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Avenger Assembled

House of L: Bringing Down the House (IC)

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Flashes of ionic energy propelled the young heroes to an all-too-familiar place; the spots on the sidewalk where they'd watched Mark Lucas die just a few hours earlier. If time itself hadn't changed, that is. The Lucas house was a quiet, peaceful place in an idyllic neighborhood, just as it had always been in the real world for the heroes who'd visited there. An unfamiliar old man, looking as old as Trevor's grandfather in the real world, clad in a sweater-vest and bow-tie was trimming the hedges of the house next door, humming an amiable tune as he worked. There was no sign of the horrific events that had happened in this place earlier today, but of all the places in Freedom City, why would there be?

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--Well then,-- Sage thought to other teen heroes, --Let's see if anyone is home.--

Closing her eyes the teen telepath projected her awareness outward and experienced a brief wave of vertigo from the overlapping sensory signals, especially from her disembodied sight. Taking a brief moment to center herself Sage cast her perception beyond the door to the Lucas homestead.

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Letmeoutletmeoutletmeoutletmeoutletmeout

The words were a sussurus in the background as Sage peered mentally through the doorway into the lush, expansive Lucas house. Martha Lucas was sitting in the kitchen dressed like a 1950s housewife, which she remembered from Faith's stories was about how she usually dressed. There was no sign of a live Rick, though the walls were covered with pictures of the dead hero and his son. The voice in her head called her upstairs, to Mark's room, where the door was shut. In fact, she realized, it was sealed entirely, totally flush with the wall. Slowly, though, it seemed to bubble ever-so-slightly, as if something on the other side was pushing hard.

Letmeoutletmeoutletmeoutletmeoutletmeout!

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Erin turned from her investigation of the house at Eve's soft gasp and murmured "Oh dear..." The burst of surprise and worry the psychic girl was projecting was alarming enough, even before she shared what she'd seen.

She listened grimly as Sage related the unpleasant circumstances inside the house, then pursed her lips and studied the oh-so-innocuous house once more. "We're going to have to go in there. Mark's room is on the second floor. The front door opens onto a foyer between the living and dining room, the stairs are just beyond that, and behind them is the kitchen. There's a second entrance out of the kitchen leading onto the patio. Upstairs there's a master bedroom, a bathroom, and Mark's bedroom is the last door on the right. The bathroom window is too small to get in or out of, but if Martha's downstairs, we could probably get in through the window in the master bedroom."

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"What happened to the knocking plan?" asked Chris, pulling his Raven mask down over his face. "Guys, it's Mark. Rick wasn't going to change his son, and do you think Mark would hang us out to dry if we showed up on his doorstep?"

Chris paused to think for a moment. "Wait... would the dissatisfied grief-stricken lunatic with phenomenal cosmic power leave his son unaltered?"

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James looked around curiously. Everything looked so similar and yet so different at the same time. He nodded at Erin's description of the place; that was pretty much what he remembered as well. "We're about to find out," he said in responses to Chris' concerned. The idea of remembering being dead was not likely a pleasant one as James could attest to. He walked towards the front door after looking at the others and seeing what Eve had found out. He was going to knock...but not until Eve had her chance to check either way.

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When Sage shared what she'd seen with everybody, James' knock resounded through the cheerful house that today was a prison built by a being of great power for his son. After several long moments, the door opened, and a wide-eyed Martha Lucas stared at the children on the porch. Speaking with great care, as if from a dream, she said, "Hello, children. I'm sorry, I'm not feeling very well today. Can you come back later?"

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As soon as the group had arrived, Trevor began demonstrating the skills he'd inherited from his grandfather. Even in broad daylight, with hiding places few and far between, the dark haired teen just seemed to melt away, somehow consistently occupying the spaces where no one was looking, the areas just past the corner of the others' eyes.

