Epilogue: Start a Revolution
A/N Parts of this chapter came about due to some art done for this story - 'Tangled Web' by Zephyrus Genesis and 'Game On!' by InTwilight. Links to both artists can be found in my profile or on devianART.
The brightly wrapped package was hand-delivered to Six by Sgt. Dearborn when he dropped off the promised information on the disruptor field. Ribbons and bows bedecked the small present and the security officer smiled as he handed it over, enjoying Six's confusion.
"Early Christmas present, sir," said Dearborn. "Morton sends his regards."
Beneath the gaudy holiday trappings was a plain box, and contained inside the box was a device the size of a hand-held video game. It had a screen and a few buttons and little else to recommend it besides a DexLabs logo. Six stared at it, then at Dearborn, raising an eyebrow as he asked,
"Tracker." The sergeant reached over and touched a button. Instantly the screen came to life, showing a small flashing dot on a map. "Van Kleiss has Dexter's glasses. Dexter's glasses have a built-in tracker. We checked – the dot's been moving, so the glasses are still in his coat. It'll show up anywhere on the surface of the planet."
Eyes narrowed, Six immediately saw the possibilities this presented, and he nodded in satisfaction, almost smiling. "Thank Morton for me."
Dearborn grinned, leaning over to pick up the attaché case he was delivering to White Knight. "Merry Christmas, sir."
Beasts. Brats. All of them. Why were the people most important to controlling this conflict a host of supremely obnoxious children?
He stood in his private chambers in Abysus, standing before a full-length mirror as he finally succumbed to the inevitable. Armed with scissors, Van Kleiss glowered as he cut the sticky glob of spider web that Spidermonkey had shot at him from his hair. He had tried everything he could think of to get the stuff out – it had peeled off his coat but adhered to his hair. As a few dark strands fell to the floor, he sneered at his reflection. Tennyson. Until this point the Wielder of the Omnitrix had simply been of passing interest to him, but now . . . he hated the boy. Passionately. The scissors closed, cutting the clump of webbing free. It brushed his fingers and stuck, a sticky, hairy mass. With a quiet growl he shook his hand, trying to loosen the web, but it was useless. The stuff seemed to gravitate toward living material.
Disgusted, annoyed, and fed up with every aspect of the situation, Van Kleiss stared at his own image, focusing the nanites at his command to restore his hair. It was vanity, true, but appearances had to be kept and kept up. Raising his hand, he looked at the gooey mass, trying to decide whose problem he'd make this stuff: Breach or Biowulf?
"What's up, Doc?"
Slanted green eyes and a sigh expressed her low opinion of so silly (and overused) a question. Rex, whose sole purpose had been to generate a response, grinned in undisguised self-satisfaction. Cottoning on to his antics, Holiday smirked as she stepped away from the microscope that she had been using. As she jotted a few notes down she asked,
"Are you ready to go?"
Rex could not stop the quick laugh of sheer anticipation that escaped him, but he resisted the urge to clench his fists to his face and dance around. With her he could be perfectly honest with his enthusiasm, and besides she could see right through all attempts to play it cool. "I am so ready. I've been packed for a week, not that I need a whole lot. I can hardly wait. I can't believe White Knight said yes."
"Conditionally," she corrected softly, smiling at him. From the day the invitation had arrived over a week ago, she had pestered and prodded White Knight, dropping flowery phrases like intercorporate cooperation and advanced research opportunities and training opportunities with potential allies in the field until White had relented. She knew he'd gone along with it most to get her to stop pestering him, but ultimately she knew it was all to the good for Rex, Providence, and yes, DexLabs. White had insisted that if an attack came, Rex had to respond, an easy enough concession for the boy to make in exchange for the opportunity to hang out for a weekend.
"It'd be just my luck we'd get swamped with EVOs."
"But just think of who you'll have on hand if there is an attack."
Rex grinned and laughed again, almost hugging himself with excitement.
The invitation had come two weeks earlier - the Kids Next Door wanted to celebrate the upcoming holiday season with a not-so-little laser tag tournament. It was the KND against everyone else, and Earth's Combined Forces had risen to the challenge. Why they wanted to play at war when they were at war was beyond Holiday, but it seemed a tradition. Last year it had been hockey, this year it was laser tag. Teams were being assembled, and Ben Tennyson had invited Rex to join his team and spend the weekend at DexLabs to shoot, dodge, gorge himself on pizza, socialize, and, possibly get a tour of Dexter's laboratory. Sleep was optional.
Is Dex playing? Rex had immediately emailed back.
He was the first one I signed up for my team, Ben had replied.
