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angrydurf

S.H.A.D.O.W. over Freedom - IC

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Mark Lucas was a lucky young man and well used to winning assorted contests but this was quite the prize, A day with Ace Danger. He arrived right on time traffic being surprisingly light, as he stepped from the cab a gorgeous blond called out, "Hold the cab." as she emerged from the main entry of One Pyramid Plaza, and hurried down the steps to slide gracefully into the back seat, "Thanks tiger." She said and blew the lucky young man a kiss.

 

 

 

***

 

 

Upstairs Ace didn't know where it had all gone wrong. Well to be honest he knew it had gone wrong the instant he had invited Talya up for a nightcap, he really only had himself to blame for his current predicament. She had come to him though, and with information on a job she had turned down, hope springs eternal he supposed but she was unlikely to ever fully reform. The bonds were of course quite well tied, she was a professional after all. Not the best conditions under which to meet the scion of house Lucas but the boy was undoubtedly on his way. 'Well,' Thought Ace 'there could certainly be worse winners of that damnable Day with Ace Danger contest, given the circumstances.'

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Mark had felt a little bad about entering this contest, but not at all bad about winning. After all, he trusted that Mr. Danger would happily play host to the son and grandson of his old friends. So he'd entered the contest and competed fairly alongside everyone else, winning thanks to his essay "Why I Want To Spend A Day With Ace Danger, Man of Mystery!" He'd included a video clip of himself with his Ace Danger memorabilia!

"Hello? Mr. Danger?" The door was locked, but luckily the carpet had rucked up and kept it from closing all the way. Is this a test? He wondered as he stepped inside. Could it be that Ace Danger wanted to see if he measured up to a hero's level? He wandered in further, heading for the bedroom, and pushed open the door.

"Oh, hello Mr. Danger!" he said guilelessly as he walked in. He knows what he's doing. "Wow, you're tied up pretty good! How are you going to get out of this one?" he asked eagerly.

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Ace smiled at the boy, "How else but by the timely arrival of a helpful young contest winner." He said nudging his head toward the bonds. "First lesson of the day, young Mr. Lucas, never trust a woman, especially if she's an unrepentant thief, no matter how beautiful." Not that this was a lesson he was likely to learn, Ace certainly hadn't and he'd had more than enough opportunity over the years.

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"You want ME to untie YOU? Wow! What an honor!" Overjoyed, Mark looked at the ropes carefully. "Ooh, the old Red Menace special. These are just like the ones you were tied up with in 1965 when you stopped the Crime League from stealing Hoover Dam and selling it to the Commies!" He grinned. "I've got all the pictures of that, you know. My dad says..." He paused, looked at Ace, then said, "Oh, right, untying!" He actually had no idea how knots worked, but a little whacking and pulling at it soon got Ace's bonds loosened. "A girl tied me up once," he offered, then shook his head. "But that was, uh, something else." His ankle started to itch.

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Ace rubbed the circulation back into his wrists and thanked the young man, "Quite a similarity there you are correct," he replied recalling the incident with a small smile, that had definitely been a night well worth the outcome.

He looked Mark over consideringly for a moment, "Normally I'd send you on your way as my day has taken a sudden turn for the dramatic," He waved off Marks inevitable protestation, "BUT, if you go call your father and get permission you can stick with me as long as you promise to listen to instruction and direction." Even as he spoke the words he knew it was likely going to bite him in the ass later but Ace Danger had some very unique ideas on proper raising of children. The legendary Hero gestured towards the living room phone as he began to stand, and by the time Mark was done with the phone call he was fully dressed and straightening his hat in the mirror. "All set my lad?"

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"Yes sir!" said Mark proudly. "My dad says you should treat him just like you'd have treated him at his age." Come to think of it, Mark did look almost exactly like Rick had at that age, if a bit easier on the eyes. "Are we going to go catch the villainess who tied you up?" he asked Ace, wide-eyed. "Because if she could beat you up, she must be pretty tough!"

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Ace was somewhat taken aback by the similarity now that it was brought into such sharp relief. "Ah...No," Ace said with a smile, "She was but a piece of the plot and I already know all she does." He winked at Mark quickly, "And for the record Knockout Lipstick is cheating."

Ace began flipping through a small map book of Freedom City then tossed it aside, "Useless, I need to talk to someone who knows those streets." He said in disgust then snapped his fingers, "Jack! Just have to try and find him." Following scarce clues with the world in peril this was what it was all about in Ace's mind, "Come on kid we gotta look for a swordsman."

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"Oh boy, a swordsman!" said Mark, looking delighted at this turn of events. He was so excited, in fact, that he grabbed the front of his shirt and ripped it off! His pants followed a moment later, leaving Mark clad in just his Edge uniform. "I sure am glad I wore my uniform today." He winked. "I was pretty sure we'd be getting up to something, one way or another. Lead the way, Mr. Danger!"

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Ace nodded approval at the costume, he wasn't much for the whole spandex thing himself but the kid made it work in a retro kinda way.

