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Avenger Assembled

In Another Life (IC)

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Earth-Prime

Anderson and Company Warehouse

June 2012

Two Days Before Claremont Graduation

Midnight

Citizen shone his flashlight up at the wrought-iron gargoyles that leered down at the deserted concrete-lined behind him, by now familiar enough with Freedom City architecture to be amazed by what he saw. With its sordid past of 'occult' rituals, its time as a Mob warehouse, speakeasy, and supervillain headquarters in the 1960s, the abandoned shipping warehouse had been on his and Koshiro's list for quite some time, even if Indira was occupied this particular day. "The workmanship is impressive, especially with the sixty years since they were installed. They must have used a distinctive alloy to keep the iron from corroding in the decade since the building was abandoned." He floated up towards the gargoyle, leaving Koshiro on the ground with his camera to take pictures, particularly of the nearby half-open trapdoor that led to the passages beneath the warehouse proper. "I'm surprised none of those metal thieves you've told me about have come for this statues. They must really be superstitious to believe the building is haunted..."

A block away

GPSs were generally pretty reliable in Freedom City, but they could go wrong, especially when you drove under the many over-and-underpasses near the waterfront. And it was a bad GPS that had put Warren Wilder, rock star and superhero, circling around this damn sidestreet for the second time, with it becoming increasingly obvious he was going to have to circle back to the interstate if he ever wanted to find the secret party that he'd heard about through Freedom City's club scene. At least until he heard it. A low, building whine coming in so loud he could hear it through his window and over the sound of his car's engine, coming from a warehouse just a block down the street.

Six Hours Earlier

"I want you to be at the Anderson and Company warehouse tonight," Headmaster Summers was telling the soon-to-be graduated Corbin Hughes, having called him into his office not long after the dinner hour, "on a...personal matter for me mine." He hmmed, as if looking for a better explanation. "Find a secure place to conceal yourself and wait out the night. You'll know what to deal with when you see it. There's a situation there, a potentially costly one, that I would prefer you find a way to resolve. Consider this your final test as team co-leader," he added gravely. "Not for school. For yourself as a man, and for you as a hero. Good luck, Cobalt Templar."

And sure enough, Corbin had taken his headmaster at his word, and there were familiar voices from elsewhere in the warehouse.

Erde-J-Nazi-1

Anderson and Company Warehouse

June 2012

Midnight

Soldat floated in mid-air as he and the others awaited the arrival of their contact, growing more and more uneasy in this dark room in this formerly occupied city, knowing what the American Resistance would do to an alien computer program in the hands of the Reich. Deploying super-agents to what had once been Arbeitstadt might normally have been a sign of the Reich's power, but one look at his human colleagues (they preferred masters) had told him this wasn't the triumphant secret raid it might have looked like back in the Reich's temporary capitol of St. Louis. Leutnant Wilder was the oldest of them and he couldn't have been more than twenty years old, while Inquisitor Corbin Hughes, resplendent in a golden force field, wasn't much better. Koshiro Watanabe wasn't much older than Sharl Tulink himself, but at least he hadn't asked a lot of obnoxious questions on the plane ride over. Koshiro evidently didn't want to talk about why a Japanese teen soldier was working with the agents of the American Reich, and Sharl didn't particularly want to know. Bad enough when he was asked questions about his _own_ life.

What business was it of these damn savages what his life was like back in Tronik? Cruel fate had dragged them from their civilized society and plunged them into the nightmare of bondage to monstrous savages whose only interest was using their technology to slaughter one another. Animals who have befouled their own den, who eat their young and have dragged us down with them. At least these other boys were in the same boat as he was, even if they had no way of realizing it. They deploy their own children to wars, they've already lost. Too bad they don't know it yet.

Meanwhile, Leutnant Wilder was definitely beginning to hear something at the edges of his uber-hearing; a distinct low, building whine. Not a grenade or a bomb, he'd been trained to hear those and pick out the sounds, but something else...

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Prime

"What the hell man." Warren could hardly believe this. Several months of touring across America, technical problems throughout the whole things and now the GPS was screwing up from going through the streets. One night was all he wanted. One night just to have a nice long break from everything. Sometimes he had to wonder why he didn't bother with using his guitar to get around sometimes for situations like this. He banged his head against the steering wheel, frustration growing by the minute. Then he heard it. The whining so loud it seemed to rattle though the windows and drill into his skull. It certainly didn't fit with most of the sounds he normally heard in the city. If experience has taught him anything, out of place sounds in Freedom City were usually the sort of thing that causes rampaging villains or explosions. Frowning, he turned down the street and started searching for the source of the sound, his ears trying to pinpoint where exactly it was coming from.

It wouldn't take him long to find the source. It was close. It was only a minute when he found himself just outside the Anderson and Co. Warehouse. He parked his car and started lugging out his guitar case. "What is making that sound?" He muttered as he slipped on his duster...

