Disclaimer: I don't own Ace Lightning, nor do I own Dark Angel, Ace Lightning is owned by the BBC and Dark Angel is owned by FOX. Dark Angel runs in a present day setting. Based Ace Lightning post first season, pre second season and Dark Angel first season after 'The Kidz Are Aiight'. This is a rewrite to this fic- and will be two parts or chapters. Edit is added so that this fic can be finished- as more of a two chaptered one shot sort of story.
On with the story.
Ace Lightning: Knight's Designation
Part One- The Past Returns
Mark was almost reluctant to visit England. Even though Lord Fear and his evils had been defeated, leaving the lightning knights little more than lost little girl finders, and kitty rescuers- it was still hard to think of Lord Fear as gone. That Lord Fear or another evil couldn't just return and start the bloody annoying good versus evil up again.
And then there were the dreams. Not the ones where he sometimes… saw things that hadn't happen. No, it was the dreams or rather nightmares of some landscape, a snow covered forest mixed in with the weirdest kids… all in hospital gowns with barcodes on the back of their necks- just like the one he always felt he had to hide from everyone even Ace. By whatever means necessary.
The image of the small girl falling in front of him- shot… and Mark just knew her name was Eva.
He stared out the cab's window, and noticed they were approaching the airport. It wasn't as if he was afraid to get these flashes- it was that they were very made up. Mark knew whatever his life had been prior to being four… it had probably consisted of parents who ditched him on the side of an English countryside road. Not something out of – well what his life was as Mark Hollander, sidekick to Ace Lightning and preferred hero-bait by the evils. His real parents and background before adoption had to be mundane next to the sixth dimension and all that.
As the cab pulled slowly into the airport bay, Mark got out. His parents had already paid the fair. They were doing this for him- his dad never could have gotten the whole summer off and his mum was trying to find a job. This was a belated present for being such a good sport about moving to another country.
Mark could remember living in England since he could remember, but he found it strange to leave Conestoga Hills now. Like the past year had made America home in a way. At least the summer would spare him helping Ace find Lady Illusion to try to explain why he hadn't expressed feelings in words. Ace was just getting used to human emotions and feelings but Mark had a feeling there was more to this than his friend had let on.
He wheeled his luggage to check in, as an irate woman stormed passed, spilling her drink over his sweater. And it was sticky.
Mark waited until his luggage had been loaded on and walked to the men's room. He pulled off the sweater and stuffed it in his carry on. He looked at his reflection and smiled. No one would believe back in England- besides Pete, that he had saved the world. The centre of the amulet of Zoar hung from the thin black rope as usual. The rest of the amulet was to hidden all over his house… but Ace and Sparx had insisted that he continue to carry the central good piece… just in case.
The back door to the men's room broke open all of a sudden and what Mark could only describe as commandos all in black stormed in and several of them grabbed him, cuffing him from behind. "Hey- what are you doing" Mark said, and he tried to move to run out into the main airport terminal. "Help!" he yelled.
"No one is going to come in here we cordoned off the area" The cold voice made Mark look up as an older man in his fifties stepped in. It was funny how a year ago- the sight of this man although eerily familiar would have startled him. Now after Fear, under the threat of being lunch for sock puppets and death from a half good, half evil cyborg- how there was no fear. Pardon the pun. "It took us awhile to find you X5 457… Ren it's time to come home"
Mark just stared at him- was he for real? "You have to be raving… who are you?"
His confusion seemed to take the older man aback and a slightly younger balding man leaned to whisper in the others ear. "Sir, it would explain why he didn't notice our surveillance… or make any attempt to hide himself"
"Colonel Donald Lydecker… your commanding officer- you and your 'family' are AWOL but that is to be rectified"
"You are loony… as if Random and Cheseborough weren't bad enough" Mark muttered under his breath. He was trying to figure out how to get out of this. He was stronger than other kids his age, but even downplaying it… he really doubted he could escape this squad of nuts… recruited by who- Lord Fear? It just didn't seem possible. All Mark needed was one phone call and Ace would save him.
