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October 2018 

Claremont Academy Library 

 

Down in the third floor basement stacks, Judy Smith shone her flashlight around. "Wow, they really do have a lot of issues of American Heritage here," she said, not sounding terribly enthused upon finding row after row of the old magazines on their metal shelves. "But Ah guess Ah found the December 1957 issue, so that's one more!" She looked to her team and checked off another on their list of 'Scavenger Hunt in the Lights-Out Library!' "At least turning off the lights made it interesting," she commented to her team. 

 

"Oh yeah it's real interesting," hissed Ashley Smith, who seemed far less enthusiastic than her sister about the whole thing. She had on her gear for the night-time op; head obscured and voice partially muffled by her Watchdog helmet, her guns concealed beneath her leather jacket and body armor. "Night time in an empty building, where anything could be lurking behind anything!" She was only half in-character here. She'd spent a lot of hours in the Claremont library and had learned that it was full of all sorts of awful stuff. At least they probably weren't going to see that damned ghost this time. 

 

"What's next?" Judy asked the others.

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"Something by Shakespeare, a very specific volume." Adam said, looking around a bit. "It is in this direction, but harder to find in the dark." He drifted towards the likely section. "Curse you Dewie." 

 

He had his contacts in, he didn't like that his eyes lit up in the dark. He was sure that would scare the hell out of Judy at least. She was kind to him, and he was grateful that few people at Claremont looked at him funny. He was a freak among freaks, and grateful for it. 

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"So many books..." Pan muttered, as he ran his fingers over some of the books at the top shelf while he floated by it in the direction that Adam had pointed out. He hadn't visited the library often, not since checking out the Peter Pan book after his first day, but he was always amazed. He had never seen this many books in his life before coming to the library. He really needed to come here more often.

 

He had followed Ashley's example and was in full costume, including his mask. He knew he didn't really need it here, but he liked it. The darkness didn't exactly make it easy to see in here, but he did his best as he found one book by this Shakespeare fellow. At least the books seemed to be in order. "Oh, he wrote a lot of things, didn't he?" A volume? How many volumes did this fellow write? "The books are over here. Which one was it again?" He paused for a bit. "By the way, who is Dewey, and why should we curse him?"

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A shadow fell upon the little knot of students, a shadow that said wearily "Dio reporting. Reconnaissance complete, thank the Earthlord. These cards have minds of their own. One jumped from my claw when I was not looking.

 

Dio, his draconic true form disguised with illusory magic, slumped against a bookshelf. The thing rocked perilously, and for once the priest didn't bother using that same magic to disguise it. His long blond hair was tied back into a thick braid that draped carelessly over one shoulder, a dragon's skull of gold glittering at the end. His muscular arms were straining to accommodate a thick stack of laminated reference cards, some of which looked old and faded enough to have been there when the school first burnt down.

 

Tilting his head down, the dragon tugged at his Claremont uniform with his teeth, grimacing at the taste and texture. "And this thing keeps in dust and grit like nothing else. Why did we have to get stuck with this?"

 

Sun Dragon appeared from another tunnel of books, bearing an equally heavy load. In his armor he was as a specter, tall and dark as the moonless night. Unusually, he was silent. He slumped against a bookshelf, giving a weary salute. Dio flicked his emerald eyes over the boy's pile "Missing three."

 

The helmet retracted just long enough for Leroy to level at Dio a long, venomous glare.

 

To the others, he gave a wan smile and a nod to Watchdog. "Who has seen Arctos?" He glanced about, golden eyes glimmering in the pale light. 

Edited by Ari

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"Da I here, fear not." Jack whispered from behind Leroy as he towered over the smaller man. He was dressed in his costume as the others, which consisted of artic blue shorts with a white stripe, and nothing else. His abilities precluded much more in the way of clothing, and Jack was not fond of tight clothing anyways. 

 

"Why we sneaking around again?" Jack asked quietly. His memory was not the best and he wasn't sure why his skill set was needed in a library.

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"It's supposed to be stealth ops training," growled Watchdog, the glowing red eyes on her helmet her only visible feature above her neck. "But it's just bullshit hippie-dippie team-building garbage," she added with venom in her voice. "How are we supposed to be learning anything from-

"Ooh, look at me!" said Judy in sudden response from behind her sister, holding up her flashlight under her chin. "Ah'm the spirit of librarian past and you'd better not cuss in mah library!" She burst out laughing, patting her sister on the shoulder. 

