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The Lighthouse

November 10, 2014

The transportation platform of the Lighthouse flashed, as an incoming transport arrived from Earth. Velocity materialized on the platform, fully dressed in her costume, although she was still feeling the lingering effects of sleep. The alert that had come over her League communicator had awoken her well before her alarm was set for. But she had wasted little time in getting up and responding, getting over to Freedom Hall and then beaming up to the Lighthouse.

Standing near the pad, awaiting her arrival was the cloaked form of Dr. Metropolis. "Good morning Velocity." The enigmatic figure stated in his deep, rumbling voice. "The others have already started to gather in the main meeting room."

"Morning, Doctor." Velocity stated with a small smile. "Thanks. I'll get right over there, but first will want to make a small stop for some coffee." The speedster was then off in a blur of yellow, heading towards the space station's galley. A few moments later, she had coffee mug filed with the hot liquid and then made her way to the main meeting room.

As Dr. Metropolis had indicated, there were already some League members gathered. Captain Thunder was there, looking a bit tired and worn and seated at the center seat of the large table that was at the center of the meeting room. Johnny Rocket was also sitting along one side of the table, doing his best to patiently wait for everyone to arrive. Standing off to one side were Daedalus and Star Knight talking. Maria had her helmet off at the moment, and looked rather upset.

"Good morning Velocity." Captain Thunder said in greeting. "Please have a seat, hopefully the others will not be too long."

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Stesha shuddered a little as the transporter beam dropped her off on the deck of the Lighthouse. Space always felt a little strange to her, as though her feet weren't quite touching the ground even in the earth-standard artificial gravity. Lost her roots, she supposed wryly as she stepped off the pad, one hand going automatically to the crown of flowers in her hair. It was more vivid than usual, dozens of tiny pink and white flowers braided into and around her intricately plaited green hair, and the effect was almost jarringly innocent and joyful. Even in her uniform and cowl, Fleur de Joie looked more like she was ready to decorate a maypole with ribbons than face an intergalactic menace. But when one prepared for battle, one stocked up on weapons, and she was no exception. 

 

She walked into the room and smiled at everyone already there, then went to find a seat in an empty section of the room. She waved to Velocity, glad to see a more familiar face in the group of their colleagues. "Do you know what's going on?" she asked the speedster, moving closer for a private chat. "I just got an urgent summons back to Prime and to come here." 

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Gaian Knight and Tiamat were next up, appearing one after the other on the platform - the latter looking considerably more weary than the former, yawning widely as she shuffled her way toward the scent of coffee beans and caffeine.

The former, for his part, looked far more rested but no less uncomfortable - anyone who'd ever seen him on the Lighthouse recognized the heavier weight in his coat, the hand idly playing with a rock in one pocket. The geokinetic hero was never one to not answer the call, and was no less willing to help out however he was needed, but he'd never made it a secret that he didn't like being off-planet - a planet, any planet, really. He'd described the sensation as being cut off, once: like having to leave most of your body behind when you went on a trip, barely able to see it in the distance but leaving it too far to move or touch. He never quite got used to it.

When Tiamat showed up with two coffee mugs, he politely waved her off (not that she seemed to mind; tired as she looked, one imagined she could happily drink both, though she made at least a token effort to offer one to Fleur by waving it vaguely in her direction). "Well. Guess I didn't expect good news, getting a call like this, but from the faces in here I'm betting it's worse than I thought."

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By the time Fleur. Gaian Knight and Tiamat had arrived in the meeting room, the number of League members had already grown. Siren, Pseudo and Raven were all now present as well. Captain Thunder greeted each of them as well, indicating they were waiting for the rest to arrive before they would begin.

Velocity gave Stesha a smile as the green haired woman came over to her, then giving Gaian and Tiamat one as well. "I have no idea. Captain Thunder hasn't said anything other than hello and that we would wait on the others." The speedster replied. "It does seem pretty serious though."

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Gabriel came off the telporation platform smoothly, but his eyes were a bit shadowed. It was clear he had gotten some sleep, but was not at his peak. He gave Doctor Metropolis a big smile and a wave of greeting, though. His feet almost seemed to glide across the floor.

 

Of course, any of his fellow Leaguers would probably be able to notice (if they took the time) that he was actually floating his person a half-inch above the ground, almost like reflex. It seemed to help him wake up and move more smoothly, a bit like stretching before a run. 