Meanwhile

Leutnant Wilder sighed, arms crossed as he waited for the contact to appear. He had wanted to see his home city again badly, but he doubted it would be the same. Just being here only confirmed his suspicions. There was little he could do about it for now though no matter how much it gnawed at him. For now, he was standing with what he could only call one of the more bizarre group of super soldiers he has encountered so far. He had not developed much of an opinion on them, other than the fact he wondered why the Reich would allow sentient A.I's to serve them. It will only bring them down faster. He was starting to grow impatient when he heard the strangest of sounds. The sort that set him on edge. What was it? He crouched down and opened his guitar case. Many who first met him wondered why he had such a strange device. It was not until the fighting began did he show them why. "I hear something." He tilted his head trying to focus on it. "...Not sure what it is. Keep your guards up." He said, moving with caution towards where he could hear it.

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Earth Prime

"It's Freedom City," Koshiro pointed out, his flashlight supported by a bevy of cranes as he took photos of the faded signage at ground level. "Half the time if they say a building is haunted, it probably actually is. I mean hell, we have one on our team, right? 'S not superstition if it's real." He took a few careful steps, snapped a photo of the trapdoor. "And even down here, you're likely to get tagged by some patrolling hero if you try and walk off with a big-ass statute middle of the night. Detroit should be so lucky."

Snorting, he took the flashlight back from the obliging paper sculptures, playing it over the door. "Wonder if this goes down to the speakeasy. That's where the really cool stuff would be. Come on." Moving with practiced caution over the creaky floor, he made his way over to the trapdoor and eased it open.

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Earth-Prime

Corbin had made sure he was well-rested before coming to this apparently abandoned warehouse; he didn't want to fall asleep and miss whatever Summers had sent him to see and deal with. The Headmaster had, of course, been his typical mysterious self, so the young ring-slinger didn't actually know what was going on tonight. So he parked himself in a dark corner, behind several boxes, wearing dark civilian clothes instead of his costume. He waited in that spot for several hours before he started to catch traces of conversation; traces that soon resolved themselves into recognizable words, and familiar voices. His eyes carefully tracked the holographic boy and the paper controller as they made their way in, talking about hauntings and thieves, as if they were doing nothing wrong.

'Bad enough I had to just sneak in here; the Headmaster sent me, and I'd bet dollars to donuts he's got enough connections I'd be counted as a deputy or something. But...argh! Seriously, this is ridiculous. I should have known both of them were trouble. Come on Corbin, don't be a jerk about this. Play it cool, don't let yourself get mad.'

He closed his eyes for a brief moment, focusing himself.

Then he stood up to his full height, planted his hands on the box directly in front of himself, and smoothly rolled over it to a soft landing on the floor. Had he been a smaller man, he might have remained unnoticed; at his size, the floor still groaned a bit even with his caution, and he blocked enough light to stand out. That his eyes glowed faintly blue in the darkness only enhanced the eerie, shadowy effect as he crossed his arms and spoke in a surprisingly soft tone, making an effort not to raise his volume.

"When the Headmaster sent me to take care of something for him, I figured I'd be meeting with an adult hero to help out, or deliver information, or some similar task. Instead, I find two fellows who claim to be law-abiding heroes, team-mates, sneaking into an abandoned warehouse in the middle of the night. Sharl, Koshiro, what exactly is going on here? Why are the two of you here?"

Erde

Inquisitor Hughes sighed, fidgeting again with the high collar on his formal uniform, one rendered in dull black and muted yellow colors. He glanced slightly uncomfortably at his fellow soldiers. He preferred to work alone these days, rooting out "corruption" in the middle portion of the former United States.

He'd tried to generate a bit of conversation with his fellows, but the Artificial Intelligence (so fascinating and historical in so many ways!) was disdainful. It wasn't hard to tell he seemed to have a low opinion of humans. Hughes shot the floating young man a scowl; the hologram dared think he understood everything going on, all the trials they faced in these bleak times.

Then Wilder spoke, and the Inquisitor was instantly on alert; the diffuse glow around his body snapped to a nearly skin-tight level, accenting the colors and lines of his outfit as the illusion-maker floated cautiously into the air, casting his gaze about.

"I'm not hearing it, or seeing anything unusual. Can you tell which direction it's coming from?"

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Earth-Prime

In addition to that building noise, Warren could definitely hear raised voices coming from inside the boarded-up warehouse, coming in particular through a half-open door from which thin light streamed out: it sounded like a couple of guys close to his own age. Of course, thanks to when he'd gone to school, he'd never actually met any of the teenagers inside the warehouse. It was hard to hear them, though, as that noise from inside grew ever louder.

