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Date: June 17th, 2011 (Friday), later afternoon/early evening

mid-to-high 70s, clear/scattered clouds. 2 days after the full moon.

(10 months after an ill-fated housecall, 3 1/2 weeks after the Interceptors' Wedding, 2 weeks after Claremont's Graduation; 1 month before the Gorgon announcement)

Earlier in the day, Arrowhawk paid a visit to the Scarab and they compared notes on the strange series of murders and disappearances that had been plaguing Freedom City for the past nine months. Seeking additional help, they headed to the Hanover home of their ally, Doktor Viktor Archeville.

But they were not the only ones coming to see Archeville: like Scrooge, the super-scientist was to be visited by three beings this evening. Wander, one of ArcheTech's newest employees, was also coming by. With her was a trophy from a recent battle which she wished to have examined; to know how best to store it, she needed to know if it was safe to be around! (She'd chosen discretion due to not wanting the details of Young Freedom's exploits getting out just yet.)

None of them expected who -- or what -- they would wind up meeting that evening.

But what was that fabled science-hero up to? At the moment, he was alone in his home, his fiance Fulcrum off training wit the Interceptors, giving him time to do some surgical experimentation.

Past the sartorius and down to the rectus femoris... and some from the biceps femoris... omit the semi-tendinosus... yes, this shall do nicely! So good to be able to work with such a healthy specimen!

He was carving ham for a sandwich.

"The most perfect ham-and-cheese sandwich ever! Now, which mustard to use?" The Doktor rummaged through his tesseract refrigerator (like his home, it was bigger on the inside!), selecting from the dozen or so small yellow and brown jars.

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Wander pulled up to Doktor Archeville's home in her blue pickup truck, which was currently shiny clean and ruthlessly detailed. She hadn't slept too much since coming back from EZO1 for the last time, which allowed for plenty of free time for little chores. The work at ArcheTech was interesting, if not exactly challenging, but compared to her old schedule, she had massive amounts of time on her hands. Maybe after this, she would find Trevor and go patrolling, see if any criminals were dumb enough to brave the heat and go do wrong.

When she arrived at the house, she sat in the driveway for a moment and double-checked the address, just to be sure. For someone who had so much money and power, the house was tiny, and just a little bit shabby. It was certainly nothing like she'd expected. Maybe he had a huge subterranean lair or something like that. Climbing out of the cab, she walked around to the bed and pulled out the giant parcel she'd brought, securely wrapped in four black garbage bags. They were keeping the fate of Omega a secret for now, which was why she was here at the house in the first place. Not that she'd told him what she was bringing in so many words, just that it was a sensitive matter the League wanted him to look into. Juggling the parcel, she walked up to the door and rang the bell.

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The small path leading from the sidewalk to Archevillle's front door was flanked by gaily-painted garden gnomes, four on each side. Each stood about a foot and a half tall, with blue shirts and red pointy hats. As Erin walked up, she almost thought she saw a pair turn towards her, but when she looked at them they were still as statues. The front windows were all obscured by what appeared to be thick and heavy curtains.


As Erin approached, the scans the gnomes had run were being analyzed by the home's computer system, identifying the approaching individual. A chime sounded in the kitchen, and when Archeville extricated himself from the refrigerator, a feed from the front yard cameras were being streamed across one wall.

"Ooh, it is Erin! I wonder what brings her here? And whatever is in those bags?"

Oooh! She can be a taste-tester for my new sandwich!!!

"Ah! Computer, unlock the front door, and send an escort to lead her here!"


Moments after she'd touched the doorbell (which sounded an unexpectedly old-fashioned chime), the door swung open, seemingly of its own accord. Beyond was a nice foyer, well-lit by a golden chandelier. The stained wood panels along the walls lent an air of elegance to the place, while the colorful mandala design in the tile floor hinted at an appreciation for the exotic, the esoteric. Three hallways, left, center and right, branched off from the room, and simple doors between the halls were, she might assume, coat closets.

It suddenly hit Erin that this foyer alone should, judging by the outer dimensions of the house, take up at least half the ground floor!