 

With all the byplay, it was was Forever Boy who saw the book - which maybe fit because apparently he had some connection to them. It sat on one side of a half-empty shelf, its front cover facing him and seeming to glow slightly. Its color was gold, the text blue, and it seemed to whisper of possibilities, of adventure beyond anything he'd ever seen. On its cover was a strange sailing ship, and it called itself: THE LAST AMERICAN...

Image: Cover Art.

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Pan laughed at Judy's joke with the flashlight, before freezing up. A warm grin spread across his lips as he moved over to the book on the almost empty shelf. THE LAST AMERICAN. It almost called to him. Or did it? He wasn't quite sure, but it almost seemed like it was glowing. "I got it!" He picked it up with one hand, pulling it closer and running his fingers over the cover as he studied the blue patterns on the golden cover. He had floated over to the others, going uncharactistically silent along the way. The ship reminded him of something. Not some memory or anything like that. More like a feeling. The book called to him. He was sure of that. He would make sure to read it once the exercise was over. But, he was never any good at waiting. He couldn't help himself.

 

The Forever Boy opened the book.

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Watchdog turned her head and without thinking, drew down on Forever Boy, pistol flying into her hand as she interposed herself between a startled Judy and the book in Pan's hand. "No! Put it down now-


But it was too late - the book glowed with a sudden eldritch energy, light crackling around Pan's fingers where he touched the pages, a glow that suddenly erupted outward across all the heroes in the room - and then, with a sound like an explosion in reverse, all of them vanished. 

 

 

Ashley opened her eyes to pain - and sunlight streaming in through her helmet's filtered viewports. "Judy?!" she called, sitting up despite the pain she felt in her spine and tailbone from what must have been a hard landing. She hit a few buttons on the side of her helmet and cursed violently when she couldn't get a radio signal out to Jaycee's transponder, or anything else. Her heart pounding in her chest, she looked around the small, forested island where the heroes had landed, the island small enough that she could spot all the others almost immediately. Something was looming over them, a statue she didn't immediately recognize, but for the moment all her attention was on Judy, who'd landed nearby, closest to the water, and was sitting up with a sick look on her face. 

 

She ran up to her ward. "Judy, are you all right?" she asked immediately, checking the girl for symptoms of shock. 

 

"Ah...ah can't hear anything, Ashley," said Judy loudly, her hands pressed to the side of her head, dirt and leaves in her long hair. "It's a dead zone! A dead zone!" 

 

LastAmericanLiberty

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Pan opened his eyes. Whatever the Last American was, it had been a bad idea to open it. He had tried to close it again once the crackling energy appeared, but he hadn't been able to, and now, here they were. Somewhere completely different. He sat up. He felt weird. Slow. Like he had just been hit by one of the Hooked Man's pirates. But he hadn't, right? He could see the others, at least. And trees all aroudn them. And daylight. They had been inside moments before, and now they were here? He wasn't so sure he liked books from Earth so much anymore. Of the two he had opened, one was a distorted telling of his life and adventures. The other had brought them here. Was that normal for Earth books? No matter what, he could freely admit that he was the one at fault here. He had opened the book, and that had brought them here, and now poor Judy seemed like she was panicking. He was stil dazed, but he was coming to. A dead zone? What did she mean?

 

Finally getting to his feet, he hurried over to Judy and Ashley. "I don't think I like Earth books very much. Sorry, I didn't think a book could be dangerous. What do you mean with dead zone?" 

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"Electromagnetic absence, Forever Boy," Sun Dragon strode up limping slightly on his left boot and nursing an armored shoulder. "If I recall aright, Pulse has a spectrum sensitivity. If she cannot  detect it, the ambient radiation from technological sources has ceased. Forever, help me take a look around."

 

He took a brief hop and floated into the air, some small rocks and chunks of earth floating free with him as he levitated a few hundred feet above the landing site. While he rotated, Dio shed his mystic veil, revealing a powerfully-built green dragon the size of an elephant with a broad fin running down his head and neck, and two strong jaws of curved bone plating. The dragon slipped with clumsy gait through the trees, halting sharply at their edge, staring across the water. "Those ruins..." slitted golden eyes observed the huilking masses at the horizon "...they're long abandoned, from the look of things. I don't think we'll find any help there."

 

He turned and approached Pulse and Watchdog "Ashley, if you wish I can conjure some EM-emitting objects. And can find out where to look for an escape with only a little time. Arctos," he with a sibilant hiss, "would you scout the island proper? Can't risk an ambush.

