by lightning bird
A/N FusionFall, Dexter's Laboratory, the Powerpuff Girls, Code Name Kids Next Door, Generator Rex, Ben Tennyson, and all those characters I love picking on belong to Cartoon Network and their respective creators. Admiral Nelson, NIMR, the Seaview, and all things Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea were created by Irwin Allen and are the property of 20th Century Fox.
Chapter One: FusionFall
"Alrighty. Is that tight enough, Professor?"
"Almost, Wally. You're doing a good job. Just hold the end a bit tighter and pull hard when you wrap it."
"I don't want to hurt you."
"You can't hurt me more than I already am, son."
Grimacing at the truth of these words, Number Four pressed his mouth into a firm line and tried to ignore the sight and smell of blood as he kept wrapping the makeshift bandage around the deep and ugly cut in the Professor's arm. Not daring to look at Utonium – because Wally knew that if he was pale the Professor had to be whiter than salt – he bound the man's arm from armpit to wrist, taking care to keep the fabric taut and to overlap each pass as neatly as he could. A line of blood showed through the white fabric, but the worst of the bleeding had stopped by now.
"What about the end here?" he asked after a few minutes. He looked up to see that the Professor had been watching him all the while, a slight smile on his lips at the intense concentration on Number Four's face.
"A little tighter," instructed the scientist. "Now tuck the end under. Pull it through. There. Good job."
He pressed his uninjured hand to his side as he drew a breath. "Next I bandage your hand. That looks like a bad cut."
Wally glanced down at the scrape across the back of his left hand. He hadn't really noticed it until this moment. "Eh. It's not enough to-"
Rather than answer, the Professor grabbed Number Four's hand and one of the strips of his coat and expertly bound the cut. Wally watched carefully, noticing how neat and snug the final results were. It did feel better, and he smiled his gratitude.
"Thanks, Professor. Now what's next to get you set up?"
"We need something to splint my leg. Something heavy and stiff to brace it. What have we got on the ship?"
The young boy frowned, mentally trying to inventory the things he'd seen inside the small SHORTBus that would fit the bill. Uncertainly, he said, "I'll have to go check and see. Wait right here."
"Promise," murmured Utonium, closing his eyes against the pain.
Realizing that in his condition the man was going nowhere, Wally at first started to apologize, then decided he was wasting time by standing here. He took their only Null-Void blaster, checked the pocket of his hoodie to make sure he still carried his yo-yo, and turned and left the relative shelter of the overhanging rocks to hurry back to the crash site. The light was fading and the rain hadn't let up, but at least that meant that the fire in the KND airship had been extinguished. At least it wasn't smoldering any longer. It still stank of smoke and melted plastic and he could feel lingering heat in the ground beneath his feet.
It should have been an easy mission. Six hours tops. All he had to do was pick up Professor Utonium at NIMR in Santa Barbara in a SHORTBus (a Super Heavy Outer Range Transport Bus, possibly his least favorite mode of transportation outside of anything that floated) and fly him back to DexLabs. Apparently the Professor and some egghead admiral were exchanging some hush-hush information that they didn't want to send electronically. Number Two had been out of his mind with jealousy when the mission fell to Wally – something about a fancy submarine and research on algae or jellyfish EVOs or some such that all sounded entirely too water-centric to hold any interest for him. A slip-and-slide or running through a sprinkler was as close to swimming as Wallabee Beetles ever wanted to get, which was probably why Number One sent him and not Hoagie. Number Four would get there and back whereas Number Two would ask for a tour.
He'd picked up Professor Utonium no problem. He'd never really met the man before and had never spoken to him personally, but Number Four was pleasantly surprised on the flight back to find him very nice for an adult and positively fun to talk to – not stuffy at all and he appreciated Australian humor (far more than he appreciated 2x4 Technology, but that DexTech stuff he was used to using attracted a lot of Fusion attention). He understood children well, having four of his own close to Wally's age, and since they were both part of the war against the Fusion Invasion they found a lot to talk about. Utonium listened without interrupting as Wally relayed some of his (only slightly embroidered) adventures. Warming up to his captive audience, he told the whole dramatic tale of the plunge he'd taken off of Mount Kibble last year when he and the team from Sector V had backed up Ben Tennyson in the fight against the first Fusion Dexter. He was immensely smug at gaining the Professor's admiration for his mountaineering skills and personal thanks for the part he'd played in that mission. He was happily imagining Hoagie's envious 'oooh's and 'aaaah's when the first sign of trouble appeared.
"The weather radar. It's showing a mini storm up ahead but I checked the weather before we left California and the sky was clear almost all the way to the Mississippi. This area's not supposed to get rain until tonight. Lookee. That's like some crazy tornado cell or something!" He pointed to the screen over their heads. A small patch of weather showed on the radar, so dense that it was almost black against the mountains.
Rather than look at the radar, though, the Professor stared at the horizon. Utonium's voice was calm even though his words were enough to incite a riot. "Oh, my god. That's not a storm, Wally. That's a FusionFall."
Number Four gasped, instantly terrified as he instinctively looked out the windshield. He'd never seen an actual FusionFall before but clearly his companion had. A pulsing dark mass comprised of millions of Fusion Spawns hovered over the foothills rising before them. Wally knew that right here, flying toward the cloud of newly released Fusion Spawns, was the very last place they wanted to be.
