Bold = Emphasis/Commentary

Italic = Emphasis/small memory moment

[] = Artificial Intelligence/Android Speech


THE FUTURE: FEBRUARY 6 - 2015 - POKEY OAKS SOUTH

Racing away was all he could think of. Racing back to whatever resistance was left...to warn them, only if it wasn't too late. Rex Salazaar was pumping fuel into his afterburners as fast as he could, pushing all the thoughts of Providence's unavailability away with the road behind him. There was a ghastly thick green fog that blinded him, he couldn't see anything. It didn't stop him, not him with the stakes of his mission, also pushing the idea of crashing into a building that he couldn't see to the back of his head. But luckily, or unluckily, he wasn't alone. Right beside him was his ever-amazing partner-in-crime, Bobo HaHa, on the lookout for fusion monsters behind them so Rex wouldn't have to get distracted. But Rex, being ever so dangerous, looked behind anyway. All he could see was the same thick green fog that had polluted the entire Poakey Oaks Neighborhood, both North and South. Nothing new there. But what truly caught Rex's attention was the trembling (but still scowling) face and shaking hands holding a gun, the face and hands of which belonged to his chimpanzee friend. It was extremely rare to catch Bobo with fear in his eyes, but knowing what he was trembling and shaking for, it was definitely understandable.

Something big was chasing them, something unheard of. It had finished decimating whatever remained of Endsville, it was plowing through countless fusion fighters at a speed unimaginable for its size, it was being called Fuse's greatest triumph. But based on it's appearance, the form it took, the survivors would've known it by another name. One that, as silly as it sounded, gave a more terrifying approach when face to face with the monster.

It sure scared the hell out of them. Bobo was looking intently into the thick green fog, and inside his chimp-gut boiled fear and frustration. He couldn't help but turning over to Rex, trying to see how things were going.

"C'mon KID! Can't you go ANY FASTER?!" the fez-wearing chimp furiously dictated.

"Cut me some slack, Bobo!" screamed the EVO teenager, looking straight ahead and unable to focus on his irate passenger. "It's not easy to just drive aaannywhere you want when there isn't enough road to drive on!"

"You screw this up, Rex? My chimp-ghost will chimp-haunt you for the rest of your miserable EVO-life!"

"Ah shut up, man, I'd probably be too dead to even care!" Rex said, sarcastically taunting him.

"Well the world might be goin' to shit, but I still got things to do! So either PUNCH THE ACCELERATOR OR I PUNCH THE HELL OUTTA YOU!"

"RightRightRIGHT!" Rex exclaimed, as he tried to increase his acceleration. He still kept himself wary of the road up ahead. The wind began to hit against their faces faster and faster. They had reached their top speed. With their luck here, what kind of chances did they have of everything going to hell?

Well, what happened next couldn't have possibly been foreseen. The ground shifted, formed into a structure, much like his own nanites. It looked like a hand, catching Rex off guard, but not enough to get him to lose his steer. He tried moving faster, stressing the nanites in his legs to its utmost limits, but it did no such work. The ground continued sprouting more of these hands, with Rex narrowly dodging each one of them. Bobo was loading his gun as fast as he was firing it, shooting at the ground to the best of his ability. Rex began to notice the road shifting, becoming more at an angle; they were driving towards a cliff, the road they had set on having ended. Whatever was ahead was uncertain, as it was clouded by the same green fog. Rex was not one to be fooled by fog though, and quickly recognized the signs of the approaching chasm.

"Get ready!" Rex shouted, with Bobo understanding the moment he turned his head.

Mere seconds later, they had rode the speeder off the cliff, and it was sure to fall into the sea of fusion matter. Rex could already feel the gravity pulling him down, as could Bobo. In response, he quickly shifted the nanites in his ride to form two twin turbines on his pack. Boogie Pack saves the day yet again, Rex thought, while Bobo landed on the shifting wing of the turbine with ease.

But they found that they underestimated the fusions after them, for they could adapt too. As Rex sped across the bottomless pit beneath them, he noticed something out of the corner of his goggles. Tall, green and glowing tentacle like vines sprouted out of the chasm, making jittery movements as if it was paper being quickly unfolded. They were moving further up the edges of the rockslides next to them, at a pace as fast as the Boogie pack was gliding Rex. Realizing how fast they were rising, Rex quickly pushed himself forward, the nanites surging from his body and to his machines, speeding across the abyss below at a much faster rated.

But the fusions weren't finished toying with the two yet; they sent stems of fusion matter in the opposite direction, chasing the two from both ends.

"That don't look too neat." Bobo said with dread, looking over the wing's edge. The two strands of vines kept unfolding, growing faster and faster by the second.

"I got an idea. Bobo! Jump to the side! See if you can land on the grass!" Rex shouted to his partner, pointing to the grass ahead that lay besides the road, where the sidewalk stopped short and bent out of shape. Bobo did so without hesitation, jumping as high as he could in order to make it onto the other side of the trench. For a second, it looked like he was going to make it. Bobo couldn't help but crack a grin, if they got outta this, they could brag about it to a bunch of impatient KND members, and not to mention save the world. Again.

But Bobo's eyes widened in shock as what felt like a surge of whiplash pulled his chimp-body backwards. Disappearing into the black chasm, as Rex zoomed past him. It took Rex a few more seconds to realize that the vines had caught up to them, and now they were one man down.

"BOBO!" Rex cried into the crevice, later consumed by thick green fog, having lost sight of his remaining friend. But it could only get worse from there. As his eyes were fixated back on the covered crevice, he failed to notice another extrusion that had formed at the edge; by the time he had noticed and widened his eyes in surprise, he had already crashed into the obstruction. It sent him flying, with both blood and bolts flying everywhere as the wing and turbine broke off from his body, with what remained shifting and morphing back into his body, leaving him with several large missing chunks of flesh and muscle. He tried to block his fall by extending his arms, but it didn't matter as he still hit the cold pavement of the road; his face skidded across the asphalt, he could only hold back howls of pain from that alone, but not the rest.

He couldn't begin to describe the pain he felt. Why didn't he ever find a nanite-build for something like a raft? Or better yet a pillow?!

He dragged himself as far as he could. It wasn't far enough though. Another extrusion made it's way out of the ground, Rex could feel it at his underside. He could also feel that this time it was much slower, as it took hold of his limp body. It wrapped itself around him, and held him high. Rex struggled as much as he could, the fusion matter touching his sensitive wounds didn't help his situation. But Rex wasn't too overwhelmed by the pain, not enough to distract him from what the extrusion was doing. It had taken the form of a hand, its fingers holding the EVO agent of Providence in its palm, as if it was presenting something to...someone.

Or something...

And as he realized what would happen within the next few minutes, Rex realized that the latter was much more likely.

Even without his feet touching the ground, he could feel the thump of the large footsteps through the hand that held him. The thump shook the road, the rubble bounced, the grass danced, the fog dispersed, with every thump of its feet. It sounded paced, like a drumbeat. The thumps were intimidating that way, continuing to grow louder and louder, until Rex found himself staring it in the face, its nostrils fuming with aggression.

Rex couldn't even comprehend how it basically teleported to him when it was so far away earlier on. He looked away for one second. One.

"N-no!" Rex protested, trying to struggle from the grip of the hand-extrusion. "¡Atrás! Stay back!" The monster did no such thing. It continued to creep toward him, the hooves on its arms twitched constantly, and it's body kept shaking. The form it took was clearly hard to maintain. It's hulking figure and pose, as well as its constant shaking (even more than other fusion dopplegangers) and the fake fur that dripped off like water off a leaf and formed little puddles of fusion matter, were all signs of this creature's potential weakness. But at that moment, who was Rex to think about weakness?

The fusion didn't bother to hide those weaknesses though, as it continued intimidating Rex. It's glowing red eyes, as big as a regular human torso, stared right past Rex's soul. The teenager was terrified. There was no telling what this thing would do to him. Would it gut him? Mind control him? Infect him?

He still couldn't tell even when the doppleganger raised its hoof for Rex's face, covering his view and muffling his shouts of pain.


LOCATION UNKNOWN - LAST LOCATION: SECTOR V - KND TRAINING AREA

Familiar was a word that came up a lot in this war. It certainly came up a lot for Ben when he came across familiar landmarks, places he would have been able to recognize on instant, now torn apart by strings of fusion matter. Familiar extended from the ground beneath him to the air above him. It had once smelt like nothing, yet everything at the same time, the smell of pure...liveliness. There was a sense of possibility and prosperity with every pleasant deep breath. He could remember so many people practically dancing around, laughing in joy as they too took the air in with pleasantry. It was practically a utopia in moments like those, he thought. After all, what wasn't there to love? But now, he couldn't say that at all. The world around him smelled like rotten eggs, those buildings leaning over to one side. It was pressured, restrictive, the complete opposite of freedom. There were so many people dancing around...in fear, agony, despair, chaos. The line between the soldiers and the civilians were being blurred slowly, he could see both types running and flailing for their lives, hoping to find some way to survive. Ben shivered and flinched every time he had to think about it; he recounted seeing a survivor crying with a dead body, its eyes empty of the life that once filled it, as the war effort kept moving fruitlessly forward.

But the most amazing thing that Ben had to admit was that despite all this destruction, despite every possible sign that there was no chance of recovery, much less victory, hope had never been brighter before.

It was close to midnight. Nearly two days had past since they got back from Tech Square, which meant Mandark and the other tech-heads had been working non-stop to get the Time Machine up and running, and they had been sending several heroes, however few there were remaining, to find any extra parts that could be reformatted to fit the proper use. As the hours inched away, Ben grew more and more anxious towards the machine's completion. The current predicament he was in was able to distract him, but only so much.

Fusion Number Two and his legion of Shocktanglars (a collection of tangled wires infected by fusion matter) were planning a large scale attack on Sector V, planning to finally take out the treehouse. The fusion bomb squad seemed to also be carrying some valuable technology that could have been of use to Mandark, so the mission was basically to kill two bugs with one stone. Ben found himself accompanied by several KND operatives, who unfortunately spent more time staring at him rather than paying attention to the spawn right in front of them (he couldn't count the number of times he had to save them, either).

That was something that sort of bugged him, though. Any time he just wanted to take a stroll out in the safe-spaces, he could hear chattering and whispering about him. They were all most likely chatting about the time machine, and that there was in fact a fighting chance for the future yet. Ben found himself giddy with the same excitement towards that goal, as it meant for him that he could go back home and warn the world about the impending onslaught, but the KND were solely believing that it would happen. Ben was all about optimism, no doubt, but by having your life dependent on a time machine that hasn't been completed yet despite the state of the world? The alien hero didn't want to discourage hope, but he didn't want to encourage ungrounded faith either. What was even weirder was that they weren't able to determine the specifics of the mission he was on. At this point, nothing was fully confirmed. Ben hated that it had to be kept that way, though. Mandark wasn't one to call anything a done deal until he was sure it was done. But the point was that he questioned how a large group of kids could place their hopes in a machine or mission that even they didn't fully know about.

It perplexed the young plumber, but it wasn't like he couldn't sympathize with that kind of hope. He'd always been caught in tricky situations before, hopeless situations that would have made him discard his precious racing jacket. But he never did.

Hope was a weird thing to him in that way.

But right now wasn't the time to be thinking about that. They had a bombing squad to squish. Hidden behind random stalagmites, commonly found in fusion lairs like these, two KND agents on Ben's left were signaled by him to covertly strike the fusion monsters. They nodded in response, and moved further into the cave. They each climbed up on random stalagmites, and set up shops for sniping. They took out many of the Shocktanglars within the vicinity, clearing a path for the heroes quietly.

As Ben waited for the two operatives to finish, he turned to his side to see several of his KND soldiers staring at him. Each of them had their eyes wide open, not paying attention to the battlefield in front (as usual with this team) or the guns that had a better attention span then them. It was a little creepy.

Ben had to admit though, it was a nice change of pace for him to be stared at with nothing to say, instead of being constantly shoved into spotlights with the news. It just didn't help though that their stares were more out of fear and tension rather than...well, anything else that didn't come with a crapsack world.

But somehow, one operative of the KND had the guts to break that silence while they were still hiding behind the stalagmites.

"So...you're the dude!" the operative whispered quietly.

Ben slowly turned his neck to face the shy operative. Why'd he call him 'the dude'? He was on the news more times than he had fingers, what was stopping him from calling him 'Ben 10'? "Uh-huh..." he callously responded. Admittedly, he knew he could have phrased that better, but seriously, was that all he was? 'The dude'?

"Look, I know that the nerds told you not to say much...but ya think you could, y'know, tell us?" the operative asked as politely as possible. "I mean, it comes easy for things like, uh, team motivation, teamwork, the kind of stuff that'll push out the fusions? Any of that and I'm sure we could do a lot more!"

Another KND popped out of her hiding spot, and addressed the concern of the conversation directly. "Yeah, I mean you're the one who gets to go back in time and save us all! You don't feel a little bit excited to tell us anything?"

"Dude, I know, but...not right now, okay? We've got fusions already on our tail-end, so could you guys please prioritize?" Ben explained to the excited agents, just as he was peeking over the pointed tip of the rock in front of him. "We oughta focus on them."

Seeing the signal to move, Ben signaled the rest of the troops forward. They paced themselves to silence their running, each footstep kept quiet as if running on a carpet. As they ran further into these areas, they increased the pacing going further into the maze of caves. The plan was to keep things on the down-low until they had to take on the big bad itself, necessitating the need to take Fusion Two out faster. Ben pulled out the NanoCom and activated the Radar function. He could see a surge of fusion matter, leveling that of hydrogen fuel cells.

Those must have been the bombs that Fuse was planning to use on the treehouse.

Ben was so immersed in the mission at the moment that he not only couldn't think about that, but he failed to notice that they were at the final stretch. Most of the Shocktanglars were eliminated thanks to their snipers, and now, it was just up to them to take out the fusion doppleganger of Number Two.

Fusion Number Two hovered in the air with a standard KND F.L.A.P.P.U.H (Flapping Lawnmower Apparatus Propelling People Up High), shaking maniacally as most fusion dopplegangers did, and with the tiniest plasma beams crossing its face, forming something akin to an insane smile. The goggles were glowing brightly red, and were fused to the rest of his gooey skin. It was tinkering around with different machines, assumingly working on more bombs after his squad had just diffused his last batch, but upon closer inspection, he was actually modifying his rifle. Ben made sure to keep himself and the squad hidden from the fusion's sight. This had to be a surprise attack, it was the only way to ensure a positive victory against a fusion with hydrogen fuel bombs right next to him.

But it later appeared that the element of surprise was not on their side, as the same fanboy operative looked up and whispered to his friends.

"Guys?"

"What?" they all asked in response, whispering carefully.

"Where are the snipers?"

Ben's eyes widened in shock with that question. He looked up behind him to find that the snipers once resting on the top of the cavern were indeed missing.

This wasn't good, he thought.

And that turned out to be true. Suddenly, an explosion came from literally nowhere to be seen and had the heroes on their backs a few feet away, thrown back from the explosion.

When Ben opened his eyes, Fusion Number Two was coming right for him. He came to the unfortunate realization that their secret operation wasn't so secret as he had tried to make it. He was just lucky that someone shot the doppleganger before it could hurt him. He quickly got up and moved back, seeing the KND operatives aiming at Fusion Number Two's head. But what the fusion did next was...strange.

It pressed its hand down onto the surface below, triggering a minuscule shockwave of energy and causing raw fusion matter to ooze out of the ground. The doppleganger seemed like it was enjoying this action, raising its head and looking up as if both in incredible excitement and pain. It coughed up more of the green goo, essentially having it drip from its face for the purpose of its ritual. From the fusion matter, shapes began to form. The KND kept their rifles facing the fusions, not knowing what to expect.

Small, clown-faced bombs that were around the size of a fusion spawn were what ended up materializing from the ground, fusion matter stitching together each particle. It looked horrific, like someone had decided to carve a jack-o-lantern out of a giant metal ball. An accurate simile for what stood before this group of soldiers. But they only used it out of fear, because they had no idea what to call these new monsters.

"Dude, what're those things?" a KND operative asked Ben, expecting him to have the answers.

"Um...you tell me..." Ben retorted, clearly not from around then.

The bombs then jumped high into the air, squeezing down in a manner similar to crouching. These bombs made themselves clear in their monstrosity, as they rocketed back down and attacked each fighter. Behind them, Fusion Number Two roared in fury, commanding the beasts around it to attack their enemies.

But what was more concerning was how lightning fast these fusions were moving. One moment they were there and the next they weren't. The KND were at this point waving their rifles, not knowing where to shoot.

Ben jumped behind a stalagmite and readied his watch for a transformation; he saw the fanboy contrasting his comrades. Rather than dancing with his gun to the fear of an attack, he was petrified. He sweat profusely and shook his head with fear, not knowing where these things would strike next.

What was unfortunate for him was that he looked away for a second, and the monster finally appeared and blew him up and away. Ben, having observed everything that had happened with this operative, could see a limp body higher up. He couldn't tell if he had survived that or not.

Thankfully, an answer for Ben came much faster than he expected. The operative shouted to everyone, "I'm okay...I think!", signaling his well-being...but not his immediate pain.

It didn't take long for Ben to realize what had just happened.

