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Continued from >The End of the Beginning
 

Disco deserved a better name, a beautiful name because it was a beautiful art form. It made the consumer beautiful. The consumer was the star.
-Barry White



Earth-M-Lucas-1


Young Freedom left the grim darkness of an Erde morning and found themselves beneath a blue, sunny sky. They were in a clean, well-maintained alley in what was clearly downtown Freedom City: the trashcans all had their lids, none of the windows were broken, and there was no sign of Nazis. Visible to their left was the Pyramid Plaza, the triple towers rising high against the clear morning sky, the American flag flying high overhead. For a moment, anyway, those of them not familiar with other dimensions could think they'd all gone home. That was, at least, until the black Pontiac Firebird Trans Am came roaring down the street opposite, and the first blasting sounds of funky disco came their way from its overpowered speakers. Outside, the streets of Freedom City looked to be pulled from the pages of the 1970s seen through a warped modern lens: men with elaborate mustaches and half-open shirts that showed off their hairy chests walked alongside ladies in brightly-colored wide-hemmed bell-bottoms, over their heads computerized billboards advertising a too-young Farrah Fawcett starring in the latest Michael Bay movie.

The streets were certainly more diverse than they'd last seen, with muscular black men with magnificently coiffed hair in the company of ladies with impressive afros: indeed, from the lady speaker on the corner calling for equal rights for all men and women to the hippies playing in the park, it looked as if someone had gone around and collected as many oppressed minority groups as they could and dropped them on the funky streets of Freedom City. Suddenly, a startled exclamation came as a policeman walking by the alley spotted the quintet of dimension-lost heroes. In a hammy Irish stage accent that nonetheless sounded all too real, he exclaimed, "It's...it's...oh mother of Mary, it's Counter Freedom!" He took out his whistle and blew it as hard and loud as he could. "I knew you crazy criminals would be back one day!" he called, whipping out his gigantic belt radio as he backed away from the teens. "You just stay back! The Freedom League will set you whippersnappers right!"

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Cobalt Templar arrived in this new world rather tense; after all, Nazis in power armor busting through a nearby wall will set anyone on edge. The distinct lack of Nazis, guns, or explosions when the appeared in their next world made it fairly easy to relax most of the way. After a short while, he was mostly struck by avid curiosity.

"Why are we stuck in some weird version of the 70's? Is this the "Lucas-M" world they-"

And then a walking caricature of a police officer raised the alarm when he saw them. CT stood there, blinking in confusion.

"Counter Freedom? What's he talking about? Why are we suddenly considered criminals?"

The poor boy was clearly confused.

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Wander allowed herself the brief luxury of massaging her temples at their return to the topsy-turvy world of Rick Lucas' senile imagination. Things had changed superficially, but it looked like they were about to face the Rednaw problem all over again. "Edge, could you maybe reassure our friend the policeman that we're not Counter-Freedom?" she asked. "And Kid Midnight, if you've got a sensor that can track what we're looking for?" She kept her hand off her bat but it took some effort. Prior experience told her that the heroes here were at least as powerful as their Prime counterparts, if considerably more prone to wasting the beginning of combat on speeches.

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Midnight was still reaching forward as they materialized in the new dimension and though the young man quickly schooled his body language into impassivity, it was clear he was in no mood to deal with particular brand of obnoxiousness that was Rick Lucas' pet world. "Reality manipulator's equivalent of buying a red convertible," he answered Cobalt Templar's first question with a faint rumble of annoyance, even as he drew a small device from his belt and began scanning the area for Terminus radiation. He was able to narrow his sensor's criteria considerably, having seen the first bomb up close now. "Sage, see about calming our new friend. Please." The vigilante had a suspicion that they weren't going to able to pose as their local equivalents this time around.

