Title: I'm Everything I Am
Summary: You were my strength when I was weak. You were my voice when I couldn't speak. You were my eyes when I couldn't see. You saw the best there was in me.
Ace Lightning © Rick Siggelkow
My entry for the February challenge for the AceLightningFans group on DeviantArt.
Thanks go to my Beta: Blueglaceon and Sarah for helping me with this.
Winner of the February challenge.
My prize: nattherat dot deviantart dot com slash art slash FebContestPrize-158181182
"Make sure that you get some studying done tonight, Mark," Fiona Hollander called to her sixteen year old son as he headed up the stairs to his bedroom.
"Don't worry, Mum," Mark assured his mother as he paused at his door. "I'm just going to check my e-mails first, and then I'll get straight to it."
"Alright. Just make sure you do."
Mark shook his head as he opened his bedroom door and went inside, making a bee-line for his computer.
"Oh, and don't forget to tidy up your room as well!"
"Yes, Mum." Mark responded as he opened Pete's latest message.
"Hey, Mark. This game of yours just keeps getting crazier and crazier!" Pete exclaimed onscreen. "But I suppose you're grateful for things settling down a bit, what with your exams coming up and all."
"You can say that again, Pete," Mark muttered.
"Oh, and congratulations about you and Kat. Hopefully, with Kat in the know about the whole 'Ace Lightning coming to life' thing, this relationship might actually stand a chance."
At the mention of his blooming relationship with Kat, Mark looked out of his bedroom window at the stormy night-time sky.
A month had passed since the final battle with Kilobyte, when he and Kat had officially become an item. But as a flash of lightning illuminated the sky, Mark remembered another relationship that had been fully realised that night, only for them to be cruelly torn apart.
He'd been close enough to hear their final conversation:
"Why? Why'd you do it?"
"Because I knew he'd betray you. And because… I love you."
"It should have been me."
"Oh, Ace, those human emotions… they made you weak. Before I go, I have the power to take them away. My last gift to you."
"No. No, let me keep them. Emotions… what I'm feeling for you now… that's the real gift."
Mark recalled, as he oppened his schoolbag and pulled out his Math textbook and then settled himself in for the hour of study ahead of him, the single tear that had rolled down Ace's cheek as he'd said those last few words. Remembered the anguish in the superhero's eyes as he had looked up at the approaching Sparx and Random after Lady Illusion had vanished from his embrace and how he had masked his pain before getting to his feet, nodding at Mark in silent thanks, before the Lightning Knights had left the Carnival.
Since then, Ace had started doing regular patrols over Conestoga, trying to locate the missing Evils, but to no avail.
Wherever Fear was, he was keeping himself well hidden.
For the moment at least.
Which was just fine by Mark, because things in his every day life had started getting hectic in the wake of the final battle.
As Pete had said in his message, the eleventh grade exams were coming up fast, a couple of weeks away in fact, so the teachers of Conestoga Hills High School had started setting extra homework and revision for their students.
Chuck had also become similarly busy, and not just with his studies either. He had found another part-time job in town, at Conestoga's local video game store, of all places.
And with their new after-school schedules, the time spent at the Thunder Tower with Ace and Sparx had considerably lessened. The Lightning Knights understood, of course, now that things had calmed, that the two boys had to focus on their education, so it wasn't uncommon for them to drop in to see how the two teenage boys were handling things.
It was on one such visit from Ace that had reminded Mark of another revelation from that night.
It had occurred two weeks ago:
Mark let his schoolbag drop onto the floor as he entered the kitchen.
Going to the fridge, he pulled out the carton of orange juice and poured himself a glass before turning and heading up the stairs to his bedroom to start attending to the day's homework.
But he only got up a couple of steps before the sight before him stopped him in his tracks.
Ace was crouched by his computer desk, looking at his reflection in the screen, one hand resting against the glass, clearly lost in his thoughts.
As Mark watched him, the conversation they'd had about Ace's existence played through his mind:
"I know this place. That's the Circus where I fought Googler. That's… my world. The Sixth Dimension is… it's just a game? I know you tried to tell me before but I… I never understood. I'm… not real. I… don't belong here."
"Yes, you do! It doesn't matter where you came from. You're my friend. You have feelings. You're a hero and heroes never let you down."
"Where'd you get that line?"
"From you. I've learnt a lot from you, Ace. Now it's time to Do Right and Fear Not. Let's kick some butt!"
Back when this whole crazy adventure had started, Mark would have given anything to get his life back to normal.