Negotiations for Rex to visit were on par with a prisoner exchange until Professor Utonium stepped in and offered to take responsibility for the teen. He volunteered to have Rex stay with his family in the guest room, relegating Ben to the sofa in the living room. Rex would have gladly slept outside in the rain at that point. White had finally agreed, as glad to get rid of Rex for a weekend as Rex was glad to go.
He was happy to be seeing Dexter again – he actually missed that crazy accent. Aside from Sgt. Dearborn returning to Providence with the promised data about the disruptor field to keep Breach at bay and a Null-Void gun for Holiday's research, little had been heard from the redhead. Upon returning from Gat, Dex had been too sick to travel for three days, and Ben had reported that he hadn't heard much from him either, a sure sign that his mood was pretty dark. Considering all he'd been through (with a few more details filled in by Ben), Rex really couldn't blame Dexter for hiding in the basement.
But Dexter was playing laser tag and that had to mean he was feeling better. Rex was on a team comprised of Ben, Dexter, some junior dynamo named Zak Saturday, and another boy named Finn (could his last name really be 'the Human'? Rex couldn't imagine why there was a need for this Finn character to differentiate himself from the rest of the population, but whatever, so long as he could shoot). Win or lose, Rex didn't care in the least. He was too thrilled to be getting out, hanging out, and pigging out to bother about anything as petty as a score.
He had hoped for Morton on their team, but it turned out so had every other group out there, to the point where the KND had contemplated reactivating the former 126. DexLabs security had upped the odds considerably by announcing they were fielding a team as well. Ben had dismissed the Urban Rangers as a viable threat, as well as Team Bravo, the Bean Scouts, the nerds from DexLabs Aeronautics division, and the entire crew from Charles Darwin Middle School, plus various other teams. The only real threats they faced, Ben assured him, were DexLabs Security, Sectors V and C, and the Powerpuff Girls (mostly because they could fly and were backed up by some chick named Mandy who had the power to put fear into Ben10).
"How are you getting there?" wondered Holiday.
"Jump jet. Six is flying. I think he's hanging around for a play date with DexLabs Security."
She chuckled softly at the notion. "What time?"
He glanced at the clock (again) and sighed. "In an hour."
"Let's head to the hangar. Maybe we can persuade Six to leave a little early. I'm sure Dexter won't mind."
"Awri – I mean, yeah, okay," Rex said, catching himself from bolting out the door in the most undignified manner imaginable. Trying to cover the slip, he hurried to the door to open it for the doctor and found himself face-to-face with his brother.
"Hello, little brother," said the scientist, smiling a little vacantly. "I was looking for you. Do you think you'll be able to give me a hand in my lab this weekend? I'm inventorying and classifying all the EVO DNA samples we've accumulated since Providence was established."
The mere thought of so boring a project was enough to make Rex want to lapse into a coma. He blinked. "Uh, love to, bro, but I got plans."
"Oh?" Caesar asked, brightening. "What are you doing?"
"Laser tag over at DexLabs. It's the Kids Next Door versus the world."
"Oh. Sounds fascinating."
From his tone it was evident he thought he had the better weekend in store. Rex shook his head. His brother was an oddball. Still, it was a sizable job and he was sure help of any sort would be welcome. "Bobo can be bribed with pepperoni pizza."
"Mmm. Good to know."
"Caesar," called Holiday, stepping back into her lab. Gesturing for the Salazar brothers to join her, she pulled up the information on the nanobot, including a copy of Professor Utonium's 'Spearhead' report and a faintly blurry picture of the tiny robot. "Can you let me know if you come across anything pertaining to this during the inventory? Supposedly Providence came into possession of a sample of these, but I haven't been able to find anything definitive."
Caesar tilted his head from side to side, a frown on his face. "I can tell you what it is right now if you want."
She turned in her chair, astonished. "You know what this is?"
"Of course. I created them." Holding his chin, he leaned down to read Utonium's paper, his eyebrows arching in surprise at the depth and detail of the report. "I'd forgotten about them. Nanobot. Good name. Better than what I was calling them."
"What did you call them?" asked Rex, too stunned to ask anything relevant.
"Microscopic self-replicating automatons." He caught his brother's critical eye. "What? I was in seventh grade. I had almost no imagination at the time." He went back to scanning the paper, surprise crossing his face, and he studied the picture of the squid-like robot. "This was modified slightly from the original design, but it's definitely mine. The ones I created were actually geared toward removing smog from the air, but someone altered their carbon intake processors and-" His eyebrows shot up. "- they ate the City of Townsville?"