When Martha Lucas arrived at the door, he took advantage of her disturbingly addled state to slip around the side of the house while she was distracted by Mark's friends. Stalking silently onto the empty patio, the wiry youth considered the window Erin had described as leading into the master bedroom. Deciding against scaling the wall for the time being, he softly opened the back door and sidestepped into the kitchen, moving to conceal himself behind a cupboard while taking careful stock of his surroundings and waiting for a chance to make it to the stairs.

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Sage let her extended senses unravel and as she opened her eyes she was once again viewing the world from the “proper” angle. With her body half-turned toward the door, Sage noted Martha Lucas’ appearance out of the corner of her eye but she ignored the woman for the time being, her eyes fixed in the direction of Mark’s room.

Tired from stretching her abilities and disturbed by what she saw, Sage was only happy Faith wasn’t here to witness this. More out of habit than any conscious effort, the young telepath once again started to monitor the surface thoughts of those around her, while sending a probing thought to the trapped person who she could only hope was Mark.

--Mark?--

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Erin stepped up next to James, hoping that her lack of any information about this world woudn't get her in too much trouble. She hadn't even thought to ask her teammates if they had memories of Mark that might indicate whether they even knew him here. "Mrs. Lucas, can we come in?" she asked. "I'm sorry you're not feeling well, but it's really very important. The fate of the world could be at stake."

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Grief and terror came pouring through her connection to Mark, a blast of shockingly raw psychic energy utterly unlike the boy she knew. IdontbelonghereIdontbelonghereIdontbelonghereIdontbelonghereI- He paused at her mental touch, and she felt another raw blast of sheer hope. -Sage? Oh God, is that you!?! How did you get here? If this is about the thing with Faith, I swear it was practically her idea!-

The house was an eerie place for Trevor, something in its very walls and construction _wrong_. And some of it wasn't just a juuust slightly non-Euclidean geometry that seemed to be watching him with jealous ees: the liquor cabinet was open, and nearly empty, several bottles sitting on the table where Martha Lucas had been sitting. She smelled faintly of alcohol to the kids at the door, but didn't exactly look drunk. Just very, very out of it. With Martha at the door, there was nothing stopping him from bolting up the stairs if he wanted.

Martha stared at Erin for a moment, something watchful behind her bleary eyes. "You can come in, but I don't know if Mark can talk. Some very strange things have happened today," she said deliberately, stepping back from the door. "He won't come out of his room."

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Noting the empty bottles warily, Trevor turned his attention down the foyer to Martha Lucas. When the discombobulated woman began to let the others in, the domino mask wearing teenager swiftly made for the stairs, carefully shifting his weight from foot to foot to avoid making any noise. Even if the rest of the small group were being given access to the home, he could serve best as a forward scout and ace in the hole. Reaching the second floor, he pressed against one wall while scanning the opposite for the spot where Mark's room was supposed to be.

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Chris reached over and held Martha's hands. He tried to force a smile. "Mrs Lucas, we really need your help. It could be really important to Mark, and to your... late husband." Keeping his eyes fixed on Martha's, trying to hold her gaze, he softened his voice. "If you can tell us what's wrong, we can fix it. Mark's our friend, we really want to help him."

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"My...my husband," Still shell-shocked, and definitely smelling of liquor, she stepped back, freeing the remaining Claremont kids to enter the just-so-slightly warped Lucas house. "Rick will be back. He promised me that he was going to make everything all right first." She took another step back, retreating towards the artist's studio that lay down one corridor of the ground floor. "I have to work," she said. "I have to finish my work. That's important, isn't it?"

The upstairs were, if anything, even more grating against Trevor's understanding of right and wrong. The bright sunshine streaming in through the windows was a shade of white and yellow shed by no natural sun, and the plush carpet beneath his feet seemed too deep, as if possessed of hidden depths unnatural even for the deep-pile brown. As he reached Mark's room, Trevor saw the door bulge slightly outward, as if something was pressing against it, and then a _shape_ with no form move inside the wall, ripples spreading like a stone dropped in a pond. There was definitely something inside there.

