Bold = Emphasis/Commentary
Italic = Emphasis/small memory moment
 = Artificial Intelligence/Android Speech
THE PAST: MAY 26 - 2014 - PORKBELLY CITY, ALBERTA - CANADA
Stepping outside his house and taking a breather was always a good thing for him. It helped him center his already hyperactive mind. Dukey was the one who suggested to him that idea, and so far it had been working great. It worked when Dukey got found out by his mom and dad, and it worked when there was just too much arguing in the house.
But this didn't feel relaxing at all. Johnny felt like the opposite of relaxing. He was even worse than unrelaxed, he was mad as all hell. He didn't care that he was the one to take the serum, he just cared that his sisters screwed up again.
Whatever was in that serum, all it did was bind to his already growing onslaught of mutant powers that he certainly didn't ask for. He especially didn't ask for a neat-freak dad that absolutely hated superpowers, and one that would ground him on a whim.
But he didn't care at that point, he just had to fix this before the genetic code became, well, permanent...at least that's how he thought science worked.
Taking a single moment to figure out which direction was the United States, Johnny positioned himself and readied for a long run. He set up his legs, taking a deep breath, ready to take on a much greater stride.
Before he could do anything, the door to his house opened forcefully, slamming the side of the wall. There stood Johnny's father, the borderline obsessive person that he was, had a more than upset look on his face.
"Johnny! Where're you going?!" the irate father asked, shouting unceremoniously. "Get back inside!"
Johnny couldn't care less, instead thinking about what he was going to do when he would reach Tech Square. There were times when Johnny just wanted to strangle his sisters.
This was definitely one of those times.
Kicking himself off the ground, a surge of wind broke into his face, while another broke right behind him, as it was enough to shake the trees down, and knock his dad back into the house like he was being dragged back. The entire suburb shook to Johnny's newfound power: superspeed. But he didn't want it. It was only causing more problems for him instead of fixing stuff that he wanted fixed. Moving faster than he had ever physically remembered being able to, and more than that, he realized that it wouldn't take too much time to get to Dexlabs to eviscerate Susan and Mary.
Boy oh boy did he have some choice words for them! He could only imagine their delightful reactions!
THE FUTURE: FEBRUARY 6 - 2015 - SECTOR V TREEHOUSE - TIME LAB
Everyone looked in horror at the fallen head of Larry 3000, the worst possible outcome diffusing into reality. Ben and Five were also in complete shock, and even Computress was finding this hard to process in her processor. This was literally the only way to undo Ben's displacement and to send him and Otto back to the correct time period, and now it was out of the question.
What chance did they actually have now?
Mandark, who meant to look after Larry's head the most, and was the most visibly shocked and stunned out of all of them, was the one to stand up and remain confident.
"Everyone!" Mandark commanded, shouting the need to get back to work on the time machine, regardless of however futile it now was. "We may not have synchronization, but we can still send Ben and Otto back in time. It would be like trying to hit a bullseye while blindfolded...and while riding a horse, but right now...it's the only chance we've got." he finished his mini-speech just as another explosion was heard behind them. As everyone returned to work, Ben was still trying to wrap his head around the whole ordeal.
This was it, he thought. If the machine didn't work, then it would be over, there wouldn't be any other chance for Earth to be saved from Fuse's clutches. It was all resting now on the time machine, and without that, what chance did they have at all?
Over at the farthest corner of the bunker, Ben thought to himself about consistency. There was a level of inconsistency that came with problems. Some would have said that problems are meant to be inconsistent. That they are meant to seem problematic and difficult in their nature.
By inconsistent, it came with how the work was proceeding in the Time Lab. At this point, they were just turning knobs and adjusting lines of code, unable to rework the time machine due to its dependence on the Synchronization Engine...which relied on a stable flow of tachyons...and another engine on the other side of time.
Because of Larry 3000's head falling off the table unexpectedly, a shockwave of tachyons had disrupted the tachyonic antitelephone needed to transmit a message across time. The message was meant to instruct the people of the other side to build their own engine, utilizing the residual tachyon radiation to link the two machines, providing a set destination . Without one...it was a lost cause.
The most threatening part, however, was the possibility of having to make a blind jump in time. The plan was to send Ben back to his time period before the war. They could have undone all of this. But without that connection, they wouldn't have been able to send Ben to a specified point in time.
As Ben had some more fleeting thoughts, this time of where that vortex could have even gone, he couldn't help but overhear what some of the scientists were saying.
"Maybe a blind jump won't be that bad, right?" one KND scientist murmured to another. "He could grow old, have kids, maybe set up a warning?"
"You think that's what he'd want?"
"More importantly, would anybody believe him?"
"Maybe Time Squad would be able to find him there?"
"Then why aren't they here now?"
Ben kept all of those comments in his mind without focus, thinking more about what would happen as they continued. Another shockwave shook the lab, this time only being a light one compared to the absolute devastation they had just faced mere minutes ago. It didn't change their confused reactions to the overall situation. He knew that whatever must have been happening in the past, it must have been just as confusing, if not more.
THE PAST: MAY 26 - 2014 - SIYENN CITY - TECH SQUARE - DEXLABS HEADQUARTERS
The Professor had finished washing his hands from the bathroom, hoping the experiment would be done as soon as he left. He had been hearing quite the excitement and commotion outside, and he could tell when the girls were actively engaged with something of this scale. He could tell from their mere voices. Every time they'd helped him out, they would have made the same gestures and noises. It humored him.
But it felt strange when the noises outside just...stopped. As he was opening the door he wondered that maybe they were in awe from a successful experiment. Maybe it was taking a little longer than usual, just as some of Dexter's experiments had before (like that time with the green creatures), and so the girls and the scientists were calmly and patiently waiting for it to work according to plan.
Or maybe, they were in complete shock from a failed experiment and a more-than-angry red-haired boy genius in a fit of rage.
The Professor found this out the hard way when a chair flew right across his face, barely meeting his nose, and crashed into an unidentified piece of machinery.
That must have been a close one.
The Professor, not knowing what he'd just experienced, looked to his left in complete bewilderment. Dexter seemed like someone had dismantled Computress, or if Mandark had reprogrammed her. But the strangest thing was that he didn't breathe a single word. No shout, no scream, just the rage.
Moving towards the girls, who could only watch as Dexter's rage played out until its denouement, the Professor asked them what was happening.
"Um, girls? Why is Dexter going insane?" he politely asked.
Bubbles was the one to respond. "I guess that's what happens when an experiment gets destroyed a second time."
Ah yes, the Professor thought, that could not have been a nice thought. Noticing the lab to be majorly empty, he had to wonder where the others were in all of this.
"Where are the other scientists?" he whispered to Buttercup.
"They left. Dexter told them to." Buttercup responded, informing the Professor and bringing surprise to his expression. If Dexter was so adamant of keeping the scientists here, why did he just let them leave like that?
Over at the other side of the main center, Dexter remained silent in his angst. He was so used to things finally working that he had forgotten what could happen if the experiment were to fail. It came to shock him, and he was petrified by his inability to save Ben.
"How could I be so blind..." Dexter murmured, chastising himself for his inability to foresee this sort of outcome. But he realized quickly, if he didn't allow himself to be blind, then there wouldn't be any issue.
He committed himself to staring at the unfinished Synchronization Engine, refusing to talk to anybody. He just stared at his failure like a statue, trying to make sense of something he had yet to comprehend.
Behind him the girls could only watch from a distance, plagued by their inability to help where they could. It pained them so, especially with the massive help they were already prior to the unforeseen error in transmission. But that still ran in their heads. What could have caused the antitelephone's sudden disappearance? Why did the message and most of its data just short out with no explanation? Why did Dexter punish himself for what wasn't failure? All these questions came about in their minds, and they knew all they could do was watch to find the answers they were seeking.
KND MOONBASE - RECREATIONAL BRANCH
"Just rewire it so that the purple wire meets the gold valve!" Number Two shouted to a random KND officer.
To call his project exciting was nothing short of an understatement. Number Two had managed to convince a higher-up in KND law to abide his suggestion, something that he hadn't done forever, and was now overseeing this project.
He, along with One and Four, had to stop by Earth to pick some of his tools up, as well as resting in an actually comfortable bed, and they had returned to the Moonbase soon after in order to ready the NanoCom-integrated communications channel. The project was moving at an extraordinarily fast pace, and if their timing was precise, they could have it ready a day early.
While finishing a day early would have normally been considered worrisome from an engineering perspective, Two was keeping a close eye on each operation as it was being executed, and nothing seemed like it would be causing a problem.
They'd be able to get full connection once more, and though it would be temporary, it would help get some idea of what was happening. Better yet, they'd be able to contact the scouting squads that they had sent to investigate the outer-rim.
They hoped for the best, and wished for everything to come back together again.
If it didn't come back together, then Two's head would be on a chopping block, courtesy of Number 1776.
That thought made Two shiver, but every time those thoughts came to mind, they were calmed down by Two's engineering expertise. Everything was working according to plan. Nothing would be causing a problem.
He hoped for the best, and he wished for everything to come back together again.
"This better work..." Two thought once again, before being distracted by another operative. "H-hey! You! That's not how you use a wrench!"
Hoped for the best...
TOWNSVILLE - CITY CENTER - PLAZA ALLEYWAY
Hanging out in the alleyway was common practice for the Gangreen Gang. On top of their dual-life as album-making award-winning rock stars, they kept faithfully to their roots as gangsters. They didn't harm anybody if they didn't have to.
The number of times they were arrested, however, was surprisingly the same. They had kept to better rules, so why would they have still been on the cops' constant hit-list? Maybe because the Powerpuff Girls missed their original punching bags...but what did they know?
It seemed ultra-normal today, though. No police, no Powerpuff Girls beating them up for loitering or something, not even any new songwriting ideas. It was all just peace and quiet.
Peace and quiet...until the strangest thing happened.
Out of the corner of their leader, Ace's eye, they spotted a man. A japanese man was walking the sidewalk. Now, in usual circumstances, they wouldn't be so rude to assume that anybody was of a stereotyped ethnicity. Sure, they beat people up, but they were never bigots. But it was just way too obvious here. The man was wearing a white and grey gi in the style of a kimoto, tied together with a grey obi complemented by its drooping red tassles. He had his hair tied up in a traditional chonmage (they knew that from their tour in Japan) and had a distinct scar across the right side of his face. Then came the katana, that smooth silvery katana...Ace could feel the temptation of just...taking it for hi-
No-no...never mind, they were beyond that...plus the cops threatened to retract their parole from them...and they needed that parole.
All the Gangreen Gang could do was look in awe at the strange man. What was more interesting was that of all the groups in the world, this man decided to come to them.
Despite his apparent man-out-of-time expression, as well as his outdated wardrobe, the man somehow spoke perfect English, so much so that it baffled each member of the gang, especially since their English wasn't all that great.
"Excuse me?" the man kindly asked, "I am looking for a place called "Tech Square". Do you know how I may get there?"
Ace and the gang were bewildered, alright. It was becoming apparent that the man lived under a rock his entire life, or so it seemed. They were so shocked by that, they forgot to even respond.
"Is everything alright?"
"Oh yeah man! Everything's...cool." Ace said, snapping out of his trance. "Uh...you wanna get to Tech Square?"
"Uh...you take that bus all the way east, and it'll tell you which one goes east, and uh...it'll get you there from Townsville."
"Thank you, kind soul."
The man left before he could elaborate on what he said, confusing all of them right away.
Returning to their loitering, Ace found himself asking what a guy like that would be doing looking for Tech Square. Probably something important, he assumed.
"Ressponssible citizzenss, rrightt bosssss?" one of his fellow hoodlums asked.
THE FUTURE: FEBRUARY 6 - 2015 - SECTOR V TREEHOUSE - TIME LAB
In the two minutes since Mandark wanted to get things moving again, and the one minute since the lab was reeling back from the shock it received...nothing of importance had happened. All that had actually happened was just more tinkering and murmuring from the scientists. That was what all of their efforts were amounting to, nothing.
The most Ben had even talked to the genius was in an offhand exchange.
"Do you still have the flash drive?" he had asked.
"Yeah." Ben had confirmed
"Bring it here." he had asked. "I have new information to upload to it."
That was it. No update, no speech of confidence, nothing.
Ben couldn't take this stance anymore, but there wasn't anything he could do about it. He had to stay back in case the machine would be ready. Finding little to do, he simply thought observing the images displayed on the monitor would help. But as he quickly found out, it only offered the opposite. Zooming into the frame was only but a magnifying glass to a more gruesome sight. The doppleganger had left a ghastly trail of bloody bodies, laying lifeless on the leveled lanes. KND agents, random fusion fighters, and Providence's most prized EVO agents were very clearly deceased. Ben couldn't bear to see such destruction, and felt his head spinning from the nauseating calamity.
This fusion was tearing through several forces for good, both human and metahuman, like it was clearing snow off the street. It made Fusion Buttercup look like a simple fusion spawn.
He had been stripped of a good reason to fight. He had been stripped of a good reason to hope. Soon, he would have been stripped of a good reason to be a hero. It made him think back to his conversation with Deedee...and how well that went.
"I just need to talk with her." Ben said, undeterred from his calm, surprising the heck out of Number Five for his apparent stoicism. But to her, Deedee was said to be incapable of recognizing mistakes, and her screw-up deprived them of a major factor in the war. To Number Five, Deedee was so frustrating that she couldn't see how someone wouldn't be angry with her, no matter whatever sympathy they would show.
"Definitely a revenge plot." she muttered to herself. Though it wasn't as quiet enough to have been heard by others.
Ben attempted to ignore that last comment Five made; he could tell how she felt about the girl that was possibly one great factor in their defeat, but he didn't want to repeat that. He had something specific he wanted to tell, or even ask her.