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For his part, Edge was a little more comfortable with this world than the others. Maybe it was because his own experiences of grief and dislocation here had been much more personal, and he'd have no reason to be horrified by the weird dislocations of the place and the strange character of the people there. Or was it just that he could understand the logic of the place as instinctively as if he'd been born there? "Officer, we're not Counter-Freedom," he reassured the frightened policeman. "We're the heroes we look like, but we've had to change costumes to fit in at a costume party. The Crime League's on the prowl, see, and..." while Edge's fantastic story spun on and on, Midnight's sensors found definite traces of Terminus radiation in the direction of Bayview: in fact, unless he was greatly mistaken, it had to be somewhere near Claremont.

"I don't know," said the cop, still looking suspicious. "Those Counterverse types are nothing but trouble. Why last year, Rednow, she..."

"Pfft!" A passing man in a magnificent Afro and open-topped shirt addressed the cop. "You cops are wasting your time with that jive cosmic stuff. What are you gonna do about the supervillains on the street that are keeping the people down? Or maybe the REAL villains, like the corrupt corporate fat cats who push their poison on kids in the ghetto?" "Yeah!" The crowd was not friendly to the police officer, but before a riot could break out there came from the sky the funky sound of disco high.

"GREETINGS, citizens!" The crowd looked up, and someone shouted: "It's Radio Freedom! They care about the man on the street! They'll deal with these funky crackers!"

Up in the sky, riding five shimmering platforms that looked straight out of an expensive disco, the energy patterns glittering like a blue-dyed disco ball, came the five members of Radio Freedom: each of them were easy to recognize, perhaps too easy. Midnight still had his fedora and half-mask, but his costume was cut like something out of Saturday Night Fever, all black velvet with an open chest and huge collar; while beside him Wonder was almost recognizable in a clingy red jumpsuit with gold accessories, while beside her grooved Sage in a white outfit with a surprisingly large chest opening and a red cape behind her.

As for Corbin in the center, the local Cobalt 'Templar' looked more like the Cobalt Ranger with his cowboy outfit and domino mask straight out of the Village People. Next to them was Edge, looking magnificent as always in an open yellow shirt and silver tiara for some reason, hands on his hips and looking imposing. Next to him was...yes, that was in fact Breakdown of all people, Eddie looking quite remarkable in disco white.

"Hey Midnight, these clowns don't look like the Counterverse Creeps!" called the other Edge, hands on his hips. "Egde'd never wear a cape anyway! Do you think they might be here about that funky space probe?"

"Maybe!" said the funky Midnight, doing backflips as he jumped from the platform to the sound of what was clearly Breakdown playing a groovy disco beat behind him. "Any of you cats have...soul?"

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"Soul, yes. And a sense of style." Annoyed, Sage shook her head as she regarded 'Radio Freedom,' "Something it appears you all lack. Clearly your sense of taste resides entirely within your mouth." She cast a quick glance at the caped Sage, wrinkling her nose at the provocative attire (though if she were to be honest with herself she was slightly jealous that her counterpart had something to show off).

"But none of that matters. That probe you mentioned? It's a bomb and it needs to be disabled."

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"We're not here for a fight," Wander called up, deliberately still not reaching for her bat. "We're from another universe, and we're trying to stop a disaster that will destroy both our worlds. I know you guys know Omega, we've seen your statue. He's come back, but this time he's not going to stop with one world." She looked her own double right in the eyes, partially because it was easier than looking at that costume. "He already killed my family," she told Wonder flatly. "He'll get yours if he can. We need your help."

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Cobalt Templar frowned as the crowd got hostile at the policeman. Not that he wanted to get arrested, but the poor guy seemed like he was just trying to do his job. He took a couple of steps forward, hands raised in a soothing gesture.

"Hey folks, ease up a bit. The poor guy's just trying to do his job, you know? He's just trying to-"

Then "Radio Freedom" arrived, and he saw just what they were wearing. That was when it really sank in just what this world was like.

"Hey, that fella looks sorta like me! The one with some weird King Arthur groove goin' on!"

