Bold = Emphasis/Commentary
Italic = Emphasis/small memory moment
 = Artificial Intelligence/Android Speech
QUICK AUTHOR'S NOTE: Skip if you wanna get back to the story.
God I hate meeting deadlines...
But my apologies to everyone who's been following this story contently. I've had a rough two years since I last posted, having to dedicate enormous amounts of time towards my final years of high school and college applications. I got into a great college and I'm doing pretty well, and with my hiatus finally over I can dedicate a little more time to writing this. Another reason why it's taken me so long is because I've been rethinking a lot of elements concerning my approach to this story. At this point, I'm more concerned about getting the Cartoon Network Universe right; it was in the name, so the point is to make this feel like a larger universe as opposed to just the NPCs you know from the game. It's been a joy and a pain to refresh my knowledge on various mythos and mash them together in ways that don't contradict each other.
So, okay, if you were one of the unlucky souls who read the last chapter as soon as it came out, then you probably noticed the NUMEROUS gaps and errors that came with the chapter. I did not mean for that to happen, and I would have worked on it more...if I hadn't been committed to a school project for Africa's educational charity (as well as helping out a few kind families). Basically, I was under the pressure to finish this thing before my trip. It was half-assed through and through, and I have no idea how many plot corners I wrote myself into. It must have been a pain for you people to read initially, and I'm truly sorry for that...if there's a solution, then I'd probably ask you all to wait a few days or maybe hours before reading the new chapter, just for me to work out all the kinks and whatnot.
And unfortunately, this has been my longest hiatus...ever. And for what it's worth I hope the chapter lived up to your expectations. It's twice as long as my usual length, so I hope it's worth two years of content and waiting. The main aim of this chapter was/is to play up the stakes that I had tried to set up in the last two, and to wrap a neat-enough bow around everything so far in order to set up the events for the story later on. Though if I had one thing I found difficult, it was making this chapter feel like a beginning rather than a conclusion.
But that's for you to decide. So please...enjoy. And get some popcorn too. This one will be...very long.
TIME UNDETERMINED - LOCATION UNDETERMINED
Even after doing it twice, Ben couldn't describe the sensations of time travel. It was like being blinded by a circle of unrelenting lights, moving at speeds faster than the eye could see. He remained as calm as he could possibly be...but to stay still? Even that was nauseous. He was forced to clutch his chair with a bear's grip as more and more lights danced around him, blinding him in an overdose of beauty; he was again at a loss for words for what had literally happened in less than a minute. He had failed to save them all...and he couldn't help them anymore.
What Two had said earlier was further engrained in his memory. He didn't have to save them...but each part of Ben's mind objected to that.
Just as he did last time, Ben was beginning to think of something, something that he himself did not call to mind. But rather than a memory from a time not so long ago...it was something different.
He saw bits and pieces of it, the most he could properly see or visualize for extended periods of time were the ones he barely recognized. It was like that really old movie about 2001, except he was the one being thrown into an overwhelming amount of flashes. It wasn't exactly the best experience in the world, especially for Ben, and was only more nauseating as a result.
But each part of him could feel what was happening. And yet, he wasn't sure what time this even was. Was it past? Was it present? Was it the future?
It all felt so hazy that he couldn't make out what it was. Yet he could recall almost perfectly. Memories within memories that he never bore witness to memorizing.
What these visions gave him...felt odd...it felt odd in the way his mind thought of it. He found a greater sense of hope than he ever had before. But how could he have felt hope by what he couldn't even see or feel, let alone understand?
At this point, he could only hope to remember all of this. He had to. He tried grabbing onto that experience, or at least all the feelings he had when watching his own future play out. He needed some assurance that there would be a greater reason to fight in all of this.
This was his only chance...
THE PRESENT: MAY 26 - 2014 - SIYENN CITY, CALIFORNIA - TECH SQUARE - DEXLABS HEADQUARTERS
Eyes widened, ears still recovering from shock, he sat up in a dizzy state. The world was spinning endlessly around him, and Ben was failing to recover. Luckily, his brain was doing the job for him. He opened his eyes wide open, hopefully to regain focus, and he did.
Feelings such as those were all too familiar to the alien hero, and the first time he felt it marked the beginning of his least favorite weekend ever. The weekend that made him sick to the stomach, the weekend that made him sacrifice others almost in vain, and the weekend that made him question his deepest thoughts about what he did, and how she was meant to do it.
Yeah, it was clear to him at that point that he absolutely hated that feeling. If he had to ever go time travelling again, he wouldn't be letting Dexter do it.
As his eyes began to refocus, he found himself in a white room, with lines of light flowing on the walls, almost looking like a circuit board. He was on a med-bed, a stretcher-like bed hovering over a blue seating. Next to him was a holographic heart-rate monitor; his vitals seemed good, beating as slow as he was processing everything, and compared to the nightmare from just a few hours ago, that definitely meant something to him. The sliding door was directly in front of him, remaining stationary. It didn't have giant claw marks on it, nor did it look dilapidated in any sort of way. He noticed himself lacking his jacket, finding it shortly by the juxtaposing bed.
But Ben turned his attention to the med-bed, something Dexlabs had produced to provide physical therapy to patients through the use of this substance nicknamed "Dextronium". The substance apparently could be processed into a vapor to be soaked by the mattress, which in turn would be processed by the body and activate it's true function: reorganizing damaged cells and stimulating growth in all sorts of areas in the body. Be it a broken arm or a case of the shingles, the med-bed was incredibly innovative in medical science, and could be applied to a variety of situations. Not to mention, it decreased the amount of time doctors had treating their patients, as the beds were doing a part of the job for them, thus allowing for lower medical billings and more people to get medical help.
He could feel his motor reflexes slowly becoming more active, allowing for him to move faster and less sluggishly. Though when he tried to get up, he felt a sharp pain in his lower back. He didn't remember hurting his back on the way here...unless Fusion Eduardo did more damage to him than he had thought. After all, the med-beds were used before Mandark Industries discovered the nanite biochemical (which had activated prematurely for him due to the Omnitrix constantly changing his DNA and biology) and activated it for the rest of the public, so his nanites must have somehow been busted from his fight with Eduardo. Whatever the case, it was keeping him stuck to the bed.
Ben checked his surroundings one more time took that into account in regards to everything around him.
Peace and quiet?
Actually functioning medical tech?
Those alone was enough to tell him the wonderful truth.
He made it back home.
He was finally back in the past...or was it the present? Oh how did it even matter? He made it back home! Everything his future-friends fought for, everything they had done to get him safely back paid off in the end. They didn't die in vain, and they were far from being forgotten.
Despite that realization, Ben knew there was more to him just arriving back home. His job wasn't done just yet, and all of the people he had left back there still had one more job for him in their passing. He couldn't let them down. He failed them, but in death they couldn't rest in vain.
But Ben's mind got distracted by that notion. Why was he so...happy?
There had been something on his mind. Something happy, something hopeful.
He couldn't remember where that feeling came from for the life of him. Though the last thing he remembered was being sent back by the future Number Two, and the KND Treehouse flooding and sinking into the fusion matter sea. He remembered being...saddened by such a sight. How could he have been happy?
It was...haunting to say the least, as Ben began to wonder if he should have remembered, but he felt too happy for his future to think about what memories from the trip back he could have lost.
He placed all his hopes on his rediscovered optimism, as if he was putting the fate of the upcoming fight on this ineffable feeling. He knew what he had to do.
He wouldn't let them down.
At that point, all that needed to happen was for him to meet with his friends and inform them of Fuse's incoming onslaught. Thus, as one was audibly making his or her way to this hospital wing, Ben immediately saw his opportunity.
The sliding door opened up, revealing the boy who started this mess in the first place. Even though it seemed like he was covered in soot, he still wore that lab-coat with an open collar, with a black turtleneck beneath it, as well as the standard dress pants and shoes, and his black thick-rimmed goggle-like glasses. Dexter was using his holographic computer from his NanoCom, typing away on it and remaining undeterred by anything, thus it took a little longer for him to see Ben conscious.
He had the slightest expression of relief, one that was minuscule but unmistakable. Ben could see the quickest and most subtle gasp of surprise.
But those expressions were immediately overtaken by an unwavering maturity and formality. "Greetings, Ben." he began, walking toward the alien hero. "I see you have finally awoken. Are you alright?"
"Dex! Dude I-ack!" Ben exclaimed in joy, attempting to sit up only for the sharp pain in his back to kick in again. "A-ah...o-okay, just...y'know, sending hugs..." he said meekly, compensating for his handicap.
"Duly noted." The boy genius said, stoic as ever. "Do be careful. You sprained your thoracic vertebrae on your way here."
The sliding door closed behind Dexter as he put away his NanoCom to de-brief Ben. Ben always did like the sliding door thing. He never got over how many things Dexter contributed to society. He immediately thought back to what Mandark had to say about the nanites producing that biochemical, and how that could be used here. But if he was anything like how he would be at the evacuation of Tech Square in the future, Ben knew his unwillingness to fight wouldn't be contributing anything, so he had to make sure to tell him while he was still willing to listen.
But knowing he had to break his story to Dexter as slowly and as smoothly as possible, he couldn't start off with such a sensitive topic. He had to be slow, and he had to explain it piece by piece. "I don't remember hurting my back..." he started off, "you sure it was from the future?
"Yes." Dexter said, so fast it was almost suspicious. "Absolutely." he emphasized, only sounding more suspicious.
"Okay," Ben said sluggishly, "wait, why're you covered in soot?"
"Ah, uh," Dexter paused, noticing his more disheveled look. His lab-coat was covered in scorch marks. "that information lack relevancy."
Ben looks back up at the ceiling, a smile beaming on his face in disbelief. "I can't believe it worked. We had to make a blind jump into the past!"
"It was not a blind jump." Dexter admitted, much to Ben's surprise. "The final message from Mandark was intercepted by someone else from farther in the past. He gave us the final set of instructions, and we were able to bring you directly back here."
That came as a surprise to the alien hero. He knew the final message would go somewhere, but he didn't expect the portal to swallow someone else whole.
"Okay...how long've I been out?"
"You have been unconscious for the past 6 hours. I would have expected there to be fatigue for the subject of the experiment, one that would most probably cede with several jumps. So, I conclude that you are beginning to grow used to the effects of time travel."
"That's good to hear...'cause your machine feels friggin' terrible..."
Dexter took the criticism without any negativity. This machine had been a plague to his schedules for the past two days, and he couldn't agree with Ben anymore than possible. Though unless "being out" also counted for the last two days of his disappearance, then that posed more of an issue. How was he going to tell his mother? Especially after the last time he had confronted her?
Though luckily for him, Ben did not arrive at that question just yet. He very much did not want another super-powered teen barraging him for another ambiguous reason. Ben then decided to ask the obvious question. "So...tell me...what happened while I was gone?"
There was a bit of a pause in the boy genius's thought. The way Ben had come back was...simply put...chaotic.
It was safe to say that they weren't exactly expecting an explosion, and that was without the aid of Deedee. Whatever reaction they had pulled, it seemed to only barely work as sparks sent each of them flying across the room.
Dexter managed to move his head enough to see the others. Jack was on his side, also managing to get up. Johnny was getting a dizzy head as the explosion sent him backed flat against the wall. The Powerpuff Girls, being themselves, remained unscratched and were already woken up; they were at work immediately in putting out some of the fires in the lab. There was a particularly large flame in the corner, and that took most of the girls' attention. But Dexter kept his eyes focused on the capsule; even though his glasses were blurred by the explosion's scorch marks, he could already tell that the machine was in complete wreckage.
Fantastic, Dexter thought, the investors and the interns are going to love seeing how many things blew up in the research paper.
Even more, considering that the previous machine hadn't had as large of an explosion as this one, Dexter could tell something was horribly wrong if Deedee had managed to do less damage to his laboratory than him.
He quickly activated his glasses' built-in windshield wipers, now being able to see something interesting. The opening door hatch to the capsule had blasted off its frame, and the moment Dexter heard movement and an arm clad in green climbing out, it was clear that the experiment was a success.
Out came a slightly smoldering Ben Tennyson, catching the attention of everyone in the lab, including Jack and Johnny, who where still somewhat incapacitated from the shock-blast. He let out a large huff of air as if he had been holding it in for the longest time.
"S-saved you..." he said before tumbling out of the capsule and falling flat on the floor.
It almost looked like Dexter's glasses widened correspondingly with his eyes. He didn't know how to react. All their efforts from the last two days finally paid off. All his struggle, all that emotional abuse he unleashed on his sister, and Ben had finally made it back home. Dexter was too ecstatic to see this solution successfully solved that he completely forgot to thank the samurai who saved Ben's life, which under normal conditions would be something that he'd never forget. Ben lay flat on the floor, unconscious and exhausted.
Dexter made haste in running to the unconscious subject, his friend, and turned him over. As he suspected, Ben was completely out, and smoldering too. But Dexter didn't care. What mattered at that point was getting him medical attention. He made one last turn to meet Jack's relaxed and relieved look, knowing he succeeded in this mission.
But as Dexter turned around to exchange more pleased faces, three other faces were more furious than pleased, the opposite reaction of what Dexter had been expecting.
"Wait..." Bubbles realized, looking to the unconscious time traveller with suspicion, "Is that..."
Blossom, upon seeing the true identity of the subject, let out a large disappointed sigh. "I knew it..." she muttered. "I knew it and I didn't say anything..."
"Ben 10? BEN 10?!" Buttercup screamed, very much enraged with the boy genius. It was slowly dawning on all three girls that the reason for their hectic weekend of fighting completely new and difficult villains was behind this entire incident.
Dexter, being the one responsible for their troubles, could only think one thing in response as Buttercup was turning more and more red by the second.
Buttercup was huffing and puffing extremely loudly in her anger, almost ready to blow all of Dexlabs down with a single sniff. "You mean to tell me, that the last two days where we've had to fight random supervillains and aliens in another city, getting our butts handed to us and basically ruining our schedule altogether, because YOU WERE THE ONE WHO THOUGHT IT WAS A GOOD IDEA TO SEND A SUPERHERO ON A NEAR ONE-WAY TRIP?!"
Dexter could only flinch at every word. He couldn't ignore the fact that...well...Buttercup was right...but he wouldn't let his ego be shattered so unceremoniously.
"Well, technically it was never actually designed to be one-way-"
"AH, SHUT UP!" she shouted, sending her entire forearm back to rocket her fist towards Dexter's face.
"BUTTERCUP, DON'T!" Blossom objected, flying in at superspeed to block her incoming punch. "You stop to think that maybe Dexter didn't want us finding out for this exact reason?!"
"The punching and the beating? You know, the thing we do to criminals and the thing you're threatening to do to him?" Blossom was trying to hold her guard against Buttercup's more aggressive personality; she couldn't condone any of her brutality just yet.
"Fine, but why the heck is that any kind of friggin' excuse?!"
Blossom, rather than outwardly chastising her sister for her vulgarity, instead only shot a glare back at her, which found its way towards Dexter next. "I'm not totally saying it is." Those words felt like a stab in the heart for Dexter, but one that he didn't put much thought to, as he was focused too much on checking Ben's vitals. Blossom continued talking down Buttercup anyway, telling her about what needed to happen. "But Dexter has already admitted his guilt, and I can vouch for that. Judging him for the reason of having to save the day more than usual is pointless, and that's not even a priority right now. Now put the fist down."
Buttercup knew her sister all too well, and she knew how she was trying to approach this. There were several times when Buttercup outright hated her decisions...but it didn't mean she was always wrong.
"Fine." she admitted, angrily freeing her arm of Blossom's grip and loosening her fingers.
"Help?" yelled another voice from inside the capsule, catching everyone by surprise. To follow that, another hand reached out of the capsule, equally smoldering, followed by a hand carrying a robotic helm. Surprisingly this kid was much more aware and unaffected by the improper time jump. One thing was already discernible by his first impression, or the fact that he was still conscious in comparison to Ben. It was discernible that this kid was used to time travelling.
"Hey...my hair's back!" he exclaimed, ecstatic about something incredibly minor. (But wasn't his hair always there?) He looked over to his comatose partner, trying to get his attention. "Ben, look, my hair's back! Ben, where are you?" The kid didn't seem to care that everyone was staring at him with the most bewildered of looks.
At that point, Dexter had given up in asking where all these random people were coming from.
"Who is that?" Jack asked, not nearly as bewildered as his cohorts.
