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And then the kids were elsewhere. They were gone from the false reflection of Freedom Hall, standing instead on the lawn of the Lucas family house, standing among the rubble of the battlefield that had killed Mark just a few hours earlier. Except he was alive, standing there amid the group of teens, and Rick and a shell-shocked looking Martha were standing there just a few yards away.

"Dad!" Mark broke from the crowd and ran to his father, just as Martha called her husband's name and ran to him. But even as they did so, the teens saw the black, inky shapes beginning to break away from Rick, flaring up into invisibility like rising soap bubbles as they left his body to flare upwards and vanish in the sky.

"I'm sorry, I can't stay," he was apologizing over his family's pleas, arms around Mark and Martha both as he slowly, inexorably vanished elsewhere, some place beyond even James's dimensional vision. "The universe can't survive two reality warpers, not and let humanity keep its freedoms." He hugged Martha. "I'll see you again soon. I promise. I love you so much, heart of my heart..." He hugged Mark, his body now so thin as to be translucent. "I love you, Mark." He pulled back, on the edge of vanishing. "You've always been my hero, Mark! Always!" And with that, with a single, devastated cry from Mark's mother as she collapsed into her son's arms, Rick Lucas was gone.

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Chris rubbed at his face. It felt normal. Resisting the urge to celebrate in spite of his friend's grief, he instead replaced his mask and goggles. "That's better," he said quietly. It felt good to be back to 'normal'.

"Mark... Jeez, I'm sorry man. We didn't mean for him to... I mean, we wanted it to end, but not like..." Sentences were struggling to form properly. "Is there any way we could get your dad back?" He wasn't sure he meant the last part. After all... what the man had done...

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Even behind his restored, featureless mask, it took a full beat for the rage to melt from Trevor's face as his stoic demeanor returned. Slipping his escrima sticks back into the holsters in his boots, he let the last wisps of midnight mist seeping from the seems of his uniform dissipate into the wind. The lanky youth surveyed the charred rubble on the lawn and their otherwise tranquil with some distrust before reaching for his belt. Producing a squat cylinder roughly the size of his fist, he thumbed a button set into its top, causing it to begin warming. Before long the contents of the thermos were reheated; inelegant but serviceably palatable. Unfastening his mask from behind his right ear with his free hand, he let the fabric and its built in filter hang down over his buckled jacket as he turned to the others. "Coffee?" he offered.

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Seraph looked in frustrated awe as everyone but her disappeared for a few seconds. Followed by them coming back someone different. She rushed behind Mark as she dutifully would before. Then came something even weirder. What had happened? She stepped to Mark's mother as she grieved, giving her a caring hug from the side and leaning her head on her shoulder, "I don't know what happened, but I am here for you, Martha."

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Erin watched quietly as the scene unfolded, pursing her lips till the edges turned white as Rick said goodbye to his family one last time. She took a step towards Mark and then stopped, not sure if she should intrude on their grief right now. Instead, she turned and looked around at the neighborhood. Everything and everyone seemed normal again. Chris's face was back on, everyone was back in their normal uniforms. She picked up the closest piece of broken Omegadrone. "We should collect these, I guess," she said to no one in particular. "They'll want to analyze them at Freedom Hall."

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James stared intently, eyes half closed, at the place where Rich Lucas had been a moment before. He was straining, pushing his senses as far as he ever head to try and follow and track Mark's father. But there were practically limitless option to flee to and James wasn't quite ready to go chasing after him. That didn't mean he wasn't going to keep looking of course.

He shook his head at Chris. "I've lost him. He's shift far from this dimension. Unless I stumble across him during some travels, he's hidden until he decides to return on his own. I'm sorry Mark. I'll keep looking of course," he said softly, standing off to one side. He wasn't entirely upset that the man was gone. Sad for Mark though. However, given that Mark was back, James was more than happy with that particular trade.

He nodded to Trevor. "Sure," he said absently. Stepping up to the wreckage, he gestured and summoned some of his magical powers. The pieces fell through little gates into a tiny extra-dimensional pocket. A new and handy trick he'd learned right before all this had happened. "I'll drop them off later," he said to Erin. He was a little distracted, thinking. It was a train of thought that he'd been dwelling on now and again but all of this kind of brought it to the fore. Still, he tried to focus on the here and now, for his friends sake.

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"It's okay, Mom, it's okay..." Mark was murmuring to his grieving mother, grief thick in his voice. "I'm here, Mama, I'm still here..." Martha was nearly in hysterics, and for Mark, anyway, it was a welcome relief as the cavalry started to arrive overhead: Siren and the rest of the Freedom League, who had come in response to the distress call his father had sent. So long ago, in another life, or so it seemed. "God, just leave us alone," he blurted to his teammates and putative girlfriend. "Please just leave us alone"

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Handing James a collapsible cup full of coffee, Trevor filled a second for himself and remained well off from Mark and his mother. Leaving the thermos on the ground, he took a few steps away and pulled an earpiece from a coat pocket. One speed dial later, the sound of a phone being taken off of the hook was followed by a smooth, cultured voice. "Bonjour, l'aide au Janet Pryce-Hunter qui parle."

"Is Madame Pryce-Hunter available?" the teenager inquired tonelessly, his expression impassive.

"M'excuse ? Mme Pryce-Hunter est une femmes très occupées, vous ne pouvez pas prévoir à simplement-"

The press of a button abruptly ended the conversation. Trevor returned the earpiece to his jacket, satisfied that his mother was once again counted among the living. He would check on his father later that evening, but presumably he too had been restored. And Gramps is old again... It was a tainted victory, to be sure, he reflected stepping part of the way back to the gathered students, intending to leave the Lucas family alone as requested.

