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A couple of weeks after prom, Mark invited his friends over to his house. Well, the people who still were his friends: he wasn't really talking much to Eddie these days, but most of his colleagues from Young Freedom were on the list. He was standing outside the door of the Lucas house to greet them when they arrived, the lawn looking just a little grubbier and the house a little dingier than when the Young Freedom members had been there last. Mark himself was out of costume, but also out of the black, depressing clothes he'd been wearing most everywhere but prom for the last couple of months. In a white shirt and slacks, he looked downright respectable.

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Mike dropped out of the sky with Alex in his arms in a nearby park luckily empty at the time. He straightened his hair and took her hand as he headed down the block toward the Lucas home with an easy gate and a happy smile. It wasn't often they all managed to get together these days and the last event had been rather contentious. Rounding the corner into Marks yard he raised a hand in an easy wave, "Heya Mark, thanks for the invitation." he said as they drew closer. He looked over the more refined than usual outfit curiously, "Didn't know it was a dress up deal, Should I change?" he asked looking down at the basic jeans and t-shirt look that was more and more becoming his civilian 'costume' complete with a pair of thick rimmed glasses to further disguise him as not Phalanx.

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Chris pulled up at the kerbside in a non-descript green car, coming out of the driver-side door and walking around the car to the sidewalk. He was wearing blue jeans and a t-shirt with a Captain Thunder logo on it. He'd been wearing overly large black aviators, which he took off and hooked on his t-shirts v-neck.

"'Sup?" He waved half-heartedly. While not overly pleased with Eddie's ostracisation, utterly bonehead actions aside, he thought he may as well show, considering he was seeing less of them post-graduation. Non-chalantly, he put one hand in his pocket. At first glance, it'd appear this was casually. In actuality, he was checking he had his car remote there, since he wasn't quite used to the extra mode of transport yet.

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Alex kept her fingers threaded through Mike's and smiled brightly at both Mark and Chris as they all trooped into the yard. She waved with her free hand, the light glinting off the plastic and glittery bangles around her wrist. She was back in her usual bright colors, a cheery printed tanktop and a pair of jeans. Her red curls were pulled back with sparkly butterfly barrettes. "Hey, guys! How's it going?"

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James had had a lot more time of late now that Phantom was getting back up to speed. Of course, he was still not exactly hanging around much. He put a lot of that extra time into work. To prepare...yeah, right. But when his friends asked him to be somewhere, he couldn't exactly say 'no'.

A small pillar of light appeared on Mark's lawn as James beamed down. Most of them knew he had the ship by now and he wasn't interested in keeping secrets from his friends. For the most part anyway. He looked around as the transporter beam faded. He was dressed in his regular wear, nice slacks and a comfortable (and stylish) short sleeved shirt. He'd left the long coat at home. It was summer after all, not that the heat bothered him any. "Hey guys. How's it going?"

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Erin could've gotten to Mark's house in a couple of minutes across the rooftops, but she decided to take the truck instead today. You never know when you might need it, plus she wanted to see how it was driving these days. She and Trevor had been doing some work on it, or rather, he'd been working on it while she watched and handed him tools and tried to learn how to do it. She definitely thought the engine sounded better. Even on surface streets, the trip didn't take too long, and soon she was pulling up on the street outside Mark's house.

She hopped out of the truck and came around the side of the house, wearing an Ocean Point t-shirt and shorts she'd picked up on their visit last year, that were now approaching the far side of comfortably worn. "Hey," she said, waving to the others, then looking at Mark. "What's up?"

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Trevor hasn't been sure about accepting Mark's invitation, partly due to what had happened the last time he'd visited the Lucas residence. More than that, though, he was still having trouble getting over the vague but persistent feeling of being an intruded among the group of friends. Even if a fraction of the stories bandied about at Claremont were true, they'd been through so much together that he couldn't help but feel the over eager outsider. He somewhat more reluctantly had to admit to himself that he was also worried about not giving Erin enough personal space; though they'd been spending a lot of time together, they weren't dating in any official capacity, and the lanky teen's natural inclination was toward reservation.

Ultimately, however, it had occurred to him that turning down the offer wasn't going to resolve the feelings of trespassing, and so a matte black motorcycle rumbled softly up to Mark's house. Dismounting, Trevor stowed his helmet and jacket away in the large leather saddlebags and turned to those who had arrived before him, stoicism keeping most of the awkward discomfort out of his expression as he gave a small wave. Dark blue jeans and a long sleeved shirt of an earthy brown colour were quickly joined by the beaten fedora he placed atop his dark hair. The youth was glad to see both Erin and James in attendance; at least there were a few people he knew reasonably well.