Cobalt Ranger flew down closer to Cobalt Templar, curiosity and amusement playing over his features. When he got closer, CT noticed a few more details. For one CR had a blue and black scheme going on. For another, the hat on his head was fairly "permanent". Oh, and he had a mustache worthy of Burt Reynolds in his prime. He had the swagger to match, which was probably the only reason his just-thicker-than-spandex outfit didn't look even worse.

None of which mattered to Cobalt Templar. His face was a frozen expression of shock and horror.

"I think we're in Hell."

With that, CT promptly conjured a small piece of "wall" and smacked his head against it several times. CR got concerned and came over, reaching to put a hand on CT's shoulder.

"Hey partner, chill! Take it easy! This place is too cool to be Hell, ya know? Step back and enjoy it. Go with the flow. 'Sides, too many lovely ladies around for it to be such a bad place."

CR turned and gave Wander Prime and Sage Prime a wink and a smile. CT just blanched.

"Can we please hurry up and do what we need to? Please?"

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"Yow!" Nightlife grinned as he followed Cobalt Ranger toward the visiting team, adding considerably more acrobatics into his approach than were strictly necessary, mixed in with something that looked suspiciously like the electric slide. "This kitty's most definitely got the claws to be the real Sage." Finally coming to a halt, he tugged on his ostentatious collar to straighten it crisply as he looked Young Freedom up and down, spending a little longer on the female members.

"...please stop talking," Midnight managed is a grating tone, the grinding of teeth very nearly audible through the filter of his gasmask. Inwardly, the black clad young man was exercising a number of meditative techniques to hang onto the last of his fraying patience.

Raising an eyebrow, Nightlife placed his hands on his hips, his stance wide. "What's eating you, brother?" he asked before doing a double take and stepping backward half a step at Wander's grim pronouncement. "Woah there, mama, you can't be jivin' to Wonder like-"

"Bomb's in Bayview," Midnight interrupted without apology. "Near the school. Let's go."

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For her part, Wonder briefly turned pale at Wander's words, putting a hand on her mouth and shooting a look at Nightlife. Scared though she looked at that process, she didn't look like she disbelieved Wander either. "I know that old robot soul-crusher's been after me," she said, loud enough for the others to hear. "Remember when those crazy Omegadrones tried to crash prom and said they were looking for Wonder?" Radio Freedom all nodded at that, the Omegadrones having tried to break up Claremont High's junior prom had been the story of the year even for those who hadn't all been around for it. "And I bet they're looking for DJ Breakdown's probe!"

"That's right, honeychild," said DJ Breakdown. He evidently wasn't the leader here anymore than he was on Earth-Prime: from the way he looked to Nightlife for permission to speak, but when he did speak he had the bass tones of Barry White filtered through the fact that he was a white teenager. "This funky space probe fell right out of the sky just a coupla nights ago," he explained after getting a nod from Nightlife, "We've been watching it over at Claremont and making sure the MAN doesn't get his hands on it to use for his BOMBS. But if it's from that mack daddy Omega, we'll help. You cats know how to take it out?"

"We do," said Edge, who was rolling with this world and these people as if he'd been born to it. Which, he supposed grimly, made a lot of sense. You just have to know how to speak their language."Our, uh, Midnight is an expert engineer, just like I'm sure yours is," he said diplomatically, "he can take apart the bomb and make sure it can't threaten your world." He and his counterpart were giving each other looks of strong recognition, but neither of them seemed likely to be pulling a Mark/Marcie anytime soon. "After that we'll be on our way, and you can get back to clearing the streets of the scum who prey on the young and innocent, whether they're crazy kooks in funny masks or old white men crushing the souls of young people trying to give them a better world!"