Sure, having the Lightning Knights in his life had its fair share trials and tribulations.
But, despite this, Mark couldn't imagine his life without Ace in it.
Over the time that Mark had known him, the foremost of the Lightning Knights had become more than a just superhero to the British teen. The bond of friendship, and at times brotherhood, that the two shared was a strong one; it had seen them through the high and low points of their journey, and had only continued to grow stronger as time had passed.
Both Mark and Ace had been brought out of their reverie by Chuck.
"Mark, you gotta see this, dude," Chuck appeared onscreen, though he was clearly preoccupied with something. When he did finally look towards his webcam, he realised that it wasn't Mark that he was talking to. "Oh, hey, Ace. Is Mark there?"
"Yeah," Mark spoke up before Ace could respond, continuing up the stairs, hoping to make it seem like he'd just arrived home, instead of observing Ace in his moment of melancholy.
"Hey, kid," Ace greeted his sidekick as he moved so that Mark could sit down in his chair.
"What's up?" Mark queried his best friend.
"Check this out, dude."
Chuck's face minimised to reveal what he was occupied with: Mark's Ace game.
As he watched his friend play the game, Mark noticed something: the number of bad guys the sprite was facing seemed to have doubled from what he remembered when he'd played the level. "What's with all the bad guys?"
"It's been like this from the get-go, dude."
"Lady Illusion must be in the house!" Mark exclaimed.
"Lady Illusion's alive?" Ace queried, looking from Mark to Chuck onscreen then back to Mark again.
"Yeah, we discovered that fact a couple of days ago and've been searching for her ever since," Chuck answered.
"I'm sorry, Ace," Mark apologised, "I should have called you to let you know-"
"-But we just wanted to make sure that it was really her first," Chuck finished for his best friend.
"Don't worry about it, kid. Now, what were you saying, Chuck-dude?"
"My thoughts exactly, dude. And I'm betting that the closer we get to her chamber, the more of 'em there'll be. With Kilobyte in the game, having all these extra minions around would slow him down if he was trying to get to her. For a little while, at least."
Mark glanced back at the game. "Chuck, watch your back!"
Onscreen, the caricature spun to face a zombie gardener that was lurching up behind him.
"Thanks, dude," Chuck responded as he blasted the baddie.
"Then let's just hope that he remains ignorant of her presence. Chuck-dude, do you think you'll be able to help me get to Lady Illusion's chamber?" Ace questioned Chuck.
"This is the Big Byte you're talking to, Ace-man. Of course I can!" Chuck answered."Wait, you as in you, you or game you?"
"Me. Can you send me back to the Sixth Dimension?"
"Sure, dude. No problem."
"You're going to go back into the game?" Mark questioned the superhero.
"I owe Lady Illusion my life, kid," Ace responded in a defensive tone-of-voice. "The least I can do is to get her out of there."
"We all owe our lives to what Lady Illusion did that night," Mark responded, hoping to sooth the situation. "Just… be careful."
"I will, kid. Don't worry."
Since then, Chuck had been steadily making his way through the grounds and house, keeping Mark up to date with his progress. Sparx had also found a piece of the Amulet on one of her patrols of the Carnival.
So now all they had to do was wait for word from Ace.
"Mark, have you started your study yet?" came his mother's voice from downstairs.
"Yes, Mum. I have."
Clearing his thoughts of anything to do with Ace, Mark turned his attention to his revision.
– o – – – o – – – o –
Ace paused for a moment outside the door of Lady Illusion's chamber.
Chuck-dude's prediction about the number of minions he'd face along his journey had been correct and the foremost of the Lightning Knights was grateful that he had the computer-savvy young man looking out for him.
Noting that his energy coefficient was down to fifty percent, and knowing that he'd have to be at full power to face the Giant Spiders that dwelled in Lady Illusion's chambers, he sent a message to his sidekick: Dah-di-dah-dit Di-di-di-dit Di-di-dah Dah-di-dah-dit Dah-di-dah Dah-di-di-di-di-dah Dah-di-dit Di-di-dah Dah-di-dit Dit Dah-dah-di-di-dah-dah, Di-dit 'dah-di-dit, Di-dah Di-dah-dah-dit Di-dah-dah-dit Di-dah-dit Dit Dah-di-dah-dit Di-dit Di-dah Dah Dit, Di-dah, Di-dah-dah-dit Dah-dah-dah Di-dah-dah Dit Di-dah-dit, Dah-di-di-dit Dah-dah-dah Dah-dah-dah Di-di-dit Dah Di-dah-di-dah-di-dah
Within moments his energy was back at a hundred percent and he continued on with his quest.