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"Hey guys," said Mark warmly, "why don't you all come in? I've got the house to myself this weekend," he added as he let them all into the kitchen, where the several Hamburger Helpers he'd laboriously prepared (then kept warm in the oven) over the last couple of hours. Mark had never actually had to cook for himself, but he didn't want his friends to know that. "My mom's over visiting my aunt in Camden." He cracked open bottles of Diet Dr. Pepper and Diet Pepsi, kept cold in the fridge, and let himself believe it was a real party for a second. "I'm really glad you guys could make it. When we've all had time to eat, I've got a proposition for you."

Mark hadn't bothered to try the Hamburger Helper, since he'd generally followed all the box recepies, but he'd tried the chips and dip he'd bought from the store, and the nachos and guacamole were all delicious.

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Mike smiled and waved at Trevor always happy to have some one around he didn't completely dwarf and though he was less a fan of the all black thing lately he still liked the dark clad teens laid back demeanor. As Mark ushered them all in and explained the absence of parental figures he frowned briefly but given the crowd he didn't think it was going to be one of those kinds of parties. He smiled at the spread as to the perpetually health crazed Harris house processed food was like ambrosia, "Looks great Mark." he said and leaned over to snag a chip laden with guacamole. As people served up and ate he offered to grab a plate for Alex and afterward sat down to dig in, "It's good to get together like this again." he said between mouthfuls seemingly oblivious or perhaps just willfully ignoring the assorted tensions in the group, "So whats the proposition?"

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Erin was a little skeptical of the Hamburger Helper, which did look as though it had been sitting in an oven for a couple of hours, but she'd eaten much worse. She put some on her plate to be polite and sat down between Trevor and James at the table. "I took the truck out for a spin," she told Trevor, "it's sounding good. Trevor's been helping me mod the engine," she explained to James, who also had an interest in her truck. "It's pretty cool. Gets better mileage now." She kept one eye on Mark, figuring he'd talk when everyone was sitting down.

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Warren didn't exactly know what was going on. One minute he was replacing stings in his guitar, the next he received a Text message from Mark asking if he could see him at his house. He wasn't sure if he should go, seeing as Eddies mood had done a complete 180 since prom. But, they were his friends (Well, in the past tense right now as far as he could) but he might as well make an appearance.

Not long after everyone was seated at the table enjoying Hamburger Helpers, Warren exploded out of practically nowhere a good hundred feet above the Lucas residence. He quickly descended, hoping he could get inside before he ran into anyone that would recognize him and landed. Then he opened his guitar case and shoved his guitar inside. Once he was sure everything was away, he approached the front door and knocked.

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"Oh hey, that must be Warren!" said Mark, smiling. "I invited him along too; I figured we should give him a shot at Young Freedom." He hadn't brought that issue up with Trevor, trusting Erin and Trevor to take care of that themselves. Heading for the door, he let in Warren, reaching out to shake the other boy's hand. "Hey, Warren, come in. We were just sitting down with some snacks before I told everyone what's really going on." The inside of Mark's house looked oddly old-fashioned to Warren's eyes, a bit as if it had been built in Warren's own parents day and never really redecorated, for all that it had a new TV. Who still had a working VCR these days?

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James nodded as he followed the others inside. He slid into a seat, not particularly interested in the food. His inside were both elated and twisted as Erin sat between him and Trevor. He nodded in response to her though, all smiles. "I bet. From what I hear, he's got quite the collection of cool toys. Pretty soon your truck's gonna be flying or something," he said with a chuckle, despite the pain that comment caused him.

He looked over at Mark. "So...what's up? You've got something on your mind. Out with it man."

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"Well, uh..." Mark cleared his throat. "I know I've been really distracted lately, guys, but I've had a lot going on. I'm sorry I haven't been there for you all as much as I should have been," he admitted. "I've had a lot going on. I guess we all have. So that's why I want you guys to come with me up to the Arctic Circle." He let out a breath, then added, "Uh, I guess I should explain that. Well, when my dad left, I...I inherited a lot of things from him. And one of those is that every year, he used to go up to the Centurion's Sanctum and check the machinery there. It was one of the only jobs he still did for the Freedom League, even the new League. And since my dad's gone now...well, that's my job now. And I'd like you all to come with me to the Sanctum this year."

The Centurion's Sanctum! Instantly recognizable to those raised on tales of the Centurion, much less those who knew his story more personally, the Sanctum's tale need not be told here. The home-away-from-home for the greatest hero of the universe, buried deep in the Arctic ice, had become a museum and monument to his greatest works, preserved with care by the Freedom League in the memory of their greatest champion. Who wouldn't want to go? Or so Mark hoped, ayway.