 

Still, the point was, Gabriel was there and awake. He gave the conference room a smile and a nod as he moved to the table with coffee cups and...oh, he had his own thermos, but was still grabbing a mug. He seemed to take a bit of care in how he held it once he had the top off and was pouring from the strongest, blackest pot of coffee into that thermos. It probably looked really odd when he put the cap back on and shook it for a moment as he found his seat, ending up in a seat next to Tiamat. He took the lid off and poured once more, twisting the cap back on said thermos even as he took a sip. 

 

Only then did he speak up. He sounded pretty well awake, and his voice had that natural calming effect that it pretty much always carried.

 

"The timing makes it all a bit worrisome, yes."

 

He must be tired; his Irish accent was peeking through. 

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For his part, Comrade Frost was wide awake (as he was for every moment of every day, as he had been for seventy years) and hating every minute of it. The artificial gravity, the isolation from Earth, the icy numbing cold that he knew from intimate experience lay just outside the confines of the station's walls - but he'd have sooner taken a stake to the heart than actually complain under such circumstances. "Ah, the famous Lighthouse! Glowing forever in the sky!" he exclaimed jovially as he stepped into the conference room. "And so many brave heroes! So nice to see you, my friends." He filled an enormous paper cup with steaming-hot coffee and sat down at the table, thinking back to days when being called before the Freedom League might have been the first step towards being interrogated and forcibly expelled from American soil. Thank you, Gorbachev! he added mentally, not a thought he entertained often. 

 

"So," he went on seriously, dialing down the joke instantly. "What has happened?" 

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GM

 

Bowman had made his way in with Comrade Frost, the two of them being the last of the Freedom League members to arrive. The room was rather full now, although there was the noticeable absence of Lady Liberty, who was still out on maternity leave. The various low conversations in the room fell quiet as Captain Thunder stood up. "Thank you all from coming, I wish this was due to more pleasant circumstances, but we have received some very disturbing news."

Daedalus then stood up, moving over toward a screen along one of the walls. "Less than an hour ago, we received a transmission from A'lan Koor, the Lor Star Knight who was a member of the original League along with Pseudo and myself. Apparently over the last few days, the Star Knights had received various reports of attacks along the border of the Grue Unity and within parts of the Stellar Khanate." The screen activated, showing a map of a large section of the galaxy, the relevant portions of the Unity and Khanate highlighted in red to stand out.

"Then, about two hours ago, a large force was detected approaching Lor-Van, the capital of the Lor Republic." A system highlighted yellow on the displayed map. "Somehow this force had bypassed the Lor boarder defenses and other military outposts along the way. The Star Knights dispatched the available Knights on CITADEL and nearby systems to assist the Lor. They arrived to assist the Lor planetary defense fleet battle this previously unknown force. As it turned out, there was at least one familiar face with the unknown force, or somewhat familiar." Daedalus swiped his hand over a control for the screen and the map was gone and a replay of Star Khan's message to Lor-Van played for the assembled members of the Freedom League.

Once it finished, the screen went black as Daedalus began to speak once again. "This Communion then deployed a massive spacecraft that was in its attack fleet to target Lor-Van, the Star Knights present positioned themselves to protect the planet and allow the evacuation already underway more time. Nearly five hundred Star Knights were killed by this superweapon's first shot." Daedalus paused a moment, then continued. "According to A'lan, the second shot completely destroyed Lor-Van, leaving a wormhole in its place."

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"Five hundred...." Gaian Knight was pale, the stone he'd been fiddling with forgotten as the sheer impact of that set in. "The Communion have something half a thousand Star Knights can't hold back, and they used it at the heart of Lor space? That's...there's no chance they got the whole planet evacuated in time, not even with that sacrifice. A lot more than if they hadn't, but...."

"It's bold," Tiamat observed; it would have sounded appreciative, if she hadn't dropped all posturing and pretense. Even her accent had dropped into its rarely-heard, indistinctly-British tone. "The leader of one, the seat of power of another. That's not how you wage war - you turn your enemies against each other, you strike at weaknesses, build...what do you call them now, beachheads? This is the kind of thing you do from a position of absolute power, when you fear nothing."

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The jovial obnoxiousness melted off Frost like ice on a summer's day. Without speaking, he snapped open a ballpoint pen and took out a leather-bound paper notebook that had been resting in his parka's side pocket. It must pain Star Knight to see so many of his men dead and have nothing to show for it. He had warred, at times, with the alien hero (as he had discovered) in efforts to win alien mystic artifacts for the Soviet Union and learned to respect his valor. He was right about those Grue Arcane. Bad business. "I wonder if Khanate experiment failed and became master." He wrote in a neat, crabbed hand, perfect Soviet schoolboy penmanship. "No matter. What other attacks have been observed?" 

