Disclaimer: I don't own Ace Lightning.
A Hero In Us All
The meaning of good and bad, of better and worse, is simply helping or hurting.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
It felt good, not to hide from his fellow knights and to know that he wouldn't end up hurting anyone. Random Virus had already had a visit from Lord Fear, checking to see if it was permanent and the bag of bones had already ran away as fast as he could. In the last week- Random had often been afraid that this change wouldn't be permanent, that one moment the evil voices could just be back in there. So far that had not been the case.
Random rolled out to greet Ace Lightning from the small abandoned office in the junkyard's shed- he and Chuck had gotten a lot of the Master Programmer's old equipment and set it up in there rather than in the Thunder Tower which quite often came under attack.
"I was wondering when you would come"
Ace smiled and felt the guilt that he had thought for a small while that Random could have chosen evil. "I'm sorry Random. I never should have doubted you, even for a moment"
"Ace, you were only doing your duty as a lightning knight not to ignore the possibility- through these past years and my evil side, you have more than been a good friend and once you realized what had happened-"
"I know that without the Master Programmer we can't…we don't know how to restore your body fully" Ace said, "But we'll keep trying- I won't rest until you are restored Cal"
Random lifted up his metal claw for a hand and studied it. "Ace, I'm fine… I am myself again- the evil is gone. That counts, more than appearances" He knew for Ace it would be difficult to understand. Ace remembered him before he was a cyborg and knew that anything with anyone, not that his oldest friend knew his feelings for Sparx, would be difficult because of it. And normal life with what Lightning Knights like Jet Knightly considered normal was out of the question. Also Random knew he didn't have the right to ask the younger knight to be the chaste controlled knight that the instructors had tried to make Sparx through the cycles. She deserved someone that was whole.
But even so, all Random had ever really wanted was to be alone in his head and that wish had finally been fulfilled. And he could be a Lightning Knight again, in full. "I'd ask you if you need a partner but I hear that position's filled- Mark did a good job"
"He always comes through" Ace said. "So, lightning knight, who are you going to have as a sidekick, you are a knight again"
Random and Ace both turned as from the office, Chuck seemed to have banged something setting off a cascade of crashes. "He saw me as an Evil so I plan to ask Chuck, if he can bear it"
"I think it'll be an honor for him" Recently Ace had noticed an improvement in Chuck-dude and in particular when it came to fighting the Evils rather than being overexcited about something that was serious. It wasn't a game to be taken lightly and Mark's friend seemed to have finally grasped that.
Most people would stay away from the Kent Brothers Carnival if they knew what kind of creatures ran around here. Kat Adams peeled back the broken fence to pull herself inside, her camera at the ready. Normally she wouldn't do this kind of thing right before school but she had caught sight of Duff Kent letting Wayne and his buddies in here. If this was some kind of trick to get human bait- Kat need to know so she could tell Mark and Ace.
Kat ducked into a stand and quickly moved the slip of wood so she could see into the area behind the stands. Wayne was standing not five feet from Lord Fear. Kat frowned; normally Wayne could be counted on running and screaming from the 'boneman'.
She listened in.
"So you want me to work for you and hurt Hollander and his friends?"
Lord Fear seemed to be judging something. "We want to hurt Ace Lightning- we don't have to harm your mortal friends"
Wayne snorted. "Yeah right, teaming up with you- causing them pain would have to be mandatory… I knew they were up to something, just didn't know that the knight characters were the wussy ones, that and being good doesn't get you places"
Fear cackled and Kat's grip tightened on her camera. She always knew Wayne was a juvenile delinquent but to sign up on the dark side of the good versus evil conflict was a bit much for even her to swallow. "I'm glad we agree then mortal… at first you will just need to report their movements back but rest assured the sidekick and his friends will be annihilated"
One of Wayne's friends looked uneasy. "I'm not so sure about this"
Wayne turned around, slinging a hand over his shoulder. "What's there to be sure of, the good guys always lose in real life- why not sign up with the winning side… besides think of how much power we'll have when Lord Boneman rules the world"
He turned back to Lord Fear. "We're in"
"Oh, you're in alright" Kat muttered, shaking her head. "As in more than you can handle"
Conestoga Hills High School
"Pigface well, it was a disaster with the other garments and it's a good thing you could find it this morning"
Mark tried not to laugh, the pink flowery dress and denim jacket had hardly been lucky for him. But maybe when Wayne mistook Allison for him it would be even funnier. Mark had learnt that it was easy to fool Allison as long as he controlled what he felt in her presence. At least she left before he could lose his cool.