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Mikes eyes grew wide at Marks revelation, "The actual Sanctum?" he asked flabbergasted. He glanced around for a brief moment but was already nodding, "Yea of course Mark, I mean who wouldn't?" he replied eagerly it seemed quite the opportunity. He smiled as he looked to the others for agreement or dissent before a small wash of concern washed over is face, "Are you uh sure you're allowed to bring us?"

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"Whoa, wait. You seriously mean the Sanctum?" Warren was suddenly glad that Mark had called him. Wasn't everyday someone took you to a legendary heroes hidden base after all. "I mean, I will come if this is what you texted about man." He did pause, he sounded a little too eager to get going there. Not even he could fight off Childhood dreams sometimes. "Sorry if I'm presuming to much..You do have something to stop freezing into a ice cube over there?"

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Trevor nodded in satisfaction when Erin confirmed that her truck had been running more smoothly. The vehicle had already been in good condition, but he'd found that there was always room for improvement when it came to mechanical devices. James' reaction seemed a little off to him, but he couldn't place how. The charming scion of the Prophet family spoke with such easy grace that it was always hard for Trevor to catch any hidden implications. Probably just doesn't find better mileage that exciting, he decided.

As Mark's announcement, his eyebrows lifted behind the brim of his fedora. "That... would be exceptional," he responded in a somewhat more subdued fashion than the others. He knew his grandfather had visited the secret fortress on a handful of occasions, but he'd never expected to see it in person himself.

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James raised an eyebrow at that one. He'd never expected to visit it. Never really put a lot of thought into it actually; a side effect of being the black sheep of the family he supposed. The whole 'hero' thing was a relatively recent thing for James. And given the numerous amount of revelations he'd endured lately and sights he'd seen, he wasn't quite as easily impressed as Mark. But still, James figured be the sanctum was probably pretty cool. And spending some time with his friends, no matter where they were hanging out, was always fine in his book.

"Sure. Sounds good to me."

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Alex tucked her hand into Mike's hand and beamed at Mark. She gave her boyfriend's fingertips a gentle squeeze of assurance, "Of course we'd be honored to help. Its a real treat for all of us."

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"Sure," Erin agreed, looking at Mark, then around the table. "Sounds like a pretty cool trip. It'll be neat to actually go there and see the place ourselves." She suspected it would also help Mark if he could pretend that this was just an adventure with friends rather than trying to step into his dad's shoes on one more responsibility Rick wasn't around to handle anymore. She could respect that, and play along. "Should we be wearing warmer clothes, or uniforms or something?"

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Chris nodded. "Sure, why not?" Nonchalant... nonchalant... NONCHALANT! "That. Sounds. AWESOME!" He pulled his goggles from his back pocket and pulled them on.

"Does the teleporter reach to the Arctic?" wondered Chris. "Hell, how was your dad getting up there each year?" Unless he has his own teleporter... so much teleporters, and airlines still exist... weird.

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"My dad has...I mean, had a teleporter," Mark offered, pointing upstairs. "In the Trophy Room, he's got all kinds of stuff he inherited from the old League, including a teleporter that goes right to the Sanctum. You guys should definitely wear something warm, though, since it dumps you out right by the front door, which is way up north of Greenland somewhere, I think. I don't think he ever actually took a GPS, he said that took the fun out of it..." He shook his head. "And yes, this is all authorized, Mike," he added with a little smile. "I mean, they let my dad go up there unescorted all the time, right, so what's wrong with bringing a whole team of heroes? We've even got backup in case the teleporter goes out," he added with a nod to Mike and James. "I'll go in costume, but you guys don't have to. It just...it just seems right, you know?"

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Mike nodded agreement, "Yea I think I know what you mean." It did seem like the kind of thing to do in costume even if it wasn't exactly the normal hero work. Then again he didn't have much concern with weathering subzero temperatures in costume either. That might be more of an issue for their less hardy friends.

"Do we need to get snow gear or can you do that warm weather thing you did for the party?" He turned to ask james.

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Well, I'm not wearing shorts to the North Pole," Erin decided. "We're going today, right?" Pushing away from the table, she went out to her truck. That was another good reason to take the vehicle, the uniform she kept under the seat sometimes came in handy. Carrying it into the house, she quickly changed in the bathroom and returned to the table in her uniform.

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Trevor silently agreed that it was only appropriate to visit the fallen champion's base in uniform. Retrieving the pitch black garb of Midnight from the Night Cycle's saddle bag, he activated the thermal netting woven throughout the the pants and jacket which would monitor and maintain his body temperature even in arctic conditions. Regretfully, he replaced his fedora in the canvas bag and withdrew an ushanka crafted from equally dark synthetic fibers. Tucking the hat under his arm, he reappeared at the table with his unfastened mask hanging from the neck of his jacket, the filter and eye lenses visible from the exposed inside.

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