"Not anyone commissioned by Dexlabs, that is for certain." Dexter said, then grabbing Ben by his underarms, lifting his torso up. "Jack, tend to the new guest. Computress! Get the medical ward ready!"
[I just did; Med-bed activated and charged - ready for use]
"Excellent! Now let's just-" Dexter would have finished, but he halted with the sad realization that Ben was too heavy for him to carry, let alone drag across the vinyl floor. He found it unfortunate, as everyone had noted his impressive growth spurt, yet somehow that didn't equate to actual strength.
He tried picking him up from the arm, carrying him on his shoulder, but the boy genius lost balance...and Ben's comatose body tumbled down the platform stairs...landing on his back.
The boy genius knew that would hurt the moment Ben would try to get back up; he had to cover that stuff up somehow.
"Is someone strong willing to help me?"
Directing his attention and task to the girls seemed to be a wrong move. All three of them looked frustrated with Dexter, and why wouldn't they have? They had to deal with random foes from backgrounds they didn't even know, along with powers and abilities they weren't even used to, and it was hard enough to beat them. The urge to not punch Dexter for hiding the truth about his involvement in their predicament was just as hard, if not a little more difficult with their growing frustration.
Dexter, realizing the three were a bit unwilling to help out, he had to motivate them somehow. "I asked for your help, not for your spite."
Flaring their nostrils, the girls gave up on their frustration with Dexter and hovered over to help him carry Ben to the ward.
"You didn't tell them it was me?"
"It was an impulsive decision, and your absence has caused a bit of panic in Bellwood, panic that the Powerpuff Girls have had to accept responsibility for."
"Yeah, but you'd only be telling them, not everybody in Bellwood."
"I don't normally rely on impulses to make judgements. Logic seemed to be inapplicable at the time–"
"Because of your weird way of knowing." Ben interrupted. "Just saying...you need to open up more..."
With a chuckle, Dexter turned away and pinched his nose bridge, rubbing it a little bit and shifting his glasses upward. Taking a deep breath, he scratched his red-haired head with the tips of his purple gloves. Ben took notice immediately, recognizing the amount of stress the scientist probably underwent to bring him back to the present.
"You look tired. How much time were you spending trying to get me back?"
"It has been approximately 12 hours, and yet it does not feel as quick as that actually is. It was far more stressful in the latter portion of that time period." he explained, as if he was settling down from a storm of frustration. "Amongst the many things that accumulated towards this point, including a time traveller and an interrogation at the hands of the three most terrifying girls on the planet, I had to call back all the scientists back to Dexlabs after I dismissed them in frustration."
"This all happened within the last 12 hours?"
Dexter gave an involuntary sigh. It only showed how beat down he was from all the stress surrounding him, and that he had to break his own character just to get some of that relief. "Again. It is far longer than one would make it out to be."
"Yeah..." Ben agreed, finding out quickly that this time period was as stressful as the future. Remembering to ask more and more, Ben widened his eyes at the thought of Otto, being unaware of his condition. "By the way..."
The boy genius, knowing exactly what Ben's next question would be, interrupted before he could say anymore. "Your companion was also found in the machine's interior, and he maintains a healthy condition. Years of time travel most likely made him more resistant to the feelings of nausea you are undergoing."
That was good to know. Otto didn't seem like someone who could adjust to situations normally, but apparently when involving time travel, it did not make a difference to him. Though Ben realized something even more relaxing. "Time travel...so he told you?" He expected Dexter to confirm that, with full knowledge of the invasion.
"Everything about where he came from, including the Time Squad..." Dexter began, getting Ben's hopes up, "but not what it was he was doing in the future you came from, or the details of it for that matter." he continued, making Ben's stomach drop with dread. The alien hero didn't have to be a boy genius to know what the next question would be.
"So...would you care to fulfill your end of our experiment?"
He didn't want to do this. He really didn't. He had been secretly hoping Otto would do it for him. When Dexter said that Otto was up and about, he was hoping that Otto would have filled them in, told them about Fuse, coordinated their plan to save the future...but now that responsibility fell right back onto him. "Yeah...I guess..." Ben said.
Why was he pausing? Why did he feel like he was shaking? Why was there a pressure around his non-watch wrist? This was what he had prepared to do, right? Save the world again? So why was he having so much trouble with it? It wasn't like he had much trouble before. So why did it feel like there was something holding him back? Was he still stuck in the future, did he want to save them no matter how impossible it was?
But why would that be a reason for keeping quiet?
"Well? Report." Dexter pressed, impatiently trying to force the answer out of a clearly traumatized hero.
"I-it's...hard to say, man. I...it...it's completely devastated..." Ben began, quivering in his voice, unable to form sentences properly, "not like a...desert...wasteland...devastated, but...this is nothing like I've faced before. Nothing like what even the Plumbers have faced before..."
"More importantly..." Dexter pressed, growing more irritated with Ben's fumbling. The arrogant inventor moved closer toward him, breaching Ben's comfort zone on purpose. He needed that information more than anything at the moment.
Ben, still being intimidated by someone shorter than him, just didn't get it. How could Dexter act so nonchalantly about something as urgent as this? Sure he hadn't said much of anything, but any sane or normal person would have picked up on the trauma Ben was showing here. But Ben knew he couldn't avoid it forever, but he also knew he couldn't forgive himself either. He just said the first thing that came to mind. "The time machine sent me into the end of an alien invasion."
Dexter seemed unfazed by that term. Invasion could have meant anything, but judging by Ben's expertise and area of work, it was most likely alien, and more importantly, similar to Otto Osworth's incomplete report. Despite that logic, he still had no reason to act in fear or shock. Alien invasions had happened many times before. What made this any different? "Clarify your words, I need brevity in your explanation." he demanded. "By 'end of invasion', what can you describe?"
The cautious hero let loose a breath of relief. He could practically feel more energy and motivation surging to his mind; he knew how to talk about it now. "Our...our side was losing...they were facing this threat that's been around since the beginning of time."
"It's a hyperbole, okay? From the sound of it though, I guessed it's been around for a long time." Ben clarified irritably. "They're called fusions...and they're led by someone...or something...calling themselves Fuse. These things assimilate and collect planets, and infect the environment with those giant-egg things from five years ago. Terrafusers."
That was a term that Ben used where Dexter did not have to demand an explanation for its meaning. He remembered that name as the same one he used for the mysterious green eggs that spawned those green chaotic creatures. The fact that Ben could recall them off the tip of his tongue with ease, and also a distinct tone of disgust, gave away which aliens Ben was even referring to...
...and Dexter was hesitant to accept it.
"As in...those terrafusers."
"The ones from 5 years ago?"
"What other terrafusers were there?"
"And they – producing the same weak creatures from 5 years ago – destroyed the world?"
"Yeah. Dex, they're so much more than green space tumors. They're these machines that the fusions use to infect the planet; the-they're trying to assimilate the entire world, and–" Ben would have continued...if he still had Dexter's attention.
In fact, the boy genius had turned away, shaking his head in the slightest as he typed away on his NanoCom.
"You're not nodding..." Ben said, coming to a nightmarish assumption, "why aren't you nodding?"
Dexter, being distracted enough, turned to face Ben. What was a cold indifference mere seconds ago had shifted to a concerning frown. Ben wasn't that familiar with his friend's...limited facial expressions...but the silence spoke and told enough.
Dexter was disappointed.
Dexter was doubtful.
"Does nodding seem to indicate my approval or conformation to your story?" Dexter affirmed. "I am simply analyzing the logistics of this situation. After all, the odds of a second invasion from aliens that last made their presence on this planet known a mere five years ago seems little to none, am I wrong?"
He couldn't believe what he was hearing. He wish he could hop back in the time machine and do it all over again. "W-What?! Are you-I-WHAT?! DUDE! I mean...the destroyed time machine? Mandark sounding really urgent? Otto had to have given some kinda hint about what went down over there, right?"
"As I shall repeat, Otto made no hint regarding the details of the future you two came from." he repeated, slowly but surely growing more irritated with the conversation. "Furthermore, a destroyed time machine means nothing, as that happened from our side, and Mandark's urgency was most likely due to how uncertain the state and stay of the tachyonic antitelephones were."
"Fine, whatever, but you ever wonder why it was Mandark of all people calling and not – I dunno – you?!" While it wasn't completely clear to Ben as to whether the boy genius considered such a thing, a pause in his breathing and the tiniest tilt in his head was telling.
Thinking to himself, Dexter recalled what Bubbles had told him mere hours earlier. It was a question he had meant to explore with better clarity, and during the exhausting task of linking two time machines, the question had simply slipped his mind. But now that he was coming back to it...
It was odd that he wasn't the one who sent Ben back, that he had already established. But more pieces began to fall out of line. If it was Mandark on the other side, then why was it so easy to initially link the two machines? Mandark had made his technology somewhat difficult to interface with his own, and the only way Dexter could conceive of that being simplified were if he was using his own technology. But what would convince Mandark to use Dexlabs technology?
An answer in his mind already sprung. Mandark Industries was not as known as Dexlabs for creating public technology; they were known for keeping their products secret in many cases. Most of their products were in service of their military contract, and were also a part of a deal that they had made with Dexlabs. Dexter and his friend had...very different ideologies when it came to the application of technology, as Dexter was less willing to sell or modify his patents for military use. So, Simon had arranged for the two to share patents, allowing for Dexter's ideas to be used by the military, though with Mandark Industries making specialized modifications exclusive only to them. Dexter had found that deal to be satisfying, and not only because his "Dexbots" could be differentiated from "Mandroids", but because there were military applications for his technology (no matter how much he hated it) and it would be a disservice to the military's efforts if they were to lack that technology and those applications.
With that in mind, Dexter turned to face Ben, ready to present his conclusion. "As you can most likely remember, Mandark Industries technology is volatile in its applications to the extent that even I, certified genius as I may be, have yet to comprehend how Simon programs and designs his products. Recall the 2009 incident and remember how I failed to deal with the Goat's Junkyard terrafuser due to a complication in Simon's modifications." He could see that Ben was losing him; the alien hero's kept squinting and frowning as he failed to comprehend where he was going with this. "I have not improved my skills with his technology yet. This most likely carried over into the future, so Mandark had to operate the controls while I built the time machine."
Ben remained in silent for an extended period of time, still trying to process what Dexter had explained. "Huh...that's actually accurate."
"NO! You were dead! You, the Powerpuff Girls, the KND – DEAD! Mandark was the one who had to do everything, because you were DEAD!"
Well...Dexter certainly didn't expect...that reaction.
"Oh...I see. Well then, not to worry...I have prevented a future where Mandark turns evil and leaves me a pimple-infested slave at his beck-and-call...I can prevent this."
"N-NO! You can't prevent this if you keep doubting me!"
"I prevented your mother from melting down in the wake of your disappearance and withheld all information regarding your absence for a full 2 days. I am quite positive that I will be able to..." Dexter began to notice that Ben suddenly looked shook with shock. "What?" He couldn't comprehend what Ben was upset about. All he said was an analogy regarding his mothe-
"You...didn't...tell...my Mom...that I was missing?!"
"Well...you did ask that I "open up" a little more often..."
"OPEN UP IN FRONT OF PEOPLE! NOT ME, YOU IDIOT!" Ben screamed. How could Dexter be so obtuse about this?! Looking back at Dexter, the only thing that seemed to hurt him was how he called him an 'idiot'. How could that have been the only thing that went through his head?! Just as he was furiously trying to untangle the web of strings and tangents that made up Dexter's mind, he realized something far worse. "Oh god...she's worried SICK!" Ben began trying to move out of bed, only to be frozen by the hot pain from his back.
Almost as if by mechanical command, Dexter came to keep Ben lying down. "Continue resting." he commanded...without the slightest sense of worry or conviction in his voice. "Right now, the thing you need to focus on is recovering from the...pressure of time travel."
"Ohgodohgodohgodohgodohgod..." Ben kept repeating, knowing his Mom would murderize him when he could get home...but would shower him with all her tears! He had been gone for two days, and the last his Mom saw of him was when he was going out to meet a friend! He couldn't let her worry a second longer! "Tell me you told her something! ANYTHING! Sleepover? Out on patrol? Did you at least tell her I'm fine?!"
"I did not tell your mother anything. I did call her and let her that complications had occurred with the experiment but I never elaborated. I had only remained silent so as to quell any and all worries, as I knew about what your family has been going through for the past few months-"
At that point, Ben's anger flared up like the tokamak of a volcano. He had had it with Dexter's understanding of his family. "Don't do that." Ben sternly scolded with a quiet rage, "don't bring her up to make yourself sound like a good guy right now. Don't try to justify what you keep doing!"
"I...apologize about your...never mind...I am sorry..." Dexter admitted, trying to be as accommodating to his friend as possible, "but...what do you mean what I..."keep doing"?"
"You backed out of it in Tech Square, and you're backing out of it now! Then, like always, someone else'll get the blame for no good reason-"
"Ben!" Dexter shouted. "What is it that I do?"
In all of the pauses between the two at this point, this was the most uncomfortable. Both of them didn't know what to think. Ben's mind was fueling with all sorts of ways to keep firing at the cold scientist; he was more than angry for what Dexter had just revealed, and he had to tell him about the one thing that had been sitting in his mind for the last few hours.
"I met your sister in the future, Dex. She told me what you did after I time-jumped, how you screamed at her." Ben said, forcing the boy genius to stop in his tracks, finally shutting him up. "So I'm only gonna ask, why? Why'd you have to treat her like that?"
"H-How is that of any relevance now?" Dexter exclaimed. This went from mother to Tech Square to his sister really fast and unexpectedly. "My sister started this debacle, and has been starting such debacles for as long as I can remember. Surely you have had a family member with whom you have once had an antagonistic relationship?"
"Of course I did, but we didn't EMOTIONALLY ABUSE one another!"
"I meant to specify REPEATED CONDITIONS. Now, we can discuss my attitude towards family another time. I will return to the ward once I have evaluated your story the scientific way." he concluded, walking backwards and making his way to the door. Ben kept shouting, trying to get Dexter to put aside logic in this instance.
"Story?! I'm telling you the truth! I'm not lying, I swear!"
"Nor am I denying the possibility."
"Damnit, just ASK OTTO!"
"Who is to say I have not already?" Dexter told him.
He paused in disbelief. Ben recalled very clearly that Dexter said Otto reported nothing. If Dexter had already asked him...then that meant Otto already told him. "Y-You lied?"
"It was not with malicious intent. But frankly I have had two people today infiltrate my laboratory despite a very recent software patch to my security systems, and neither of them were anything like my sister. I have every right to be suspicious about a story from the future, Ben. I needed to make sure it was the truth and nothing but." Dexter continued. "Personally, the conditions of this seem less than likely, but your report corroborates his. Either way, I need time to properly analyze your belongings; I cannot be sure about this unless I find scientific proof. Stay here and recover. Computress will notify you once the treatment has finished; then come out and talk; by then I will have analyzed everything."
"Dex, please. We don't have time for any of that! We have to act now!" he shouted across the ward, making the tactful scientist halt in his tracks. "I'm not going to let you throw this aside like this, please keep listening to me!"
Despite how hard he pleaded, the boy genius resumed moving away. He opened a hologram of a panel, sliding the door upwards for him to leave the room, leaving Ben in an even worse paralysis than his actual paralysis.
He had worked so hard to come back here. He had worked so hard to fight for a future that he cared about. He had worked so hard to fight for those people, all of whom were dead. He wanted to take this second chance seriously. But if Dexter didn't take it seriously...then how could he? How could he keep moving forward for the one thing that motivated him for the last few days if it was returned with skepticism?
His head dropped back onto the pillow in exhaust and defeat. He began to stare up aimlessly; from here, everything would play the same...he knew it...and he couldn't do anything.
SECTOR V TREEHOUSE - EAST WING HANGAR
"You sure we should leave our post, Number Five?" Number Three asked, feeling apprehensive about leaving her assigned post from Two. They were walking toward the S.C.A.M.P.E.R briskly, though Three was trying to catch up her fellow friend, lacking the pace Five had.
Five however, was much more confident about their stride, turning behind her to face Three while walking backwards. "C'mon, Numbuh Three. You know that Two would probably do the same."
"Yeah, Two's usually 'lax about this stuff, but One isn't. And you know how much he likes to freak out."
"When has that been a problem?"