The hand-scan panel was smashed, a giant crooked hole centered at the screen. The panel had lopsided, looking like it was going to fall off at any moment. There was still a doorknob to turn, but even that had looked as dilapidated and ancient, covered in dust and dents. As Ben turned the knob and opened the door, dust flew into his face immediately. He coughed in reflex, waving away the useless particles to shield himself. Walking in was like walking into some kind of haunted house, Ben wasn't sure if something outside would jump and scare him. It looked completely pitch-black inside, even while the door was still open. Closing the door, the blackness then fully submerged the house. There was little to see aside from some obvious furniture, looking like it had been thrown around to opposite ends of their respective rooms. But aside from those silhouettes, there was nothing. No staircase, no hallway, not even the windows were visible. Ben couldn't even see his own hand.
But further inwards the dark house was a small light. Ben had seen it when he turned to his left, but thought it was just a reflection of light from outside. However, as he continued to explore the house (as much as he could without tripping over), he found that the light was in fact emanating from the kitchen.
Finally regaining sight of his feet, Ben's pace increased towards the kitchen. He turned to his left to find it in shambles. Windows were boarded up, faucets were dripping fusion matter, and a thousand shards of china were lying on the marble-tile floor. Turning to his right was another case of similar distress...
...and Deedee was sitting right there.
She wore practically the same clothes that he first saw her in before he left. The same single ponytail held at the top of her head, that went down as far as her neck; the same white pair of spandex pants, the same magenta top, the same silk pink sweater, which upon closer inspection looked more like a cardigan, that barely reached her elbows, and the same pair of ballet shoes.
Yet, the clueless smile that creeped the hell outta him...was not there. The clothing was the same, the hair was the same, yet the smile was absent.
Ben couldn't waste time any longer, he had to talk to her. What he was going to say had to be said.
"Hey..." Ben calmly greeted, hushing his voice enough to be almost unheard. But in this house, one could have heard a pin drop. Despite that, Deedee remained silent.
Ben kept trying to reach her. "It's Deedee, right?" he asked, "I heard you were..."
He had his eyes locked onto Deedee's thousand-yard stare, trying to see if she was paying attention to him. He wanted her to know nothing was her fault.
The sound of Deedee's voice almost startled the seasoned superhero. Her rather long silence had made him somewhat unprepared to deal with her talking.
"Okay...okay, progress." he murmured to himself, "
"I...if you think that I'm here to...y'know, berate you...I'm not, if it means anythin'."
That was easier than he expected. He didn't expect Deedee to be so callous or unmoved by the sentiment.
"I can already tell what Dexter was like..." Ben said, looking around the house and back to the scattered and demolished furniture.
"You guess right." Deedee said, still mellow in her speech. "He was less than...what's the word?"
"Something like that...yeah..."
There remained an uncomfortable silence between the two, layered throughout different moments of their chat, and Ben could feel it's presence in the feel of a void. It kept biting away at their discomfort, making the situation feel much more tense than it actually was. Deedee decided to break that silence for the time being, though what she had to say wasn't all that nice in context.
"I don't care if you don't care that I didn't care about your safety all those months ago." she continued inexplicably. Okay, maybe it's just wasn't nice at all. "It's common with me. Every mistake I've made always ruins something. Every button that got pushed somehow makes everyone's life more miserable. Name one time in your stay here that you've enjoyed."
"I-okay, this time isn't exactly sunshine and lollipops, but it hasn't been that bad, like this one time when I had saved this entire KND squad, or maybe the time when...uh...when I...uuhhh..." Ben was drawing blanks at every turn of his memory. There wasn't one time where he really enjoyed being in the future. Sure, the discovery of the tachyons could've counted, but then Mandark said he couldn't celebrate or fight any monsters...and then that moment's emotional impact got squashed.
In the two days he had been there, Ben couldn't say it otherwise: this place sucked. But he kept searching in vain, as something had to pop up, right? "Uuuuhhhh-"
"You can stop now."
"I know you didn't come here to rant off about my stupidity...you're too kind to do that." Deedee pointed out, "But give me a good reason to believe why I'm still not at fault for what happened." Her voice was cold, detached even; Ben could tell her depression from that attribute alone. It made him think...what had Dexter said to put her in this mood?
"Well...if you hadn't sent me here...don't you think that nothing else would've changed?"
"I...phrased that badly, but my point is that there's hope, y'know? We've got the chance to make things right. If you weren't there to...set that in motion...none of this would've been possible."
"Dexter wouldn't stop with the barrage of insults once you left. He thought it would've drilled the point in my head if I couldn't understand it. And he was right. Every word of it was right. If someone like me couldn't change in time...why do you think that everything else'll change when you go back?"
Ben gave a long sigh in thought. This was something he always felt tested by, and here he had to reveal what that was. "Well...as a superhero, I'll tell you...change is always what we want. And most of the time...change happens. There is no fate, just what we have to make for ourselves...and without change, there'd be no hope either."
"But. There. Isn't." she continued, responding to Ben in an almost robotic way, as if she'd been brainwashed by all the hurtful comments around her to think and act that way. "What kind of point are you looking for in this? The damage's done; I don't see the need for some effort otherwise."
"W-why're you saying that?" Ben asked in surprise, "We're getting a second chance! I mean...surely you know what that means, right? Wouldn't you want a second chance?"
"Did Dexter give me a second chance?"
With that, Ben had nothing to say. He came to realize Deedee's broken mindset. From what he had inferred, Dexter never did give her any second chances, and he never apologized for his arrogance or demeaning of her. He had a few thoughts to mind, such as Dexter only wanting his sister to be more wary...but then came Deedee's attitude. She was dead-set on that belief, yet she seemed so much more sophisticated than the clueless glimpse of a girl he had seen. Surely she should have understood that point, leading Ben to believe that maybe this demeaning had a level of weight to it, and whatever reaction Dexter had shown to her once he had left was the straw that broke the camel's back, or in this case...Deedee's very soul.
The alien hero kept on trying to come to more and more reasons for how that didn't have to mean the death of their hope. But one last glance at Deedee's tired, stressed, and emotionally broken expression told him to leave her be. He didn't want to cause more damage to her conflicted views, or else he'd betray the very reason he came to her for. He navigated himself back through the dark and messy living room, stubbing his toe from a lack of focus. He felt too deep in his entranced and shocked mind. He felt his ideals and personal beliefs being challenged to a degree that he wasn't at all prepared for.
Just as Ben was about to open the door, Deedee had one last thing to shout out from the kitchen. It was something that he had asked himself to shrug off for his journey back to the past, knowing full well that this would last with him for a very long time.
"There's no hope, no change...not anymore," she said, "and if there was, then I would've stopped blowing things up a while ago."
And so...they were there. The endgame, the finale, the last stand of mankind. The head was on the floor, the tachyonic antitelephones were lost. They had no way to contact the past, and were essentially making a blind-jump into space-time.
Ben rejected that idea! He couldn't stand the thought of it! He had proven over and over again that he could turn the tides of fate to his favor. Every alien he fought, every conqueror he overthrew, every conspiracy he shut down, every fusion he pummeled in his stay here. It all meant something! It had to! Why would he be here if he wasn't?! Why would this kind of chance even be offered to him at all? He knew, he hoped, that this was all worth something, but the only way he could find out was if he moved forward, and he couldn't move forward if he was being held back.
Ben walked towards the monitor, currently unused by Mandark, and referred back to the feed of the new fusion. The monster was snarling, prowling the shaking ground and desecrated remains of Hero's Square, looking for a challenger to surpass and kill.
It wouldn't be killing anybody, Ben thought, and he began moving towards the Time Lab's exit. And of course, the first one to notice was Mandark. Ben couldn't understand that, it was like he cared to notice what was happening around him when he wanted to. There could have been a mine that got set off and he wouldn't have flinched. But when someone was clearly trying to leave and save the world, it was already like the end of the world to him.
"Ben, where are you going?"
Another shockwave shook the lab, though this was a light one. A single lamp lost power, and nothing more. The scientists murmured in more worry, as did Mandark. But in this case, it was Ben who didn't care for it. He realized that he had to stand tall on his own. He couldn't stand the thought of passiveness anymore. He couldn't stand his inability to do anything anymore. He couldn't stand Mandark's polemic anymore.
"I'm going outside, and I'm finishing this."
Mandark's eyes widened with his worst suspicions confirmed. Ben was trying to destroy Fusion Eduardo, regardless of his power, and regardless of the fusions, he was trying to play the foolish hero. Mandark knew he couldn't allow that, especially under these circumstances. "Ben, I am fully understanding of your claustrophobic reaction to being kept inside, but you must in turn understand the chances you are jeopardizing here!"
Ben seemed to ignore the scientist, focusing on getting his Omnitrix operational. Turning to Mandark, he calmly said, "I know that you need me for saving the world. I just need to save your world before I can mine."
Mandark was baffled by his logic, not unlike most of the scientists in the room.
"If you die, you won't be able to save your world."
"Then you'll send over Otto. I'm buying you some time to get the machine ready."
"How are you buying us time?"
"Sooner or later, that fusion's gonna find our bunker, and it'll annihilate all of us with one attack or shockwave like it's already doing. I'm the only one who can stop him."
The logic was sound there. The doppleganger was getting dangerously close to finding the treehouse's hidden chamber. Mandark would still not agree, however, that Ben was the only one who could stop him.
"We can send out KND agents to buy us that time! You need to remain here!" Mandark protested. "Besides, Fusion Eduardo has been marked by that scanner as having an oversaturated fusion-matter composition!"
"Thanks for telling me the name, now I get to beat it up personally."
"Ben, are you acknowledging my worries as of the moment? An oversaturated fusion-matter composition means that this fusion is more likely to have a vast number of attacks to maintain its internal conditions and to annihilate you! You simply are not prepared enough to handle a fusion of this magnitude!" Mandark shouted, gaining Ben's attention before he could leave.
"Whose fault was that?" Ben angrily retorted, making Mandark pause in his words. The former had brought up a very valid point, and a point that he had dismissed earlier during a less relevant time. Ben kept walking forward, refusing to turn back anymore.
"We are not denying you the chance to change the past. The time machine is ready to send you back. What we cannot allow is you risking this entire operation for our sake."
"Why does it have to be me?"
"You could send Otto to the past and he'd be able to warn the others. Hell, the Time Squad could go further back in time and stop Fuse from ever existing!"
"It wouldn't work!" Otto said, speaking up finally. "We have rules against altering the fabric of history. Time's like a large rope; if you cut one straw of it, the whole thing could unravel!"
"As established by Mr. Osworth, that solution would backfire due to the Time Squad's utter futility." Mandark said, evoking a more depressed expression from Otto. "There also exists another reason. If you do not sacrifice yourself here, and we send you back specifically rather than anybody else, your contribution to our war effort could be immense! Some of us theorized that your absence in the war was a major factor to our loss!"
Ben felt taken aback by that, unable to formulate how an alternative could work now thanks to that iota of information. He was speechless, looking to the scientists in the hopes of finding a different reaction. One single reaction that could suggest that the theory had some fallibility to it. But he saw none of those expressions, not a single one. The only expression that stuck out was Otto's, which looked as if he held a grave element of knowledge to justify Mandark's information. Ben could tell immediately that it was Otto who had confirmed that theory, turning to him for questioning.
"Is that true?"
Otto could only give a quaint nod. A quaint nod was enough for Ben's rebelling to sink down. He knew that his return to the past would mean something because of his knowledge of Fuse...but it mattered on a battlefield perspective more? He felt more compelled than ever to follow the scientists' command and help humanity out by staying put.
But then another shockwave shook the tree, nearly knocking everybody off their feet. Getting back up, Ben turned around to see the faces of several KND scientists and soldiers in complete fear. They were on the verge of death, with fate splashing apocalyptic waves of destruction to the motion of their anxiety. Their hands, shaking. Their legs, shaking. Their eyes, crying. So many faces, so many tears.
So many faces, so many tears...and so many faces that could be helped.
Ben realized what he had to do. He realized the only thing he could do. Deedee had told him about the pointlessness of effort in an un-winnable battle. She had told him that remaining defenseless in this battle was the only way to feel at peace with the inevitable death.
But he knew the truth. What he knew was his Omnitrix. He knew that it contained the mutated metahuman samples of several different alien species, and would always help him save the day, or just the moment. But more importantly, he knew one thing relative here that was this was just a battle. This was all part of something larger.
This was part of a war, and this war was not over yet!
Not by a long shot!
After that long period of thinking, Ben knew what had to be done. "Maybe my help in the war is needed more than anything, and I'm not gonna abandon that responsibility...but that doesn't mean I can't help others right now, or else our situation here is compromised entirely!"
"Ben, you are putting the safety of forty people over 7 billion?"
"Leave it, Mandark! I'm gonna be fine, and you know it!"
"NO, I DO NOT KNOW IT! BECAUSE WE CANNOT BE SURE OF YOUR CHANCES, YOU IMPULSIVE IDIOT!" Mandark shouted, shutting Ben up for the time being. "We only have one shot at saving our world, and fixing our previous mistakes, and you just want to throw that away for something so foolish and futile as some heroic nobility?! We are not going to endorse such an illogical mission at the cost of everything we are holding dear!" Mandark finished with much panting, tired from having to argue as much as he did. But Ben wasn't done. After a moment considering Mandark's argument, he fired back with another argument.
"Fine, you want something logically tangible? Homer once said that 'great things are won by great dangers'? What's so 'great' about sitting around and doing nothing?!"
"It wasn't even Homer who said that, Ben." Mandark corrected. "It was Herodotus."
"WHO EFFIN' CARES?" Ben shouted. "The point is the same, dude! That thing outside is gonna kill us all if someone doesn't do something about it! And frankly, if we can't or won't stop that thing, then what makes us think we'll beat Fuse in the future?!"
"I-" Mandark tried responding, only to be interrupted by Ben again.
"If we're gonna be so pessimistic about what enemies we have to face, or if we're only gonna focus on ourselves, then we won't have a shot at winning this war. The fusions might as well win if we're not gonna risk any chances to beat them! And when have wars ever been won without risk?! They haven't been won by some bullshit destiny or chosen one, they've been won because all of us on our own took our own risks, and worked as one to fight the battles that we alone couldn't!"
Mandark refused to be astounded by Ben's passion for heroism, but statistically speaking...he wasn't all wrong.