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Fleur rested her hands on the table in front of her, fingers knotted so tightly that the tips were bone white. "Is there anything we can do?" she asked the assembled heroes. "Lor-Van is so far away, but maybe we can send supplies, something. Those people have lost everything." She opened her hands, turned over the acorn she'd been playing with, then folded it back between her palms. "Do we have any idea what the Communion is going to do next? Could they come out this far?"

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Gabriel had, thankfully, already swallowed his previous sip of enhanced coffee when the news of an entire planet being killed was put on the table. Instead of choking or spitting, he just blinked rapidly several times, processing the information. Finally, he calmly set his cup down and spoke up.

 

"i think the question of "could" is pretty obvious, Fleur. If they can summon up the resources this initial assault must have taken, they can certainly come here. So the question isn't "could", it's "when", and possibly "why"."

 

He paused, and smiled a bit ruefully.

 

"And, of course, "What is the Freedom League's plan to deal with this crisis?"."

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Despite the years that had passed since she had first joined the League, Velocity was still the youngest person in the room. While the young woman had seen and experience a lot in her time with the League, but all that still had not quite prepared her for what Daedalus revealed. She looked considerably paler than normal, but was managing to hold herself together as she sat there listening to the others’ responses and questions. "There has to be something we can do." She finally stated, as if seeking to reinforce Gabriel's last comment. When she spoke, Velocity no longer used the more rapid inflection she usually used in costume, it was the normal voice of Megan Howell.

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GM

 

Daedalus began to provide some answers to several of the questions, starting with Gaian Knight's comments on how many were killed on Lor-Van. "The number killed on Lor-Van is currently unknown. It is known the Lor orbital cities near the planet were all successful moved away before it was destroyed, and extensive efforts were made to evacuate as many as possible. But as you say, even the Lor were unlike able to get everyone off in time."

The immortal inventor then turned to Comrade Frost's comments and question. "It appears unlikely that this Communion is the result of some Khanate experiment. A'lan informed us that he and the other inner circle members had been in a meeting with Mentor discussing the attacks in the Unity before the attack on Lor-Van began. Mentor had informed the inner circle that the attacks on the Unity had fit information he had in his files, something that he had previously attributed to legends. But before Mentor could revel any more, he was infected by some sort of virus which shut him down. A'lan stated that Mentor is still offline, although he appears to be running self-diagnostics to remove the virus."

"As for further attacks, at the moment, the Communion force at Lor-Van have not moved towards any other systems, nor have other Communion forces made any further advances in the Unity or other parts of the Lor Republic. That is not expected to be the case for long however."


"The Star Knights are currently regrouping and preparing to move against the Communion." Captain Thunder then added as he spoke up once again. "The Lor also appear to be in the process of regrouping, although there is still a lot of confusion there, as could be expected after the sudden loss of their capital and the necessary evacuation. There is no information about what is going on within the Unity, but I rather doubt the Grue are just going to sit back and do nothing."

"Maria has been recalled to CITADEL. A'lan also requested what additional assistance we could provide."
He then added, pausing a moment. "There is so little information on the Communion right now, what its goals are, but from what we do have, it clearly seems intent on taking as much of space as it can, and seems to have somehow added Star Khan's forces to its ranks. There is no reason not to believe that if left unchecked, it would eventually make its way here. Therefore, Daedalus, Pseudo, Johnny Rocket, Bowman, Siren and myself will be accompanying Maria to CITADEL, to try to provide what assistance we can and hopefully help stop this Communion out there."

"The rest of you will remain here to continue our primary mission of protecting the Earth, but also preparing for the possibility that the Communion could make its way here, either by slow advance, or similar to how it moved on Lor-Van. Each of you have connections in the wider superhero community, we will likely need to bring together as many of those as we can to be ready should that happen. The situation is as grim and serious as anything we have faced, but we at least have warning. How much warning that turns out to be only time will tell."

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"I'm not sure I envy your task," Gaian Knight admitted to the senior League members, shaking his head. "Don't worry: we'll hold the line. If they even make it this far they won't have the advantage of the surprise arrival of a planet-killer."