Next to him Sam frowned. "Wait a moment, I saw this girl check me out, back in that one day stint I did at the Carnival before the freaky birds or puppets attacked me"
Mark nodded reluctantly. "That was me- in order to protect you, Ace and I went in disguise and apparently that was in a box at the observatory… lucky right?"
He knew Sam was trying to protect his feelings but Mark knew she wanted laugh. It was only funnier in hindsight, if you weren't the one running around in heels and a wig getting stalked by Wayne.
"You did a lot of weird things back then but I guess they were about 'protecting me', weren't they?"
Mark nodded. "I wanted to tell you but even if it wasn't one of the rules, now you are in danger anyway right along with me- I think I'd rather have you think I was a total freak who tore the heads off bunnies"
Sam shook her head. "But wasn't I in danger not knowing the secret- I mean the whole being used as bait, not knowing there was a rat in that bunny to blow us all up?"
"So now that you know…" Suddenly Mark found it really difficult to talk to Sam about this, without the game being an issue. "I guess we can be friends again, for real- if that's okay with Jeremy"
"One I thought we were already friends Mark and two, what do you mean Jeremy?"
"I mean friends without any 'I've got to tell you' interruptions… real friends" Mark explained. "You told me about Jeremy remember? From the boarding school, in fact you never told me why you left"
Sam smiled. "I had to sort out my own priorities Mark, besides I was trying to be someone I wasn't… the boarding school was my way of trying to see what I wanted for my life without my friends and I realized my friends, family and life back here meant more, even if it meant coming back to get the 'I'll tell you one day' from you" She signed her name to the sheet tacked to the office door for cheerleader tryouts. "And I decided against the long distance relationship"
"You better not tell Kat, she plans to hand out flyers as people go into tryouts"
"And Heather says she's 'outgrown' cheerleading" Sam snorted. "Not like she could ever admit that it would be one thing too many… did you know she didn't get invited to the exclusive party at Hayley Mill's place on the weekend and she doesn't even care- so much for Chuck's so called popularity pyramid"
Mark and Sam both looked up as the bell for class sounded. "Come on, last thing we need is to be the last to get to class" Mark said and laughed lightly as he tried to ignore how awkward he felt around Sam all of a sudden.
When they got into the class, Brett, Chuck, Allison and Heather were already sitting along the middle row, incidentally the best place to avoid attention from Mr. Cheseborough. But what surprised Mark was that Heather wasn't even trying to get to Chuck or Brett and they were sitting either side of her. That was until she saw Sam and Heather kicked Brett to move down one.
Mark frowned, Kat wasn't here yet. He hoped she hadn't gone to the Carnival, she had promised to stop doing that before school. But then Kat ran late a lot and Wayne and his friends weren't here either.
It wasn't as if Mark liked the slightly deranged science teacher but it might be better that Wayne wasn't there. Ever since the second alien incident, Wayne had been pulling tricks to try and get Cheseborough to lose it- so he really could get committed. And Cheseborough was not really insane, just suffering post traumatic Lord Fear disorder. He just hoped Cheseborough had learned to actually grade fairly… Mark didn't want to get shot 'again'.
Cheseborough came in and after taking attendance began to pull down the projector screen. At least the change in subject had nothing to do with electricity or anything Lord Fear could try to get the science teacher to help him with unless the weather suddenly became the key to beating Ace Lightning.
The projector had just started playing the film when Wayne and his friends joined the class.
"Sit down or I'll see the lot of you in detention" Cheseborough loathed to spend time after school, spending any more time than was necessary in the classroom where he could be 'vulnerable' to being 'abducted' again.
Wayne shrugged. "Whatever you say" he said sarcastically.
That wasn't enough to draw Mark's interest, only enough to pay attention to his reaction to Allison. It was more about driving Wayne up the wall than her and he looked straight across at Wayne who hadn't been staring at Allison but at him. It held more concentration than Mark had seen Wayne use before.
He was about to comment when Cheseborough interrupted the staring contest. "Mr. Fisgus, Mr. Hollander pay attention and Miss Adams sit down already"
Mark looked away from Wayne and to Kat who sat at the end of their lab table row, still holding her bag. And her hand held video camera.
Mark waited until after class and forced himself to ignore how Sam would see him staying behind with Kat. Not that it mattered- they were after all, just friends.
"Before you say anything Mark- I didn't plan to go to the Carnival this morning until Wayne did his drop in, I crawled through the fence and he was let in" Whatever Mark was going to say died in his mouth and Kat gave a knowing smile. "I knew that would get you interested… apparently Ace is no longer the only one interested in recruiting mortals"
"You want me to what?"