"I'm not looking to be some kind of 'chosen one'. I'm the guy with an alien watch, and I'm the guy who wants to do the right thing. And if you want to get in my way of doing that, Mandark, if you want to stop me from saving lives in any way I can?!" Ben continued to shout as he pushed up his sleeve to reveal the Omnitrix. He pulled it up for a proud display, keeping everybody back. "Yeah. Good luck trying! And if you really want to get this done as fast as possible, and to keep everyone safe for as long as possible, then get out of my way!"
A spell of shock shook the lab, though it wasn't from outside. No, this shock came from Ben's dedication to everyone, fighting the battles that they simply couldn't. They remained speechless, unable to argue with what Ben had to say. Some of them still thought otherwise, but ultimately, it was unavoidable for them to realize the need to act on their own. They had to rely on each other to fight those battles. This disconnected state that they all were in prioritized survival on top of all things, but without any drive or effort to push forward, they knew their war would be pointless. Noticing the door being shut tight as he was heading toward it, Ben stood next to it to request access outside.
"Computress, open the door." Ben asked politely and calmly, as much as possible anyway.
There was a much more distinct silence. The AI was acting unresponsive almost on purpose, as if she was thinking and debating Ben's proclamation herself. She usually was to side with the chief scientist's apparent opinion, that being Mandark; it made Ben feel like she was going to keep him locked in. But to his surprise...
She decided to agree. A wave of relief and shock collided within Ben, as the door slid open to let him loose. To change an artificial intelligence's way of programming was one thing, but to make it differ from its prime directive? Ben knew what he had said must've struck some logic circuits in her database.
The laboratory was a lot more quiet compared to the frantic mess it acted like mere minutes earlier. Every scientist sans Mandark exchanged glances with a mixture of confusion and epiphany, beginning their further work on the time machine as per Ben's instructions.
By the edge of the room, Number Five stood as still as a statue, not having moved since the head fell. She had listened to everything. Every word felt like a knock on the door to a once abandoned ideal of hope. That hope had died with her loss throughout the war. But now, it felt an awakening. She realized how useless it would be to simply 'sit around and do nothing'. If Ben wanted to prove that fighting against these aliens was worth something, then it would take a lot more than a passion to get that job done.
She knew that like everything she herself had fought for, it would require teamwork. And teamwork only happened through action.
ELSEWHERE IN THE KND TREEHOUSE - MEDBAY
The tremors continued to shake the medbay with great calamity. Syringes were being tossed around the room, operatives were constantly being knocked off their feet. Tables were falling over like a pack of dominos, as if there was a rhythm to the chaos before them. If this symphony of catastrophy meant anything to Number 142, it was that Fuse was wiping his shoes on their "unwelcome mat".
142 also thought to herself that if she was to survive this, she really had to work on her similes and metaphors.
Her casual thought was harshly interrupted by another shake. Having evacuated most of the patients into a bunker for safety, she had left herself to take care of Number Two's comatose body. It was difficult, to say the least. She'd been trying to do that for a while now, and Two was either a really heavyset guy or these gourneys were crafted with a far denser material than stainless steel. 142 tried with all her might to resist the constant impacts that descended across Sector V, and shook the ground so much.
She hoped someone, hell, anybody could help her with this.
To her shock, but not through the shockwave, a surprise came indeed.
142, in all her medical expertise under KND, couldn't believe the timing of his recovery.
At least then it wouldn't have to be so hard to push him around.
THE PAST: MAY 26 - 2014 - KND MOONBASE - RECREATIONAL BRANCH
The utter lack of tries it had taken them to get this thing right was a dead ringer for success. Having finished setting up a marker-microphone speaker, the system would be going live soon, and several KND members had lined up to see the new system in action.
"Okay everybody! We're almost ready so keep holdin' onto your - what time is it?" Two said in a tangent - quickly checking the time - with passion, "Uh - your dinnerboxes, apparently!" The KND weren't enamored by Two's excited prospects for the project. They just wanted to get the system up and running. Luckily for them, Two was ready with that sooner than they thought.
"Aaaaaaaanndd!" Two slurred, building the hype towards the inevitable completion. "We're live!" He confirmed. With that, several of the KND members pulled out their NanoComs to find themselves automatically linked to a network. They were live, and the KND were back on the grid. Though they all knew they had to act quick. It wouldn't take obscenely long for the governments of the world to recognize different or foreign NanoCom servers being used across space, so they acknowledged its hopefully short lifespan.
"Here, I've got it." One volunteered, walking up to the front and taking the marker-microphone. "Kids Next Door callsign: 9er flyer 19343. Do you read? Please respond."
"How do you know their callsign?"
One turned around slowly, and behind his glasses gave Two a look of disbelief. In the many years Number Two was his best friend, he thought it to be common knowledge about what he was like. Two understood immediately: questioning Number One's devotion to the KND to the point of extensive research was rhetorical.
But to Number One's response, not a word came in response.
One tried again. "Kids Next Door callsign: 9er flyer 19343. Do you read? Please respond." But still, there was nothing.
He tried once again. "Kids Next Door callsign: 9er flyer 19343. Do you read our transmission? Please respond as soon as possible." But still, there was nothing. Just more dead radio silence.
"Maybe they don't have their NanoComs?" one operative questioned.
"The squad was apparently comprised of teenagers," One reaffirmed, further showing his knowledge, "what kind of teenager doesn't carry a NanoCom?"
They couldn't argue with that. Being teenagers themselves, and remembering the age before the NanoCom, kids were constantly on their phones and social networks. Why wouldn't this squad have NanoComs?
"Yeah...yeah, they probably think it's their moms or something." Two reasoned, realizing that the scouts weren't exactly aware of the NanoCom alternative
"Keep calling them. They have to respond at some point."
TWO HOURS LATER
"T-try it again."
"Uh-huh..." Two responded. Though frankly, he shouldn't have responded. Because the only response that mattered was the one from the scouts.
And it had been two HOURS without one. TWO HOURS.
It was so JOYOUS that Four had taken a nap at his station. It was so joyous that everybody but these three had left in what was definitely NOT boredom.
"KND call...thing: 9er...flyer...schmyer...19...somethin'. Check your NanoCom...please respond..." One's voice was almost completely gone, as if it withered away with a cold wind. He couldn't be blamed though. It's not his fault no one checked their NanoCom...
Y'know that the narrator can feel the time pass through transitions...right?
Then, as if a miracle from the heavens itself...they FINALLY got a response.
"WHAT! WHAT DO YOU WANT, MOM?! I'M IN THE MIDDLE OF HANGIN' OUT WITH MY GAWD-DAMN FRIENDS!
The unexpected shouting sure did wake them up. Two had sworn that he heard Number Four fall off his seat.
"COULD YOU PLEASE JUST WAIT FOR ME TO COME BACK HOME AND THEN WE'LL TALK? HUH?" The transmission continued. Clearly the guy on the other line was as irritated as they were, if not more.
One, once fully awake and aware, grabbed onto the marker with a ravenous speed, as if he had been waiting just to grab the marker for that single purpose...which was the case. "Kids Next Door callsign: 9er flyer 19343. Do you read our transmission? Please respond as soon as possible."
"We're not your mom...we're KND, and we're checking in to see your progress."
"Whaddya mean you're KND?"
"What else could that possibly mean to you?"
"Well...why're you calling us on our NanoComs?" The KND agent asked. "Isn't that against the Book of KND?"
"Not important right now." One said. "What's important is your status update. Care to share?"
"Uh...y-yes sir. I-uh...sorry for screaming-"
"Yeahyeahyeah. Uh...well, we're just about to reach Saturn Base on Titan, and we're a few minutes away from , if it means anything."
"And what of Jupiter or Venus Base? Did you check out the rest of the bases with communication issues?"
"Yeah we did. Everything seems to be fine in those areas." the pilot responded. "We kept finding the point of origin to be further down the solar system, like some sorta domino effect. We're working towards Pluto Base to find what's happening."
"Operative, switch to video feed. We need a visual."
"Copy that." The pilot agreed. With a few clicks and presses heard from the other side, they had a live transmission. "You reading?"
Slamming his fist with joy onto the table, One gave a proud smile. "We've got it!" he confirmed with triumph. Two and Four both had their own celebration behind One, chest bumping at their victory (also knocking Four across their setup). "Proceed with the mission." One continued, getting more serious, as did Two and Four (who had trouble getting up).
The next few moments was so much more productive. Four was writing down a detailed report of everything the scouts were doing, regardless of anything interesting happening or not. One kept informing the team to make or note of anything that they spotted. Two had been monitoring the video footage they were sending constantly, checking their movements each step of the way to see where the problem laid. Each of the three operatives were more excited than usually, being able to prove a case to the higher ups of KND, and being able to handle their problem with the communications.
As Two once again returned to the video feed on the old-TV monitor, he noticed something as the scouts hovered over
It looked like some kind of green...egg. It actually looked familiar, and he was honestly drawing some blanks as to where it might have come from. It was pulsating, like a heart, oozing out some strange liquid on its own...and more gears were beginning to click inside the head of Hoagie. Two was beginning to recall where this was coming from, but he was questioning what it was doing on Titan. Just then, he realized that the scout ship had stopped moving.
"Hey, have they moved in the last minute?"
"No they have not, Numbuh Two," Number One had said, "here, let's see what's keeping them. Scout Ship 19343, do you copy?"
There was a strange silence...like no one was even there. One tried to check on them again.
"Scout Ship 19343, do you copy?"
Another silence. One felt he had to keep trying; he didn't want Two's viability being wrecked. "Scout Ship 19343, do you copy?" he responded.
While none of the operatives got scared at that, they did jump, not expecting to be pranked. Laughter was heard from the other side, loud enough to make its way through the marker-microphone, anyway.
"Scout Ship 19343, do you copy?!" One repeated with anger. He took his work seriously, and would have appreciated it if this pilot wasn't such a joker!
"Yeah, yeah, we copy, jeez." the pilot responded. "What's your issue?"
"We've noticed that you have stopped moving. What's happened?"
Gasping all of a sudden, the pilot realized he had completely forgot to tell them about their discovery. "Oh, right. Sorry 'bout that. We found Saturn Base."
"That was obvious, pilot. It's a gigantic alien tree. How would one not notice it?"
"How would the adults not notice commercial airliners and ships stuck in an extremely large tree in the middle of a suburb?"
"Adults don't notice because they're adults!" One argued, feeling taken aback by this pilot's crude criticism of the KND. "Kids notice because KND. Do you see an alien tree or don't you?"
"I do! But I-here, let me just..." the pilot sidetracked himself to push a few more buttons. Two watched as the camera moved away from the green egg to a fully visible treehouse. But...something was off about this treehouse. Sure, the rings was there in the background, some areas still comprised of those unspeakable plushdolls, but the focus remained on what was in front of them. Most of the interstellar bases usually had the same setup. The same bright tree roots and nodes that covered the tree like chicken pox (though for each base those nodes differed in color) with several glass walls to cover a larger city-like array of objects. The objects on Saturn Base were mainly satellites and discarded KND C.O.O.L.B.U.S. These many stations each were meant to be lit in a yellow color, marking their presence on KND scanners.
But it wasn't lit. It wasn't lit...at all. The base looked dead, almost abandoned, like something out of a horror video game. The roots were covered in what could only be described as some kind of glowing vine, green in color...and once again Two's memory began to jolt back up, recognizing this stuff under close inspection.
It couldn't have been those things, right? The ones from five years ago?
At that moment, he wondered if he should have told Number One and Four, but part of him disagreed to do that. After all, those spawn things were only a bunch of havoc-causing creatures that just reproduced from those eggs to break stuff. After all, it wasn't like it was from some larger more hostile alien force designed to assimilate life, right?
Number Two really felt that one was on the nose, wasn't it?
Still under the relaxed mindset, Two listened as the pilot brought him back to focus. "You're able to see the treehouse, right?"
"Yes, clear as crystal." One responded. "What happened to it?"
"That's what we've been trying to figure out, 'cause it was like this when we got here." he responded. "I've already sent my second-in-command to check it out; that's why I'm stuck here waiting."
Okay, that was a relief, they each thought. They knew as soon as the second-in-command would come back, this process would be back on schedule, and no further-
Did he say 'second-in-command'?
So...what happened to the third or fourth? Or any of the other subordinates?!
Four surprisingly caught onto that inconsistency really quickly, and with a confused frown on his face he snatched the marker-microphone away from One to speak into it. "Oi! Whaddy'a mean your 'second-in-command'?" he spoke. "Didn't you send your military team first?"
Well, yeah...then they...well...got missing...and then the scientists we sent to look for them went missing..."
Four's eyes widened at the realization of what had happened to the squad.
"Then they went missing, so we began sending out the main deck's operatives...then they went missing..."
Turning to Number One, who had been perched over Four's shoulder like an owl listening into everything, exchanged the shocked looks. They were slowly realizing that something was not only wrong, but that the entire scout team was falling to mortal danger.
"...then I sent my second-in-command-"
"Pilot! Make like a u-turn and get out of there while you still can!"
"Can't you tell something's not right? You're the only one left, aren't you? You need to get out of there before what took your friends takes you!"
"And act outside of my orders behind 362's back? Fat chance!" he responded rudely. "Besides, I thought using NanoComs upon anything else was against protocol!"
He had aimed that specifically at One, who generally seemed unmoved by it, but there was nevertheless a silence.
Then, as if out of nowhere, the screen blackened. Number Two didn't understand what had happened, looking around the edges of the screen to look for the problem. But he soon found the problem. Nothing was wrong with the monitor.
The power on the other side had gone off.
Suddenly, an inhuman shriek pierced the silence, drawing everyone's attention to the screen, seeing the pilot look upwards in time to catch the rapid movement of something as it rounded the path of the hull towards the corner of the C.O.O.L.B.U.S. It was too fast for anyone to comprehend at first, even the pilot on the other side, but once the thing came into full view on the landing, a single flashlight cornered the sniveling little alien on its silhouetted and dark look.
The pilot lifted up and used the camera to gain closer inspection upon the little creature, to find a green scorpion-like alien composed entirely out of a gooey substance. It had no legs, yet it had a jagged mouth as well as two glowing red eyes. Two, looking over to his side, saw as Four and One's memories were coming back to remind them of what they were dealing with.