 

The fin bristled as the dragon cocked his head at Watchdog "Did you know anything about that book?"

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"Well..." Adam said, cursing internally. "This is quite peculiar." He blinked. "I suppose we entered some sort of, I dunno, dimensional portal?" He glanced around. "Magical would be my best guess." Adam was a man of science, but he knew magic was real enough. He glanced around the area. 

 

"Yes, recon." he said with a certain nod. "Good idea. Need to get our bearings. Get an idea of what we're dealing with." he was very, very uncertain. His tactical knowledge was limited to whatever idle speculation he had. Leroy seemed to have a good idea of what they were dealing with, or at the very least a decent handle on the situation, so he let Leroy handle things. 

 

"A lack of electronic signals means we are most assuredly not on Earth, not ours, at any rate. Especially with that statue. I suppose our only order of business is to figure out a way back home." 

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Judy was crying and mortified by her crying - which of course didn't help the former at all. "I'm scared, I'm scared, I'm scared..." she was repeating, even as Ashley pulled her into a tight embrace. "We'll find a way out of this. We'll find a way out of this. I know you're scared but we have lots of time. We'll find a way out." Ashley helped Judy to her feet, then took something off her belt and turned it up. "Can you hear this?" 

"N-no," said Judy, her eyes wide. 


"It must have been broken when we landed," Ashley lied. "We'll get out of here." She took a moment to take stock of the situation, then belatedly turned to the others. "Wasn't your fault," Ashley made herself tell the worried Pan, "that damn book." She couldn't say more, not when it would mean discussing how Copycat had spent an agonizing weekend inside "Lament of A Soldier's Wife" before being rescued by the Raven ten years earlier. 

 

Meanwhile, the island, in the middle of a harbor by a ruined city, was rapidly being approached by a small, low-lying sailing ship that looked straight out of the 1001 Nights! 

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Electromagnetic absence didn't mean much to Pan, but the rest of Leroy's explanation clued him in, at least. So, nothing electronic seemed to be working. It wouldn't be much of a problem for him, but Judy seemed scared, and that was a good enough reason to find a way to get out of this dead zone fast. "Right." he nodded at Leroy's question about helping him take a look around, and after looking at Judy and Ashey and offering another apology, he set off, quickly ascending into the sky. 

 

It didn't take him long to get to a comfortable height where he could scout the island. There wasn't much to see on the island. Trees, hills, some ruins. Water that surrounded them. The area around them was much more exciting. It looked like some kind of harbor, almost like those back home, even if it was in bad shape, and the island was in the middle of it. Maybe Dio would be able to carry those that couldn't themselves, or Pan and Leroy could take turns... What was that in the water? Pan strained to see. He was right. A ship was approaching, and at speed as well. It looked exotic. Nothing like what Pan had seen back in Freedom City. He had seen pictures of vessels like it on Neverworld, but never seen one before. 

 

For once, he thought it better to actually think things through. He pointed out the ship to Leroy, making sure not to shout, before rapidly descending to the others to tell them the news. No sense in alerting the people on the ship to their presence, if they hadn't already been spotted. He quickly landed by Ashley, Judy, Jack and Adam, crouching a bit to brace his body from the impact. "There's a strange ship heading our way. Was too far away to count how many." 

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"Okay." Watchdog closed her eyes behind her armor. Seventy-two hours before her mortality rate starts going up. And in a week, she'd be dead. "Here's what we need to do. Somewhere near here is a copy of the book. We need to find it and burn it. It's the only way to break the spell." And never mind how Watchdog knew how the book worked; she'd come up with something to explain before she let Judy's life be threatened. Team. You're part of a team. "If Pan and Dio take the statue, the rest of us can cover the land." She considered how to explain the situation to Leroy in particular, not wanting him to waste time with something she knew from personal experience wouldn't work. "Old book, old...everything." She made a little gesture all around, then to illustrate her point took off her helmet. Her face was set in a grimace that looked more serious than her usual dour look, her pink-tipped hair seeming wildly out of place. "That thing looked a hundred years old, maybe more. If it wasn't invented when the author wrote it, it's not going to work here. My gear is mostly junk.

 

Nearby, the vessel drew up alongside the beach where the heroes were conferring - while the crew made busy furling sail and dropping anchor, a bearded man in a long purple robe (perhaps the captain?) shouted something towards the heroes in a language that (as it happened) only Leroy understood - Persian! 