Mark took the water bottle and held it out. "We need to talk to Wayne, without him realizing what we're up to- are the sunglasses in the pocket"
Allison looked at him, confusion evident. "I don't understand- I do not even talk to Wayne- why would he talk to me?"
"He'll think you're the mystery girl who squirted water in his face. The clothes were last used in a disguise… Ace and I went undercover and Wayne got attached to the disguise, rather sad really since I avoided him- well you did blast me the other day"
"That was an accident… I thought I was alone, improving my aim"
"With full power from the generator- you're lucky you didn't send me to the sixth dimension" Mark was prepared to do whatever it took to get Wayne to talk. Obviously the high school bully was out of his league and Mark had a feeling if he just got a chance to talk with him, away from his friends that Wayne would reconsider… in any case it was worth a shot. He may have issues with Wayne but Mark didn't want to end up fighting him like this.
A derisive scoffing noise was coming from behind him and Mark didn't turn around. He already knew Heather's opinion on this was that all of this was pointless. But Mark didn't want to give up on even Wayne. If Heather could be on the road to becoming a lightning knight then Wayne should be capable of not becoming a heartless lackey of Lord Fear.
Besides Wayne's act was just that- a tough guy act of someone who didn't want to be known as a nice guy.
Allison nodded and Heather stepped up next to Mark. "Well I guess at the least I got to know that you've worn a dress, loser" She turned her attention to the blonde girl. "Now, after you do that, just say remember me and then ignore him, and go sit alone at another table"
"Ignore him… are you mad?"Mark asked, frustrated. If Heather wasn't going to help, he didn't understand why she had insisted on being a part of this plan. "We want him to talk to her-"
"I know how Wayne's mind works… trust me, it's not pretty Hollander" Heather smiled, kind of like she had right before she attacked, in karate or fighting evils. "Now go, in what is going to be pointless"
Mark waited until Allison had left and looked at Heather. "Do you really need to be so cold, Wayne might be a bully but he's not like the Evils"
Heather gave him one of her patented 'are you really that stupid' looks. "Mark- you might want to play the hero but trust me, Wayne scorches insects with a magnifying glass to see them burn… he's just a villain waiting to be discovered by another villain…oh wait, he has!" She just shook her head and went off laughing. There was another reason to rescue Wayne.
And that was to prove Heather wrong.
Walking past the table, Allison tipped the water bottle over Wayne's head and he stood up spluttering and raised his fist.
"Remember me?" Allison delivered the line really quickly and walked to the nearest table and sat down. She really hoped that Wayne would have forgotten about seeing Mark-as-a-girl because he was really dark. That fist had been less threatening than the dark rush of rage she had caught for an instant… long enough to make her feel sick.
The chair opposite her slid across and Allison looked up. No, Wayne had obviously remembered it because he was sitting opposite looking thrilled. What kind of mortal enjoyed humiliation from someone they had an attraction to? It was no small comfort that he thought she was Mark.
"I thought you had left on me… you must have been trying to not look desperate though it must have been hard"
Allison had a hypothesis as to why Wayne did not appear to have ever had a girlfriend, besides his crude talk. There was something cruel about him in a way she had only noticed in Evils - and that was without empathy. Illusion who used to be evil, didn't even feel like this… sometimes Allison noticed she had darker emotional impulses but they were more of an after-feeling and she wondered if Illusion had ever truly been as dark as Lord Fear.
Wayne was further spurned on by rejection.
Sam and Brett walked with Mark as they headed towards the videogame store that they had all agreed that Allison should steer Wayne towards. Heather had abstained saying that she had basketball practice and that she didn't care.
"I hope she's okay… I mean feeling what Wayne feels has to be like swimming in something bad" Brett seemed to share Heather's views on Wayne, in fact when Mark had pointed out that Heather had the same beliefs, Brett had conceded it being one of the rare times that Heather was right.
Sam shrugged, "You never know I mean, there have been times where even Wayne hasn't been a complete jerk but the only way we'll know is by talking to him in the last place I ever thought I'd be going with Mark into" At that, Sam elaborated. "When we were together, I always thought if I kept from mentioning too much about games and Ace Lightning that you would grow out of it and stop spending so much time playing what I thought was just a stupid game"
"She wouldn't even let me play it when we got together for that short time" Brett complained. "It just took one mention of it- and I was so close to beating … the game's Random Virus, he kept wasting me once he teamed up with Lord Fear"
Brett didn't even seem bitter like he used to about it but then Mark knew he had moved on from Sam and then ran from Heather or rather had gotten used to standing up again rather than let her tell him how to all but breathe.