One of the closet doors swung open, and out lumbered a silvery gorilla in a butler's suit! A moment's examination revealed that it was in fact a robotic gorilla, and not some sort of mutant. "Good evening!," it said in a blaring, mechanical voice. It pointed towards the left corridor, "your presence is requested in the kitchen. Follow me, please."

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Erin hesitated in the foyer for a moment, trying to reconcile the inside of the house with the outside. She'd spent enough time around Edge that the house's seeming logical inconsistency didn't throw her that much, but not knowing where the outside walls and exits might be made her a little nervous. Not that she expected trouble, but old habits died hard, especially when they'd been recently reinforced. Nonetheless, she shouldered the car-hood sized piece of plastic-wrapped steel and nodded to the gorilla, falling in. "I, uh, hope he's not busy with anything."

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"Doktor Archeville is always busy," the mechano-ape blared as it headed down the hallway, "but never too busy for his employees, or his fellow superheroes."

They first came to a parlor, with numerous chairs (some with plush cushions, some with slim ones), small tables here and there, an an assortment of periodicals scattered about. A log burned in the fireplace, and windows with the drapes pulled back looked out upon a panoply of scenes, most of which were nowhere near Freedom City. Over the fireplace, and on the wall opposite it, was a matched set of large mirrors. Cabinets in the corners held mysteries -- games, perhaps?

Next was the dining room, with a table and high-backed chairs for ten. It was bare, and the two small chandeliers above it were dimmed, but she could tell it would not take much to make this place really pop. Beyond that, coming from the well-lit room beyond the dining room, she could hear someone at work. Looking through the door she saw an expansive and well-lit kitchen, with two stove ranges, three ovens, two refrigerators, and a marble-topped island not far from a large sink by a window looking out onto a pastoral valley (definitely nowhere near Freedom City!). On the opposite side was a smaller breakfast nook, where Doktor Archeville sat, with a platter of sandwiches.

"Doktor, your guest has arrived!," the robobutler blared.

Archeville cringed, "oh, I am so sorry, Miss White! I had no idea my Kammerdieneraffe's voice was doing that again!"

All these little malfunctions are really starting to worry me! But, I am sure I can get to the bottom of it.

He looked to the robobutler and said something in German, and it trundled off back the way it came. "Ah, again, I am sorry for that. Hungry?," he asked, holding up the platter.

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"Ah, no thank you, Doctor," Erin said politely. "I had something this morning." She set her large and awkward parcel down so one edge was on the floor, keeping her hand on the top edge. "I'm sorry to bother you at home and after hours, but I was hoping you could look at something for me. It's a... a trophy, you might say, from Young Freedom's most recent mission. We're trying to make sure that it's safe and inert enough to keep on Earth. Daedelus has been looking it over, but he hoped you could give a second opinion. And it's... well, it's not the sort of thing we're ready to show off openly right now."

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Aww, I wanted to share! Ah, but perhaps she can take some back to her teammates?!

"A trophy, you say?," Archeville asked. He set the platter down and walked across the room, "from one of Young Freedom's many pan-dimensional adventures, I presume?" He chuckled as he reached to remove the covering, "I have often wondered why younger superhumans, such as your group, and the Atoms, are so frequently drawn into cross-di... men..."

Archeville was looking at the breastplate of Omega, Lord of the Terminus.

What? What?!

"What?!" The super-scientist looked back and forth between Wander and the piece. "Th... y... i... Explain!"

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"Well, if you remember back on the first of the month, there were strange energy and weather fluctuations for a little bit in the morning?" she asked. She'd heard some ArcheTech researchers discussing it, so figured the doctor would've heard of it as well. "What it was, was actually a set of cosmic reality bombs that detonated across the multiverse and destroyed the whole thing. We got warning from Mark's mom just before it happened, so we didn't get destroyed with everything else,but that meant we had to time travel between the universes with bombs in them and disarm them before the multiverse could be destroyed."

