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Avenger Assembled

The Unquiet Past

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The Monday after the 4th of July was a busy time for Ace. After enjoying yet another patriotic celebration in the capital of Freedom, he was back in business and that meant dealing with the various issues and situations that he'd had to put off for the holiday weekend. Even for a man who'd lived a whole lifetime and more, the cycle of business and holidays never went away. He was just trying to decide which one of Freedom City's many fine restaurants would serve him for lunch when his cellphone rang. A familiar voice was on the other end of the line; his niece, Rachel Danger. She sounded hard-working as always, with the slightly harried tone of any good business executive in this economy. "Hey, Uncle Ace: can you swing by my office ASAP? I've got an important matter here that requires your attention. I need your help in dealing with the Prophet situation. Normally I wouldn't ask, but...this is something only you can deal with." Ace was of course familiar with his family's business dealings with the Prophet clan, it was the sort of routine-but-urgent matter that was one reason he usually let Rachel run the show.

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Ace frowned at his nieces odd behavior, the Prophet clan was usually not the kind of matter requiring his attention. Determining something was odd he opted to give her a chance to clue him in that all was not well. "Alright I'll head on over right after lunch. Oh I never got to thank you for the cardigan, you had to leave the party early Saturday." Ace had infact as was his custom spent his birthday at the family estate with her mother and their father and she had donated in his name as was family custom for presents. It should give her plenty of ways to hint what was going on.

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"Everything's fine here," replied Rachel, a smile in her voice. "Really, Ace. I just want you to get out here and deal with this. It shouldn't take too long." Rachel certainly wasn't using any of the usual code-words to hint that there was a crisis, it just sounded like she was very determined to bring her uncle out there. "We'll do lunch afterwards, maybe out to that Greek place you like around the corner? It'll be fab."

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"Alright," said Ace "But you're paying" he joked. "I'll be right there." he said before hanging up

Ace drove quickly to the office but was still botherd buy the urgency in Rachels voice. Regardless he had to get to the bottom of this even if there was some kind of toruble. He pulled into the underground parking flashing his ID to get through security and tossed his vest on before he headed up just in case there was trouble.

Ace stepped to the elevator and hit the number for Rachels floor waiting somewhat impatiently to find out what was going on as the elevator sped to its destination.

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Karen Rogers, Rachel's secretary, greeted Ace with a smile when he reached his niece's twenty-first story office. "Hi, Mr. Danger! Good to see you! Ms. Danger's with a client right now, but she said I should go ahead and buzz you in." She leaned down over the intercom and pressed the button on the brass box on her desk, the old-fashioned office electronics a legacy of the company's history. "Ms. Danger? Your uncle is here." A voice squawked back inviting Ace in, and the heavy oak office doors opened at his touch.

For a bare moment, Ace thought nothing was wrong. Rachel's full-length windows were open, showing off the lovely view of the downtown she had from her CEO's office, and his niece's office was as efficiently organized as ever. That was, at least, until he saw that his niece standing out on the balcony ledge, nothing but a few inches of concrete between her and the ground below! Before he could do more than take a step towards her, he heard a low, purring, unfamiliar voice. "I wouldn't do that, Mr. Danger. If you break her concentration..." The woman in the high leather chair swung the seat around, becoming visible for the first time as she smiled wickedly at Ace. "Or mine, she just might go...splat."

The lovely woman in the chair wasn't familiar to Ace, but he recognized the costume she was wearing. The tight red leather suit; the black gloves and boots, the hammer and sickle epaulets...she was wearing the costume of the Marionette; the Communist mind-controller who'd so bedeviled Freedom City's superheroes in the late 40s and early 50s. But she'd been dead fifty years...hadn't she? "You like the old costume?" she asked in a sing-song voice. "I pulled it out of mothballs just for you. So you would remember."

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Ace without pause continued to shut the door, the last thing he needed was Karen calling in the calvery and making everything go pear shaped. This was going to require some delicacy.