Lydecker looked at the men holding Mark. "Take him away- we're headed back to Manticore… Mark is it- that's where you're home is"
Mark didn't know what part of the game this was- he just knew that if home was some mythological creature… maybe Lord Fear really had won and this was all in his mind and he was some Googler induced zombie- carrying out Lord Fear's every whim.
That would make sense.
Forty eight hours later, England.
Pete really didn't know what to do. At first he had thought Mark had just been catching a later flight but a quick discrete call to his friend's parents without alerting them had revealed that wasn't the case. Pete wanted to just say to his own parents, the police, anyone that something was wrong but when it came to his old friend Mark- it quite often had to do with one thing- Ace Lightning.
It wasn't as if it was that hard a thing to call the observatory- and check. Mark had sent and spoke to him via the place a few times. But if it wasn't the game then it could be a lot worse.
It was time to stop procrastinating. Pete sat down at his computer and set up the video call. When the call first went through all he could see was part of a cupboard and the wall- a vivid black scorch mark… no one. But the call had been accepted.
Finally a digitalized form sat down and Pete swallowed. Sparx… but he had to keep his cool; he wasn't a lightning knight so he doubted he could get away with a bad comment like Mark had.
The first thought in Pete's mind was that her form was much better than the graphics of the game. "Hi… uh, I'm Mark's friend… Pete"
"Hey Pete" Sparx said warmly peering into the screen. "Where's Mark- that kid better be planning to call everyday…"
Pete forced himself to focus on the fact that this was about Mark- and was glad that the web camera could not pick up the poster of Sparx on his ceiling. "Mark hasn't shown up… I'm getting worried- is there any way something from the game happened"
Sparx looked thoughtful for a moment and then quickly vanished from view. She seemed to be mumbling off camera and after a moment Ace Lightning came into view. "Mark's not in the English country?"
"It's called England and yeah… Mark's not here"
Thunder Tower, America
Ace Lightning stood after ending the call. "I'm going to check out the carnival… I doubt Lord Fear had returned so soon but Mark has to be somewhere"
"Maybe its Illusion… you know- evil former girlfriend of Fear" Sparx scoffed. "Don't tell me you've discounted that possibility, some beings never change"
"It's not her Sparx… this is something else- discreetly visit this transportation hub and find out if there are any clues…" Ace flew off before Sparx could complain. It was better this way- if there was something going down at the Carnival, he didn't want something to jeopardize saving his sidekick.
Wherever Mark was- they had to find him.
Zack was the commanding officer of the rogue X5 unit, of the thirteen that had escaped… it was his job to protect the others and to be the one to save them. Manticore and Lydecker had been trying to retrieve the genetically engineered soldiers for just less than eleven years now- and he should be better.
But because of his most recent stay in Manticore- the young CO had found himself behind the ball. So much so that Eyes Only had gotten the information on his youngest brother first. Eyes Only was a cyber journalist who hacked his way onto the Seattle airways to naively expose the corruption, and misdeeds of the city and country they lived in. The man tried to play the hero- and dragged the most reckless of his siblings; his sister Max along for the ride.
Because Ren had been so young during the escape, even though most of them had been between nine and thirteen years of age- Zack had been surprised his baby brother had escaped at all.
He had never been able to find Ren… and the source of Zack's anger wasn't that Eyes Only had found his brother before him. It was that his sister Eva's murderer and the commander of Manticore- Lydecker a.k.a. the supreme bastard had found Ren first of all.
Zack looked around to make sure Tinga had not followed him- it was hard enough keeping his little sister from returning to the little family she had created, without her finding out they had lost another brother.
He dialed the familiar number. "Talk" Zack said.
"Aren't you all charm" Came the sardonically toned voice of Eyes Only. "Your brother wasn't going by the name you knew him by- he was going by Mark Hollander, fourteen years old on a permanent visa from England… from his school transcripts you would hardly guess he was anything other than just another teenager"
Zack tried to keep his temper in check. "I don't have all day Cale, tell me what news you have- unless you wanted to tell me his star sign" The sarcasm was just dripping from his voice now.