She pulled away the last of the garbage bags and laid the breastplate on the table, complete with the hole in the middle where she'd punched through. "We went to a bunch of different universes, and eventually ended up on the one I come from, EZO1. There was a huge Terminus stronghold there where Freedom City used to be, and when we disarmed the reality bomb there, Omega came to stop us. Cobalt Templar and I attacked him," she explained, "while Edge held off the tens of thousands of drones and Sage drew his fire. I managed to breach the armor," and here she pointed to the hole in the suit. "That opened him up for Midnight to take a shot. He used the payload from the reality bombs and built an improvised railgun to shoot them. When he shot one into Omega, Omega screamed and exploded into energy." Erin fingered her newly shortened hair, partially a legacy of what had been burnt off in that energy discharge. "Rick Lucas pulled the whole dimension into the Zero Zone to keep the Terminus from using it to get to Prime, but he sent us home, along with the armor. I guess to prove we'd actually done it."

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What? What?!

What?

Archeville stared, slack-jawed, at the chestpiece. "That... that cannot-"

The Doktor's knees buckled -- he'd fainted! This perhaps surprised Erin, who would be used to heroes being of sterner stuff, but even more surprising was the change that overcame Archeville even as he fell: his skin darkened and roughened into scales, his blonde hair shifted to a vibrant crimson, gill slits opened along his neck, and his hands sprouted webbing and talons!

What? WHAT?!

The Fishy!Doktor's eyes, black like a shark's, opened.

How the hell did... did she... did they... this makes no sense! How- wait, no, of course -- it doesn't make sense, because that lucky lackwit Edge was there! Well, of course with him along, they can do any-

Wait -- I am revealed! That weak-willed moron fainted, couldn't take the strain, booting me to the forefront! Ahh, but... perhaps this is not a total loss. Though immensely strong and resilient, her mind is as pliable as anyone else, and she's already somewhat dependent upon me...

"What... what happened-," he began, weakly, then stared at his hands in (feigned) horror. "No, not again!" He felt his face, then paused as he appeared to realize Erin was still there. "Nooo!," he whimpered, curling into a ball and (mimicked) sobbing, "I've changed back... it didn't work... I thought I was cured..."

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Wander's eyes widened in consternation at the sudden change that came over the doctor. This was even weirder than what had happened at the Farettis', but on the other hand, at least this time he wasn't summoning demons. At his horrified cries, she stepped forward, concerned. "Are you okay, Doctor?" she asked him. "Do you need me to call someone for you, someone from the lab, or the Freedom League?" She wondered fleetingly if he were allergic to Terminus radiation, and if so, if that meant the armor was considerably more dangerous than they thought. But wouldn't that make him allergic to his girlfriend, too? She didn't know, but she was certainly worried.

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Just to complicate things further, at that moment there came a rap at the door. Outside, in a plain t-shirt and jeans, John Fraser rapped on the door with his cane, before bringing it back into the floor to lean upon. "I hope he's got answers," he murmured to his companion.

Because if you're damn well going to send me off into Europe, and yet I don't seem to find any evidence of your suspicions in Europe... well, doesn't that make you seem a lot less intelligent? A dark look was on John's face as he waited impatiently for someone to answer the door.

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"N-no! No one else knows," he said slowly, gauging her reaction. He stood, "there was an... incident, some months ago, and I was exposed to various mutagenic agents. Since then, when I suffer a serious shock -- physical or mental, like the sight of that," he waved a taloned hand at the chestpiece, "I shift to this odd atavistic form. I thought I had isolated the factors and removed them, but it seems I-" He turned quickly at the sound of the doorbell; one of the window panels over the sink showed the two plain-clothed figures at his front door. His breathing quickened and hands clenched into fists.

No! How did they know? Ah, that mind-witch must have had me under surveillance when my Odious Other stopped seeing her for 'therapy' when he thought I was silenced! I knew she was out for me! She's probably been biding her time, letting me think I was free while she built up her little gang of meddlers! She called Arrowhawk back from the wild snipe hunt I'd sent him on in Europe, and has probably gathered up the other former Knights.

If I don't answer the door, Scarab'll peek in and find me. But, if someone were to distract them...

