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14 April 2012

The weather is nice today, Eve thought as she looked out across the Great Bay. It was a fleeting thought, and only a momentary distraction from the anxiety gnawing at her, for guests would be arriving soon. Eve was never one for drawing attention to herself--the few friends she had knew she preferred to be the quiet, unseen hand in the background--but there were certain things she was unable to avoid.

Unavoidable, perhaps, but not immutable. By floating out an invitation to her friends and teammates, and most importantly Etain, Eve was able to neatly sidestep the preconceived notion of what an eighteenth birthday party for someone of her wealth and status should be like. Taking things into her hands would allow the Martel heiress to do things her way.

That thought brought a smile to her face as she slipped back into her room then headed down the stairs, guests would be arriving soon, after all.

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There was a gargoyle in front of the Martel Estate, and nobody noticed. If anybody saw Custos, they largely ignored and walked around him as they passed, and not a single person noted this pacularity as Etain slid off the stone creature's back. She was dressed a step up from usual, which was about two peticoats and a dress she hadn't touched since she had arrived. Her hair was up and side knot with pink and white flowers made of fabric clipped to them giving the look a hanging basket as her curly hair hung in strands from under then. She wished Custos a farewell as he gave her a few parting words before he was off in a hurry, which she understood, there was a Housewives of Freedom City marathon that very day.

She started from the very edge of the drive near the gate and walked the entire way to the front doorstep. Even for the area, it stood out as a very large and beautiful estate, the well maintained and manicured lawns were in bloom with the April warmth, and it was all very fragrant. It took several minutes, though likely because of her not so much rushing towards the front door, she was early, and it was a beautiful front lawn, even if most people just drove past as she would of likely done if she had taken Eve's offer of sending a driver. When she got there she simply pressed the doorbell and waited as she took her cell phone from a hidden pocket and checked the time.

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Suddenly, magic ripped itself open just a few feet from Etain as reality itself shattered asunder in a wash of sheer unprecedented power, the air curling and spreading open like the petals of a flower to reveal Mark Lucas. In his suit and tie, Mark looked dapper and dashing, his short blonde hair slicked flat against his head, his black suit cut perfectly to show off his chiseled physique and winning smile. As the screaming hole in the sheer fabric of the magical reality of the universe knitted itself shut behind him, the young man gave Etain a smile. "Hello!" Mark wasn't feeling quite as cheerful as he looked, but pretending everything was great was one of his specialties. "You must be Etain! I'm Mark Lucas." He shook her hand, crackling to her magical senses as if a bolt of lightning had struck where he stood.

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It is a good sign of Etain's self control that she did not immediately jump back in surprise at the sudden presense of the hole in reality torn easily by the young emerging djinn. The fact that the magic undid and recoliled back onto itself so cleanly was impressive in of itself, but the stain of the incident lingered in the air like the smell of moisture after a storm and she very neatly stared at the boy who had produced such a result.

"Cassus nox noctis, quam did vos subterlabor pactum?"

She let the words slip out as the djinn introduced himself as Mark Lucas, and suddenly realized who this was. Codename Edge, a reality warper was how Eve described him, which was apt, but there was never any mention of his true nature. Maybe she was unaware, but it was clear as day to Etain who's sense was attacked by the sheer amount of possibilities his magic did, how his mere presense bent the space around him and he was not even willing it to happen conciously. It was startling to look at, she had seen magic that could change minds and forms, but he could change worlds, and was doing so even as he stood there with just a simple introduction, and as such she had to stop herself from gawking at the being in front of her. It took a few seconds but she regained her composure and smiled, holding out her hand,

"Yes, I am Etain,"

She kept her tone even, but there was still a little bit of hestitation,

"It is nice to meet you Mark."

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Is she...coming onto me? No... Mark was confident Eve wouldn't date anyone who'd hit on him at Eve's own birthday party (plus, he was fairly sure there were logistical difficulties to anyone Eve would date hitting on him!), so he dismissed the momentary impression. Anyway, he had a girlfriend, even if she wasn't one he could bring to parties like this. Nina was...not someone he'd trust with the secret identities of his friends, and it wasn't fair to them to make them wear 'masks' at what was supposed to be a private party. "Well-said, well-said. The important thing is, we all have a fine time with Eve's party. Any idea what she's got in store? I've heard she had some interesting stuff in mind."