Ace led the way to the express elevator and down to the basement parking garage. He strode quickly to his custom Silver Aston Martin and gestured for edge to hop in briefing him on the way, "My ... Lady friend was contacted about a possible job, but she turned it down due to history with the employer." Ace explained, "She did go to a meet that she's fairly certain was in the west end, but they had her blindfolded, but the place they were meeting smelt of peanuts."

Ace then began heading to the west end as if that explained everything weaving the sleek sports car in and out of traffic with ease.

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Ace's Aston Martin had only just started into the West End when something landed on its roof with a loud thump. The mystery was quickly resolved as the masked face of Jack of all Blades swung down into the passenger window, the tails of his bandanna dangling below his as they flapped in the wind. "Sup, Ace? Looking for someone?" The acrobat quirked an eyebrow as he noticed Edge. "Nice costume, kid. Is this one of those 'World War II team gets sent to future, has a brawl with the current heroes' sorta things?"

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"The Liberty League would never do such a thing!" said Edge, offended by the mere idea. Except..."Well, come to think of it, there was that one time back in '73 when the Golden Age Centurion thought the regular Centurion was a Nazi spy and...well, that's not important right now." He studied Jack of Blades and said, "Say, aren't you Jack of Blades, the famous swordsman? With the sword made of fire?"

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"Not just fire, kid, but you're on the right track." Jack managed to successfully suppress a grimace. Knew that charity boxing thing was a bad idea, he groused to himself. After years of purposefully keeping a low profile, he'd gotten cocky and started making his presence known in the city at large. 'Famous' he says. You just know that's going to bite me in the butt sooner or later.

Looking past the enthusiastic youth, Jack addressed Ace. "So, Skippy the Boy Wonder here aside, what's up?" Glancing down the street, he added, "Eyes on the road, though, huh?"

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A few moments after Jack landed on the roof Ace pulled up to the curb and turned to the bandanna'd swordsman, "Just that man I wanted to see." He said with a smile, "Jack Of All Blades this is Edge." He tossed off as an introduction. "You have anywhere more private we could talk? I believe there's something going down out here but I need your expertise on the neighborhood."

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Swinging off of the car's roof, Jack landed lightly beside Ace. The acrobat tiled his head questioningly. "You're saying there's something strange? In my neighbourhood? Good thing you knew who to call," he deadpanned. Jack regarded the young man for a moment as the immortal adventurer introduced him. Looks less like an 'Edge' than a 'Blunt', he observed wryly. The teen hero seemed fairly normal to the swashbuckler's energy awareness as well, though the ambient energies around him seemed oddly less random. When Edge spoke, Jack thought he caught an echo of rolling dice, and there was faint aftertaste to his presence the older hero couldn't place. Magic, perhaps? There were so many specific types it was often hard to tell.

Considering, he turned back to Ace. "Well, Colt and Grim are probably out, but we could swing by the Underground. I'll lead you to the garage entrance; between the car and the Caped Crusader, we might draw some unwanted attention pulling up in front."

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Ace eased the car back into traffic and quickly followed Jack of all Blades directions to the entrance to the Interceptors secret underground lair. Ace swung the car next to the towering MAVERIC, where Colt usually parked his star cycle, he and Grimalkin having apparently taken it on whatever errand had them out of the base that day.

He hopped out of the car twirling the keys around his finger as he slipped them into his pocket.

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"Ooh, Interceptor headquarters. That's neat," said Edge. He sounded interested, but not as delighted as he might have been with a different team. He did his best to remind himself that Modern Age superheroes were just as interesting as past ones. After all, he was from the modern age too. "Do you guys have a codebook? Every team should have a codebook. My team has one back at our secret lair."

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"I'll bet you do, Skippy," Jack replied dismissively. As he led Ace and the young hero out of the garage and to the Underground's hub, the corridor lit up around them. "Hey, Vince, you home?"

A seemingly ordinary wall blinked to life as the image of a tourist covered beach appeared. In front of it stood a gregarious man in a loud Hawaiian shirt, bucket hat and sunglasses, with sunscreen covering his nose and a drink with an tiny umbrella in his hand. "No, I'm in Aruba!" the artificial intelligence chuckled, before snapping his fingers. Suddenly he dressed in the suit of a talk show host, leaning on a desk in front of an image of Freedom's skyline. "Where else would I be, Jacko, m'boy? Ooh, company! If I'd known you were coming, I would've baked a cake!" A chef hat appeared on his head for a moment, then was gone just as quickly. "Vth Iteration Networked Computer Entity, at your service, gents!" As he spoke, the words appeared on the screen like the phone number for a telethon. "Or Vince to my friends, which is just about everybody. I'm a very likable guy!"

The trio arrived at the base's nerve center, with all of it's readouts and surveillance from around the city. "So, what's the deal, Ace?" Jack asked, turning to the immortal adventurer with his arms crossed.

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The AI flickering to life on the screen if nothing else substantiated the Rumors that the interceptors were Archevilles pet project. Ace chuckled at the almost vaudevillian routine as the walked to the bases nerve center.

