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Continued from >The Earth Died Screaming
 

"You don't know what you've got till it's gone."


Earth-EZO1 was a stark world of grim horror and sere beauty. Redbird's fast flight over the western United States showed them a world of dead cities and empty ruins beneath. Most cities had burned by now in their long untended period; Boise, Denver, St. Louis, and the rest were shells of what they'd once been. Streets were clogged with the rusting shells of cars and debris, and even unburnt buildings had begun to sway and fall. They were, at least, too high up for any lingering smells from beneath, though most of those had faded with the years of quietude. On another day, they might have appreciated the natural beauty beneath: the Misssissippi free of man's pollution, trees growing where cities had once been, a herd of bison stampeding beneath them in Missouri, what distinctly looked like a lion watching them as they skipped through Appalachian peaks in the Carolinas. But there was no time for that now, not with where they were going.

Undersea was all quiet darkness as Redbird, with Midnight's skilled hands on her handlebards, took them beneath the waves. The ocean was dead of people; the Atlantean genocide having been one of the first outbreaks of the hero flu, but here too there were fish at play and the sunlight passing through the waves. There was life here, if no human life, and a vast universe beyond them. This world was more than just a tool for saving all reality; Earth-EZO1, for all its horror, was a world worth saving too. As they passed under the water, lit only dimly by the glow of Redbird's lights and the shimmering blue of Corbin's cold fire, Mark looked around at all the faces of his friends, thinking about the people underneath the masks. Erin, Trevor, Corbin, Eve, and their new friend Red Falcon, who with his plasma rifle would be defending Redbird even if they all had to leave it behind. They'd all come so far, over so many years and so much time, and now they were about to face their greatest challenge yet.

They were approaching the river now, Edge riding behind Sage in one compartment, Cobalt Templar and Red Falcon on another side, and Midnight grim and determined behind the wheel with Wander behind him. For just a second, Mark closed his eyes and saw his mother's face, then his father's. Goodbye, Mom. Goodbye, Dad. And then they were erupting out of the water and Freedom City was given over to the forces of Hell: grim Terminus towers rising where once the Pyramid Plaza had stood and on the site of where City Hall had been, the downtown of Freedom City transformed into a Terminus hellscape of firepits and belching machinery: and as Redbird roared towards the battered bulk of Freedom Hall, he saw the Omegadrones beneath look up. "Let's do this! For Freedom!"

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In the silent moments just before they broke the water, Erin pulled off the sturdy camping knapsack she carried, the only part of their supplies she'd brought along from Seattle. She handed it to Mark. "Keep this safe for me, if you can," she asked him quietly. "It's important to me. Just don't guard it with your life or anything," she added with a small half-smile.

Her eyes went hard as they broke the surface of the river and got a look at what they were facing. The lawn outside Freedom Hall was saturated with Omegadrones. The bike wouldn't be able to land, wouldn't even be able to fly over without encountering heavy resistance and those deadly powerpike bolts. She leaned forward and kissed Trevor on the cheek, then stood up on the seat of the Redbird. "It's been an honor serving with all of you," she said gravely, then leapt backwards off the bike like a swimmer on a high-dive. Her body turned gracefully in midair, almost flying for a moment, before she aimed her feet towards the ground and landed in the middle of the crowd of drones.

For a moment, there was nothing but a roiling turbulence in the gathering, like the impact of a pebble falling in a pond. It quickly resolved, though, into an open space, then a widening empty area populated only by fallen drones. Wander fought like a demon, every other thought banished from her mind as she once again fought for her life against overwhelming odds on the world of her birth. Only this time, she had more to fight for than mere survival. One end of her bat snapped off as she jabbed it into the gut of a hulking drone, throwing off the weapon' balance and disrupting its electronic dampening system, but she still used it to great effect. Within moments, the broad lawn of the Hall was cleared, and the drones who were left had far greater concerns than one flying motorcycle.

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As Wander tore her way through whole armies of Omegadrones beneath, the others were confronting with a rising group of Omegadrones from elsewhere: the center of Freedom City had been reinforced with a great black mass of Omega's terrible sentinels of death, and while Wander was dispatching the force on the ground, another was rising to meet them amidst the sky! Clutching the bag Erin had given him, Mark concentrated and closed his eyes. Freedomfreedomfreedomfreedomfreedom... It wasn't fair, none of it was: Freedom City shouldn't be besieged by these monsters! "Even a dead city deserves better than these cockroaches!" Edge shouted to the air. "I am Freedom City!" And with that, he spread his hands and lightning seemed to strike from the sky itself, electrical crackling energy that chained its way from drone to drone, sparking along the tips of their pikes and detonating in eruptions of black, crackling omega lightning. He smelled blood, and dust, and fire, and so many were falling, but more were still coming.