"Woo!" The other Edge looked pleased as punch. "How about that!" he crowed. "I've got soul even in the Dimension of No Soul, or wherever these Herberts are from. No offense intended," he added with a wink to Wander and Sage, "to you fine-lookin' ladies. Scoop 'em up, Cobalt Ranger!" Despite Edge's enthusiasm, the Ranger waited for a nod from Nightlife, who added, "Keep us together, Cowboy!" And with Edge's inspiration and Nightlife's brain for strategy, soon they were all scooped up and flying towards Claremont, each Claremont kid riding a funky disco platform of shimmering blue energy alongside their more funkified counterpart.

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"You weren't really talkin' jive back there, were you?" Wonder asked her counterpart, the two young heroines balancing the flying disc as easily as though they were riding a moving sidewalk. "That's some heavy stuff, man. And if you just got here, how do you know about the statue?"

"I've been here before," Wander admitted with a shrug. "About a year ago, over Memorial Day weekend. We came by accident, sort of. You called me Rednaw and chased me all over the city with your friends, Things looked a lot different then," she observed.

"Oh yeah!" Wonder said, remembering. "Man, that was so far out. Crazy stuff was going down all over the city, everything got all freaky-deaky, you get me? It was pretty scary," she admitted. "People disappearing and coming back, things all rearranging themselves... but then it all settled down, and we were totally groovy!" She eyed her own costume with great satisfaction.

"Huh, that's weird," Wander agreed. "That's not quite the way it happened where I'm from," she told her counterpart, then thought to answer the original question. "And no, I wasn't, um, talking jive. Omega killed my family, and he's been trying to kill me, you, versions of us, in a lot of universes. I ran into a copy of myself awhile back who said it's happened in a bunch of universes. This isn't the same thing, though. This time Omega is trying to destroy all the universes, and we're trying to stop him."

"Far out," Wonder murmured. "That's super heavy. Good thing the best team around is going to kick his ass, in every universe."

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Cobalt Templar had calmed soon after being introduced to the "funky" Radio Freedom. It seemed that much of his frustrated reaction had been born from the stress of the last day. When Cobalt Ranger conjured platforms for both teams, Cobalt Templar silently flew up next to his funkadelic copy, energy silently flowing out from his ring to reinforce and expand his universal brother's constructs. They gave each other a silent nod before taking to the sky.

Perhaps a minute into the flight, Cobalt Templar spoke up, just loud enough to be heard by Cobalt Ranger.

"I'm sorry."

"What for, partner?"

"How I reacted. You didn't deserve that, none of you did. I mean, yeah, your style's not my style. But that's no reason to ask if this place is Hell. I just came from Hell on earth. This place is nothing like it."

"Whaddaya mean, "Hell on Earth"?"

"A world where the Nazis won, including taking over America. It was...it was really bad."

"Heavy stuff."

"Hn. So, how are mom and dad?"

CR blinked, and if not for CT's support of his constructs, the other team members would have noticed the platforms flicker. As it was, it was like nothing happened. CT raised an eyebrow under his helmet.

"Goofy cowboy costume and accent aside, you're pretty clearly me. I'll go first; in my world, they're both really well off. But it's all hard work; investing and business skills. Dad's Chief Human Resources Officer of Rath and Stromberg Investments, and Mom is Chief Analytics Officer at the Rhodes Foundation. They stay busy, but they really like it. We've had our friction, mostly over me wanting to go into archeology, but we're still a family."

CT looked to CR, who stayed silent for almost a minute. His gaze was faraway, and the Corbin from Earth Prime knew somehow that his double was thinking very carefully about his response.

"Mom never made it that far in the business world; she just couldn't take how bad some of the people she worked with were. People either didn't take her seriously at all, or read too much into things when she was firm. She got sick of it, sent in her 2 weeks, and settled for careful investing via computers. Dad tries to do what he can, but it frustrates her.
 

"Dad...he's still in business, but he ended up making his own. He actually owns several ranches back out in the Midwest. He says the ranching industry still has honest men who work hard. Unlike 90% of the people he seemed to encounter in companies here and in St. Louis. But none of that really matters, not to most people here."

As he spoke CR's exaggerated drawl had lessened, until it was barely noticeable. Now, he gave a bitter laugh.

