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February 2019 

Freedom City 

 

All your lies exposed - two worlds in collision! Deceiver - what will you do then?

The best I can! 

 

Inside Copycat's faux-porcelain mask, Ashley George opened her eyes to where she crouched alone on the roof of one of Freedom City's more anonymous skyscrapers - a Brutalist tower that had survived the 1970s, two Terminus invasions, and various other crises with no more than now-repaired cosmetic damage. The flat rooftop (minus the usual equipment one found on the roof of tall buildings) was the sort no one would look too closely at in a city full of weird gargoyles, public art, and superheroes. It was actually the perfect place for a quiet conversation, especially if you were dressed like - well, dressed in a costume that had seemed appropriate when she was sixteen, an unholy merger of the Raven's cape and cowl and the white mask of someone cosplaying as a Chesire cat. She hadn't dressed as Copycat in more than a decade. But then this wasn't exactly a meeting Watchdog could attend; nor could Secret Service Agent Ashley George. 


She sat - and waited for Geckoman and the third Raven. She'd called, telling them there was a problem with her mission - but would they answer? 

 

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There was a sudden breeze for several moments that shouldn't be there, followed by a barely-audible thrum above her for several moments. The light was dimmer even than before, and then everything passed. Copycat's senses ought to have been sharp enough, especially with how she was expecting this, to pick up the shadow that dropped form the sky with a whisper of kevlar and cloth, landing with a muffled thump and a slow rustle of a cape against armor. White eyes began to glow in the dark, before the Raven walked into what passed for the light. The shadow overhead was gone in eyeblinks. 

 

"How bad is it?"

 

There was no judgement in his voice, just concern. Though Copycat couldn't quite tell if it was for her, the school, or both.

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Chris, having timed his jump a little more... slowly, had to make a lot more of a horizontal jump to catch the roof edge. He landed on one foot, skidding forward roughly on the gravelled roof before coming to a stop a neat foot away from the two younger heroes. Geckoman looked over his shoulder admiringly, staring at seemingly nothing. "Man, the cloaking tech is working like a dream. Good job, Team Us!"

 

He clapped his hands together all business-like, and turned back to his two companions. "So, not that it isn't good to see you, but I do have Skype. Or Whatsapp. Or that other one the kids use. What's so important I have to miss Paw Patrol?"

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There was no good way to say it so Copycat just said it. "I've been made," she growled, arms crossed across her chest. The chestplate and much of the torso armor fit about as well as it had when she was sixteen, a testimony to how much she'd worked out back when she'd been Chris's age and to the sometimes-frustrating genetics she'd inherited from both sides of her family. "Not the big deal. But somebody inside the agency seems to know I was a vigilante." Speaking of frustrating genetics...telling the truth about her superpowers would have disqualified her for a law enforcement job for most of her life. It still would, outside from pilot programs like the one that had gotten her into the Secret Service. Telling the truth about being a former vigilante would have made sure she was never hired as a cop _anywhere_ - not even in her native New Orleans. "If they're digging into me - it means they can find the other problem too." 

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Raven watched Chris behind his mask, managing not to smirk as the most colorful hero there lived up to his costume. Copycat's words killed that amusement, though, and instead generated a slight frown that the average mugger would have found terrifying. To Geckoman and Copycat it was just "I am slightly annoyed".

 

"There are too many threads that that information could unravel. But I have to wonder..."

 

He paused as he considered how to ask, then settled on being much like Copycat, and just saying it.

 

"Why him? Why now? What do they hope to gain? And perhaps most importantly, what do you hope we can accomplish together?"

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Copycat flinched, Ashley's hands contracting inside her costume's gauntlets. Had he known? Or taken a lucky guess, given the gender dynamics of the Secret Service, and been proven right? You could never tell with the Raven. Any Raven. "I don't know. I don't know him, and his record is clean. I can't go through agency channels on this one."  Because then everyone will know you're a liar, came her own voice in her head, clear and bright. Everyone will know that you lied to everyone to get your job, just like you lie to all those kids at Claremont. 