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Sage leapt off of Redbird, no speeches, no farewells, no theatrics; anything that should be said had been said. As she fell toward the rising Omegadrones fire-like ribbons of telekinetic energy erupted from her shoulders lighting up the sky in an orange glow, a hue her friends had long ago learned to associate with the tiny telepath's sense of vigilance.

Wielding a blade force awash in the same color as her wings, the tiny telepath struck and avoided being struck in turn, darting in and out of the rising ranks of entropic warriors. She didn't fell as many as she would have liked, or hoped, but she smiled with grim satisfaction; her fiery charge into battle bought her friends some extra time to make their landing.

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For much of the trip, Corbin had been in a semi-meditative state. He'd been concentrating on keeping the "shell" around Redbird up and functioning, keeping it as watertight as possible. It had been a smooth, clean dart in the water. Of course, even as they were breaching out of the water, he was letting sections fade out, to give his comrades space to engage the enemy, as well as to give better visibility to Midnight as he flew the plane. But now, he had to help clear the skies.

He didn't have to worry about the shield moving; he'd made sure to secure it to the bit with a few struts and bands in key places. Calmly, he stood to his feet and flew out the same "window" Sage had use, only to land on the top of the shield. His feet sunk into the structure a bit, straps coming up to help brace him. His face showed no emotion, not even when he manifested a minigun and started blazing away at the already-battered Omegadrones that tried to blot out the sun.

"I'll keep you safe, my love."

His gun whirred its eerie tune as he continued to blaze away at the servants of Entropy and Destruction all around him.

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Smoothly banking Redbird just enough to watch Wander touchdown and begin her assault, Midnight smiled faintly behind his featureless black mask. Love that woman... Turning his attention back to the second mass of mangled flesh and metal lifting off of the ground to meet them, his glossy onyx and sanguine eyes narrowed, his gloved fingers flexing over the handlebars. Around him, bolts of righteous lightning and volleys of blue fire ripped through the air, while Sage danced through the mindless horde, a graceful needle punching holes is yielding cloth. Amidst the chaos and the fury, the dark young man was a cool, collected point of calm.

Flicking a row of toggles one after another with almost casual precision, he let the precise, tactical element of his nature take hold in full. "Inertial dampeners," he instructed the sentient vehicle, and their passengers suddenly found themselves more securely affixed to their perches as gravimetric projectors established an artificial sense of 'down'. "All weapons full. Templar, hold onto Edge, please. Death Blossom..." Noting Eve's position and that of each remaining Omegadrone in the sky, he paused for a split second, his timing exact. "Execute."

With a sudden wrenching of his arms, he sent the flying motorcycle spinning end over end like a gyroscope gone mad, the Furion vehicle's laser batteries unloading bolt after bolt of red hot death in every direction as it arced. Unfolding like vicious petals on a flowering plant, the beams struck true, boring though the foot soldiers of entropy they had been specifically designed to slay. The maddening motion took not even a full minute, but as Redbird finally slowed and righted, the lifeless husks of the opposing forces fell to the ruined city in a macabre rain. Within moments of their arrival, Young Freedom had lain waste to thousands. Pointing them toward the reality bomb's location, Midnight knew they were only getting started.

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Wander worked her way steadily towards Freedom Hall, smashing, stomping, and stabbing as wave after wave of drones fell before her. It was almost uncomfortably easy to fall into the old mindset, tell herself that these weren't people anymore, and that giving them death was nothing more than a release. She paused and looked up, wiping blood from her face, as Midnight lit up the sky with fire and cleared the parts of the battlefield she couldn't reach. She smiled just a little before leaping up the steps to the hall itself, steps now littered with bodies but entirely unguarded. "Come on!" she shouted to the others. "Now, let's move!" The doors were already open from the drones who'd come spilling out to fight her, so she ran straight in, ready to clear the way.