Either those stupid little soulo shells were invisible, or they could teleport. Either one really wasn't going to be better for them.

Ben 10 cracked his neck and decided to bring out the aliens. Bringing out the correct setting via the watch's rim, he proudly proclaimed "It's hero time!" as he slammed the Omnitrix and ended up transforming into a Petrosapien sample, Diamondhead.

Wait, Diamondhead?! Damnit, Omnitrix, he wanted Big Chill!

"Diamondhead?! Oh, come on!" Ben complained. Sometimes this watch actually did bend to his will, and sometimes it just wanted to screw around with him. It got really annoying at times. "Fine, let's see what I can do..." As Diamondhead, he processed his surroundings, which unfortunately remained unchanged. The KND were still flailing their guns around without aim, not knowing what to shoot.

"Stay still, dangnabbit!" Another KND agent shouted futilely. The bomb kept moving around him, circling him like a bullseye target. It finally tackled him and exploded anyway and sent him flying too at a speed that could kill. Luckily for that operative, Diamondhead entered the frame and saved him, catching him like a football. Ben gave the kid a reassuring look, ensuring his safety, before sending a barrage of crystal shards to the area where the bomb showed up. Of course he ended up missing, with no sign that any of the shards took out the bombs.

"There!" A soldier pointed to Ben's back, finally catching one of the bombs out of obscurity, causing him to quickly grow a large cluster of crystal at his hand, sharp enough to be a sword. But just as he attempted to stab the little fusion behind him, it disappeared again! Then it reappeared on his left, tempting Ben to take another stab at it, disappearing again. As the KND kept trying to fight these things, Ben had asked the question on everyone's minds.

"Where the hell do these things keep going?!" he said with frustration. He already knew they could basically teleport, or move at extremely high speeds, but their disappearances were getting extremely frustrating. He shot as many crystal-spikes as he could at the ground, spinning around in the hopes that at he could find at least one spot where they would be.

And just like last time...he missed.

"Damnit. I'm gonna try something!" Ben shouted to all the operatives. "Everyone move out of the way!"

When everyone did, the alien hero threw down his arms and fists into the ground, extending his crystalline nature with this area of the fusion lair, causing humungous shards of crystal to pop out of the ground. It barely missed the KND soldiers, but appeared to hit exactly who Ben had intended to hit. Once Ben retracted the crystalline structures, several bombs began to show themselves, looking less alive than before, and were actually visible this time! Ben's plan worked. These stupid little soulo shells were finally down, leaving them with bigger fish to fry.

With the living bombs all defeated, Fusion Number Two brought itself into the battle. But the cowardly assumptions the operatives had been voicing earlier were all proven to be false, beating several KND agents down with relative ease, throwing them to walls and sending them flying across the catacomb. A shard of diamond attacked the violent green doppleganger from its side, as Ben began to take on Fusion Number Two, both sides refusing to wave the white flag.

While that was happening, the KND operatives heard various noises come from further back in the lair. It was exactly what they feared. The Shocktanglars had begun to respawn. The KND focused their attention to Fusion Number Two's legion, readying their weapons. Ben looked over to see that, but it wasn't out of courage or bravery. It was out of fear.

He really wished he could have said those words of confidence earlier...but for their sake, it was never too late.

"Hey! You guys wanted words of advice or somethin'? Don't think about losing, or even how I should win! Just put up, nut up, or shut up!" Ben said, grunting as Fusion Two pressed him down against the ground, with Ben trying his hardest to push him off. "Worry about yourselves for a change! I thought that was what this whole war-thing was about! Fighting for our own and all! I'm just askin' you to fight for your own a little more right now!"

Ben admitted those weren't his best words of confidence, as he much rather preferred rallying inclusiveness, but being under pressure and seeing no other alternative speech were the big factors. But it ultimately worked, as the fear faded away from everyone's eyes, changing their expressions. These were no longer the eyes of soldiers. They were the eyes of true operatives.

"Hey guys! Let Diamondhead over there finish that fight! Everybody take out the monsters!" one of the agents shouted, rallying the troops to massacre the evil human-killing monsters before them.

The agents turned and ran from Ben's rustle with the fusion, chasing those Shocktanglars across the area, firing on them and making sure to target each one. As the KND agents dealt with the monsters, having leapt to the side to avoid Fusion Two, Ben continued fighting the fusion doppleganger, and punched it with sheer brutality to a point that caused the caverns to crack. The hero jumped forward to the fusion and relentlessly drove his Petrosapien fists into the doppleganger's chest at rapid fire, hurting the fusion and causing its form to begin to deteriorate.

Ben figured that with Fusion Number Two weakened, now would be a good time to switch things up, and make sure that it was done for good. Pressing the symbol on his chest, he shifted from Diamondhead to a much sleeker and skinnier alien. Purple and magenta in color, translucent in transparency, Chromastone charged all the energy around him into his body, and fired it on the fusion in the form of a powerful concussive blast. Ben could see that whatever he was doing, his cosmix nanites were kicking in, slowly obliterating Fusion Number Two.

The monster once again roared in fury, then in agony as the attack from the Crystalsapien tore it to pieces.

Ben let out a long breath, with another mission successfully completed, and Sector V remained safe. It wasn't saving the universe, but it was just as good, Ben thought.

"Woohoo! Nice work, guys!" Ben shouted as he collected the doppleganger's fusion matter. But no one returned the sentiment. "G-guys?" Looking behind him, he saw all of the KND troops either exhausted or in unimaginable pain. None of them were up, nor did they attempt to get up. Half of them were covered in splattered fusion matter (a miracle was that they all survived getting blown up), yet all of them were moaning in complete agony. Elsewhere, a Shocktanglar started to move again next to an armed KND agent.

"You missed a spot..." one operative tiredly pointed out to the agent.

"Don't judge me..." the KND agent rebutted as he shot the last remaining Shocktanglar.

Ben let out another sigh, this time from his deadpan reaction. "C'mon, let's get back to Hero's Square." Ben said as he walked towards the fusion portal. He thought back to his victory here. If it hadn't been for them, the remains of the KND would have fallen, along with any chance of the time machine being constructed, forever dooming the earth.

But that didn't happen. Not here, not now, and hopefully if they continued this way, not ever.

Maybe there was a much brighter hope than ever before.

He couldn't see how anything wouldn't be going according to plan, and as long as he kept getting to fight these things and protecting others, he felt he'd be just fine.


THE PAST: MAY 25 - 2014 - SIYENN CITY - TECH SQUARE

Dexter wasn't exactly fond of others criticizing him. Unless it was from like-minded geniuses such as Mandark, he failed to understand why there would be judgement where no proper assessment of that judgement could be given. After all, being a boy genius meant all of his detractors would be less intellectually capable than him. What possible criticisms of his inventions could they have if they couldn't comprehend such feats of science?

The Powerpuff Girls fell into this category, somewhat barring two members of their family. Dexter kept brainstorming on how he was going to break down the situation to Townsville's most beloved superheroines, wondering how much they would understand and how much they would beat him up for it. Although, he had already discussed it on the phone, though he hadn't specified the more intricate details, such as the identity of the subject, the mechanics of the time machine, and why they had to start cleaning up crime in Bellwood. The girls and the professor were already informed on everything else, and he could only guess which of them were frustrated with him.

It had taken them a while to get here, and he couldn't blame them. Unfortunately, due to Ben's disappearance, the city of Bellwood had been in desperate need of saving and protection. Within the last two days, there were armed robberies, kidnappings, a supervillain with a demented clown-gimmick. The Powerpuff Girls had to deal with Ben's monsters while he was...away. Because of that, an uneasiness grew in Dexter's stomach. What would those girls do to him when they would learn that all the stress of flying across cities and punching monsters they have no proper experience with would be because of him.

*Gulp*

As they entered through the front door, each of the girls flying in one at a time, Dexter kept on brainstorming. What was fascinating to himself was that he was maintaining composure while worrying about it all. Though, he couldn't help but notice the girls' new "costumes". He had seen them on the news in these new attires, but rarely up-close, and the design was an intuitive and more modern update on the usual aesthetic. Each of the girls wore what appeared to be flexible cloth-spandex-like under-armor that covered most of their torso. On top of that were the usual expectations. Blossom and Bubbles wore half-shirts over their tops, while Buttercup instead adopted a mini-jacket that also only covered the top half of her torso, each one in their signature colors. This was accompanied with matching pairs of skirts, with an extra white line circling each one in their fabric. Under hers, however, Buttercup wore a black pair of leggings that reached half-way down her calves. Blossom had something similar, but it instead reached a little higher than her knees, while Bubbles's was completely obscured underneath her own skirt. All of the girls shared similar white socks, replacing the white knee-high ones they used to wear. As the girls sped towards Dex with their still-impressive power of flight, and the laser-like sound following their every movement, Dexter began as Professor Utonium calmly walked toward him.

This...was going to be hard to explain any further...

Having cleared his throat, he finally was able to greet them after two days of waiting. "Greetings, Utonium family."

"Hi, Dexter." Blossom said, polite as ever, but with an underlying seriousness in her voice. "It's been a while." Dexter nodded in response. Amongst those aforementioned detractors, Blossom came close to being a certified genius...very close. Dexter could only fear what things she would say or do to him in response to the mess behind him. At least her polite attitude calmed him down enough to believe that they weren't mad about this...yet.

"Yeah, a while long enough for you to have screwed this up."

"Language, Buttercup." Blossom said, scolding her sister.

"You serious, Blossom? "Screw" is 'language' now?" Buttercup asked sarcastically, later turning her attention to Dexter. "Besides, I'm only saying how much he screwed this up more than he screws in those nuts and bolts, and how he's screwing his workers over with more screws and nuts and bolts without any extra pay to fix his screw-up that started this screwed-up mess. Am I right?"

Blossom could only roll her eyes and sigh. There was a limit to how much she would usually object to obscene language, and then there was the limit where she just wouldn't give a care. With that sentence, Blossom was sure Buttercup had managed to cross both lines in her head, as well as a third one that had yet to be discovered by her enhanced intellect. Surprisingly, though, Computress was now the one to call out her sister's foul mouth.

[Any further attempts to belittle Dr. McPherson in his presence will result in your escorting off the premises; solution: insults are prohibited towards the good doctor] Computress passive-aggressively warned over the lab's audio system. Blossom couldn't help but smirk. Revenge is so sweet sometimes, she thought.

"I'll call him whatever I want...but seriously? That's what they call you now? "Dr. McPherson"?" said Buttercup, still mocking the boy-genius in any way she could while her sisters could only pinch their nose-bridges and face-palm. "What was the doctorate in, though? Setting-up-Mojo-levels-of-security? Or was it the M.D in risking-the-life-of-a-teenage-boy-in-a-time-machine-without-any-initial-testing-before?"

Dexter took that in well. Too well, Buttercup thought. The boy genius took a deep breath, and processed all the contents of Buttercup's ranting as calmly but quickly as possible. A response was ready within seconds. "If I can recall, either one would be one more doctorate than you have, Buttercup." he retorted. Shots fired.

"Watch it, four-eyes. Remember that one flick of my finger equals one broken skull for you." she said. "Point being, if you're capable of royally screwing up a time machine, with or without your sister's help, then why should we even call you Dr. McPherson to begin with?"

"Heehe-wait," Bubbles interjected. "If he's not "Dr. McPherson" to us, then he doesn't have a last name to us, so what's his last name supposed to be to us again?" The blue Powerpuff girl smiled so widely that her understanding of the situation was completely ambiguous to Buttercup, visibly annoyed by her sister's apparent air-headedness, or her sister's whimsical wit.

"W-wha-not now Bubbles!" Buttercup whined, taken aback by the mischievous smirk of the seemingly "daft" sister.

"Whatever." Bubbles retorted, having finished teasing her sister enough. "But what I just don't get is why Deedee is the subject of Dexter's blame-game."

"Hey, no one's ruling Deedee out for her fault, but Dexter was the one who didn't tighten his security."

"Why, though?" Bubbles asked, analyzing the situation on her own. "She managed to bypass enough security protocols that would even make Mojo or Fuzzy break a sweat, and she managed to activate a fully operational and protected panel for a highly advanced machine in some way, right? What part of that is "stupid"?"

"Why do you think we came all the way to Siyenn City to ask to him about it?"

"Okay, enough you two." Blossom commanded, "But my sisters have a fair point, Dexter. For someone as "stupid" as your sister, she really does know how to keep breaking into a state-of-the-art scientific research facility like here."

"So then, how about we ask the million-dollar question." the Professor began, the seriousness in his voice overpowering the hyper environment that the girls created. Yet another reason for Dexter to have been shaking in his boots. "Why was there a button that, when pressed and activated, collectively collapsed the machine's functions and resulted in...this mess?"

"No single button can be considered responsible for this chain reaction of explosions." Dexter replied almost immediately. "The working hypothesis is that Deedee disrupted the Dexbot necessary for the security system, causing a silent failure. This could have been what deactivated the protection settings for the panels, and offset all the buttons to a random listing of settings. Deedee pressed many of them with her giant hand, as there was no big red button, but there were several buttons and nobs and levers meant to be used in specific orders of function, so as to properly calibrate the time machine for a preferred setting. Without that calibration, the button-mashing must have caused a catastrophic system failure, leading to a chain reaction of functions crossing functions, and the...inevitable explosion."

Professor Utonium carefully went through every step of that butterfly effect. One area of Dexter's explanation of the control system was particularly illogical to him, and appeared to be the most major issue. "Firstly, Dexter, why would you allow for your buttons to be offset? Why is there even a function for different settings and different orders of actions per button? Why couldn't there just be buttons for simple operations?"

"Managing a time machine is not the same as splashing a vat of flavorings with a highly radioactive substance. This isn't chemistry we are dealing with, Professor." Dexter said, the impact of his insult felt like a punch to the gut for the girls. It wasn't nice at all. "Button-mashing is the only possible way she could have caused a system failure, as the order of buttons wasn't appropriated for simple handling!"

"Okay, first, that insult? Really low, Dex. Second, there's just one issue I don't understand..." Bubbles began again, still paying attention, "how come no one heard or noticed her come in until after she disabled the security and after she destroyed the science project?"

Ignoring the crude denotation of his time machine as a 'science project', Dexter had thought long and hard about why that was, or so it seemed. He remembered what Deedee was wearing, and was just too ashamed to tell the girls. Eventually, he built up some courage to tell them, no matter how weird it sounded. "Well...she was wearing her ballet shoes...and no one noticed her until it was too late..."

Dexter was right in assuming that the Utonium family would react negatively. "Again, Dexter, you ever stop to think that maybe Deedee isn't so stupid after all?" Bubbles said. "I think I have to keep repeating the fact that she's managed to figure out how to operate control panels that she's never seen before since your lab's inception. Control panels that I think even I would have a hard time hacking into."

"Machinery has absolutely-wait, what about hacking?"

"Nothing! It's nothing, Dexter." the Professor shouted, silencing Bubbles much to her disdain. "Continue on."

Looking at Bubbles suspiciously for only a few seconds, he returned to his argument. "As I was saying, machinery has absolutely nothing to do with how stoopid my sister has become."

"Yet you're making it about machinery." Bubbles tried pointing out.

"No, I am not. Deedee could not have possibly found her way into my lab for the simple reason of luck or observation. If she knew where she was going, then she would never have come here at all. There was in fact a sign on our front door that read not to enter! Yet she treated it as a simple afterthought, and of course this is not the first time this has happened, this has happened far too many times to consider it as an anomaly in her behavior!"

"It couldn't have happened that often..." Bubbles tried saying, before being hushed by her older sister.

"Let him finish, Bubbles." Blossom whispered to Bubbles, having realized where Dexter was going with his point. "But if that's the case, Dex...what do you mean when you're calling her stupid?"

Dexter took a deep breath once more. This is a question he had been waiting to answer since he was 7, and an answer had been boiling up inside his mind to just spill when the time would come. "Have I ever told you about the time that Deedee mistook a turtle for a bird?" he began, surprising the girls and the Professor. How could one mistake a turtle for a bird? "It had the shell of a turtle, the skin of a turtle, the design of a turtle, the color of a turtle, and yet somehow she saw feathers and beaks on a creature so small and so devolved it could not possibly have developed such traits! She was stubborn in that belief, even my parents could see the turtle for what it was. Even her friends from her ballet classes, ones that have also once partook in the destruction of my inventions with complete and utter ignorance, could easily tell that the bird was a turtle. Deedee has always been this ignorant, mistaking turtles for birds, mistaking highly sensitive lab equipment for little plastic toys. And now, look at the mess before you." Dexter continued on, keeping the girls tense towards his rant. They didn't know how to even react. "Every time Deedee has come into my laboratory, destroyed hard work where days, or even months were spent on it, I always thought that whatever panels or button she presses, it looks to her like some kind of...tabletop! A drum kit, school desk, anything that doesn't look like some kind of highly sensitive control panels that could kill anyone within a 5 mile radius! She has shown too much to me to the point where her ignorance could be confused with...a word that I wouldn't even say...but it has gotten so close! She lets herself be consumed by her undying ignorance, and now because of that, someone completely innocent and care-free has been sent into an undocumented future, disappearing from the world entirely! I highly doubt there is any other word that could describe someone like my sister. Confused? Hardly. Ignorant, close but no. The only true word, that perfect idiom, is stupidity!"