When Corbin appeared like the vengeful specter of Summers' wrath, for a moment Sharl regretted all his disbelief in angry ghosts! When he realized who it was, though, he mastered his surprise, biting back an unheroic shout of alarm (and perhaps a few bad words) to focus on the problem of Cobalt Templar. "...hey Corbin," said Sharl casually, putting his hands in his pockets and turning away from the trapdoor. "We were just trying to get down into the old speakeasy to see what's down there. There's a lot of history in this building, you know." He looked at Koshiro, then back at Corbin. "We're just checking the place out. If there are any bad guys, better to come in in civilian gear first to see what they're made of, right?" He blinked, finishing the rehearsed speech, and added, "Wait, Summers sent you?"

Erde

"Negative," replied the machine intelligence called Soldat, looking around the darkened warehouse. "But I have only Volk-normal senses when projected, so perhaps it's-"

The warehouse door swung open, interrupting the teenager, and a man stepped in, carrying a heavy metal square by a handle along the top, looking a little like a giant toolbox. With his weather-beaten features and the Tyrone Power mustache beloved by American revolutionaries, he certainly looked like the picture of the local contact who'd promised to pass on captured technology to the Reich. He eyed the plain-clothed teenage agents and said aloud, "“Those who want to live, let them fight."

"...and those who do not want to fight in this world of eternal struggle do not deserve to live," said Sharl, completing the code phrase, originally written by the dead god-king of the Reich. Meanwhile, Leutenant Wilder could easily hear that whine now, clearly coming from the mystery box the contact carried. Having said his place, Sharl hung back, letting the Aryans finish this conversation.

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Earth Prime

Despite Corbin's modulated volume, Koshiro jumped about a foot in the air when he spoke, the cranes fluttering around him in an alarmed white cloud. He swore, quietly but vehemently, as he dropped the flashlight on his own foot, then turned to look at Corbin. "We're not doing anything," he said flatly, even as Sharl chimed in with his story. "We're not hurting anything, hell, we're not even skipping our homework. Aren't you graduating in like two days? Don't you have better things to be doing with your time than narcing for the Headmaster?" Despite Koshiro's healthy mix of respect and fear for Headmaster Summers, he was rather more dismissive of those who chose to become lackeys. Corbin, who was practically an adult superhero for gods sake, shouldn't still be taking orders like a freshman.

Erde

At the back of the group, Koshiro waited and watched, keeping one hand on his gun and one hand on the pocketful of origami falcons he carried in his pocket. They were supposed to be low profile on this trip, which in a city torn by the resistance meant the gun was fine, but superpowers might be problematic. Too bad the powers worked so much better! At least his mission wasn't solely to fight on this little exchange project. With the hoodie nearly hiding his face, he looked at each of his comrades in turn, wondering what came next.

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Prime

Warren shook his head as he started to make his way towards the windows around the warehouse. He wasn't sure if it was a gang gathering or just some random kids. Then again, ominous buzzing sound and people gathering in warehouses at night were never a good mix. With little effort, Warren opened his guitar case and started swapping out his jacket with his Duster and Mask. Always best to show you were serious. Taking out his Guitar and putting the case down, Rift kicked off from the ground with his sound barrier now surrounding him and went flying through the window closest to the where he could hear the voices.

Rift landed in the room, glass and wood bouncing off the wall of sound around him as he had his guitar at the ready. "OK, Nobody move! Step away from any weapons you may ha-" He paused as he started to look around the room. No one really stood out with gang colours, no advanced technology. One of them looked like he was built like a linebacker but other than that they did not scream deadly in his head. "Ooook, this is not what I was expecting." the Guitar Genius said with a raised eyebrow.

Erde

"Its a lower frequency than you can probably hear Inquisitor." Leutnant Wilder replied as he tried to pick out the sounds location. It wasn't unnecessary though as soon as the man walked into the room with the box. "Its the box." He whispered, his voice reaching only the ears of his teammates. Considering the briefing they were given before coming here, low level ultrasonic sound was probably expected. He put his full attention to the contact. "Were you followed?" He asked.

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Earth-Prime

Corbin gave both younger students a flat look, one he might have been practicing with some tips from Trevor Hunter. He waited several seconds before speaking.

"Look. You guys know I'm a history nerd. In theory, I appreciate what you're doing here. But come on; you're here after dark, and you're panicked that I saw you. We're supposed to be heroes, guys. But this? You guys have the right stuff, I know you do. That's why this kind of thing is frustrating. You're both better than this."

He regarded Koshiro specifically for a moment.

"You realize that something like this would probably get you in all kinds of trouble, right? Summers went out on a limb for you, Koshiro. He went to bat on your behalf, and I'd bet money he called in a favor or something. Which is why I'm confused why you're doing this. It's like a slap in the face of the Headmaster. Incidentally, I'm not just here because he ordered me to be here. I'm here because he asked me to be here. Which makes all the difference in the world."

He shook his head and was about to speak, but then Rift came into the scene. Corbin sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose.

"Yeah, me either. I think the three of us were just leaving..."