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Edge shot a glance backwards as they landed, briefly paling at the sight of thousands of Omegadrones rising from all over the city and speeding towards Freedom Hall. Young Freedom had cleared the air of thousand upon thousands of Omega's monsters, but more and more were on their way. "All right, we need to get in and get at the bomb. They can't bring the building on us without damaging the bomb itself, but they can still flood the corridors or mess us up some other way. Red Falcon, can you hold them off?" The Furion nodded that he could, and he and Redbird took up a position by the front door, the cosmic motorcycle still quietly chortling in the aftermath of the spectacular destruction it and Midnight had unleashed together. Pulling a huge energy rifle out of the cycle's rear compartment, Red Falcon nodded to the others.

"You have done fine work today, my friends! We shall tell stories of you around the Silver Tree forever more...after our victory!" He laughed, and squeezed off a long-distance shot that brought down a drone, leaving the heroes of Freedom to bolt inside and take in the scenery. And what scenery it was!

Freedom Hall had much changed since even Wander had been here last: the decaying lobby full of the corpses of hundreds of people who'd died begging a League that was already dead to save them had been cleaned out and replaced with what looked like a high-tech scientific laboratory: indeed, the gleaming walls and readouts everywhere suggested a technology far beyond that of even super-tech back in Freedom City. There were casket-like boxes on tables all around, seven in all, each gleaming black box connected to a chuffing, humming machine whose antennae crackled with energy. On the far side of the room stood the cosmic bomb, glowing with a familiar red power, but between them was the first living being larger than a deer they'd seen on Earth-EZO1. Wander recognized the lab she was looking at; she'd seen a copy of it before in the Doom Room based on Harrier's accounts. This was Physician Friendly's laboratory.

"...came out of nowhere and destroyed thousands of them! They're here and they're going to ruin the experiment! I'll do what I can, but you've got to send..." The humanoid figure was a bizarre contrast to what they might have been expecting: a short, fat man with ruddy cheeks in a stained physician's smock, complete with head reflector, he looked exactly like a pediatrician from the 1950s. He was shouting into a big wall screen at an Omegadrone's face that cut out as he whirled to greet them.

"Aheheheh..." He put on a big, winning smile. "Well, hello, you've certainly come a long way! You've given me some valuable lessons about bringing my nurses with me instead of just those drones, eh? Aheheh...well. When the rest of them get here, we'll be able to get to know each other much better! But for now, you can just call me Physician Friendly!"

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Sage had just about had enough of Agents of Omega.

The young psychic held in her hand a blade familiar to the members of Young Freedom; a telekinetic construct shaped by Sage's focused willpower: long, slender, guardless, suited for offense. And though it glowed, after all it did appear to be light given solid form; it was a faint luminescence that shifted in hue, as her friends and teammates had realized, based on her emotional temperament.

And at the moment, the orange they so long ago learned to associate with the petite telepath's sense of vigilance was slowly leeching out of the weapon. As the telepath's green eyes narrowed upon spotting Physician Friendly, the blades hue shifted; radiating out from her fist and gradually spreading down the length of the long triangular blade was a deep, nearly black, crimson.

"It is an obstacle," the mindwalker said, her voice barely above a whisper. "Obstacles do not get a name."

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When Midnight had called out for him to hang on to himself and Edge, Cobalt Templar hadn't responded verbally. Instead, the strut nearest Edge extruded an arm that locked Edge into a seven-point harness. A similar structure grew behind Templar's own back, even as he continued to fire upon the swarm of Omegadrones.

The only outward sign of his surprise at the "Death Blossom" was a slight widening of his eyes and a notable drop in his fire rate. Still, he never lost his lunch or anything like that. As they landed, the harnesses and shield winked from existence, and he floated to the ground, still grasping his blue, glowing minigun, though the barrel was currently pointed down and to the left. He marched with the others, cape flowing in a non-existent breeze as he strode up the steps of what used to be Freedom Hall. His feet left slight craters in the ground, some combination of burning and sheer impact. It was clear that his mood was a dark one, despite the impassive appearance on his face.

When they encountered the strange scene before them, he almost turned his gun on Physician Friendly and fired then and there. But a glance at both Sage and Wander made him rethink that path. Instead, he merely nodded at the women and proceeded to fly over to one of the seven caskets. His gun was aimed at it, and an ethereal arm of blue fire extended from his chest and attempted to open the casket, or at least examine it further. Perhaps it had a viewport?