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"Telepath puns? Terrible," a soft, level voice commented from just off to Mark's side opposite to Etain. While the reality warping young man's arrival had been accompanied by a considerable amount of innate fanfare, Trevor Hunter was simply there, his relaxed posture with his hands in his pockets giving the impression he'd been present for a while. Not surprisingly, his black suit jacket matched the raven hue of his hair, sunglasses and fedora but the deep crimson dress shirt he wore underneath it was about as close as the reserved engineer came to party wear. "Miss Maher," he greeted with a shallow nod.

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Etain was rather relieved to give her eyes a good rest on the black clad young man, her smile certainly was brighter in comparison to the one she had to force for Mark,

"Good day Trevor,"

Taking a closer look at his attire, she thought for a few seconds,

"That is a rather dark suit, are you not overly warm in this nice spring weather?"

She honestly shouldn't be talking about that, but she was looking for a subject, or really an excuse not to have to look at Mark more then nessicary. She understood and could see him, but the effect he had on the surroundings was mildly uncomfortable, and would likely grow to very uncomfortable if she were to do so for extended periods of time.

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"He's used to it." Erin White wasn't as good at being stealthy as her longtime boyfriend, but Mark's flashy entrance would've covered far less subtle movers than she. For the party, she'd dressed up in a cotton skirt of navy blue with a white and blue blouse that just managed to avoid looking exactly like a sailor suit. She carried a gift bag tied with a pink ribbon, from which the corner of an oversized envelope protruded.

With a quick smile for Mark, she nodded to Etain. Trevor hadn't spoken much about Eve's girlfriend, but she'd apparently passed his exam, so she had to be all right. "I'm Erin," she introduced herself. "It's a nice day for a party."

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"Trevor probably put a half-dozen microscopic AC units in the suit if he was worried about the heat."

Corbin Hughes strode up the lawn toward his friends and fellow heroes. He stopped a few feet away and frowned.

"Uh, wait. We were supposed to wear a suit?"

While his dark blue jeans were immaculate, and the black western shirt added a nice flair to his look, Corbin clearly hadn't planned for a semi-formal dress code. His arms shifted the decent-sized package he was holding; it was thoroughly wrapped, but the large, flat shape was likely another piece of artwork from the ring-slinger. He blushed a bit as he looked first at himself, then at Trevor and Mark.

"Dang it guys, you're supposed to tell me these things. Now I look like a fashion-less rube. Please tell me someone at least rang the doorbell?"

His "misstep" revealed, he seemed eager to at least get inside.

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"You look fine, Corbin," said Mark, trying to reassure the younger teen who after all did look okay. Man, how long has it been since I've seen Corbin? Or Eve? The camaraderie they'd all forged together when saving the entire multiverse from the lord of the Terminus had slipped away thanks to his work and Eve and Corbin's schooling. It was unpleasant to think that such strong bonds could be pulled apart by something as mundane as scheduling, so instead of thinking about it Mark produced as if from nothing (and oh, Etain could feel the very stuff of magic being torn asunder and reshaped, like watching a chainsaw sculpture at work) a bright blue tie that matched Corbin's usual costume colors. "Here you go, have a tie," he said with a grin.

To Trevor and Erin, he added, "Hey guys. I've been speaking French the last two weeks, my punning in English is a little rusty." He thought for a minute, then rang the bell as Corbin had suggested. "I know Eve said the place is open to us anytime, but I don't want to just barge in." Besides, Eve seemed like she'd take him catching her coming out of the shower pretty badly.

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Etain had to hold her head and eyes close to refocus after that display. For something so simple Mark had done the impossible, made something out of nothing without a second thought, and there was no feedback as the tie snapped into existance like it had always been there. The entire thing made her both awed and a little nausous, not just because of the sight of magic warping, but the fact it do so readily for this one enity. It was terrifying in it's own right, and made her question how long such a powerful being had kepted an unquestioned residence in this realm. It was this thought and prompting that gave her the ability to break away without and open the door, though it had an odd grace the haste in her retreat into the Martel household was obvious to all there as she found herself face to face with Eve's butler who led her into the house like her face didn't show deep signs of concern.

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Indira Singh was making her way toward the front door not that far behind Corbin, clad in a modest but tasteful purple saree, looking - if not as comfortable in it as she was in her usual tank top and khakis - at least used to wearing one. she reflected as she made her way across the lawn,

Her smile was polite, friendly, and cautious as she approached the gathering group outside the doors. "Hello Corbin, everybody," she greeted, bowing her head a little. "I am glad I am not late - I was almost afraid I would not be able to make it in time."