Opening the door, Ace slowly stepped into the room.
The sight that met him was an unexpected one: the chamber was empty. Warily, he took another few steps into the room, scanning it as he went.
Unseen to Ace, one of the massive spiders was perched on the wall behind him.
Di-dah Dah-di-dah-dit Dit Dah-dah-di-di-dah-dah, Dah-di-di-dit Dit Di-di-di-dit Di-dit Dah-dit Dah-di-dit, Dah-di-dah-dah Dah-dah-dah Di-di-dah Dah-di-dah-di-dah-dah
Heeding the warning, Ace spun around and blasted the arachnid before continuing on his way. But he'd only gotten a couple of steps when the room was suddenly filled with Giant Spiders, all hissing at him.
The foe he'd just fried, he realised, must've been a sentry.
'A smart move on Lady Illusion's part,' he thought to himself as the spiders formed a ring around him. 'Luring the person who's trying to find her in by making them believe that they've got an easy path to her, only to shatter that illusion. Mistress of Illusions indeed.'
As one, the spiders lunged at him and Ace powered up his wrist canons, ready to blast every last one to White Hot Oblivion.
The swarm of spiders froze at their mistress' voice.
Ace turned to find her standing in the doorway, and she was a vision to behold.
Though it had only been one Earth month since she'd been forced to return to the Sixth Dimension, as clichéd as it sounded, it had felt a far longer time to him since he'd held her in his arms last.
"You sure know how to greet your guests," he told her.
His words seemed to snap her out of her reverie, for in the next second she was racing towards him, tears streaming down her face.
"Ace," she breathed his name as she clung to him. "You came for me."
"Of course," Ace answered, before adding, "It was the right thing to do."
– o – – – o – – – o –
"Dude!" Mark was pulled from his study by Chuck appearing on his computer screen.
"Hey, Chuck," Mark responded, but then paused as he heard music in the background."You were my strength when I was weak.
You were my voice when I couldn't speak.
You were my eyes when I couldn't see.
You saw the best there was in me.
Lifted me up when I couldn't reach.
You gave me faith 'cause you believed.
I'm everything I am,
Because you loved me."
"Chuck, what are you listening to?"
"Nothing!" the bespectacled teen exclaimed hurriedly and then disappeared for a moment.
"Sounds like Celine Dion," Mark commented as the music was turned off.
"It's one of Jessica's favourites." Chuck defended himself as he reappeared on-screen. "Anyway, good news, bro: Ace has made it to Lady Illusion's chambers."
"Was she there?"
"Yeah, dude, and she was real glad to see him. So now all we gotta do-" Chuck suddenly broke off as he spotted something on his computer.
'There's only one thing that could make Chuck react like that.' "Where is he?"
"Not far from the house."
"Warn Ace and then meet me at the Thunder Tower." Mark told his best friend as he shut his Math textbook. "I'll contact Sparx."
"On it, dude." Chuck replied before he ended the video feed.
Grabbing his wrist cannon from underneath his bed and stuffing it in his bag, Mark shouldered the backpack as he bolted down the stairs, two at a time. "Mum, I'm going out."
– o – – – o – – – o –
Di-dah Dah-di-dah-dit Dit Dah-di-di-di-di-dah Dah-dah Di-dah Dah-dit Dah-dah-di-di-dah-dah, Di-dah-dah Di-dah Dah Dah-di-dah-dit Di-di-di-dit, Dah-di-dah-dah Dah-dah-dah Di-di-dah Di-dah-dit, Dah-di-di-dit Di-dah Dah-di-dah-dit Dah-di-dah Di-dah-di-dah-di-dah , Dah-di-dah Di-dit Di-dah-di-dit Dah-dah-dah Dah-di-di-dit Dah-di-dah-dah Dah Dit, Di-dit Di-di-dit, Di-dah Di-dah-dah-dit Di-dah-dah-dit Di-dah-dit Dah-dah-dah Di-dah Dah-di-dah-dit Di-di-di-dit Di-dit Dah-dit Dah-dah-dit, Dah Di-di-di-dit Dit, Di-di-di-dit Dah-dah-dah Di-di-dah Di-di-dit Dit, Dah-dah-dah Di-di-dah-dit, Di-dit Di-dah-di-dit Di-dah-di-dit Di-di-dah Di-di-dit Di-dit Dah-dah-dah Dah-dit Di-dah-di-dah-di-dah
"Your sidekick has to have the worst sense of timing that I've ever seen," Lady Illusion muttered against Ace's lips.