 

Image result for the last american john ames mitchell

 

"Greetings! From what land do you hail from?"

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Ashley knew more about this than she was letting on, that much was clear, but Pan decided not to press the issue yet. At the moment, and given Judy's condition, it would be much better to follow orders of the one that might know something about what they were dealing with.

 

So, he should try and find a book that would look like the book that brought them here, and then burn it? He looked over at Dio. The dragon could provide the fire, at least. Hopefully it would be at the statue. Otherwise, he would have to figure something else out. "Is there any hints about where the book might be? Places significant to the story in the book, or just random places? In case we have to expand our search." This was a puzzle. Pan liked to solve puzzles. After the answer, he would motion for Dio and call out for him to follow, then take off and fly off before the other group could approach. Given everything else, it might be best not to have a flying boy and a dragon around.

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"am his dragon, Watchdog," Dio looked as put out as his reptilian face could show any recognizable human emotion, "if you need a message sent to him, entrust it to me. Message sent, by the way."

 

"But, yeah, best if me and Pan make ourselves scarce," he added with a sidelong glance at the approaching strangers, "up and away then!" The branches and undergrowth rustled as the green dragon slipped into the natural camouflage, launching up the statue's pedestal and starting the long climb up the opposite side, powerful blunt claws carving toeholds in the ancient green metal. As he began, his long head and neck suddenly twisted around to stare at the sky "What? No, that's not what I sai-!"

 

Even as he spoke, Sun Dragon descended from the sky, landing with a *THUD* in front of the sailors as his gravity renormalized, the helmet retracting to reveal his beaming face as he bowed elegantly. Rising, he began in Persian <"Greetings and salutations, People of Fire! I am Sun Dragon, a lost soul seeking aid in this strange land! My companions and I are castaways from the Jersey Shore, pilgrims seeking a lost artifact. If you would be so kind as to tell us where we are, I would count myself in your debt. For the sake of form, I request you refer to my companions as [Tide],"> he indicated Judy <"and Watchdog,"> he gestured to Ashley, <"Three others are with us, but they have gone to search the island for any provender or places to rest out the night.">

 

<"We seek a book, a treasured text, yellow as the Sun, emblazoned with alien letters and bearing the image of a sailing ship. Seen anything like it?">

 

Or, at least, that's what he hoped he'd said.

Edited by Ari

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Adam had no idea what language Leroy was speaking, but it sounded coherent enough. His new friends were somewhat strange. There was that, and the fact that Ashley seemed to know the solution to the current problem. He said nothing, though. He didn't know how she knew what she knew, but there could be any number of explanations. Ashley and Judy were somewhat strange.

 

He was suspicious of how she knew what she knew. However, this was not the time to talk about that. With them lost and Judy's life in danger, now was not the time to throw conflict into their team. He'd keep his suspicions to himself unless there was a good reason to bring it up.

 

Later, though. Now? A ship full of people and a strange place.

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"That's a good question," Ashley admitted to Pan, her voice unusually soft, "but never having had a chance to read this one, I don't know what's important about it. I just know the copy is going to be somewhere other books can be found. It likes libraries, like a cuckoo chick nesting with other birds...

 

With help from Leroy's translation, the heroes learned that the new arrivals were the crew of a ship from Persia - dispatched by command of the Sultan to learn the story of the long-lost nation of America. The men on the ship all looked Persian, or rather, the way Persians might have looked two or three hundred years earlier in their own timeline. There were no women on the ship, (called the Zlotuhb, a word that Ashley was almost certain was not real Persian) and the sight of Ashley and Judy raised quite a stir among the men. Communications turned out to be a little easier than they'd expected when one of the men tentatively tried a halting greeting in heavily accented English - the oddly-named No-fuhl had evidently learned to read, and partially speak, English from ancient texts. While he tried out a few fascinated questions about "ye great fantastics" among the teens, the captain Prince Khan-Li, spoke with Leroy in his own tongue. Meanwhile the crew was wandering around the island, pointing in fascination to the great trees and ruined buildings, and the big ruined green statue that stood on a concrete pedestal over them. 

 

Image result for pedestal statue of liberty


"<We have books in our shipboard library, but we had hoped to find more here among these ancient ruins.>" Standing on the shores of the island and making a gesture towards the ruined city beyond, he commented, "
"<I have no objection to sharing our discoveries with fellow seekers-after-truth amid these ancient ruins. But how _did_ you find yourself here, Sun Dragon? Does Ethiopia's writ run so far?>" 

"

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So, the book is somewhere other books can be found, and probably close by. Kind of vague, but Pan was fine with the challenge, even if it had to be fast. Normally he would have taken his time and explored this world, but Judy was scared and in pain, and seeing her like that cut the fun out of this adventure. 