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Dismounting with a brief nod of thanks to Red Falcon and Redbird, Midnight stalked after the others. Taking only a brief moment to quickly look about the laboratory, noting the chuckling monster in doctor's clothing with distinct disdain as he walked quickly but calmly forward. "Obstacle implies delay," he corrected Sage, stepping past her while inky black mist rolled about his feet, almost making it look as though he were gliding as his cold, gravelly voice echoed disconcertingly. His manner was clear: Physician Friendly warranted not a millisecond of his time as he made his way to the reality bomb, and woe to the Terminus fiend if he drew attention to himself.

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Erin was barely aware of the others coming in behind her as she stared at the affable face of soulless evil. Covered in blood spatter, her uniform torn, hair hanging loose, she looked far more the desperate EZO1 refugee than the superheroine she'd made herself into one painful step at a time. "Don't touch him," she warned the others. "Deadly nanites. And he's mine."

She took a step forward, then another. "It's funny you don't recognize me," she told the doctor. "Steelgrave did. You killed my world. Now you can die with it." In a single blinding move, she flipped into the air, bounced off the nearest console, and dove towards the evil physician, the jagged end of her broken bat aimed squarely at his nose. Friendly didn't dodge, didn't block, didn't do anything but look faintly startled even as the baton smashed into his face and penetrated his brain, exploding out the back of his skull in less than a second. Erin let go of the bat and let it fall with him, breath rasping in her throat as she stared down at the body in what looked like disbelief.

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Physician Friendly, the arch-torturer, arch-fiend, the greatest monster among the greatest of monsters, fell down, still impaled on Wander's bat, and collapsed to the ground beneath her feet. Her blow had holed his face and done worse to the back of his head: the great mad scientist was now yet another mutilated corpse, twitching. For his own part, Edge studied the dead body and found it impossible to feel bad. He knew what Annihilists were, he'd been raised on tales of their horrors and the monstrous place that was the Terminus. Whatever man Physician Friendly had once been had died years before. "Okay," he finally said, breaking the long silence. "Okay, that's done. Midnight, why don't you see about-"

Across the room, the box Cobalt Templar had opened snapped open all the way and its occupant sat up. He recognized her immediately, of course: he'd held that supple body in his arms and flown with her under an evening sky. Quo-Dis still looked beautiful, even with eerily-cast bluish skin and in her usual slightly risque costume, but this time cut in the unmistakeable red and black of the Terminus. She opened her eyes and smiled at him, and her eyes were all black. "Why hello there!" she said with a wicked smile. "You must be the interlopers we were supposed to deal with...hey!" she said suddenly, looking around. "He was supposed to open all the boxes!"

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Cobalt Templar had been distracted by Wander's assault on Physician Friendly; the blue hand had paused just as it started to touch the box, exerting only minor force. After the villain fell, Templar turned back to the box, not really feeling sorry for the man at all. Though he did find it sad Erin would lack her bat.

'Wonder what freak show he's got in here?' he thought to himself.

There were many things Corbin thought might sit up. Fresh Omegadrones, "special model" Omegadrones, Evil Clones of Young Freedom, maybe some of the lesser Annihilists that had to be roaming around.

He certainly didn't expect a twisted copy of the woman he loved, her cold beauty shining as a testament to the so-called might of the Terminus, a slave to Entropy. Her cold, dead eyes bored into his very soul, and the not-quite-right sound of her voice echoed in his heart and mind.

Mouth agape, he took several stumbling steps backward, the gun in his hands dropping to the floor and dragging along with him. Corbin's breath hitched in his throat, his eyes filled with salty tears, and his voice wavered.

"Quo...Quo-Dis? Oh god, what did they do to you, baby? What are...no, god no, not you not younotyounotyou!"

His construct weapon screeched along the ground for a second before it faded. His cape turned to red ash in a non-existent wind, and his helmet crumbled around his head, until suddenly he slammed into a nearby wall why trying to fly away from the Not-Quo-Dis-Thing. When he next spoke, it was a sobbing plea that was both softer and deeper than normal, the huge boy running one hand through his hair as he cried tears that turned into liquid flame.

"Pleasenopleasenopleasenopleasenopleaseno..."

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Sage blinked and it was over.

Though she stood ready to assist her friend and teammate, Sage was ill-prepared for the sudden viciousness and fury of Wander. The telekinetic blade in her hand went from a malevolent crimson to a brilliant blue before dissipating, the telepaths eyes widening slightly in shock. With a delicate cough and a quick shake of her head, Sage glanced at Midnight.