Tiamat made a thoughtful noise, running her tongue back along her canine teeth. For a moment, entirely too many canine teeth. "Not to mention the usual scumbags," she added. "We can be as careful as we like, but spreading the news even just to those we trust is gonna tip off some of the rest. Might even get some of them on our side if it comes to that, but the rest are gonna try to take advantage of the changing of the guard. Can't let that get out of hand."

Gaian Knight grimaced. "Good point. So we hold both lines. We've done worse."

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"What are we supposed to do?" Fleur demanded, fear she couldn't quite hide putting an edge in her voice. "How do we prepare for something like this if it arrives? Five hundred superheroes gave their lives and only managed to slow it down for five minutes! We don't have an evacuation plan and a fleet of starships to prepare; most of our heroes don't even go to space except maybe for meetings!" She would've waved a hand to indicate the room, but her fingers were numb from too much clenching. "If they can't stop this thing before it gets anywhere near us, do we really have any sort of fighting chance against something that can take out a planet in one shot?" 

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Frost kept making notes as everyone talked, his pen going scratchscratchscratch against the background hum of the space station. "Do we have active visual record of Lor-Van system or other scenes of Communion activity?" he inquired of Captain Thunder. "They have smashed their enemies and laid waste to space; they have gained the hearths of their enemies and laid them waste - but what are they doing _now_? Charging their great gun? Feeding upon the raw material of the system?" Frost's own time in space had been limited at best, but he remembered the time that he'd been replaced by a Grue and had to help his fellow members of the Peoples' Heroes fight their way back to Earth - he'd learned more than he'd wanted to know about space and what lay within. He tapped his pen on the desk. "This is important information."

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"Fleur. Calm down. Please, I know this is scary and sudden, but we'll be okay."

 

He gave her a reassuring smile, and his voice was itself a calming effect in the room. His eyes carried worry, but he did not seem panicked. His next words seemed to be addressed more generally.

 

"The Star Knights are mobilizing. The Lor Republic is hurt but not gone. And we have dozens of fantastic scientific minds on Earth. But perhaps most of all, we have warning. We have time. That's going to be what gives us an edge."

 

He paused, then nodded toward the senior League membership who were going on to help the Star Knights.

 

"Time, and the information our fellow Leaguers will be sending to us once they're in the field. Earth isn't a stellar power, it's true, but we've got loads of heroes here. I think our chances are pretty good."

Edited by KnightDisciple

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GM

"I won't lie that the situation appears very grim if this thing heads towards Earth." Captain Thunder replied to Fleur's outburst. "But thus far, from what information the Star Knights have been able to gather thus far, the Communion has not used this weapon everywhere it has attacked. Most of the planets it has attacked appear to have been taken over. Although, whether that is any better or not is not clear at the moment."

"Gathering more information is a high priority for the Star Knights at the moment." Pseudo added as he spoke up. "That will indeed be part of what those of us going to help will be gathering, and relaying back to the Lighthouse."

"It should also be noted, that those Star Knights arrived at Lor-Van in response to the Communion attack, with little warning in advance and no information about the makeup or capabilities of the Communion forces. They were ill prepared to deal with this planet destroying weapon." Daedalus interjected. "There is no guarantee that studying whatever information the Star Knights or Lor have on it will provide any answers on how to deal with it. But it is possible."

"If we are lucky, the combined forces of the Star Knights and Lor, along with some help from us, will be able to stop this Communion." Captain Thunder stated as he spoke back up. "I know it is little comfort sitting here waiting for any news, but as Gaian Knight and Tiamat have stated, there could well be plenty of homegrown problems to deal with to keep you more than busy."

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"Speaking of study, you may as well send us anything you find in case you fail or die," Tiamat mused. It earned her an immediate reproachful look from Gaian Knight, and as much as her tone had been more blunt than unkind, she put her hands up in apologetic defense. "Sorry, but y'know what I meant. The chance is there."

He sighed, drawing a hand back through his hair. "...yes, it is. That is definitely not how I would have phrased it, because it isn't a vote of no confidence, but for a threat this large we ought to cover our bases. If you find anything, and if you can send it back, it'll at least give us an edge if the worst happens. Besides, who knows? Extra eyes rarely hurt."

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Fleur shot Gabriel a pointed glare for his condescension, but obviously chose to bite back whatever other response she might have made. "How much are we going to publicly disclose?" she asked instead, looking at the assembled heroes. "The last time we had a planetary threat from space looming, it was visible to the naked eye, but this one is different. Do we keep it under our hats to avoid a panic, or do we try and keep ahead of the news by telling people something before some basement engineer with an especially good comm array learns something and starts spilling the beans?"