Three couldn't sneeze at that. Frankly, if they ever had issues with Number One, the best way to deal with him was to ignore him altogether. "Oh yeah! So where're we headed?" Three asked as Five boarded the shuttle.
"We can't go anywhere yet. Methinks we open a relay channel first." she told her fellow operative as she moved to the pilot's seat.
"But aren't the comms down?" Three asked as she sat down by the communications module, stopping herself just as she was about to activate the control panels. After all, they were a bit useless at that point.
But Three's partner seemingly had a solution ready. "Not the NanoComs." Five corrected, to which Three's eyes widened with realization and joy. Wally and Hoagie had been stuck in that kangaroo court for so many days that she was losing hope for their case. More realization flooded into her brain; they were contacting her through the NanoCom for those exact reasons. Moreover, whatever relay channel they needed could be provided by the NanoCom's faster and more efficient apps, and with the system that Two had implemented, they could also scan for any close-by KND frequencies.
Their rescue mission basically became much easier than it initially may have been.
"OH, I get it," Three realized, though if the relay system relied on a vicinity-scan, that would probably pose a problem, "but aren't they on the Moonbase?"
"Don't think so, Numbuh Five says somethin' else's up. They went from maintenance repair straight to BS Mode, and you said that they sounded terrified, so they're definitely not pullin' the other kind of BS on us. Anywho, 'cause o' that, they could be coming into the planet hot, right? What we gotta do is lock onto any KND markers within a – I dunno – worldwide radius." she inputed the command as she voiced her option.
"Heheheh...we can do that from our ship..."
"Providence don't got anythin' on us...well at least until they start noticing us on the NanoCom net." she admitted. "Okay, got a lock on them, so let's get going." Five said as she began turning up each of the controls, prepping for launch. Afterwords she remembered to set one final countermeasure for the Treehouse, shifting her cap further down her forehead before tapping around on her NanoCom and contacting Sector V's central command. "Numbuh Six! Do ya copy?"
"AH-HUH? W-What's happenin'?!"
"Oh yeah, we're using NanoComs now."
"Cool! Wait, but then what happened to the–oh yeah..."
"Two should be workin' on it." Five reassured, before moving onto her assignment for the rookie. "Anyway, you got the con while we're on re-con. You're in charge of the Sector 'till we're back, 'kay little buddy?"
"O-okay, uh...wait, am I supposed to register that?"
"I...uh...I'm sorry, Numbuh Five...I kinda forgot how to do things...again."
Five's palm slowly met her face when she heard that; Three could only giggle. Six, being fresh out of the Cadet Corps, had been constantly forgetting standard KND procedure, which was in no way helped by the fact that sometimes his...anthropomorphic characteristics tended to be...involuntary. It was an inconvenience that they didn't think about back when they first recruited him.
Three, feeling bad for Six, recalled something Two had told her before this mess, deciding to motivate him with that. "Ooh! Bradley, y'know those cybernetics you got? I think Two installed a memory into them. You can use that!"
"OH YEAH!" Six screamed into the comm; it was hard to remember sometimes that Six was the youngest operative in Sector V. Three and Five had grown more used to dealing with fellow teenagers and their voice pitches. It was tough for them to handle such a youthful (and sometimes even annoying) little kid. "Sorry, Numbuh Five! My robot things can be weird sometimes..."
"It's okay, Bradley. You sure you can manage?"
"You c'n coun' on me!"
"Sure thing." Five said mirthlessly. "Numbuh Five out."
"Out 'n over! Err-wait, that's not–Bye, Kuki!"
Three beamed with joy upon that goodbye. "See you later, Bradley!" She said as she turned off the call. She sighed in reminiscence. "They grow up so fast! Remember when he couldn't talk? SO CUTE!"
"Still can't believe Numbuh Five's trustin' a six-year old anthro-skunk..."
"Hey, he's the smartest skunk I ever met." Three shot back.
"You're the one who recruited him, 'course you're gonna be sympathetic!" Five argued as the S.C.A.M.P.E.R. began hovering out of the hangar gate.
"Didn't we name you god-mother?" They kept arguing, even as the shuttle blasted at its top speed.
"That didn't actually count, ya know!" Still arguing...
SIYENN CITY - TECH SQUARE - DEXLABS HEADQUARTERS
He knew Ben wouldn't be very jovial about his state of confinement, especially in regards to the aftermath of his journey to the future. Dexter heard a few more shouts from outside the door, Ben was unhappy with his reaction, if not furious or confused. But the hero had given up on shouting not too long after. The boy genius tried pushing it to the back of his head. As much as he would have preferred Ben to be in a less emotional and more content attitude, it wasn't his primary concern. With so many people already pressuring him with information, he had a lot to sort through, and at the moment, an alien invasion from the future was not one of those things just yet.
Jack had been facing the glass windows, stoically looking out into the luscious and advanced environment outside. Such technology was not new to him, of course; but Dexter could tell there was still some sense of fascination despite his experience. He could hypothesize that the future of Aku had technology very different in style and purpose compared to the world before him, most of which was meant to kill him. The legends stated in historical records did not provide a complete context into this evil future, allowing for only speculations on Dexter's part, but what was clear was a race of robots being sent out in flocks to kill Jack. Whatever it was, the Samurai was most likely tensed by such similar technology, no matter how much he had accepted it. It would certainly explain why he destroyed the two Dexbots upon arrival at Dexlabs.
Otto was semi-present, utilizing the lab around him to work on his own side-project. He wasn't with the group to confront Dexter, being too distracted to check on him. Dexter, in turn, was too preoccupied with Ben's condition to regard Otto's presence. The girls remained, though, and they still seemed a little aggravated, probably thanks in part to the boy genius himself. He shook it off, though. He was just happy they were willing to stay at all...and that he was very fortunate for this Monday to be a holiday for most schools in the tri-city-area. It was all the more reason for Dexter to appreciate how they were dealing with him, knowing that they had no obligation to be here anymore.
Even if they seemed a little...uncomfortable after the explosion.
"Ugh, I hate this stuff. What is it? Soot?" Blossom complained, aggressively rubbing her arms to the point of super-speed just to remove the scorch marks.
"I'm just surprised most of it got off easy..." Bubbles reasoned. Though she could only speak for herself, as her sisters both shot her an annoyed look while they were still covered in the marks.
Dexter was flattered that they were arguing about something so petty. But he still admired their dedication to him over the past few days.
Though not everyone initially present could be described that way. The only one who was missing from the group completely was Johnny, who finally got a happy family reunion when Dexter had to call back the faculty for the lab, the Test sisters included. He was meeting with them at the far end of the lab, and it was noticeable to Dexter, even without modified glasses, that Johnny was fueling every last bit of rage and frustration he had into his two older siblings.
Finally moving on to more important things, Dexter walked forward and met with the girls; they had been patiently waiting for Dexter to return and evaluate Ben's story. Having watched and listened through the cameras, they had learned as much as Dexter from Ben. But they were more than displeased with how the "all-understanding-doctor" handled Ben's reaction. They knew they had to break that down to Dexter as slowly as possible, no matter how arrogant he would be about it.
Though Buttercup was a little more vocal in her distrust of Dexter. "Is that it? You're just gonna walk away from him?" she asked first.
Dexter ignored her, focusing on a more important reminder. "Jack."
"Whenever you are available, Otto had previously requested that you meet with him soon. He requires your presence for his secret project."
Wait, that's not important at all...
"I understand. But how is...he?"
"He remains in recovery; aside from the injury to his vertebrae, there appears to be no other signs of injury after waking up." he informed the group, bringing relief to everyone's minds. They had been worrying that he'd be stuck unconscious; kinda like something Otto called a 'time-coma'. When they had watched the video feed and saw his violent reaction, they had begun worrying something else was wrong with him. "He will be completely healed within the next 10.3 minutes."
Despite the news being great, Blossom still took issue with it, now knowing that Ben was effectively a missing-persons case, and they couldn't waste anymore time. "Is there any way you can make it go faster? The sooner we escort Ben back to Bellwood, the less anxious his Mom's gonna be."
Shouting from across the lab (and somehow hearing her words despite the distance), Johnny shouted back a retort. "Don't bother!" He was still venting his frustration out on his genius sisters. "Family can be a real piece of work sometimes!"
"Language!" Blossom shouted back. How many more curses did this random teenager have to keep listing off before everyone invested would just leave? Blossom didn't even want to ask herself how long until she'd reach her limit with these swears. "Point is, Dex, you did confront her without telling her how or even where he was. She could be ripping out her own hair like right now."
While Dexter did give thought to Blossom's argument, it wouldn't be a suitable idea to improve Ben's health. "To address your initial inquiry, Blossom, there does exist a way to fasten the med-bed's functions. However, the machine runs on a specialized Dextronium fuel-source; anymore input of that power source and its radiation could bleed through, leaving Ben in a worse state than when he arrived here."
"Okay, but...we're not talking about kicking the machine into overdrive," Buttercup chimed in, that idiom causing Dexter to raise one eyebrow, "we can just raise it a little to have him come out at maybe...4 minutes?"
"I am familiar with the med-bed's idiosyncrasies, Buttercup. I am also familiar with Dextronium's volatility when used as a power source. It is something we cannot risk."
"Of course you know how risky Dextronium is. You patented the dang thing yourself!" she continued to emphasize. "So why'd you decide to use it as a power source?!" She had a point, and one that questioned Dexter's consideration of these careful details. But despite having a valid explanation, Dexter couldn't keep arguing, deciding to wrap thing up quickly. The boy genius knew he couldn't keep this conversation going for any longer. They had work to do.
"Simple, Buttercup. If I am the one who patented it, then I am the one who knows best how to control it. Therefore, I know the exact level in Dextronium where the quantity overtakes the quality, and such an error would be a risk not worth taking." Dexter reasoned.
Jack, who had stayed quiet since the two time travelers returned, offered to voice his own input to the three girls. "Though your voice is noble, we cannot rush Benjamin out of care without risking his life further. If this is the only way, then we must have patience in his recovery."
"Jack is correct. As of right now, our top priority is to analyze his report of the future he arrived from."
"Y'know, speaking of that story..." Bubbles began, "since he's giving you the exact story that Otto over there was rambling about, maybe you should consider this future to be a legit possibility?" She and everyone else were on the same page there, as they did feel Dexter's response to Ben's prophecy was nonchalant, perhaps too nonchalant. They had gotten the impression that Dexter was disregarding the hero's story entirely, simply relying on logic when faced with the fantastic. It made as little sense to them as Deedee's continued break–ins. But Dexter appeared to disagree.
"Whoever said I doubted the possibility of a dystopia? I merely wanted to clarify the specificities of this situation." he said to explain himself, coming to the tempered surprise of the group. Dexter knew that he had made himself sound like the skeptic, much to Ben's vexation. This group's ever-growing frustration with Dexter's bluntness was also expected from the boy genius himself; like any mind similar to him, his mind worked like a game of chess, plotting each move with a sense of precision and care whilst expecting the outcome to be all the same. "Otto failed to elaborate on several elements of the story, such as these invaders' identities, or how the humans lost, due to what can only be described as a case of trauma. Ben suffered from a similar stress, but he moved past it to reveal these creatures' species. It is simply the likelihood of these...fusions returning after so long where I remain doubtful, let alone the probability of them returning more powerful than ever."
"Supervillains always strike back, it's superhero–101."
"I fail to comprehend how these can be classified as "supervillains", Blossom. These are extraterrestrial beings acting upon a hive mind, that apparently possess a far greater threat-level than how we initially encountered them in 2009."
"Forgive me for my ignorance, but you mean to tell me that these aliens have invaded before?"
"Once before; five years ago, three of these "terrafusers" landed on the planet to spawn a set of creatures unlike many known alien lifeforms. I assume you understand the concept of extraterrestrial life?"
"Of course I do. But how were these any different?"
"They were composed of a gelatinous polymorphic substance and a variant of a protein chain that used ionized energy to act as a hive mind."
With such an apt and abridged explanation, Dexter would hope Jack would immediately understand, especially since Jack said he was familiar with life beyond Earth. However, the samurai seemed a little more lost than usual, trying to put a puzzle together with only half the pieces.
"I...see..." Jack slowly understood.
"And to think just yesterday we were making a time machine." Bubbles added.
"So you're doubtful about this, and–well, yeah, I can see why. But you're not even gonna give his story a chance? Surely there's a...scientific way to figure out that these are the same aliens, just better, right?" Blossom asked. She hated it when everything about an enemy was unknown, even if they technically were known. Whatever they were discovering wasn't pointing to any clues, aside from the fact that they were dealing with the same aliens.
"Even if I find something to be doubtful, I spare no theory without going unchecked." Realizing that the others were understandably confused, Dexter held out his NanoCom to load up a datapad as if he expected others to understand immediately. "During his unconsciousness, I had processed Ben's racing jacket through one of our Scanning Electron Microscopes, as he implied he made physical contact with the invaders." he explained. "Therefore, there should theoretically be some residue to analyze and evaluate. If they are of the same composition as the substance, Ben's story would be validated."
A few more clicks on Dexter's keyboard seemed like all the system needed to run an analysis. Everyone, having known Dexter for five years, assumed he must have done the work beforehand, and just waiting for the right moment. What they also could see in him was Dexter always did partake in dramatics at certain times, probably to aid his already stubborn bravado. It wasn't annoying if he did it too much, but the girls always found it unnecessary.
But while they were unsurprised when the results towered over them on the massive monitor, they were more intrigued with how Dexter took it. As the accurate results indicated the presence of a familiar substance, he staggered back slowly, clearly shocked by the validation of their story. They all found it hillarious.
"Well, that...looks familiar..." Blossom rhetorically pointed out, crossing her arms and turning to face Dexter. He still looked petrified by the obvious, which was both like him and completely out of character for him. She loved it.
"It's unbelievable. Perhaps if we cross-reference with my personal database..."
So Dexter had moved his hands towards the keyboard. He had to cross-reference the sample with his database, and Computress identified a match before his hands even met the holographic keys.
[Match found; Sample = Catalog: 19234243-07152009]
"There must be...an...an inaccuracy that I should account for..." Dexter scrambled over the keys. Up until this point, he was trying his best to remain professional and logical about this report. But reality was sinking its teeth into his neck, and Dexter was growing more and more pale.
"This. Is going. Nowhere." Buttercup said, emphasizing her words to drill the truth into Dexter's hardcase head. "That thing you're seeing on the screen isn't going anywhere either."
"LET. ME. FINISH. Buttercup!." Dexter rarely raised his voice to anybody, metahumans included. But there was more to science than just facing evidence, and he felt it would be wrong of himself to take a single certainty as the absolute possibility. "There are more aspects of research than just fiber and specimen samples that accumulate towards a proper conclusion!"
"Ah, conclusion, confusion. You're not making this any easier for us to understand!"
She didn't agree with her sister on many things, but she could not bear with Dexter's stubbornness at that moment. "Alright, then. If traces of that green goop on Ben's jacket aren't convincing enough, then check this! A cetacean standing in Orchid Bay! You know how rare it is for there to be cetacean standings in Orchid Bay?" Blossom continued to argue. "Moreover, if what Ben's saying is true, the tiniest presence of fusion matter could pose a threat to Earth's environment! Just like five years ago, there'd be gravitational fluxes, steady increase of carbon monoxide, I dunno. If the terrafusers were meant to – y'know – terraform the Earth, then other environmental aspects or ecologies are gonna start going out of control."
Dexter nodded hesitantly. "Computress, open up file: Domino Effect - Case 245."
A folder of links opened up, surprising the Powerpuff with multiple reports, apparently collected by Dexter, and all of which seemed out of the ordinary and happening en masse. She could feel her patience inching away. "Look at that! So you have been investigating these things! Mass bird migrations in clashing directions, power outages by the east coast, your OWN SATELLITE picking up unusual gravitational anomalies-"
"Regardless of what the Terrafusers are actually meant to, recall that the anomalies from the first encounter were at most very minor. For Planet Fusion, as Ben calls it, to be invading and causing more such anomalies on a larger scale, the fusions would have to have a much larger wavelength in order to pull this off, which in turn would mean that the invasion would be days from now."
"So what else could these things be from?"
"I assumed that was due to my experiments with the time machine, as well as Mandark's antitelephones."
"These things have been happening for the past two weeks! You've been working on this experiment for only two days!"