Knowing their transmissions were open, and thus hearable to others, One knew to slowly move his hand toward the microphone, trying to make as little sound while trying to direct the operative away. But before he could even do anything...
The spawn decided to start shrieking at a horrific pitch. It's sound echoed and disoriented the pilot, dropping the camera on its side. The camera dropped to the side of the windshield, and to the three's horror, they saw something worse.
More and more spawns hopped over the parked vehicle, most likely coming from the green egg; they came in hordes, almost covering the windshield. It was here, that all three terrified operatives watched as they saw a much greater threat literally on the horizon.
Quickly rising was a gargantuan green planet that almost moved with the spawns, as if it commanded them. It had the most unnerving of looks, having thousands of planets almost fused into it, attached to it like tumors.
But aside from that, they heard gunfire, and then more shrieks, both of human and spawn. Though the latter stopped quite early...and began gutting the pilot piece by piece...
Or at least, that's what they all thought from the several sounds coming from the audio receptors. There was so many gory sounds...they couldn't tell which sound belonged to which organ.
Only one familiar sound played.
They couldn't respond.
They couldn't respond.
They could only hear.
And they could only watch.
Blood splattered the camera, creating a red glare from the screen for all three of them to gaze upon, filling the room with its horror. Having already seen enough, Two terminated the transmission. All three of them in shock, Four asked the obvious question.
"W-WHERE'RE THEY GOING?!"
"Oh my god..." One said, thinking back to the spawns' direction and trajectory, figured out where they were most likely coming to. "those things...they're headed for the moon!"
Realizing what they had just gotten themselves into, they turned to One with wide eyes...after all...
...who's to say they would stop at the moon?
TECH SQUARE - DEXLABS HEADQUARTERS
It had been three hours at work for Dexter. Three hours of studying the machine with a close eye. But the problem was clear to Dexter. He had no understanding of what he'd been doing. He recognized certain components, some foreign components only recognizable in their function. Yet still, out of three hours, he had gained nothing.
The girls didn't know how they could help out, having sent the Professor home to wait for them. Bubbles and Buttercup spent their time looking around the lab, but it was a tour without a focus, and without aim. Each of them felt quite useless, and almost defeated. Usually, they did something fun or heroic to compensate for that, but it wouldn't have worked here. While they had to leave every now and then to save Townsville, they came back to see if Dexter could let them help.
But he didn't ask for anything. He just kept staring at the incomplete Synchronization Engine, mesmerized by its complexity, and petrified by his inability to put the puzzle-pieces of this machine together.
"What?" Blossom asked.
"There is nothing..." Dexter repeated, finding himself giving up. "Nothing I can do...nothing I can build off of."
"You absolutely sure?"
"If I wasn't sure...would I say anything?"
Blossom hated her apparent uselessness, frustrated by not being able to do about anything to help Dexter. She remembered all the times when she was distressed and others would help her, and Dexter deserved just that. But with his callousness and what had transpired in the last three hours, it would have been tough to offer him any consolation. Nevertheless, she knew giving up wasn't worth it. She figured she had to try something at the very least. "Dex, I...I know that we haven't talked as much as we did before, so...what I might say may be a little...late, but you don't have to blame yourself for any of this." Continuing her consolation, Blossom walked closer towards him. "What happened wasn't some mistake, it was completely out of your hands. When we're broken down, we're meant to pick up the pieces, and move forward. Rejecting those pieces isn't...it's not going to help in the way you think."
Dexter calmly turned to her, offering her a glimpse of his black eyes behind his thick glasses. His eyes had the feeling of paradox. Blossom could tell that he had tried telling himself the same thing, and the technology was in fact the problem. He couldn't understand it despite his vast intellect. "It remains a matter of the failure, not the help involved." he argued morosely. "I failed to do more, Blossom. I failed to foresee the chance of failure. I failed to recognize the alternative errors or risks...just like Deedee..."
"You-no!" Blossom objected, restraining her more vigorous personality to be as heartfelt as possible. Feeling more confident, she walked closer to Dexter to comfort him more. "No, Dex, I...it's hard...to come back from failure...I get it. Me and my sisters get it. When you're idolized by so many...you've got so much on the line, and when you screw up it feels like there's no going back. And because of that, there-"
"But that is what this company was meant to be...it was meant to be more. It was meant to not fail, and I failed my friend when I sent him through that machine!" Dexter continued, refusing to treat himself lightly on the experiment's failure. "I feel as worthless as my sister. If I am surrounded by such astounding technology, and I have the most acute and discriminating understandings of the machinery, then why can I not figure this conundrum out?! All of this is because I failed to do more!" The boy genius shouted, practically pulling his own hairs out. He kicked the chair he had sat on to his left, hitting Blossom instead of flying across the room. The chair, rather than ricocheting off of her, bent around her shape like tin foil as she raised her forearms in a cross to cover her head. The now-molded chair fell onto the floor, clanging loudly and echoing in the empty lab. The two other girls came to Blossom instantly upon hearing it.
Dexter, looking at what he accidentally did, widened his black eyes, his glasses now on his nosebridge. His mouth hung open in shame, moving towards Blossom for an apology. "I-" Dexter began, "I apologize, I did not mean to-"
"It's fine, 'didn't feel a thing;" Blossom said, immediately forgiving him, "it's okay to be frustrated. But moping or kicking things around won't solve anything either. All we can do right now, without anger, is to just keep trying to fix the engine, even if it never works. Because there's always another way."
Another silence consumed the lab, making Dexter hang his head down in deep thought. Theoretically speaking, Blossom's logic in this case was a bit flawed, but ethically speaking...she wasn't completely wrong. It was an ever-growing debate in Dexter's mind, something that tore him apart sometimes. He questioned if he should follow logic or if he should follow morals. As a scientist and as an educated man, he had an obligation to face facts, but whenever this involved his friends or associates, he had trouble accepting the facts if it meant something negatory to him. If Dexter remembered correctly, this was what so many people had called "denial" or "arrogance". But it felt like more than those simple definitions. He had no way to confront things such as failure without denial, but in the end, with the facts facing him first, he couldn't deny his failure. For the first time in many years...
He didn't know what to do.
Finally ending the silence, everybody had heard a door open, and soft and slow footsteps approaching.
[Intruder Alert] Computress warned. She could only do that once, though; without any outward reaction from Dexter, the A.I couldn't actually activate the interior defenses. Everyone was simply distracted by this visitor.
They all turned to face that door.
No one seemed tense, accepting the uninvited presence.
When they saw the shadow of the tall well-built man entering, none of them raised their fists or readied themselves.
They just calmly watched as a a normal man entered the laboratory.
But it was the attire of the man entering that caught them off-guard.
The man was wearing a white and grey gi in the style of a kimoto, tied together with a grey obi and complemented by an extra belt with a set of drooping red tassles. He had his hair tied up in a traditional Japanese hair topknot, and a scar on the right side of his profile. He was calm in his posture, mood, and voice as he spoke up and asked a simple question.
"My apologies for the intrusion, but is this Dexlabs?" the man calmly asked. "I had hoped to knock on the door, but these droids wouldn't allow me to."
Not expecting a question from a man like this, they didn't know what to think or even say.
Dexter, being frustrated enough and mentally defeated as it already was, decided to be rid of the silences. He simply stepped forward and spoke up. "Who are you?"
"Who are you?" Dexter repeated immediately, refusing to let the man speak or voice his confusion. "How did you find your way into this facility?"
Finally realizing that no one let the mysterious man in, the Powerpuff Girls flew up and readied themselves. This could have involved a fight.
"There is no need to eviscerate this man for the excuse of breaking and entering. Girls, stand down." Dexter reasoned, refusing to turn his head and lose focus on the stranger. The girls looked down, and only lowered themselves slightly. But they still kept themselves on the edge, ready for a fight if it broke out.
"I thought the Dexbots were maintaining front-door security."
The man's eyes widened at that. He clearly realized that he made a mistake of some sort. "Oh...those were yours. Forgive me if you find them a little bit...destroyed. I have had a few issues with robots in the past..."
Dexter raised a brow, not understanding what the man was trying to say. "So you destroyed them." The girls rose into the air again.
"Only after they pulled weapons on me." The man digressed, prompting the girls to hover back down. Furthermore, Dexter's more offensive stance took a step down, allowing for the boy genius to think more clearly and communicate more politely. Though not before the girls exchanged some weird glances; why on Earth would Dexter equip his security-bots with deadly weapons?
"Then allow me to apologize for my rather precautionary measures. We were expecting someone el..." he said. But he couldn't finish due to a glaring distraction. With that distraction, those apologies he gave were immediately rescinded by a glance of the man's strange accessory. The sheath of a sword...and the sword that it held.
"Where did you get that sword?"
Put off by the abrupt questioning, the man acted surprised at the boy genius's inquiry. Not even the girls fully understood where Dexter was going with that. "What do you mean?" he asked innocently.
"Do not play me, random stranger. It could come off as a replica, but I would recognize the real handle and scathe from a 50 meter post." Dexter continued to argue, holding back no reason to be irritated. "The black and gold pattern, the black silk leather on the hilt, the Egyptian and Japanese iconography melded on the sword's guard. It's a hilt and blade that is not very hard to miss. So allow me to repeat myself. Where did you get that sword?"
"Rest assured, the blade is mine." the man said, defending himself and his integrity. If only this boy knew...but how did he know each detail of the blade's aesthetic? "But how were you able to-"
Dexter wouldn't let the man finish his sentence, and continued ranting his suspicions. "Then there is also the fact that that exact blade, that exact sword, is kept in a museum with Tokyo's most precious historical artifacts." Dexter proclaimed, taking a much more aggressive tone than before. "Did you steal it?"
"I would harbor no such greed." the man claimed. "I have come from a far away place, one that may be hard to comprehend. So please, if you could indulge me-"
"Q-12!" Dexter shouted to the Dexbot across his lab, who immediately treaded over to him at his call. "Call the police!"
"There is no need for that, sir." the man said, trying to reason with the irate scientist.
"Right now, you have broken into my laboratory with a stolen object, a stolen object that is priceless in value, and you expect me to indulge in your opinions?"
Rather than the man firing back, he took another moment to let peace settle before asking as calmly as ever. "You have A.I. in this time period?"
"What do you mean by 'this time period'?"
"Ask it about the condition of the sword."
"For what reason?" he asked. Dexter didn't fully comprehend what the man was trying to prove, and failed to see how an internet search would help prove his point. The sword was stolen, obviously; how would checking on it prove anything beneficial to him? If anything, it would help his own argument, no?
"You must trust me." the man continued, asking with composure and tranquility, echoing in the lab with each word's reverberation. "I only ask that of you."
Dexter had every reason not to trust whoever this man was. He stole an ancient item of value, had the guts to send it here, and on top of that he had broken into his labe. He reasoned that any sort of story this man had to tell would be surreal and nonsensical. Yet, the man's generally temper-less attitude told a different story. He did not object, he did not try to interrupt. He only asked for someone willing to listen. It would have been unfair to refuse this stranger the benefit of the doubt, so Dexter obliged, and began opening his mind to suspicions.
"Access recent news out of Japan. Specify keywords: "Yamashiro" and "blade""
[Accessing all Japanese media; search results defined: "Yamashiro" and "blade";]
The fierce and tense silence enveloped and possessed each side of the lab. The man's gaze did not go unfocused, almost as if he knew the outcome.
[Most recent news: loading results] Computress began, holding the girls and Dexter at the edge of tension, ["Reknowned inventor, physicist, and philanthropist Dr. Akira Moshimo has recently donated 10 million yen to the Japanese Historical Society, hoping to open research into the group's more ancient artifacts including: the Scrolls of Demongo, the Lost Kunai, and the Yamashiro Samurai Blade. The company thanked Moshimo for his generosity and service."]
Once Computress finished, everyone but the stranger was left in confusion. No news about the sword being stolen were reported. Everybody could connote the meaning of that: the sword by the man's side wasn't at all a theft.
"So it must be a replica..."
The man shook his head as he took the blade out a tiny bit, enough for the sword to shine from the reflected lights across the room. That was a dead ringer for Dexter to realize that the metal of the blade itself was authentic, too authentic to be some sort of copy. Skipping past the next 20 questions upon realizing that said questions would be pointless, as well as there being too much evidence to ignore, Dexter jumped to the most prevalent question circling in his mind.
"What do you call yourself?"
"My name, is Jakku Yamashiro, slayer of the demon Aku, and the samurai that travelled through time once more to bring you a message of grave importance." the man proclaimed with a booming voice, overpowering all others in the lab. "If the work you conduct involves time travel, the information that rests with me will most certainly be helpful. So now I ask you to heed my message."
That...was an...unexpected tid-bit...
It was safe to say that everybody else in the lab shared that sentiment. To comprehend what this man was implying, that he was the Samurai, the Samurai that defeated the world's most ancient evil, took a little longer to comprehend. Dexter's jaw flung open like a drawbridge, and the girl's eyes widened so much that they looked younger. Their verbal reactions were also shared.
Yeah, that was reasonable.
Regardless of their seemingly doubtful response, they all knew they had no reason not to believe the man. The attire fit, the reserved form of speaking was appropriate for someone like...well, a samurai, and his sudden appearance out of nowhere was the only thing that came as a slight surprise. Dexter, realizing how much he had disrespected the Samurai, paused before breaking the silence between them.
"What information do you mean?"
"I'm not sure of it much myself, but I only know that the portal which sent me here gave me...instructions. I believe these instructions...are for you."
Dexter was more than flabbergasted by this absolutely unforeseen turn of events. It was one thing already to have the Samurai that defeated Aku to have travelled through time to meet him, but it was another thing entirely to see the most unlikely of events to shed some hope on a hopeless situation. Whatever the Samurai wanted to tell, it felt like no coincidence that his words would come soon after the engine's construction becoming a bust. Whatever this Samurai had to say, it must have had something to do with the disappearing antitelephone and the engine's failure. Whatever this Samurai wished to give, it would counter Dexter's purported failure to get the engine running properly. It would return the subject back to the present.
