Title: What's Left Of Me
Disclaimer: Ace Lightning © Rick Siggelkow
My entry for the May contest for the AceLightningFans group on DeviantArt.
Thanks go to: Rotgut (Wile E. Coyote) for allowing me to borrow his OC: Count Delusion, Scarabbug for allowing me to use exerts from her fic Datastream Apologues and to my Betas: Blueglaceon, Heleentje and Sarah for helping me edit this.
The sound of water reached Lady Illusion's ears as she lay on the ground after just materializing. With a slight groan, she opened her eyes and sat up, recognizing her surroundings immediately: the courtyard of the House of Illusion.
~I'm looking for a place,
Searching for a face.
Is anybody here I know?
'Cause nothing's going right,
And everything's a mess.
And no one likes to be alone.~
If she had survived Lord Fear's upgraded attack and returned to the Sixth Dimension, she mused to herself as she struggled to her feet, then Kilobyte would have done so as well. Which meant that heading for safe territory was her first priority.
Gathering her strength, she teleported out.
~Isn't anyone tryin' to find me?
Won't somebody come take me home.~
When she reappeared, in her chambers, she stumbled and tripped, landing with a thump on the floor.
o O o O o O o
Widow, one of the maids, was busily cleaning one of the hallways.
Thought it had been many years since they had last seen their mistress, the chief of staff had insisted that they keep the house spic and span regardless.
Suddenly a sound from their mistress' chamber caught her attention, and Widow immediately went to investigate. Opening the door, ash pan and brush at the ready, Widow stepped into the room.
What she saw stopped her in her tracks: Lady Illusion was picking herself up off of the floor.
"My lady?" Widow rushed over to her mistress. "My lady! Are you alright?"
"In a manner of speaking." Lady Illusion grimaced, holding her side. "Where is Arachne?"
"Downstairs, my lady. I will go and get her for you."
o O o O o O o
Arachne was busily cleaning the kitchens when Widow found her.
"Arachne!" the young maid called to the elder woman, who turned to look at her.
"You've finished cleaning the top floor?" she questioned.
"No, ma'am," Widow admitted.
"Then what are you doing down here?" Arachne demanded.
"Lady Illusion has returned. She's asked for you."
"Where is she?"
"In her chambers."
"Alert Hunter of our lady's return," Arachne ordered as she turned to head up the stairs.
o O o O o O o
Once finding Hunter and alerting him of what had happened, the two servants rushed upstairs to their lady's chambers.
"My lady, it is good to see you again," Hunter greeted their mistress.
Lady Illusion turned at the butler's voice, and Widow noted that their mistress had changed into a floor length dress while she'd been gone.
"I need you to summon one of the gnomes from the maze," Lady Illusion addressed Hunter.
"At once, my lady," the butler bowed, and skittered away.
o O o O o O o
"You sent for me, Mistress?" the young gnome addressed his mistress, some ten minutes later.
"I want you to deliver a message for me. You're to go to the Carnival of Doom and wait on the midway, for as long as it takes for the recipient to arrive."
"And who is the message for?"
The gnome recoiled at this. "You would have me deliver a message to that… that monstrosity?" he spat. "After what he did to us the last time he set foot on our land?"
Lady Illusion narrowed her eyes at the minion. "Whose land?"
The gnome immediately sunk to his knees and averted his eyes. "Your land, Mistress. Forgive me."
Lady Illusion approached the young gnome, eyes still narrowed, and the minion began to shake, fearing the consequence of his words, as the lady of the house didn't tolerate backchat from her servants. "You will deliver the message to Ace, understood?"
"Yes, Mistress." The gnome stood up, collected the message and then scampered out of the room, relieved that he hadn't been sent to oblivion.
Lady Illusion addressed the remaining staff. "There is a new threat in the Sixth Dimension. One that would have no hesitation in killing me if he learned of my presence here. Patrol numbers in the maze and the house are to be doubled from now on."
Hunter nodded his head. "As you wish, my lady," he spoke before leaving the room.
"The rest of you are dismissed. I need to rest."
Bowing their heads, Widow and Arachne left the room.
Exhausted, Lady Illusion lay down on her bed and it wasn't long before sleep claimed her.
~ O ~ O ~ O ~
"Mark!" Mark looked up from his science project as Chuck appeared onscreen.
"Hey, Chuck," The blonde haired teen greeted his friend. "What's up?"