They entered the videogame store. There was no sign of Wayne but there was Allison playing a game rather furiously with a student from Conestoga Tech.
Mark got beside her. "Where's Wayne?"
"He left ten minutes ago to go to the Carnival, his friend Jim came in and got him. They were speaking in elevated whispers- Lord Fear is behind the summons"
From what Mark could tell, the game wasn't so much a game but random characters from other games blasting the hell out of each other. "Thanks for trying"
Allison didn't answer him and Brett waved a hand. "I'll get her detached from this…you guys should go call Ace"
Brett watched as Mark and Sam left in a hurry and he knew he would end up getting in the way if he tagged along. Brett was still trying to get back on Sparx's good side by avoiding the Tower, she had just seemed to be getting over the whole dumb comment when she starting hating him again. Something about staying away from the Lightning Flash and followed by insults from the Sixth Dimension.
"We can't attack mortals so I am pretending that all the characters are Wayne… Mark is wrong about him"
"You don't need empathy to see that" Brett smirked at the kid from Conestoga Tech. "Yes we're crazy and Ace Lightning is real… go away" The kid abandoned the controller muttering something about psychotic Ace Lightning fans and Brett took over, looking at her sympathetically. "I think even Sam sees it but Mark's got to at least fail at this and see that Wayne can't change, on his own" Brett started to snicker. "I just blew you off the ship"
Allison narrowed her eyes. "We were talking… you can't blast someone while-" Brett moved the little figure to blast her again and she matched it.
No one else would play Supersmash with him… Chuck abstained because you could only play Lady Illusion or Lord Fear and Heather was impossible to beat- and gloated far too much to have fun with.
The after school crowed was dying down as they all walked towards the exit and Mark was grateful that Ace blended in with him normally now, without the need for a disguise. It made it easier to get in the Carnival without drawing attention to them.
"Keep your eyes peeled kid" Ace said, "I'll check out the Haunted House- if you find this schoolmate of yours make sure he gets out of here"
Mark looked away as Ace moved towards the Haunted House- even looking human, Ace acted like a knight, hiding behind objects and garnering the strange looks of the few people who were still around.
Walking carefully, Mark avoided going past the 'Test Your Strength' game… past experience taught him that Anvil came out. Anvil was not bright enough to take advantage of the surprise factor but was getting stronger and stronger as the game went on.
"Hey Brit Boy"
Mark turned and by the unused funhouse, Wayne was standing with the Dirty Rat hovering over his shoulder. "Wayne get out of here, this is serious"
"Stop the crying Hollander, I get it" Wayne seemed to be enjoying this and Mark didn't have a good feeling about this. But there were no other evils hanging around but the Rat and the Rat was anything but powerful. "Want to see my new toy… Lord Boneman, Fear got it for me"
Nearly jumping, Mark was taken aback by the fact that all Wayne was holding appeared to be a rubber snake.
Until it grew into what appeared to be a small scepter, the crystal embraced by a now hissing snake. "You might think you're getting something here Wayne but Fear's trying to take over the world!"
"Didn't I tell you- I'm not a nice guy and I like his plan- it's cool" Wayne aimed the scepter at Mark and smirked. "And ever since you came, Upchuck's not scared anymore and I liked my personal Upchuck servant… you still want to be friends Mark?" He let out a green blast and Mark dove at the ground to avoid it. "At least I'll never be a hero- I like my new power and I'm not going back"
Mark could feel the lightning at his fingertips but if he let off a shot he could miss the scepter and hit Wayne instead. The Dirty Rat took advantage of the confusion and threw a small energy ball. Mark blinked and tried to wave his hand to try and clear the smoke as Wayne pointed the scepter at him again.
A perfectly aimed bolt hit the scepter and Wayne dropped it as it turned back into a snake. He picked it up and ran out of sight. Mark was relieved to be saved by Ace, who had made the shot from just in front of the Haunted House. Aiming his arms should be the same as aiming the canon and Mark didn't understand why it had to be so difficult to hit one specific spot.
Mark began to jog over to join Ace when the abandoned funhouse's metal door blasted open and Lord Fear aimed directly for him. Mark couldn't see a place to deflect the attack, his heart in his throat.
"It's all over now mate" Staff Head chuckled and Lord Fear let off a blast as Mark went the only place he could, not thinking. And perhaps because he wasn't thinking was how he was able to reach midair.
For a moment Mark couldn't think of anything as Ace quickly attacked Fear.
Fear deflected the lightning attack and ran in the same direction as Wayne had at the same time Mark thought and crashed to the ground.
