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[Time Warp] The Cost of Victory (Edge)

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The portal took Edge by surprise: one minute he was on the streets of Ashton communicating with Psyche and Phalanx as they tried to corral what he later learned was a rogue megalonychid, the next minute Mark was on the streets of a deserted, battered version of his home neighborhood. To his credit, it took him only seconds to realize what had happened. _I must have traveled in time...but where am I?!?" The neighborhood looked mostly abandoned, quiet suburban houses standing vacant, lawns half-dead, distant screams and explosions filling his ears. With his commlink dead, Mark turned and looked towards Freedom City proper, and realized exactly when and where he was! The smoke rising from the burning crater of City Center, the sky overhead red with more than just ash and fire...this was the Terminus Invasion!

He was in Freedom City itself in an instant, barely remembering to shift his costume's colors to black and grey again so that nothing untoward would show up in history books. He appeared before Freedom Hall itself, his natural instinct taking him to where his history books told him the great fight, the last fight, had taken place. Within an instant of his arrival, he realized he'd gotten there too late. There in the middle of the street lay the body of the Centurion, his gold and blue costume torn, the pieces of Omega's armor still in his hands where he'd ripped them away with that one last blow. Captain Thunder and Lady Liberty, both of them looking so young, were standing over the body and weeping as the crowd all around began to gather. The Centurion had lived just long enough to see his victory won, Mark remembered, and now that victory had been won: Omega was gone, the half-built Terminus towers in the heart of the city were beginning to rupture, and deactivated Omegadrones littered the ground. No wonder no one had noticed his arrival. _God, so many dead,_ Mark thought, the horror all around him beginning to settle in as he saw his beloved city broken and bleeding before him. _Why didn't I get here any-)_

"You! Son!" A man grabbed him by the shoulder, spinning him around, and Mark almost had a heart attack when he heard the words and recognized his father! Rick Lucas was in his late forties this crisp spring day, his hands cracked and bleeding from first-degree burns he'd sustained in hand-to-hand combat with Omegadrones. He didn't recognize Mark at all. "You a teleporter? I need to get to Ashton right now!" He added an address; the house Mark had just left, in more ways than one.

It took Mark only a second, remembering his family history, why. Martha Lucas had been alone in the house with her infant son when the Omegadrones had come in the front door..."Yessir!" he barked, taking his father's hand. "I'll take you right there." And with that, they were both gone again, reappearing in seconds in front of Mark's old home. He took a step back at the sight of his childhood home, the front doors bashed in and blast damage everywhere, the houses next door equal disaster areas. Standing out front was a young Martha Lucas, young and beautiful in her mid-twenties, and in her arms was a tiny infant Mark recognized only too well.

"Martha!" Rick ran for his wife, who whirled on him with tears in her eyes, her infant son watching with paci still clenched between his teeth. In a neighborhood like a warzone, with people digging out on either side, the young baby had not lost his binky. "Oh my sweet Lord, are you and Mark..."

"We're...we're all right." said Martha, embracing him fiercely with her free arm. Suddenly, she crumbled or almost did, her voice tight and thick: "Oh, God, honey, they came in right through the door! They came in right through the door! I grabbed Mark and ran, and I ran and jumped over the fence as they were shooting at me, and..." She was shaking, and despite the timeline, Mark took a step towards his mother: luckily Rick was there to hold her up. "They're dead. The Tanners, the Lamberts, the Keatons...they just went house-to-house, killing everything! If I'd been a second slower grabbing Mark, if they hadn't stopped to drag away that poor Lewis boy, they'd have taken us!" She burst into tears, real ones.

"Sssh, ssh, it's okay now, it's okay," said Rick comfortingly, obviously in shock himself after all he'd seen. "We won. The good guys won, even though it was so hard and we lost so many good people..." Rick Lucas had been everywhere that day, Mark remembered, fighting alongside the police, superheroes, saving lives on his own until finally he'd been there to watch the Centurion die. "Omega is gone. The Terminus is gone. We're safe. Our family is safe." They'd both forgotten Mark was there, it seemed, which was probably for the best as Martha would surely have been mortified for her son to see her punch her husband in the face.

"The Centurion!?! That's where you were, wasn't it? You had to be there, in the city, with the Centurion and the superheroes! Not here with your family when we needed you!" There was no anger in her voice, just grief and terror and frustration and a thousand other things. "Did you do anything there that you couldn't have done here with your wife and son?" She met Rick's eyes, and he looked away for a moment before looking back at her.

"I tried, honey. I tried so hard, but the freeways were down, and the new teleporters, they were all smashed, and the drones were everywhere...I did what I thought I had to do. I stayed and I fought, so things could be better for you and Mark and so those monsters could be gone from our lives." He took Martha and baby Mark in his arms, watched solemnly by his baby son and adult son too. "Martha, Mark, listen to me. I promise..." He took a long, shaky breath and said, "Whatever happens, next time there's a crisis, I'll do whatever I have to do to save you and Mark. Whatever people think of me, even if they think I'm a coward or selfish for picking my family first...I'll be there when you need me. Even if it takes a while. I love you, honey." And then they kissed, and baby Mark spat out his paci to cry in hunger, and Mark was there to help.

"Uh, hey, I think the kid's crying," he said, stepping up with a bottle in his hand he'd produced from nowhere. Mark had been practicing making instant formula and the like, and it worked out okay. "Here, this is government-issue stuff. I'm Lucky Strike," he added. "I do this for a living."

"Thank you," said Martha, putting the bottle in baby Mark's mouth and getting a gratifying response. The blonde-haired blue-eyed baby was still wearing the jumper he must have started the day in. "Oh, he likes it! I don't suppose you can make diapers, can you?" she asked practically. "I used his only diaper as a scent lure a couple of hours ago. Luckily he hasn't peed or pooped on me yet." As it happened, Mark could indeed make a diaper and he presented one to his mom and got a delighted cry in response. While she went to change him, Rick shook his hand.

"Thanks for the help, Lucky Strike," he said seriously. "I don't know what I'd have done if I'd had to get out here on foot, worrying all the time. You're a real hero." He didn't seem inclined to chat, and Mark didn't need to think about why. Even with Dr. Metropolis, cleaning up after the Terminus invasion had taken months, and people were no doubt trapped all over the city. Too bad Lucky Strike would have to just slip into the same anonymity that had taken so many heroes that day.

"So are you, Mr. Lucas," said Mark, his voice carefully friendly. "So are you. Take care of...of your family. Family always loves you. Whatever you do." He disappeared at that juncture, off into the wilds of Wharton Forest until the time portal pulled him back. It had been a very, very long day.

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