"Ah! I-I don't want anyone to see me like this!," he exclaimed, glancing nervously from side to side. "I should have something in my laboratory to cover this, though." He dashed over to one of the wine fridges against the wall, opened it, and flipped a series of buttons on its inner surface, causing two of the fridge to part and revealing a ramp gently sloping down into darkness. "Can you distract them, please? For just a few minutes!"

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"Yeah, sure," Erin said, watching uncertainly as the oddly reptilian doctor scuttled away. She felt bad for him because he was obviously so upset, and wondered who the people were at the door. She waited until the secret door in the kitchen closed, then turned and walked back to the front of the house, wondering what sort of a distraction he needed, and for how long. Maybe she could just tell them to go away, if they were like Jehovah's Witnesses or political canvassers or something.

In her faded blue blouse and khaki slacks that had been washed to the point of shapelessness she looked about as out of step with the house's opulence as the robot gorilla butler, but she'd do her best. Pulling open the door, she sized up the visitors. "Hi, can I help you?" she asked politely.

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"Such a nice girl," ArchEvil hissed, watching her return to the foyer via the home's internal security cams, now displaying on his Screwdriver. "Perhaps I'll give her a raise. If she survives!"

Got to act quick -- I can't bluff Scarab, she may even have some 'past life' memory about the creatures this body seems patterned after. And I don't want to be here if Arrowhawk decides to blow up my home.

A series of quickly typed commands on the hologrpahic interface activated systems in his sub- and sub-sub-basement laboratories and workshops. Robotic drones carried boxes and crates of assorted sizes to the teleportal pads, sending them through microwormholes to ArcheStern, Schloss Wissenschaft, and other destinations. At one point, the teleportal refused to activate, "receiver at Fjölnirskraft disabled? And communications... are down? Hrrmm... ah, I will tackle that later. Redirect that to... ah, there, yes. Now, set to scramble the teleportal logs so they cannot trace where things were sent, and power down to sleep mode once you are done so there's even less suspicion of my activities."

The wine fridges retracted, and ArchEvil strode up the ramp, towards the chestpiece of Omega. He smiled a shark-toothed grin, tracing along the symbol of the Lord of the Terminus with one talon. "Much, much work to do."


Whenever Wander and the others returned to the kitchen, they would find a small post-it note affixed to the chestpiece.

[bg=#FFFF00]Thanks for

the scans.

-A[/bg]

ArchEvil 'ports away as soon as he hears them coming towards the kitchen. Where? Right here!

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John didn't bother hiding his contempt. Some puny, scrawny little girl, when before he'd had a highly advanced robotic simian? "I need to speak with the Doktor," he said brusquely, moving to walk into the house, affecting a somewhat exaggerated reliance on his cane as he shuffled forwards.

"Is he in? This is urgent." His keen eyes began scanning the interior, ears straining to hear signs of the Dok. And, seriously, where is the gorilla? Is he downsizing or something?

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Erin stepped into his path to block him, not touching him but ensuring he'd have to go through her to come inside. "The doctor is busy," she said with polite firmness. "Maybe I could help you, if you tell me who you are and what you need?" For all the old man had a gimpy leg, he looked strong, and like he might cause a problem. The woman was fairly nondescript and hadn't said anything, so maybe she was just an assistant or something. "But I'm afraid you can't come in just yet."

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The man just glared at the girl. "I'm the man who needs in this house, and what I need is to speak to the man in the house," he said wearily. "This is urgent, kid. There's been a lot of terrible, terrible things happening, and..." Get out of my way! "Well, we need the Doktor to help us piece these things together properly. Tell him John Fraser is here, and needs to speak to him now, or in the name of Vivian Krager, we're having a repeat of the Malice incident." The man's face betrayed nothing but the anger flickering in his eyes.

"I can easily wait here while you tell him that." He affected a broad smile, although it obviously looked as though he was unpracticed in the action.

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Erin didn't budge, not seeming at all intimidated by his threats or his anger. After the July she'd had already, it was hard to get too worked up about one angry old guy. "He can see you on the screens," she pointed out, "if he wants to talk to you, he'll be out in a few minutes. But he's really busy right now." She paused for a second, parsing through what he'd said. "Malice... are you guys supervillains?" she asked suspiciously. If they were, they were using a decidedly weird technique, but who could figure with those types? She rose to the balls of her feet, ready for anything.