Erde

The Inquisitor nodded at Wilder's words.

"Understood."

When the man with the box walked in, and the officer told them where the strange sound was coming from, Hughes didn't outwardly acknowledge the report. Instead, he crossed his arms over his chest, his lean body lending an extra air of menace to his somewhat otherworldly outfit. A box emitting sound like that could be trouble, big trouble, but it could also be exactly what they wanted and expected.

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Prime

As the guitar-wielding hero burst in through the window, Citizen shifted automatically into his costume, chest symbol glowing blue and sunglasses shining in the light, saying a bad word in his native language at the arrival of the new guy. "Hey, aren't you Rift?" he said in surprise, recognizing the teenage hero and musician after quickly running his way through the beginning of a few Youtube videos. "Hey guys, this is Rift; he's a Claremont graduate too...hey wait a minute, did Summers send both of you? Wait, no, that doesn't make any sense." Sharl rubbed his eyes, trying to think of what Miss Americana would do here. "Look, maybe we're getting off on the wrong foot here-"

Interrupted yet again, Sharl raised his head as a low whine became audible to him, and all the others there besides Rift, for the first time. "And what's that?"

Erde

"No, I weren't followed," replied the contact, picking up the box and plopping it down on a dusty workbench, reaching inside to pop open the box and reveal its contents. Inside was a strange assembly of metal that telescoped up and open now that it had the space to do so; revealing its inner structure as two metal hoops about as big as a man's fist, each resting on several raised spikes out of a base of some exotic alien metal. The technical expert on the team, Soldat leaned down to study the box as the man continued to speak. "Resistance found it in a burned-up Reich lab in old Providence. Said it's old, maybe even older than the Reich, and tough as all hell. Called it the Tindalos."

"It's not Lor technology," murmured Soldat, that particular hope having died aborning. Everyone from Tronik knew how to build a transmitter. "or sternjuden," he added, using the Reich's term for Grue. "But it is old, look at the vacumn tubes inside. This looks like something done with prewar technology," he was muttering. "Amazing! This shouldn't have been possible for humans before the 1940s..." Suddenly, he raised his head as that whine became audible to him, too, and all the others. "Was?"

"Damnit!" the contact swore, backing away. "Not this! No, they said what would happen if this-"

A moment later, Sharl jerked backwards as the unit erupted in a shocking cascade of blue-white light, twin circles of energy erupting from the loops and growing wider and wider apart, one hovering over the unit and another over the opposite side of the table. When they reached their full distance apart, suddenly something erupted from the air over the unit, a monstrous hound that seemed to flow bizarrely as it leapt from energy circle to energy circle, and when it hit the second field suddenly everything seemed to fold, and when it was done, the warehouse stood empty!

Prime

Suddenly, the air nearby seemed to fold and warp as if an origami flower were opening from the very stuff of the universe, space swapping with space as a blank spot on the floor near Citizen, Papercut, Cobalt Templar, and Rift was replaced with a quartet of teenagers in strange costumes, a battered wooden table, a bizarre-looking device, and a monstrous dog! With a roar, the huge beast bounded down right through the half-open trapdoor and underneath the warehouse; gone in an instant, leaving the four teenagers and the new arrivals alone with each other. It wasn't until the dog had gone that they all saw the corpse: or what was left of one, the pile of blood and things on the floor beneath their feet beginning to spread...

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Citizen stared at the new arrivals in shock, the bizarre costumes keeping him from recognizing any familiar faces for the moment. Chest glowing blue, he floated into the air, almost after the fleeing beast that had dived into the base of the building. "Who are you?" When he caught sight of his own face looking back at him from the new arrivals, albeit with nearly shaved head and pale face, he was reminded again of Koshiro's talk about ghosts. "And what was that thing? Did it kill that man?" he asked, focusing on the monster they'd so briefly seen and the mangled corpse now nearly at his feet.

_Listen to him, taking the lead without a look at his commander_ thought Soldat, automatically reaching out for the local computer networks, the ones rebuilt by the Resistance...with extradimensional technology. Between that memory, and the eerie sight of his own face staring back at him, Sharl was able to start making some guesses about the nature of what had happened. The sight of bloody slaughter didn't phase him. He'd seen worse. Much worse. The electronic super-soldier murmured quietly in German, Everything's in English, before saying questioningly aloud in that language, "Sharl Tulink?"

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Prime

Things were starting to happen way too fast for Koshiro to follow. One moment he was busy seething over being babysat by Corbin and trying to come up with a smartass remark that wouldn't get him suspended, then suddenly strangers were flying in like there was some kind of disaster about to happen. And then a disaster did happen, and suddenly there was a body on the floor and another guy with his own face, not to mention copies of the other guys. Weird copies though, like someone had tried to gritty them all up for a faux-urban TV show. Koshiro didn't like when things happened too fast for him to process. With a quick motion, his body was covered in a thin but sturdy layer of crinkled paper, and a fan of cranes was in his hand, waiting for deployment. "Where the hell did you come from?" he asked the newcomers, especially the one who looked just like him.