Too many words for joy circulated around Dexter's head, though he never dared to express them. Maybe there was a shot at this after all. Maybe there was a shot to bring Ben back home.
He could only hope that Ben was ready to come back. Who knew what kind of future he was sent to.
THE FUTURE: FEBRUARY 6 - 2015 - SECTOR V - HERO'S SQUARE
It looked worse than Ben imagined. The island's chunks of ground were breaking off from the edges, falling faster and faster as the ground itself sank deeper and deeper into the sea of fusion matter. The planet in the sky was visibly getting closer and closer by the very second, its green, liquid surface now in a much larger view, setting on the horizon and stretching above Ben's own head. Everything was moving so fast, Ben knew he had to deal with this fusion quickly.
Moving quickly off the treehouse bridge and onto the shaking ground, he stumbled from the tremors that shook the island constantly. Ben managed to get back on his feet, and immediately faced a glance of the fusion's ravenous face. He was just lucky it couldn't notice him before he took cover. Hiding and crouching behind a fort of unused tires, Ben faced away to think what he could do. Surely if the fusion couldn't notice him immediately, it could have been distracted easily.
A plan came to mind within seconds: Ben decided to keep the fusion preoccupied with following loose trails, so he could bait and surprise it.
He thought it'd be fun. It'd only be his life at stake.
What else did he have to lose?
Jokes aside, Ben realized what he was doing, regardless of its strategy, was a dangerous thing to even attempt, especially with the fate of the world, and possibly the rest of the universe on his shoulders. But regardless of the risks, he knew it was the only way. His whole planet was depending on this chance.
He picked up the nearest stone by the tires, and quietly tossed it into the road, bouncing and clicking across the asphalt. The fusion immediately took notice, and was distracted enough to be facing opposite from Ben's gaze. He quickly ran towards the next fort and hid under. Glancing between two slits of vision, Ben made sure that Fusion Eduardo remained inattentive to him. Ben turned to his side to hide, thinking through the next step, and when he saw a standard-issue Lightning Gun sitting peacefully on the dead-grass, Ben took the chance and…fired it at one of the statues in Hero's Square?
Okay, what was he doing?
Whatever it was that Ben was doing, it got Fusion Eduardo's attention yet again. The statue being on the east end, the fusion jumped at an impressive speed to demolish the statue with the shot. The doppleganger was clearly aggravated, and was slowly but surely catching on to whatever game it was being fooled into. Ben returned to the first fort, and from there he slowly made his way to one of the benches of Hero's Square, hiding behind it. Getting closer and closer to Fusion Eduardo, Ben readied the Omnitrix to engage the enemy.
It was such a shame that Ben didn't notice that the Hero's Square benches were wireframe.
Outed by his own impulsiveness and obliviousness, the alien hero's eyes grew as wide as oranges when he realized his screw-up. Fusion Eduardo had finally found its culprit.
The beast charged with a juggernaut's speed and brutality, very nearly executing Ben with its giant horns, but only sending him flying into the wooden treehouse ramp, damaging it, and knocking him onto the swollen grass.
Clearly whatever Ben was going for didn't work. His body in full view of the alien predator slowly stomping towards him, Ben found himself in immediate struggle, trying to get back up, but something was wrong. He couldn't get up. His legs were fine, his arms were fine, and he wasn't in immense pain.
As he tried to lift his arm up, he found the cause of his problem. The fusion matter was sticking to him. It was trying to absorb him. Ben tried as hard as he could and with all the strength that he had to break free of the fusion ensnarement, only to Looking behind him, Ben saw Fusion Eduardo's hulking physique slowly begin to tower over him as it grew closer. It's hooves were shaking, as if its form was extremely hard to maintain. Ben took notice on how the fusion stared at him intently, its glowing eyes flickering not in power, but in weakness. Ben came to the conclusion that Fusion Eduardo was struggling to maintain its own energy. It was becoming unstable.
Regardless of that, it still had enough energy to exert a killing blow to Ben. That was all that mattered at the moment.
Ben, still stuck to the ground, attempted to pull out the battle-readied Omnitrix for a transformation, finding his arms becoming weaker. If he had let the green goo continue for any longer, he would have gotten infected soon enough. Exerting the last remaining bit of energy, Ben set the dial of the Omnitrix to Nanomech, pushing the watch down to transform.
Blue fur sprouted from the sides of his chest, extra eyes and 2 sets of arms evolved out of his body, his spine and height shifted and contorted until it adapted to its structure, and a single tail sprouted from his behind. Clearly, this was not Nanomech.
Admittedly, Spider-Monkey wasn't as small as his original choice, but to Ben's glorious surprise, the shift in DNA temporarily repelled the fusion matter from his skin long enough for him to escape. Regardless of whatever alien he could have transformed into, Ben found a way out.
As Spider-Monkey, Ben backflipped over the fusion's head and with his spider-webs, dissolved Fusion Eduardo's horns. With another pair of arms, he jumped forward and kicked the fusion back-foot and square in its face. Doing another somersault, he jumped off the fusion's faux fur and kicked it forward, sending him back towards the remains of Hero's Square get into fighting position. Ben saw through all eight of his eyes how this fight was going to play out. He stood on his alien feet with all the courage left in the world. The statues behind him remained still, even as their concrete shattered like glass upon hitting pavement. The statues remained unable to escape their fate while Ben began to move forward, marching towards an unfair fight for the sake of others. His Arachnichimp-self snarled quietly as Fusion Eduardo climbed up from underneath the treehouse's island. Ben continued to take more steps, demanding a last stand from this fusion with a voice of bravery.
"You wanna kill these guys?!" Ben shouted with a fierce and almost vengeful intent. "You're gonna have. To go. Through. Me!"
The fusion proudly accepted Ben's challenge, snarling and roaring into the green skies, as if he was calling on his master's blessings. Throwing down his hooves and arms on the floor, the fusion doppleganger charged in, holding nothing back as usual. Ben began sprinting towards it, unusually holding nothing back.
As Spider-Monkey, Ben was able to dodge most of his adversaries attacks, swinging into the air and using the Hero's Square Monument as cover for the doppleganger's devastating drives against him. But nevertheless, Fusion Eduardo kept throwing curveballs Ben's way. It made no haste and pulled out a web of fusion-matter tentacles, sporatic in their movement, to tackle Ben from several different directions. From different angles, in different ways, with different amounts of tangibility. Ben was ambushed in the open. Some of these vines he didn't even see, and thus he was made vulnerable in several areas. He felt a blow to his back come out of nowhere, sending him flying to another direction.
Knowing the fight had to be kept contained, Ben made sure to pull Eduardo closer to him if the doppleganger threatened to move outside Hero's Square. It was no easy job, and was risking the fate of the world over this outlandish diversionary tactic.
Ben had jumped in, punching him square in the chest. Fusion Eduardo doubled over in pain, but then, to all but Ben's shock, sent the shock reverberating back, as if the force of the impact was sent the opposite way to blow Ben back again. Before he could regain his stance, the doppleganger jumped forward and smashed onto his ground, with Ben narrowly escaping its onslaught of a move. As Ben got into a defensive stance, with all six arms ready to pounce of the floor, the fusion regained its own stance. It gave a dark snarl and lunged once again for the alien hero. While the fusion did miss, Ben was thrown aside like a football, crashing with immense impact. It had stuck him so far into the wall that it took a few moments to get out. It was coming to him that Fusion Eduardo was adapting to Spider-Monkey's techniques, anticipating and reacting to moves that Ben only began to act out. Ben knew he had to change the game.
"Alright..." he murmured under his breath. "Maybe he needs to pick on someone your own size..."
Ben used his middle pair of hands to tap the hourglass on his chest, hoping to get something big. Luckily for him, he did. The fur regressed back into his skin, being replaced by reptilian scales. The skin went from navy blue to a mahogany brown. The lips of Spider-Monkey disappeared as it was replaced by an unusual, jagged shape that prevented him from talking normally. Until he would change to the next alien, it was grunts and roars only that would leave his mouth. Eyes disappeared, along with lips, the extra four arms, but the tail enlarged into a much more patterned look. Growing in great size, he made sure to ready himself, armoring up his body with more protective skales.
Fully battle ready as Humungosaur, Ben gave his own mighty ROAR as Fusion Eduardo kept charging towards him, despite its loss of horns.
SECTOR V - TIME LAB
Sinking in like a punch to the jaw, Ben's words slowly but surely began to impact Mandark. The young scientist had enough time to think through their situation, and whatever Ben was doing out there, it did appear to be buying some time.
"You there." Mandark shouted, pointing at a random KND scientist. "What is your profession?"
"What do you do here?"
"I'm a technician?"
"Understood. I am in need of assistance in terms of Ben's NanoCom communications."
The technician looked more than surprised. She looked flabbergasted. What would Mandark need a comm-relay for?
"If you are seriously wondering that, then Ben needs information regarding the fusion for combat. Does he not?"
It felt like a rainbow landed on a pot of gold. It was a once in a lifetime event that they wouldn't have ever expected to see.
Simon Astronomonov showing compassion. Would anybody have ever guessed?
But their universal luck was short-lived. A spark flew and their adjustments to the time machine began to unravel like a ball of yarn. After covering his face in protection, Mandark grasped the gravity of the situation, and found himself freaking out over this apparent misstep.
"No! NO!" Mandark said, rushing over to grab a wrench. This had to be fixed before Ben got back. Meddling with the circuits under great stress was never his strong suit, but he knew he had no other choice.
But perhaps here, he didn't need to wear it.
A pair of pudgy hands, gloved and ready to work their best, were already helping Mandark. The boy genius couldn't believe who it was.
"No, no, no! That's supposed to go here! I swear, you people have always been morons since the beginning of the war!" The guy said...
That guy being a healthy, and up-and-about Number Two.
"Here, I got it. You do other stuff!"
Heeding Two's instructions, Mandark proceeded to do 'other stuff'. The other stuff entailing his work with the comms channel. He simply couldn't have expected Two to come about so unexpectedly, and now they had two high-profile KND agents on their-
"Wait!" Otto shouted. "Where'd Five go?!"
Mandark and Two urgently jolted their heads a full ninety, both of them freezing at the lack of Number Five in site. The recovering operative kept his stare focused at the empty spot that Mandark viewed as well, petrified by Five's absence. Claustrophobic and anxious breathing threatened to leave Two's lungs, unable to comprehend the thought of Five being annihilated by that extremely powerful monster. But nothing could have been done, as Two had to focus his efforts back on the time machine, as did Mandark with the comms channel.
Ben made haste and used his Vaxasaurian build to bullet over to the wreckage, finding the fusion crushed under the rubble of the monument. Humungosaur was proving to be a good choice in terms of strength, managing to land so many more punches than Spider-Monkey could, and managing to send Fusion Eduardo flying into his own set of rubble. But Ben's celebration over the Omnitrix's protectionist programming was short-lived. Green ooze sept out of the tiny crevices, before retracting itself to return to its host. Ben, unable to express disappointment with words in this form, simply snarled at the quickly healing doppleganger. Kicking itself out of the rubble and slapping Ben's humungous size away like a fly, the beast roared in fury, crawling from other parts of the cobblestone, and jumping high into the air. Ben saw through Humungosaur's eyes and awed at Fusion Eduardo's soaring, realizing that the monster was trying to devastate the ground with a brutal attack.
He knew that he couldn't simply do the same, though. Humungosaur was hulk-like, but not in regards to the super-jump ability. There isn't any time left to think about this, he thought, refusing to think about this too hard and instead tapped the hourglass on his chest, turning him into Jetray. It may have not been Astrodactyl or Stinkfly, but it did the job just as fine.
Shooting a laser from his feet, Ben took to the green skies to tackle the Fusion. He could feel the energy charge up in his optic nerves, and wasted no time firing it aimlessly, hoping to have hit Fusion Eduardo with those laser beams. But the doppleganger was upredictable in its very nature, and and telekinetically sent a cloud of fusion matter at the alien hero. Narrowly avoiding that as well, Ben continued firing up his laser vision into the sky, attempting to still hit the ever-versatile doppleganger. But Fusion Eduardo had an ace up its sleeve. It had begun to dive into freefall, and moved towards Ben's position to tackle the Aerophibian down to Earth. The attempt was successful, and Ben was more than surprised by the fusion's strategy.
"Oh no." Ben whispered to himself as the fusion caught him off guard.
From that, the fusion made quick work of him and sent him rocketing down to the surface. Without any time to change back, Jetray was forced to feel the full pain of his descent and his large impact. Ben yelled the whole way down, and exclaimed in discomfort and even more pain when he landed. Weakly getting up, Ben left the crater he made and limped away, but this challenge wasn't done yet.
Up in the sky, the doppleganger accelerated in its descent, and this time, Ben was able to see it perfectly. Realizing what that impact of that speed would do, Ben started flapping his gliding arms like wings, attempting to outrun the inevitable destruction. But Ben was too late, as the fusion CRASHED down like a thunderbolt in daylight, completely unexpected in its devastation. The once clean and even ground developed into a rocky and uneven surface, and several chunks of cobblestone flew into the air like crumpled-up paper, hitting and shooting Ben down once again as he tried to escape the impact radius.
It had caused such an impact on the surface that Ben reverted back to his human form. But surprisingly, it caused another thing to become offset.
"Ben, do you read me! We just experienced another shockwave, though this was unprecedented compared to its predecessors!" Mandark voiced from the other side. "State your status; are you hurt?"
"Are you actually talking?"
"He reads us!" Mandark exclaimed. "Okay, we have information worth noting! Fusion Eduardo's energy is directly tied to his manipulation of the fusion matter around him! That's how he can siphon eruption attacks or control streams of fusion matter!"
Quickly, Ben remembered what Mandark had said about eruption attacks. "Okay! What can I do?!"
"You can't avoid eruption attacks! No one can!" Ben thought it would be forever until he would hear that voice again.
"I know, back from the dead, yaddayaddayadda! Listen carefully, if you want to kill it, you need to use the Nanos to boost your power. If you want to slow it down, you need to keep cutting off its fusion matter support systems!"