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"Firstly, no, secondly, would we tell you if we were?" John rolled his eyes. Amateurs. "Seriously, kid. This is not the time to play silly games. I mean, sure enough, he probably can see us. But he's not coming out, and to me, that just means either stand here all day, or stop just using the collapsible metal staff for show as a walking stick. And I'm not just going to whack some young girl, I've got some standards."

The man leaned his back against the door frame and began whistling a low tuneless "melody". What happened to the robot gorilla, anyway?"

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Erin took a step back from the man, drawing her palm-sized bat from her pocket and spinning it out to its full five-foot length with a practiced twist of her wrist. Like most of the things Trevor made, her new bat was entirely black from end to end, but the balance was perfect and he'd replicated all the little quirks and tricks of her old one. Setting one end on the ground, she mimicked his stance. "That would be a really bad idea," she told him sincerely. "I know he knows who you are, but he doesn't want to talk to you right now," she admitted. "You kind of showed up at a bad time."

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"And yet I want to talk to him." John just smirked at the bat. "But, hey, you're not letting me in, and I'm not budging, so I guess we're reached an impasse." He just shook his head incredulously. "You do know, right, that if I walk away as you want me to, all that happens is I get into his lab without having to deal with some arrogant little brat who thinks she's got a right to boss me about. Because you're damn right. This is a bad time. People are disappearing." The man's voice had dropped to a low growl.

"People are dying. So, let's make a deal. I will walk away if you honestly, truly believe guarding this door is worth more than the lives of innocent people." The man's voice was scarcely above a whisper. "Because, kiddo, for every minute you stall, there's a damn murderer who's got a minute more to operate, and I'm not letting it continue."

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"I do have a right," Erin said with annoyance. "It's his house and I work for him, and he asked me to distract... to have you wait at the door for him." She began to look less sure as the old man continued speaking. She could understand that the doctor didn't want to be seen in his altered form, but if what the old guy was saying were true, that was definitely more important than keeping up appearances. Besides, maybe it had been long enough now anyway.

"All right, fine," she said with a frown. "But if he doesn't want to see you, you really have to leave. There are lots of science people in the city, not just him." Turning on her heel, bat still in hand, she led the way down the improbably long hallway to the kitchen. There she stopped short. The breastplate of Omega was still there, big as life on the table, but now there was a note attached to it. She picked it up and read it, looking baffled. "I don't understand..."

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John's entire mannerism suddenly shifted. His metal cane dropped solidly to the ground, clattering on the floor. He started moving fluidly and smoothly, no longer lmiping, but prowling around the chest plate like a caged tiger. "Is this what I think it is?" growled Arrowhawk. "Kid, what the hell is going on?"

The big man shied away from the piece of armour. "I don't give a damn who beat up that monstrosity. Fair play to them. But dammit, that thing is evil. It should have been left to rot somewhere. And now Archeville's missing." A low growl began in the man's throat. "I think it might be time to suit up."

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"Young Freedom took out Omega two weeks ago," Erin told him, still preoccupied by the note, "and the chestplate got sent home with us. I guess as proof that he's dead or something. But we don't know what to do with it till we know how dangerous it is. I brought it to Doktor Archeville to look at, but when he did... something weird happened to him," she admitted, somewhat reluctantly. "Then you guys showed up, and he asked me to delay you and give him a few minutes to pull himself together. But now he's gone? And I don't even know what scan's he's talking about."

She looked up at Fraser, noting the changed demeanor. "If you're a superhero, I'd say you're right," she agreed. "Something very weird is going on."

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"If I'm a superhero, if I'm a supervillain, stop being so naive," snapped Arrowhawk, moving to stride outside. "Even if I was a supervillain, do you honestly think that would mean I'm wrong about the smartest man on Earth acting strangely in the presence of a piece of armour taken off the personification of evil being something to worry about."

"Listen, kid, do you have any idea where he is now?"

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