Eyeing the mentalist warily he slipped quietly into the chair oposite her in the desk. "Shall we dispense with the plesantries then?" He asked full of mock formality. His eyes flicked to Rachel on her precarious perch, "I could ask you to let her go as she has nothing to do with this but you and I both know she's all you have for leverage and that as soon as you let her go or something happens to her you're down for the count." Ace's smile never touched his eyes as he leaned in cloaser looking the villian straight in the eye "So lets skip the chit chat what is it you want? The soviets failed the Iron curtain fell even you must realise that regardless of what you do now your side lost, your smart enough for that and if you just wanted vengence there are far easier targets with less chance of you getting caught."

Ace leaned back again "So what do you want from me?"

Ace hoped to set her just off balance enough but not drive her to do anything stupid, he also had to know if this was a copycat or the real deal, her reaction to the fall of the USSR woudl be telling on that front at least. As he spoke he kept a carefull eye on Marionette ready to make a jump for Rachel if she looked to make good her threat.

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"I'm not the woman I was, Ace," said Marionette with a strange smile that might have been seductive under other circumstances. "Not after you killed me. Did you hear about that, I wonder?" She folded her long, lovely fingers into a steeple on the desk. "What happened to me, when they put me in that government loony bin? They pumped so many drugs into me that I couldn't think, I couldn't move...I couldn't even control my bladder!" Her icy demeanor was replaced with raw, murderous rage for half a moment, before the icy, seductive calm came back into place. "I couldn't do anything but lay there in my own filth as that fat screw took a pillow and held it down over my face until I stopped breathing!" She slammed her fist on the table.

"I went places after that, Ace, and I saw things." She gave a low, too-fast laugh. "I learned a lot of lessons from that, Ace. You'd be surprised what you'll think about when you don't have a body, when you don't have feeling, when everything you are is focused on pulling yourself out of the darkness down below. But that's over now, Ace, and now I'm back. Allison Gellar cared about the Soviet Union, Ace. I cared about that look on your face when you came walking inside the door and saw your little niece there standing just one step away from being one Danger who didn't get to be eighty years old." She tilted her head, still smiling, as she twisted the knife. "About that...do you think she's going to blame you when she gets old and withers away and you're still young and handsome? Do you think your mom blamed your dad when she got all brittle and frail and he was still running around with his drinking buddies?"

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This game of cat and mouse was old hat to Ace he schooled his features and didn't let his concern show. No matter how deep her barbs might drive he was not going to give her the satisfaction of knowing it.

Instead Ace sighed non-chalantly and shrugged "There are worse ways to go." He adopted a thouroughly unimpressed mein and added "You may have learned alot but you seemed to have missed the part where Yo' Mamma jokes have lots thier punch. My mother died knowing she was loved surrounded by family at the end of a fruitful life, she is remembered still for her deeds and her presence is still felt."

Ace met Marionettes eyes once more "Rachel knows as well as anyone in the family that I will outlive her. She is only human and I imagin she has had times and will have times of wishing she had what I do but in the end she will die knowing she was loved," Ace lowered his voice then still loud enough for marionette to hear but the tone was wholely different the devil may cry mask was gone Ace was deadly serious "not alone in her own filth."

It was a calculated risk but he had to get her attention so thouroughly on him that she made a mistake. He might be able to get to Rachel in time to stop her from falling but it would be a near thing and marrionette was not a villain to be taken lightly, particlarly if her agenda had so radically shifted.

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Marionette's lovely lips curled in sudden, sharp distaste. "I'm tired of talk, Danger." Suddenly, in the window, Rachel swayed visibly, her eyes opening wide as she looked around for the first time.

"Ace? What-"

Before Rachel could quite become conscious of where she was, Marionette's eyes suddenly flashed a brilliant white, a trick Ace couldn't ever recall the woman he'd fought in the Golden Age ever showing. Rachel's eyes flashed white too, and blood suddenly poured freely from her nose as her head jerked up and her body convulsed. Silently, she began to topple backwards.

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As the words are leaving Marionettes lips Ace surges out of his chair and launches himself across the room to the balcony and the falling unconcious form of his niece. He grabs her as she begins to slip from her perch and twists and rolls clutching her to his chest to lay her on the ground.

His neice securely on the balcony Ace focuses for a fraction of a second to cloud Marionettes mind and in an instant Ace and his neice vanish from the villianess' sight.