"Wait, how can I use Nanos?! I forgot!"
"Ben, if you-"
Mandark's instructions were unfortunately interrupted...because Fusion Eduardo had sent another punch to the alien hero's face, tossing him across the area like a ragdoll. Ben, realizing that Mandark didn't finish, pushed his earlobe, most likely to channel the nanites fueling that transmission to de-scramble the transmission. But to Ben's shock and disappointment, there was no transmission because he was cut off. All he got instead was a bloody finger and bleeding ears. Ben had reached his limits to the number of curveballs this damn fusion was throwing him. He wouldn't go down because of a brute monster like this. He had to keep fighting, and so he did.
"OH COME ON!" Ben shouted with frustration. "Can't I just catch a break for ONCE?!" He had begun running towards Fusion Eduardo as courageously as he did before, reaching for his watch. But Fusion Eduardo began learning; he lunged for Ben before he could reach for his Omnitrix, and punched him straight in the gut. Tossing aside the alien hero once again with extreme force, Ben knew he was growing weaker and weaker by the moment. He knew he had to keep fighting, but his efforts were growing more and more pointless. Fusion Eduardo was learning quickly, and was adapting to Ben's tactics just as well. Being so close to defeat, Ben knew he had to do something final, or else Eduardo would go to the scientists instead. But no matter how much he tried, he couldn't move, let alone stand.
But what happened next proved he didn't need to. He heard the sounds of rapid gunfire immediately overtake the dark growling of the fusion. It didn't stop for a full minute, and its timing was almost comedic in context. Once the bullets finally stopped, Ben managed to build up enough strength to lift himself up from the ground, despite the immediate pain he felt in his rib-cage. Regardless of that excruciating pain, he was able to see someone completely unexpected to be behind that assault. She sported the standard future-KND armor that covered most of her body, even her clothes, which itself looked like it was altered to be a second set of armor. The color-scheme of blue, white and gold remained ever-present here, and one iconic red gatsby cap to top it all off.
In all of that attire stood Number Five, holding out a rifle and a V-Charger, dual-wielding them for maximum damage towards the hulking fusion.
"YO!" She began as she moved forward slowly. "Getch'yo slimy fake hooves offa that kid!" she proudly shouted as she readied the rifle again.
Ben couldn't believe it. What was Five trying to do?! He had this covered!
Yeah, no he didn't. Ben had to remind himself of the numerous cracked ribs he was shifting through. It was a miracle that he was even able to lift himself up.
"F-FIVE! GET OUTTA HERE!" he shouted. "THIS ISN'T SAFE!"
"Ben, SHUT THE HELL UP!" Five shouted back arrogantly, before turning back to the fusion, raising her gun for demonstration. "Now, you got two options! One, I shoot you. Two, I shoot you with contempt! Which one'll it be, asshole?!"
Whatever the fusion had picked, it certainly wasn't understood by either hero, because all Fusion Eduardo had given in response was a loud and boisterous ROAR. Charging towards Number Five as he did to Ben, Five put her training to good use as she flawlessly avoided and dodged each attack or rush the fusion attempted. Almost immediately she began firing on the fusion and using every possible trick she knew to deliver the most critical attacks. Ben saw firsthand the damage she was dealing all on her own; Fusion Eduardo was beginning to lose its form, with its facial features blending into its fusion matter physiology. While that was happpening, Five ran to Ben, who was still literally grounded.
"Stick your arm out!" she asked suspiciously.
As soon as Five got her hands on Ben's watch-hand, she found the appropriate dial, turned that dial to reach the right alien, and dropped his forearm back on the ground. The Omnitrix was still facing face-up, with the dial ready to be pushed. Five took a step back...
...and then she stepped on his wrist with a stomp. Ouch.
"AAAAAAHAHA!" Ben shouted in pain, "The hell was that for?!"
Just as he finished his sentence, another alien transformation had begun. While Number Five was unloading every bullet onto the doppleganger, Ben's entire body shrank down in height. His facial proportions shifted and compressed, becoming more obtuse than long, and his entire body was wrapped in a white jumpsuit-like material. Headphone-like bumps connected to veins formed around his stretched out head, and his eyes glowed a bright neon green. Having completed the transformation into Echo Echo, Ben knew the next step to be duplicating himself and creating a wall of sound. Based on his earlier deductions with the fusion's shaking and instability, he thought that it would be susceptible to high frequencies, possibly to overwhelm it.
"Thank me later!" Five said offhandedly as she returned to battle. As Echo Echo, Ben also got up faster to join the party.
Proceeding with that plan as intended, several duplicates began multiplying exponentially to surround the disoriented fusion. Each of the...Bens...had begun to use their ability to scream at supersonic frequencies, giving the Fusion more than enough to deal with. More of its appearance began to fade away, revealing nothing but the fusion beneath it. But the doppleganger continued struggling to maintain that form, managing to retain the bare minimum in its aesthetic. With the rapid gunfire from Number Five, and the wall of sound from Ben, it almost seemed like they were going to win.
But as always, the corrupted green brute had one final trick up its sleeve. Unable to bear the pressure and pain of the humans' offensive, the fusion slammed down its arms, calling to all the fusion matter it could draw to build up beneath its feet, and creating a massive beam of green energy to erupt from the ground.
Most of the Echo Echo clones were immediately disintegrated by the blast, while Ben and Number Five being knocked off their feet from the concussion of its shockwave. But they had no time to regain their strength, as Fusion Eduardo continued to lunge for them. Both of them immediately jumped back and ran in the opposite direction from the doppleganger, prompting a quick chase as well; a quick plan immediately sprang to mind, and Number Five exchanged looks with Ben for a possible strategy.
"Ben! Take a step back!" she suggested.
"I've got this, Five!"
"Take a step back for now!"
"Why?!" Surely Five didn't want him to be held back too, right?
"Take a step back! Then I'll be able to take it on from behind. You'll tackle it right on a bit after, got it?!"
A splash of relief overcame Ben, still refusing to give up on this fight. He was just glad that Five wasn't against that at all.
"RIGHT!" he shouted with exuberance.
Both of them halted in their tracks, surprising the fusion and rolling head first between its knees. Five flipped over and once again began shooting it, causing it to be pushed forward from its behind. Ben immediately did his part, and created five more clones to kick it backwards again. Once that was done, Five circled the fusion and kept firing. It was like there was no end to the amount of bullets she had.
Jumping behind a fort while Ben kept screaming at the fusion, Five extracted a weapon from her NanoCom. It was a bomb, resembling a large caliente pepper. Using this bomb to her advantage, she set it up and immediately threw it at their overwhelmed opponent.
It refused to fully stop the fusion, only making it become more and more furious. In its rage, two new horns were formed, growing unnaturally from the base of the fusion's surface.
Having to change his game again, Ben tapped the logo on his chest, hoping he could change into Swampfire, but instead changing him into Wildvine. He stretched his arms, each of them in unison, sprouting ever-growing vines that locked onto the fusion doppleganger like a bullseye. But it simply dodged all the attacks, as if it knew the moves all too well. The fusion decided to fight fire with fire, and sent back up the tentacles of fusion matter from earlier, this time emerging from various places in the ground. Now having plant life on his side (despite however little there was left of it), Ben somersaulted into the air to kick and punch the different tentacles, sending them back underground. This, in turn, prompted Ben to follow the glowing trail the moment he had landed, and when he caught up with the vines, he made haste and stomped his arm down into that area, forcefully severing the doppleganger's connection to its weapons.
Ben had thought for a split second that he would have gotten infected, only to remember what Mandark said about the Cosmix biochemical inside his nanites. Sighing in relief for a short second, he also failed to remember something else he could have used...though he still couldn't call to it.
Whatever it was, it couldn't have been as important as dodging Fusion Eduardo's attacks. The fusion had kept lunging and lunging. Ben knew that it was part of the strategy, though. It would have been necessary to keep Fusion Eduardo to keep expending its energy. Transforming back into his human form to conserve power, Ben made sure he had enough juice left in the Omnitrix for a few more transformations. Looking around and seeing Five practically being chased by the intimidating creature, he searched for a tool he could use to help out Five. Seeing a single rod or rebar amongst the scattered pavement, he quickly grabbed hold of it. It wasn't much...at all, but it would've worked for what he had to do. Running towards the fusion, he understood what he was now doing was the most risky thing of this entire battle. He just hoped it bought the scientists enough time to modify the time machine.
Five saw almost immediately what he was trying to do, and what was worse, she noticed Fusion Eduardo's expression change, as if its attention had finally focused on something. She came to the horrific realization that the fusion was aware of Ben's attempt to fight detransformed.
She couldn't let that happen.
She had to save him or else it was all over for Earth...and all over for him.
"Look out!" Five shouted, running as fast as she could. Whatever had kicked into her worked, because she managed to push Ben out of the way within seconds, preventing a much more gruesome end to the alien hero.
But nevertheless...the icky and excruciating sounds of stabbing were heard.
Each squish and tear in skin...but when Ben opened his eyes...he found himself without any injury.
But when he saw to his left where those sounds had came from...he had wished it to be him.
A gaping hole was now present in Five's abdomen, being filled by one of the fusion's newly created horns.
The fusion had adapted.
It had stabbed her through the gut.
She began coughing out a deep crimson substance that trickled down her chin. She was coughing up blood. The fusion released her, letting her slide off its horn slowly.
"NNOOOOOOOO!" Ben screamed in absolute horror. He wouldn't allow it! He refused for Five to perish so easily! He jumped in as quickly as possible to finish this monster for good.
THE PAST: MAY 26 - 2014 - SECTOR V TREEHOUSE
As usual for these parts of the Bellwood Suburbs, the day was a sunny picturesque that was perfect for any sort of fun. Number Three couldn't imagine any attacks happening on a day like this.
Oh her luck...
She received a strange and unexpected call from her NanoCom. It came from Hoagie of all people.
"Why're they callin' me from a NanoCom?" Three found herself asking. "Hey, Hoagie!"
"Not now, Number Three!"
"Oh...HEY NUMBER TWO!" Three cheerfully screamed into the Com. "What're you up to? Oh, uhm, did'ju hear about that new Fantastic Four movi-"
"NOT NOW, NUMBUH THREE!" One repeated for Two, and shouting into his NanoCom, startling the much more cheerful operative. "Ready the sector into battle positions! I repeat! I need everyone at Sector V to be readied the sector into battle positions!!"
"B-but I...uh, guys, you're not making sense-"
"JUST DO IT!"
"Incoming!" shouted Four from the background sound, shocking Three thoroughly. Four continued to speak. "Two! I need so-AACK-"
The transmission feed had cut out. So much had happened within a single moment that she didn't know what she could do.
The only thing that could come to mind was to follow orders at the very least.
With a large breath, she finally began to say the five important words.
"Kids Next Door! BATTLE STATIONS!"
Those five key words were the cue to an embargo of chaos. People had begun running up and down, left to right. The entire sector was in complete chaos! It was so unsmooth and hectic that it disturbed Number Five, who was enjoying boring old sleep, until she got woken up by everything going on.
"Numbuh Three!" Five asked from above. "What the hell's happenin'?!"
"I don't know, Number Five! I just got a call from the boys on the Moonbase through my NanoCom and then they started freaking out about something!" Three shouted, clearly in a state of confusion and fear. "I'm not able to contact them back, and Four sounded like somethin' was attacking!"
Five didn't know what that could've been about, but it could've been a boy prank...then again, Number One wouldn't really approve of the entire sector going into overdrive for the sake of a prank. Five realized that whatever this had to be, it wasn't a joke. She put on her cap and set outside to join the preparation...whatever it was even for.
SIYENN CITY - TECH SQUARE - DEXLABS HEADQUARTERS
Buttercup was walking around in the busy lab after it having been made busy through some unexpected news. She had to admit to not seeing it coming herself. In the last hour, some samurai dude comes in and starts talking about all kinds of technology that could be used for the Synchronization Engine, something that was initially looking like it was completely impossible to complete and work out. Buttercup initially thought that maybe with a few punches and kicks, the machine would be running in no time...though that wasn't exactly an ideal thought. But there they were already, having managed and followed an unexpected opportunity.
Dexter was far too immersed in his work to be any sort of healthy. He put himself in charge of the hardware, meaning that he and Blossom were managing the heavy lifting and crafting or programing for the synch engine. Bubbles was the one working out the kinks with a manual control panel, and Buttercup could only imagine how well the latter was turning out.
But she herself didn't have much of a thing to do. She had just been kicking dust off the floor without aim. All she could do was just watch.
Then she found something rather interesting. The Samurai was calmly watching too. She couldn't figure out the guy at all. He had such a strange presence to him, one that carried wisdom and humility, two things Buttercup would never see coexisting or existing in herself. But aside from that...she just wanted to get to know the guy.
After all, he was a Samurai from the Edo period who traveled to the future to talk about technology to a red-haired dude to probably same someone from an evil fate.
Boy, that'd make for a cool TV show, she thought.
Walking towards him, she couldn't introduce herself without just sounding rude, mainly because that was one of her main gimmicks. She knew to cut her inner bullcrap out and just greet.
"So...greetings from the future, am I right." Buttercup said...really awfully.
Why was she making this awkward, she asked herself. It wasn't like he was a date or anything. As far as Buttercup was concerned, she just wanted to know why he came here.
"So...uh...Mr...uh..." Buttercup stumbled to bring forth something to call the Samurai...it would be really weird to just keep calling him by his title the whole time.
"You may call me 'Jack' if you prefer to." the Samurai suggested to the Powerpuff Girl.
"Okay...Jack." Buttercup said hesitantly, "So you're a full-blown Samurai?"
"Jack" responded with a quaint nod.
"That same samurai that my history teacher won't shut up about?"
Another quaint nod. The guy clearly wasn't much of a talker.
"And you came here on a bus that you knew how to use...with cliffnotes for a time machine?"
The Samurai gave a single chuckle, and the most mysterious of grins. "It's an absurd world we live in." Jack admitted. "It is...certainly not the future I was once trapped in..."