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James just shook his head. Great, she's little more than a zombie. Nice hubby you got there, he thought idly. Apparently Rick's attempt to make 'everything right' was screwing up the people he had cared about most. Wonderful. But it indicated Rick was still here, not that James hadn't already assumed that honestly.

He stepped inside with the others, doing his best to ignore the oddities of the house. Reality alterations were sort of related to his area...but this was a tad extreme. He quickly moved up the stairs, knowing where Mark's room was. Or rather where it was supposed to be. "Huh. Rick is certainly persistent," he muttered to himself. He frowned. "I think we need to contact Rick. He's probably here. Sage, see if you can link up with Mark in there there. Link us all if you have to. Maybe we can trigger his powers and pop himself out."

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Trevor regarded physics-defying geometry of the hallway with a grimace, moving away from the wall despite the greater profile it gave him. Delving into his utility belt, he rummaged through a surprising number of aerosol cans before finding what he was looking for. Noting the prominent, stylized clock logo emblazoned upon the laser cutter with mild annoyance, he addressed James as he arrived upstairs without turning from the bulging door. "Took long enough. Going to try cutting the door open. Probably best if you stand back."

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Sage smothered an inappropriate burst of laughter at Mark’s statement as she replied, --No Mark, this isn’t about the thing with Faith.-- Eve shook her head, "But whatever that thing is I'm sure I don't want to know." she thought to herself.

Sage nodded at Hellion's suggestion and expanded her telepathic contact to include her impromptu teammates. --As for how I got here I'll tell you later, right now we need to get you out.--

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-I'm locked in my room and I can't get out. But it's not really my room. It's like a really close copy, but there's all kinds of stuff missing. I tried messing with the door, but it's not even really a real door. And my powers are doing crazy things, so I don't know what's going on. Did they make you think you died too?- he asked Eve guilelessly. -Why is the Terminus always trying to kidnap me? I'm going to try something.-

Trevor's laser cutter burned into the door lock, cutting at the hinge and significantly weakening it, before something really bizarre happened: the laser suddenly stretched and lengthened like taffy, making a mockery of the laws of physics as the beam was pulled out of the laser emitter, sucking itself into the wall like a cartoon. He'd left a scar, and a good-sized one, but the door itself still stood. As they watched, the door bulged again, directly over the scar, a faintly audible cracking sound heard.

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James shrugged at Trevor's words, not bothering. He had doubted that a simple torch was going to work against Rick's continual alteration/ Still, it was worth the try...despite the fact that the wall rippled and realty was messed with yet again. He nodded slightly as he felt Eve connect their minds. He kept his thoughts on the here and now, not wanting anything else to bleed through. He sent his thoughts through Eve to Mark and the rest. After all, this had worked on James once. Mark just needed something...grander.

'Mark, this isn't the Terminous. There is little time to explain. ...Someone with off-the-scale level reality and probability control is trying to rewrite the world. I need you to focus. Create of 'bubble' of stability, however you do it, around you and where the door should be so we can get you and us out. This force is keeping you trapped. We need you. The world needs you. You're our only hope of turning back the tide. Together we can fix this. But you're the key.'

James (and apparently Hell-ion too) could lie, spin a tale, elaborate and make it all perfectly believable as easy as breathing. He didn't want to lie to Mark though; his friends were the few people he refused to do that to. He just left a couple key points out. Besides, for Mark's world-view, it just built on the suspense and 'believability' of it. He glanced at the others. "I can try and use my powers to help reinforce his attempts but," he gave a little shrug and a frown, "the...source and the powers themselves are different here than they should be. It might not be very effective or even work at all honestly. I'm up for other ideas though." His true origins were still a secret from everyone but his friends (for the most part), not that it mattered here. What did matter was that his ability with magic was iffy at best in this weird version. "We're going to need to confront Rick," he said half to himself.