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Eve was already making her way down the stairs to greet her friends when Renard opened the door to admit Etain; the telepath's heart leaped at the sight of her dark haired girlfriend but there was something in her body language that worried Eve. With a subtle gesture from Eve, the salt-and-pepper haired butler trailed after Etain to see that she was comfortable while Eve went to greet her guests.

"Trevor, Erin, I am pleased you could make it," Eve began in her distinctive French accented soprano, "And you, Mark, it is nice to see you again, it has been a while and I was uncertain that your current affairs would allow you the time." Ushering her friends into the estate, Eve closed the double doors behind her and then introduced Indira to Trevor, Erin and Mark.

Corbin, Eve saved for last, if only because he was dressed as casually as she intended this gathering to be. Eve's own attire was what she considered casual (black leather pants and a malachite-hued halter top) and she was starting to feel under dressed for her own party. "Thanks for coming, Corbin, with all these suits around I was worried for a moment."

"If I wanted something formal, I could have had something formal, you guys," Eve murmured with a chuckle "But regardless, I'm glad you're here. Renard has prepared a light lunch before we go."

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Corbin looked askance at the noose. Tie. Whatever. Then his gaze drifted to the large package in his hands; it clearly wasn't too heavy for him (that would have taken a major effort!), but he was handling it with care, and it was a somewhat awkward size and shape to carry in one hand. Still, he shifted his burden and took hold of the tie. He was trying to figure out how to ask for help from Trevor without ruining his pride, when Eve thanked him for being less formal.

"Hey Eve, glad to, uh, be of service."

"<You're a lifesaver. I hate wearing ties.>"

With that thought, he carefully folded the tie up and tucked it into a pocket before adjusting his grip on the picture.

"I figured you'd have told us. Light lunch, you say? I think I could manage to eat."

He gave a lopsided grin, before speaking again, and gesturing with his head at his package.

"Where should I put this until it's present time? Don't wanna ruin the surprise after I took the time to wrap it. No peeking, mind you!"

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Trevor offered Eve a simple, small smile as she ushered them inside, but on the stoically impassive young man's face the expression, very nearly showing teeth, might as well have been beaming. This close, in person, the constant mental link forged between them was less of a silvery thread tying them together regardless of distance and more like a slightly overlapping Venn diagram. Between their busy schedules and the amount of time the white haired Frenchwoman had spent out of the city on school business of late, they hadn't had as much chance to simply socialize as he would have liked, and he felt vaguely as though he'd let out a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding.

"Is casual," he stated aloud for the benefit of the others, his voice a soft, perfect deadpan. "Shirt isn't even black." That said, he was still quick to remove his jacket and hang it up as they moved through the foyer, rolling the sleeves of his buttoned shirt halfway up his forearms. He was a far sight from his appearance when he'd first met the seniors and Claremont alumni present, having grown into his once lanky frame with a powerful athleticism even if he lacked the bulk of Corbin's heavy build.

Turning to the only unfamiliar face as they walked, he gave Indira an inclination of his head that suggested a bow. "Miss Singh. Have heard good things." It would have been more accurate to say that he had overheard, researched and investigated good things, but his phrasing seemed both more concise and polite. He'd made a point to keep tabs on the new line-up of Young Freedom as much as he could without being needlessly invasive and was largely impressed even if there were some rough edges yet. It also seemed politer not to mention that he could tell with a glance that her body heat was far to uniform for anyone with even generally human physiology; it would have been more than a little hypocritical given that he was still covering the onyx and ruby hued eyes that provided that insight with concealing sunglasses. "Erin, Mark and I would be your... precursors, so to speak."

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Etain was comforted by Eve's presense and the general lightness of mood. There was no need to really ruin that as she smiled at Trevor's short but humorous retorts.

"I really just needed some way to get this dress nice and aired out."

While she spoke she picked up the edge of her skirt and spun lightly on her toes, dispite it's weight and layers the dress followed suit though not enough to show any more the tips of what suspiciously looked like a new pair of nikes.

"I have not been able to wear it since arrived, which has been, well nearly eighteen months. It is the same with a lot, I have been keeping most of favorite dresses away because of, well my former gaurdian said most of them were far to flashy for everyday where."

Dispite her discomfort she had seemed to have gotten comfortable enough again with the current discussion to lose any trace of worry in her movement as she followed forward,

"Is there anything specific we are eating today, you have such an international pallet, I have to be curious from which region our current meal is hailing."