They had been inches from kissing when the message had come through.
"Chuck-dude wouldn't have interrupted us unless it was important," Ace defended his sidekick, and then reigned in the anger that had flared at her words. "I'm sorry," he apologised.
"I can still remove them, if you want me to," she said softly, cupping his cheek tenderly.
Ace's eyes fluttered shut at the contact and he placed a hand atop hers. "No," he replied, just as softly, as he opened his eyes and removed her hand from his face. "I meant what I said that night."
She smiled at him as he turned his attention to translating the message, tensing up once he'd done so.
"What is it?"
"Kilobyte. Chuck-dude said that they've spotted him near the House of Illusion," Ace replied as he responded to his sidekick's message: Di-dah-dah Di-di-di-dit Di-dah Dah 'di-di-dit, Dah Di-di-di-dit Dit, Di-dah-dah-dit Di-dah-di-dit Di-dah Dah-dit Di-di-dah-dah-di-dit
Di-di-dit Di-dit Dah, Dah Di-dit Dah-dah-dit Di-di-di-dit Dah Di-dah-di-dah-di-dah , Di-di-dit Di-dah-dah-dit Di-dah Di-dah-dit Dah-di-di-dah, Di-di-dah-dit Dah-dah-dah Di-di-dah Dah-dit Dah-di-dit, Di-dah, Di-dah-dah-dit Di-dit Dit Dah-di-dah-dit Dit, Dah-dah-dah Di-di-dah-dit, Dah Di-di-di-dit Dit, Di-dah Dah-dah Di-di-dah Di-dah-di-dit Dit Dah Di-dah-di-dah-di-dah , Di-dah-dah Dit 'di-dah-dit Dit, Dah-dah-dit Dah-dah-dah Di-dit Dah-dit Dah-dah-dit, Dah Dah-dah-dah, Dah-dah-dit Dit Dah, Dah-di-dah-dah Dah-dah-dah Di-di-dah, Dah-dah-dah Di-di-dah Dah, Dah-dah-dah Di-di-dah-dit, Dah Di-di-di-dit Dit Di-dah-dit Dit Di-dah-di-dah-di-dah
"Let's hope that they get to Sparx before Kilobyte gets to us," Lady Illusion stated.
"Mmmhmm," Ace answered absently as he tapped out his reply: Di-dah-dit Dah-dah-dah Dah-dah-dit Dit Di-dah-dit, Dah Di-di-di-dit Di-dah Dah Dah-dah-di-di-dah-dah, Dah-di-dah-dit Di-di-di-dit Di-di-dah Dah-di-dah-dit Dah-di-dah Dah-di-di-di-di-dah Dah-di-dit Di-di-dah Dah-di-dit Dit Di-dah-di-dah-di-dah
"Wait," Ace looked at her as her words registered. "You understood that?"
"Contrary to what the Lightning Knights may think Lord Fear does understand Morse code. And he made sure that myself and a few other members of the Carnival did as well." Turning to the spiders that still surrounded the pair. "An intruder approaches," Lady Illusion addressed them, "He must stopped from reaching us, at all costs. Go. Alert the others."
At once the spiders skittered out of the room to do their mistress' bidding.
"And now we wait," she said as she turned back to Ace.
"Don't worry," he reassured her as he took her hands in his. "Mark and Chuck-dude have never let me down yet."
– o – – – o – – – o –
"Go for Sparx!"
"Sparx, it's Mark."
"Hey, kid. How's the study going?"
"Done for tonight. Listen, where are you?"
"On my way back to the Thunder Tower."
"Good. Chuck and I are on our way."
"Ace has found Lady Illusion, then?"
"Yeah, and Kilobyte's not far from their location, so we gotta hurry."
– o – – – o – – – o –
Sparx was waiting for them, Amulet piece in hand, when they arrived.
Chuck wasted no time in setting up his laptop.
"Let's bring them home. Why don't you do the honours, kid?" she questioned Mark as she handed her Amulet piece to him.
"You better hurry, dude." Chuck warned them. "Kilobyte's just entered the house."
"Because You Loved Me" by Celine Dion
For those of you that are curious, the translation of Morse code messages are as follows: "Chuck-dude, I'd appreciate a power boost."
"Ace, behind you!"
"Ace-man, watch your back. Kilobyte is approaching the House of Illusion."
"What's the plan?"
"Sit tight. Sparx found a piece of the Amulet. We're going to get you out of there."
"Roger that, Chuck-dude."