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James took the cup from Trevor with a nod of thanks. He looked up as the 'cavalry' arrived, not that there was much they could do. Mark and his mom were in for a rough few weeks as they adjusted though. He nodded at Mark's words. He turned to the other Claremont students, handing Trevor back the cup. "Ok, time for us to go. Mark and his mom need some space." He put a hand on Faith's shoulder. "You too Faith. Come on." He looked over at Chris. "Can you use the Pitchoo to get everyone out of here if they can't leave on their own? I'll give the Freedom Force crew a brief explanation, try to give Mark and his mom a little more space and time without being hassled. Then I'm out too." He shrugged. "Unless someone else wants to do it. But either way, it's time for us to go." He looked over at Mark, and nodded once. If Mark needed them, he'd call. And they would be there for him. No matter what.

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Faith gasped and took a step back. She really wanted to know what had happened in those few seconds of blinking now. She didn't know what to say. Maybe if she knew she would, but now she could only do what her boyfriend demanded her to do. She bowed her head respectfully and spoke in a soft sympathetic tone, "I'm sorry, Mark." She felt James's hand on her shoulder. It was time to leave. Heartbroken and not knowing what to say, she had no choice but to let her boyfriend and his mother grieve.

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"Call us if you need anything," Erin told Mark, the words sounding inadequate in her own ears as she tucked the chunk of drone under her arm and reached for her beacon. "You should probably go in the house," she advised, "people are going to start wondering what's going on. And... and don't forget to eat, or you'll just feel even worse." With that bit of hard-won advice, she activated her beacon and teleported away, part of her very glad for the excuse to desert the field before anyone started asking her any questions.

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Eve sat quietly on the curb across the street from the Lucas residence, having seperated from the group moments after Rick Lucas vanished. She had no words of comfort to offer Mark or his mother, anything she could tell them would seem meaningless in the face of their grief.

"I don't have words to offer anyone," Eve thought to herself, "not anymore. Again." Her vision blurred as her thoughts turned inward, the old wounds ripped open anew. Loss and agonizing sorrow, emotions she had been so desperately trying to hold back moments before flooded out of her, the barriers she built up cracking as Eve once again realzied she was voiceless.

And for one brief moment, as Sage's vivid green eyes lingered on the spot where Rick Lucas said his final words, all of that loss and sorrow was replaced with hatred and rage.

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As James explained his intentions, Trevor deftly converted his costume into a passable imitation of street wear, unfastening his jacket and tucking his mask away. So far he's managed to keep his public appearances as Midnight to a bare minimum, and he intended to keep it that way. He was a bit crestfallen when Erin blinked away, then nonplussed as he realized that he'd have to find a new ride back to the school.

Clucking his tongue in minor annoyance, his dark-eyed gaze fell on Eve. Besides Mark, she'd had the most to loose with the restoration of reality; the comparison did noting to lessen her own trauma. Walking softly toward the telepath, the young man directed a simple thought at her. --How are you holding up?-- Trevor's surface emotions were like a calm body of water, though ripples of abiding anger and regret suggested tightly controlled turmoil in the depths below.

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Eve's head snapped around to look at Trevor, the dark look in her eyes and the hard set of her features softening ever so slightly. A faint smile crossed Eve's features, but it didn't quite reach her eyes. --I'm fine,-- she lied, the young telepath turning her tear-streaked face away from the black-haired youth.

--I knew this would happen. We all did. It's Mark and his mother that you should be concerned with.--

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Trevor moved to stand next to Eve, facing the opposite direction to afford the diminutive acrobat a measure of privacy with tears. His posture was relaxed, one side of his jacket pushed to the side by the hand in his pocket while he took a sip from his cup. --Be a terrible liar even if you weren't broadcasting your emotions,-- he sent mildly. The timbre of his thoughts held no accusation nor judgment, simply concern and a willingness to stand there as long as it took until the telepath was ready to discuss things.

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Geckoman nodded to James, strolling over to where he'd landed the Pitchoo and popping the walkway down. He signalled for people to board with one hand while dialling with the other on his cellphone.

"Hey, Kenzie, what's up?" came Liz's voice distractedly from the end of the phone.

"Are you OK? Has anything happened? Where are you?" Chris said quickly, concern in his voice.

"Burnt my goddamn hand on my soldering iron," came the reply. "I'm in my workshop, trying to get this bloody mainframe constructed. You owe me." Chris breathed a deep sigh of relief.

"Ok, we'll talk later. Today's been odd. Love you," he said, before hanging up. "OK, anyone still need a ride to Claremont? Cos I got stuff to go do."

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Eve shrugged. --Another side effect of my gifts.-- she said, her projected thoughts dripping with venom. From her sitting position on the curb Eve turned her head back to look at Midnight, her eyes narrowed. An occasional tear would streak down her cheek but there was a hardness to her features.

--You want to know how I am holding up?-- the telepath snarled in Trevor's mind, as a malevolent crimson blade of psychic energy manifested itself around Eve's clenched fist. Green eyes stared into brown, before Sage broke contact and looked down at her feet, her psi-blade dissolving into motes of crimson and black before fading completely. --Get me out of here, away from this place. Then I'll tell you-- she sent, her tone losing its harshness.

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--Fair enough,-- Trevor sent back, apparently unperturbed by Eve's psychic choler. Still outwardly silent, he raised a pair of fingers lightly to signal to Chris with a brief nod that they'd be taking him up on his offer of a ride. A flick of his wrist sent the last droplets of coffee onto the lawn, and he replaced the collapsible cup in his belt before turning around and offering the sitting telepath a hand up.

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