Turning to the young heroes Ace laid what he knew of the case on the table, "I suspect S.H.A.D.O.W. has established a base in Freedom City." He paused for a moment before continuing, "I met with an old contact of mine who tipped me off that they are shopping around the city for top end thief. She didn't have many details but was taken blindfolded to a meeting room, it sounded like it was in a larger base of operations though." He glanced to Jack, "Which is where you come in, she was certain the entrance was in the west side and she distinctly caught the scent of peanuts in the air just before heading into the base, though the took to many turns for her to be certain of the exact local."

He looked to Edge, "The target is a device currently on loan to the super museum, an seemingly harmless artifact recovered from an SS base in Austria after the war. It's not know what exactly the device does but with the kind of talent they were scouting they want it badly enough that we DO NOT want them to get their grubby Nazi hands on it."

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Even behind his bandanna, it was clear Jack was raising his eyebrows in surprise. "S.H.A.D.O.W.? Well hot damn, old man, why didn't you say so in the first place? Those freaks aren't getting a foot in the door on my watch." The swordsman frowned as he concentrated. "Peanuts, huh? Well, there's a couple of guys around who sell roasted nuts out of stands..." His eyes lit up with realization. "But only one of them is near that new construction site. Bunch of families got offers on their houses lately; torn 'em down to make room for something else. I thought it was supposed to be a strip mall or office building or whatever. Could be our place." As he spoke, a map of the West End appeared on the screen of the console he was standing beside as Vince zoomed it to the location Jack was talking about.

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"Not Nazis!" said Edge, who'd shrugged off Jack of Blades's remark as he would from any superhero who didn't even have their own action figures. "That's terrible. We should definitely do something about that. I should call my team..." He thought about that. "But most of them are pretty busy with history exams. I got out, because I aced the test already." He hmmed. "Do you guys have a jet? Because that would get us there really fast. If not, I've got something we can use."

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"Well I'm glad we can agree on that much." Ace said with a genuine smile, "Judging from the map here it looks like it won't require a Jet to reach it in time." He looked at the overlay on the display trying to discern where an entrance might be. "I'm more concerned with ensuring that we're able to find the entrance and infiltrate undetected. S.H.A.D.O.W. has only grown more vile in their years underground and a direct showdown with an entire base of trained soldiers is not nearly as much fun as it might sound." As he spoke Ace absently rubbed at his side remembering the first, and lat, time he had made that rash mistake.

Just then the screen cleared and Vince announced across the loudspeaker, "Robbery in progress at the Super Museum. Assailants look to be members of the Power corps. Accessing video feed one moment."

Ace shook his head, "I didn't think they were that desperate."

A second later the screen cut to a series of grainy security camera shots of three power armored men menacing the staff and visitors to the Museums War Years wing while a fourth began cutting into an armored display case, "Likelihood of response before escape of perpetrators 5%" Announced VINCE.

Ace frowned, "Never tell me the odds." he growled then turning to Edge inquired, "You said you thought you might have a way of getting us around quicker?"

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Jack turned to a screen on his left, where Vince's image was shouting into a megaphone. "Since when do you announce percentages of success?"

The AI grinned as he tossed his megaphone over his shoulder and was suddenly cover in gold body paint. "I've been watching a lot of Star Wars lately, Master Jack," he replied in a vaguely British accent, waving his arms over his head in a robotic manner. The swordsman countered with a series of short whistles, ranging up and down in pitch. Vince gave him a scandalized look, scoffing, "Well I never!" With a snap of his fingers, he was back behind his desk, a rag covered in gold paint sitting on one corner.

The gregarious avatar exchanged a grin with Jack before the swashbuckler turned his attention back to their guest. "If we're going, sounds like it better be now, kid."

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"Oh boy, you've got a robot!" Edge looked pleased at that. "Robots are fun. Has he gone mad and tried to destroy you yet?" He paused, shook his head, then added, "But there's no time for that now!" He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small electronic device, a short metal tube with a red button on the top. "Here, I just happened to have this point-to-point teleporter with me today." He smiled. "It was a birthday present. Everyone organic hold on!" And with that, he pushed the button, and a flash of light swept out to encompass all of them.

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As the light faded the heroes found themselves in the midst of the robbery. The Power armored thieves whirled and leveled their weapons at the trio with deadly intent. The apparent leader let loose a rather improbable curse and commanded, "Take them down and get that damn case open." Sounding almost desperate. It seemed like it just wasn't the Power Corps lucky day.

Ace glanced at the leader with the number one emblazoned on his chest, "Yea, you're right," He said with a nod, "You Are definitely not getting paid enough for this."

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Jack was moving even as the light of the teleport was fading. Stepping calmly toward the leader of the armored criminals, the swashbuckler kept his body language deceptively relaxed, though beneath his flowing greatcoat muscles coiled in anticipation. "Number One, huh?" he remarked casually. "Is that like a self-help thing? If you keep telling yourself that you're the best maybe you'll start to believe it and stop being quite such a loser in a tin can? Or do the numbers just indicate how high each of you can count?" Jack snapped his fingers as if in sudden realization. "Oh! Number of times you've kissed a girl!" He turned to one of the underlings with a double thumbs up and grin. "Wait to go Number Eight, you big smoothie!"

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