"No, we're white folk from the Midwest with a bit of extra money. That makes us "squares", "corporate fat cats", "evil money-lovers", and a lot of less flattering words. All because we happen to be successful. Despite the fact we're decent, hardworking people. They think being a business executive takes no work. That it's all about pointless meetings and drinking whiskey. Well, they ought to do my dad's job for a day, and see how "easy" it is. That man taught me everything I know about hard work and respecting your fellow man, no matter what. He taught me that, in the workplace, most things people freak out about don't matter. Skin color? Who cares. What they do in the bedroom? Everyone has their own views, but if you keep that stuff out of the workplace, he doesn't care. Same with religion and philosophy; you're at work to work. Don't get pushy, and you're fine. But hey, let's call him a scumbag corporate elitist. Because, you know, that's totally fair."

CR gritted his teeth at that thought, and the thoughts that came next.

"It didn't get any better after this ring fell into my bedroom one night, and I was at Claremont within a week. If anything, it was worse. I mean, superheroes gotta stay cool, right? Gotta stick with the times. So everyone there was sporting the latest trends in opinions. I broke five noses, three hands, and one forearm my first month here; all because of the things people said about Mom. Nightlife and Wonder broke up a couple of those fights."

He shrugged.

"So, I put on a mask. I turned myself into a hip cowboy who didn't jive with his square parents. At least, when I was at school that's what I was. I made people think I only cared about being a funky hero and that transcendental art stuff. I listened to disco music and funk all the time. I made it sound like my parents and I fought all the time, with me being the hip cat who stood up for the little man.

"All lies. In my dorm room, I listen to Beethoven, Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, and that sort of thing. I prefer more classical art, especially paintings. My parents and I get along fine. Oh, and I-
"

CT butted in for him.

"You love history."

"More American history, especially 'The Old West', but yeah. Something just feels right about it."

"I know. For what it's worth, I hope your team appreciates the real you."

"Trevor, Erin, and Eve do. They've been a big help. Mark's good, but..."

"He's Mark."

"Yeah. And Eddie's a huge jerk."

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Despite their usual volubility, the two Edges were unusually quiet at the start of their flight over to Claremont. Finally, the Edge from Earth-Prime broke the silence. "So, that outfit's pretty groovy here, huh?" He had certainly never considered an open-faced pirate shirt and silver tiara for himself, though he could see why his counterpart was able to pull it off. You just have to believe in yourself and you can do anything.

"It's far out, yeah," said his counterpart with a grin. "I made it myself a couple of months ago. It just felt groovy, you know?" He put his thumbs in his big gold-lame belt. "I've got it pretty good here. My mom's an artist, real avant-garde psychedelic stuff, and...well, my dad's gone, but everyone still remembers him." He sobered at that, and the other Mark remembered what had happened to this Rick Lucas: he'd died in the Terminus Invasion instead of the Centurion.

"Rick Lucas...dad was a pretty groovy guy in any universe. I'm sure he'd be proud to see the man you are today." What could he do, tell the truth? This world's Rick Lucas had died a hero, and his son didn't need to hear what lay behind that story of courageous sacrifice. "And hey, he's proof that not all old people are squares, right?"

"Yeah, that's true!" agreed the funkier Edge. "Don't get me wrong; the Freedom League, the Atom Family, they're cool and all. I don't want to get eaten by a purple people eater from Mars anymore than the next guy! It's just that the people, the people down here on the street, they deserve to have people who care about them first." He looked down at the streets where confident young men and women walked together shoulder to shoulder, their minds full of hoped-for dreams of a better tomorrow. "Sometimes it feels like we just, I dunno, woke up one day and realized there was this whole world we'd never noticed. The world of people who need help first, and funny costumes second."

