes one of many front parlors in the Hunter mansion, Aquaria leaped in the air and cheered, her smooth, wet skin glistening from the exertion of the vigorous karoake number. "I am awesome!" For their part, Mark and Nina both cheered and applauded - Mark hadn't been at all sure bringing the machine along was the right idea, but luckily Jessie's amphibian friend had practically snatched the karaoke machine up with her tongue and practically begged to go first. (Jessie had, blushingly, commented that Aquaria used to do this a lot before disappearing herself) Aquaria first approached Mark and Nina, since they had been the latest to the party - only arriving after Martha Lucas had turned in early and left her son and his girlfriend free for Christmas. "You guys want a turn? C'mon, don't be chicken!" Between Nina's competitive streak and Mark's natural showmanship, it wasn't long before the couple was standing in front of the computerized board, picking out their song - 500 Miles seeming to be an early favorite. Aquaria bounded over to join Erin and Trevor to watch the show, declaring, "Surface music is great, you can yell so loud when you're singing! And nobody complains!"
  22. Earth Z-Omega-1(extinct)Earth Z-Omega-1(extinct) is the designation of a cataloged but unexplored close-offshoot reality to Earth Prime. First contact was made on October 2, 2008, when Dr. Alexander Atom of Earth Z-Omega-1(extinct) made contact with his Earth Prime counterpart by means of an experimental interdimensional communications array. During the course of the contact, Dr. Atom (Prime) was able to elicit information about the alternate universe from his counterpart, as well as arrange for the refugee transfer of one survivor from the series of disasters that rendered the world uninhabitable. The designation, which uses Freedom League Standard Notation, indicates the planet's status: Earth: This universe is a parallel Earth world and English is or was a dominant language.Z: This universe is hostile, unexplored, and uninhabitable. No further in-person research is planned.Omega: This universe is suspected to have fallen under the influence of the Terminus.1: This is the first universe of its kind discovered.Extinct: This parallel Earth once harbored a Primelike population, but the entire population has since been wiped out. History of EZO1(e)It is difficult to pin down the first point of divergence between EZO1 and Prime, but the most likely point for major divergence occurred in the fall of 2006. What on Earth Prime was a largely overestimated outbreak of avian flu strain H5N1 through the fall and winter of 2006, on EZ01 mutated into a previously unseen and far more deadly strain of virulent influenza, dubbed “the hero flu.” The new strain was transmittable through most known vectors, and carried an extraordinarily high morbidity and mortality rate. Like H5N1, it began in Southeast Asia, but spread quickly through the entire world, often with no identifiable point of contagion. Investigation into the outbreak pattern of the disease was hampered greatly by the speed at which carriers succumbed and the rapid degradation of conditions in major universities and laboratories around the world. Researchers estimated that up to one in three human beings would die of the new strain of flu by the end of 2007 if the virus could not be contained. Unlike many strains of influenza, the young and healthy showed no more resistance to the hero flu than the infirm. Reports indicated that in fact metahumans with clearly superior immune systems were still vulnerable, and often succumbed even faster than unaugmented humans to the disease, hence the colloquial name. By March of 2007, according to survivor testimony, martial law was declared in major U.S. cities and government infrastructure began shutting down. In desperation, the CDC and WHO, in close cooperation with the Freedom League and UNISON released an experimental vaccine. No vaccine had been created that could stop the virus, instead, the vaccine was designed to augment the bodies of victims so that they could withstand the ravages of the flu long enough for its relatively brief latency to pass. In initial tests, the vaccine appeared successful, with victims recovering in controlled conditions. The vaccine entered mass emergency production worldwide, in an unprecedented effort at 100% worldwide vaccination, assisted by nearly every surviving superintellect of every affiliation. Simultaneous vaccine programs began around the world on 18 April, 2008, reaching over seven hundred fifty million people in the fourteen days following its deployment, in an effort that spanned all continents and known people groups. Initial responses to the vaccine were highly favorable, with an immediate and dramatic lowering of the death toll from the hero flu. In fact, there were no reported casualties from flu among the vaccinated population, even among those who had already been gravely ill. Some rioting was reported outside vaccination centers as families camped in lines for days to wait for doses to become available. After the fifth day of the vaccination program, irregularities were reported among the vaccinated population, brain dead patients who still exhibited substantial motor function, patients whose bodies combated the flu symptoms at the expense of higher mental functions, even several reported cases of vaccinated persons who did not contract the flu activating the vaccine's response through other, lesser calls on the immune system. Affected persons were quarantined, but the immunization program continued for another seven to nine days. On 1 May, 2007, the WHO called for an immediate halt to all vaccination programs, and for the destruction