Dexter finished his demeaning fervor with panting. The Powerpuff Girls, who had fought monsters the size of skyscrapers, battled villains of unimaginable concept, never looked so surprised and flabbergasted by Dexter's harsh words. It would be Buttercup that broke the silence.

"Harsh words." she said. "But I...well...actually-"

Suddenly, as if out of nowhere, a high-pitched and cacophonic sound filled the entire lab. [Alert! Alert! Alert! Alert! Alert! Alert!] said Computress, her voice echoing as loud as possible through the lab, [Scientific anomaly - Detected!]

"Why do you have a siren for this crap?" Buttercup shouted. "Can't you just be informed about it the normal way?"

"Nothing about me is norm-Computress, cease that blaring alarm!" Dexter responded, to which Computress followed. "Report already. What is it?"


ELSEWHERE ON THE KND MOON BASE

"Anyone ever tell you that you suck at this?"

"Yeah, someon' did, Numbuh $1.50 an hour." Four shot back at Two, with a mischievous grin on his face that was all too indicative of why that particular operative wasn't anywhere to be found.

Two widened his eyes, his goggles shifting accordingly, with a brief feeling of worry for what had happened to the lawyer-operative. The hullabaloo in the hall had reached it's highest level, to the point where the case had to be put into recess. Not to mention, 1776 had a science project that she had to work on, amongst other things. But court was back in session, and back in session was another day of guilt and misery for Number Two...

"Day Two of Number Two's case is now in session. Let the record show that there was no session yesterday, due to a personal matter of mine. I'm glad that we have also come to the conclusion that Number 363 is a bit of a moron." 1776 began. "Number Two, this trial has made the generous offer to drop the traitorous charges against you. However, your appeal regarding the investigation of the crash in the Kids Next Door communications channel is yet to be judged."

"Hurry this thing the heck up already!" one bucket-wearing KND operative said in the crowd. "I wanna call my mom!"

"What's stopping you from just going back to Earth?" another operative asked.

"I actually got grounded, so...you know...adults. She's probably called the police already..."

"And she can keep waiting, Number 398. I'm holding you in contempt of KND court for wasting everyone's time! The same goes for you too, 78!" 1776 said, much to the groaning of the two operatives. She was also understandably tired of this case, feeling it was taking far too much time. "Now, Number Two. Recount how a job like the one you had been given would usually play out."

"I...I'm not sure of all the details, since Number 274 usually does the maintenance check anyway. But first, I'd get the satellite on whatever base I'm stationed on up and running, then I'd have to deactivate the firewalls within a timeframe of five minutes each time I sync up the frequencies of two different areas of space. First we'd establish global communication, then lunar communication, and then the rest of the Solar System would come next. I can tell you he's given me the job before, and that I've usually had no problem doing it! What's even weirder is that the Moon Base's frequencies were in sync when I was on the job, and now they aren't! I swear, it's like aliens are messing with the comms or the adults are with some kinda virus!"

"Blasphemy! Adults and Aliens be one and the same! So says our lord and prophet-"

"Oh shut up, Number 201.2!"

"I have the right of religion, douchebag!" the devout operative stated in defense.

"Guys, please shut up, I don' wanna stay here." another nameless operative voiced in the crowd, silencing the impending argument.

With that out of the way, 1776 continued her judgement. "Regardless, our records show that Number 274 had delegated the responsibility of maintaining communications throughout the Solar System to Number Two. As it is evident, our comms our down, and we are as in the dark as the average joe!" said 1776. "Number Two, I repeat while you have successfully proven that the secondary charges against are completely fabricated, the original accusation remains. Do you know what happened, and did you cause it on purpose or on accident?"

Two took a deep breath, and carefully thought out his response. "I didn't do it."

The court once again descended into shouting and accusing.

1776 pinched the bridge of her nose in frustration. "Number Two, I think you need to give me a better answer than that."

"What better answer is there? I swear on the snot in my nose and whatever blood that's still running in my grandma and one thousand slices of pizza that I didn't do it! Maybe it was some kind of new adult interference!" Two tried to reason. "You said that some of our troops were kidnapped by Father, right? Maybe he stole some of their tech, and reverse-engineered it so-"

"Father has kidnapped troops before, y'know. It wouldn't make sense that after so long, he'd choose now to do it." another audience member shouted. "Also, there's another thing, only you got the codes to the commlinks!"

"No, I was lent the codes to the commlinks. 274 should still have them, wherever he is right now, but even he's having trouble getting his comms up and running!"

"Yeah? How can you be so sure?!" the operative kept arguing.

Two, on the other hand, could see steps ahead of where this was going. "You mean like how I can be so sure that this is gonna end with some really bad illuminati joke?"

The operative was caught off-guard by that prediction, darting her eyes away from Two in shame. 1776 was through with these distractions, though. "Order by the turnip, dangnabbit!" she shouted. The conspiring operative slowly sank into her seat, while Two returned back to the topic at hand.

"Maybe there were others that could hack inta the sys-" Four attempted to argue, before being interrupted again.

"Look, Number 1776, I know that I failed my job, and I'm super sorry about it. But I keep telling you, whatever happened didn't happen because of me! The other systems seemed functional, but the response was what failed! Maybe if you guys could send some squads to the other bases, we could see what's even happening!"

"We DID send squads to our other bases!"

"With a form of video feed?"

"Yeah."

"And?" Two asked impatiently. "Did any of them respond or send those feeds?"

"I don't think that sending a live video feed directly to Moon Base would be actually possible with the comms down!"

Oh yeah, Two thought. He'd forgotten about that.

Solutions to find the next clue in this irritating mystery surged through his mind. He was stumbling to find any possible solution to the KND's legit problem. They had no form of communication between sectors, much less the planetary bases of the Solar System's outer rim, and the higher-ups seemed to keep themselves enclosed within the box rather than thinking outside it. He began thinking that this sort of problem could move faster if he tried working on the problem more on Earth, there he would have access to other tools like those fancy Dexlabs Na-

Oh, wait a minute...

Why didn't he think of that sooner?

Two cleared his throat, casting a spell of silence on all the operatives. It reassured him to say the least, as he knew that they were just as concerned for their safety. Two had decided at that point to stop beating the bush and just suggest his plan already.

"Well, we could use the NanoComs."

Despite the sympathy towards the operatives in the room he had expressed to himself, this was the complete opposite of how he wanted them to react. -Rather than the 'oohs' and 'ahhs' of realization Two had hoped for, there were more whispers in the courtroom, even gasps of horror. Gasps of horror turned a few shouts. A few shouts turned into a chorus of aggression once again, all of the operatives practically singing in unison for their hatred of Number Two's plan. They were saying some crude things, like 'defiling KND law' or 'risking exposure'.

Oh yeah, that's why he didn't think of it.

What was more unexpected was for 1776 to actually refrain the court's aggression, joining in on their harsh melody. "I SAID! ORDER. BY THE GOD-DANG. TURNIP!" she shouted, silencing everyone in good measure, then turning to Two menacingly. "Number Two, it is a direct violation of Kids Next Door directive, as dictated in the Grand Book of KND, that NanoComs are a certified risk against our secrecy!

"Yeah, yeah, I know that Number One wrote that thing in the book after the terrafuser incident five years ago. But c'mon your honor! Desperate times call for desperate measures! Providence, let alone Earth's governments have nothing on our global and universal network, so what are we going to do if, say, Stickybeard decided to ram the Moon Base or the Earth in a surprise attack?! It's not like it hasn't happened before, right? So we can't just assume we're completely fine sitting ducks!"

"Heya, 1776?" Four asked politely. "I think we may need another recess to adjust some things."

"NO YOU-" 1776 cut herself off. She was getting extremely tired of the case going on for so long. If only she was younger, she wouldn't have to worry about moronic things like homework or school projects or after-school clubs. But now, her mom was yappin' so much more than before. Yappin' about SATs and ERBs and etcetera. It was driving her crazy, and it almost made her forget to grant Two that right to recess. "Fiiiiinnnnnee! You can get your dang recess and...talk about more ways to make this longer than usual."

Contrastingly, Two and Four let out a large sigh of relief. They just bought themselves more time. 1776 was obviously disenchanted by this; sometimes she wished these things could move a little faster, and maybe then her mom would get off her back.


THE FUTURE: FEBRUARY 6 - 2015 - SECTOR V TREEHOUSE

As XLR8, Ben sped back to the KND treehouse, having fully evacuated the operatives from the Fusion Lair. He didn't need to transform into his most hyperactive alien to feel the relief and excitement that was overtaking him at the moment, as he looked forward to the progress Mandark and Otto had made on the new temporal gateway.

"Himbacksowayouneedmetadu?" Ben slurred; having forgotten to transform back prevented from speaking coherently. Mandark could only look over his shoulder in disbelief at the panting Kineceleran. Dexter had once called him someone who explained too much or too fast, so Mandark could tell that none of the words Ben had just sped his mouth through were any proper form of English.

"Come back when you can speak English, XLR8." Mandark said. "None of us here are capable of speaking drool."

"Yeah, srry," Ben apologized as he transformed back into his regular human form. "I'm just checking in, seeing if I need to do anything to help. Is there anything you need for help?" He kept asking impatiently, to the point where it was annoying even to Otto.

"Nothing at the moment...aside from explaining your surprising spike in confidence."

Ben didn't see why he needed to explain that. "Ain't it obvious? I'm just excited for the fact that your entire crapsack world's gonna get completely revamped! Last I checked, that's an opportunity you've always wanted, dude!"

"An opportunity you jeopardized when you decided to tackle Fusion Number Two head on." Mandark countered with a bizarre degree of worry, like he remained angry but stoic at the same time, where the anger was most present in his attitude. "Perhaps you have failed to recognize the fact that you are extremely important to our experiment."

"Hey, cut Ben some slack, Mandark." said Otto, defending Ben's stance in this case. "Might I remind you that without his help, we wouldn't have gotten tons of data and intel on the fusions' next moves. You can't brush something like that off and say he should more careful." Ben pointed his arm to Otto, as if trying to prove his point, with a look of sarcasm too.

Mandark found himself having to concede to that logic. "Admittedly, your most recent exploits have brought us some ray of hope, and a surprising amount of motivation to our ranks. But I still rest my case. No matter how surprised we are regarding your adaptation to this world, risking yourself to fight fusions is dangerous."

"Yeah, I think I'm more surprised by the fact that you're really limiting what I can do." Ben rebutted.

"You thwarted a bombing."

"By stopping Fusion Number Two." Ben argued. Without his defeat of Fusion Two, none of those operatives could have made it out alive, and the treehouse would be in major jeopardy. "Also, it didn't help by having to stay in the back lines rather than the front. A whole lot of KND ops could've gotten themselves killed if I didn't step in; hell, they were really close to that anyway."

"If you assessed it that way, then the Kids Next Door need to improve their defense tactics, and you need to start paying attention when your order is to not endanger yourself." Mandark argued, earning him some very angry stares and glares from several KND scientists within earshot. "Besides, those operatives were under direct orders to keep you safe as much as possible. If what you're saying about how their attention really affected them, then that is more worrying altogether." Mandark did not care enough to notice their insulted impressions, and turned back to grab another device, a Mandark Industries micro-USB, and went to hand it to Ben.

"Whatever the case, your next assignment is to take this. You may review through it on your NanoCom, and see if there might be anything we can add."

"What is it again?"

"It is a list."

"A list of what?"

"A list of every possible addition we could have made as countermeasures against Lord Fuse, but failed to do just that."

"Including the nano's appearance?" Ben asked, looking up from the USB.

"Y-yes…" Mandark said, with a head so heavy with humiliation it drooped down.

"Good. What else?"

"The systems we implemented for the war, and the systems we should have implemented generally. For example, this plan for an app will establish a neural link between the NanoCom and the nanites around the brain's dopamine center points; it would be able to automatically summon whatever item is needed without having to scroll or slide down the inventory page."

"You and Dexter…didn't think of this earlier? I mean, I - ?"

"I know, I know, scrolling down drop-down after drop-down is absolutely and insufferably pointless and dangerous." Mandark admitted once again. "Hence why we had it produced for this mission."

"Which you only thought of…towards the end of this war?"

"I already failed this species when I wrongly believed quality was better than quantity with the nano, okay? I am very well aware there are more such failures that I-"

"It's called a mistake, Simon, it ain't gonna kill you."

Rather than interpreting Ben's comment as reassuring, Mandark found that to be the opposite. The unfortunate truth of the matter was that he didn't think of these things when it had to be thought of.

"So," asked Ben, "what now?"

Mandark moved out of his trance and back into reality. "As Otto is also stranded in this time, he shall be accompanying you. Although, we would need to send you two to your exact time period, in accordance with how many days you have spent here."

"So, you're not returning me to the exact moment I left? Why?"

"Larry 3000's head has a limited supply of tachyon particles, a certain percentage of which may have to be discarded entirely in order to keep the density and space surrounding the particles balanced. Whatever particles left would not be enough to send you to exactly when you left." Mandark explained. "Besides, sending you to a slightly further date lines up our timelines, could build a much more believable case to Dexter that you came from the future, and lessens the risks of a paradox."

Ben couldn't argue with the Paradox logic. Time travel was always a tricky case for him. "Sure." he responded, fully understanding the game plan for the time machine. However, behind the two, something strange was going on. Otto was on the computer, holding his hands to his head, panting heavily and looking focused as if they had discovered the fabled Blowfish.

"Hey, uh, Mandark?" Otto called over, with a sense of urgency. "You've gotta see this."

"In a minute, Mr. Osworth. Ben, as the time machine is nearing its completion. We are going to ask you to keep out of the fights as much as possible."

Mandark couldn't understand what came next. The beginning of the conversation had started out completely normal, Ben was understanding everything just fine, and even agreeing with him. Mandark considered that last event a rarity at most. But here it was back to square one. Ben had a look of shock on his face, one that wouldn't be too mistakable from betrayal. "W-what? No way, man! You want to keep your last line of defense away from the action?" Ben asked in a horrified surprise. This was no way to respond to heroes, he thought. He looked to Otto, the guy who supported him last. "Otto, help me out, buddy?!" But Otto was too engrossed in his work, unable to pay attention to Ben. While Ben could have argued with Mandark, the latter ultimately did have authority over his missions, so there wouldn't be a point in arguing.

"For the record, Ben, you are not our last line of defense, you are a second chance. If you were to be fatally wounded, as you and your KND squad were close to being today, our mission as well as yours would be jeopardized." Mandark explained. "In dire times where we barely have enough with us to treat human wounds, endangerment to your survival is a risk not worth taking."

"So..." Ben tried to think. He didn't know what to do. In his mind, he knew Mandark was right, but...at what cost?

He asked the only question that could form at his lips. "...what else can I do?"

Mandark's eyes darted away from Ben's face, presumably to think. It wasn't like Ben could tell anyhow, what with those glasses obscuring them. The only indication that Mandark was thinking was a small and quick shift in rotation, that was all. Once he came up with a solution, he spoke, "So far, the fusion activity in Genius Grove is at a low point. You may go there, if you'd like." he suggested, turning his back just as quickly as he darted his eyes. Mandark was too much in the moment to notice that Ben stood there, his trepidation having turned into anxiety, dumbfounded by his self-purported inability to help everyone here. The adolescent inventor couldn't comprehend why Ben would feel that way. He's getting a chance to save countless others just by sitting in a pressurized time-capsule. Why mourn over a lost cause?

Whatever the reason, it didn't bother or interest Mandark enough. Not enough as whatever Otto was doing where he had attempted to get his attention, to which Mandark actively paced himself towards.

"Good, you're here." Otto greeted him as he was approaching. But the matter was so important that Otto couldn't afford a second away from the screen, refocusing his attention back there. He seemed really excited, much more than usual. "Okay, Plumber Charles, I need you to throw the soda can into the anomaly. Report back your findings."


ELSEWHERE - PEACH CREEK ESTATES

It was safe to say that Plumber Charles, in his 30 years of employment, had seen some crazy things in his life.

Being a member of a universe-spanning interplanetary and galactic security organization, this was practically a part of the job description. So, what with holding legitimate knowledge of aliens existing before most of the world came to find out later, over-excessive kiddie-clubs and child geniuses and mutant toddlers weren't that intriguing. The giant planet in the sky belonging to a race of ravenous parasites that have never been documented or recorded in Plumber history? Maybe that was a stretch, but seeking new life and new civilizations was one of the major points of being a Plumber.

But this?

This swirling, translucent, aquamarine vortex that had just appeared at random on a sidewalk? Where the soda can he had tossed away into the vortex didn't even go through it? The fact that this thing had been completely dormant for the last hour and gave off some very strange readings?

Maybe this was where he should have drawn a line in the sand.

Because he had no idea what this was.

He had made sure to do what any sensible Plumber would do: extrapolate data, assess evidence, and come to a conclusion. But these kinds of readings were uncharted territory for someone like him. Ultimately, he had to call in to Earth's resistance for reporting this, and he was lucky enough to have gotten ahold of Mandark's Laboratory, at least so he could get some sense of what was even happening here. Charles kept staring at the soda can, still not going through the vortex, and still no response from the other side. He had grown impatient in waiting for something to be said by someone, be it Mandark or this Otto fellow, and so he felt extremely relieved when said transmission finally did come through.

"So? Did it go through the vortex?"