Though that was a bit of a stretch coming from a guy in an open yellow shirt and tiara, Mark thought about his own planned work for UNISON. "I know what you mean, man. Maybe we're not so different after all." He clapped his counterpart on the back and said, "So, uh, Wonder and Nightlife are-"

"Oh yeah! They're the funkiest duo on the team. I love 'em. You should see Nightlife bust a move on the dance floor. He got that from his grandpa. DJ Breakdown's okay, though he's a little wobbly for me sometimes, and of course Sage is a real tough gal. I like that about her." He added in a whisper, "Oh, and Cobalt Ranger's all right too. He tries a little hard sometimes, but he's just trying to stay hip. Nothing wrong with that."

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Sage blinked and glanced at her counterpart, less surprised at the French than the rich and lovely timbre of her soprano; it was so strange to hear your own voice, especially one that had been silenced for so long. They had made the majority of the flight in silence, Sage had nothing to say to her white-suited duplicate and she had assumed the other felt the same way. "Apparently I assumed wrong," the serious minded Martel concluded.

With a sigh she turned to face her doppelgänger.

Sage followed her duplicate's gesture and noted the others were locked in conversation. She looked back and shrugged.

The telepath sighed,

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"Heh," Nightlife chuckled, observing the other pairs from the translucent blue platform he shared with the stonily silent Midnight. "Well, the teams seem to finding a mutual groove."

"Don't," the more stoic young man replied flatly, jaw set behind his featureless black mask.

After a brief pause, his counterpart gave him a quizzical look. "...don't what, brother?"

With a short exhalation through his nose, Midnight turned to face Nightlife directly. "You're about to talk about your personal life," he predicted, a statement rather than a question. "I don't want to know. You don't want to know."

Raising one eyebrow slightly, the local iteration placed his hands on his hips again and muttered, "Can pretty much guess how someone's personal life is hanging..."

Eyes narrowing behind red lenses, Midnight responded in a gravely baritone, "Personal life is fantastic, thank you."

"Uh huh..."

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The kids from out of town didn't get a chance to get much of a look at Claremont, though from the distant sound of funky music rising up from the campus, the spaceplane parked casually on the lawn, and the peace rally in the nearby square, they had a feeling it was a very different school than the one they were used to. There was no time to look at it, though, because they were on their way to ASTRO Labs, the most spaced-out science laboratory in Freedom City. This version of ASTRO Labs was a renegade breakaway version of the parent company, one dedicated to "the kind of science that feeds the hungry and cures the sick, not makes the fat cats richer and the bombs bigger." To their surprise, evidently DJ Breakdown was a regular visitor here, even more so than the other kids.

"Oh yes," he explained in his deep baritone voice, "When I realized I couldn't make it big in music the way I wanted, I decided to focus my career on science. That way, I can learn the celestial rhythms of the universe and the bass rhythms of time and space. One day, I'll help the whole world groove to the same note: the unified note of the multiverse itself!" This version of ASTRO Labs was located on the site of an Internet cafe on their own world, evidently something that hadn't made the transition to the funky world of the 1970s. Breakdown's ID card, and the familiar faces of the rest of Radio Freedom, got them inside the building: they flew through massive double-doors, dropped down a super-fast lift, and within seconds they were inside an underground complex.

The decor down here was like something out of a 70s sci-fi film: all huge red-eyed computers and white jumpsuited workers looking important in their identical uniforms, but of course for the teens from out of town all eyes were on the all-too-familiar form of the cosmic reality bomb, sitting there in the center of the complex and looking very important. "Are you sure you cats know how to pull the plug on the Cosmic Bad Trip here?" asked Edge curiously, looking at the others. "Is there anything we can do to help?"

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"'Cosmic Bad Trip'. Hrn, apt," Midnight mused absently as he strode forward to take a closer look at the second bomb. It appeared to be identical to the one he'd just disabled in Erde's past, but there was no sense in making assumptions. He paid little heed to the ASTRO Lab scientists except to extend a silent hand demanding to borrow one of the clipboards full of readouts and accumulated data they all seemed to be carrying and referring back to. "Should be quick."