"Listen to this," Chuck double-clicked something on his computer, and moments later Mark heard the familiar dits and dahs of Morse code.
Di-dah Dah-di-dah-dit Dit Di-dah-di-dah-di-dah, Di-dit Di-dah-dah-dah-dah-dit Dah-dah, Di-dah Di-dah-di-dit Di-dit Di-di-di-dah Dit Dah-dah-dah-di-di-dit, Di-di-dit Dah-dah-dah Di-di-dit Dah-di-dah-di-dah-dah, Di-dah-di-dit Di-dah Dah-di-dit Dah-di-dah-dah, 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
"And that means...?" Mark questioned when it finished.
"It's an SOS, dude. From Lady Illusion."
That caught Mark's attention. "Lady Illusion? You're sure?"
"Fairly sure. I nearly fried the messenger when it appeared on the midway, a garden gnome of all creatures, 'till it told the sprite that it had a message for Ace."
"Does the message say where she is?"
"Nada. Just that she was alive and for Ace to come and find- uh, what're you doing?" Chuck questioned the British teen as he grabbed his mobile.
"What does it look like I'm doing? I'm calling Ace."
"I don't think you should do that-"
"Why not?" Mark cut his friend off. "He'll want to know."
"Just hear me out, dude." Mark took his thumb off Ace's speed-dial and looked at his friend expectantly. "I think we should hold off telling Ace, just 'till we make sure that it's really her." Mark shot his friend a puzzled expression. "Think about it, dude. It could be a trap. Kilobyte knows about their relationship, and he's used it to his advantage before. He could have sent the message to try and lure Ace into the game to get himself out."
"If Ace finds out that we've kept something like this from him-" Mark began.
"I know, dude." Chuck cut his best friend off. "I don't like the idea of deceiving Ace any more than you do. But the last thing we want to do is let Kilobyte out of the game."
Mark sighed: Chuck was right.
"So, what do we do?"
"I'll start the game from scratch: go through all the levels. If she's there, I'll find her. Then, once we know it's her, we can let Ace-man know and make a plan to get her out of there."
"Mark, are you doing your homework?" came his mother's voice from downstairs, interrupting the boys' chat.
"I gotta go, Chuck. I promised Mum I'd stay off the computer until I got this science project done."
The screen went blank as Chuck logged off and Mark returned to his project.
~ O ~ O ~ O ~
"You still don't have the power to defeat me! Game Over, Lightning!"
"Try it like this: Game Over, Kilobyte!"
"The very same."
"You wouldn't rob me of my glory!"
"Yes, Lightning. It is!"
With a pained cry, Lady Illusion bolted awake, clutching at her chest.
Though many cycles had passed since the attack, her body still tingled as though it had just occurred. With a slight wince she got up off of the bed, petting one of her pet Giant Spiders that was clicking its pincers together in worry about her, before making her way over to one of the windows.
Staring out at the maze, her mind began to wander, reminiscing about the path that had brought her here: her romance with Ace.
From the moment that she'd begun to have feelings for Ace, she'd known that they were a weakness that could lead to her destruction. She also knew she shouldn't have feelings for the blonde-haired Lightning Knight, but she did, though they had diminished a great deal after he'd thrown the Carnival into prison after retrieving all the pieces of the Amulet.
~I've been dying inside,
Little by little.
Nowhere to go,
I'm goin' outta my mind.
An endless circle,
Runnin' from myself until,
You gave me a reason for standing still.~
After breaking the Carnival out of prison they'd been brought to the new dimension, and she'd been glad to be free once again. But she had quickly grown bored of the new world they were in and, eventually, tired of doing nothing, she had struck out on her own with the intention on using Fear's Amulet piece to escape to another dimension. It hadn't taken long before she had been confronted by Ace who had dragged her back to the Thunder Tower.
"Let's see: he loves me... he loves me not... he loves me..."
"He loves you not."
"He... loves me. You saved me, why?"
"I... it was the right thing to do."
"You always do the right thing?"
"I try to."
After being saved by Ace, her old attraction for him had returned and she had abandoned her plan, asking him she if she could stay with him, which he had accepted. The dance they had shared had been most enjoyable, but then Lord Fear had arrived to confront Ace. Weaseling her way out of trouble, she had managed to rejoin Lord Fear, but her relationship with Ace had continued in secret, though she knew that if Fear ever found out, there would be dire retribution for her betrayal.