of any remaining stores of vaccine. Continued observation of vaccinated persons had proved conclusively that the vaccine was extraordinarily destructive to higher brain function, in essence preserving the body by destroying the mind. Victims of the vaccine's ill effects became zombielike, extremely strong and resilient, able to survive conditions that would normally cause death, but with no observable higher functions. They existed, in essence, merely for the sake of continued existence. They were also observed to be extremely hostile to human life, reacting with violence when faced with unaffected human beings. Despite these reports, the continued spread of the hero flu led many people to seek the vaccine anyway. Eyewitness reports of the time indicate that few vaccines were destroyed, and that most were sold on the black market before the full effects of the drugs became known. Quarantine areas for the so-called “zombies” were quickly erected, but seem to have had little effect. The vaccination program had focused heavily on health care workers, public servants, and the armed forces in many countries, leaving those individuals who were the most necessary for successful quarantine the most likely to require it themselves. Quarantine procedures rapidly broke down, and violence became widespread throughout major cities as the vaccine's victims spread out and began killing those who had not been affected. With the decline of military and police power, governmental infrastructure around the world began to collapse, along with transportation and communication. On 13 May, 2007, the Office of the President of the United States released a final press release asking for citizens to remain calm and stay in their homes if at all possible, and promising that a new vaccine would be forthcoming soon. After this point, it becomes impossible to frame a coherent timeline of world events, due to the breakdown in global communications and a lack of survivor knowledge. The lone human refugee to arrive on Earth Prime was debriefed, but due to isolation and tender years could not place dates on any events after May of 2007, but states she did not encounter any survivors after that month until the early summer of 2008, when she found a single pocket of perhaps two dozen survivors. Projections conducted by Dr. Atom EZO1 suggest the survival of perhaps as little as five thousand human survivors worldwide, probably in pockets of no more than thirty or forty individuals. The disposition of this world's nonhuman and potentially immune superheroes and supervillains could not be ascertained, but Dr. Atom theorizes that many of them left when it became obvious that there was nothing left to save. Current StatusThis universe is currently under strict quarantine by the Freedom League, and is not slated for any further investigation or development. All information regarding this world's existence and its history are classified. The one refugee survivor, an adolescent metahuman, was thoroughly decontaminated and debriefed, and has been assisted into a new life on Earth Prime. No sample of the pathogen which caused the hero flu was discovered on the refugee or in the air sample that arrived with her, but the continued presence of the flu in that timeline has not been ruled out. Experimentation to discover the nature of the pathogen and possible treatment has been vetoed as excessively risky, given the conditions on the world and the known deadliness of the viral strain. Dissemination of information regarding this timeline is unlikely to contribute to scientific discourse, and has been deemed very likely to contribute to public unease on Earth Prime, and so shall remain classified indefinitely. Dr. Atom EZO1 ceased communication with Earth Prime on 3 December, 2008, after conveying what information he had and ascertaining that the refugee he delivered was healthy and being cared for. His last message was an expression of remorse for his work on the vaccine project, along with a quote from John Donne. Before the cessation of contact, Atom provided his theory as to the divergence. He theorized that the hero flu was not a naturally occurring pathogenic strain, but had been introduced by an outside force looking to diminish or destroy humanity. In a communication on 28 November, 2008, Atom indicated that ships of unknown configuration were approaching Earth, but remained outside satellite communication range. Dr. Atom Prime and the Earth Prime Freedom League suspected at the time that the events on EZO1 may be directly related to the activities of Omega and the Terminus. In the spring of 2011, the members of Claremont Academy's superteam Young Freedom returned from an interdimensional mission that included a stay on EZO1(e). They reported that the world had been overrun by Omegadrones in the intervening three years and had become an outpost for Physician Friendly, who admitted to engineering the hero flu. The heroes reported that they destroyed the majority of the Terminus presence on the world, in part by sealing its Freedom City into the Zero Zone with the help of veteran hero Rick Lucas. It is unknown whether further travel to EZO1(e) would be possible now by any means, but as the world remains under strict interdiction, no investigation is planned. Related WorldsIn 2010, the Young Freedom superteam, again on an interdimensional mission, encountered a dimensional doppelganger of the superheroine Wander on Earth V-Malign-1(enemy), commonly known as Anti-Earth. This doppelganger, codenamed Singularity, was found to be from a closed-loop dimensional offshoot of EZO1(e) that probably existed for only a few hours. This offshoot timeline was designated Earth-Z-Omega-2(extinct).