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Suddenly, as if from nowhere, there came the terrible sound of the eerie wail of the electric guitar. The lights in the room darkened, colored lights shining from the ceiling, and Radio Freedom's voice rang out in unison. "You cannot. Be allowed. To interfere." At least, almost all of Radio Freedom was doing that. Surrounded by a blackly shimmering ball of energy that looked like nothing more than Satan's own disco ball, suddenly Eddie Ozan didn't look quite so innocent anymore.

"You thought you were pretty smart, huh?" He didn't sound so mellow, either. "Coming in and not telling them what's really going on. What you _really_ are." From the finger-snapping and background humming, whatever was coming from Breakdown's glitterball was forcing his former allies to be his backup singers. "I know about you! I know about us! I heard it from the sphere! This world isn't even real! We're just a dead hero's joke, a story Mark's dad made up so he wouldn't have to feel bad about himself!" That guitar chord sounded again as the panicked scientists made a break for it, but the doors didn't seem to be doing what they wanted.

Visible musical notes were swarming around the heads of the Radio Freedom members, the noise blocking them from hearing what was going on. "Well, I'm not going to take that, man! I'm not going to let some pompous old windbag take over my life and tell me what I should be! I should be a hero! I should be with Zoe! But if I can't have that..." And suddenly his face twisted into a malevolent leer, worse than what the kids had seen even on the face of their own Breakdown. "I'm going to burn this world down and get another from Omega! Radio Freedom, attack!"

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"Must Bend. The Squares. Must Bend. The Squares!" The other Edge spoke first, sending a cascade of falling wires from the ceiling down on Wander that sizzled and sparked, scorching her costume without actually doing any serious damage. Either he was pulling his punches so as not to hurt a copy of his friend, or maybe Wander was just tougher than her disco counterpart. He didn't try and follow up on his attack in any way, or do anything to support the mind-controlled members of Radio Freedom, further reinforcing the theory that the local team was not fighting at their best.

For his part, the Edge from out of town needed only a few moments to think. "Eddie, I'm sorry," he said suddenly, looking up at Breakdown. "I'm sorry about what happened to your world. I'm sorry about what happened to your life." His jaw set, energy began to spark around his fingers. "But you've betrayed your friends, you've sold out your world, and you've turned into an Annihilist! Don't play in the big leagues if you're not prepared to get struck out! Young Freedom! Take out the disco dopplegangers and bastard Breakdown, hard and fast!"

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Wander hastily reached into her holster and pulled out the earrings and sunglasses that had been her birthday present from Trevor. She donned them quickly, then looked to her teammates. "Midnight, Sage, either of you can take Wonder. You know how." She herself made a dive straight for Breakdown, flipping across the floor like a bouncing toy as she went. At the last moment, though, Wonder did the same thing Wander would've done for any of her teammates, even Breakdown once upon a time, and dove into the path of danger. In this case, who could say how voluntary it was?

At any rate, the mind control made Wonder just slow enough that Wander smashed into her bat-first, and once the attack was joined, Wander knew better than to stop hitting. By the time the flurry of blows had landed. Wonder looked dazed and not ready to get up anytime soon.

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Sage didn't hear Wander, rather she did hear her friend and senior teammate but she wasn't listening. Later on, when the psychic would examine the memories of this fight, Sage will recall the suggestion. She stopped listening to everything the moment Breakdown launched into the depraved ranting of a villain; for she spotted a car. It was the kind of car she would have bought: rare, nice lines and loads of power under the hood. The license plate that read 'DATASS' is one thing she could have done without, however.

"Eddie," the telepath said, glancing at the ranting Annihilist as she reached out with her mind and enveloped the Shelby Mustang in a shifting aura of purple, pink and orange. The electric blue vehicle lifted up into the air and in one smooth motion was sent hurtling at the obvious source of the mind control.

As the automobile slashed through the air she added, "For once in your life, just shut up."