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Geckoman stroked his chin, looking thoughtful. "Well, I feel like we're talking around the really basic question." He extended both his arms out, hands up, palms flat. "How do you know someone knows? What did you get sent, how did you get sent it, yadda yadda yadda, blah blah blah. If we establish the how., we can start looking into the why, and then we can figure out the who. And then we can..." He paused to cackle manically. "Silence them."

 

He paused, feeling a little guilty of making light of the situation. "Well. We can figure out a way to stop it."

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Reluctantly, Copycat told them the story - how she'd gone in for the usual briefing after a long deployment, how the agent hadn't been the usual agent, and how his questions had revealed a suspicious amount of knowledge about her time as Raven's sidekick.  "No way out on my own. If I go to the agency, they'll dig. If I go meta, they'll dig too. Only way out is people who already know the secret." She didn't mention that of course she couldn't have gone to Callie Summers about this if she wanted to have any self-respect - she was pretty sure the latter knew all about it anyway. Copycat took a breath, then another, and said, "I investigated Johnson as much as I could - by all accounts he's a boring career agent who works a desk in Counterfeiting, mostly in Baltimore and points north. I don't think he's ever even fired his gun in anger. I need Geckoman and the Raven to go deeper. Need to find out what he knows - and how.

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Raven started pacing, over to the side where he had some room. He seemed a bit lost in thought as Copycat walked them through what had happened, and what had been said.

 

"Seems like the real question is, who's ordering Johnson around? Surely even if the desk agent thing is a front, he's not the top person. Because whatever he knows, his superior does."

 

He stopped and turned to face Copycat.

 

"The other question is...just how far are you willing to watch us go? Only investigation? Removal and/or destruction of records? Threats? Is this to be information-retrieval only, or an open attempt to deter him?"

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Geckoman pursed his lips, musing. "Yeah, I see the logic, buuuuut..." He waved his hands in the air, making some abstract shape. "If Copycat breaks into an office and is caught, Ashley George is the one being handcuffed. If Geckoman breaks into an office, and by some miracle is caught, it'll be some random guy they've never met slipping out of the handcuffs."

 

He tilted his head to one side. "Unless we do a two-pronged investigation, one in the Intertubes, one in person. Old school and new school."

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Raven pursed his lips, but nodded at Copycat's words.

 

"Fair. Though you know what I mean."

 

At Geckoman's first comments, he looks thoughtful. At the "intertubes" comment, he retracts the lenses of his mask long enough to visibly roll his eyes at Geckoman, before they snap in place again. He speaks, and as he does so, he pulls a couple of modules from his belt, plugging them in to his gauntlets, where holographic mid-air screens spring up and he begins typing and clicking.

 

"First of all, saying 'Intertubes' makes you sound so old. I want that noted for the record. Secondly, it won't take that long for the first round of that investigation. But the important parts, if they've got two brain cells, will be on an air-gapped network that we have to get to physically anyway. And if they could connect these dots, I'm going to operate on the assumption they can airgap."

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The Rookery

One Week Later

 

Raven sat in a comfortable chair, currently clad in the under-layer of his suit, his armor, cape, and mask perched on a nearby stand, ready to be donned in a few moments. He stood suddenly, going to the large, gleaming table in front of him, with several holographs floating in the air overhead. It contained all the information the three of them had gather thus far, with lines tracing between various pieces, a few with question marks. 

 

Alek had invited Chris and Ashley here because they'd have more resources on-hand, and a quieter, more secure space to plan. He'd offered to pick one or both up, to ensure their transport was more secure. Ashley in particular needed to be cautious, and Alek wanted to accommodate that. Even if part of him blamed her for something that wasn't really her fault. No more than it was his fault, in a way. 

 

"I don't like how this is adding up. It could just be a personality shift, but this almost comes across like someone replaced him...."

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