Standard disclaimer: I don't own Robopon. That's Atlus, Hudson, Red, Nintendo, etc.
It had been several months since his - no, their - defeat on Majiko Island. Their defeat at the hands of a young boy and his hastily-constructed Robopon. By all accounts, it shouldn't have happened... but it did, and there was nothing anyone in the Zero family could do to reverse it, at least. Avenging it, however, was another story altogether. This was the only thought that allowed Dr. Zero to keep his tenuous grip on sanity while he worked to complete his latest creation. He was the only one in the family to have the unfortunate distinction of being defeated twice by the boy - once on Majiko, and once before that on the boy's homeland of Porombo Island.
That is where I must strike first, Dr. Zero thought as he watched a parade of Robopon assemble various mechanical parts into a shapeless mass down on a wide production floor from his vantage point on a high catwalk. He may not even be there now, but... if I strike at his home, he will be lured back. Then, I can...
"Zero," a voice called from behind him. Dr. Zero turned around and met the eyes of his brother, Zeke Zero. The pair stood in stark contrast to one another: Zero's face was framed by wavy black hair tinged with white - a side effect of his life-altering accident on Porombo Island - while Zeke's hair was blond and immaculately combed; Zero wore bandages over the bottom half of his face (again, due to the accident), while Zeke wore a black mask over the top half of his.
"Yes, brother?" Zero replied, voice slightly muffled through the bandages.
"While I still have not located the boy," Zeke said, his voice betraying no emotion, "I have heard reports of people who met him in his travels. It seems he is still using the same Robopon: Sunny, Nebulus, Scar, and Trigon."
Zero nodded almost imperceptibly. "It wouldn't do if he started messing up our plans so early in the process. He's always been more of a... reactionary force." He gestured to the mechanical construct being built below them. "The Phantom Reaper, as you can see, is proceeding well. It should be finished... soon. A more precise time would be possible to give if these Robopon were more reliable." With these last words, Zero shot a withering glare at a passing snake-like robot with a bulbous head - a Robopon called Bulbot - who whimpered in response and quickly slithered away.
"Patience, brother," Zeke said calmly. "We're in no hurry." Zeke looked past Zero, at the machine. "In fact, you might say we have all the time in the world..."
"This is it, Sam! We have finally constructed a device to recoup our losses after that disastrous foray into time travel!"
"And, of course, I wouldn't dream of unveiling our creation without you around, young Finnegan!"
Finn nodded politely. Though he was loathe to say it out loud, ever since Professor Donald had returned from Majiko Island and his assistant, Sam, had accidentally destroyed the plans to the duo's (working) time travel device, the scientist had never quite regained his touch. Most everything that Don had come up with since then had spectacularly failed to work, usually accompanied by some sort of explosion that left Don, Sam, and Finn covered in soot and left with the task of rebuilding the lab. Finn feared that today was not any different.
Don adjusted the glasses-slash-visor that sat across the bridge of his nose, careful not to get it caught in his wild mass of frizzy red hair. "Today, we shall blow the door wide open on the secrets that space holds! Today, Sam and Finnegan, we will breach... universes!" He looked over the machine beside him. It consisted of a wide platform sitting atop a console with numerous levers, buttons, and displays, all flashing different colors in accordance with Don's taste in how futuristic electronics should look. "Let us now embark on a journey that will herald the coming of a new age for humanity!" With a dramatic flourish, Don pressed an innocuous pale red button on the display. Suddenly, a hatch opened in the ceiling directly above the machine, dropping a large sign down reading "Congratulations!" as well as a generous supply of balloons. The sign, hung from the ceiling by the well-intentioned but not-very-skilled-at-manual-labor Sam, remained in its intentioned spot for a few seconds before the rope holding it up snapped, dropping the metal board straight onto the machine.
Finn groaned as he dove behind a wall of computers for cover.
The collision of the heavy metal sign and the delicate machine caused, as Finn predicted, a rather large explosion, followed by a loud klaxon, seemingly going off from every speaker in the lab.
"What's going on?!" a panicked Don yelled to nobody in particular.
"Sir!" Sam replied, brushing soot out of his eyes and reading a nearby display. "It seems your machine worked... a little too well. Holes between universes are rapidly opening and closing all over Porombo, though our lab is obviously at the center of the openings."