Buttercup, noticing that the last part he said was rather somber, turned her head over to find him in deep thought. What surprised her was how far he looked in his daze. He seemed alone. It was one of those things that she found enigmatic about him. She had to reassure him, and she tried to do that to her best ability.
"If you're wondering if it'll work, then it'll work." she bluntly told him. "Aside from my sister and...well, my "dad", Dexter's apparently one of the smartest people around. Plus, judging from the starry look he gave those details, he's more than able to interpret all of this."
"I greatly appreciate your concern, Buttercup-chan."
"Oh god, no honorifics, dude." she protested. "I'll barf."
"My apologies, Buttercup." Jack corrected himself, "but...my past tells a more uncertain story..."
Jack's deep and complicated gaze came to a peak when he began to uncover his reasons. "If I'm a well known legend, even to westerners, then I'm sure you are familiar with my story...but you are not familiar with what occured...after. I bore a betrothed, and as lovers we were to be married...until the ravages of time removed her from my life...and from all lives. No one could have seen it coming...and I should have prepared for it...all I could hope for was a brighter future to my home...in Ashi's name..."
Buttercup was beginning to understand piece by piece. "Ashi...was that her name?"
"Yes...I mourned her for weeks upon weeks...even years. I just felt...after so long of trying to show her a brighter world, it robs her of that life..." Jack said, trying to be as clear as possible, "the scar on my right side comes from a short time after her demise...a gang of insane Rōnin had raided my city...they questioned my faith and devotion, and they left a mark to remind me of my failure...this scar came from my confusion...I felt I could not live without her then...and I continue to struggle now..."
"How'd you stop the ronin?"
Unlike the other parts, Jack kept quiet for that one. It seemed like he almost refused to think about how he dealt with them, hiding an internal conscious behind a broken mirror. It was mind-boggling for Buttercup to be understanding almost all of this. Realizing the conversation was going south, she had to ask another question.
"How did that restore your faith in what we're doing now?"
"It didn't." He explained. "It only restored my compassion...even now, I question the faith I have in my actions. Should I have gone in earlier? Should I have let so many more families fall to their blades? I have lost faith not in what I believe in, Buttercup...I have lost faith...in what I, we, can accomplish..."
Even if his way of talking was...kinda hard to understand...Buttercup got the gist of what he wanted to tell her. He was unsure to put faith in his decision to return to the future, and he questioned these unexpecting decisions after his wife's death...Jack was holding himself responsible...
"Whatever the case...what's the point of life if you want to know what'll happen?" Buttercup offered, countering his point. "I'd just want to make my future for myself, y'know?"
Words failed to escape Jack's throat, though this time it was not in deep thought, but rather in deep realization. Buttercup didn't notice Jack's fascination with her thoughts. To refuse to be plagued by one's personal dilemmas was a worthy trait for a warrior. He came to think more and more about that as the believed it more.
Just then...another intrusion. Does Dexlabs have some kind of red target painted on its building somewhere?
The only thing different about this was that it came at an untold speed, cracking the wall and blowing several items away (though luckily not damaging the synch engine...somehow). The source behind the speed was a teenager. The kid had flaming red hair, and looked to be about the girls' age. His hair bore red highlights at the tip, looking eerily similar to a flame, with parts of his hair aligned into a mohawk, and the sides of his hair somewhat of a buzz cut. He wore a black shirt with a hazard symbol in the middle, with a federal blue short-sleeved dress shirt, green pants, and black shoes with a light gray trim.
At that moment, he looked extremely mad. He looked mad enough to turn the red highlights on his hair into actual flames.
"You've got only one word and one second to explain why the hell this crap ain't wearing off!" he shouted in a huff, apparently tired. "S-sorry, hold on, I just - got stuck up at like 7 different police stations and the Canadian border...oh god..."
Whatever this attempt at humor was, it wasn't funny to Dexter. He simply focused on a more pressing matter...his intrusion.
"Who are you?" Blossom asked.
"May I pose a more relevant inquiry? HOW IN THE HOUDINI HELL DO YOU PEOPLE FIND YOUR WAY INTO MY LABORATORY?!"
"Come out and play, evil sisters, I just wanna-" It took a few more moments for Johnny to notice the other guests in the laboratory. "Wait, who the hell are you jokers?"
"Language." Blossom and Jack said in unison.
"You wanna call us jokers again, buddy?" Buttercup said with a murderous glance.
"Look, I'm gonna wait here, until my sisters decide to show themselves. How about that?!"
Looking at Dexter, Buttercup could tell almost immediately what he was planning. Susan and Mary Test had already been sent back to Alberta. Johnny had pretty much just missed them. Dexter was looking to get this random kid out of his sight for the sake of peace in his workplace.
"What's your name?"
"Your sisters are on their...um...breakfast break. Wait in the conference room, and DO NOT TOUCH ANYTHING!"
Moving again at superspeed, Johnny moved back out the way he came.
"Back to work." Dexter calmly suggested, before returning to just that.
THE FUTURE: FEBRUARY 6 - 2015 - SECTOR V - HERO'S SQUARE
Houses toppled. Cobblestone fell. More and more destruction crafted in its chaotic nature as Ben and Fusion Eduardo fought.
Ben was throwing every thing, every power, every skill he had ever learned through unbridled rage towards the emotionless brute. The barrage of attacks were certainly overwhelming the fusion, no matter the stress that was putting onto the Omnitrix's operating systems. He had transformed from Ben to Cannonbolt to Terraspin to Ditto to Upchuck, and they were only slightly slowing the fusion down.
Fusion Eduardo was relying on excess energy, as it was barely keeping together its form. The only thing that remained was its horns, which were unsurprisingly in perfect shape...and still had Number Five's stain of blood on it, along with some other bits of disgusting nature that Ben didn't wish to speculate on.
Because of the doppleganger's weakened state, it was easy to climb onto the horn and perform a closer attack. After Upchuck, Armodrillo came next, ramming his piston-powered fists continuously into the fusion's face. Shock-filled POWS came each time he brought his fists to its masquerade.
But whatever Ben was dealing wasn't enough. The fusion's weakened state proved to be a farce, as it was building up more and more energy and fusion matter to offer a counterattack.
And just like Ben, it was very pissed off.
Grabbing hold of Ben's pistons, it bodyslammed Ben, tossing him around like a toy. Ben was slammed into the ground a good eleven times, his armored shell not doing much to protect him. Fusion Eduardo tossed him right back to square one, so much so that he got shifted out of his form.
Ben lay weakened on the cold pavement, expecting a quick death. But one did not come, as it appeared that the weakened state wasn't as farcical as it seemed. The fusion was taking its own time to rest. It had used too much energy at once. Ben could only smile about the fact that he was winning...barely. More ribs felt like they were broken, and it was getting harder and harder for him to stand up. He looked to Number Five, also back on square one, trying to keep herself going a little longer before bleeding out.
But there was more than that.
She looked like she was trying to say something to him.
"Use...the...NanoCom..." Five weakly said, trying to alert Ben of something.
Ben couldn't understand what that meant. "W-Whaddya mean?"
"You didn't collect four of those little guys for nothin', right?" Five said before coughing up another spoonful of blood. Ben, thinking faster than before, realized exactly what she had meant. "W-why didn't you use them earlier?" she asked. Ben found himself asking the same thing.
Pulling out the NanoCom from his jacket pocket, and noticing the three buttons of different colors. They were ordered as red, blue, and yellow, and knowing that he was a Cosmix type, he picked yellow for the best match.
And out came the most powerful surge of energy he had ever felt in his entire life.
It felt like his entire body was inexplicably rejuvenated. All the pain, all the broken ribs felt whole and painless again. It was like a painkiller only it actually did something useful!
Ben's mind and body were so fueled to the brim with energy that he couldn't describe it properly if he even tried...
He had to take a look to see who's Nano this was. He couldn't thank it eno-
Who knew that the toilet paper kid would be useful...
Regardless of what disgusting place the nano came from, he could feel its apparent effect fade away once its job was done. Charged back to full health just like a video game, Ben knew immediately to slam the Omnitrix down, knowing that Wildmutt could do some damage. Orange fur sprouted on all sides, eyes folded in, and once again, he couldn't speak. All the better for it, because he didn't feel like talking much. He only felt like ripping this fusion apart limb from limb!
Aggressively so, he charged with all his might to tackle the fusion face forward, sinking his now impervious teeth into the doppleganger's fusion matter body. The fusion's much more weakened state, and truthfully weakened state now, made Ben's attack all the more valuable. Having dealt a great deal to the fusion already, he stepped back to view his opponent.
Like Fusion Buttercup and Fusion Number Two before it, it was now violently losing its form and shape, its horns now extremely dulled out and less solid. Its eyes began to glow eerily as it once again charged towards Ben, ready to obliterate the alien hero. But Ben had enough of this. He was through with strategy, because it only let the opponent play a fair game. But this was never a fair game. Number Five was lying and dying on the hard and cold pavement, and Mandark and the KND were being put in constant danger from its destructive path. He switched nanos from the yellow node to the red node, going from Eddie to the Buttercup nano he had first got a couple of days ago. Activating its power, he once again surged in energy, and new exactly how he could use it. Transforming into Chromastone, Ben channeled every photon, every electron, any particle that the Crystalsapien's body could pick up...
...and he fired every single one of them back. Every particle, every electron, every photon all rushed forward as fast as it could, and as hard as it could to eviscerate the damn fusion! It felt so good to Ben. He felt the need to keep firing, draining some of his own internal energy if he had to, he would not let this fusion roam free any longer!
And finally, after so much fighting, Fusion Eduardo didn't just disperse into fusion matter, every single particle of it was broken down, including the fusion matter it was comprised of. Cosmix and Blastons had taken effect, making almost a perfect combo; it destroyed whatever there was to let it rebuild itself.
Ben collapsed in both relief and exhaustion. They had been fighting that thing for more than an hour. And until now, they hadn't gotten anywhere.
Before he could think anymore, a familiar sound arrived. One that he heard often as a kid, and when he was starting out with the Omnitrix. The power-down sound.
Chromastone shifted back into Ben, and left the Plumber hourglass symbol on the watch a bright flashing red.
But that didn't matter to him immediately. "Five?" He said, trying to evoke a response from the fatally weak KND operative, "FIVE!" he shouted, running over to her to get her attention. He sat her head on his lap, cradling her in his trembling arms.
"Five, come on! We can get you to the medbay, we'll get you fixed up!" Ben said in a rush, trying to keep her from closing her eyes. "You don't have to die, okay? The fusion is dead, it's dead, Five!"
"Good..." she meakly stated as Ben slurred words together, trying to find something that could help her.
"Yeah...yeah, good! Don't worry 'bout this...uh..." Ben looked to the gaping and bleeding hole in her abdomen, which was loosing blood as fast as she was losing consciousness, "it-it-it's a flesh wound! It can be...fixed..."
"Buuulll..." Five kept saying. Her eyes began to get heavy, like when one has gone awake for too long. But this wasn't a matter of sleep, this was a matter of death, and Ben would not allow her to succumb to that state.
"Five? Five! Abby! Stay awake! Come on!"
"I-I'm here...still...not for long..." she said meekly.
Ben didn't know what to do, taking out his NanoCom again so he could do something "I-I'll call Mandark, I-" but Ben was stopped by Five, being grabbed by the hand with the NanoCom, and being kept stuck in a tight grip.
"P-Promise me, Ben...keep changing...keep fighting..." she said. "This future is...what we make for ourselves..."
Ben's eyes widened at that. That was what he had told Deedee...did Five listen in the whole time?
"So...keep making...betterrr..." she finally said...her body giving out and refusing to say more...her fingers loosened on Ben's arm...she gave out her last breath...her muscles relaxed...and her movement ceased like a statue.
Ben refused to believe it; he kept shaking her, screaming her codename, and her real name...
"Five? FIVE!" Ben shouted, trying to wake her up...
...but it was no use...
"FIVE! ABBY WAKE UP! ABBY!
She had died...and only he could mourn her.
"No..." he cried, holding her lifeless head closer to his, "no..."
He wanted to undo all of this...he wanted to make things right!
But he had already failed them...
Before he could do anymore, he felt something dreadful on the surface.
There was a rumble in the ground, far greater than even the shockwaves. It was small at first, tiny tremors that could have come from the fusion matter waves splashing against the island...and it continued to be that problem, as the splashes became louder as the rumbles and tremors became more and more violent. He looked over the green horizon, to find the waves beginning to splash over the edges, and mountains were beginning to crumble and let the fusion matter in...
It was a hard truth to accept, and a hard truth to realize.
Sector V had fallen.
To complement the unexpected, Ben's nanites in his ears apparently rebuilt themselves, and Mandark's voice rang through his mind.
"bzzt-Ben...I know you must feel incorrigible. You feel that if you did more-bzzt-could have been avoided. I am fully aware of what it is that makes you think in such a way."
Ben squinted as wind began to hit his face. The crashing waves of fusion matter were getting closer and closer.
"But as of this moment, the future is a doomed time. But you want to save us all, and if you go back...you can." Mandark told him, "but we implore you, that to do so, you must board the time machine before it's too late."
Having finished listening to Mandark's resolve...Ben gave a few more thoughts to think about. He knew what Mandark was saying was true...but he also knew that he couldn't leave Number Five here like this. But...he needed to keep moving, and caressing a corpse wasn't going to help...
And that was why it hurt immensely to detach himself from Five's dead body and run as fast as he could back to the treehouse.
The fusion matter waves aggressively chased him, as if they had minds of their own, which was most likely the case. They crashed and obliterated the houses lined up on the streets, washing them clean off the surface of the ground like a stain off clothing. Ben had to run faster under that thought, realizing what would happen if he were to be wiped away so easily. He looked back constantly at his watch, hoping it wouldn't bail on him and just transform into XLR8 to get this business done faster. But unfortunately no such luck came.
But apparently, Ben didn't need it, as he managed to get to the plank between Sector V and the ground. As he boarded that plank, the fusion matter began to spill into the anti-gravity generator, not damaging it just yet. But what was interesting was how many times the waves kept trying to target the...oh...