"Do you know who modified and released them?" Holiday squeaked.
"No," he admitted thoughtfully, "but Van Kleiss did have what I'd classify as an abnormal fascination with them and he would have had full access to my research in Abysus." He looked at the screen again and it was his turn to gape. "Wait." He pointed at the computer, then reached out and touched the screen as if to confirm what his eyes were telling him. "Patrick Utonium? The geneticist?"
"What about him?" asked Rex, thinking of the tall, kind man he'd gotten to know a little while Dexter had dealt with the Null-Void blowback.
"Professor Patrick Lawrence Utonium wrote a paper about something I created?" gushed Caesar.
Rex stared at his starry-eyed older brother with quiet concern, sensing he was in the presence of yet another Utonium uber-fan. He pointed at the 'Spearhead' paper. "So, this is like microscopic self-replicating automaton fanfic?"
Caesar didn't even hear him. He was too busy being overwhelmed. "I can't believe the Professor Utonium knows about my work!"
"Uh, it was kinda hard to miss but he doesn't know it's you, bro," corrected Rex. "I can tell him when I go to DexLabs."
"Yes! Yes! You have to tell him! Wait! No." He paused, torn. "Well, tell him I made them but it's not my fault they ate his clothes . . . and his car . . . and Townsville."
"I got it," promised Rex, shaking his ahead in amusement at this over-the-top reaction. "Want me to ask him to autograph a copy of his fanfic?"
Finn scrambled aside as Dexter dropped down behind the barricade between Ben and Rex. The redhead was panting but smiling as he clutched his laser gun.
"Decoy Rainbow Monkeys deployed, Sergeant," reported the smallest, sneakiest, and smartest member of Team Ten.
"Everything's set." A few feet away, crouched low behind a painted barrier set up for the laser tag course, Morton chuckled wickedly. He nodded and gestured to the three other DexLabs Security officers, sending them to circle 'round the ambush site. "Be ready. When things start, keep moving. Remember, take out One, Five, and Yi first. We'll get Saturday back and hit them from the rear." With a final nod he slipped away, silent on booted feet.
It was a final grudge match before the victory pizza party – DexLabs versus the KND. Team Ten and DexLabs Security – which claimed to have hired Agent Six for the weekend – against the combined might of Sectors C and V. Unlike other rounds, super powers, extraordinary abilities, and unique devices were not allowed, leaving them their wiles and skills and sheer genius.
"Is Six in position?" asked Dexter eagerly.
Rex snorted and gestured overhead at the arena's shadowy ceiling. "Has been from the start."
Finn looked upwards, but the ninja was not to be seen. "Think Zak's got them convinced Ben and Chip aren't cooperating?"
Psychological warfare being authorized, Zak had volunteered to be captured by the enemy and spread a little anti-DexLabs propaganda. That he classified all the KND girls ranging from cute to whoa had something to do with the proposal, but ultimately they were all having fun of one sort or another so no one cared about his motivation.
"The way he stormed out of here, he had me convin- shh!" Ben broke off, sinking lower as Number Three's distinct, squeaky voice rose up in ecstasy. They watched from their hiding spot as two dark-haired girls came into sight.
"Oh, look! Rainbow Monkeys! Number San, loooooook!"
Both girls began chatting like jays even though Three spoke only English and San spoke only Cantonese. Rainbow Monkey, apparently, was a universal language, and their job of scouting out the enemy location was forgotten in light of collectable plush toys.
"Wait for it," whispered Ben as Dexter and Finn, the best shots on his team, prepared to take out both Three's. "Finn, be ready with the hair."
"Capitol," was the confusing reply, and Finn loosed the tie on his eared cap, ready to stun the opposition with his rather shocking hair as well as his laser gun.
More voices approached their position. The KND were coming. The trap was waiting to be sprung. They had to take the scouts out first . . .
Rex tensed, unable to keep the smile off his face. Win or lose, he'd never had so much fun. He glanced at Ben, wondering if he was the only one that felt this way, this giddy excitement completely like yet unlike battle. His team leader caught the look and mirrored Rex's grin, a soft laugh rising up in his throat. Hearing their quiet mirth and sharing this sense of being able to accomplish anything with such people by his side, Dexter echoed the chuckle, never taking his eyes off his target. The two older boys glanced down at him, and the three friends shared a moment of happy tension.
"Ready?" whispered Ben as the two KND scouts gushed over their prizes. It was clear he was savoring the moment. The rest of his team nodded, straining with anticipation. Ben held them back a few seconds more, and then with a word unleashed the power of Wielder, Genius, EVO, and Human.