"What do we need to do?" Don asked, joining his assistant at the console.
"Um... nothing, actually," Sam replied. "The holes close within seconds of opening, and it seems that their rate of appearance is slowing dramatically. We can just wait it out."
Don grinned. "Then... this means our venture was a success! We have punctured the veil between worlds! Excellent! Celebratory frilly drinks for everyone! Come on, Finnegan!" When no response was forthcoming, Don looked around. "...Finnegan?"
Finn didn't answer because, indeed, he had slipped out of the lab, heading to his nearby trailer to clean himself up. Both the lab and his trailer were located in the otherwise-remote Meiji Forest, which was itself located on the western edge of Porombo Island. The forest was dense with trees, but there was a very clear path that led through it, even if the trail markers seemed to have been designed by someone who loved puzzles just a bit too much. Robopon, special kinds of robots that were designed to be very user-friendly, that had been built and abandoned by many inventors over the years wandered through the forest, as well as all over the island in general - these Robopon had gone so long without regular repair that they had turned erratic, earning the designation of 'wild' by the inhabitants of Porombo. However, with a strong enough magnet, an aspiring Robopon trainer could disable a Robopon's processor long enough to capture it and bring it in for repairs, at which point the Robopon would normally follow the trainer's commands.
Robopon on the island were also battle-ready: they could spar with each other and grow stronger as a result. Trainers could purchase weapons and software to install in a Robopon, granting them new in-battle abilities. The tradition of Robopon battling on Porombo was such a strong one that tournaments were held yearly in Tail Castle (home of the unfortunately-named Prince Tail and his bride, Princess Darcy). The winner was declared Legend 1 for that year, though that rank paled in comparison to the Legend 0, only ever held by two people: Dr. Zero first, followed by the boy who defeated him.
That boy had departed Porombo some time ago for the island of Majiko to participate in another tournament. After that one concluded, he continued to travel the world, never returning to his homeland. This didn't curry favor with Finn, as it happened. Finn, a researcher of rare Robopon and rarer software, had heard through various rumors that the boy had several unique Robopon with bizarre, seemingly-unstoppable software installed. However, as he possessed a job as Don's second lab assistant - a position that landed him only slightly more pay than he would have made flipping burgers - Finn found himself unable to give chase.
Finn took a quick shower to wash off any remaining soot, then left his trailer again, heading back to the lab. It was a sunny day, as it normally was in western Porombo, and the trees were just starting to bloom after a mild winter. Finn smiled as he took in the beautiful day. However, a loud noise coming from further down the path caused him to freeze. It sounded like a sharp 'bang,' much like the sound of an Inviso, a stealth airplane Robopon, breaking the sound barrier. Finn took a tentative step down the path towards the noise, but before he got very far, the very air around him seemed to warp and turn black.
If an onlooker had been watching Finn at that time, they would have seen what appeared to be an inky-black sphere suddenly appear, envelop the young man, then just as quickly disappear, taking Finn with it. But no such onlooker was available, and so the only existing record of Finn's disappearance was in Don's lab.
"Uh, sir?" Sam asked, breaking away from Don's reverie to look at a computer monitor. "One of our sensors is showing that one of the holes is showing increased energy output, like something entered it."
Don waved a hand dismissively. "Don't worry about it. A wild Robopon probably fell in or something." He took a sip of the drink he was holding in his other hand – a pale green concoction in a coconut shell. "Now, I wonder where Finnegan has wandered off to?
Finn, at that moment, was slightly confused. One moment, he had been standing on the path near his trailer, the next he was in a dark... somewhere... filled with stars and giant wavy images of planets. Ethereal music was playing quietly from seemingly everywhere at once. He didn't have a lot of time to take the bizarre scenery in, though, before the void suddenly disappeared, leaving him standing in front of a house next to a busy road.
"Sir, why don't you practice your award speech?" Sam said. "After all, you're bound to be recognized for this."
"An excellent idea, Sam!" Don raised his coconut shell. "Thank you for honoring me today. Allow me to explain the background to my project. Everyone knows about parallel dimensions. There are an infinite amount of them, so if you traipsed about them long enough, you might even find another world that was identical to this one, but set, say, 20 years in the past..."