There was a slight pause and a sigh- as if Cale had regretted telling him anything but then Cale would do whatever was best for Max. As long as it didn't involve telling her to leave- like he should if he truly cared about her. "I intercepted a…strange call from England to a local observatory in Ren's… Mark's hometown, whatever this observatory is- is something I think you should check with your… own two eyes"
Zack knew that Cale couldn't see his face so he tried to put the sentiment across in his words. "I don't have time- if Ren has been recaptured there is nothing I can do, you know that"
"Zack I think whoever your brother is involved with can help you- I checked his record's – your brother had no idea about who he was… just that to the best of his knowledge he is a kid from England who moved to America… if you don't try, Max and I will"
For all the man's faults- Eyes Only knew how to play this dance and Zack felt grudging admiration for being outplayed on this. Not that- he would ever show it. "If only to keep you from getting Max killed" He disconnected the call and walked back towards the apartment. Zack had been planning to leave Tinga soon anyway- they had already stayed together too long.
Four days, covering the entire town and the transportation hub and there was almost nothing to show for it. Ace had reluctantly enlisted his troubled friend and fellow knight- Random Virus for help. And having to save the security guards from Random's evil side had been worth it- for the recording they had found of what looked like this dimension's military special force go in and kidnap Mark.
All Ace could think about other than Illusion for once was that Mark, his sidekick… no his partner had been abducted for some reason… he knew how less advanced some of the people in this dimension were. It could be that they had taken Mark because of his ties to the Lightning Knights. In any case- Ace was going to find a way to save him. The problem was Ace had no idea where they had taken Mark.
Dropping back into the Thunder Tower- Ace noticed Sparx holding the Sword of Jacob pointed towards a mortal who didn't look scared as much as momentarily startled.
"Sparx- we don't attack mortals… I'm sure he just got displaced"
Sparx shook her head. "Don't let him fool you Ace- tall and broody here can move faster than any mortal I've ever seen…he's not a human"
"And you are?" The tall blonde man asked, his jaw slightly clenched. "I see what Eyes Only meant by my own two eyes… on the off chance that this isn't all in my head- I'm Zack… Ren's…. Mark's brother"
"Mark doesn't have a brother" Even Ace would have thought Lady Illusion- but Illusion never would have been 'avoiding' a fight the way this Zack was with Sparx.
"Apparently Mark doesn't even know himself very well…I came here on the probability that you might be able to assist me in getting him out of Manticore"
Ace frowned. "Has Mark been eaten- we must work quickly…"
"No… and I comprehend I am discussing this with cartoons… but perhaps an explanation both ways is in order"
Another dimension- these video game characters, some kind of fight good versus evil that Eyes Only and Jondy would have jumped on without hesitation. Cyber geek and the S1W crusader probably would create their own costumes for something like this.
Of course for Ace Lightning, of all the things he could have heard about- much of what he could dwell on was how much the very idea of this 'Manticore' horrified him. They created beings for the sole purpose to fight, sabotage and kill in some human equivalent to the Master Programmer.
How could these mortals be this cruel to these children- not just by raising them to be soulless killers but to actually use torture such as holding a young being under water for spaces of time, and if they couldn't keep up... destroying them.
If Ace thought back to his conversations with Mark there had been a line or two about adoption but never anything else. There was no way the kid had remembered all this.
Zack was now looking at him with the same kind of dislike Lord Fear had and Ace readied himself in case the man wanted to turn it into something. "How could you get my brother on their radar like that… pushing an apparent thirteen year old into some battle… even if he was just an ordinary this wouldn't be his fight"
Behind Zack, Sparx had been miming hitting Zack over the head with her sword and when the man turned around to see what Ace had been looking at- Sparx had gone back to cleaning the sword. It was against the Code, but Ace sympathized. Some beings made following the Code more difficult at times.
"Mark is a lightning knight… and more, he is my friend" Ace said calmly. "You don't know the kid very well, and you clearly have become what your creators have desired… but I won't let Mark fall to the same fate… you will show me to this Manticore and I will rescue him"
"Just like that- if it were so easy it would have been done time after time" Zack said, an unintentional note of condescension in his voice.
Ace looked at him, with a quizzical look on his face. "Did you have a superhero helping you- we'll get in, rescue Mark and that will be the end of it… wait here Zack"
The superhero went to fly out of the tower but Sparx had jumped to the top of the dome as fast as she could.