Hidden from her sight he pushes onward to aim a wicked uppercut at the unsuspecting mentalist.

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Marionette had risen to her feet as Ace caught his niece and disappeared, and so she jerked her head back as his blow just missed connecting with her jaw. "Oh, hitting a girl, Ace?" she asked, teasing with a nasty edge to her voice now that her mood had shifted again. "What would your poor sainted mother think?" She took a step back, scanning the room for Ace. "I know you're still here, you coward," she said, her teeth exposed in a feral snarl. "Come out right now or your little niecey-poo here has an aneurysm hard enough to paint the ceiling." Suddenly, she turned and looked the invisible Ace right in the eye. "It'll be like this."

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The pounding psychic assault barely fazes Ace, though it proves she can withstand his own mind clouding powers. Dropping into a tight boxing stance Ace unleashes a flurry of jabs drawing the mentalists guard out, "Coward? I'm not the one dangling an innocent kid off a ledge." Ace shouts at the villain "and you will do no such thing." Punctuating his words with a sudden left hook out of the blue.

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Ace's left hook hit Marionette square in the jaw, snapping the pretty blonde's head back and making her eyes roll back in her head. She staggered limply and murmured distinctly, "That didn't feel very good," before collapsing like a poleaxed steer onto Rachel's carpeted floor. With two unconscious women at his feet, his hand bloody from one's face, it might have gone badly for Ace if he'd been standing in anyone else's office when the pounding at the door finally resolved into a key in the lock, and a startled Sharon Rogers in the door.

"Ohmigod! Ms. Danger! I'll call 911!"

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Ace called out to Ms. Rogers as she turned to leave, "Tell them to send in a STAR squad unit with inhibitors."

He then cleaned himself up quickly as he took a knee and started to tend to Rachel until the paramedics could arrive. While keeping a carefull eye on Marrionette for any sign of stiring hoping those inhibitors got here soon.

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Rachel was obviously hurt, her nose still bleeding and her eyes turning pink in a really quite alarming way. Fortunately, Ace was familiar enough with medicine to know that his niece wasn't actually in mortal danger. She'd obviously burst multiple blood vessels in her head, but from the look of things they were all minor ones that were just bleeding a lot. With proper medical care, she'd be fine. As Ace heard the sirens arrive outside at the street, Rachel began to revive, looking up at Ace with wide eyes. "She...she said she wanted to talk to me about you," she murmured, "and then she made me go out...Ace, who was that?" Ace distinctly saw Marionette's eyes open, but there was no sign of other movement from the formerly Communist mind controller. Up close, he could definitely see that that woman looked nothing like Allison Gellar...but then, Allison Gellar had been dead fifty years.

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Ace nervously eyed the Telepath and moved Rachel to a couch where she'd be more comfortable, and hopefully safer should Marrionette awaken. Though he doubted it woudl be effective against so formitable a mind he focused his energies and spoke with authority "Sleep." he commanded with the full force of his training int he mysterious east behind the hypnotic suggestion.

He quickly scaned the room for means of restraining and blindfolding the mentalist in case the police didn't arrive in time.

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Marionette dropped into sleep immediately at Ace's words, the pretty blonde's blue eyes fluttering as she slumped into unconsciousness again. The police arrived not long after that, STAR Squad in their usual heavy uniforms. The officers were pleased, though not too surprised, to find that Ace had taken care of most of the problem for them. While the paramedics looked Rachel over, the cops slapped a psi-nullifying helmet on the still-sleeping Marionette and turned it on. "Lord, talk about one for the history books, huh?" said Lieutenant Kanigher, shaking his head as he took Ace's statement. "Who'd have thought we'd see a second Marionette?"

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At the officers words Ace tore his eyes away from the paramedics careing for his niece. "Not a second Marrionette." He said simply, "I don't now if its a possesion or what but thats the original just with a new and bigger chip on her shoulder."

He looked at Rachel's unconcious form once more, "Mostly a vendetta against old foes from what I've gathered but she may have a deeper plot." He turned back to the officer "I'll come downtown to fill you all in once I know Rachels alright." He absent mindedly tapped his cell in one hand "I might be able to find an expert that can explain whats going on."