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"Idea. We trash reality sufficiently that we lure Rick out. Ruin his perfect world, he'll need to come fix it," said Chris. "Well, that's an assumption, but how else do we get him out... unless we ask him nicely, if he could please, please, please come and fix this for us. Either way, I just want to kick him in the nads."

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Trevor gave the laser cutter a look, brow furrowed slightly, before wordlessly replacing it in his belt. Frankly he'd been hoping to have the door open by the time the rest of their small group arrived, and the fact that asking nicely had been very nearly as expedient as his more stealthy entry was one more annoyance on a growing pile of irritations. He gave Chris a flat glance when 'The Raven' reiterated the very course of action he'd suggested while on the orbiting spaceship, but again remained silent. Maintain his stoic demeanor was one of the few acts of defiance this altered reality allowed him, and he was not about to relinquish it so easily.

Returning to the various pouches on his best, he produced a handful of small glass spheres filled with corrosive acid, along with a short serrated blade which began vibrating at high speed when he thumbed a button on its clock-emblazoned handle. Turning back to the physics defying door, the white lenses of his domino mask narrowed as he prepared to renew his careful dismantling.

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At James' words, a bubble began forming in the door over the mark Trevor had left there, the scar he'd left widening into a crack, then a split as the bizarrely warping wood split like melted plastic. A storm of inky black dots erupted from the hole, just missing all the assembled heroes as it blasted down the hall and was sucked into the wallpaper just behind them. A few moments later, Mark rushed out, his face white, and before anyone could say anything he was hugging everyone. "Oh, thank God! Thank god! I knew you guys would come find me!" He was still in the same outfit he'd been wearing the last time any of them had seen him, though the marks on his chest and back were gone and the shirt torn apart by super-EMTS was still there. "This has been a really, really creepy day." He blinked. "Wait, so is this whole building built like my house?"

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"Creepy doesn't begin to cover it," Sage muttered. "And it is your house Mark. Your house, your neighborhood, all of it. Except it isn't." Eve cast an imploring look at the other heroes, and cutting Mark out of the telepathic look briefly she asked --Could someone explain? I don't have enough experience with this sort of thing to provide a straight answer.--

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Erin took hold of Mark's shoulders to keep him still long enough to explain. "Mark, something really bad happened when the Steelegrave robot attacked you. Your dad lost control of himself, and started using powers nobody even knew he had. He literally rewrote reality to make it like a fifties sitcom or like the old stories he tells. People have been literally erased for not fitting into this universe. Other people are here, but totally different from real life, or never existed at all. I think he trapped you in your room because he thought it would keep you safe. He's not rational right now, and we need your help to make things right."

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"He...he what?" Mark's eyes widened. "Erin...Erin, that's crazy." For the first time, Mark's friends heard doubt in his voice. "I mean, I mean, my dad doesn't have any powers. He just lived through a lot of really weird stuff, and maybe my grandfather wasn't...but that's not good to talk about!" He folded his arms, looking nervous, his cheeks coloring. "And why do you guys look so weird, anyway!?" he asked, looking from Eve to Trevor to James. "How do I know you're not part of all the crazy things that have been happening today?"

"Mark?" The teenagers all looked downstairs at the wide-eyed woman standing at the base of the stairs, looking up at them with staring eyes. "Mark, you're alive!?" Martha's voice was on a thin, cracking edge. "But I saw...but I saw..." Intoxicated, overwhelmed, she staggered back, nearly collapsing. Mark automatically made a gesture her way, and the walls seemed to reach out and catch her, gently guiding Martha to the couch.

"Mom!" He ran down the stairs to her, his white face coloring a little at the sight of his mother in distress. His arms went around her, unthinking help when he couldn't think at all. "Mom, it's going to be okay. It's going to be okay, I promise. We're going to find Dad, and everything'll be okay." He looked up at the others, his voice shaking. "Do you know where my dad is!?"

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