"Uh- Ace, listen I don't think this Lydecker-evil is going to just give up after you rescue Mark, unless…" Realization dawned on Sparx's face and she lowered her voice. "That's against the Code"
Ace shook his head, still hovering in air. "No it's not- the Code has a whole section on the use of the Amulet in emergency situations to save a lightning knight"
Sparx nodded impatiently. "Save a knight Ace, not defeat this Manticore whatever, it's evil and it bites but Ace it's not intra-dimensional, we don't have a treaty and it's not from the sixth dimension… its Earth's corrupt mainframe glitch no matter how much this Manticore should get sent to oblivion"
"I don't plan to" Ace said solemnly and cracked a small smile. "I am glad you are brushing up on the Code Sparx, see the benefits reading the volumes does you" Without another word, Ace flew away at a high speed and Sparx looked back down to Zack- who was poking around.
She didn't know which one she wanted to crack over the head with her sword more- Ace or Zack.
The house was empty and Ace was careful not to cause any more damage than necessary- like breaking the back door when simply taking the key from under the now blackened-in-pieces gnome was all he needed to get inside. Ace Lightning hated gnomes.
Obviously the kid had been distracted before he had left because Ace was able to find all the other amulet pieces inside Mark's desk. But to his sidekick's credit there were several maps of the house and a layout to hiding the amulet.
It worked out better this way that Mark had yet to finish hiding the pieces. It meant all Ace had to do was get the final piece inside this Manticore. And then follow the Code while saving Mark. If he had 'cared'- Ace's mind couldn't deal with anything else right now, about Illusion against the Code of the Lightning Knights… what would happen when he came face to face with this mortal Evil.
"Do right and fear not" Ace said to the empty room as he flew out of Mark's room and then realized too late the window had still been closed. Paying attention to protecting mortal objects… it was a work in progress.
Once medical tests had confirmed that the young X5, 'Mark' did have amnesia- it had been decided to take a slightly different tact. Because rogue X5s- in particular the thirteen X5s who escaped that wintery night in February were never co-operative, this proved an opportunity to actually debrief one of them without it leading to violence.
But now Donald Lydecker was beginning to fear that Mark was just as insane as Ben- Ben killed religious figures and then offered their teeth in tribute to make a made up deity stronger.
"You realize that you are asking us to believe that your… video game came to life"
Mark scoffed. "And how is that different from you asking me to believe I am some type of supersoldier because… believe me, powers like that would have come in handy"
"Psychological, Mark you have spent your life in a normal environment thinking you were a normal adolescent- the mind can impose its will upon the body" Lydecker found, however insane 457 was- he was quite willing to accept reality quickly- instead of denying it.
"Normal" Mark looked at him. "The last year has had so many not normal things for me- you would think seeing demented sock puppets aim a sword at a friend would make these powers kick in…"
Lydecker reached into his chest pocket and pulled out the centre piece of the amulet. "What is this- besides an object out of a videogame- when we tried to dispose of it, it resisted all attempts including being heated- no metal scrapings can be removed off it… it's –"
"Indestructible?"Mark leaned back and looked past Lydecker to the fake mirror. He had faced down a crazed, torn between good and evil cyborg and then asked him for help. He wasn't afraid of this. He drew his attention back to Lydecker. "It's part of this videogame coming to life delusion I have…"
He avoided answering much more- if the evil American version of the SAS were having trouble- he certainly was not going to tell them what the Amulet was- and what it could do.
"I want real answers… and it's clear the only place I'm going to get them is in Psy Ops"
Mark could tell Lydecker was waiting for some reaction, some flinching or crying. But there was nothing and the teenager looked up at the Colonel- remembering the poster from Chuck's room. "Is that where Judge Anderson is?"
At this point Lydecker decided that any of the others would be easier to deal with… but one way or another Mark was going to talk. The results of that would determine whether he just let the defective X5 be dissembled, fight to have him locked in the facility's basement for the rest of his life- or whether X5 457 could be salvaged from this deranged personality.
To Be Concluded in Part 2…
Anyone who reviewed the original first chapter and actually want to review again- just do it anonymously.