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Erin gave Eve a quick hug, the sort of show of affection she reserved for the people she trusted most. "Hey, long time no see," she said with a smile. "I keep meaning to stop by the school and check out the new team. Trev says you guys have been doing good work, but it's hard to believe it's been almost a year already." Erin had visited Eve's house before, so she restricted herself to a cursory check of the exits and security plan, just to make sure nothing had changed. "So what do you have planned for us today?"

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As if in answer, a BOOM shook the air like a thunderclap without no lightning and as if from nothing a man roared out the air over the patio riding a mighty black motorcycle instantly recognizable as a Wyldride of the Overriders, the carefree outlaw bikers of the Terminus. The gigantic young man behind the wheel looked a little too soft to be a biker, though: with his short brown hair, blue eyes, and boyish face, it was obvious he wasn't much older than any of the young heroes assembled. He leapt off the bike, which hovered in the air as his feet touched ground with a solid boom. Standing well over six feet tall and looming at over three hundred pounds of muscle, he was resplendent in a blue harness across his torso, matching blue leggings, and a long gold cape.

"Greetings, everyone!" he boomed, a look of joy on his face. Turning questioningly, one by one, he took in a group that consisted of Mark, Erin, Trevor, Eve, and Corbin. "I am...this is the birthday party of Sage the Fleet-Footed, yes? I'm sorry, I thought I had the right directions written down, but this is my first time on the bike..." Reaching into his harness, he took out a flat white square, about as big as a paperback book, that projected an image of the Earth. "I could have sworn this was right..." He seemed much less the Furion and much more the young, all-too-human man now.

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"Greetings to you as well."

Etain was about four feet from the young man who appeared out of nothing, or she was now having moved from Eve's side almost immediately to look both make herself known as well as get a better look at the explosively sudden addition to the party, and though he seemed to skim over her presense but if she took notice of that she seemed not to care.

"You seemed a bit unsure,"

She continued, her voice sweet and welcoming as was her smile as she assumed a straight formal posture with her hands folded and her umbrella which she had at some point in the time of the large explosive entrance of the man taken from a deep pocket hidden within the layers of her dress.

"So in light of that, could you perhaps continue your introduction as well as state your purpose? It would likely be most helpful."

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Turning to the only unfamiliar face as they walked, he gave Indira an inclination of his head that suggested a bow. "Miss Singh. Have heard good things." "Erin, Mark and I would be your... precursors, so to speak."

The young alien blinked, her eyes briefly becoming blank black voids; only a beat later she blinked again, though, and her eyes returned to their normal (and human) warm brown. "I am...pleased that I do not disappoint," she replied, carefully.

a BOOM shook the air like a thunderclap without no lightning and as if from nothing a man roared out the air over the patio riding a mighty black motorcycle instantly recognizable as a Wyldride of the Overriders

Indra was startled, but true to her nature responded with less fright and more with a quick, smooth turn in mid-stride to turn and face the source of the noise. It was only out of practice and hard-earned reflexes that at least one of her arms didn't immediately turn into something bladed. "....some people seem to be making very impressive entrances."

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"Max Muscle!" a feminine, alto voice called from overhead as the Night Cycle appeared in the sky over the Martel estate, its frame having stretched out to better resemble the Wyldride their new guest had arrived on and its wheels having been replaced with deep crimson sphere of levitating energy interspersed with dots of black. The vehicle slid gracefully down to float next to the other bike before the voice came again from within it, "Well met, warrior."

With a faint sound of shifting machinery, a piece of the Night Cycle's front paneling retracted to extend a round, gleaming device which immediately projected a life sized, three dimensional figure on the patio. The simulated woman was easily six feet tall with an athletic frame that made her wider at the shoulders than anyone there save Corbin and the brown haired young man she'd called Max. Perhaps in her late twenties, her high cheek bones and chiseled features were more obviously Furion than those of the newcomer, framed by dark red hair. On the whole she could have passed for a close relative of Trevor's, though those who'd met Red Falcon before his heroic end were able to note a number of similarities to that hero as well, particularly in her manner of dress, though the outfit featured far more black.

Looking Max up and down, the autonomic machine intelligence folded her arms. "...I think you may have actually grown taller since we last met. Impressive!"

"Gather you know him, Redbird?" Trevor asked mildly, his stance casual as he looked from his copilot to the muscular warrior. Recognizing the Furion technology, he'd been about to call for her anyway. Though he didn't care for unexpected and unannounced arrivals, this was at least one character witness in Max's favour.