Also Prime

Agent Watanabe didn't like it when things happened too fast for him to process. One moment he was trying to keep an eye on their contact and his own team all at once, and suddenly they were someplace entirely different, the contact was dead, and they were facing off with a group of unknown hostiles, one of whom was impersonating him! At least that's what he thought until he watched his double don a suit of paper armor and produce what were obviously paper birds, inferior to his own but real nonetheless, as though he intended to fight with them. What could be going on here? He spread his own armor, black paper instead of white, over his clothes, but elected to stick with the gun for the moment. He didn't speak, even though he was being addressed. The best way to get by was to not make any waves.

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Cobalt Templar

Corbin was still trying to figure out how to deal with both his two errant teammates, and a former member of Young Freedom from before his time, when suddenly the very air tore apart in a storm of wrongness. Then suddenly there were people there; people, and a thing that he'd wager was some sort of demon or similar creature. But before he could do anything, the beast was all but gone, following the same path Sharl and Koshiro had intended to take. A slight smirk crossed his face as he spoke, his eyes never leaving the group who appeared to be strange doubles of those present.

"Good thing I slowed you two down, seems like. We'll go dog-hunting later. Freaky opposite day gets resolved first."

A flash of blue flame, and he was clad in his armored costume, the ring on his right hand brandished at the other group. He started to speak up, but the words stilled as he took in some of the details about the others. Especially his own double. Something wasn't right...

Inquisitor Hughes

The Inquisitor had been moving to try and get at least some of the group out of the radius of the strange briefcase-bound device when the world was consumed with light, and his gut tried to leave through his armpit (or so it felt). He took a couple of ragged breaths when it seemed things had stilled, then almost regretted it. He was assaulted with the fresh scent of death, the stagnant smell of decay, and the otherworldy odor of the thing that had appeared as they did. Their contact was dead, whether by virtue of where he'd stood during the transition, or the terrible attention of the creature that even now fled to the basement.

'Suppose it is a bit outnumbered...'

A flash of blue light caught his eye; he'd drowned out the words of the large teenager opposite him, despite the strangely familiar voice and accent. But now he really looked, and his already-pale face went almost white as a sheet. It was some version of him, except built like a Panzer and weilding-

"That ring! You...you've got the same blasted Blue Ring! The same as that little peasant girl who's been giving me headaches for months now!"

Clearly Hope and the Inquisitor had met, and it hadn't been friendly.

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Prime

Rift was more than a little dazed by the sudden twists in space around him, the sudden appearance of a bunch of dimensional doubles, a bloody body and some sort of ghost dog running off. Yes, this was turning out the be a strange day for Warren. On the bright side, the buzzing noise he kept hearing a few moments ago had stopped. Thank god.

Still, the Guitarist was still left more confused than when he burst into the room. "Ok. Whats going on and were are you from?"

Erde

The sensation of moving across space and dimensions was clearly something the young lieutenant was not use to. He tried his best to force his mind to catch up with what had transpired. He mind quickly started working fast to dregs up answers to what just happened. Wilder remembered seeing that sort of warp distortion before during training. It was clearly dimensional in nature, that he was certain of. His eyes went wide when it hit him. Oh damn! OK, standard procedure. Complete objectives quickly, Secure a means to return back to home and always ensure that affiliations are kept secret... He glanced at the floor and was surprised to see that their contact was now lying dead in his own blood. He felt a small pang of guilt, though he did admit there was little he could have done.

Lieutenant Wilder looked at the Inquisitor and grabbed his shoulder. "Calm down. Now. Remember your training." He said firmly as he stepped around the the pool of blood and headed for the machine Soldat was handling a moment ago. "I'm not sure whats going on..." He said, picking it up and figuring out how it worked or what it did exactly. "Hrm...Primitive transporting devi- He paused when he spotted the vacuum tubes. Normally crystal clear, the glass had turned brown from burnout. He glared at Soldat. "What the hell did you do to this? Its Broken!"

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"I'm Sharl Tulink," said Citizen in surprise as he studied his dingy-looking double, whose greatcoat and peaked hat looked more sepia than anything else. He is me. He really is me, from another dimension. Wow!"I go by Citizen here. Cobalt Templar, Papercut, and Rift..." he added to the others, "I'm sorry, I don't know if those are your super-names, and you probably don't want to-" He fell silent as Warren turned to yell at his double, and studied the group with some suspicion as they talked, drifting back to rejoin his own team.

Soldat flinched at his commanding officer's tone, biting his lip as he studied the damaged machine. He knew his place, and repressed one of many snarky remarks he'd have used on one of his own people who'd have talked to him that way. Even castaway in a different dimension, maybe even that dimension, he wasn't stupid. "It wasn't my fault, sir. It looks as though the stress of the dimensional passage overloaded the vacumn tubes. It'll have to be replaced, sir." He looked down at the door to the speakeasy, where distant growls and crashes should be heard. "What are your orders, sirs?"