Months later, Lord Fear had sent her to speak to Ace to lure him into coming to the Carnival of Doom, but she had openly told Ace of the trap. They'd attempted to kiss, but the arrival of the sidekick had broken the moment, much to her frustration. Upon returning to the Carnival, Lord Fear had promised her that he would not harm Ace. When she learned that Fear had broken his word she had been enraged and had retaliated by bombing Googler whilst pretending to aim for Ace. Though Lord Fear had brushed it off, declaring that it was a mistake, but Staff Head had grown suspicious.
"It's a pity about your aim. We could have been rid of him once and for all."
"She's never missed before."
"You scrawny twig! Are you saying that I wanted him to get away?"
"No! Just wondering how you could have missed, my Lady."
Time had passed, and the arrival of Sparx had made things harder for her, as she considered the feisty Knight competition of Ace's affection, and had utilised every opportunity to try and destroy her, to no avail.
But then Staff Head had discovered the affair between herself and Ace. And when the situation had grown dire for Fear, the totem had used the knowledge against her.
"Seems our rat friend is planning a revolt! Lord Fear's going to need your help."
"Rat couldn't plan a menu!"
"You can start by getting Ace Lightning's piece of the Amulet."
"No. That would mean the end of Ace! I can't, I won't do it!"
"Oh, yes you will! Or else I'll tell Lord Fear just how much you like Ace Lightning. You know how his lordship treats traitors."
"You wouldn't dare!"
Backed into a corner by Staff Head, she'd had no choice but trick Ace's sidekick into giving her the Lightning Knight's piece of the amulet. When the final battle had commenced, she had remained in the shadows, only participating briefly to trap Sparx and Random. But just when things had seemed lost to the Lightning Knights, Ace's sidekick had found the Amulet and shattered it, causing the Evils to return to the Sixth Dimension. In Fear's final moments in this dimension, she had revealed her love for Ace.
After Fear's defeat, she had remained on Earth, in hiding, watching the Knights as they had revelled in their victory, hoping that Ace would try and locate her.
But nothing had happened.
Eventually, frustrated by the wait, she had revealed herself, only to learn of Ace's return to the Sixth Dimension. Hurt by Ace's betrayal and abandonment, she had returned to the carnival.
"Lady Illusion. What an unexpected pleasure."
"I've come to ask your forgiveness."
"Forgive you? Why should I forgive you for betraying me to Ace Lightning? Where is he?"
"He's back in the Sixth Dimension. I-I meant nothing to him. He only used me to destroy you."
"Blast her, sir! Let her have it!"
"Perhaps you can be forgiven, my Lady. Now that you've seen the true colours of that superhero scum."
As expected, her return to Fear's side had not been without retribution:
"What a delightful game! Again, my disloyal lady!"
"Please, I need to rest."
"There's no rest for the wicked. Unless of course you're not really wicked?"
*Lady Illusion powers up another crystal bomb*
"Oh, crikey! What a mess. Perhaps our treacherous Lady would like to clean it up?"
"Guess again, toad-boy. I'm finished cleaning up your messes."
"But we're not finished with her, are we, my Lord?"
"Indeed, my faithful totem. She still hasn't paid for betraying us to Ace Lightning."
"I already told you: he means nothing to me!"
"Did you really think I'd let your treachery go unpunished? I was just waiting for the right moment to strike. I've been plotting to extract my revenge from the moment you betrayed me! For your love of Lightning!"
To regain Fear's favour she had disguised herself as a housekeeper for the sidekick's family and had stolen several pieces of the Amulet.
"Well done, my Lady. Bring me more pieces like this and my faith in you will be restored. Perhaps one day I'll even forgive you for betraying me to Ace Lightning. But not just... yet! A taste of your treachery."
Kilobyte's arrival a few weeks later had given the festering hatred towards Ace inside of her an eventual outlet. When her cover had been blown at the sidekick's home, she had lashed out, giving Ace the emotions as she'd been instructed to.
"I don't want to hurt you."
"Too late! How could you betray me for Sparx after I'd saved you from Lord Fear?"
"You got it wrong. I'm only trying to protect the mortals!"
"Well, if you like these mortals so much, maybe you'll like feeling like one!"
With those words, Ace's most crippling weakness had begun.