"Uh...no...the subject is...lying on the floor, refusing to physically interact with the anomaly in any way." he replied. "But...I fail to understand why. I remember there being a mailbox here before this thing just showed up. Where'd it go?"

"It may be a matter of spacial mechanisms. Two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time. Whatever this is...it must have deconstructed the mailbox on the subatomic level, hence it's disappearance." Mandark explained, making his presence known. But there was a great sense of confusion in his voice. Not even he could completely comprehend what this vortex could be. He made the logical decision to find out himself. "Send me some of the data you are receiving off this...anomaly."

"Of course." Charles responded. He linked his NanoCom to his spectrometer, receiving the data byte by byte, and quickly sent it to Mandark.

"Right, while you guys are doing that," Otto began, "I gotta go. Time machine still needs some finishing touches."

Over on the other side, Charles could hear what sounded like a few beeps of computer, underscored with rapid typing that almost resembled a rhythm. There was more typing and beeping, the sound of Otto's footsteps forcing Charlie to wait for a response. Amongst the rest of that, he heard another set of footsteps, the unforgettable and obnoxious armored clanking of each boot signified the presence of a random KND member. He didn't care for that as much as he looked back over into the vortex, its aquamarine hue shined and faded constantly, further plaguing Charles in his confusion. That conclusion came resolved, though, as Mandark finally spoke after two minutes of silence.

"As I suspected. It would appear that the vortex is incapable of transporting solid matter, but...maybe..."

"Maybe what, Mandark?"

"Analyzing further into this data, I may have come across what this might be. Our experiments with the tachyon particles seemed to have been a bit too ambitious. Based on the radiation levels your spectrometer was able to collect, and compared to the readings off of Larry 3000, they are one and the same. What you're seeing is possibly the result of a systematic error, caused by an improbable expansion of the tachyon particle wavelength." Mandark explained, and it was clear from the yawns on the other line that it was boring Otto and the KND operative next to him, "This side affect appears to have created a...tachyonic antitelephone."

"A tachyonic antitelephone? But I thought that was a theory!" Charles tried to argue, recognizing that jargon almost immediately.

"Time travel with organic subjects has been proven possible yet you question something much more basic such as sending information back in time?"

"I wouldn't call it basic, but-"

"Heyheyhey!" the KND operative interrupted the two. "You two may've gone ta college, but I haven't. Can someone tell me what you nerds are going on about?"

Charles couldn't comprehend how or why this kid suddenly got involved with the conversation. Usually, kids would be more inclined to turn away from math, right?

"It's a complicated concept, son." said Charles, "Are you sure you want to know?"

"Duh!"

Mandark took a deep breath, and readied an explanation. Charles couldn't help but break a sigh. This was college-level quantum mechanics that was being discussed, and he couldn't imagine how this kid would interpret it. "There exists a theory in particle physics referred to as 'Tolman's Paradox', originally based on a thought experiment conceived by Einstein in 1907, which hypothesized a means to send one-way messages back in time. Einstein and Tolman suggested that when two streams of particles were to be aligned with each other, and when these particles were to be vibrated at a higher frequency and moved at a relative velocity faster than that of light, they break something called the superluminal barrier, and such phenomenon could potentially align or fold two areas in space-time, crudely resembling a method of time travel. Once this superluminal barrier is broken, all physical and existing matter is reorganized and converted to pure energy and information, and the superluminal motions of matter would be so fast that they would be signaled before they are actually put in motion. It would result in a paradox of causality where the information would be interpreted before the transmission, having moved and adjusted to an earlier timeframe with a different frequency. One of the particles in question are tachyons, being the particles that can change directions due to their unstable nature. It's due to that nature that their mass constantly shifts, creating singularities within space-time, and allowing direct access to the other point in time." Mandark remained on-topic, but Charles could hear panting, as if this was some sort of ramble, or if it was from exhaustion. He couldn't tell if this was from Mandark or the KND operative. "Now, in order for the information to actually transcend across the time-stream, Tolman's Paradox suggests the application of an Anti-Lorentz transformation. This would allow for the information being transmitted across two timeframes, with our side moving theoretically being inertial, while the other side would be moving at a non-inertial acceleration. The tachyons interact with the other stream of particles, vibrating at a higher frequency in order to break the superluminal barrier, and transmits their collective radiation to the other side, where it could be interpreted as information or, as we could use it for, a message across time."

Charles attempted to offer his own expertise in the matter. Though, it wasn't much, after all it felt like only yesterday when he was on security duty in negotiations with the To'kustar race...and a lifetime ago when his college professor had only touched on this little subject. "Boiled down, it's like a telegraph through time, just like a phone...only not going forward, but rather backward. The initial issue with the experiment was the lack of knowledge regarding the existence of tachyon radiation or the particle on its own for that matter. Without any recorded condensation of the particles, and the fact that their mass and frequency fluctuates constantly, scientists wouldn't have been to...well, find out if they existed or not. But...now we know."

"So, have you completely comprehended the science we just wasted time lecturing to you?" Mandark asked the KND agent demeaningly, but unlike earlier Charles could easily tell who was more overwhelmed. On the other side, the KND agent had attempted to take all of that in one word at a time, and truth be told, it was nauseating.

"Do you need medical attention?"

"Nope. Naw, I'm fine, I'm just...wrapping my head around that." he said. "Just-hold on. I...I...wait a minute."

"What?" Mandark asked beligerently. Charles had to agree, though. These dramatics were just wasting time.

But the KND operative didn't intend for that. For in actuality, he had finally understood everything.

"So...it's Steins;Gate."

...come again?

"Gesundheit." Charles responded, missing the operative's "point" entirely. He wasn't sure if his radio was picking up static, but he could have sworn he heard a loud slap, like the kind after a facepalm. But it's not like he would immediately know what a Steins;Gate is. How would he? He was in space for most of his adult life.

"What? N-no, Steins;Gate! That anime about sending e-mails and texts back in time? None of you have seen it?"

"Number 7345, I was a military contractor who used to run a highly advanced, state-of-the-art technological empire in a partnership with another highly advanced, state-of-the-art technological empire. I do not believe that could constitute any time for me to watch anime."

"I'm sorry, but I'm not familiar with this...AOH-NI-MÉAGH."

Charles could hear the operative slam his head into a control panel, probably in frustration. It didn't take long for him to recover and continue, though. "My point is, we're sending messages across time, right? It was pretty easy on that show, so how hard could it be here? We'd just need a microwave, some chicken nuggets-"

"As me and Mr. Charles have already pointed out, understanding the concepts and limitations of Tolman's paradox, subsequently in order to manipulate a tachyonic antitelephone, is a task that would be extensively challenging, even for someone as myself." Mandark argued.

"Well, in fairness, you have to have a high IQ to understand Steins;Gate-"

"Subordinate, what did I have to tell you about dead memes?"

"R-Right, sorry dude…"

"Furthermore, Number 7345, if you dare to insult my intelligence one more time, I will not hesitate to throw you straight into the monitor here, so you can be reunited with your pathetic anime."

"You can do that?" 7345 asked with glee.

"Okay, back on topic." Charles said, "Mandark, what we need to do right now is follow Plumber protocol. I'll round up more of my colleagues; see if we can extrapolate more data, but until then, we're going to need a larger span of time to analyze these vortexes."

"And unfortunately for your Plumbers, Mr. Charles, we do not have the spans of time you are implying. Just yesterday, whatever remained of the Cleveland suburban area, dubbed by the Kids Next Door as "Candy Cove", has now been submerged in fusion matter. As of today, Fusion Number Two came to assault the Sector V treehouse once more, nearly succeeding were it not for a few fusion fighters. Lastly, the islands have been drifting further apart, leaving aerial support and cargo transports more vulnerable to fusion attacks." Charles could practically feel Mandark's argument come to life, especially considering that the portal was considerably to the sea of fusion matter, a grim reminder of the human race's priorities at that point. "If there was more time on our hands, you would certainly be granted it. But with something far worse on the horizon, I doubt we can supply you with such an accommodation. Keep your data-stream updated, and continue sending me those updates. I shall see how I can adjust my algorithm accordingly."

"Well, you have to give us some sense of scale. I mean, we don't even-" Charles had to pause there. Did he say 'adjust'? "Hold on. What do you mean by 'adjust'? Have you...have you actually been typing that entire thing out this whole time?"

"You seem surprised, Mr. Charles."

"As in, it's been completed? You worked on it even through our little physics lesson with the kid over there?"

"Yes. Is there a problem?"

"A fully articulated, and accurate algorithm for sending - how did the kid put it - emails back into the past, all within the span of the last 5 minutes?"

From that, Mandark remained silent, clearly demonstrating his ingenuity. Charles, on the other hand, remained flabbergasted. He didn't have anything else to say, mainly because he couldn't have known what to say, and instead he sighed in disbelief and defeat. Dealing with militant kids and boy-geniuses was definitely not part of the job description. He tried moving past that, having been reminded enough that Mandark was superior to him in knowledge in quite possibly every way...except intergalactic politics. At least he could keep that title. "So...what does it do? How does it work?" he asked through his commlink. He needed something to distract him from his shame.

"The spectrometer has been reprogrammed with a cypher that can be interpreted through tachyon fluctuations, coupled with a series of fluctuating beta-rays. I will find a way to re-engineer our accident to purposefully send different frequencies of radiation out the other end. When we send these messages, the spectrometer can calibrate them properly in order for the message to be properly translated."

In the background, Charles heard a quiet beep, possibly from one of those NanoComs that everybody was using. "'Kay, I gotta go. Fusion Spawns spotted by Hero's Square." 7345 announced, sounding like he was in a hurry. With him out of earshot, Mandark and Charles continued their discussion. Finally without the need to school those in ignorance, they refocused themselves to discussing the more glaring issues of this idea.

"Mandark, now that I have your undivided attention, why can't this thing function as a time-portal for organic material?"

"It all comes down to the frequency and wavelength of these antitelephones. The time-slot must be so miniscule and the wavelength must be so small that only smaller elements such as particles can traverse between each linear frame. The wavelength isn't large enough to sustain large amplitudes from what it's transmitting, thus it can't sustain something any larger than the width of a pixel."

"And as for the mailbox versus the soda can?"

"Most likely an explosion of energy released by the singularity. It swallowed whatever it could take before the wavelength minimized itself." Mandark explained. "But that remains unimportant. I ought to inform you that the method of calibration will be in a very specifc way, so as to directly address who we need to address."

"You think he'll be able to figure it out?"

"He must. It's a pattern that like-minded scientists usually are able to recognize quickly."

"Like-minded? I thought you two didn't do anything together."

"That is irrelevant and besides the point, if Dexter is as smart as he claims to be compared to me, then he should be able to understand these codes. This form of code can be interpreted with his technology just as well as mine, but it will require precision from our end. However, based on our supply of tachyons from Larry 3000, we will only have three chances to get a message to him, but each shot cannot be precisely calibrated to just appear in front of Dexter's lab, so we can only hope that the corresponding vortex appears to those with capable hands."


THE PAST: MAY 25 - 2014 - SIYENN CITY - WASHINGTON NATIONAL PARK

"Dude, Rigby, remember to hold onto the sack, we can't let the dirt spill."

"God, dude, I'm workin' on it, get off my case!"

As always, it was a sunny day in the Park. Trees were moving with the wind, birds chirping everywhere, it was all the standard case.

That's why it was so boring.

These two guys looked like they got that. The tall blue jay and the dark dirty raccoon had kept talking as they were loading Park-sanctioned trees onto their golf-cart.

"No way, dude. You annihilated the bathroom sink yesterday. Skips had to block you from plumbing duties forever, and he took a dive outta your paycheck."

"Dude, Mordecai, I'm fine! Remember how I'm the one who fixed that crack in the fountain?!"

"Yeah, sure, Rigby. Your computer college must be very proud."

"I'm serious du-HEY!"

In response to this insult, Rigby tried to punch Mordecai. Emphasis on tried. He wasn't even sure if Mordecai felt anything. As they were loading more of the trees onto their cart, they continued their dreary conversation, desperate for any form of communication.

"So dude, d'you hear about the drop?"

"Drop? What drop?"

"Dude, you've gotta have heard 'bout the drop!"

"I don't know what the frigging drop is!"

"Dude, how do you not know what the drop is?" Mordecai reacted with sarcasm. "Well, you know that alien hero dude from Bellwood? And you know how those Powerpuff Girls had to deal with some villains or something in that city? Yeah, they released this mini-statistic about the lack of the alien sightings. Those things haven't shown up for the past 3 days or something."

"Oh...aww, that sucks!" Rigby exclaimed as he wiped the dirt from the sacks on his fur off. "Even the one with the four arms?"

"Yeah, dude, even the one with the four arms. They're kinda the same person."

Rigby was mildly startled by that. It didn't last long though. "Dude, I'd totally know what to do if I had four arms." Rigby muttered offhandedly with mischief.

"It don't matter how many arms you have, I'd still beat your ass in Punchies anyhow. Or, y'know, get a higher weekly paycheck than you."

"Still though, I did manage to fix a crack on the fountain! That's gotta mean something, right?"

"Assuming anybody was going to notice that crack."

"You kiddin' me, dude? The crack was huge! I had to pull out the rubber cement, and rubber cement sucks! Hell, you could actually see-" Rigby stopped in the middle of his words, failing to let more bounce off his tongue.

Mordecai took notice, and immediately assumed the usual. "What? Ya now realizing that your job was pointless?"

"Uh...Mordecai?"

"What, dude? Did you hear anythin-" Mordecai would have mocked his friend's inability to pay attention, but even he found himself at a loss for words as his attention focused on the occurrence in front of him. The job Rigby recalled that he continuously described actually preceded the tree-job. Better yet, the fountain was in close proximity to where they needed to pick out the trees, so it wasn't too hard or long for them to stretch the job. They had good sight of the fountain, close enough to make out most of its features.

Only...there weren't any features to make out. In fact...there was nothing to make out...

The damn fountain was just...gone!

And in it's place, a somewhat visible aquamarine vortex, pulling the ground beneath it down. What was also visible to the two Park-keepers was that it was glowing.

Glowing was never a good sign, especially in the Park. Mordecai and Rigby were, put plainly, petrified.

"Benson's gonna kill us..."

"We could always blame it on the portal..."

Mordecai could only exchange dumbfounded looks with Rigby. No ideas came to his mind, except...

"We gotta call in some help..."


SECTOR V TREEHOUSE - MAIN QUARTERS

Number Five on the couch of the treehouse, reading Number Four's telegram closely in the main living and meeting quarters. One thing she was annoyed at with this whole telegram system was the constant repetition of 'stop' she had to keep reading in place of periods (y'know, the more advanced grammar)! It certainly didn't help the pace of her reading either, especially because she knew that Number Two was skating on thin ice, so whatever was so urgent to send a telegram to her had to be read fast.

Once she found her way through the maze of 'stops', she tried reading out the message as clearly as possible:

"Nmberu Fevi, I clla u ot letu know thta 2 and hte KND is ni deep wetar rite nwo stop ("hmmg...") cas Nmbreu 1 scwrd m' ovre with thta tnhig he wrote in hte bkoo of KND buot Nncoamos stop ("hggrr!") Anthyign u cna d?o stop ("nnyyaarggh!")"

Truly, Number Four was an adapt learner in morse code.

Five tossed Four's poor attempt at proving he was some kind of genius aside to the other side of the couch and pinched her nosebridge trying to figure out what to do. Number One actually signed that book with those ideas around her. It was something that Dexter, and the rest of the KND officials and their sector had universally agreed upon. This was a matter of risking the entirety of the Kids Next Door's secrecy for the sake of rebooting their security and communication systems. Well for one, maybe then they wouldn't have to use friggin' telegrams! But on the other hand, opening up a NanoCom channel would be a public matter, exposing an organization that has remained secret for half a century, alerting millions upon billions of adults and parents to the presence of technologically advanced kids.

There was a time Number Five recalled when on a mission to fight her sister. Her sister, in her full B.R.A had said to her something that had stuck in her head, that Five was hard-pressed to realize that it was the truth. Cree had told her that 'things changed' when she 'got older'. Cree had always wanted for Five to 'grow up' and stop playing around.

Now, in her loyal KND mind, that was a god-awful idea. Changing because you would get older? Changing to have the world better understand you? In terms of their line of work, adults have never stopped suppressing kids, and kids just had to accept that. Five couldn't understand when such a time like would come.

But maybe...it was that time.

Maybe it was that time for change, for the KND to...well, come out and come to terms with the world around them. As she began to consider it, it didn't seem like such a bad idea compared to how it was 5 or 7 years ago. In a world where a kid runs the world's largest and most efficient technology corporation, in a world where the five most notable superheroes in the world were three teenage girls (who actually started their careers as heroes when they were still in kindergarten as kids) and two teenage kids, and in a world where the technology has become so advanced as to make it near impossible to hide from the world like the way they have, maybe it was time to open the world up to the existence of the KND after all.

Cree had told her that 'things changed' when she 'got older'. What Number Five felt she failed to understand from that was that the world also got older. The world also changed. With so many head figures being kids, would it be that far of a stretch for the world to believe and accept in a secret organization comprised entirely of kids? They also had the benefit of many KND soldiers being teenagers. Thanks to the peace treaty with the teens, the KND extended the decommissioning age from 13 to 18. As teenagers, the Kids Next Door that once fought against adult tyranny for the sake of freedom and having greater and more involved opinions in the world could now get what they wanted. They could get their autonomy. They could actually inspire and lead change.