"I understand that, but you are confusing my skepticism with a lack of consideration. As you can see, Blossom, I have been well in-tune with this string of events. I am considering how this could be connected to some form of invasion. What I call into question is how the invaders have evolved." Even after the past two days of depression and self-doubt, Dexter still hated being proven wrong. Facing the facts with an unflattering face, he voiced his sense of doubt to hope one person could agree. "But Ben had described them as having decimated the world within mere months. The same creatures that were easily defeated, by an assembly of 10 year olds nonetheless," Dexter emphasized that comparison to bring gravitas to his argument. He raised his voice as he continued, his mind entangling itself in the illogical nature of these phenomena, "are now destined to be responsible for an alien devastation unlike the world has ever seen before. Do you now see my suspension of belief?"
"It's not what we remember, it's the fact that it's the same substance, and Ben and Otto's conditions line up with their reactions." Buttercup said, being uncharacteristically reasonable in this situation. "Be reasonable, dude. These things are back."
The boy genius turned away, hiding his own shame as he began to realize what part he had played in the last few days. But he still couldn't face the notion of Ben's story. He had worked so hard to move forward and do better, only to be faced with a returning threat from before that threatened to sabotage everything he worked for...and it would all collapse due to one of his very efforts to do better. He knew he wasn't being completely rational, but he couldn't deny his sense of guilt in the matter.
"I...I am still not ready to accept this as quickly as you all have..."
"Why? Because your sister's latest screw-up managed to save the world?"
Admittedly, Dexter thought, that was one of the reasons.
But there was more to it than that. Dexter didn't doubt this possibility for the sole reason of being improbable, or the fact that his sister would have...technically saved the planet (moreso in three seconds than he could do with Dexlabs in three years). But this hurt him at his core, the part of him that was trying to benefit the world as best as he could. He had no way to measure the fusion threat, nor could he assume what technology would be needed to combat them. His connections were limited for the most part, and he had no way to band everyone together in this war. This knowledge only made him sink into depression; Dexter was beginning to believe all his work would become useless. "This is not what this experiment was supposed to result with...I had decided to create the time machine in the hopes of advancing the world further...to do more. The machine was not just proof of our progress in technology or my skills as an inventor, it was proof of an assured future where we could do more. And now, all that machine stands for now is proof of an incoming devastation and an uncertain future where people will lose their lives, where I cannot assume I will have enough resources or experience to prevent this from happening. I failed in doing more...and it will doom the human race."
While Dexter was mostly in tune with general logic, his arrogance had taken over here, and Blossom was almost shocked that he could put this on himself so easily. She knew him too well to be morally defeated as quickly as this. "Doom the human race? You're kidding, right? None of what's happened is your fault. Nothing about this experiment is going to be your fault. I...I know that you've never liked being unsure of anything, and I know that you still want to know more and do more, but...well, maybe not knowing is our best way of knowing."
"I...beg your pardon?"
"Think about it. We were working at a dead end when the vortexes disappeared; we had no idea that Jack would have the means to save Ben. Even more, Ben probably didn't meet a future version of himself because he'd been missing the entire time! Based on how he acted when he woke up, he probably went into that machine with zero guarantee that he'd even make it back."
"And yet, here he is." Buttercup finished her sister's sentence.
"Exactly." Blossom added. "We're not getting any idea of what's ahead, and – yeah, that does annoy me too – but every time so far where we haven't had a clue, it's usually to lead to something better. So don't make yourself the villain here because you're suddenly stressing over your upcoming history test."
"I don't go to sch-"
"You know what I mean, Dex." Blossom finished, but not before adding one final thing. "We may not know entirely what these fusions are gonna do when they come, or if this experiment will mean anything in the long run. But unless you move forward and expect the unexpected, then we're not gonna have any chance at winning this war."
"That and you'd be missing out on one massive nostalgia blast."
"Not now, Buttercup." Blossom shushed immediately.
"What? It's true, these fights with returning baddies usually are."
Shrugging off her sister's sardonic sense of humor, Blossom quickly finished off her point. "So remember, step one in ALL of this...is in being proactive. We should listen to Ben. 'Know thy enemy', Dex?"
Oof, she just used Sun Tzu on him. Dexter had already gotten around to reading Art of War, and there wasn't a single philosophy in that book he hadn't looked over. But he didn't have any doubts about what it was supposed to mean, and at that point, Dexter had found his resolve. The best way to respond was to learn what these things are...but he still had some doubts as to how they should act.
Bubbles, however, remained a bit skeptical about all of this, and finally decided to voice her opinion. "Yeah, but...if the spawns we fought five years ago were basically...I dunno, scouts, then how can we even know we'll be ready for the real ones?"
"Bubbles, we just talked about-"
"N-no, I'm serious, Blossom. Zeke Atmosphlyer didn't blow up the Space Fortress in Stellar Odyssey on a whim, he had a King-Wing ship and had co-ordinated with the other flyers. Yeah, it's a movie, but that part was accurate, right? And yeah, that IS 'know thy enemy'. But here, we're stepping into something completely out of our reach and level of understanding, only one of us actually knows anything useful about them, and Dexter just alienated him over his own mistake." She pointed to the ward, where Ben was still lying, and let the silence overcome the room. "I never like playing the pessimist...but if he's gonna keep making choices like that, how can we be sure we'll be coordinated enough to even fight these monsters?"
Even though the question was posed, no one, not even Dexter, wanted to put forth a guess. Whatever those creatures had evolved from since the 2009 incident were enough to strike fear into the cocky and confident Ben Tennyson, and based on what he had told them, it didn't sound like the typical invasion. But the intimidating evidence was already analyzed, burned into their minds like with a brand. But what sunk more to Dex was how quickly she called him out. She was known for being the joy and the laughter amongst her sisters, but also the most innocent. To see Bubbles chastise Dexter's flaw only worsened the gravity of the situation.
Quietly accepting that the dangerous truth was inescapable, Dexter moved forward towards the next logical course of action. "Anyhow, Bubbles, we cannot do anything at the moment. Right now, the government needs to know that a full-scale invasion is imminent."
"Yeah, I still don't get why we have to step back now," Buttercup expressed openly, dissatisfied with Dexter's disregard for metahuman powers, "besides. I'm feeling pretty nostalgic for some squishy beatings, especially since the Amoeba Boys disappeared."
Dexter couldn't believe Buttercup sometimes; they had just pondered on whether or not fighting these fusions in their true nature was going to be dangerous, and here she was immediately willing to jump into the danger. He could give a sigh at this point. He was getting tired of arguing with the girls, Buttercup especially. Blossom had her own ideas on the situation, though.
"Look, we can definitely let the military know about this, I'm not saying we shouldn't. But we have to be careful about breaking the situation down to them or they can act completely WHACK. This is the same military that turned Nevada into the middle of Nowhere, the same people that chased a sheep across the states for no good reason, and the same military that approved of Providence's Nanite project."
"Well...one of those three decisions have had phenomenal benefits in today's world."
"Right, because chasing a sheep is beneficial." she said sarcastically.
"I was referring to the Nanite event, Blossom."
"Not entirely beneficial, Dex. You know what it's done to the Imaginary Friends."
"We're working on that."
Sensing yet another argument brewing, Jack stepped in and confronted both of them. "Enough of this. Further arguments won't delay the inevitable outcome. There's a war coming, and it is our duty to extend our hands to help, or even take charge." The samurai then turned to face the boy genius, with an expression on his face that was much more calm and accepting, starkly contrasting the girls' concerned frowns. "You have built the most incredible technology, and it is us who can use our abilities to assist to fight back. But if I am to believe Blossom in regards to your military's...interesting antics, then this is a battle that they will be most inexperienced in. They will not have nearly as enough experience as we have to fight these creatures."
"Okay, so we should just, like, text them about this invasion, even though they're gonna be completely useless."
"Yeah, but it's not like there's another readily available military organization that's just waiting to help out."
Once again, Bubbles was right. Who else would believe them? Who else even knew enough to consider the possibility?
"Unless we are considering some irrelevant third party, there is no logical or possible way that they can set up the numerous security systems or martial protocols for civilians. The aim is to keep the human race alive, and third parties do not have sufficient access to the forms of protection we need."
"And yet, you're around, right?"
As Dexter raised an eyebrow, Buttercup knew she had to explain a bit more. "Like, I know you're against making weapons, but didn't you make stuff like Containment Shields? Couldn't you make more of that stuff and keep the people safe through that? Because if you're a third party, but if you have something useful for the Providence knuckleheads, then obviously others would have similar things to offer, right?"
Just as he pondered on that thought...
The alarms began blaring louder than ever before, nearly shattering everyone's eardrums. They all immediately clasped their ears in pain. Jack and the girls in particular were most disturbed by it. Jack, despite having 50 years of experience, never enjoyed loud sounds; daily meet-ups with the Scotsman had taught him well to avoid such annoying disturbances. The girls, on the other hand, had super-hearing.
Yeah, that must have been more painful for them above anybody else.
Otto came running out of his hiding place, holding his hands against his ears too, stumbling on the floor as a welding mask from his head fell off. Obviously, this caught him by surprise as well. "WHY IS IT SO LOUD?!"
"I DON'T KNOW!" Buttercup yelled back.
"WELL WHAT IS IT?!" Blossom exclaimed to Dexter. All he was doing was covering his ears with his gloves. Whatever those gloves were doing, they appeared to be powerful enough to block the ultrasonic alarm.
"It appears to be a call from Professor-"
"I said it appears to be a call from Profe-"
"IT IS THE PROFESSOR!" Dexter screamed, finally shouting. He moved to his desktop to respond, only to wince in pain when he removed his hands from the ears. He managed (with his elbows, the poor guy) to get Computress listen.
[Is there a problem, Dexter?]
"TURN OFF THE ALARM AND ANSWER THE PROFESSOR'S CALL!"
[Affirmati–Error: FaceTime update now available - do you accept?]
"Not now, Computress! Just do it already!"
[Affirmative; beginning transmission]
And finally...the alarm was silenced. Everyone was finally able to let go of their ears.
Bubbles was still a bit disturbed by it though, even after it stopped. "I can still hear it – Buttercup, I don't think he turned it off –"
"You're fine." Buttercup reassured to her sister as she picked and twisted at her own ear. She could still hear the ringing as well.
The alarm was loud enough to disturb the others in the lab. Johnny, finally deciding to make his presence known, ran over to the others in anger. "What the heck was that?!" Johnny exclaimed, having sped in front of Dexter, still picking at his own ear. He looked just as disturbed by the volume of the alarm. His question went unanswered as the call finally picked up.
Finally, the video feed came in, revealing Professor Utonium's delighted but clearly impatient face. His face broke into a smile when the feed came about on his end. But that smile turned upside down upon closer study of the image.
"Hello again, Dext–girls! Why are you covered in soot?" the Professor asked worryingly, breaking his calmer expression from before.
"We're fine, it's from the machine."
"The machine's working? Oh, that's splendid! Is Dexter feeling better?"
"Just tell us what it is, Professor."
"Ah yes, I thought it might be of interest to you...five. Reports of some kind of crashed spaceship around Townsville Park. They've already called in Providence and are waiting on a response team."
"Providence? Wouldn't this call for SECT?" Blossom questioned.
"It would have, normally, but people have reported catching glimpses of humans inside the ship." The Professor explained. "But there's too much wreckage for the authorities to remove before they perish. They need your help."
"Again...time machine? Yesterday?" Bubbles repeated. "Is no one gonna question the absurdity of these last few days?!"
Of course they all ignored her. Frankly, enough weird stuff had happened within the last few days to discredit this single event as being the most absurd. Furthermore, a crashed ship was child's play to the Powerpuff Girls, whatever ship it was.
"But more importantly, this is what the spaceship looks like." The Professor finished as he pulled out his NanoCom, opening a holographic image in full color. The wrecked ship was covered in the dirt from its crater, but clearly had a green hull that looked dented and torn from the impact, with painted-red rockets loosely dangling on each side, and a set of broken windows in what appeared to be the front of the strange vehicle. The hull was covered in several scorch marks, especially around the front, but it hadn't dirtied the paint enough to blur the three letters painted on it. All three letters, and their font, stuck out in the girls' memories clearly.
Well, except Johnny.
Ignoring his confusion, Blossom had the most outward reaction to this alert, realizing who this ship belonged to and remembering her duties instantly. Her sisters followed soon after. "Yeah, they definitely need our help! Okay, girls, we gotta go!"
"Not yet, Blossom." Dexter calmly responded, causing the three to halt in their steps. He quickly moved towards the file cabinets underneath his desk. He had succeeded in catching their attention right before they could fly away, and he knew that they would need what he had to offer. Finding the right drawer, he tapped and activated another holographic display on the cabinet's glass finish, opening the section he needed. What he pulled out looked similar to NanoComs, but something was clearly different enough about them to make Dexter offer them to the girls.
"Prototypes for an advanced NanoCom that didn't make it past marketing. They can collect specimen samples using a built in circular vile. If you get the chance, we could use some more samples. The residue on Ben's jacket is not nearly enough."
"That is if we come across any Fusions within the next few hours." Blossom muttered, doubting that outcome, but still preparing herself for what could happen. At this point, anything was a possibility. After all, it was fishy that this crash would happen just as they were unraveling the mystery of the Future. "How long have you had this?" She asked, wondering what the purpose of a meter for specimens would be for a NanoCom.
"A while. I kept it to myself and began using it to my advantage." Dexter responded, sounding slightly disappointed by his product's failure and limited production.
But that wasn't enough information for the pink Powerpuff. "Like what?"
"Such as what I am doing right now." Dexter explained with another tap on the tiny screen. "I just paired all three of your nervous-system nanites to Dexlabs systems. We shall be able to monitor your progress, record data, and inform you for battle."
As opposed to a quiet concurrence, Dexter instead was faced with aggravated glares. Buttercup's arms loosened from her initial cross, Bubbles' mouth slowly opened like a drawbridge, and Blossom widened her eyes in bewilderment.
It didn't make her a genius to address this move by Dexter. "T-THAT is a HUGE invasion of privacy-"
"We are on the clock." The scientist said bluntly. "If these are indeed those same creatures from 5 years ago that Ben and Otto speak of, let alone something far more powerful, having "eyes and ears" – as the expression goes – will certainly work to your advantage."
With a reluctant sigh, Blossom saw no other choice. This was the only way they could properly coordinate and beat the fusions at their own game.
"We're talking about this later." Blossom said, shaking her finger with minute contempt. Bubbles and Buttercup were already up in the air, shattering even more expensive windows. Blossom hovered up to join her sisters in the air, but not before Dexter told her something else before she left.
"One final thing."
"Remain vigilant." He said. "We have yet to determine how much these creatures have evolved since 5 years ago."
Blossom rolled her eyes ever so slightly. "Is that your best way to say 'stay safe'?" She said with a grin.
"Well that's...uh, genuine...yeah, we definitely need to work on your smalltalk...and your sense of personal space..." She said as she rocketed into the sky. She began focusing on the problem at hand immediately, and she knew that they had to get there before Providence could.
The Kids Next Door were in trouble.
MID-AIR - APPROACHING TOWNSVILLE PARK
"Number Five, I'm still not sure we'll be out of trouble!" Three told Five, hoping she would calm down with her disregard of authority. Usually Five didn't act so rebellious, and when she did it wasn't actively threatening to get others in trouble.
"It's a rescue op, Kuki! Numbuh Five ain't afraid of any trouble!"
"I know, I meant trouble from high command!"
"High command better kiss my boots after this one, 'cause we ain't leaving anybody behind to die!" Five finished, leaning forward and recognizing that familiar cityscape.
The city of Townsville was just ahead, and with a densely populated area, Five knew they had to hide quickly. 2x4 tech hadn't advanced to make cloaking mechanisms for ships, which also served as a secondary reason for operating in space. Five began climbing up the sky, moving upwards even faster than if they dive-bombed downwards. Five, keeping her cool, didn't mind the sudden jump in the air, but her current partner was less than satisfied.
"Why do we keep doing that?!" Three asked weakly. Every time they took that way it made her so queasy.
"Meh, it's fun?" she told Three, before a set of beeps alerted her back to the operation. "'Kay, we're comin' in on their lo...cation..." she slurred as she looked up and gazed beyond the glass screen. At that point, Five realized that they didn't need the tracker at all...because there was smoke rising above the clouds. The black vapor was large enough to break through the white puffs of water below it, and continued to rise up from its point of origin.