 

He was uncharacteristically silent as he flew towards the ruined statue that Ashley had wanted them to investigate. He kept low, trying not to attract too much attention, despite the shimmering glitter he left behind as he flew. "Let's start from the bottom and work our way up once we get to the statue. Even if one of us miss something the other might see it." 

 

It didn't take long to reach the statue, even as Pan let Dio kept up, and true to his word, he started flying around the ruined statue, looking for anything that might catch his eye.

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Jack scratched his head as he had no idea what was being said in what sounded like on of the Arabian languages. He was glad at least one of the new group seemed to know English. He reflected on things now that he had a moment...this was definitely the oddest thing to ever had happened to him... including being bonded with an animal spirit. Jack had to admit he didn't understand anything of what was going on right now, but he understood that they had to find a book of some sort. He caught a brief glimpse of the one Pan had been holding before all of this and wondered if perhaps it was a similar book. 

 

"Good thing I 'ave muscle not tech.." Jack muttered to himself, thinking about a comment Watchdog had made not long ago. He eyed the new arrivals carefully...Jack wasn't sure about them, they were men long at sea, Jack understood isolation and how it could effect men. He hoped they wouldn't try anything foolish, but he didn't want to be far from the girls just in case. He had no doubt Watchdog could handle most of them...but his protective instinct were finely honed in this area. He crossed his massive arms over his chest.

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Adam kept his thoughts to himself. Leroy was a lot better at negotiations and discussions than he was. He was not the diplomatic one. He hoped Pan and Jack could find the book, because Adam was at a loss for words. He needed to confer with the others about what was happening, what was going to happen and what needed to happen. He felt mostly useless, struggling to think of something to do in this unusual situation. Ah, well, he'd lend his muscle or mind to whatever effort they needed.

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Sun Dragon & Dio

 

<"How we came here is something I cannot adequately explain, Khan-Li. While it may seem foolish to your scientific mind I believe we were sent here by the Yellow Book and finding it is the key to returning home. It is lacking in corroborating evidence, but it is the most convincing explanation I know.">

 

While Leroy could easily have dropped the bound-light armor, he kept it active, maintaining a semi-coherent 'look' with the other Claremonters. Leaning against one of the island's many trees, he glanced out across the water once again, golden eyes darting  as he surveyed the crumbled city.

 

<"If you need to clear debris, excavate a tunnel or anything else requiring strength, I, Arctos and Specimen would be only too glad to help.">

 

For a moment, he closed his eyes, seeming to pause as if drawing a long breath. 

 

--------

 

Dio clambered awkwardly up the green statue, hissing and snarling as clawholds crumpled or disintegrated outright, making headway but far slower than the darting, lighter-than-light Forever Boy.

 

"I confess, Pan, I do not understand your haste." The dragon's words were hissed, but the syllables fell like low, rolling thunder. "Why do you hurry so, to resume life in a dying world?"

 

With a scrape and rattle, the green dragon launched across the rippling folds of some metal drapery, landing with a crunch on the far side. Two flat, cold eyes like beaten brass searched Forever Boy for a moment, before the dragon resumed the search for a way in.

 

"See anything? The boy says the lower levels will be covered by the rest of the  team and those strangers, but I'm not used to this kind of architecture. Is there a hatch or something?"

 

 

 

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The dragon still amazed Pan. Even in this world of wonders and weird, having an actual dragon was still a sight to behold. He flickered back and forth around the green statue, almost as if he was dancing on the air, looking for anything that could lead to the fabled book. He flew near the dragon, passing by as Dio asked his question.

 

"A friend is in need, Dio. Judy is scared out of her mind, and given her sister's reaction, it could be even worse." He paused for a brief moment. Had he spotted something further up? No, he had been mistaken. Instead he pushed further in, slipping in through the cracks of the metallic statue where Dio would not fit. "Being here is not much different from Earth for me. Yet another world that is not my own. Another adventure, another place to explore, but even when I see a new adventure, my friend comes first. Otherwise, what kind of hero would I be?" 

 

He would love to explore this world, but he could not ignore the fear in Judy's voice, after all. He pushed through another small gap. Still nothing, but he continued the search.

Edited by RocketLord

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