Five kept that in the back of her head for now, because as she thought more about it, a temporary public exposure wouldn't hurt that much. They'd be exposed for 20 minutes tops, while the rest of the world would be immersed in watching cat videos and funny videos of people nearly dying. That would've been enough time to contact or repair whatever they needed to repair, without much exposure to the world. She could guess that the most harm it would do is spark a few conspiracy blog posts.

But there in laid the problem, as Five couldn't accurately predict the actions of millions upon billions of adults across the globe. What if the government would be listening in? What if, say, Providence or SECT got to know of their operations, and attempted to terminate them? It wasn't a risk worth taking, especially in light of the moronic things the government has done in the past, like trying to experiment on sheep for some kind of death ray. Providence was another animal altogether, what with their militaristic attitude towards things out of the ordinary, and if they use guns to try to calm down out-of-control mutated humans (Numbuh Five don' like 'hat one bit, she thought), one could only imagine what they would do to an organization of hyper-intelligent children.

But, then again...the NanoComs could set up a large communication base, and hold several people online at once, and Dexlabs was always known for having absurd communication ranges, so an idea like this would have come in handy. Furthermore, the fact that the NanoComs are a temporary solutions was the biggest argument for eventually using them. It seemed like the best possible solution.

Cree had told her that 'things changed' when she 'got older'. Number Five could only hope now that this change was in fact for the better.

She decided to call him on her personal NanoCom, maybe just to tick him off and to get her point across. Unsurprisingly, her NanoCom actually worked.

Finally, Number Five thought, something that doesn't involve fake grammar and 30 minute waiting times!

"Hey there. You better hope you've been listenin' in, 'cause Numbuh Five got some choice words for ya." she began, waiting for him to finish. "No, we don' care that's in the KND book. You wrote it in there, and now it shot us in the foot."

Five then found herself overwhelmed with a barrage of shouts from the other end of the line. Typical of him to get angry over something so minuscule of a change.

"Listen, Nigel. The kiddie-gloves are off. Numbuh Five is gettin' a liddle tired of secrecy when it comes to a giant hole in KND security! If 1776 is actually considering this idea, then your adamance against the change will only further justify Two's solution! Right now, no one wants to look like the traitor, and either you grant temporary access to a NanoCom channel, or the KND's security system is completely compromised 'cause o' you!" Five said; trying to knock some sense into him, she ended their talk with one final say. "So fly up to Moon Base, or else everybody in the KND'll come after you!"

Five hoped that she managed to knock some sense, any sense into him. She did what she could. At this point, whatever happened to Two was out of her hands, whether she liked that or not.


SIYENN CITY - TECH SQUARE - DEXLABS HEADQUARTERS

[They said that: *playing back transcript of customer support call-12342425894*] Computress dictated, preparing the speech in her processor, ["Hey dudes, is this Dexlabs customer support er something? Whatever. There's this weird-looking portal thing that just...kinda...appeared out of nowhere. It kinda showed up in place of our fountain - PLEASE WE NEED OUR FOUNTAIN BAC- Rigby, shut up. So...we actually don't know who to call, so...y'know"; *end transmission*]

Bubbles found herself holding back laughter. A sarcastic but stoic computer saying multiple slang words and phrases was always funny to her. She never knew why. While she was thinking about that, her sisters and Dexter were listening intently.

Dexter pondered intently. Whatever this anomaly was, it had just appeared out of nowhere to swallow a fountain, and nothing more. "Well, to begin with, the disappearance of the fountain may be a matter of spacial mechanisms. As usual, two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time. Whatever this is...it must have deconstructed the mailbox on the subatomic level, hence it's disappearance." he suggested. "However, the lack of any residue of the fountain, like say from its bust, its material, defies the logic of a normal vortex...Computress, scan for any apparent electromagnetic radiation or occurrences within a 220 mile radius."

[Scanning now] said Computress. The Utonium family had their jaws dropped with such a stoic reveal of information. 220 miles?! Why on earth would Dexter even have a spectrometer with a detection radius that large?! [Aside from one outlier of a man who charged his NanoCom with a potato, I have detected: low-level fluctuations of unknown form of radiation, appearing from an unknown medium - energy output of radiation is at 13.2 Gy, with an uncertainty of 11.43]

That was a surprisingly large uncertainty. How much was this anomaly fluctuating?

"11.43...Computress, do you have any defined point of origin for this radiation?"

[Negative] she said, but she followed it up with a much greater piece of help. [Analysis: energy output and rate of energy transfer could suggest a stream of continuous radiation flowing from an undefined medium, where there is an equal amount of distribution on each frame; Conclusion: anomaly is of = extradimensional origin; Rebuttal: without any defined medium, it may not be transcending across space; Evaluation: anomaly is resulted from = quantum causality]

"Hmm..." Dexter murmured; the girls nor the professor were able to make out many of the words he just said. While the idea of a quantum causality got them thinking, for Dexter, he was already done. The boy genius came to a conclusion practically faster than a speeding bullet (proportionately, of course), while the Professor and the girls, the latter of whom could actually travel faster than a speeding bullet were stumped. They did not like that notion, but it was their minds versus his. A battle not worth fighting. "We may have stumbled upon a...tachyonic antitelephone."

"A tachyonic antitelephone? But I believed something like that was just a theory!" Professor Utonium tried to argue, recognizing that jargon almost immediately.

"Time travel with organic subjects, with the correct chrono-keys in place, may have been proven possible yet you question something much more basic such as sending information back in time?"

"R-right, how silly of me," the Professor realized.

"Excuse me," Buttercup asked, "some of us haven't taken particle physics yet. Shut up, Blossom." she proactively said just as her sister was about to open her mouth and let her knowledge flow. Buttercup's rejection of her knowledge turned her smile of pride right upside down. "So could either of you nerds explain to me what the hell a tachyonic antitelephone is?"

"Well, Buttercup," the Professor began, "my knowledge of the theory is a little foggy...but basically there's a theory in particle physics called Tolma-"

"No time to explain this, Professor. It is simply a portal that sends information across space-time." Dexter rushed in to sit at his chair facing the computer, interrupting the Professor before he could even get into the explanation proper. "I am deploying a Sky Drone near that park towards the anomaly right now. It will be able to record data on the phenomenon as we speak."

When all around him gave the boy genius funny looks, he had to come clean on this idea. "It was an idea shared with Mandark. If he can do his own research on Imaginary Energy at Foster's Home with drones of his own, then I can certainly do similar exploits myself."

"Wait, what's he doing at Foster's Home?"

"Shh, Bubbles!"

With the clicks of a keyboard and a few extra buttons, an image of the drone's view of the Park began to appear as the camera slowly moved higher into the air. It seemed that Dexter had already set up a station for the drone around the Park, and said drone was already a minute away from the site. Compared to Dexlabs apparently having a really large spectrometer for no apparent reason, drones surrounding several locations across the state was something that they didn't have that much of a hard time believing.

As the drone began to hover around the original site of the fountain, with those two workers who had made the call still in view. The drone sent down a few wires and devices to begin the data collection.

Usually this process would take about 15-20 minutes to collect, usually due to the machine examining every microbe within the vicinity for any form of radiation or anomaly. So it was a little unexpected when the drone began to download data almost immediately.

But it didn't matter much to Dexter. It just meant he could get to work much quicker. But amongst the data he was already receiving, a few things caught his eye.

"That's strange...I'm detecting two different forms of radiation emanating from the vortex...one of which is...Einstein's Ghost!" Dexter kept muttering rather than speak in full sentences, seemingly figuring it out on his own. "And then there's this other stream of...wait a moment..."

"What? What is it?" The Professor asked.

"I know this cypher...I know this cypher." Dexter realized, the second repetition voicing his idea much louder. "This is a coded cypher that I use to communicate information. There exists only one other person who knows this cypher because he and I crafted it together! Mandark!"

As if at the very mention of the name, Blossom could have sworn she heard a thunderclap or a strike of lightning outside. Whatever it was, it made her flinch at the sudden sound of it.

"Cypher? What cypher are you talking about? These are all - okay, let me see," the Professor said, confused at Dexter's ramblings, leaning in close to see what areas he was referring to. He read through it as best as he could, some of it he failed to understand, but he couldn't see any pattern that Dexter was seeing. "Okay, I'm not really seeing any cypher that you're talking about. All I'm seeing is data on what's essentially stray matter."

"It is and never was meant to be stray. Check this area, and report to me if you can see a pattern." Dexter commanded, in the attempt to prove himself right. The Professor did look into it, and began to see what Dexter was referring to, although with a degree of skepticism.

"Okay...well, all of that could be just a coinc-" Even before the Professor could finish that word, Dexter gave him a murderous glance. He really did not like that word. "Fine, fine. Maybe you do have a fair point." the Professor said, taking back the dreaded C-word.

"So. Does Mandark usually send you messages via wormhole?" Buttercup sarcastically asked.

Dexter cringed at the improper jargon the green Powerpuff Girl had just used. "It is clearly a vortex, not a wormhole. And no, Mandark would not do something so stupid as sending me encrypted messages via vortex when he can simply walk across the street." That was true, as Mandark Industries' headquarters were directly parallel to that of Dexlabs' Tech Square Headquarters. It's not like he would waste time cutting a hole in the fabric of reality just for the purpose of talking. "Furthermore, if these readings I am receiving from the drone are correct..." He maximized the frame of the image, with its analysis of the wormhole displayed on the side. The two park workers were still on the drone's camera, this time being yelled at by a talking gumball machine. Anyway, the data analysis displayed a highlight of two separate streams of some kind, something so small that was travelling out of the portal as if through a tube. Dexter had his attention pointed towards the bottom left corner of his humungous screen, where it focused on a specific stream it highlighted stream; the analysis of that particular stream provided a mockup model of one of the particles this stream was comprised of. Blossom and the Professor looked as confused as Dexter when the rendering was sized up to fit the larger screen. All three of them having extensive knowledge in science (and apparently particle physics), the structure of the mockup confused the hell out of them. These were particles that were constantly shifting its state of mass, producing fluctuating energy levels that were never consistent, and from the way the render depicted it they kept...disappearing, or moving out of one plane of sight to the next. That really shouldn't be happening, thought the oldest Powerpuff and the Professor, it was already engrained in their minds that there were certain phases and laws particles could follow. These things were essentially breaking all of them.

But Dexter remained unfazed, and continued explaining. "The data around this area presents a 50% energy output, along with evidence of a point of origin thanks to the radiation these unknown particles are emitting, where they are increasing and decreasing in wavelength disproportionately and bizarrely to their size or the original area of the vortex. This conclusively makes it clear that whatever this is is something not dealt with in practical scientific research. The fact that there is a 50% output with a defined medium indicates that said medium could have taken place from a point further back in spacetime, what with the presence of a vortex to provide us with a Lorentz transformation of immeasurable magnitude that all point to a single cause for the vortex: the unidentified particles, presented as a form of radiation yet to be discovered by man, and yet it can travel through time."

The Professor almost immediately came to figure out what sort of conclusion Dexter was leading towards. "Tachyon particles...again, I believed those to be theoretical, so we can confirm that-"

"Time travel is once again at play here," Dexter realized, "though on a much smaller scale, and with a cypher meant specifically for me."

"Okay, let's just assume that none of us have ever created polyalphabetic cyphers before and haven't come into contact with a future version of Simon Astronomonov." Blossom said to Dexter. "Could you explain to us how you're interpreting matter through a Lorentz transformation into words and sentences?"

"Focus on the yellow highlighted area. Do you see how these specific particles are sent through repeatedly and at a concurrent rate of approximately 2.4 centiseconds? Mandark and I created a cypher based on the transformation of energy and the approximate timings of its reverberations to determine each letter in the alphabet." Dexter continued explaining, not caring whether or not he made sense or not. As he was explaining, he opened a program that began typing code rapid fast, as if he was trying to build a program of some sort. "Some patterns form basic wordings and conjunctions, which helps determine the overall sentence structure of the phrase, like how the conversion of every 7 hydrogen protons per centisecond equates to a simple greeting such as 'Hello'. It's a system we had designed to be unique, so that we could instantly recognize it should we have to."

With that information, the understanding came to Blossom naturally, and she had to admit that it was unique. The only question that she had in all of this was where or how did Dexter and Mandark even test this thing in the first place. Wouldn't they have needed some apparatus to actually test this conversion of energy or particles?

Another question to be locked away in the vault that was Dexter's mind, she supposed.

Bubbles, who remained mostly quiet through this entire explanation, had her own question in mind. "So, should we get Mandark? Like, our Mandark? Maybe he can come and help out with your decoding?"

"Y-n-no!" Dexter shouted to Bubbles. "He must not know about this. Mandark would most likely collapse in shock, or worse mistake it as me sharing the cypher with someone else. He usually can delve into unannounced moments of drama. Right now, I need to determine the connection between Future-Mandark and the missing test subject."

"Okay...can I-" Bubbles began, but after a stern look from Blossom and the Professor, she slid off her sentence, and slid back behind Dexter's chair.

"We may not need him anyway. All I need to do is simply re-interpret the data on my own with the program I have already set up..." Dexter exposited, keeping his solving of the problem to himself. The program's response came as fast as the initial data. "There we go. We have the message in English."

"What does it say?"

"It reads out: "Dear inferior Dexter, stay in touch, collect the tachyon particles, sending...blueprints."" Dexter was less focused on that intellectual insult and more confused by Mandark's broken message. What did he even mean by these random messages? And more importantly...

"Blueprints for what?"


THE FUTURE: FEBRUARY 6 - 2015 - SECTOR V TREEHOUSE

"Okay, Plumber Charles, now that you have successfully added the red wire, you need to attach the blue wire juxtaposing the red wire." Mandark spoke into the shortwave transmission. In order to not spend so much time looking for more portals, Mandark came up with a modification to the Plumber tools that could link the other side of the vortex to whatever antitelephone they ended up using. There was also a vortex found around Hero's Square right there in Sector V, so Mandark was looking to connect the Peach Creek vortex to Sector V's, so as to make his job much easier.

"Done."

"Excellent. Wait for a few minutes, and it should be sending the information properly. Pleasure doing business with you." Mandark added before Charles disconnected the call. Otto, who had been working non-stop behind him, decided to ask what exactly Mandark was planning.

"So, if I could ask, what're we planning to send them?" Otto asked Mandark.

"A new plan. The tachyons from Larry 3000 are volatile in their nature. In order to save time on resources and technology, I'm proposing that they collect samples of the tachyon particles from their side of the antitelephone, and reconfigure their time machine to synchronize with ours. Furthermore, we will provide them with blueprints for this machine, decreasing whatever time would be wasted on making their own version from scratch."

"So this idea will essentially will link the two machines together..." Otto pondered, "so it would be like a synchronization engine?"

"Precisely." Mandark confirmed, proudly, despite not knowing what a synchronization engine was and just assuming it was Time Squad technology.

"But what I don't get is why we aren't outright telling them about Ben or the Fusion War. We can warn them about what to do before it even happens, right?"

"Ben will be mentioned, but such an idea to simply tell them about the war could be met with disbelief from the other side. It would cause more problems than good." Mandark reasoned. "Furthermore, the stability of these vortexes is very much uncertain. We have no true measure of how long they will last, so transferring the important information of sending Ben back to the past is priority number one."

Otto gave a small nod to show his understanding of things, and later shook his head in disbelief. "Y'know, we're breaking so many Time Squad rules right now...especially with the synchronization engine."

"Do tell." Mandark half-heartedly responded. Just as Otto took the question literally and was about to tell, Mandark shut him up. "Don't tell." he counteracted, contradicting himself in the process.

"Right, I've got this batch of info done, it'll probably work for the Sector V vortex." Otto said, offering Mandark the recorded sequence.

"Hmm, a bit inaccurate in grammar, but nothing major stands out." Mandark said, callously congratulating Otto for understanding the sequencing of his cypher. "I shall make sure to run it through once we get the second message sent."

"Which one is that gonna come through?"

"The same one by Peach Creek Estates."

"Got it." Otto understood. Computress was next to speak, but she had a bit of worry in her voice.

[Dr. Astronomonov, there appears to be a situation in the Pokey Oaks suburbs] Computress voiced, sounding worried in her own right. [Inquiry: Shall I send out a mission call?]

"Yes, Computress, just send a few KND troops to the scene. It's not like it's another Bad Max, so why make a fuss, correct?"

[Affirmative; further inquiry: shall you require Benjamin Tennyson on this mission?]

"No. I've sent him to Genius Grove, and he needs to stay there until the time machine is near completion. The time he'll have to spend there will be limited however, as Otto is very nearly completely finished with the interface." Mandark said. "Send a standard squad to investigate."

[Affirmative] Computress agreed, without much objection, before signing out.


ELSEWHERE - GENIUS GROVE

The Sky Monkey dropped Ben off at Genius Grove, leaving him completely unsure of what the hell he was even supposed to do.

He was so lost that he couldn't even think in long thoughts or sentences.