Finn stared at the house for a moment, wondering exactly why he was having this vague nagging feeling that the house should look familiar. He shook his head and pulled a small digital assistant from one of the pockets on his vest. The PDA was a dark red and consisted of a single screen with the word 'Menuscrin' above it, and below that, in slightly smaller letters, 'Microstar.' The Menuscrin should show me my location, Finn thought, tapping an icon on the screen that looked like a globe.
Immediately, the Menuscrin beeped, and an error message popped up: "Unable to reach extensive satellite network. Conclusion: User must not be within range. Solution: User should return to correct planet."
"That's helpful. And worrisome," Finn muttered, staring exasperatedly at the screen. He looked up and sighed.
"Are you lost, mister?" a high-pitched voice called from behind him. Finn turned around and saw a small boy, wearing a red shirt, a red vest, and a red toboggan. "What's that thing you got there?" the kid continued, pointing at the Menuscrin.
"This? Uh, well, it's a--" Finn started, but before he could finish, a tall blond woman wearing a pantsuit rushed over to the boy.
"Now, now, Finny, what have I told you about talking to strangers? Let's go, or else we'll be late to your doctor's appointment." The woman grabbed the kid's hand and rushed off.
Gears began to turn in Finn's head. "So that's who that guy was..." Finn mumbled, looking blankly off into the distance. He was remembering a time, some 20 years ago, when he had encountered a man who had dressed very similarly to himself and who was also holding some weird futuristic device. As he was pondering further, the air around him once again turned black, sending him to the weird void with the wavy planets again.
"Sam, help me practice. Ask me questions that they might toss at me at the awards ceremony," Don said, still holding his coconut shell in the air.
"Yes, sir." Sam absentmindedly rubbed his large, bulbous nose as he tried to come up with a question. "Uh... how stable are these 'portals,' as you called them?"
Don grinned. "An excellent question, sir and/or madam! These portals are quite stable. Once one opens, it will close soon after. After it's closed, there is very little chance that it would open again. Even if it did open again, it's almost completely certain that it would lead back the way it came, like a bridge. It's almost impossible that it would then lead somewhere else."
"But if it did lead somewhere else," Sam continued, "where would it go?"
"Ah, hm," Don grunted. He was beginning to sweat a little bit; apparently, he wasn't as prepared for his assistant's questions as he had hoped. Don gulped and took a small sip from his fruity drink. "Well, there's really no way of saying. While it is possible to control the first portal somewhat, any additional portals would not be under our control..."
The portal spit Finn out near a large building with a sign out front reading "Cools Town High School." A bell rang from inside the building, and a giant mass of teenagers poured from the building's single set of doors. One particular pair of students caught Finn's eye: one was shorter than the other and wearing a red shirt, a red vest, and a red toboggan with blue goggles on it, while the other was tall, lanky, and wearing a neatly-ironed white shirt and a tie. The student in the tie placed a hand on the student in the toboggan's shoulder. "I'm telling you, Finnegan, you have a great eye for strategy. I think you'd fit right in at the Robopon club," the tall student said, adjusting his thick glasses. "I'll even sweeten the deal and let you start training one of my spare Robopon. It's a Viggy; you've seen them. They're the ones that think they're superheroes."
"Well, I suppose," the younger Finn said slowly. "My parents really want me to join a club, so this one's as good as any, I guess."
"Excellent!" the other boy said, lighting up. "The club's in room 216, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. See you there!" With that said, he took off running across the school's immaculately-manicured lawn, vaulting over a large boulder placed in the yard specifically to maximize feng shui, just barely managing to catch the bus he had been chasing.
The younger Finn watched him run off, shrugged, and calmly walked towards his own bus. Meanwhile, the older Finn was anxiously tapping on his Menuscrin, but despite all his efforts, the same error message repeatedly popped up. Eventually, the Menuscrin simply shut off out of sheer frustration, and Finn cursed Microstar's decision to integrate the technology that allowed Robopon to simulate emotion into their PDA. This, of course, distracted him from the rather large security guard who was approaching him for being a suspicious-looking man on a high-school campus. However, the guard did not have a chance to practice his standard technique of 'club on the head first, ask questions later,' as Finn got unceremoniously pulled into another portal.
"So, it's possible to have two parallel worlds that are exactly the same?" Sam continued, his questioning becoming relentless.