At that point, Five ditched her NanoCom's tracker, and impulsively made the descent – or rather drop – down.
"Wait, WAIT! ABBY WAAAIIIIIITTT!"
The metal that rested on him was almost searing Two, let alone cutting him in half. It took everything he had to even move his head a few centimeters to the right. Even then, he couldn't see much outside, but despite that limiting factor he could tell when people were taking pictures, and he kept feeling those bright flashes all around him. He didn't notice it at first, but he could also hear more clamoring and commotion from the outside of the hull.
It hit him almost immediately. They were surrounded by adults.
Adults with NanoComs.
They just exposed the organization's greatest secret. There was no going back at this point, as everything they had been doing in the last two days just went to waste. One thing was for sure though...
Number 274 was going to gut him like a fish.
But at least for now he was alive. He didn't know about One and Four, though, but how could they die so easily if he managed to survive?
Moreover, he felt it was nothing short of luck when the secondary propulsion rockets were able to cushion their fall by a little. It did reduce much of the damage, and otherwise they'd be very much dead, or worse he'd get massive cuts on his fingers (he'd never wish that fate on anybody, not even the Delightful Children). It was just not so lucky that those rockets shorted out soon after they reached city level.
But whatever happened to get them crashing to Earth (and luckily for them, closer to home and within the states), he knew it wasn't over just yet.
Despite that inevitability, their chances of 'not being over' seemed less likely...
Two continued trying to lift the metal, with what little muscle he had yet with what strength he had from his mass, the metal just would not budge. He tried pushing himself away from the He grew more frustrated as his continued tries only led to continued failures; the metal just would not budge.
He heard the sound of another S.C.A.M.P.E.R, accompanied by two girls shouting in realization; what it was that they realized, he couldn't tell. But he could hear someone trying to climb up the scrap-metal. Multiple stomps across the metal moved up and down; it was in frantic motion, as if the stomper was searching. Despite being blind to their position, the stomper made her voice heard in the vain attempt to gain their attention.
"Hang in there, guys!" she shouted reassuringly – but aimlessly – into the damaged hull, expecting a response from the only open hole. At that moment, disoriented or not, Two finally figured out who had come to his daring rescue.
But the better question was who was guarding Sector V?
He could hear Number Five trying to move some of the smaller bits of rubble, trying to get a visual. He heard a loud cough soon after, probably coming from the clouds of smoke to rise and blind her. He could tell that Five was still trying to move through, though unable to see them, and probably knowing that he couldn't see her. Though surely she could recognize his voice, even if the smoke was as helpful as the people surrounding the crash-site.
Two could tell though that the smoke was an even worse sign than it seemed. With smoke usually comes a fire, and if he ever payed attention in Chemistry class, he knew the longer he and the others stayed stuck, the more carbon monoxide would suffocate them. Or worse, the fire would find its way elsewhere and torch them alive. Not willing to go out so easily, Two made one more futile attempt to mode in spite of the massive hull weighing him down. But such movement, just as he collapsed back under the metal in fatigue, made him cough from the mere movement of his lungs.
Luckily, that was all it took to get Five to search in the right area.
He could hear more rummaging in the metal above him, along with several paces and footsteps. Five was trying and failing to find the three. Two knew to begin speaking. He had to if he wanted to be saved. His lungs still a bit weak from the smoke, he built up enough energy to start coughing again. The continued coughing was loud enough to signal her, and enough to let him speak.
"Hey...down here..." he shouted, drawing Five's attention further to the right spot.
"Numbuh Two! You're okay!" Five realized, shouting into the rubble blindly. "Ar-are you okay?"
Two, despite feigning sarcasm, was more than "I don't know...oh...well, one's thing's for sure though..."
"What? What's wrong?!"
"Whatever...little acrophobia I had...just got taken to new heights."
And with that, whatever tension and fear Five felt vanished. She turned around to inform Three. "Yep. He's okay!"
Three gave her own belated sigh before giggling a bit. "How okay are we talking?"
"Not sure, Three. He just made another bad pun."
"Worse than usual?"
"Eh, give or take." Five reported, the previous sense of dread almost completely escaping her.
Suddenly, an explosion of flames engulfed the back of the S.C.A.M.P.E.R's remains, expanding and growing larger at an immeasurable rate; and as if the dread hadn't even left her, Five was already panicking and stressing out.
"Hurry, Five, we're kinda getting...pressed for time..."
"For god's sake, SHUT UP!" Five said while chuckling. She really wasn't appreciating how Two was joking while in imminent danger. "Three! Get the tow hook!" She shouted, to which Three nodded and returned to the undamaged S.C.A.M.P.E.R, readying the systems and preparing the shuttle's front hook to get that giant bed of metal off her friends.
"Hang tight, Numbuh Two!" Five told him through the rubble, her confidence slipping out of her like sand from a firm grip. "If you make a pun about-"
"I won't..." Two didn't really share her sense of worry, keeping himself entertained with the thing he was best at doing, "...but no time like your deathbed, right?" he asked with a sly smirk.
"Like that'll ever happen." Five murmured to herself, before focusing back on the metal. "C'mon, Two, work with us! Push up!"
"Whaddya think I've been tryin' to do-ACK! AAAGGH!" Two howled in pain, agonizing over something that was clearly interfering with a safe rescue, something that neither he nor they had expected. Five immediately let go of her grip upon hearing it. Recognizing where the pain was coming from, Two looked down and turned his head to the left, trying to find whatever was poking him too hard. The pain had felt like a knife-stab, though unlike the quickness and the shock of that, he could feel a much slower pain, as if it was digging further into his skin. Finally getting a visual, Two found the issue.
There was a piece of the wood floor that got itself caught in one of the hull's punctures. It was at a downward slope, so when Five had pushed up, it had lifted itself towards Two's abdomen, already puncturing the skin.
But they had no time to deal with it. The flames were getting larger, and the smoke was building up. One and Four were still unconscious by the opposite corners of the S.C.A.M.P.E.R's deck. Three was rushing to attach the tow hook to the metal, but without any visual of where she could plant it, she was left in a terrified and frantic state of confusion.
"I can't find the others!" Three panicked. "I can't even find a good place to use this on!"
"Well hurry! Something's gonna stab me!" Two's distress didn't quell either.
"We can't do anything about that, Hoagie!" Five shouted back. "Gotta keep pushing! Come on!" She began again, grunting and grinding her teeth as Two tried keeping back the howls of pain. He squinted his eyes to the point where the eyelids overlapped each other, still trying to endure his injury. He kept pushing up. He pushed up as hard as he could.
But as Five took rest, so did he. The metal was just too heavy for either of them to lift. They were both panting.
Then he heard a thunderclap, which was...odd; it didn't look like it was going to rain.
"Five! What was that?" He asked blindly.
But Five herself was too distracted by whatever it was. "What the..."
"What? Are there more ships?!"
Five was both relieved and disappointed at the actual help that had arrived; she had hoped that there would be at least another squad with any of their magnetic gadgetry, but that would have just deprived more sectors of their defenses. However, another squad would only undo their secrecy far more than it already had been. The help that arrived would definitely be more efficient...
But what kind of superhero didn't report anything to the cops?
Five could see from miles away in the sky a brilliant pink light moving with a sonic boom, and hastily slowing down upon arrival. Her great strides of wind did the impossible and blew away the shards of shrapnel like they were stocks of styrofoam, moving wreckage off of his body as if the metal were mere tissue napkins; Two stared at the remains of the S.C.A.M.P.E.R that he had once been trapped under, absolutely dumbfounded. Dumbfounded to the point where he didn't realize that he was being lifted up in the air.
He just got saved...by the Powerpuff Girls.
And he...was having deja vu.
Blossom, commander and leader, didn't bother waiting to talk to him. Meeting people who she hadn't met in a long time always did make her feel unusually joyful. "Hey there, Hoagie!" Blossom greeted cheerfully, "'This sure does feel familiar, don't it?"
"A-Are there still three of you?"
"Always." she said reassuringly, continuing to bear an extremely positive smile, calm as ever even as her two sisters zoomed right past her at their top speed. Two, feeling the gusts of wind from their mere arrival, had to protect his face from being ripped off. He did not, however, remain in one place as the force of their speed and wind was enough to carry his entire body upwards. He squealed in fear accordingly.
"EEP!" He squealed as he was mid-air, "HOLY HELL..."
"Relax, I've still got you." Blossom reassured. Hovering a little longer to wait for her sisters, Blossom slowly made her descent onto the ground, letting go of Two as gently as possible so as not to drop him from a dangerous height. "'Kay, gotta go now!" She ran with her great speed to help her sisters, with Two hearing the distinct sounds of laser-vision and metal creaking, as well as seeing a gust of frosty air extinguish the growing fire at the ship's caboose.
And like that, Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup ran outside at the same speed, carrying Number Four and Number One unconscious on their backs. They set the two operatives down, revealing the damage the crash had done to them, aside from the multiple scorch marks and somewhat-burnt clothing. Number Three dropped the tow hook immediately and rushed with a ready med-kit, examining their commanding officer closely. One suffered a massive gash on his bicep, with his kevlar tactical vest protecting his chest from any external harm. It was rather surprising that One would be so lucky as to come out with only a gash on his-
"Be careful with him, he's got 3 broken ribs: 1 on his left side around his collarbone, and 2 around this area," Bubbles advised to Three, using her X-Ray vision.
Oh...so, not, then...
Number Four, on the other hand, appeared to be bleeding from the head, and when Buttercup opened his eyes, the irritated and warm-red sclera in his eyes made it clear that Four was suffering from a concussion. He had to hand it to Wally, though. Imagine surviving a crash landing from space and only coming out with a concussion. Knowing what to do without any prompting, Buttercup rushed to the S.C.A.M.P.E.R to drop him off. Remembering all those times that her sisters told her to measure her strength, Buttercup slowly laid him down on the oakwood floor of the deck. Using her own X-Ray vision, she looked out for any internal damage in Four that would be of concern. Luckily for Wally, there were no issues compared to One's.
As the Powerpuff Girls were making quick work of the situation, Five stood there just as dumbfounded. While she had seen the girls before on television, she found herself speechless when the long forgotten memories flooded back into her brain. When Blossom went to greet her, Five beat her to it. "Um...hi?" She began awkwardly, unsure of how to greet them after staying mostly separate after so many years. They had a few encounters here and there, but direct involvement? Barely. Five began to wonder why they had stayed separate for so long, especially since they not only were so much closer, but the girls were giving real adult criminals a good reason not to mess with kids. They could have teamed up in so many battles from the last 5 years.
"Yeah, we missed you too...though we did kinda forget you existed. Sorry about that..." the pink Powerpuff admitted with candor and humility, "and yeah, this is a bit of a coincidence."
Buttercup, however, was a little more unsatisfied with that small-talk. "Hey, how'd they get here before us?! Aren't we supposed to be faster than a bullet?!"
"Speeding bullet, yeah," said Blossom, correcting Buttercup for the umpteenth time (the number of times she forgot the right jargon for this stuff baffled her), "but that's not important right now."
"And not comin' faster isn't?" Five retorted, much to Buttercup's silent temper, before going into her explanation. "We got a security breach in the KND, and our entire communications system's gettin' taken out. So we switched to these NanoComs, and next thing you know these guys're screaming in terror about some kinda danger. They ordered us to put the entire Sector into lockdown."
"So why...aren't...YOU there, Numbuh Five!?"
All of them turned around in surprise, finding the once comatose Number One to be regaining consciousness. His head tilted up, and he groaned from his previous unconsciousness and "minor" injuries. Although that didn't stop him from overreacting to Five's disregard of orders. "We ordered you to protect the treehouse!"
"Right, 'cause rescue hasn't ever been a big deal before!" Five protested angrily, treating One's recovery as nothing out of the ordinary. She would never get used to One's devout following of KND protocol. Frankly, she thought that if everything in the KND was going to go 'by the book', they might as well have surrendered to those rule-fixated adults.
"So who's handling the Sector?"
"Numbuh Six..." she revealed, only evoking a horrified face from One, "I...gave the kid a shot..."
"So you though it would be a good idea to let Bradley take command of the entirety of Sector V?"
"Well...'was more like the Treehouse than the Sector...when we were tellin' him anyway." Five admitted. "Besides, would Numbuh Five do somethin' so stupid...without thinkin' 'bout it herself?"
SECTOR V TREEHOUSE - COMMAND CENTER
"OUR WEAPONS ARE USELESS! GAS MASKS ARE COMPROMISED! I CAN'T...MAKE...CONTACT...EUAACK!"
"I CAN'T FEEL MY NOSE! THE SPRAY TOOK AWAY MY NOSE!"
"WHO THE HELL LEFT THAT DANG SKUNK IN CHARGE ANYWAY?!"
Five hated lying. She wasn't anymore confident in her decision than One was. Any break in her coolness, though, and she'd be skinned for her lapse in judgement. "Honestly, Numbuh One, your faith in the lil' guy is the size of a god-dang bean." she said with butterflies in her stomach. She knew that when they'd get back to the treehouse, they'd only be coming back to Six's mess, and One would probably still have Five's head.
"Figures..." Two retorted, genuinely agreeing with Five's words.
"For good reason, Numbuh Five!" One retorted.
"You take that back about Bradley!"
"Numbuh Three, we have been OVER this–"
"'Over this' my oversized mecha!"
As the Kids Next Door kept on arguing, the Powerpuff Girls watched from afar with a raised eyebrow. They concurred on the stance that, because they were sisters, there was an art to bickering. But their bickering wasn't even impressive, it was just getting tedious.
"Do we ever fight this much?"
Slowly, Blossom and Bubbles turned to face their sister, both of them raising an eyebrow and baring glares of disbelief, as if it needed to be said that Buttercup was flat out lying about that.
SIYENN CITY - TECH SQUARE - DEXLABS HEADQUARTERS
"What? We are pretty chill, right?"
It did not take much effort for Dexter to tell when one was lying, nor did it make much difference to him unless he felt directly impacted. He wouldn't have known here, though, as Dexter was tuned out from the Powerpuff Girls' audio feed. All that he cared about was that they had saved the Kids Next Door from death yet again, and that they'd be arriving back to help in his laboratory shortly. What he had found annoying, however, was how quickly his new associates distracted themselves from the task at hand. The longer they spent arguing and doing nothing, the less time they had to prep for the fusions.
And yet no one shared his view. He couldn't comprehend the others' sense of priority when they were faced with annihilation on such a scale. It evoked a strong feeling of frustration within him, and the brisk pace of everything certainly wasn't helping either.
"I really must wonder how I have not lost my sanity within the last three days." Dexter mumbled to himself. Amidst all these different and diverse people – three metahuman sisters, a time-travelling Samurai, an alien superhero, a random assortment of children from the Cleveland suburbs, and another random kid from Canada – the screws holding together his brain seemed closer and closer to spinning out and unwinding. Then of course came the point when they all tried convincing him of a future that, for all he knew, wasn't a definite possibility.
At least, despite the insanity coming closer, the time-travelling Samurai spoke sense. Dexter could hear his footsteps coming closer, the click of each sandal against the floor intimidating yet reassuring. Jack spoke to the boy genius softly, looking directly at the monitor ahead.
"How goes your progress?" He asked.
"Evidently stalled until further notice from the girls, as well as awaiting multiple reports. To summarize, it has been unusually quiet."
"Is that not a good thing?"
"Under normal circumstances I would say so as well, but I have spectrometers outfitted with geiger counters and vibrational mapping to keep my eyes as open as possible. This is in the likelihood that this rescue had something to do with the invasion." Dexter theorized, "But apparently my hypothesis was incorrect, hence my impatience for them to return."
"From my experience, nothing is as quiet as it seems." Jack told him consciously, playing the pulpiteer as always. "We have yet to find out why they crash-landed from the sky."
[Your concern is not necessary, Mr. Yamashiro; Diagnostic Scan: 68% completed]
Jack serenely turned to Dexter, impressed with this level of preparedness. He hadn't expected the young scientist to be as forward-thinking as he thought, especially with his previous argument with the Powerpuff Girls. It made the Samurai think, what more could he have known all along? "You plan for everything." he quietly spoke.
"More than you could possibly imagine, with all due respect."
Jack decided it wasn't worth leaving in the dark, and continued asking questions. "If you know so much, and consider more than you are believed to, then why put on this act?"