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The car smashed into Breakdown in a moment of sweet cosmic justice, smashing the vile disco Annihilist back against the concrete wall behind him and briefly knocking the wind out of him. Only through the sheer devil's luck did he stay in the air at all, or perhaps the baleful influence of the mind-warped Mark Lucas on this world was keeping his puppeteer afloat. For her part, the native Sage targeted her counterpart who had done so much to her the man controlling her body. "Smash The. Pigs! Smash The. Pigs!" Her blade swung close to Sage's midsection, and would have bit deep into her tender flesh had Wander not leapt high and blocked the blow intended for her, the telekinetic slice doing more damage to Wander's seared costume but not harming the flesh underneath in the least.

For his part, Nightlife did a few lazy cartwheels, looking as if all his acrobatic energy had been sucked out of him by the mind control whammy. And maybe it had been! "Fight the. Power! Fight the. Power!" He pulled a sizzling sticky bomb from his belt and hurled it right at Edge! To Mark's horror, the bomb actually hit, sticking to his cape as its fuse hissed its way down to nothing! Luckily, Edge thought fast. Ripping away his cape and hurling it down past a concrete corridor, he ducked as he felt a flash of heat and heard the loud concussion: he was damn lucky he'd gotten that thing off when he could!

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"Oh, look," Midnight deadpanned, calmly pulling a pair of components from his belt as the room erupted into chaos. "Ozan is an idiot. Shock. Disbelief." The engineer slotted together the two modular components, the first a sound analyzer he typically used for translating alien languages or examining recordings, the second a miniaturized but surprisingly powerful set of speakers. Combined, the resulting device looked not unlike a flashlight as Midnight aimed it at the alternate Breakdown. He took a moment to make sure he had the musical manipulator's attention, staring impassively into the madman's makeup surrounded eyes and thumbing the activation stud.

All at once the sound in the room was replaced by the faint hiss of white noise as the gadget replicated every noise precisely inverted, cancelling it all out. At the same time it pushed all of that sound back on Midnight's target, briefly assaulting Breakdown with all the fury of a jet engine taking off next to his eardrums. The entire room may have been silent, but the villain himself was well and truly deafened. Lowering the device, Midnight turned to Sage and signed with his free hand, <Heh. Hit with a car. Classic.>

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Under the sheer power of Midnight's sonic assault, the disco heroes were freed from the enchanting waves of DJ Breakdown's wicked guitar riffs. They collapsed to the ground, all of them, looking as dazed as Wonder had after her pummeling at her counterpart's hands: they weren't back in the fight on the side of right, but Midnight's blast had cut the puppeteer's strings most effectively. That wasn't the only thing Breakdown was suffering for, though. Standing in the middle of the field of sonic disruption, he put his hands to his ears and screamed silently as Midnight's sonic eruption blasted his eardrums into irrelevance, blood leaking out from between his ears as his def beats became just deaf.

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The sudden frenzy of activity had somewhat left Cobalt Templar in the dust. Oh, he could keep track of what was going on, and certainly could defend himself (not that he'd really been attacked yet). But it took him a moment to really get synched up. When he did, his face gradually grew into a frown. Then a scowl.

'This guy is going to destroy this whole place because his girl left him? He's going to help destroy all of existence because he's having an existential crisis? He's mind-controlling his fellow heroes because he's mad at some guy? He's part of the reason everyone died?'

Suddenly, Corbin was airborne. Perhaps 10 feet into his arc over the knocked-over Radio Freedom, as well as his fellow heroes, he burst into flame. No, that wasn't entirely accurate. It was almost like he became flame. Cobalt Templar's whole body was covered in wild blue fire, with bits of maroon (the same shade as his typical costume's accents) roiling around. His cape, already tattered, became a sheet of dark red flame. His eyes burned almost white, such was their intensity. He let out a silent battlecry as he landed and brought both of his fists down on Breakdown's left shoulder, hoping to leave him reeling.

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