"Crud! Hold on! Evasive maneuvers!" He banked hard, trying to turn the SHORTBus around. Small though it was, the transport was not made for battle or fancy flying or managing a turn as tight as he was forcing upon it. "Can you send a COMMBURST?" shouted Number Four over the whine of the straining engines. Earth's Combined Forces needed to be told of this immediately.
"I don't know how on this equipment," grunted the Professor. The g-force of the turn crushed him back into the padded co-pilot's seat.
"Mayday, then! That green button!"
He barely heard Utonium calling in a mayday. If sheer willpower could have made them fly faster, they would have broken the sound barrier and left the Fusions behind. Teeth clenched, his hands gripping the steering wheel until his knuckles were white and his fingers were numb, Number Four winged a silent prayer to whatever god or saint watched over jocks and nerds and people in the air about to fly smack-dab in the middle of a storm of semi-intelligent alien goop. If the ship could hold together . . . if the spawns hadn't seen them (please, please, please!) . . . if the mayday actually reached anyone in an area so inaccessible . . .
For an adult, Utonium was behaving remarkably controlled. Most grownups Wally had encountered would have been in a state of denial at the notion of the SHORTBus being able to fly, let alone a FusionFall, but here was the president of DexCorp International barking out a mayday and rattling off their coordinates like he did this sort of thing every day. It was as strange as it was comforting.
"Wally, they've spotted us!"
He spared a glance at the radar. With sickening dread he saw a dark tendrils twine their way out of the dark mass ahead. He looked out the windshield to confirm the site and what he saw made him freeze in horror. It was like a black-green tornado turned on its side and making it way straight at them, a groping tongue that wanted to lap them up and turn them into monsters.
"We have to land!" cried Utonium, snapping Number Four out of his reverie.
"Right," he muttered. "Before they do the job for us. Hold on, Professor!"
It was almost like falling off Mt. Kibble again, so fast and steep was their descent. He didn't dare slow down as he tried to find a place to safely ditch the SHORTBus. He leveled the craft off over thin woodlands and craggy foothills.
"As soon as we land we have to run for cover," said the Professor, and Number Four admired such foolhardy confidence that he should use the word land at all. "We need to shelter under rock – a cave or deep overhang. They won't be able to sense us if that cloud stays intact."
He didn't detail what would happen if the cloud split up to come after them. He didn't need to (nor did Wally want him to). Well, the escape plan was laid. Now he just had to land.
Both of them cried out in surprise and fear as something heavy hit the SHORTBus. Neither of them needed to look to know a Fusion Spawn – a turnip-sized drop of Fusion Matter with eyes and jagged teeth and very little brain – had just smacked into the ship with a loud thump. Several more impacts were heard before Number Four began to have difficulty flying the vehicle.
"They're all on the right wing," he grunted, fighting the controls.
"Land this thing! Fast!"
They'd landed fast all right. With the aircraft weighed down by Fusion Spawn that thought nothing of trying to devour and absorb their ride, it was as hot a touch-down as ever he'd seen. They hit with incredible force, jarring Wally through every bone in his body and shattering every glass panel and window in the ship. The engines roared on, pushing the airship onto its right side and driving it through the rocky ground. The SHORTBus had carved a swath through the scrawny trees that slapped most of the Spawns off of what was left of the craft. Already disintegrating, the high-speed crash broke the ship to pieces until a convenient wall of stone stopped all their forward motion in one terrific, wrenching shot.
He clambered down a narrow ledge until he was level with the largest piece of what had once been a KND transport. The twisted wreck was as much burned as it was dissolved, but at least it seemed the Fusion Spawn had moved on. He hoped. Wally shuddered at the memory of the FusionFall. It wasn't so much as seeing the dark cloud and knowing what it was – rather his reaction was spurred by what he knew the Fusions could do.
He climbed through the remains, amazed that they had both escaped before the fire had spread to the cockpit. He was rather glad all he could smell were acidic fumes and burnt plastic and metal. The smell of blood had been the first thing he'd noticed once he'd been fully conscious. The second had been smoke. The first was coming from the Professor, hanging limp in his chair and bleeding from where broken glass and metal had showered down on him when the SHORTBus had rolled on its side. The second was coming from what remained of the rear of the ship. Even then, his first thought had been of Fusions getting them and Wally had dropped out of his seat and scooped up a Null-Void blaster from the locker next to the co-pilot's seat since the one by the pilot's chair was out of range with the ship at this skewed angle. Only then had he gone to help the Professor.
He wounds were ugly. Side, leg, arm - even Wally, whose knowledge of field medicine ended when the band-aids ran out, could see that Professor Utonium was badly hurt. The cut on his arm was long and deep and shards of metal had gone through his harness and clothing and his whole left side was bloody. Waking him up and getting him out of the seat had been a nightmare since there was no easy way to do it with the man so injured. He'd never heard an adult scream in pain before, and that had been as alarming to Number Four as anything else that had happened today. When they emerged from the ship and had been set upon by three Fusion Spawns. Wally had simply shot them with ruthless efficiency, barely aware he did it in light of his worry over Utonium.
Thinking back on the route he'd just taken, Number Four was rather amazed that the Professor had made it so far with his leg so hurt. He'd been forced to leave him for a little while as he scouted out the area and found shelter. All the while he'd been terrified of the Fusion Spawns coming along and finding the Professor alone and defenseless, but he found a dry, shallow cavity in the rock not terribly far from the crash site, and with much tugging and pulling and pushing and supporting (and more than a few curses muttered under his breath) he managed to move his companion into it. His hope was that if he found the shelter so easily, so could a rescue party.
But then again, so could the Fusions.