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Across the divide of the room, the two Koshiros studied each other, each of them standing a bit apart from their respective teams, each outside the discussion. The one wearing the uniform jacket jerked his head infinitesimally towards the broken down hallway that led to the warehouse offices, where they'd be invisible to the others. The Koshiro in the hoodie nodded just as fractionally, glancing towards his own team. By the time he looked back, his double was gone, melted into the shadows of the abandoned warehouse.

Just before Papercut moved to join his doppelganger, he flicked a crane with his fingers, sending it bouncing gently off Corbin's elbow. A glance in the direction the crane came from would let the ring-bearing hero catch his teammates eye for just a moment before he, too, took to the shadows.

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Cobalt Templar

The man-mountain in blue armor narrowed his eyes slightly at the words of his leaner double in yellow and black leather. Before he could even open his mouth to respond, he caught Koshiro's crane and his departure. He didn't dare nod his head, but when he noticed both Koshiro's were gone...

'Looks like some things hold true across the worlds. Good thinking, Papercut.'

His slightly unfocused gaze shifted back to the Inquisitor. When he spoke, his voice was a low rumble...in Hebrew.

"מה ×–×ת ×ומרת, בת ×יכרי×? ×תה מדבר על התקווה?"

His double just stared blankly back at him, his face actually looking a little...disgusted. Cobalt Templar's brows furrowed.

"What do you mean, peasant girl? Are you talking about Hope?"

He took in the prominent yellow glow, and the ring pointed at him.

"You've got it...the Yellow Ring. Where did you get that Ring? How did you find it?"

Inquisitor Hughes

The Inquisitor kept his eyes squarely on his opposite. When the lummox tried using some garbled mess of a language, one he vaguely remembered was related to some portion of "undesirables" who had been taken care of long ago, he simply stayed silent. But then he switched to English. At first, he wasn't going to respond, until the moveable hill mentioned his Ring.

"What does it matter? We're clearly from different places; wouldn't help you a bit. Why do you care, anyways?"

He pointedly avoided saying anything one way or another about Hope. He lowered his volume and spoke to his commanding officer.

"Orders, Lieutenant Wilder?"

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Prime

Rift looked around the room, still very much lost as to what was going on, who these guys were and almost a thousand different questions like these going through his head. He rubbed his eyes and sighed. "Well, I'll see what is going on with that ghost dog thing that ran down into the basement." He said as he started making his way down. One problem at a time. Makes things that much easier sometimes. He kept his guitar at the ready as he went down.

He didn't seem to notice either Koshiros vanish into the darkness....

Erde

Lieutenant Wilder took a deep breath and tried to calm down. Would have worked if the faint smell of blood didn't get into his lungs. He look at the device in his hands as the Inquisitor started speaking with the same low tone. "I'm not sure yet. I'll see how I can get this device working again. Not sure where I'm going to get more vacuum tubes though. Do what you see if to do but try and keep things...discreet." Was all he really whispered to the inquisitor as he went back to looking around the room for something to use as a replacement for the now burnt out Tubes.

With his attention drawn elsewhere, he did not see Koshiro or his Prime counterpart slip away.

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The two Koshiros met up in the dilapidated hallway, in a corner that was screened from the larger room and so dark they could barely see each other from a foot apart. They were strangers, but at the same time they were family, more or less, and there was an instinctive level of trust there. Koshiro trusted himself first and best, and that probably had something to do with it as well. They spoke in whispers, in rapid-fire Japanese. "Who are you guys? the Koshiro in the hoodie with the cranes asked with some consternation. "Where did you come from? How did you get here?"

"My name is Agent Koshiro Watanabe- the uniformed Koshiro with the falcons began, with just a trace of humor, only to be cut off.

"Wait a second, Watanabe? What happened to Grandpa James?" Koshiro blurted.

Koshiro shrugged impatiently. "A mistake, an indiscretion. Grandmother was ostracized enough for that without us all having to carry the name. Is this really vital right now?"

"You're right, keep going," the other replied, though he looked as though he had a bad taste in his mouth.

"I'm from the North American Co-Prosperity Sphere, but I'm working with them," he jerked his head in the direction of the others, "just for this mission. No matter what the big one says, we're here by accident. We were supposed to be meeting an informant, but he showed up with that strange machine and activated it. It killed him in the transit, and that dog monster appeared. We need to repair the machine to go back where we came from. Now where are we? And who are all of you?"

Koshiro mouthed the words "North American Co-Prosperity Sphere again, his mind racing at the implications. "Are you saying you guys conquered the United States?"

"The West Coast, and parts of Canada," Koshiro confirmed impatiently. "Decades ago, at the end of the Greater East Asian War."