The fusion matter was aiming for the plank. Ben was in the final stretch before taking a leap of faith as the plank broke under immense fusion pressure. He jumped as far as he could to make it to the floating treehouse...
...and he was more than happy to find that he succeeded. Feeling the grounding beneath him and catapulting himself forward, Ben quickly opened the door to the house leading to the tree, but not before taking a look back and regretting his decision to leave behind Five, and to have simply left her right in the attacking range of Fusion Eduardo. He hated himself so much for it...but he wouldn't let her down this time.
THE PAST: MAY 26 - 2014 - SIYENN CITY - TECH SQUARE - DEXLABS HEADQUARTERS
They had finally wrapped up the building process, and it was time for Dexter to begin putting the machine in motion. This was their shot to finally retrieve the subject, something they had been spending the last two days focusing on. It was exciting for all of them, to say the very least.
Though there were some nuissances that just couldn't bear to miss it.
"Hey come on, man!" Johnny protested. "I don't get to even take a look?"
"Based on what your sisters have told me in painful detail and frustration, do understand as to why I don't want you involved in this!"
"Yeah, I still don't get it! You're lettin' them watch but not me?" he argued, angrily pointing at the two highly destructive people right next to the control panels in pink and blue.
"Take it like this, kid." Buttercup began. "What started this mess was a blonde sibling that pressed a single button because she wanted to. We're not gonna let that just repeat itself all over again!"
"Who's sayin' I'll touch something?!"
Buttercup had a deadpan expression on her face, believing the answer to be completely rhetorical. "EVERYBODY!"
As Buttercup hovered closer to watch Johnny, Dexter racewalked back and forth, catching Blossom on the computer working through various lines of code. Bubbles on the other hand was faring far worse. She seemed perplexed by the buttons in front of her, like they were taunting her for no apparent reason.
"What's the situation, Bubbles?"
"Talk about multiple situations!" she replied. "I don't know which one of these to press without setting off another explosion!"
Buttercup shouted from the other end. "DON'T LET IT REPEAT ITSELF!"
"Right, Bubbles." Dexter began, losing time but managing to make it quick. "Perhaps you best be suited to more technical expertise and operations."
Swiveling a full 90 degrees, Bubble's face was a complete turnaround from her initial frustration to the joy she felt upon hearing those amazing words. Her pupils practically looked turned into giant stars. "You really mean it?!"
"Affirmative. Why would I not?"
"THANKYOUTHANKYOUTHANKYOU!" Bubbles happily shouted into Dexter's eardrum, racing over to help/overtake her sister in a furious blue light. Dexter could already see Bubbles interfering with the keyboards that Blossom was working on, sparking some playful banter between the two sisters. Turning his direction back to the hardware, he moved his joystick to carefully craft a new set of materials for the modifications that would be pivotal in its creation. As Jack was passing by, the boy called to him.
"Jack," Dexter called out, "I hope you are completely aware of what you've been suggesting to me for the last half 'n hour."
Jack kept the response to a quaint nod, followed by a quick silence between him and the boy genius. Jack was just as perplexed by these ideas. He had dealt with advanced technology before, and even had once adapted to it. But in the 50 years that were behind him, he could never truly know what the result could forebode. Technology was still a volatile and unpredictable field, and time travel was another complicated matter altogether. It could cause unforeseen consequences...
...but he recalled to what Buttercup had to say about unforeseen consequences. He knew that this was the only way to truly know if this would work. He followed his nod with a quick line. "I have faith in your work, Dexter."
"Thank you, sir." Dexter questioned.
Moving on, Jack could only think about how this plan would go. This future was an interesting one...it certainly was not the future he was once trapped in, and perhaps, it was all the better for it. He continued walking along the path to further survey the progress being made.
LOCATION UNKNOWN - LAST LOCATION: KND MOONBASE
The three in the S.C.A.M.P.E.R struggled greatly, having to fight off an unseen enemy. It felt like rocks hitting them on their own, but they knew the truth, they had to escape the spawns, and get the rest of the KND on high alert! It was their top priority. Even worse...they had just run out of fuel.
"We've run outta fuel, Numbuh One!" Four shouted behind him.
"I noticed! Numbuh Two, engage auxillary thrusters!"
"I'm trying! It's stuck!" Two responded, displaying an extreme level of fear and horror in his voice. The experienced pilot was pushing buttons like he had never touched them before. He was looking to survive and save his friends, and he knew that if none of the controls would work, then this was the only way.
But nothing worked. Just like earlier. Knowing that they would surely die if they had stayed, the operatives had initially thought of ejecting themselves out of the S.C.A.M.P.E.R escape pods. But that idea had come to a close when the spawns decided to jam their pods' eject function. They were trapped within their only means of escape, and the spawns managed to turn it into a race for survival.
Two realized that the thing just wasn't going to work with his tinkering, but he didn't know what could in these conditions. "Dammit, WORK!" he shouted in frustration, kicking the control panel repeatedly.
What was more surprising to One and Four wasn't Two's vulgar language, but instead the fact that the percussive maintenance worked.
All three of them flew off their seats as soon as those thrusters kicked in. They were on a direct course back to Earth, safe from whatever was attacking them. They all screamed in terror, anticipating a very unhappy landing.
"NOOOOOO! I DON'T WANNA GET SPACE-SICK!" Two shouted as they made their decent.
THE FUTURE: FEBRUARY 6 - 2015 - SECTOR V TREEHOUSE - TIME LAB
It felt like a relief to be back inside the time lab, and a stranger feeling to be thinking and admitting that. All of the scientists looked to him and saw a hero in their starry eyes. They all looked like they were grateful eternally, and Ben appreciated it. But then he saw something off-putting.
The monitor had been active the entire time...and Two could be clearly seen with tears dripping off the spaces in his goggles. Ben thought all of that through, and realized that if they saw his defeat of Fusion Eduardo, then they saw Five's death, and they saw Sector V...get flooded.
Were these people willing to die? Just as he was for them?
He looked to Otto, who had an extremely intent look. He was more ready to get back to the present than ever. But that wasn't of much concern to Ben.
Walking towards Number Two felt like a pain in each foot and gut. Ben didn't know what to say to him to make him feel any better...he was the last remaining member of Sector V...and once again he had to watch one of his loved ones die before his eyes. He couldn't imagine what that may have been like.
But Two had a different way of shrugging things off. He confronted Ben in a non-hostile way, his face begging for some kind of answer.
"What did she tell you?" He asked with the most somber voice Ben had ever heard.
Ben felt without a doubt that her lasts words should have been known, rather than just hidden away for no explicit reason.
"She told me to keep changing the future...she believed in me after everything that had happened to her..." he said, single tears streaming down on side of his face, while Two let go of his shoulder, still unable to accept this loss and only barely keeping it together.
A long pause overtook the lab once again, prompting Ben to ask the next question. They had to keep moving.
"So what's happening?"
"We found a few flaws in the operating system of the Engine, and Two was able to repair them." Mandark said. "That being said, we were unable to separate the engine from the machine itself."
"So its...gonna be a blind jump?"
Ben refused to think too much about it, just like earlier. He knew the risks, and he knew his responsibility. He had to do this one way or the other.
"Let's do it." he said with resolve, earning an affirmative nod from the boy genius himself.
The alien hero stepped up to the time capsule with proud and ready steps. Just before opening the door, Mandark had one last thing for him.
"Here's the updated hard drive," Mandark said, giving Ben the little USB. "hopefully with more useful information."
Ben gave a playful scoff, hoping to lighten the mood a little. "On what? Making the nanos more cute and cudly?"
Mandark immediately halted in his speech, flinching to that callback to what was arguably his worst moment.
"You are never gonna let that go, are you?"
"Well what did you think, genius?" Ben joked halfheartedly. Mandark, while not completely showing it, felt touched by the sentiment. He gave a small chuckle himself, though he had to hide with a couple of coughs to keep everyone's perception of him set. It was such a short time ago that Ben's quip had been used as an insult. But this wasn't a short time ago. This was now. They knew what they had to do.
But so did the fusions.
Another shockwave shook the Earth, this one being the worst of all. Not only did it rock the treehouse further, but this time...the rocking wouldn't stop.
Ben only barely made it into the capsule before the lab flipped a full 90 degrees. When the bunker landed, they expected there to be some destruction, but instead, it felt like they were floating. And a more sinister reason revealed itself quite quickly to them. Waves of fusion matter began sweeping the lab almost immediately. After it assimilated one scientist, the rest began to climb for their dear lives. They had no other option. Several of them were not finding the best of grips to keep themselves supported, and fell into the vat of the highly toxic alien substance, screaming all the way. Two was hanging on by a mere power cord, literally, and he was the one facing the time machine head on.
"Two!" Mandark shouted. "Start the sequencing!"
"Working on it!" the traumatized operative responded. "Almost there!"
"Hey!" Otto said, gesturing towards the head of Larry 3000. Two complied and tossed it over to him, much to Otto's shock. Luckily he was still able to catch it. Two moved himself over to the lever, and tried adjusting himself to avoid the rapidly rising pool of fusion matter out to get him. Mandark, making his own ascent, kept pointing to things that Two needed to do.
"Okay, start the-"
Before Mandark could say anything of importance, a keyboard from the back of the room hit him hard on the head. Disoriented, Mandark lost his grip...and fell into the bubbling and rising pit of fusion matter.
"Mandark!" Ben jumped up from his seat, pounding his fist against the capsule cockpit. He realized in the worst defeat that Mandark was meant to die this way...the future was still the same. Two had done nothing to change it.
"Ben, don't! The tachyons are still unstable! As long as you stay in place, there won't be any problems!" Two pleaded, now dangling by a mere lever. However, to Ben, losing Mandark was only more proof in his face that he was incapable of saving them. These people that he had known enough to understand...were now destined to die, and he couldn't do a damn thing about it.
Ben looked to his side to see Otto shaking with Larry's head tight in his grip. Otto glanced back at him with confusion, and once he looked to his right, he could see what was distracting Ben so much. There was a counter inside the machine; a black, digital clock that counted the seconds in crimson red.
On that clock, there were only 40 seconds remaining until the time machine would activate.
THE PAST: MAY 26 - 2014 - SIYENN CITY - TECH SQUARE - DEXLABS HEADQUARTERS
Dexter looked in awe at the finished synchronization engine. It was so hard to imagine that he had felt so depressed and hopeless mere moments ago. These massive new adjustments were certainly going to help.
Looking behind him, he saw everyone's heads nod almost in unison. Blossom, Bubbles, Buttercup, and most importantly Jack. They were all giving their faith in Dexter, and Jack was allowing for this to happen, hoping for all the best.
"Let us hope that this works..." Dexter said, once and for all. Everybody in the room nodded a second time.
"Launching synchronization engine! Designating external connection to second plane." Dexter announced, and after the push of a lever to execute those actions, he moved over to an extra set of buttons. Like a conductor to an orchestra, they bent to his will as Dexter adjusted each setting accordingly and perfectly.
"Loading tachyon particle." He once again announced. "Initializing activation sequence. Time machine activation in 40 seconds!"
THE FUTURE: FEBRUARY 6 - 2015 - SECTOR V TREEHOUSE - TIME LAB
Ben's shock locked him in a horrified gaze to the pool of fusion matter slowly rising below him, while Two managed to get his feet to climb the floor parallel to him, grabbing a side of the Time Machine for support. There was still limited time, he could still make it!
"Dude, let me out! LET ME OUT!" Ben shouted behind the glass, meeting disappointment with Number Two's glance warning him not to. But at that point he didn't care. He couldn't let this mean nothing. "TWO, LET ME OUT NOW! I CAN SAVE YOU!"
Two only continued to shake his head. "Ben! You need to - ack!" Two stutters from losing his grip...for a single second, and hoistering himself back up. "Y-you need to brace yourself! You're g-gonna jump soon!"
31 seconds left.
"NO! I won't lose again!" he pushed even harder on the glass, futilely trying to open the door. He couldn't let Two die like this, especially after everything that had happened up until this point. He had to let him in. "This wasn't meant to happen!" he exclaimed, trying to reason with the operative.
"It was, Ben...until you showed up." Two reassured calmly. "Thanks for comin' sooner than later...thanks for saving us as much as you could..."
THE PAST: MAY 26 - 2014 - SIYENN CITY - TECH SQUARE - DEXLABS HEADQUARTERS
"Initializing synchronized time jump!" Dexter shouted, trying to get his words to overtake the increasingly loud sound of the machine. "Un-launch in 10 seconds!"
THE FUTURE: FEBRUARY 6 - 2015 - SECTOR V TREEHOUSE - TIME LAB
Suddenly, Two noticed a much worse threat. The floor he was clinging to was beginning to break from the outside, each splinter of wood rocketing off the surface with immense pressure. He still held on to the plank, waiting for it to just break already. Ben kept trying to open the door, no matter how futile it was.
While Two caught up to Ben, he realized that this would end his tale quickly. He didn't want to die, but he saw no other way to get this alien hero and this displaced time traveller back to their appropriate time. Ben, however much unwilling, knew this was the only way.
THE PAST: MAY 26 - 2014 - SIYENN CITY - TECH SQUARE - DEXLABS HEADQUARTERS
"3 seconds!" Dexter announced. He grew more and more giddy to see if this would actually work.
THE FUTURE: FEBRUARY 6 - 2015 - SECTOR V TREEHOUSE - TIME LAB
Otto began to freeze in motion, as if in a trance, just as the interior began to glow. The tachyons were beginning to activate, and Otto could feel every single one of them.
Was there anything left for him to do? Could he have truly saved them?
Or was this the end for them?
THE PAST: MAY 26 - 2014 - SIYENN CITY - TECH SQUARE - DEXLABS HEADQUARTERS
THE FU-PAS - TIME UNDETERMINED - LOCATION UNDETERMINED.
He wouldn't accept that, not even if it meant the end of the world. Because he knew he had to accept...the past was his present...and if he wanted to fully save these people, he would have to start there rather than here.
DEVELOPER'S JOURNAL: What We Make
S-see? I got it in within a...a month!
I n-need soome sleep, goddamnit...
NEXT CHAPTER: The Time is Now...