"A question for another time, unfortunately." Dexter told him. "More importantly, I had asked Computress to start running it the moment our allies completed the rescue operation. I have these spectrometers scattered across the tri-state area (complete with geiger counters if necessary), implementing them into common street appliances. We should have–"
"Convenient." Dexter spoke with pride, as if the speed of his operations ever needed to be addressed. Dexter squinted behind his glasses, also biting his lower lip as if keeping himself from smiling. He moved backward to operate the control panel and began typing away.
As he reviewed Computress's analysis, he began paying attention to smaller details, noticing one such area approximately two meters away from the girls, specifically around the destroyed S.C.A.M.P.E.R. He continued examining it, the synths and beeps of the holographic keyboard opening files at an almost inhuman speed.
Dexter knew how, though. The nanites within his brain were monitoring the corpus callosum and interfacing with the brain stem, upgrading his regular thinking processes. Each extra push the nanites gave his already extraordinary brain pushed him further into this mystery. Each one felt like an echo, distant and slight, yet loud and insightful as he followed each avenue.
But none of them needed to tell him that something looked off about his current scans.
"Wait..." he mumbled, "there appears to be another signal."
"You mean another life-form?" Jack asked quizzically. "How can you tell?"
"Well, to be truthful, I cannot." Dexter explained. "The life-form I am tracing is too small and simple to be picked up by my monitors. But look at the surrounding areas pertaining to the various near-by lifeforms. We have all three Powerpuff Girls and five Kids Next Door operatives, as well as the surrounding populace and foliage. They all have nanite signatures that Computress compiles and cross-references for another scan...singling out the anomaly."
"That feels like it's over-doing it."
Turning around, having not expected such an obtuse reaction, Dexter faced Johnny with an arrogant glare. "Excuse me?"
"I mean, if it's screwin' with your stuff, it's totally not human." Johnny replied, trying his best to contribute, despite knowing he was severely outclassed here.
"Firstly, where are your sisters?"
"They're scanning some weird gravity stuff around that park." Johnny explained.
"I never even saw them leave."
"They have a personal hologram drone." Johnny elaborated. "But what about me? I had a good point, right?"
Much to Johnny's disappointment, his comment wasn't very valuable to Dexter; with a dismissive sigh, the boy genius turned back around to face his monitor. "I refuse to explain why you fail to find a point yet." Dexter monotonously scowled. "Jack, am I missing something deeper here?"
"I'm not sure," said the Samurai with an atonal kindness to his insult, "it would be best to consider his hunch, whether it be incorrect or not." Jack's mere voice brought a larger gravitas to the discussion. It was hard for Dexter to resist following that reasoning.
"Can't argue with gut feelings, dude."
"Please shut him up before I blow my brains out..."
Jack chuckled. "Well, if I had to endure the pain of the Bagpipes, Dexter, you too must learn to accept your friends for who th––"
Dexter turned to face the wise samurai, but his wisdom did not measure or have to reflect Dexter's patience; the boy genius gave him a scornful scowl that was a signal to Jack, shutting him up effectively, having realized that his dictums were somewhat inappropriate.
And then, unexpectedly, "Fine. I shall act on your "gut feeling", Mr. Test, but only because the Samurai here told me to."
To that, the boy genius could only squint his eyes with the utmost contempt. Out of all the idiots that found their way into his lab, Johnny Test had to be the most unbearable. But it wasn't anything hard to shrug off. It wasn't like Deedee and the number of times she nearly ruined him.
"Perhaps this hunch is not as discourageable." Dexter sheepishly said.
"What is it?"
"Well...what could have provoked Computress to run a secondary scan, much less cross-reference nanite signatures, would be if the anomaly was minuscule. It is minuscule with reference to nanite signatures and infrared sensors." Dexter continued with a dreaded intrigue, and with a few more clicks on the keyboard, the display shifted to a green layout and with a different pattern. "But with reference to irradiation...examine the radiation of the humans, and now look at the anomaly." Pointing towards the area, there was a clear difference between the areas. "Clear signs of ionizing radiation, remaining unchanged despite all other energy signatures reading as stable."
"So it's just another mutant-thing or some EVO."
"And you wonder why I consider you an idiot. You JUST proposed the idea of this being extra-terrestrial." said Dexter. "So I am telling you. No human on this planet, meta-human or EVO, gives off this type of energy signature. It is the energy you would find at a Nuclear Plant, or the depths of space."
"And now...patterns are beginning to align." Jack realized in horror, though to Johnny's confusion. "Ben had told you that the aliens he encountered in the future adapted to the Earth. And here, this life form is adapting to the environment just as he said the fusions could."
"...without degrading its own biological footprint. It's accumulating to our environment." Dexter concurred in fear, eyes widening past his goggles' frame. Turning back to the screen, he knew exactly what was happening. "Oh no..."
[Alert! Alert!] Computress rang through the intercoms once again, with unfortunate news to worsen the situation. [Unknown projectile : approaching atmosphere]
"Oh, that cannot be good at all..."
A calm had descended upon the Park field. The members of Sector V stopped arguing for a moment, trying to catch their breath. But Number Two was the most frightened of them all. After Number Three had patched up the wound to his abdomen, he began pacing back and forth, muttering things at a volume only someone with super-hearing could pick up. Blossom caught a few words and phrases, such as "should I tell them" or "what's gonna happen". She paid no attention to it, though. She was a little more focused on melting the now-frozen wreckage of the S.C.A.M.P.E.R, as Number One had told them they needed the parts back for repair. How they were going to repair this pile of junk was beyond her.
She saw Bubbles approaching the more traumatized members of the group with a gleaming smile, reassuring them with positive thoughts while Buttercup remained high in the air, watching over them. But Two, One, and Four weren't willing to calm down. They had the most terrified looks on their faces. One's eyes were so wide they were peaking outside his signature ray-bans. Four remained somewhat dizzy from the apparent concussion. But Number Two looked like he had crawled out of Him's lair itself. A suspicion grew in her mind...
...A suspicion interrupted by a very urgent bell ringing; Dexter was trying to contact them. As soon as the other two Powerpuffs heard it, they flew towards each other, convening to hear the message.
"Blossom! You need to evacuate the area immediately!" Dexter spoke with a frightening urgency.
"We will as soon as we can confirm the KND are okay. There's a lot of people out here taking pictures..."
"Forget the pictures!" He shouted. "A meteor is headed for your location, and there's another faint life signature present! It's–"
Inexplicably, the comms began screeching with loud static, making Blossom wince. Her superhuman hearing only made things worse when it was so close to her eardrums. Bubbles and Buttercup were sharing her sense of shock. Clearly something was coming, but from the sound of it...it was already here.
"It's one of them, isn't it?"
"Well, I need confirmation before I can-."
"It's ionized." Dexter was able to tell her just before the comms returned to static.
"Thanks, Dex." She thanked him, not needing any other explanation. It was them, and soon after that she began shouting as loud as she could. Sharing a glance with her sisters, they each nodded and knew what they had to do. Bubbles returned to the ground and ran towards the KND, while Buttercup joined her sister as they skirted in streams of light across Townsville Park to alert the civilians.
Blossom stopped immediately in the air and began warning everyone. "Okay, everybody move out! This area needs to be quarantined and evacuated!"
None of the citizens of Townsville wanted to listen, though. Some of them took pictures of the two girls in mid-air, but most of them started murmuring and whispering amongst each other. The majority of them were a little too focused elsewhere.
"They're not listening..." Blossom lamented.
"Gee, wonder why..." Buttercup sarcastically remarked, gazing at the remains of the S.C.A.M.P.E.R. The citizens of Townsville were clearly entranced by the action and the destruction, like moths to a flame. Buttercup rolled her eyes, confused by their city's addiction to violence; and they wonder why insurance rates are so high here, she thought. "Dexter said he detected a fusion around us?"
"Then there's no time to lose. We have to find it now!" Buttercup raced back to the wreckage and stretched her hands, getting ready for a fight.
"We'll worry about the meteor later!" Blossom said, agreeing with her sister, following her back.
As the grass blurred underneath them, they were quickly approaching the half-melted ice encasing the shuttle. Minutes became seconds as they were nearly there. They could feel the frosty temperature of the glacier Blossom had made.
But it didn't last.
As soon as they made it back, the S.C.A.M.P.E.R. exploded with a blazing roar. It caught all three Powerpuffs and all five KND operatives off-guard. Blossom and Buttercup attempted to balance themselves in mid-air, but were quickly thrown back by the force of the explosion. Chunks of ice flew everywhere as all the heroes looked in shock. Luckily, the citizens finally took a hint and began scattering screaming bloody murder. An explosion finally did the trick.
Blossom was the most confused, however. She was positive she put out all the flames and removed all hazardous material. It was covered in ICE for crying out loud. How did it still explode?!
Number Two was also just as much in shock. His day had been one horror movie after another, and all this could spell was worse things to come. He really looked forward to repairing that S.C.A.M.P.E.R. But out of the corner of his eye, he saw something far more terrifying. All the panicked pacing that had come before ceased as his body petrified itself with fear.
A green amorphous blob was stretching and rolling across the grass, bubbling and convulsing. And it was headed for the next S.C.A.M.P.E.R.
As Two stumbled back in terror, the others began to take note of the creature that was spawning behind them. One and Four tensed up, Five and Three looked with confusion, but the Powerpuff Girls each glared and floated in the air, battle ready, fists up, and ready to jump it at the speed of sound if necessary.
And the blob did not disappoint as it morphed into a familiar but just as nightmarish creature with glowing red eyes and a jagged mouth, which opened wide as though it was yawning...or trying to roar. An arrowed tail protruded from its backside and leaned forward like a scorpion's stinger. It vomited more of the green goo which they had come to know as fusion matter, according to Ben and Otto's story. The spawn hissed, shrieked, and writhed in rage as it shot glances to everyone in front of it. It finally set sights on Bubbles, who was the least ready of the three superpowered heroines. With a growl and a cough...
...it lunged at her.
Just as it did and just as her sister squealed, Buttercup shot the fusion spawn with a powerful ray of heat vision. She did not let up until the spawn was properly disintegrated, wanting no trace of it left. Nothing would dare harm her sisters, not as long as she breathed and kicked ass. When the spawn finally dispersed and remained on the ground, it took a while for her beams to stop, and when they did it left a small smoldering crater in the ground.
The toughest fighter of the three softly panted as the glow in her eyes faded away. She had to store a lot of energy into that blast, it almost exhausted her. She closed her eyes and shook her head, and breathed out in relief.
But no one there expected it to be that simple. They still had a meteor to take care of.
"That's not the end of it, right?" Bubbles asked. No one could answer. "Yeah, I didn't think so..."
Dexter was in overdrive mode, a state of stress and quick thinking that he couldn't normally afford given his line of work. But it had to be done. He was furiously typing away on the large computer's keyboard, mapping out the trajectory of the incoming meteor, cross-referencing as much data from his satellites as he could. If he was reading them right, then the situation only got worse.
However impossible it seemed, it appeared that one dot tracking a meteor had become three.
His eyes widened, and his goggles flexed to meet the same expression. A drop of sweat that rolled down his face wouldn't accurately describe the flood of exhaustion Dexter faced by this revelation. There were now three meteors of identical radiological readings headed for three separate locations across the tri-state area. The original that was still heading to Townsville Park, the second that was heading to Sector V's treehouse in Bellwood's Gallagher Commons, and a third one heading for...
...A third one heading for Tech Square.
These three locations were each associated to the heroes and himself. It could not be a mere coincidence, Dexter thought, the hive mind that Ben was referring to and the mastermind behind it all was clearly responsible. But how could it know? It hadn't made contact with Earth yet. Suddenly, In the corner of his eye, he saw that the extra life signal that he had found had vanished. Without any hesitation, he opened a call to Blossom.
"Powerpuff Girls! Do you read me?"
"Loud and clear. We exterminated a stowaway fusion spawn, and we're all getting ready for the meteor."
"BATTLE STATIONS!" said someone in the background noise of the call.
"What is it?" Blossom asked.
"Not good news, unfortunately." The boy genius admitted. "I have detected two more objects fast-approaching; they are giving off the same readings as the meteor approaching your team in Townsville. But they're arriving in separate locations."
"So much for doubting Ben's story."
"For the last time, it was not doubt!" Dexter argued adamantly, "I am calling to ask for assistance. One of those areas is here in Tech Square. Can you spare any of your sisters to help us?"
"I wish I could. But Townsville needs our protection now more than ever, and I don't know if one Powerpuff and a couple of non-superpowered teenagers will be enough to handle these things. Buttercup was only able to take out one, but there's strength in numbers. If those Terrafusers are more powerful than what we experienced..."
"I understand. Inform Sector V that one of the projected target areas is in Gallagher Commons. Their sector will need some of them."
"On it. They should be able to spare a few of their own. But what about you? Is Ben getting better?"
"His treatment has a few minutes left." Dexter informed her. As illogical as it seemed, he was beginning to understand why Buttercup was upset about the treatment period. If only he had been more careful, they could mount a better defense in front of Dexlabs. Another idea had crossed his mind, but he hadn't properly considered it until now. "Blossom, do you think it is a good idea to let the Test brother help?"
"That's up to you. You sorta implied he reminded you of Deedee, but if you think he can be useful, then make him useful. But if anyone can help right now, it's Jack." Blossom responded. "I have to go now; Bubbles is back from scouting. I'll tell the KND."
"Copy that." Dexter relayed, ending the call. He returned to the original question he had. How could the fusions know to target locations of disturbance? How could it know to target these places connected to people fighting against them? He quickly realized that the Terrafusers were acting on memory. One was headed to Townsville because the fusion spawn that had stowed away on the S.C.A.M.P.E.R. had led it there. One was headed to Sector V based on what they had learned about us in 2009, most likely taking advantage of a less-than battle ready KND sector. One must've headed here because of...
...because of the trace amounts of residue in Ben and Otto's clothing.
He really should have put those clothes in the laundry.
Jack approached the boy genius upon this realization, holding his katana close to his leg. "So, they are coming here."
Comically contrasting Jack's slower pace, the hyperactive Johnny Test zoomed by the console. "Who's coming? I can get party snacks."
"Indeed they are. We seem to have their attention." Dexter said. "They each have a separate trajectory, and I am hoping that some of the KND operatives the girls rescued will be able to make it in time to their treehouse. Luckily for us, one of them is to come to Tech Square in approximately 20 minu–"
Just then, a thunderous boom was heard outside the walls of the lab. Luckily for Dexter, the impact radius was extremely minimal. Regardless, the three of them stood petrified with dread. They all knew exactly what just happened.
The Terrafuser stood outside the glass panels of the Dexlabs headquarters. Squirming, pulsating, wriggling, and glowing green as the tentacles beneath this egg began seeping and penetrating the concrete sidewalk. It was just across the road, in front of a fountain separating Dexlabs and Mandark Industries.
At this point, Dexter contemplated calling his rival for help, assuming Mandark even noticed the egg. He wishes he could tell him this is all technically his fault.
All three heroes were locked into a staring contest with the Terrafuser, refusing to move a muscle until something happened. They couldn't predict what was to come, and it left each of them terrified.
"So more...fusions?" asked Johnny rhetorically.
Well, almost everyone.
"More fusions." Dexter confirmed. "The invasion has begun..."
Johnny nodded his head with an overdramatic jaw-drop. "I'm nodding my head to look like I know what that means, 'cause I've really been half-listening this entire time, sooooo..." He began blowing some gum as he kept his cool.
Dexter huffed in mild frustration. An annoying sibling was the least of his worries at that moment (or where he got chewing gum), but as Johnny rambled, he came to regret even thinking of keeping him around for the sake of his mutant powers. What was more unexpected though, were the sound of quiet footsteps from behind. Dexter and Jack each spun around in fear, Jack reaching for his katana, Dexter stumbling backward, and Johnny being unfazed by the whole thing, keeping watch on the Terrafuser.
It was Otto, with a half-complete Larry 3000 chasis in one hand, and a handful of wires and circuitry in the other. He looked positively cheerful.
"Hey guys!" He greeted with his usual optimism. "Say, I was kinda wondering, Dexter; I need a micro-transformer to link to Larry's limb joints, and I was wondering if you had any to...to...to spare..." Otto spoke, growing distracted by the end of his inquiry, and soon enough he was downright terrified upon sight of the Terrafuser. Trauma was washing over him in crashing and thrashing waves, each one more concussive than the last.