Don wiped his brow, unaccustomed to his assistant actually showing initiative. Though, he reflected, I did direct him to ask me questions, so... he's really just following orders. "It is possible, yes. By the infinite nature of these worlds, it could happen. Though, keep this in mind. It is also possible that two worlds differ in only the minutest of details. One might not necessarily be able to identify two worlds as being different. Of course, even the minutest of details might have drastic effects later on..."
Once out of the portal, Finn found himself in the arena seating at the Robopon Dome, home of the Porombo Robopon Tournament. Two men were standing in the middle of the main arena. One of the men Finn easily identified as himself (albeit a few years younger), while the other wore a relatively-modest regal outfit and had his hair styled so that a large lock of it curled in front of his face. "But why are you ejecting me from the tournament?" the younger Finn asked of the other man.
"It's like this, Finn. Dr. Zero beat me in a match and took my Legend 1 title." The man placed his hand on his forehead and sighed. "Ordinarily, he wouldn't have been able to fight me without fighting the rest of the ranks, yourself included, first, but... there were extenuating circumstances. And when it was all over, he kidnapped the princess." The man placed his hands on the younger Finn's shoulders and looked him in the eyes. "If he hadn't taken Darcy, I'd drop out of this tournament now. But you must understand, Finn... I can't let that madman get away with this. My only recourse right now is to drop down to the Legend 2 rank... yours."
The younger Finn looked down. "I... I understand, Prince Tail. What's your plan for now?"
Tail gave a small, sad grin. "I plan on going to Cherry Hill to train. Zero absolutely dominated me, and I need to get stronger. But you don't need to focus on that now. Zero is my problem. Do you have a way to support yourself, since the tournament won't be taking care of your amenities anymore?"
"Yeah," Finn said, nodding. "I got a job with these recluse scientists over in the Meiji Forest. I want to study rare Robopon, and they said that once they get back from their planned expedition to Majiko, they'd be glad to hire me on. It's not glamorous, but it'll let me do my research. Until then, I'm helping them out on a volunteer basis with finding this guy called Mr. Brownie."
"Good." Tail let his hands drop. "Again, Finn, I'm really sorry about this. I just don't have the time to spare to fight my way up through the ranks again, like I did when my father held this tournament."
Finn snapped his fingers. "That's right, there was something I wanted to ask you. There are rumors all over that your father rigged the match between him and Zero. Was that true?"
Meanwhile, the older Finn was glaring in frustration at his Menuscrin, not taking in a single word of the conversation. It was still displaying the exact same error message. "I suppose I shouldn't be surprised," he muttered. "I don't even know what universe I'm in... the good doctor's latest invention could have sent me to any one of a number of different worlds." As if to punctuate his point, another portal appeared around him, taking him away from the conversation at the Dome.
Sam was pacing across the lab now. "And what sort of changes might you be talking about?"
"Oh, anything, really." Don shrugged. "Suppose someone accidentally put a little too much pepper on their meal. The extra pepper gets carried on their coat or hat or something for a little while, then falls off and causes them to sneeze. The sneeze dampens the fuse to an explosive they had been building, which makes it ineffective. Suddenly, an entire plot to overthrow their parliament, which might have worked normally, is completely shot. The entire course of history could be altered..."
Finn looked around him. The portal had left him in what seemed to be the town surrounding Prince Tail's castle, but something seemed different. The town was normally lively, with people wandering the streets, frequenting the numerous stores, even having friendly Robopon battles in the street. But wherever he was, it was completely deserted. All of the houses were boarded up, the town's trademark fountains were dry, and the Robopon Dome – easily the most recognizable part of the town next to the castle itself – was entirely gone. A sole statue was the only thing left in the vast plot of land that once held the Dome. As Finn got closer to it, he was able to make out what it was a statue of: a pair of men, one with long dark hair and bandages covering the lower half of his face, the other with light hair and a mask covering the upper half of his face. The plaque on the statue read simply "Celebrating total victory."
It was then that Finn's Menuscrin beeped. Finn looked at it, and to his surprise found that it had apparently been able to contact its satellites; consequently, it was displaying Finn's location. "Zero Castle Town..." Finn read aloud, scarcely believing it.
He waited for another portal to suddenly appear and take him away, but one never came.
(Author's note: Okay, we'll see how this goes! I can be kinda flaky with my projects, but I'd like to see this one through to completion. I'll try my best.)