"World War II," Koshiro translated automatically. "Japan won half the country in World War II and..." His eyes widened as the pieces fit into place. "Wait a minute, wait a minute. Are you from Erde? Are those guys Nazis?" he asked incredulously.

"American Reich, yes, Koshiro confirmed impatiently. "But you still haven't answered my question. What world is this? Who are you allied to here?"

"You're on Earth Prime," Koshiro told him. "The Axis lost the second World War here, and there's no more Nazis, no more Imperial Japan. We're superheroes, and we're, um, patrolling for crime, more or less." Trying to explain the tangled path that had led all of them to the warehouse seemed too complicated. As one, the two Koshiros turned to look at the standoff outside, wondering what exactly to do about this mess.

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Citizen and Soldat stared at each other, the two machine intelligence communicating at tremendous speed even as the humans around them postured at each other. With both of them free for the moment of the emulator program that limited them to human speech and human concepts, they were able to exchange data with incredible speed: it reminded Sharl of his conversations with Miss Americana and Gina, but somehow even more intimate since he was sharing the data, no, sharing thoughts with someone else. Was this what it was like to be Sage?

Soldat broke off from the link, his face white, and said, "Uh, sirs, respectfully sirs, I offer a piece of advice in the most humble of spirits, I think we should help the locals with their problems. They know the technological nature of the area; they can help us repair our device after we've helped them catch that dimensional creature, if that is what you choose to do; sirs."

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Cobalt Templar

CT nodded faintly as Rift started to move downstairs; the large hero in blue stepped over a bit, covering the graduate's back more effectively. His arm never wavered, and his face remained stony.

"No one's helping anyone until I get some monte percussæ answers. Who are you people? Who do you work for? Why do you look like us? What are you doing here?"

He kept shifting his gaze from the Lieutenant to the Inquisitor; he figured Sharl could handle his double, and the same with Koshiro. But the other two would be on him. If something bad went down, he'd need to act fast.

Inquisitor Hughes

"Stop spouting gibberish! Speak English!"

Hughes shifted on his feet, a sneer starting to grow on his face. Was his opposite number just dim? Why was he pressing the issue? Soldat had given them all a quick way out of this problem so no one had to bother anyone!

"Help us, or get out of our way, fool. You don't know what you're dealing with."

"Are you seriously trying to intimidate me? That's cute, buddy. You're not even a blip on my radar, pal."

"You dare mock me? You clearly don't know who you're dealing with!"

The Inquisitor's temper was clearly on edge, and he probably needed another reminder from his CO before he openly revealed too much to his rather temperamental duplicate.

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"Earth Prime?" Koshiro repeated. "I think I've heard of that place in classes before. The Western capitalist warmongers used nuclear weapons on civilian populations to irradiate the country and subjugate the people. I don't understand, though," he told his counterpart. "If the Allied Forces won, how are you even alive? Even the Japanese victory barely saved my grandmother from the death camps."

"They never became death camps here, not like what the Nazis used," Koshiro replied. "I guess maybe because the Japanese never landed on the continent, and never really made a strong showing for an invasion, it was enough to keep us locked up." He shrugged uncomfortably. "They took everything my family had, plus years of their lives, but they all survived."

"Survived as part of a conquered slave nation," Koshiro pointed out spitefully. "Gave up is more like it-"

"Okay, first off," Koshiro interrupted, "that's total BS, because we weren't part of that nation to start with. My family was American citizens and proud to be that way, it was America that abandoned us. It's also total BS because Japan is doing pretty damn well now, and is a strong ally to the US. But most importantly, is this really something vital to argue about right now?"

The other Koshiro looked more than ready to argue, but like his counterpart had earlier, he throttled back. "Later, then. We need vacuum tubes to fix our device. The computer program can fix the machine, if we get the right parts. Fighting here and now won't do anybody any good, but it's basically inevitable with the reichheads leading my team, though I don't know about yours. The faster we're gone, the better.

After a moment's consideration, Koshiro nodded. "I think I can help you," he said. "It's old tech here, but there's antique stores all over, some pretty close by. I just have one more question. What are you doing in Freedom City, if Japan controls the West?"

That got a humorless smile from Koshiro. "Officially, a young officer exchange program. Unofficially, to see how bad the Nazis are getting their asses kicked by the resistance. He caught the other Koshiro's raised brow and shrugged. "Too early to say. I have to get back before I can make any findings, much less report them."

"Yeah, all right," Koshiro agreed. "We might have to break in if nothing's open at this hour, but I've got some money to leave. Let's go before I have to listen to the moral panic about it."

"One second." Koshiro pressed a button on his communicator to summon the team's electronic servitor. "I don't know exactly what we need, but Tulink does. It won't tell anybody."