He looked around. There was dead grass. There was a house with a giant satellite dish on it. There was also a Nano station. Ben walked over slowly, still in shock by the utter rejection of his offerings in favor of playing it safe. He took out the fusion matter he had taken from Fusion Number Two, and loaded it into the imagination energy-powered machine.

Then, after a good 2 minutes, out came a new nano of Number Two. Yay.

Shame that the real Number Two himself wasn't in any condition to be around, and instead Ben got some chibi rip-off.

Joy.

Ben did what he had learned to do during his stay in the future, digitizing the Number Two nano and sending him to his NanoCom.

As he was turning away to wander around in Genius Grove aimlessly, he found an interesting site. Number Five was sitting against the wall of that giant house. Ben hadn't seen her for the last two days, ever since Two's hospitalization at Fuse's hands; it hadn't been easy for her, nor was it easy for anybody in coping with what had happened to Two, but she ultimately blamed herself for being caught up in another mission while Two had gotten the infection at Tech Square. Ben didn't believe that was the case at all, but it already was hard to convince her otherwise in her depressed state.

Ben slowly walked up to the girl hoping she'd at least move to tell him she was alive. "Number Five, hey...how're you holdin' up?"

"I'll be fine..." Five said drearily. She seemed less emotionally distraught than when he saw her last. Walking tearfully out of the treehouse as she attempted to process Two's less than healthy state. She pulled out her NanoCom, signaling Ben to come closer as she said, "Oh, I got somethin' to show ya."

Out of the device materialized a glowing yellow capsule, and inside it was a nano version of what looked like a pink-skinned kid, curled up in a fetal position and being completely immobile. Ben realized what he had just gotten was yet another nano.

"'Thought you should have this," Five said. "Back at the Junkyard, we ran into Fusion Eddy, and I collected some of his goop for an Eddy nano. You probably need it more than I do."

"Eddy as in Eddy SkipMcGee? From Peach Creek?" Ben questioned. "That kid and his friends kept T.P-ing my house on Halloween. But he's just a human kid, right? What good'll a nano of him do?"

"I know that this one should have something like a jump power or a healing factor. I dunno, some of the samples for the nanos had to be augmented to be any good for use."

Ben hesitated on what to say as he departed the depressed legendary operative. The only words that could come out of his mouth were extremely cheesy to him. Once again, Ben found himself in ignorance regarding emotional support. "Thanks, Number Five...I'll...uh...make sure nothing happens to Two when I get back..."

"Promises, promises. You don't have to promise anything to a dead girl." Five responded depressingly. Ben tried to ignore Five's apparent death-wish, no matter how disturbing it was. "All that I care about is that once you get back, this whole future won't exist, and everyone at Sector V will be fine."

Ben nodded hesitantly, storing the Eddy nano in his NanoCom.

"See you soon, Five." Ben said as he began to turn away from her, attempting to move elsewhere, no matter how much it pained him to be so unhelpful.

"Remember to give Deedee a piece of my mind when you get back, Ben." Five said in as much moral support as she could. "Givin' one to her now ain't gonna do much good."

Ben didn't want anything of the sort. He'd rather just get back and - wait, did she say 'now'?

"Now? Wait," Ben realized, "Dexter's sister is alive?"

"Yeah, man." Five told him. "She's been all-holed up in her house since things got bad, and ever since word got round that Dex died, well..."

"Well what?"

"Well...some of the kids 'round here have asked to search the house for werewolves."

Ben's concern turned to blank understanding. Deedee had been crying, probably howling, and it was clear to him where this was coming from.

Devastation.

Panic.

Guilt.

All because she pressed a button, while the butterfly's wings did the rest.

"Where's her house again?" he asked with a bit more energy. Five was put off by his lack of anger and abundance of interest.

"She's right in here." Five answered, pointing with her thumb to the wall of the house behind her.

"So it's just Dexter's house."

"Yeah," Five confirmed, "dude, why would you care anyway? Is it for some revenge plot?"

Ben flinched again at that word. He didn't want any revenge or a piece of his mind. He just needed to see her.

"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."


THE PAST: MAY 25 - 2014 - SIYENN CITY - TECH SQUARE - DEXLABS HEADQUARTERS

"Collect the tachyon particles?" the Professor questioned. "Whatever for?"

"There appears to be more to it than that, Professor." Dexter responded, monotone as always. "It would appear that future-Mandark has been sending us more information, such as the aforementioned blueprints. Right now, as per his instructions (no matter how suspicious they are), the tachyons are being transferred into secure vials, where they can be properly cared and stored for later use."

A lot of the words that the professor and Dexter were very scientific and all, but half of them weren't even in her vocabulary. Bubbles continued to wander around the laboratory, reminding herself not to touch anything that so much looked like a button, simply because it could have exploded in her face, literary. She looked around the lab to see if there was anything to do aside from listen to those two, seeing a group of scientists hurdled around one area, taking a break from their work.

"You guys think it's weird that he calls those three over to help with the time machine, and before those girls even do anything, there's some groundbreaking new development?" the girl with the half-moon glasses speculated. The other scientists chuckled, before getting up to get back to their jobs of salvaging the materials of the previous machine. The girl with the half-moon glasses just stayed for a little while longer.

Bubbles couldn't help but use this as a means to make conversation with the scientist. She hovered over quietly to where this girl was sitting, as Dexter was still waiting on the computer to give him results, and everyone else intently watched him, except for this scientist, still enjoying whatever break she had. Initially, Bubbles had a clear idea of how she could start the conversation, but unfortunately for her, she forgot about it altogether.

"So, what about his parents?" she asked the scientists, completely out of the blue and out of context.

The casual scientist looked up upon hearing Bubble's unprecedented inquiry. "Huh?"

Bubbles mentally smacked herself on the head. Of all the times when her social awkwardness had to show, it had to be here? "I-Oh, geez, I'm so sorry, I-I know that's a little rude of me to want to know and I won't do that ag-"

"Hey, hey, it's okay." the scientist kindly replied. "If I was to be perfectly honest, I think I'd go insane without any conversation here to keep me company."

"Yeah, I think I know the feeling," Bubbles concurred. "What was your name again?"

"Mary."

"Cool! Well, I'm-"

"No need for your introduction. Scientists do get to watch TV, y'know." Mary playfully joked, before realizing that joke to be a bit self-degrading, to which her chuckles turned sour fast and into quiet groans. "Um...so what about that question you had for me?"

"Nothing, really, just...it's been a while since me and my sisters had seen Dex, and...well, last time his relationship with his parents was a little weird. I felt bad for him, and then I just wanted to know if it improved...so...y'know..." Bubbles mentally smacked herself in the head again. If she kept this up, she'd just forget how to talk at all.

"Oh. He, uh…never mentions his parents much. I think they're still in Genius Grove, living out their lives, probably seeing if they can renovate Dexter's old lab into a pantry…I dunno."

"Hmm," Bubbles pondered, "it's weird, when we all first got to meet Dexter, he really didn't want his parents knowing about his lab. But I guess now…"

"Yeah, 'cat let itself outta the bag." Mary recounted. "Apparently, Dexter's parents took it better than he expected. Then came the grade-skipping, then came college, then came…Dexlabs."

Bubbles could relate to what that was like. Having known the boy genius for a while, it came as no surprise that he had a fearful attitude towards new people or ideas. "Dexter's always been…paranoid about what other people's trust. You think the whole schtick with his parents changed anything?"

"If it did, he's pretty good at hiding it." Mary suggested. "Usually, he's so stoic you could mistake him for a Life-Model Decoy, but maybe he just likes to be focused that way, I dunno."

Just as Mary finished talking with Bubbles, a positive beeping sound came from Dexter's computer. In correspondence with that computer, Dexter looked just as excited, a very major rarity for someone like him.

"Yeah, a secret side like that one..." Mary pointed out, "I think that's your cue to go..."

"Excellent! New cypher set received. Sending information to my application for decoding the cipher..." Dexter continued expositing his actions, while Bubbles flew over from Mary to observe closer, "which should manifest as clear English text...and..."

"Dang it, stop beatin' the bush, Dex!" irately scolded Buttercup, clearly observing this process for much longer than Bubbles. "Do you have it in English or not?!"

"Just wait...a-ha! We have a translation, a...quite lengthly translation." Rather than read it all out, Dexter read it to himself, later paraphrasing it. This first part brought a humungous feeling of relief. "Thank Einstein's Ghost! It would appear that Ben is in fact in their future, safe and sound!" Over by the repair site, Dexter could hear all of the scientists going from confused to completely shocked, most likely a rude wake-up call from the last two days of faithless work turned flat on its face.

"Ben? Is that the name of the kid you sent into the future?" Blossom asked.

"Y-yes..." Dexter said, responding with suspicion. He still didn't want the girls finding out that the aforementioned Ben was in fact Ben 10, as they would probably murder him upon finding out their recent workload increase to be because of him and Deedee. Dexter flinched at the thought of his mangled corpse as the result of three pissed off girls.

Blossom, being Blossom, did the exact opposite of what Dexter hoped she wouldn't do. "You never mentioned his last name. What was his last name again?"

"I...uh...um...Button...coyote? Yes, Buttoncoyote, Ben Buttoncoyote!" Dexter said, making it up on the spot and hoping that Blossom wouldn't see through his lie. He was a really awful liar, so it would be a miracle if she didn't get it, but the continued stare from the Powerpuff Girl implied otherwise.

But Dexter apparently did have some luck. All Blossom said was a single "Oh", and then she just left it alone. Dexter felt yet another wave of relief. That was way too close.

The boy genius attempted to move out of this conversation, and back to the message across time at hand. "Reading back through the message so far, they have detailed the specific adjustments needed for the time machine on our side. Some of these modifications they list involve separate machines altogether, one of which they are referring to a 'synchronization engine' where - w-where...Sweet Einstein's Ghost..."

"Dex, could you please be more open? You're going on too many tangents."

Dexter was so immersed in what this plan was detailing, he failed to notice that when he did open up, as Blossom had requested, he was speaking out loud, and with an unmistakable tone of excitement. "Magnificent! This idea they've crafted is a stroke of ingenuity! This future sounds incredible! A fine day for science indeed!"

Blossom swore in her head that if Dexter got any more pompous than he was right now, she'd throw up. Dexter turned around to see how much he had freaked the Powerpuff Girls out. They looked extremely scared, as if this was a rare attitude for him to be expressing. Dexter mentally scoffed at their surprise, he wasn't that monotone and emotionless, was he?

"Okay..." Blossom followed on from her little jab at Dexter, "not that much open..."

"I apologize for that...excitement. I still like to take pleasure in these achievements." Dexter said, returning to his stoic attitude, and keeping everyone very much sane. "But this machine is a fascinating idea. An engine that can use tachyon particles to open Lorentz transformations across time and space, simultaneously synchronizing two engines of the same variety in a two-way set up. Future-Mandark once again said that he will be relaying more information for as long as the vortexes remain open. The message appears to have also given us instructions for what we use the tachyon particles for. I shall look over them and get to work immediately."

"Should we look at it too?"

"No need, I can lay the groundwork, and my scientists and I will work on the rest." Dexter responded, clearly having already formulated a plan of action. Blossom didn't find that all very assuring. Dexter was always someone who wanted to do things himself. Employing all these scientists was probably a mandatory predicament for him, she thought. But that knowledge of Dexter's self didn't mix well with her desire to help others, especially him and the predicament he was in and trying to amend.

"Hey Dex, speaking of tachyons, why not just use those to maybe...siphon Ben back to us?" Buttercup suggested, breaking a very short silence between Dexter and Blossom. It didn't sound like an awful idea, but Dexter being Dexter, that was quickly proven to be false.

"I cannot see how that would be possible with our resources, both theoretically and realistically. Without the idea they are proposing, we would have no way of properly finding Ben in a future that has yet to happen. If we tried something so simple, we could pull out anything, from hair to toenails to an entire arm. So right now, if we are to deliver Ben safely back to the present, then we would most probably need him in one piece." To that logic, Buttercup could only shrug her shoulders and admit defeat. No one wanted a random arm just flopping on the floor.

"Okay, so were not gonna use the tachyons directly." Buttercup rhetorically asked. "Okay..."

"Could you send us a copy of your shopping list, then?" Blossom said out of the blue, hovering mid-air as if ready to go somewhere.

"Why so?"

Blossom rolled her eyes, keeping the positive grin on her face. She didn't care if Dexter was uptight about his talents, he could still use the help, even if he would be against it. "You said you'll need parts, right? We wanna help out if we want to!" she suggested, which was an idea that even Buttercup found herself agreeing with.

After giving a long think and huff, Dexter had to admit his need for assist. "It would be extremely beneficial if you could. But do not waste time, start collecting immediately." he said, with a tone that almost matched a sense of reliance or faith, actually surprising Blossom with his willingness to ask for help. With their work laid out for them, Blossom and Buttercup rocketed almost immediately out of the lab, shattering his windows with their sonic boom.

"Those windows were custom made..." Dexter muttered. With all the losses made within the last two days, Dexter quietly deducted at least $50,000 from his profits...which was never nice. The Professor gave a quaint nod to Dexter, signaling himself to work with the other scientists. For some reason, Bubbles had not gone out with her sisters, and was still here. But to a greater surprise, she looked like she was in some kind of deep thought.

"Hmm..." she hummed and murmured, staring at the blank wall as if trying to clear her mind for a clear answer.

"What is on your mind, Bubbles?" Dexter asked nonchalantly.

"Nothing, just processing this whole time travel thing. Though what's weird is that it's Mandark contacting you. If this is like from one year in the future, I wonder what's gonna keep you from sending those messages." Bubbles said, evoking an intrigued reaction from the boy genius. "Meh, just a theory! See ya, Dex!" she shouted cheerfully as she left the building to join her sisters, shattering even more windows this time; $50,000 became $100,000.

What Bubbles had said actually puzzled Dexter greatly, and that problem became more prevalent to him as he thought about it more. If someone was to contact him in the future, why wasn't it himself that sent the message? Of all people, why would it be Mandark sending the message from the future? What could have happened to him in a year's time that prevented him from enacting this amazing scientific achievement? After all, the future was supposed to be a Utopia, it couldn't have been a dystopian wasteland, that'd just be plain silly. But that only further provoked Dexter to ask the same question, where would Dexter be in 2015?


ELSEWHERE ON THE KND MOONBASE

Court was back in session.

And Two was counting every second of it. Because this would be the day where he could make or break it.

Four had said he needed to talk with someone who knew morse code, whatever that was supposed to mean, hence the need for yet another recess. Apparently, Four had succeeded in getting a response from said colleague, saying that they contacted the one who's pretty much responsible for this mess in the hopes of helping build Two's argument. The entire trial was no longer about whether or not Two was guilty. Instead, it had basically come down to deciding whether or not to go ahead and actually use Dexlabs tech or not. A debate that was much more worth his time

"This is the final session for your case, Number Two. Have you made any changes to your argument?"

"No, I haven't." Two continued. "I can only restate my proposal. Use the Dexlabs NanoComs to contact the areas on the outer rim and see what's happening, and temporarily re-establish KND communication channels until we can really figure out the problem with the original one."

1776 slouched on her chair, having given the proposition a great deal of thought during the recess. It seemed that the plan had some legitimacy to it: managing to reconnect the currently offline organization has been an issue for the last two days. They did need a solution, and fast, or the organization would eventually collapse completely.

"After a long and hard think about it, I'm actually beginning to see the sense in your plan." 1776 began. "There would have to be preparations made for however this plan could possibly backfire. All Kids Next Door operatives on Earth would need to remain on high alert, and in guard of each of their sectors. The only issue with all of this is that we need direct authorization from the person who wrote the rule to begin with, or we can't justify the changes that you're calling into consideration."

"If that's the case," a voice further down in the room, his face obscured, and his British accent standing out, finally spoke up, and got louder as he made his presence clear, "then I support Numbuh Two's proposal."

The operative wore a red turtleneck and olive-colored cargo shorts, along with some cotton socks and two KND issued combat boots. Over the turtleneck he wore a stark black vest that looked either like it was too small for him, or was made to only reach the half-way point of his waist. The vest was covered in zippers and pockets, more or less resembling a bulletproof police vest. The other noticeable thing was that he was completely bald, only wearing a pair of shaded sunglasses that brought more attention to that face. He began to step down the stairs, moving towards the floor of the courtroom, in a confidence that couldn't be mistaken by his friends.

"N-Number One?"

"Like I said," Four whispered to Two, leaning in to get closer. "Morse code!"

One cleared his throat to begin speaking, and pushed his glasses further up his nosebridge, his face almost stuck in a frown of seriousness. "As much as I dread to admit it, and as much as the use of NanoCom tech may jeopardize the world's knowledge of the Kids Next Door, Two is right. As long as we remain in the dark with only a botch job communications relay, we are at our most defenseless. Numbuh 1776, I temporarily approve for the use of Dexlabs NanoComs for the purpose of getting the Kids Next Door communication systems back online."

The honorable judge gave out a large sigh, "There's gonna be a lot of paperwork for that." she said.

"Shall a simple booger suffice?"

1776 took her glasses off and cleaned her eyes, as their case was finally getting somewhere. Turning her direction to the defendant, who had a much more excited expression on his face than anyone.

"Number 1776, your honorable KND nature, we've got the guy who wrote the rule himself, asking you to provide an exception to our cause. Wasn't that all you needed to approve the campaign?" Two asked, strangely polite at this point.