With his new emotions, Ace had gone through a series of different emotional experiences. First, uncontrolled anger, where he had blasted anything in sight including one of his sidekicks. Then fear, mainly towards Kilobyte after the Cyber Stalker had beaten for the first time, which had seen him give up when he and his sidekick had been captured in a later tussle. But, eventually he had regained his bravery and had learned to control the emotions, and in the process had gained some things from his new feelings, such as intuition.
Through all this, she had watched him, and though one part of her revelled in his pain, another part anguished over his suffering, watched as her once proud hero had deteriorated.
~'Cause I want you,
And I feel you,
Crawling underneath my skin.
Like a hunger, like a burnin',
To find a place I've never been.
Now I'm broken, and I'm faded,
I'm half the man that I used to be.
But you can have,
What's left of me.~
As much as she had tried to hate him, she reminisced now, she still loved him: had never really stopped despite all that had occurred. Her feelings remembered, she had been unable to bring herself to attack him any more.
"Oh, Ace, did I hurt your feelings? Well catch this, sweetie!"
She throws crystal bomb at him. Ace is thrown back, slamming into the Ice-cream truck. Kilobyte's tentacle appears and grabs Ace, who after a moment's struggle, blasts the appendage. Kilobyte drops him, and Lady Illusion approaches him, crystal bomb in hand. Ace looks up at her, forlorn, and she can't bring herself to attack him.
"Escape while you can. Kilobyte's to powerful, you'll never defeat him."
Months later, Fear had turned malicious towards her with every intention of killing her, and she had fled to the Thunder Tower, pleading to Ace for protection. He had granted her what she asked and she'd believed that they could finally be together. But then, when the Evils had showed, and Ace again chased after Sparx, despite her calls for him to let Sparx be, she'd been shattered and had returned to the carnival, concluding that that was where she truly belonged.
Then, weeks later, on the eve of the Final Battle, she had overheard the conversation between Sparx and the captured mortal girl:
"This is gonna sound crazy, of course all this sounds crazy, but, you and this Ace guy, are you, like, together?"
"No. Ace loves Lady Illusion. He just doesn't know it."
Those words had sealed her fate.
Knowing of Ace's partnership with Fear to destroy Kilobyte, and knowing that Fear would betray Ace after Kilobyte's defeat, she had waited in the shadows until Ace was alone before knocking him out and taking his place.
And the rest, as the mortal saying went, was history.
"So your minion spoke true, you have returned," came a voice from behind her and Lady Illusion spun to face him. "My lady," Count Delusion nodded his head curtly at her
"What are you doing here?" she demanded.
"Not even a hello for old time's sake, my lady? Aren't you happy to see your dear brother?" the Count questioned.
"What are you doing here?" she repeated.
"You needed me, so I came, sister. You need my protection," he said as Lady Illusion felt the tendrils of his telepathic ability enter her mind. The thought of him rooting around in her head was disgusting to her, yet she couldn't prevent it and didn't bother to try. She also knew he would have no trouble accessing the memories he was after, as they were fresh in her mind from her reminiscing.
'So that's what you've been up to,' he spoke in her mind. 'Betraying Fear for your hero; betraying the hero for Kilobyte and then risking death in Kilobyte's hands when you remembered what you feel for the man you tried to hate. Kilobyte would murder you if he had this information.'
"Seen what you wanted to see!" she hissed at him as he withdrew, knowing that some parts of her memories that he had just seen disgusted him. But she knew he was right: Kilobyte would kill her if he ever learned of her presence in the Sixth Dimension.
As much as he despised her for betraying him, leaving him to rot all those years ago when they were trapped in the prison of the Sixth Dimension, they were still brother and sister, and he would protect her from this new threat, that he himself had seen in action just hours ago, until that fool of a Lightning Knight came for her. "I will stay until your hero arrives," he told her curtly before teleporting out in a puff of smoke.
Letting out a sigh, Lady Illusion made her way onto the balcony that over looked the Horror Hedge Maze.
~I'm standing on a bridge,
I'm waitin' in the dark.
I thought that you'd be here by now,
There's nothing but the rain.
No footsteps on the ground,
I'm listening but there's no sound.~
'Ace, wherever you are,' she sent out a silent prayer to the stars above, as she clutched the balcony railing. 'Please, come and find me soon!'
~Isn't anyone tryin' to find me?
Won't somebody come take me home?~
"I'm With You" by Avril Lavigne
"What's Left Of Me" by Nick Lachey