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Prime

Think I'm losing my Edge at this superhero thing. Rift thought as he continued to hear the YF kid argue with the dimensional counterparts. He clicked his tongue, sending sonic waves across the room as he continued his search for the dog. That thing could probally do quite a bit of damage if it wasn't contained soon.

"You can come with me if you want!" Rift shouted back up the stairs before continuing on.

Erde

Lieutenant Wilder sighed as he watched the two idiots argue. "Hughes. Stand down He ordered before looking at Cobalt Templar. "Counterparts most likely. That has little bearing on the situation. See first response. Stranded due to a freak accident collecting this." He answered tersely in order while raising the Device in his hands. He looked over towards Soldat and nodded. "That is the most sensible suggestion I have heard all day."

"Despite Hughes...Lack of restraint, We are not enemies here. Unless you want what is very likely to be a dangerous dimensional intruder in your world, our mutual co-operation would certainly help." The Lieutenant said to Cobalt Templar.

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"It's all dead down there electronically," said Citizen, trying and failing to have another secret conversation with his duplicate. It wasn't hard for him to tell his double was on the edge; from the way they were reacting around him, he wasn't sure Soldat's teammates even understood he was sentient. "I can't track it. But if the tunnels are as deep as Koshiro and I read, it's not going to be able to get out any time soon. We'll just have to keep looking. Can you all see in the darkness?" he carefully asked the other team.

Soldat didn't so much as flinch when he got the summons from Agent Watanabe. "I will follow you downstairs in a moment, sirs," he said with a nod, "I have a call for assistance." He cranked up his emitter; a black cube about the size of a fist, and floated in the direction of Agent Watanabe's signal. When he emerged through the wall where the Koshiros were standing, the crew-cut teenager looked down respectfully. "I believe the Lieutenant is organizing an expedition after the dimensional creature, sirs. How may I be of assistance?"

It was dark downstairs, very dark, but Warren could make out the ancient tunnels lined with fungus-overgrown bricks, as well as the tracks on the slick stone floor that suggested where the dog had gone. He could hear it breathing, deep down there in the darkness past narrow curves and blind alleys, down into the heart of the old bootlegging tunnels, echoing oddly off the ancient stonework. This wasn't going to be easy, but Rift could probably find it.

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Cobalt Templar

Cobalt Templar considered the situation. A very large part of him just wanted to go home and sleep. He was sure he'd have grey hairs by the time this was done. Finally, he sighed. He first turned a bit to not-quite-shout down the stairs.

"Give me a couple moments and I'll join you, Rift."

Then his attention returned to the duplicates, the very suspicious duplicates. After a moment, he raised his ring hand at a 90-degree angle to the rest of his arm, pointing it at the ceiling for a moment before letting it relax down to his side. It was meant as a blatant gesture of peace and trust, however fragile those two things might be. His gaze slipped to his yellow-shrouded double before going to the Lieutenant. When he spoke, his voice was calm, but also rather formal in tone.

"Considering the situation, I agree to mutual cooperation. It would probably be best if we helped resolve this as rapidly as possible. Let's head downstairs. I'll play rear-guard."

The implied meaning was clear: he still didn't trust them.

Inquisitor Hughes

The Inquisitor was still...frustrated, for lack of a better word. The brute didn't seem to consider him a threat, didn't respect what he was. Not that Hughes totally respected himself either, but he had an image to maintain. One that he was apparently fraying. His commanding officer's order was obeyed almost instantly; his ring also lowered to his side, and he reduced the manifestation of his ring's powers to a few lines of yellow on his uniform, once more lending it a strangely predatory air.

"Understood."

He stayed close to Wilder, wishing he had a bit more physical power to lend to the situation; he didn't wish to look the coward by hiding behind his commander, but pragmatism dictated he hang back to more effectively use the powers of his ring. Pragmatism won, and he ended up about halfway between Wilder and Templar. He squinted at the darkness as they started down the stairs, before yellow energy oozed out of his ring, flowed up his arm, and manifested itself as a bright yellow shoulder-mounted flashlight. Its light didn't eliminate the darkness, but it was soft enough to not blind those who looked his way, and it let him see well enough in the dark.

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"We're going to go get some vacuum tubes to put that stupid machine back together," Koshiro informed the obsequious program. It had always seemed a bit weird to him how much bowing and scraping was programmed into Tulink, but maybe the Nazis liked a little extra groveling with their tech support. "You're going to come along and tell us exactly what we need to pick up and how many. And you're not to inform the others of what we're doing," he added.

The other Koshiro, the one who was roommates and tentative friends with Sharl, opened his mouth to protest the high-handed treatment of the artificial intelligence, but something stopped him. He hadn't seen much of the interaction between this Sharl and his team, but he didn't seem to be doing much to assert his individuality. If he was playing computer, maybe he had a reason. "We'd better get a move on," he said instead, leading the way to a door he'd scoped out earlier. That dog probably won't keep everyone distracted very long."

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