Soon after, Johnny spoke up, still chewing some of the gum. "Hey guys? Is the green egg supposed to do that?" He remained as oblivious as ever.
Turning back around, Dexter saw that the Terrafuser was indeed beginning to generate fusion spawns. They were wriggling out of the pulsating tumors like balls going through a net, extending their jagged jaws and shrieking in primal rage as they dropped out, frightening all the surrounding bystanders.
"Yes, it is supposed to do that. Now get somewhere safe!" Dexter shouted, and Johnny shrugged and walked to somewhere safe. "I shall try to lock the walls down, but I cannot say how long they will hold." He exclaimed. Otto remained petrified, but Jack found himself at a crossroads.
He touched his scar with a faint feeling of fear, the mark of his failure haunted him even to this moment. He still held himself responsible for Ashi's death...or non-existence. What Buttercup said to him still rang true, but in the slightest iota of fear and self-doubt, he could feel the past clawing at him. And now the future stared back at him, promising no better way out. He thought back to the love of his life, and all the fear and hope that came with. He thought about the cherry blossom tree that he could almost picture them laying underneath; they would have laughed, cried, had children, grown old, and be remembered for all of time.
With a sorrowful sigh, he very gently let it go.
His mission was set anew, and he would not fail the future. Just as he had done all those years ago, he remembered the future was still worth the fight. Ashi gave him that hope, and the future would remain worth it all, even in the face of apocalypse...a face of many that he stared into at that very moment.
He stood up without anymore regret, and began planning out an offensive plan. He knew his feelings to be ghosts of the past, and that he was no ordinary Samurai. He wondered at this instant if he had been present in this future that Ben spoke of. He wondered if him preventing Aku's rule lead to such a future. No matter what the case was, he was here to change things for the better.
"Then the time has come for battle." Jack proudly claimed, though his voice lacked any passion. He knew what he had to do as he walked out of the lab, his right hand slowly reaching for his katana's hilt, and unsheathing it in its brilliant and luminescent glory. He stepped toward the glass doors, looking back to see Dexter frozen in place with the lockdown command half-typed. He smirked, offering a bounty of reassurance with such a small expression of hope. He only said one final thing before leaving.
"Wait, Sector V is a target?!" One exclaimed in shock, standing up almost immediately.
Blossom nodded back. "That's what Dexter said. But he wants you guys to split up; a few of you take your S.C.A.M.P.E.R. and go back home as soon as you can before the Terrafuser lands." Blossom reasoned to Number One, "They need their leaders."
"Let Bradley take care of it!" Five argued. "We've got lots of operatives holed up in the treehouse. Numbuh Five sayin' we can help here!"
"From what I can tell, "Bradley" sounds like a rookie. You really shouldn't risk having him in command right now."
"You underestimating kids, Powerpuff?!"
"I'm telling you to be strategical and help your operatives since you have the chance." Blossom told her back. "More importantly, Providence is on their way; they sent out an envoy minutes ago and should be showing up at any moment. If they catch all of you here, your cover is blown and the KND is finished. If all of you stay here too long, someone's going to notice."
"We've already exposed ourselves for too long." Two said. "Those communication issues we had led to us using a NanoCom channel as a replacement. We went public hours ago, so Providence coming here can't scare us away."
"It'll give them more incentive to hijack your new channel, and it'll get all of you decommissioned way faster. At least if you're in smaller numbers and without your ship, you can pose as a couple of new vigilantes." Blossom argued. "It may be your only option until things get better, not just for your image but for our city and your sector."
"...damnit" Five muttered under her breath.
"Precisely my point!" One exclaimed. "Let the superheroes manage their own turf, we have to return to ours before it's too late!"
"It'd be nice to see if they're okay..." Three quietly said in agreement, nodding her head with the rest of her team.
But before they could figure out who stays behind and who returns to Gallagher Commons, a thunderous boom rose above them. All of the heroes present looked up to see what sort of disturbance this was, and were woefully surprised to see the clouds in the sky lit with a green tint. Each of the Powerpuff Girls began hovering in mid-air; they needed no reminder or confirmation of what was coming.
"Okay, there's our meteor! Everyone, GET READY!" Blossom exclaimed, eyes glowing a dangerous shade of pink. "Nigel, if you're taking anyone with you, do it now!" she said before rocketing into the cloudy sky with Bubbles and Buttercup.
As the girls lifted off, Two and Five turned to their commander with a determined glare. Five adamantly said, "We've gotta stay, Numbuh One; me and Numbuh Two." No more words were said after that. They were a part of this whole thing from the beginning, and they had to try to see it at the end. A tense silence was broken by a huff from their sunglasses-wearing leader. One turned to Three and Four, the former looking anxious to return to Sector V, and the latter still holding his head from the pounding headache. With a deep breath and a race against time, he made a quick decision.
"I understand." One told them, quickly saluting them before boarding the S.C.A.M.P.E.R. "Good luck, operatives." Three hopped in her usual station to check communications, One called shotgun, and Four hopped in the driver's seat and started flying the vessel away towards Sector V, blowing away stray vines and leaves in the grass as it left Townsville Park.
But was it the best idea to have Four pilot the S.C.A.M.P.E.R?
"Didn't Number Four have a concussion?" Two asked.
Just as he said that, the engine sputtered a little; it looked like the ship was almost about to crash.
"Yeah...that was a bad idea." Five said as the S.C.A.M.P.E.R's direction curved and flopped a little bit before thrusting away. "A really bad idea." She added as she pulled out her dual P.0.P. guns (Portable sub-Zero Pistol) from her NanoCom and ran to battle position, with Two following behind as he put on a F.L.A.P.P.U.H. backpack. Two was giddy with excitement as he hustled and catched up to Five, bringing up a familiar conversation.
"Ready to finally play superhero?"
"Again, Hoagie, we're not heroes! We just got caught up in this mess!" Five once again rejected, despite her volunteering just seconds ago.
"Tomato, Tomatoe!" Two shot back. "You're the one who said we should stay!"
"They saved your life, Hoagie, so Numbuh Five owes 'em big time!"
Meanwhile, high in the stratosphere, the girls were racing and flying above and away from the city of Townsville, their colored trails of light not too far behind them. They had heard the Terrafuser enter the atmosphere, and were flying as fast as they could to-
-what's this?! Another thunderclap is heard, and the green light that was slowly growing brighter as the meteor approached the surface...was now beaming in their face. The Terrafuser appeared to have accelerated its speed dramatically, catching the heroines off guard.
"Whoah, that thing really has a mind of its own!"
"Or someone else's mind is controlling it!"
That had Buttercup thinking as she readied her fists for punching. The spawn that she obliterated with her heat vision, while it had disintegrated, never sunk into the grass floor like she had seen them do all those years back. And from what she could hear over the comm, it sounded like the Terrafuser was coming to Townsville precisely because the spawn was already on the ground. What was the connection?
She realized promptly what the issue was. "Mind...someone's mind...A Hive Mind!" Quickly turning around and letting her guard down for a moment, she turned to her sister and leader in haste. "Blossom! The reason that puddle of fusion matter didn't sink into the ground, it needs a hive mind! It needs the terrafusers to go back to!"
"You're right! It's trying to form a network! Then we don't let that meteor touch the ground!" She commanded as she rocketed into the sky.
Buttercup gave a fierce nod, and the moment she turned her head back-
By the time Blossom was high in the Mesosphere, the meteor had finally struck. The meteor struck Buttercup square in the torso as she had let her guard down. Now, the green Powerpuff and the green Terrafuser were heading straight back to square one.
"BUTTERCUP!" Bubbles shouted in shock, while Blossom could only watch in surprise. The blue superheroine was quicker to react, the red-headed leader following shortly after as both Powerpuffs rocketed down to catch the falling star and sister.
The chase was afoot as they moved further away from the atmosphere and outer space, waves of clouds being blown apart by the green meteor and the girls flying through the poofy rings of condensed vapor like lions in a circus show. But the egg was accelerating. It was getting faster and faster, and the girls didn't know if they could catch both in time, to keep their sister from a certain death and the Terrafuser from making first contact with the Earth.
Though behind the large projectile was Buttercup, still conscious and kicking. Also punching, zapping, and using every bit of manpower she had in her muscles to slow the Terrafuser down. She gritted her teeth with anxiety; at this rate she would have collapsed from the sheer amount of force she was putting in and her consequential exhaustion. But she willed herself to stay awake. She had to stop this thing's maneuvering and cushion its descent! Or the Earth would be doomed! She had to save the day on this one, and she had no choice!
Bubbles was thinking differently as the city of Townsville came back into view, and a large green patch of land marking Townsville Park was sure to be the Terrafuser's destination, with Two and Five watching intently, armed and ready. Bubbles was worried that her sister was failing behind the meteor. There would not be a way to remove her or save her from underneath the egg once it bonded to the ground. She admitted to herself that this was all very pessimistic, but as the Park was fast approaching, she was beginning to see no other choice.
"Buttercup, look out!" Bubbles said as she stopped holding herself back. It took years of proper practice to master flight, and as such she and her two fellow crimefighters knew how to maintain a constant speed and when to accelerate. Letting go, Bubbles finally outpaced the Terrafuser and shoved Buttercup out of the way in fear, eyes becoming a little watery. Blossom tried her best to accelerate and catch it, but after being outpaced by the blue one, it immediately adapted and rocketed to the grassy grounds with a BOOM!
The ground shook, knocking the KND operatives off their feet, making them drop their guns, and the two Powerpuffs winced from the shock of the explosion. Blossom was sent flying back, somersaulting in mid-air, and when she stabilized, she looked in horror at what had happened.
As far as they knew now, the invasion would now begin.
Buttercup was less than pleased, shaking off Bubbles support with clear anger. "WHY?! Why'd you save me?! I could've stopped it!" She said as she got up.
But Bubbles wasn't about to defend saving her sister's life. "No! Not at the speed it was going at! You would have been crushed!" Bubbles scolded in retort, her eyes getting glossy with fear and relief. The thought of losing Buttercup would've been too much to bare for her, especially now of all times.
Unfortunately for them, the fusions weren't exactly patient with their bickering. The egg began squirming, pulsating, wriggling, and glowing green. It grossed out everyone as they recovered from the shockwave of the crash. They looked on with dread. They knew what was about to happen. Blossom quickly flew to stand by her sisters and readied her heat vision, Number Five aimed her P.0.P. guns, Two brought out his own F.R.A.P.P.E just as he activated his F.L.A.P.P.U.H, Bubbles and Buttercup began hovering and the grass beneath them was blowing as though in the wind.
And fusion spawns began popping out of the Terrafuser in droves. Thus the battle commenced in a fury of lights, superhuman punches, and artillery rounds. Though in greater detail, regular streams of freeze rays and red-colored mushes of blended acidic food were flying everywhere. The girls leapt into action, igniting their heat vision at everything they could; Buttercup went to kick-box the Terrafuser with every move she knew, while Bubbles and Blossom were taking out every fusion spawn that came into their line of sight. Blossom was just in time firing on a spawn that was just about to bite Number Five's head off. Number Two was doing all he could in the air with the other girls as his F.L.A.P.P.U.H. carried him off the ground, firing the acidic smoothies at the alien vessel of terraforming and destruction. But more spawns were targeting the human operatives.
"Get down!" Blossom screamed, looked around hastily and her eye-beams following as she flew up and took out as many of the spawns surrounding the KND operatives, mentally sighing in relief that she caught them in time. Two saw what Blossom had to do, and landed his F.L.A.P.P.U.H. to assist his fellow KND operative.
But it was clear that our heroes were getting weary quickly. Fighting the endless legions of fusion spawns would not get them anywhere, they all realized. The girls reconvened to hash out a battle strategy.
"That thing just keeps sending them out non-stop! Why?!"
"It's trying to overwhelm us in a first stand. If we win, the spawn rate might subside, but we can't keep this up forever!"
"Especially when we don't know how to win." Bubbles tried to contribute something. All this pessimism wasn't good for her. "What about trying to bottleneck the egg's lymph nodes? To block the spawns from coming out?
"We'd need a powerful reactionary force to make that work!" Blossom said in response, her mind racing to find a solution, and so one already came. She remembered indexing all these plans and strategies when she and her sisters were just beginning their second year of crimefighting. "Let's try Plan A!"
"That is SO not gonna work!" Buttercup objected. She did not like where this was going. "And I know because I do it a lot!"
"I usually don't like brute force, but we have to give it a try! Get ready to ram!" Blossom commanded, and all three girls held hands tightly and firmly. Blossom was hoping that if they could keep the spawns in, the over-stocking of materials and resources could lead to the Terrafuser exploding. It was a dumb idea, for sure, but a few Sherlock Holmes quotes later helped her reason that this was their best chance so far, no matter how flawed it actually was. So with a deep breath, and a calm serene state of mind, they channelled all their rage and raw power into their touching and clenching fists. Surging with pure energy, they accelerated forward and charged at a supersonic speed to keep the spawns inside the Terrafuser.
They were now face-to-face with an ensemble of the enemy. Gritting their teeth, they persisted and grunted as they pushed with a combined effort, letting loose their heat vision to give them an extra advantage. It was like trying to play a deadly version of Whack-A-Mole; the "moles" continued manifesting at a considerable speed, shrieking their non-existent lungs out with an inhuman cry, only to be shoved back in by a Powerpuff Girl matching the speed at which they were spawning.
For a while, the plan seemed to work; with each spawn they returned to the Terrafuser, the lymph nodes were growing brighter and brighter in a slimy green. It was overloading.
But what they didn't expect was for their plan to work in the enemy's favor.
The Terrafuser's glowing reached an optimum level and blew up in the faces of the girls sending them flying and crashing back into the grass of the Park, rolling from the shock and in the dirt as the Terrafuser continued to spawn little creatures in all directions.
A defeat like this, however, didn't stop Buttercup from injecting some of her snark.
"I told you."
"It was worth trying." Blossom said. She was right. It was worth trying.
"Got Plan B? Or Plan R.3? Or any kind of plan?"
"Yeah I got a plan, and I hate it." Blossom said, getting back up and shaking the dirt off of her.
"It's not everyone for themselves, right?"
"This is why I didn't let you write the plan index, Bubbles." Blossom joked. "Everybody, focus on the giant green egg! Take out the spawns as they come, but we need to weaken that terrafuser!"
And thus the girls began to devote their full power to finishing off the spawns. With their full focus now on the pawns, they had no idea how to take out the rook that was the Terrafuser. All they could do in the meantime was avoid them until the spawning-rate lowered for a moment. But even they could not attend to every spawn as they hopped at top speed over to them.
Behind them, the Kids Next Door had been listening in. They had their orders now, and a plan of action, however futile it could turn out to be. Five decided to waste no more time and continued firing.
"Number Five?" Two asked, wanting to see if his friend would follow Blossom's command.
"You heard the Powerpuff!" Five said, not losing the line of fire from her sight, sniping each spawn as it came. "Keep the aliens occupied so the heroes can try to take care of the bigger fish!"
In the wealth of knowledge and memories picked up during his 50-year stay in Aku's future, he could not properly recall a moment where he had had to cut and slice through so many opponents at the same time. Perhaps he did and the memory escapes him, the older man that he is mentally, but he remembered training himself in his journeys across the developing world to hone his senses and mind, to know how to clear his thoughts and train his brain for an almost perfect sense of recollection. Even if his mind is not as able as it once was, even if he could not recall the exact moment he fought so many enemies at once, be they alien bounty hunters or Aku's personal robots or cyborg warriors of varying physically memorable looks, he could still recall what he felt in that very moment, however hazy it had become.
Thus it stunned him that this feeling of stress and exhaustion was like nothing he had faced before. He panted.
It was a miracle he could even finish the legions of spawns that had manifested before him. He panted. He wondered what could have caused this Terrafuser to slow down. Was it building up its miniature army for this moment? He panted. Was its rate of creation slower than he had thought?
Gaining control of his inner self, he relaxed in that moment of serenity and steadied his breathing. He was in control again.
A sole spawn manifested and attempted to make a final stand.
Jack, sword in hand, promptly separated its "head" from its jagged jaw with one swoop and a slow sheathing of the enchanted katana. It consequently sunk back into the ground.