"I overestimated," Sage blithely remarked. "Oops?"

Turning away from the carnage, Sage instead focused her attention on the sarcophagi lining the room trying, and failing, to suppress the burning curiosity to know what was in the techno-coffins. Stalking over to one side of the lobby, the young telepath threw open a box just as Cobalt Templar's weapon clattered to the ground.

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Inside the box, up sat Faith Martel! She was looking remarkably well-preserved in her blue skin and red and black jumper, a malevolent smile on her face as she confronted her live cousin. "Hello, cousin," she said with a wicked smile, flying up into the air to join a now very confident-looking Quo-Dis. "I'm so glad you could join us here." In their Annihilist costumes of red and black, they were a matched set of lithe, blonde, lovely monsters. Reaching down to Sage, Faith said with a smile and in eerie unison with her floating comrade, "Come and stay with us forever and hear the song of the Coil. Open your mind to the touch of darkness. None of you need die like all the heroes of this world," she added over the sound of plasma fire outside as Furion fought Omegadrone. "You can know the kiss of Omega instead!" At her final words, the skin of Faith's face seemed to pull back into a skeletal rictus, her eyes a malignant black, and she leaned close to her cousin's face to whisper "Give us a kiss!"

"Geez, Faith! You're such a drama queen," said Quo-Dis good-naturedly, her voice an eerie reflection of the girl they all knew. She smiled, looking like a predatory shark. "Look, I don't know any of you that well, I just know some version of me in some stupid other dimension where everyone's alive has been sleeping with that guy," she pointed to Cobalt Templar, "and that you all need to burn in Omega's name. So! BURN IN THE FIRES OF THE TERMINUS, YOU MISERABLE WORM!" she spat, gathering up a black, flaming ball of sizzling entropy in her hands, hurling it at Cobalt Templar in a blow that would surely devastate him!

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In the blink of an eye, Wander had gone from pensive to active, diving across the room to pull Cobalt Templar out of the way of the doppleganger's attack. "Pull it together!" she demanded of him. "I know how it feels, but we've got no time to feel it now. Later! Sage, Edge, get Faith!" If they could take out these opponents, then Midnight could still get to the bomb before it was too late. Wander let Corbin go, then flipped across the room before launching herself into the air and slamming into the levitating paragon!

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Quo-Dis' head jerked back as Wander punched her, the battered paragon smacking into the ceiling overhead before she righted herself. She was still in the fight, but looked surprised at the sheer power Wander was packing in her fists. Nearby, Faith said in sudden French, addressing her erstwhile cousin, "" she taunted with a nasty smile, "<I've gone to great lengths to be the last and the greatest of the Martels, and done many great and terrible things to do. So as long as you're here and not a scum-sucking zombie, my work isn't finished. Say hello to Mother and Father for me!>" she gloated with a malevolent laugh, firing a blast of deadly cosmic radiation that struck her all-too-human cousin right in the face.

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"We've got wounded," called Edge, feeling heartsick as he saw Faith's cosmic blast hurl her cousin into the wall behind him. He could see how badly hurt Sage was, and he knew they couldn't hesitate. Any opening the false reflections of their friends had could be disastrous for all of them. "C'mon, Cobalt Templar, keep it together! This Quo-Dis died three years ago!" For his own part, he focused on the villain who'd so badly hurt his friend. He remembered Faith, remembered her laugh, her smell, her voice. This wasn't her. That helped, a lot. "You have no business being here when so many good people have suffered already. Go away, Faith!" He fired and missed, the hall's ceiling vanishing against his blow in a flash of black ink, sending a cascade of foul debris from upstairs cascading down on everyone. "Damn!"

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Resisting the urge to rub the bridge of his nose through his mask, Midnight broke into a sprint for the reality bomb while speaking in a level but easily audible voice to the others. "Switch. Templar, fight the little one. Edge, take the alien." Reaching the terrible device, he sent a surge of midnight mist into his arms just long enough to tear the access panel clear off before plunging his hands in to begin working. "Wander, check on Sage then help them." The young man wasn't even watching the rest of the fight, busying himself with the delicate procedure of removing the bomb's cosmic lightning rod. "And no one open any more of those damn caskets."

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For several long moments, Corbin just sat there, half-embedded in the wall. Then he looked over and saw Eve, still reeling from the blow the corrupted version of her cousin had dealt her. She was vulnerable. She was a friend, and she was in trouble right now. With a snarl, he pushed away from the wall, denting it just a bit, before he blazed a comet-bright trail over to her. When he reached her, he stopped and clenched his eyes shut in almost painful concentration.