Ace peered down at his sidekick. "Are you alright Mark?"
Mark just laid there for a moment, dazed. "I flew… and then I fell"
"It was quite incredible kid but you'll have to train harder to learn to focus it"
"As if shooting lightning powers and seeing things wasn't hard enough" Mark groaned, sitting up.
Ace reached out a hand and Mark took it, getting up. "Kid… we have to talk about that, you can't learn to focus the future in fact that's the worst thing you can do. You'll get those flashes from time to time but seeing them all time would make you disconnect from reality…you don't want that Mark- by the time I met Mirin, she already was embracing that part of her and over the short cycles I knew her she became more and more fragmented from everything around her"
"So why do I have it if I can't use it?"
"Many knights have powers that would hurt themselves or others if they tried to use them like Sparx- why do you think she uses the Sword of Jacob rather than her own powers to fight?"
Mark nodded. "Okay I get it, looking forward is a bad thing- though I really should have seen this coming with Wayne, I always thought he was just…Wayne"
Ace didn't seem surprised. "Mark, most of the super villains I have known, started out at a point of liking to cause another creature's suffering and went from there, I know very few who have ever turned away from that- that have the strength of character… I'm sorry you couldn't save your classmate, he might realize his mistake one day…"
He wanted to believe that but Mark knew he had lost his chance to help Wayne change when they had first met. Even today he had set up a prank with Chuck in order to embarrass the high school bully… no Wayne was more than just a bully now.
Mark had missed his chance and now, a final battle could mean a lot more was at stake.
After Ace had flown off when they had made their way clear of the Carnival, all Mark could think about were all the chances and opportunities that he had missed. The ones he hadn't had yet, and the ones that were right in front of his face.
"Sam, that English kid's here to see you!"
Walking downstairs, Sam got to the front door and went outside. "Did everything go okay with the Carnival?"
Mark shook his head. "Wayne's settled on a career that includes helping Lord Fear take over the world" For some reason it was really funny and Sam found herself laughing despite how serious this was.
A moment later Mark realized her point and it was bloody hilarious. The idea of Wayne, the idiot who Heather tripped over and Chuck had thrown up on often- by Lord Fear's side. It was very serious and the fact that even school wouldn't be safe anymore was a problem. But sometimes seeing the humorless side was all that kept someone from going barmy.
Sam calmed down after a sobering realization. It hadn't been the kind of thing she would have found funny and having known how Wayne coming back from vacation after summer and only became a bully in the 4th grade- it was worse that she had laughed about it- even to cope. Was this why one day she would leave Earth because this game… or battle would take over her life?
"Sorry, what did you come over here about?" she questioned, breaking from her thoughts.
"I know you are just getting used to the whole Ace Lightning being real and coming to life" Mark said, "But I think we should at least try going out again- I know the whole problem last time was the game, you knowing the truth about it now doesn't change that…"
He didn't know. Not just the future thing but the 'sparking' thing as well. It was strange to think she knew something that he didn't- especially something that would get her to say 'no'
But then that future Mark- Ace had told her all about how he could have become like that… unattached, by looking to the future. The Master Programmer was gone- maybe that meant everything else could change now as well. After all, Wayne helping Lord Fear and not Heather- maybe that would change but so far it seemed like Heather wouldn't fall like that.
Sam frowned finally. "What about Kat, I mean I know you guys broke up but you seemed really close today"
"Sam, we're still broken up- Kat broke up with me because I still really like you and it wasn't going to change- you can say friends right now and I'll leave it alone, maybe it would be better to not do this… but-"
"But we should at least try" Sam knew she would always worry about what she had seen or that she would get consumed by all of this. But she was a part of this now whether she wanted to be or not. And Sam wasn't going to hide and be afraid of what might happen. "Saturday night work for you… pizza and a movie?"
Mark nodded. "Sounds great"
Pete, remember when I said that this videogame was taking over my life… it's become my life for better or worse. And things are constantly getting more complicated- but then that's the way life is- it gets complicated. This isn't a videogame anymore. In a videogame you can start over, and undo your mistakes. In real life you have to live with those mistakes and keep on 'playing'. Lord Fear might have Wayne on his side now, but I still have my friends.
And I can always count on Ace Lightning.
Or rather the end of this fic, which can be counted as my second half of the second season starting after episode 39- like season one was split in two parts. The eternal struggle between good and evil is forever- I could write a thousand chapters and never get to the end, but this story has reached an ending/point I hope you all liked.
Wayne- I did originally plan to do this and it was hinted with the mirror Wayne who was a hero.