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The police took the unconscious Marionette away as the EMTs finished checking out Rachel, speaking to her and Ace both given as she was the patient and he was both a superhero and family. "It looks like you may have some vascular damage in your scalp, but nothing serious. You'll probably have a very nasty bruise on your face in a couple of hours from the burst blood vessels, but no worse that that. Still, I think it's a good idea to take you to the ER at McNider," Carlos the EMT suggested.

From outside, Ace heard the sudden, startled exclamation of the police, followed by Lieutenant Kanigher practically breaking down the inner office door again. "She's gone!" At the officer's words, Ace turned to look at the couch where he'd laid Marionette earlier and saw the nullifer helmet sitting there that he'd just seen Kanigher put on the woman's head not a few minutes earlier.

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Ace silently curse himself for not watching Marrionette more carefully. He should have know she'd try something like this but illusions hadn't been exactly her bag back in the day, but this was a whole new Marrionette and would require a different approach.

"Dammit," He said aloud and turned to the nearest officer, "We need to get footage, try and track her down, her powers shouldn't have blocked the cameras."

"We also need to get word out she has a vendetta agianst the last round of heroes she faced off against, might try and strike at the league, or their families, also AEGIS should be alerted, I'll take care of that." With those commands given he waved the officers into motion and followed Rachel down towards the ambulance.

As he walked he dialed up Chief Bonham.

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With Ace's various connections, it didn't take him long at all to get the director of the local AEGIS office. "Marionette, huh? Whew, that's one for the history books. I'd have to go all the way back to the OSS days to look her up. Too bad Joe Simmons passed on." As he talked to Bonham, he kept a close eye on Rachel, who was obviously still hurt but recovering from her injury. He was taking a description as Rachel woke up again, the young woman patting at her pockets before she looked up at Ace.

"Ace..." she murmured up at him. "Ace, my keys are gone. Is my 'Vette still in the lot?" Sure enough, on closer inspection, someone had driven off with Rachel Danger's red '88 Corvette!

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Ace looked perplexed for a moment at the theft. There were certainly less obvious escape vehicals she could have gone for not that the average officer would be able to do much of anything against the mind controling fiend.

"Stew, she's probably driving an red 06 Corvette, but she'll roll the mind of most any officer you send up against her. The boys down in R&D have anything to stop that cooked up?." Ace asked though he doubted he'd have any such luck.

While he continued his convorsation witht he AEGIS Chief he sent out a few texts to his family and some of Rachels friends from her phone warning that Marrionette may try something and was driving her car most likely. He had his doubts that she'd target Rachels friends as she was trying to get at Ace but she was also obviously even more crazed than her prior incarnation.

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Stealing a red Corvette did seem decidedly odd, especially for a criminal who had as much apparent experience as Marionette. But a quick consultation through the Freedom City Police would get an APB out on the Marionette and her stolen car, together with enough anti-esper technology to at least have a chance to catch her. Contacting the survivors of the Liberty League and their families was a bit more difficult, but between Ace's connections and AEGIS' knowledge, the job could get done hopefully before any vengeful ghosts of the past showed up with murder on their minds.

At that juncture, Ace's cell buzzed. He might have just shrugged off the call, given that this was an emergency, until he looked more closely and saw that it was Rachel's phone calling him. The phone Rachel kept in her car.

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As soon as it registered who the call was from Ace stepped lightly to the side out of earshot of Rachel and the paramedics at least to answer.

He kept both his expression and voice flat as he answered "Ace Danger speaking." It was long past time for the empty platitudes he knew who was on the other end of the line and she wanted him to know or she would not have used it to call.

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"Hi, Ace." Marionette's voice was full of honeyed, sensual charm that might well have worked on anyone else. "I was just calling to let you know that I'm going to go murder an eighty-five year old woman in her bed. I know that sounds harsh, but I think you'll agree that it's justice. If you're such a big hero these days, maybe you should see if you can find me first, hmm? Tell Rachel thanks for the keys, by the way, this is a really sweet ride. How's her poor little forebrain doing these days?"

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