Then, he reached one hand over and gently laid it on her shoulder. Suddenly, ethereal blue fire washed over her body. But it did not burn her; just the opposite, this fire was warm, soothing, relaxing. It seemed to want to help her and heal her, to give her new life and energy.

"I'm not losing any more friends!"

His voice was filled with defiance as he glared at Not-Faith, his free hand clenching and un-clenching, as if to dare her to try something.

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"Ow! My face!" Quo-Dis snarled at Wander, her lovely face pulling back to reveal the grey teeth and foul breath of a zombie for a moment as she reset her jaw. "I'm going to enjoy watching them break you in the pits," she spat, black ichor on her teeth as she turned and blasted one of the nearby boxes open. "Here, you fear the walking dead so much? Why don't you have all the walking dead you can handle?" A beam of pure black light washed out and sliced the top off one of the boxes, its occupant sitting up with a smile on her face just like all the others. It was Martha Lucas, and she had a hole in the center of her forehead.

"Why, it's you!" she said, sliding out of her coffin and taking a few steps towards her suddenly ashen-faced son. "They told me I'd get to have you back, my boy," she said, arms extended as she shuffled forward. She showed no sign of superpowers, just a burning intent in her black eyes as she headed straight for Mark. "Your father and I were so devastated after that bus accident crushed you like a grape, we just couldn't bear it," she said with a wickedly maternal frown. "Well, I was devastated But let's face it, your father, he went a little CRAZY! So when I started coughing on the way back from the funeral, he took his gun out, and well..." She laughed, and added, "he's around here somewhere! You can join us!"

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Wander tried to grab Quo Dis before she could blast open another casket, but there were distinct disadvantages to being an non-flyer fighting a flyer. Despite herself, she watched as Martha Lucas emerged, and shuddered at the neat hole in Martha's forehead, the much messier one in the back of her head. It whispered to the revelations in Erin's own heart and mind that were still unresolved, things she couldn't afford to deal with right now. She shoved it away and concentrated on the faint thread of dark amusement that Mark's luck, even latent as it would've been at fourteen, had acted in his best interest and protected him from suffering, if not death. Somehow it seemed fitting for this cemetery of a world.

Pushing all that aside, she forced herself back into full concentration on the fight. CT was helping Sage, but that left them both vulnerable to the cackling little witch zombie floating above them. Erin channeled all her conflicting emotions, the suppressed fear and the bottomless well of rage that Friendly's death had done nothing to quell, and directed them towards this small enemy.

In a heartbeat she was in the air, bouncing off one of the empty boxes and turning an aerial summersault before barreling into Zombie-Faith with both fists outstretched. She knew how to kill a zombie with her bare hands. This one took a pummeling that would've atomized most zombies she'd fought, but the end result was the same. As she landed, Wander flung the zombie corpse at Zombie-Martha, almost as an afterthought. Both zombies careened across the room to fetch up against the far wall, not so much as twitching. "It's not real" she called to Mark. "None of this is real for you."

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As the undead obscenity that had once been Martha Lucas entered Mark's life for a moment then departed, Mark took a moment to thank God for Wander. Whatever he'd have done in response to that shambling mockery, it wouldn't have been any good. He swallowed hard, and nodded at her words. "They aren't real, and soon, none of this will be! Quo-Dis, I am sending you back to the place from which you came!" He fired a devastating blast of energy at Quo-Dis, one that struck her in the midsection, catching her by surprise as she was about to open another box. She gave an eerie shriek, dead skin flaking away, as reality itself tore apart inside her to reveal the churning Terminus energy within. This had never been the real Quo-Dis, just a hideous empty shell of corrupted energy surrounded by a corpse's skin. "Now, Sage!" Edge called. "Finish her off!"

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Sage sent a brief, though wordless, expression of thanks across the telepathic link to Cobalt Templar. Quickly and easily finding her feet, the gymnast darted across the ruined hall, gliding smoothly around or over debris and bits of machinery, heading directly toward the false Quo-Dis.

She vaulted off a still sealed techno-coffin, telekinetic blade forming in hand and wings snapping into being. Sage didn't stop when hit her airborne foe, her powerful slash neatly bisecting Quo-Dis from hip to shoulder, the young telepath sailing through the gap.

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