"Number Two, I do hope that with everything that has transpired within this chamber, you've been able to understand the gravity of the situation?"

"Of course I did, ma'am! We're in space, how could I not?" Two said wholeheartedly, much to the annoyance of literally everyone else in the court.

"Oh shuddup, you squares!" Two shouted into the room, acting more alive than ever within the last two days. "I haven't made a good pun in two days, that's the best you're all getting!"

"Order!" 1776 banged the turnip once more, silencing the courtroom as she could. She needed Number Two to reaffirm his position in a serious manner though, without any joke or pun, no matter how clever or awful they could be. "Ugh...but seriously, did you?"

Two let a long breath slip, as he finally got to say the words that he'd been hoping to say to end this trial. "Yes, your honor."

1776 felt a wave of relief wash over her entire body, her entire head, even in her eyes. They were finally able to get this stupid case done with, and she wouldn't have to be working constantly just to get through another second of it. She readied herself as she gave the official closing statement. "The Kids Next Door now runs the risk of being exposed worldwide, and should we be exposed for too long we could all be apprehended by adults more powerful than us. I'm giving you a 72-hour time period to sort everything out, Number Two. We're counting on you to fix this...so fix this."

Two nodded with intent, earning 1776 a much needed smile of relief.

"Charges have been dropped, resolution solved, this court is now FINALLY FRIGGIN' ADJOURNED!"


LATER...

Number Two felt so relieved to be out of that courtroom. He couldn't count the number of times he had to stretch his back, simply from sitting for multiple hours with seemingly no end. He, Number Four and Number One walked through a hallway that would be leading to the Moon Base's main hangar, a place that they knew how to navigate through by heart. Though, despite that, Four still marveled at those sweet sliding doors. They were coming up to an elevator that would lead them upstairs, with the same sweet sliding doors.

While in the elevator, there was an uncomfortable silence that filled the room. One stood on the left, Two stood on the right, while Four stood centered. Four could surmise why there might have been a coldness, considering that Number Five was particularly tired of this case herself, and probably had to shout her voice away just to get her point across to One. On the other hand, Two nearly got punished or worse, decommissioned for something that wasn't his fault at all. Surprisingly, despite Two having more reason to treat One coldly, it was him to attempted to lighten the mood.

"Hmm..."

"Whatsa matter?" Four asked, turning his head to his left.

"I dunno, I'm trying to think up some good elevator puns...but I don't think I'm able to come up with anything yet..."

One could not simply ignore the toxicity that was a Hoagie Gilligan pun, as One and Four immediately began to groan. The joke could have only worked if the elevator was empty, which it clearly wasn't. Why did Number Two always want to torture them with bad jokes?! Although Four couldn't say it was a bad thing, he remained pun-less and joyless for the last two days, until now.

"Yup, Numbuh Two's definitely back now..." Four said sarcastically.

Two playfully scoffed to that. "C'mon, Number Four, that was good, right? That's the cool gem 'bout elevator jokes, they just work on so many different levels!"

Provoking another series of groaning, Two smiled contently, seeming to be very joyful in his mood, despite the initially cold atmosphere. He turned over to the stoic Number One, who faced the elevator door with no thoughts but to move out of the elevator. Two decided to be the better man and break his tension as well.

"Hey, man," Two began, looking up to face One, "thanks for doing this for us."

"Not a problem, Numbuh Two." One said. "But do understand that this will be undone soon after. We're risking a lot to send a message to our operatives in outer space, and every moment we spend doing that jeopardizes the entirety of this organization. We have 72 hours to remedy that, so we must get cracking without any wasting of time."

Two nodded in agreement, but he thought to himself that Number One kinda didn't have to be a dick about it. He just hoped that whatever was causing this interference, whether it did originate on the outer rim, wouldn't be some unprecedented attack meant to completely cripple the KND. He really was hoping it wouldn't have to be that.

Four decided to break any remaining tension left by firmly stating their intention. "Right, now with that outta mind, let's try it our way."


THE FUTURE: FEBRUARY 6 - 2015 - GENIUS GROVE SUBURBS

Five didn't have to wait long for Ben to leave the house. She was genuinely under the impression that he looked to murder her or something, or constitute some form of revenge that could make up for what she did. But he didn't. He walked out of the house as calm as when he walked in, and didn't say a word after that.

Five was not convinced by his unusually stoic demeanor, however. "Is she still alive in there?" she asked, both teasingly and concerningly.

"What? Of course she's still alive, what did you think I was, a supervillain?" Ben mocked. "'Why so serious?'"

"Yeahyeahyeah, I get it...Numbuh Five assumed too much." Five sa-wait, did she just refer to herself in the third person again?

"Hey, the third person gig, it's been a while since you did that!" Ben said, almost congratulating her for rekindling a part of her once thought to be lost.

Five chuckled with modesty. "Yeah...so what'd you talk to her 'bout?"

"Uh..." Ben gave a long pause to his thought. He remembered every detail, almost every sentence in verbatim, and he still didn't know how to fully process it. There was definitely a lot of emotion in the subject, something that he still wasn't comfortable thinking about, especially because of the impact it left on him. He spent so long thinking about it, he failed to notice that Five was trying to catch his attention.

"Ben?" Five repeated, puzzled as to what could keep him so focused or dazed like so.

"Y-yeah, it wasn't much. We...uh..." Ben didn't know what to say, or how to begin, "we talked...I mean...I don't think I want to talk about it right now..."

Five looked closer at his expression. The guy looked like he had the single greatest epiphany of his life, or in a state of shock with eyes so wide his eyelids were moving into the back of his skull. It perplexed her, and she began speculating as to why he felt that way, but nothing immediate had come to mind.

As if on cue, and right on time to save her from an awkward conversation, her NanoCom beeped. A call had been made to Five, which was already strange as she got called on her NanoCom, rather than texted or messaged for the sake of safety against Fuse's monsters. If this was a call, it had to be really urgent for them to take such a risk. "This is Numbuh Five." she spoke into her NanoCom. What the rest of the conversation was about was unknown to Ben. But her facial expressions were telling a story on its own. Whatever this was turned a poker face into a frown, a frown into wide eyes, and wide eyes into a jaw-drop.

"Holy shit...really? That fast?" Five voiced into her Com, sounding incredibly surprised when she heard it, Ben looking at her in confusion. Five exchanged a look with him, but without any word to him she simply looked back to the device in her palm. "Got it. We're on our way."

"What happened?"

Number Five looked up to Ben, failing to hold back her excitement. "Ben...it's time to go..."

Ben once again felt like he needed his hearing checked. To comprehend such amazing information on its own was overwhelming enough. But if it was so amazing in its magnitude, then why didn't he feel like celebrating? Why did he feel like this wouldn't mean anything meaningful? Unlike last time, there was a sense of raging excitement about the fact that he'd be going back to the past, a much brighter hope for Earth as a whole. But now? It felt like a cheap cop-out. He wanted to help people, regardless of the time period, and by denying him that chance, he felt as though he was being denied the right to change the course of history. Ben was always criticized for his somewhat cocky attitude, but he always felt like it was a result of his altruistic drive. He always wanted to help people, but if he wasn't being given the chance to even do that...

...then what would have been the point to go back in time and start it all over?


SECTOR V TREEHOUSE - TIME LAB

"Sir, we just got word that Ben and Number Five are on their way back." one KND operative called out. "Sky Monkeys just confirmed it."

"Can we confirm that they were transported via the safe route?"

"Checking, sir."

Mandark looked at the superior time machine with awe. had to give credit where credit was due for Otto. The kid had worked almost non-stop on the machine, and it was amazing to measure how much he was able to add to their progress just by pointing out some minor details. It was a fleeting thought, however, as the Time Lab was far too chaotic and busy to focus on one element. He kept running through systems checks, sometimes repeatedly. Nothing was supposed to jeopardize this experiment.

"Check the synchronization engine, assess its full energy capacity." Mandark commanded to the random fusion fighter, before moving on to address another. "Charge up the tachyons and synchronize the chrono-keys. You there! Go outside to make sure that the Plumber technology by the Hero's Square vortex is in correct frequency for particle conversion!" Mandark kept looking back, no matter how unimportant reminiscing was at the time. It was a good choice to integrate 2x4 technology into the machine, as it certainly made the KND scientists much more useful with an interface they were familiar with.

The tracking operative corresponded back with Mandark, "They took the safe route. The monkeys aren't reporting any fusion activity on their tails." Mandark found that information extremely positive, and the next information was all the more pleasing. "Word is that they just arrived, and are on their way to the time lab."

Everything looked like it was going according to plan. Mandark's mind was now thinking in motions, beyond his usual work speed, so much so that Ben and Five were in the time lab before he knew it.

The two moved forward, regarding the lab around them slowly. Five had a much more determined and focused look on her face, while Ben for some reason looked more sullen and in deep thought. The alien hero, who was once filled with altruism and impatience, now looked down to the floor without any aim or positivity, almost like he was a deep trance.

"Hey, Mandark," Ben greeted the boy genius, not in a better mood. "So it's really finished, huh?"

"I know, right?" said Otto, excited to return back to his own time period, but ignorant of Ben's lack of excitement. "ImeanthiswouldbetotallycoolifIhadmyofficialTimeSquadwatchoraccesstoaTimeSquadwatchandI'veneverdonesomethinglikethisbeforesoit'sanamazingach-"

"ENGLISH!" Everyone scolded Otto in harmony.

Otto realized the apparent insanity he was displaying, and quickly corrected himself. "Rightrightright, so sorry, um, I was gonna ask if there was anything else to it?"

"A few final steps and tests must be made, along with the last step of this other plan essential to sending you two back." Mandark informed the two, turning his attention to the main computer, focusing his speed and efforts into readying the final message. Theoretically, even if he sent it back so late, it would still register in the appropriate time, allowing for the scientists at Dexlabs in the past to work at their own pace. "With this final message, the last adjustments needed to perfect the synchronization engine will be sent to Dexter safely, and in almost no time shall Ben be able to save the world."

"Cool," Ben said, looking back at the door he came through, and beyond it, "I just wish I could save them too..." he said out loud, failing to keep that thought in his head.

Mandark did not react negatively to that, but he still felt the need to remind Ben of his priorities. "They, and by extension, us, are a lost cause. I must remind you yet again that it is the entire world on the line...versus the few of us humans remaining on this infected world."

To lighten the atmosphere between the hero and the scientist, the operative had to say something to cool them down. "Well, sending it back to Dexter, huh? I'd say that's a first to me," Five jokingly responded to Mandark's earlier claim, "now you actually want Dexter to take your ideas and be the first to create them."

That caught him off guard, confusing him as to how this might lead to Dexter's improved reputation instead of his. "How do you mean?" he asked an amused Five.

"No one's built a synchronization engine in this time before, until now since you made it so that Dexter becomes the first." she laughed, with a devilish grin that mocked Mandark. He didn't take it well, turning back and quickly changing the message to make sure that it would be him, Mandark, to achieve the credit he very much deserved. He wouldn't condone plagiarism, even if it technically wasn't plagiarism to others, and he wouldn't let Dexter take the spotlight so frivolously.

Finishing the adjusted message, this time rightfully claiming ownership over the synchronization plans, Mandark knew he had to basically restart the configuration process for the message, which would take a little longer than usual due to the recalling of particles and further interpretation through the vortex. The second attempt would also require a late jump sequence, which would send the messages to the correct time-period based on the correct tuning of Larry 3000's tachyon supply. If that head even moved or tilted in the wrong direction, the flow of tachyons that were keeping the vortex open and allowing for the message to transfer could be dangerously offset, sending it to another time period, or just not sending the message at all.

The moment Ben was even close to the head, Mandark had to send him a reminder. "Don't touch that. Recall that tachyons are highly unstable, and that module is being used to power the messenger. One offset could ruin everything, so don't touch it." Ben moved away from the head, confused as to whatever that was about.

With that fact fresh in his own head, Mandark made sure to be wary of whatever would happen to Larry's head. But aside from that huge weakness, which he was already caring for, his hopes couldn't have been higher.

The genius at his highest standard had a mysterious smirk on his face, which was honestly the only way he could smile, so there wasn't anything mysterious about it. He thought to himself about everything going according to plan yet again, but this time he saw that everyone was handling themselves quite well, and there was little chance of things going to hell.

What could possibly go wrong from here?

Mandark was given a rude awakening from his celebratory thoughts with a very loud rumble that shook the Earth below them. At first, they were almost unnoticeable; it could have been easily mistaken for a strong breeze or a small offset that shook the tilted treehouse and moved the rooms inside it around.

But then the lights began to flicker, which caught some people's attention.

Then there was a downfall of dust from the ceiling, catching most people's attention, including Ben.

And then there was the explosion, which caught everyone's attention.

Despite the fact that the lab was hidden within the treehouse, in a secret compartment that was hard to find (even by Number Five and the previous tenants), the unmistakable sound of an explosion compelled all of the lab's occupants to dart their heads in sync to the door.

"What was that?" Number Five asked.

Soon after, the screams began to become audible, and the chaotic sounds of gunfire and laserfire emerging almost immediately. It was clear to everyone in that room as to what was happening outside.

Mandark decided to voice everyone's realization. "Oh no..."


THE PAST: MAY 25 - 2014 - SIYENN CITY - TECH SQUARE - DEXLABS HEADQUARTERS

The future Mandark had said that the final message and instruction would come through the same stream for bringing Ben back to the present. Dexter had informed the girls and the Professor earlier about this development, but he hardly believed that it was on their need-to-know list, as they were somewhat more busy with their given task. The girls had managed to bring nearly every supply or scientific apparatus from their home, some of which wouldn't even have any application to the experiment. Dexter was known, however, for his resourcefulness and utilizing any technology to his needs. Regardless of how many useless tech the Utoniums brought over, they had enough resources to put together a crude synchronization engine.

Now that they were here, they were all diligently working to fix Dexlabs' problem. Dexter had been typing tens of hundreds of lines of code, readying several machines for their use in the synchronization engine. A brilliant fury of pink, blue, and green lights filled the room, each working as fast as they could to get the arrangements ready.

Dexter was hard at work on his portions of the project as well, not just the technical side. Leaving his seat before he could forget, he moved towards the table opened up his NanoCom's most secretive module...the imagination energy transducer. Dexter wanted as much safety countermeasures or fallback solutions established as possible, therefore the experiment could be in his control should the future Mandark be as incompetent as ever. But as much as Dexter wanted to establish said countermeasures and get his purple gloves onto the modification plans...he knew that he had to finish his work on the code. Better yet, if the Powerpuff Girls were contributing so much with their near-titanic strength, what did he have to contribute?

Just as he was about to return to his seat to get back to the code, Blossom flew in front of him at almost rocket speed, and handed him a giant pile of new tech. "Just finished modifying them, you can plug them into the engine yourself, right?"

Blossom always was a good motivator, in that she just handed work and expected it to be done. It wasn't like Dexter could give her a 'no', not in the situation he was in.

"Gladly." Dexter affirmed, grunting due to the massive weight of all the tech we was carrying. Setting it down, and taking one piece of technology at a time, he made his way to the now completely rebuilt time machine. Buttercup was using her enhanced speed to assemble the hardware back together much faster than the scientists were able to, bending and beating torn metal back into shape with her superhuman strength. The scientists were able to tackle the rest, applying several programming screws with the back-up programming of the original time machine to supplement the modifications. Dexter took one of these programming screws, specifically one the size of his hand. Having moved towards a locker, Dexter brought out a new wrench he had built, approximately the size of a battle staff, as its larger size would be most ideal for the job.

Dexter flowed like a leaf in a river when it came to handling the absolutely chaotic but extremely busy laboratory. But even amongst the powerful he felt - no, he knew - that he would always have something to contribute, and it would always work in the end. He continued to run through the necessary systems checks, sometimes repeatedly, as he made his way to the engine. He had assigned about a dozen Dexbots to maintain outside security. Nothing was supposed to jeopardize this experiment, not his sister, not the other scientists, nothing.


THE FUTURE: FEBRUARY 6 - 2015 - SECTOR V TREEHOUSE - TIME LAB

The lab continued to shake, albeit non-continuously, but it was in gruesome harmony with every explosion and deadly scream from outside. It was getting claustrophobic, almost overwhelming. Everyone was still trying to process how this had escalated so quickly. They were on the verge of succeeding. They were so close, and slowly everyone could practically feel the plan falling apart, decaying rapidly as the fusions made their assault.

"Fuse is finally finishing what he started..." Otto realized, voicing everyone's thoughts, the horror on his face was shared with everyone else in the lab.

"No shit, Sherlock!" one operative responded, clearly not in the mood for pessimism.

Five had an idea, an idea that could at least rally forces from the other areas of the suburbs. "I'm gonna try to radio for help!" Five voiced, with everyone but Mandark turning their attention to her. But as she turned on the radio, and before she could even direct it to an open channel...

Several calls began to come through on the short-range radio system.