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"Really!" said Frost as he listened to the other Leaguers explain what they had seen in space. "I wonder why they would do such a thing purely to Lor-Van." He steepled his fingers. "Purely to strike fear? Is that more valuable to them than what they could have looted from the planet itself? They could have gained secrets from prisoners, seized military assets...there must be some reason why they destroyed planet itself. Is Russian law of drama, you see, if gun goes off at beginning of play it must be important to the plot!" Those looking closely could see diagrams, notes, comments as he went. "Russian government will be happy to cooperate with Freedom League and US government in any matter that involves the welfare of the planet," he added with a wave of his hand. "Suggest we tell the public the truth. They are barely aware there ARE Lor, much less the details of their civilization. Let it seem like some normal story of distant apocalypse rather than a disaster to be unearthed and feared." 

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GM

 

"It is certainly a possibility Tiamat." Captain Thunder replied with a grim nod. "We do intend to send back information as often as possible, so that the rest of you can review it and hopefully come up with some ideas on how to prepare."

Daedalus then responded to Fleur's questions about what to possibly tell the public. "If the Communion turn’s this weapon of theirs towards earth Fleur, it would certainly be visible as it draws close, seeing as the Star Knights' information on it puts it about the same size as our moon. But with it still far away, with nothing to suggest it will be headed here anytime soon. For now, it might be best to keep things quiet, in order to prevent a panic. But that will have to be something those of you remaining decide how best to deal with."

The immortal inventor then turned toward Comrade Frost as the Russian spoke up again. "We really do not know enough about the Communion to do much more than guess. The act certainly will create fear in the Republic and other nearby powers, once the word spreads more. It is also possible that the decision to destroy Lor-Van is connected with the wormhole that was created. But right now we do not know enough to determine what possible connection there might be."

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"...hrm. Telling people the truth would certainly stir things up," Gaian Knight mused, glad to have something a little more down-to-earth to mull over. "Even as a threat to a far-away place, people will start assuming things, and our attempts to reassure them will seem a little hollow. People don't like feeling helpless. Still...as much as it'd worry people, it'd also be the best way to make sure people are looking for incoming threats, and it'd be the easiest way to get as much help as possible safeguarding things here. I guess my vote would be for making sure people know what's going on."

"And mine against," Tiamat countered, "if it counts. The League would know most of the people worth contacting anyway, if we need the help. Spooking the sheep isn't a good plan. Plus, it'd give the scum of the earth that much more notice that things are bad so they can start causing trouble. Not much of a leap to go from 'bad things happening to space allies' to 'hey, nobody's seen Daedalus for a while'."

"If we don't inform the people, and they find out the hard way, we look that much worse for having kept it a secret," he pointed out, though from his tone it was largely for the sake of the debate.

"And?" She snorted, shrugging. "Better safe and hateful than hurt and loved. They can think what they want. Ain't my job to be liked."

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Gabriel listened as the others spoke, seeming to weigh the words of both Gaian Knight and Tiamat regarding the idea of spreading the word.

 

"Perhaps we can attempt a sort of middle ground? Simply announcing that a planet was destroyed in Lor space, and oh no the fleet might be coming here? That's asking for a panic. Perhaps we can simply start preparing a series of press releases, for various situations.

 

Plus, if we're going to have several members gone for more than a couple days, people are going to notice. Most members of the League are pretty high-profile to some degree or another. Having a half-dozen heroes stop showing up anywhere on the globe for a week is going to make people curious. Rumors are going to fly. And that's putting aside the possibility of information leaks from one place or another.

 

We don't need to give the people a blow-by-blow, but trying to lie and say some of the League are gone is foolish too. Those of us who are still here just need to make it clear we won't have any tolerance for...shenanigans...from the less savory elements of the planet. Meanwhile, the actual announcement is brief, simple, to the point, and not overly alarmist."

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Velocity was somewhat uncharacteristically quiet while the discussions continued after it had been announced a majority of the senior League members were heading off into space to try to help with this Communion threat. But the speedster was listening to the discussion, while also allowing her mind to race at impossible speeds about all the possibilities. So many of them were not particularly good.

"I agree with Gabriel." She said finally, returning to her more typical speech inflection as Velocity. "We should not be outright lying to the public, but we probably do not want to be telling them all the details of what is going on out there. The last thing we need is mass panic and possible rioting and other unrest. I think we will be having more than enough to worry about."

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