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Corbin had just handed his package to one of the staff of the house who had all but snuck up on him when he heard the BOOM. He managed not to flinch at it, but his eyes narrowed just a bit. He followed the others outside, only to see a rare sight: another young man whose build made him look small.

Corbin blinked, and without realizing it, the towering young man shifted his posture a bit, standing as straight as he could, his shoulders moving to a slightly wider profile as he crossed his arms over his chest, unconsciously flexing his own arms a bit. He stayed toward the rear of the group, eyeing the intruder on their festivities. When he heard the Furion's name, he barely repressed a snort.

'Really? "Max Muscle"? Man, and I was left wondering about my name choice some days!'

He shook off the though, raising an eyebrow as Redbird manifested as something other than a motorcycle. The AI kept impressing him with all her tricks. She also knew this lunkhead, so he decided to not be overly aggressive. Still, there was something he sort of wanted to know.

"How did someone in another dimension catch word of the party?"

There was no venom in his voice, but his stance made it clear Corbin was a bit skeptical about the whole thing.

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"I am here on behalf of my people, to celebrate the birthday of this honored warrior, tiny one," said Max with a sociable smile: 'tiny one' was evidently not an insult. His focus shifted quickly at the sight of a nigh-familiar face. "Redbird!" Max took Redbird's measure for a moment, sussing out her bond with her new host, before sketching a quick formal bow. "I mourn your loss, and celebrate what you have gained." And then he grinned, a look much more comfortable on his broad face than soberity, and clapped her in a warrior's embrace. "You're looking well! I'm so glad to see you here among these people. Everyone back home is really proud of..." At Corbin's question, Max assumed a look of surprise too total to be false, unless he was the greatest liar of the multiverse. "You mean, you don't know?" he asked, staring again at all the others as he took in what they'd said.

"You are...all the biggest heroes evar! back on the Silver Tree. Cobalt Templar the Swordsman, Sage the Fleet-Footed, Wander the Brave, Midnight the Marksman, and Edge the Mighty! And the ones who died of it; Red Falcon the Courageous and Richard Lucas the Lost." he went on with nods towards Red Bird and Edge. More happily, he added, "The Dethroners of Omega, together again!" He grinned, and clapped everyone on the back he could. "When Freedom Bird sent me as ambassador to Earth, I knew I had to see you guys as soon as I could, and when I heard about the birthday party, well! I had to come here in style!"

"Oh, man, a Wyldride!" Mark had simply popped up standing athwart the bike with fascination. "You know how fast these things go?" he asked the others. "Well, it's really fast!" he went on, looking quite pleased with himself. Stepping back down, he bowed to Max, matching the formal Furion style perfectly, before adding to the towering giant, "My mother sends her thanks for Freedom Bird's good wishes. I know visiting Earth isn't easy for your people...but enough of that, let's enjoy the party!" He clapped Max Muscle on the back, luckily stepped forward fast enough that Max didn't accidentally knock him over in reply, and evidently seemed to take the Furion at his word.

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Outwardly calm, Eve was inwardly reeling with how rapidly the "Mark Lucas" effect effectively derailed the young Martel's careful planning. Not that it is his fault, the telepath thought to herself as she stepped out to greet the new arrival. Plans just seem to unravel around him.

Stepping up Etain's side, Eve took one of her girlfriend's hands into her own. "Your presence, Max, is unexpected but not unwelcome. While I had intended this to be a private function for my friends, I see little reason why you can not or should not attend. Now, if we're done standing around, let's have lunch."

Eve hesitated mid turn, glancing back at her guests. "Oh, before I forget to ask later. None of you get seasick, right?"

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"Not me!" said Max cordially. "I once rode an Overrider subjectively upside down through a gravimetric wave down a multiversal spiral," he went on jovially, like a surfer describing a particular wicked wave. "and that didn't even slow me down! I'm good for oceans! We talking good old water, or hyrodgen?" he inquired.

For his own part, Mark coughed at the mention of seasickness, wondering what Eve had heard. "No, no, I can stay good through any kind of rough surf, I'll be fine. Doesn't even break my concentration most of the time." Mark blushed slightly, then went on, "That does mean we should probably eat later rather than sooner, I guess?" He didn't really want to draw attention to his aquatic exploits, so added, "We all can swim, right?" he asked the others. All Claremont students learned at least the basics, but he didn't know anything about Indira's physiology.

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