"bzzt - Anybody copy? Anybody copy, this is Plumber Charles at Peach Creek Estates! We are under ambush-bzzt-der ambush, rest of the plumbers are down, requesting extraction to Sector V n-AAG -bzzt"

"Someone get'cher asses over here, and help us out! They broke through the wall! HEL-"

"Dexbot-Q232, filing report claim: 2234242, civilians all over the suburbs in need of assistanc-tidal wave incoming; tidal wa-"

"Someone help us, anyone, please help! We're in Pokey Oaks South and we need help! Send hel-Aah! AAAAA-"

Suddenly, the radio chatter just...stopped. As if they were wiped out with a single force in a single moment. What filled the radio waves now were a score of complete static, loud and filling the lab with dread. Everyone realized the horrible truth, but were too petrified to even speak. If attacks from Peach Creek and Pokey Oaks were happening simultaneously, then it most likely meant that the other islands were under attack as well. This was it. Fuse was making his move, his checkmate.

[More radio distress signals are coming in] Computress reported to Mandark, who was staring at his tabletop, processing and assessing the situation himself. [Inquiry: Shall I play through more?]

"There is no need for that." Mandark ordered, with a solemn look on his face, a rarity for people sharing his intellect. It spoke volumes when even the smartest person in the room was looking worried. But what everyone else was thinking was less worried and more confused. Everyone in the lab was bugged about the sheer timing of Fuse's attack. They all thought the same series of questions: why would Fuse attack now? Why would he let them live long enough to nearly achieve victory, only to cruelly strip that chance away from them? It puzzled them, as they had been as discreet about their operations as possible, but Ben was the first to have realized the horrific truth.

"H-he knew...he knew this entire time..."

"Who knew?"

"Fuse...this was all part of his plan..."

"No..." Mandark protested, "no...that is impossible, Fuse has left this area of the suburbs alone for so long, and he decides to end it all now from here? He doesn't even have a clue about what we're attempting to do!"

"We were doing something out in the open, and clearly Fuse noticed! You think he'd care about what that was?!" Ben retorted, raising his voice before returning to his soft-spoken tone. "It was his plan from the get-go...the Fusion Two and his bombs was meant to be a distraction, so we'd be fooled into thinking that we were close to winning..."

A KND operative spoke up, "What? Are you suggesting that the guy's just been playing us this entire time?!" The operative was hoping that he was just talking nonsense.

Ben gave that operative a look that didn't reassure him any better, nor did it employ any doubt to an ugly truth.

Suddenly, a shockwave shook the lab, sending everyone inside toppling over each other. Mandark had made sure that Larry's head was still in the same spot and position, thanks to a numerous amount of cables and wires to hold it in place. The impact sounded like it came from outside, but its impact was unprecedented and completely untold in normal Fusion standards.

"What the hell was that?" Ben asked.

"It came from Hero's Square..." Mandark realized. He looked to the monitor, and opened a video feed of the view outside.

Standing amidst Hero's Square, and a multitude of corpses covered in fusion matter, was a fusion doppleganger. One unlike any kind seen before...its nostrils fuming with aggression. The hooves on its arms twitched constantly, and it's body kept shaking. The form it took was clearly hard to maintain. It's hulking figure and pose, as well as its constant shaking (even more than other fusion dopplegangers) and the fake fur that dripped off like water off a leaf and formed little puddles of fusion matter. The monster wore no weakness, no fear of any kind.

It's form, the burly and intimidating minotaur that it somewhat resembled, was only used to its advantage. An advantage in its scare tactic, apparently, as it gave a LOUD and TERRIFYING ROAR, frightening everyone to the same effect of a horror movie. Only, unlike a horror movie, the danger was very real.

"What kind of fusion is that?" Ben asked, hoping someone would respond. Surprisingly, no one had any idea.

Mandark found the fusion's colors off-putting at first, but under closer inspection, the shape was all too familiar. In the days before the war, he had taken up a project to study imagination energy, and he came across several of imaginary friends at this place called Foster's. One of those imaginary friends had a similar outline to the hulking monster on the monitor, and a minotaur-like design and punk-ish clothes. The only difference was that this imaginary friend was purple in his fur and face, and wasn't exactly the brave-type. Mandark searched for his name, having temporarily forgotten it over time, until it came to him as he thought about it more.

"Eduardo..." Mandark muttered to himself, to the rest of the group he did not share the fusion's base counterpart. But what concerned Mandark wasn't the fusion's aesthetic approach, or the fact that it violated the memory of a dead imaginary friend. What was far more concerning was the final time portal. The genius inventor looked to Larry's head, still looking after it's well-being. He looked back to the screen, and realized behind Fusion Eduardo, the portal was still running.

Realizing that they hadn't been beaten yet, and he had yet to send the final message, Mandark refused to give up now. "No...this is not over yet...everyone!" he shouted, drawing everyone's attention, "We still have time! We can still transfer the message to the past, and get the time machine ready for Ben and Otto's departure! Move it, people!" And with that, the chaos and business of the lab escalated tenfold, as Mandark was now racing against time to get the message sent.


THE PAST: MAY 25 - 2014 - SIYENN CITY - TECH SQUARE - DEXLABS HEADQUARTERS

"So how are we sure that the next message would come through the park?" Bubbles asked. "Aren't these things supposed to show up at random?"

"The second message said that Mandark would toy with the tachyon particles to match the Lorentz transformation of our end. Theoretically, it should appear from the same place."

"Well hey! Let's hope for the best, right?" Blossom said, positive as ever. "I mean, so long as Mandark knows what he's doing, though."

"I have faith in Mandark. After all, 6 years of learning must have at least taught him something about maintenance." Dexter added, attempting to crack a joke. Much to his delight, the girls actually understood said joke, calling back to that little invasion by those weird green aliens, where Mandark had invariably delayed the mission with his ego. They gave a small laugh, and Buttercup even cracked a smirk. But what was usually a small laugh was a trophy to Dexter; for him, any successful attempt at comedy would definitely require self-praise.

Whatever the case, he was glad that things could work out with Ben's return back home. He secretly cracked a smile behind his chair as he stared at the displays on his screen, waiting patiently for the third and final message.

Dexter repeated Blossom's exchange, reassuring himself and his wishes for the experiment. "Let's hope for the best."


THE FUTURE: FEBRUARY 6 - 2015 - SECTOR V TREEHOUSE - TIME LAB

"Just another moment longer!" Mandark shouted across the KND lab. "Sending the final message now!"

Ben crossed his fingers out of instinct, hoping that it would mean something at all. But the odds weren't even close to being in their favor, and much like the Earth beneath them, it was under Fuse's green gooey thumb. Another shockwave shook the Earth. Several KND agents fell to their sides, having barely gotten the chance to hold on for dear life. But what was more unfortunate was that the impact was so great that several wires connected from the synchronization engine to the object next to it began to disconnect on their own, leading to Larry 3000's head to fall off the table.

Oh crap.

"NOOO!" Mandark yelled, but his yelling didn't do any good, as the head remained unscathed, but it sent a shockwave of its own, expanding past the laboratory. The display for the monitoring of the portals suddenly went haywire, reading all sorts of levels in power and amplitude, and then suddenly, there was nothing.

There was nothing on the display, and there was no sign of the swirling vortex that glowed aquamarine once seen at Hero's Square.

It was like there wasn't anything from the start.

There was nothing.


THE PAST: MAY 25 - 2014 - SIYENN CITY - TECH SQUARE - DEXLABS HEADQUARTERS

"W-what the-?!"

"What? What do you mean 'what'?" Blossom exclaimed, unsure of what Dexter was so surprised by, but once she saw the screen in front of her, her face of concern quickly evolved into horror.

"The vortexes, the information...it all just...ceased!" Dexter exclaimed back. "One moment it's feeding through about the final preparations for the plan to bring back Ben, but then it just stops mid-way! It's as if it just fluctuated in ways unimaginable!" Dexter checked back on the drone, and much to his horror...

The vortex had closed up. There wasn't anything in site. All he could see was some green-skinned dude and some ghost-looking weirdo next to a golf-cart, looking at the thing with intrigue.

There was no sign of it ever having appeared there.

There was nothing.

"Do you want me to check outside for Deedee?" Buttercup asked genuinely.

"No, this could not have been her fault, because the source of our experiment was from an external source, rather than an internal source from the laboratory!"

"S-so..." Bubbles began, "what the heck happened?!" All four of them were, so to speak, horrified by this unforeseen turn of events, so much so that Blossom didn't even bother to reprimand Bubbles for using bad language.


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?

Ben pondered back to that portal situation Mandark told him about. From what he understood, they were sending messages back in time, assumingly to Dexter in the past.

But he couldn't help but think about that last message-portal. Mandark had told him before that the tachyons were highly unstable, and the slightest change in space could dramatically. Well, the shockwave was sure to change the space. But it made think more...if these now unstable tachyons had been specifically routed to go through the portal anyhow...then what would happen to the portal? Would it expand? Would it shrink? There was no telling what it could even do. Ben thought back to the still leaning treehouse, the smell of rotten eggs still foully present in the air. But the time machine remained their ace in the hole, despite a major setback in its functionality.

He could only hope for the best now, regardless of whether or not that best outcome would come now or later.


THE…MUCH, MUCH FURTHER…PAST: SEPTEMBER 15 - 1614 - TOKYO, JAPAN (EDO PERIOD)

The cherry blossoms in their brilliant color shined under the sun, the natural beauty reflected onto the rest of the world like a mirror of light. A distant land so long ago, and one of fortune, could ever be so quiet to keep its hero in his might. But upon his blade and skin is bloody scars and scratches within. A hero's journey they do tell. One of love, tragedy, and of much blood spilled. The battles he fought, the threat that were crossed. The enemies he made, the friends he had lost.

Before, he had lost the one he loved to the ravaging laws of time. Before, he had defeated Aku. He defeated the meaning, the essence, the breath of evil. Before, he had been stranded for fifty years in tampered times and generations.

Before, he almost lost all that he knew and cherished.

So what would happen now?

The samurai sword will always be the path he walks. The sorrows he made and the joy he had lost. Hero to many, foe to most. With his stare he was like a ghost.

They called him Jack. His journey had ended. For he got back to the past. Where he was needed.

He rested amongst the field under the cherry blossom trees, where ladybugs danced to the wind elegantly. The wind was an elegant partner to their prances, with the right balance of serenity and ferocity. The wind took a turn, moving frantically, until a green light brought forth unexpectedly. The samurai called Jack looked back and felt knowledge pass and move through, a message across time filled with panic and rue. He referred to his sword, the samurai blade of good, the one crafted by the gods to send the demons back to hell. He questioned and prayed, hoping to find answers through the gods that wished him well.

But in his heart, his thumping beating heart. Despite all that he had lost, suffered, and hurt. A new mission awaited on the horizon, foretelling a fight for survival.

They called him Jack. His journey had ended. For he got back to the past. Where he was needed.

But it seemed fate had a different plan for him as it knocked on his door, for to the future he had to go once or forever more.


Written on July 18th, 2018

RIP STEVE DITKO, the co-creator of Spider-Man, Captain Atom, and the sole creator of Doctor Strange, Hawk & Dove, the Question, the Creeper, Eternity, and Blue Beetle (Ted Kord). Many of these characters probably changed your lives, one way or the other, and their souls created by this wonderful man live on in us. Mr. Ditko, you were the one who exposed me to the humanity in the superhuman, that characters with great power must exercise great responsibility, and that most of all, they can live normal lives. They can make mistakes. They can sacrifice everything in their lives for the greater good. Because in the end, that's all it takes to be a hero. Thank you, for everything.

Written on October 23rd, 2018

RIP Luther Fallangel. I didn't know him personally, but he was a major FusionFall player who was best known for his hacking of the game. A friend of his had just stated on the forums with a heavy heart that he passed away due to a drug overdose. I know very little about what he did, and I wish to know if he contributed to FusionFall Legacy or Retro in any huge sort of way. I can imagine that he did, considering how he was a hacker of the game, so he probably was instrumental in extracting files from the game for the eventual recreation of FusionFall. If he did, then we all wish him a good rest, and a great thanks for all his work with the community.


DEVELOPER'S JOURNAL: Hours of Future Past

Thank you for taking the time to read the above eulogies.

Thank you also for coming back to read more of my stuff! Please be sure to leave a review, because I only got 2 for the last chapter. I hate to force you to do it, but the more reviews here, the more people read my story. So please: More Reviews!

Oh man, I've been having a blast playing FusionFall again. The FULL original game as it was before the Birthday Bash is OUT! Technically, it's a version of FusionFall I've never played before, as I joined up around the time of the Academy, so that's what I've been so fascinated by: where the differences are and what was preserved further into the OG game's lifespan. It's been amazing so far, admittedly a little bit of an incomplete re-experience as some of the new characters aren't being added, and I've been loving doing my work there too. That's right. With the game out, I've managed to go to several of the locations that I could only dream of going to again, and take snapshots for reference in this story. All so you guys get the best experience possible in reading my work.

Though, because of the game's release, it may take me a little longer to write chapters, but NEVERTHELESS! I've got a tight schedule set for me. I'm going to be posting Chapter 5 and 6 on the last day of November and December respectively. I know that I haven't made good on such promises before, which is why those two are most likely going to be shorter and of a lesser quality. What will most likely happen is that I will go back to those chapters, and improve them after they've been posted, without changing any dialogue or story order (I hate it when Fanfic writers redraft the chapters and make it completely unrecognizable to how it was before. Y'know, some people actually LIKED it the way it was!)

A Happy Halloween to you ALL...but the holiday doesn't mean much to me anymore...I guess I've just grown up...things changed...y'all know the rest of the drill.

Before I get sued or something, yes. I did take inspiration from Chillguydraws' "Return to the Past" comic for the opening, specifically pg.41-42. I know that is a bit shameful, so I'm crediting him with writing that scene. You can check out his incomplete comic here:
chillguydraws/gallery/?catpath=&edit=0&q=return+to+the+past.
Surprisingly, though, the part I wrote with the crevice/chasm/trench/bottomless pit that Rex and Bobo have to cross, and the fact that Chillguy had a very similar setup, was ENTIRELY COINCEDENTAL. Chillguy did the same thing (albeit, very abridged), and I had no idea that he did. So, that's that. I recommend you check his FF artwork, but not his other artwork...I'm sorry, but those pieces are just...not something I can condone.

Also, I'd like to say that I'm disappointed that Season 5 of Samurai Jack is not confirmed for Legacy. Of all the stories of that wonderful show, Season 5 knew how to wrap a nice bow around everything, while giving Jack some damn fine moments of character growth. It's the season that didn't bring back the show as we knew it, but it's the season that brought back the show as we remembered it, and the show that we would be more familiar with in our adult minds. So, all in all, SEASON FIVE OF SAMURAI JACK IS CONFIRMED FOR THIS STORY AS A RECURRING BUT SOMEWHAT MAJOR ELEMENT OF JACK'S FF BACKSTORY. I also want to do something that I thought about for a while (and if you guys are against this, then do voice those concerns in the reviews), so I've decided that in this story, perhaps even in the next chapter...

...We may learn Jack's real name...

..God, I'm evil...

Well, I guess it's high time we found out, anyway. The reason Jack never revealed or used his full name was because, as it is with most Japanese traditions, living up to one's name or family is of the highest honors. Not to mention, considering Jack is actually royalty, (being the legit prince to an emperor) his name has even more to honor and live up to. Because Jack initially failed in defeating Aku, he rejected his name, declaring himself not worthy of it. Skip forward to Season 5, and Jack has finally defeated Aku (with the help of Ashi) reclaiming his honor and his family name, even though he has no time to mention it. So while it may ruin the point of revealing Jack's name when he went without one for 16 years of content, in this case, it wouldn't be a disservice, it would be a reward for his determined and continued heroism and bravery throughout the ages.

Also, the part with Samurai Jack was written in part by a fellow writer who has asked not to be named. He wrote a poem regarding the ending of S5, and gave me permission to use it or adapt it as I needed to. So all credit to that little gem of this chapter goes to him.

BTW, guys, there's a (somewhat) hidden Spider-Man reference in this story. Have a jolly time finding it!

Finally, my profile has not exactly been getting much views. I should let you know that I post updates and information there, because I don't want to post that stuff here. It helps keep the story clean.

That's about all I've got, see you guys next month. I promise.

NEXT CHAPTER: What We Make

P.S. Oh yeah...Buttercup is in this story...well, if I'm looking to cause a thousand angry comments from OG FF gamers, then allow me to share my opinion. I was not a fan of the fact that Buttercup was practically absent from the game. This was mainly due to me joining the OG game during the academy, meaning that at the time, I never got to interact with Buttercup's original character model (a design that I really liked), and instead could only find her Belladonna model. There was also the fact that when I had begun doing research into the game, and was looking through the character bios, Buttercup's OG model was used instead of Belladonna's so I thought that both models would be in the game (false advertising is always a sin, unless its for the greater good). Now, with the narrative itself? I had no quarms with it, and I even thought of incorporating Buttercup's amnesia at some point, but ultimately, I decided against that. From what I can surmise, Buttercup was benched due to her immense power levels, and the fact that if she was active in the game's story, Fuse would be finished faster than he could say "not the face!". Bringing Buttercup into the narrative, in my opinion, helps make Lord Fuse into much more powerful and devastating villain for the story, and poses him as a much greater threat overall. If you were hoping for Buttercup to be absent in this story, I'm sorry for betraying you. If you were hoping to see Belladonna in the story, then you actually have less to worry about, as I've already found a good way to integrate Buttercup's alter-ego into this story, and it ain't by making her a separate character.

-end transmission