Soon after, he heard banging from inside the doors of Dexlabs. Perhaps it was nothing of concern, but he couldn't take that chance. His ears perked up while his eyes stayed on the seemingly inactive Terrafuser, waiting for it to make a sudden movement.
He wondered...if these being operated in a collective mind like how Dexter had described, why would it be so docile with an enemy ready to strike?
Unless...it was meant to be a distraction.
The banging became louder, and louder, and suddenly it sounded like a door had been kicked open...a metal door.
"Jack...you must return inside!" Dexter shouted with urgency over the commlink. "We have been breached!"
Jack widened his eyes at such a notion, but quickly realized his error in judgement. He underestimated the spawns' ability to coordinate and attack. They kept him distracted and tired enough to fail to notice a second legion enter from the back. He turned around quickly and heard shouts of fear from within the building, and did not hesitate at the danger his clouded vision brought them. His sandals clicked and clacked against the concrete and it followed as the concrete became plastic. He kicked the glass doors open and continued to run towards Dexter and Otto as they were surrounded, catching Johnny getting the Dexlabs scientists, his sisters included, into a nearby safe room.
They all turned to face him as the second legion of spawns stopped in their own tracks, looking at the samurai with a fierce and mindless state of demonic anger. They shrieked and squealed with a battle cry.
Jack slid on his knees into the heat of this battle, letting the weight of his blade cut through the green glob of goo. Spinning around to counter and deflect each blast of green energy, he was slashing back and forth at the spawns, each quick reflection of the sun on the blade charging his blade's enchantment, making it almost blind to the casual eye. He took out more and more spawns with each swipe. He moved so fast that all Dexter, Johnny and Otto could see were the blinding gleams of reflected light.
By the time they had opened their eyes, the katana had been sheathed, and the fusion monsters lay bubbling on the floor, most of them in halves. But Jack didn't ease himself. If what these children had told him about these aliens were true, then it would take more than a swipe of a sword to vanquish them. And soon enough, Jack's unease was proven right, as they had all begun convulsing and joining together, reforming into a much larger fusion spawn.
With quick skill, this Jumbo Spawn hopped back into a defensive position, but was met immediately by Jack attacking from the other direction, pacing forward with great speed. Quickly, Jack reversed his swing and blocked, slicing the spawn in two. Jack moved into a defensive position, setting his katana forward and kneeling back. He remembered from his studies across the world; each of the basic Ninjutsu katana stances, including the Kendo kamae, were ingrained and memorized in his mind. This was Chūdan, helpful for maintaining defense for others. He kept stepping back as the katana was raised at his mid-ground. He stared face-front at the regenerating alien. It was piecing itself together with every stitch.
He moved forward again, quickly moving his katana, spinning it around deflecting each blast of energy. The monster charged forward as well, having built up energy to ram the Samurai with a concussive force. But Jack blocked and, in the spawn's moment of weakness, found another opportunity to attack it again, remembering his fencing lessons in France as well, and plunged his sword into the spawn before retracting it. The Jumbo Spawn barely had time to block Jack's attack before turning its attention back to the others. Jack, realizing what the spawn was intending to do, switched to Waki and moved his katana to be perpendicular to his waist, hastily slashing outward like a wave at the Spawn. Once again, the fusion monster moved back in defense. Half of its body was cut off, but unlike previous times, the regeneration process was considerably faster. Jack didn't care to find out why, focusing on his opponent's offensive. But Dexter was analyzing the fight from a distance. He could see what had happened, and why this fusion had a sudden change of behavior.
The spawn had adapted to Jack's techniques.
It was fascinating and yet horrifying to see a mindless creature bear some intelligence to adapt to a Samurai's sword techniques. It was only driving Ben's point further home to Dexter.
Meanwhile, Jack and the fusion kept a safe distance from one another. The atmosphere was tense between the two moments; immeasurable silences kept the two apart, but Jack decided to use that information. He began navigating a way to take out the boss. But so far, there appeared to be no way to kill it. They continued circling each other, testing the patience of everyone else in the room.
"JUST HIT HIM ALREADY! GEEZ!" Johnny shouted arrogantly, to which Jack mentally face-palmed. The boy had no understanding of his technique. Neither did Johnny have any grasp of the boss' apparent immortality.
So, Jack stood up and switched to Hassō, now remaining solely on the defense as the Jumbo Spawn began making its move. And an unforeseen move it certainly was. The monster dispersed itself, reverting to a puddle of fusion matter, soaking into the metal floor (which, of course, was impossible). They moved closer to the now bubbling puddle, all of them in tense curiosity.
But out of all the people in the room, Otto figured it out the fastest. "Guys, it's changing!"
Jack didn't know what he meant by that. "How so?" He asked inattentively, his arms folded in and his hands still tightly gripping the katana.
"The only other way it does." Otto said, as the lights began flickering and the ground begins to glow green with streams of fusion matter residue. Otto froze at this; the last time he had encountered a giant fusion monster, he had nearly died.
Metal objects of all kinds began bending and creaking with an ominous groan towards the large fusion matter puddle. Everyone looked around in bewilderment, but Otto was stepping back in fear, the disembowelled and half-finished body of Larry 3000 still in hand and now raised high above his head. Though he felt the pull of the body plates towards the slime, he was able to pull it back. Other materials were not so lucky. They began thrashing and shifting, swamping up into a pile of scrap that littered the floor, much to Dexter's chagrin.
Out of the corner, an experimental Dexbot chasis crashed down from holding and was pulled in the direction of the puddle, acquiescing with the other metals and materials to begin forming a larger and more humanoid shape. The metals liquified under the bubbling fusion matter, becoming makeshift bat-wings that were green in color, with the chasis forming a tall and monstrous body in front of the group. Glowing red eyes possessed the technological terror as it began using its wings, spinning around, revealing a chasis drenched in veins of fusion matter, underneath it the Dexlabs logo proudly stamped onto its chest. The helm was moving back two antennae made from sensory nodes, and opened a bent-into-shape jaw with jagged mechanical teeth. It stared into their soles, unable to growl as it did when it was a fusion spawn, but upon opening its sharp hinged jaw, a great sound of static equally overwhelmed them.
Otto was the first to recognize this mechanical monstrosity. He had seen plenty of them hovering about in Goat's Junkyard while stuck in the future. "T-T-T-T-Techwing!"
A flap of the wings sent it soaring to the ceiling, where the Techwing let out another screech of static, presumably as a battle-rallying cry. The armless abomination then positioned its wings to strike down hard and fast on the three. Jack was quick to block it with of his katana, holding the beast and himself in a locked battle. Gritting his teeth, Jack knew that he needed a new plan of attack. This was not going to last him forever, and his sunlight-powered enchanted blade could only last a few more minutes.
That was it, Dexter thought, who stood behind the battle in complete awe. He couldn't bare to watch from the sidelines. He had to get his gloves dirty. But logic fought back. Dexter was coordinating everyone's counter-offensive against the Terrafusers. Ben had never told him how he died in the apocalyptic future, but he could piece together that whatever made him perish lead to a worse future for everyone. At this point, self-preservation was not an option, it was a necessity.
But at the same time, heroism bubbled within him, scratching at his mind, begging him, imploring him to do the right thing, no matter how small and despite how outmatched he was when in a room with a human guinea pig, a time traveller, and the world's first superhero samurai facing off an alien monster assimilating his own tech. He couldn't be completely docile. He had to try something. Besides, if he was gone, Mandark could take over, right? He did fine sending Ben back from the future.
But he quickly forgot about the future. What about the present? The now?
Jack was finally struggling in taking these aliens out, and the powers the katana possessed would not last for much longer. What could he do?
He did have...one idea.
Quickly opening his NanoCom, he connected to the larger computer and his larger inventory file (courtesy of Morebucks Banking), activating Computress and employing a silent protocol. He knew the moment he made any sudden movements, the Techwing would lose focus on Jack. He hoped the samurai could hold on a little longer as he pulled out a special file for a personalized weapon. He was under contract and personal obligation to not create any weapons like Mandark did for Mandark Industries, focusing only on innovation. This item was initially meant for multi-purpose engineering and hardware interfacing, with a variety of tools and measuring devices should the need arise.
He waited for just the right moment to start running, and to pull out his ace-in-the-hole.
Three more swipes from the Techwing...
Almost time two-to do this...
This was his one shot.
Out the boy genius pulled his giant wrench, steely grey in its shaft and grip while its braces, nuts and bolts were a deep shade of metal navy blue. He ran for it, as fast as he could, with Johnny and Otto surprised by his sudden action, figuring him for the less active type. Even Dexter was pushing second thoughts about himself away as he continued to do something he wouldn't dream of doing in the near future.
Looking to his left, the samurai saw Dexter running as he held his blade with two hands, one on the hilt and one against the blade, the pressure of the Techwing building up as it pushed him down. A plan was finally taking form in this warrior's mind, and Dexter was the final piece of the puzzle; Jack smirked and deliberately swiped a weak attack at the Techwing's helm, hoping that Dexter would pick up what he was doing.
The Techwing immediately countered the weak attack, swiping hard to knock Jack's sword out of position. It didn't realize, however, that it had fallen into a trap.
Dexter had watched and noticed the slight smirk on Jack's face. As he watched the deliberate weak attack, he caught on to the Samurai's thinking. Jack waited until the Techwing swiped its giant wings at Dexter, who blocked each lunge with his wrench; before he held his katana up high, activating its enchantment, and blessing it with the strength of the gods. Jumping up, Jack swiped down at its back, ripping it apart with a loud bash and letting it drop to the floor. To finish it off, Dexter plunged his wrench into the fusion carcass, and immediately electrocuted it; the now fallen Techwing was a smoking pile of scrap metal, the fusion matter spilling out of its chasis as if it were blood.
"We are not done yet." Dexter proclaimed, pointing to the file cabinet next to the medical wing. "There is a solution I need to start concocting and loading it into a certain device if we are to expunge these creatures from Tech Square."
Johnny, for once in these last few hours, didn't talk back at all, speeding back to retrieve his sisters from the panic room…and then crashing right into a computer console, to which Dexter winced in apparent pain. The damages to his laboratory would cost a king's ransom to repair.
Jack huffed in relaxation, looking over the Techwing's dead body as the fusion matter was spilling onto the floor, sinking into it and leaving all the disfigured and malformed mechanical parts behind. The amount of energy he had to dedicate to taking this creature down was ludicrous, even for him, he who took down the greatest evil being the world had seen for millennia. These Fusions were no laughing matter, at least now he could be sure of that.
Jack found it odd how much he wondered about this world. Though he was familiar with all the technology and equipment and languages, what he found odd were these new generation of heroes. The threats were stronger, more powerful than he could have imagined. And yet they were faced with a sense of guilt and demoralization from complicated matters. He could see a perfect example in the young hero that was waiting patiently in the medical bay. Like him, he found his way across time and space to prevent a future that was yet to come in order to save the world, and yet he could not join the battle. Surely the 10 minutes that Dexter spoke of were over by now. What was keeping this youngster, who's knowledge of the Fusion race could win them the day alone, from providing his services?
The samurai thought to the longest time, his 50 years stranded in the future that was once Aku. Blurs of depression, self pity, the loss of his blade, nearly committing seppuku upon the behest of the samurai that came before him. It was then that he could reconnect with the memories he pushed down to prepare for the fight. Ashi, once a servant to a great destroyer, became his savior. She taught him how to hope again. And now, this young hero recovered from the longest time, stranded for 2 days in a future that was Fuse. Perhaps he needed to know hope again.
Perhaps it was time he tried talking to Benjamin Tennyson.
"GET BACK, EVERYON'! GO! GO! GO!" Number Six shouted to the retreating operatives in the treehouse, all of whom were holding their nose. Their defensive at Gallagher Commons didn't hold at all. The fusion monsters began making their way through the treehouse, taking advantage of exposed wiring and possessing it. Now, gargantuan piles of wires were acting like headless-octopus arms, chasing operatives to their shocking doom, and these particular monsters chasing Bradley's team. All his mechanical and cybernetic limbs were opening up their weapon ports, firing with live rounds at whatever he could see that was green, evil, and coming right for him.
The 6-year old anthro-skunk used his one good targeting eye to strike a missile into the gelatinous pile of goo that creeped further the way of the escaping operatives.
The missile was grabbed by a thin vine of fusion matter, spiking out like a spider's web and being absorbed by the cluster of monsters. Things were not looking good at all. He whimpered in fear, not ready to face death itself in the eye. Though he had heard Death apparently sported a Caribbean accent, so at least he could go out with a laugh.
He heard a BOOM, like a thunderclap, from his remaining ear and tuned his 2x4 audio-receptor to hear. But he couldn't pay full attention while being slowly cornered by the wire monsters.
He covered his eyes with his remaining paw, gritting his teeth in fear, waiting for the inevitable. At least he managed to get the operatives to a safe location, but doubt resurfaced as he began fearing that the operatives were intercepted by more fusions. What if they were about to die too?!
All the young skunk could think at that moment was that Kuki could be there with him.
The pack of Shocktanglars slowly approached the whimpering and terrified KND cyborg. The lead monster raised a large tentacle to strike. Then...another BOOM was heard.
But it didn't come from outside.
It came from outside.
A S.C.A.M.P.E.R. had rammed into the walls of this treehouse corridor, crushing all the Shocktanglars with the front grappling hooks and flat-nosed cockpit. Wood walls collapsed and fusion matter splattered everywhere, narrowly missing Bradley's organic parts.
The young skunk finally opened his eyes to see his rescuers in front of him, widening them in the instance of realization. Once the hatch opened up, his face burst with joy. The pilots weren't so happy, however.
"D-did I get'm?" said the still-concussed Number Four.
"Numbuh Four, I swear on my Mum's magazine collection...we are never letting you fly the S.C.A.M.P.E.R. EVER again! With or without a concussion!" Number One's irate voice spoke up.
"Dude, not so loud!" Four shouted back. "'feels like I been hung upside down fer hours...and not in the Australian way...uuuugghhh..."
"We really can't stop crashing these things, can we?" spoke the very warm and innocent voice of Number Three...
...and Bradley was quick to run to her. "KUKI!" He cried in joy and relief. Looks like his wish came true.
"Bradley!" Three gasped and yelled with her ever-so-cheerful attitude. They embraced for a short time, but the time felt like so long for the both of them. They were both worried sick about each other upon this whole invasion hullaballoo.
"How've you been?! Have you been managing everything well? Have you been avoiding your toothbrush? Have you-"
"I'm fine, Kuki!" The skunk cheerfully chirped. "But these alien things 're-"
"We know! That's why we came back! Are they in the treehouse?"
"Guys? I dun' feel too good..." Number Four spoke while holding his head. But his plea fell on deaf ears, much to his annoyance, but the more he got angry, the more his head hurt. But it wouldn't stop hurting. But hey, maybe it'll stop hurting...eventually.
"Yeah. This giant egg just landed near all 'hose statues an' a bunch of green gooey monsters started attackin' everyone! People are runnin' and screamin' and we held 'em off as best as we could, but..." Bradley couldn't finish his sentence, and tried to focus back on the task at hand. "I-I-I told everyone to go to the Hangar bay, but I have no idea if the monsters got to them!"
Three stood up, and with the press of her NanoCom, loaded up her signature T.H.U.M.P.E.R, and now sported a look that could kill. Number One spun his dual guns around his fingers and put them in his vest pockets, summoning a B.O.T.T.L.E.R. rifle for devastating purpose.
Number Four got out a toy Sumo Slammer he had in his pocket. He looked dizzy.
Bradley stared at them with awe, and began activating his cybernetics, looking for however many rounds of artillery he had left. While doing this, Number One stepped forward and gave a badass line delivery.
"Sounds like we got an infestation, Number One." Three said.
"Well then. Let's begin extermination." Number One spoke confidently and loudly as he handed Number 6 a lightning rifle from the side of the S.C.A.M.P.E.R. to add to his arsenal.
But the legends couldn't notice how heavily Number Four was concussed...only finally noticing when Number Four flopped down hard on the floor.
All three of the operatives looked behind them. And for some reason, instead of feeling worried for the poor chap, they were annoyed.
And why wouldn't they be? He ruined their coolest dramatic moment yet!
"Dam-Dang it, Wally! You ruined our coolest dramatic moment yet!" Three shouted, breaking her usually joyful charm with an annoyed rant. Serves him right!
"Ttttthank you Misterrr Rainb-Monkyyy, Iwodove tdirect Sumosslammer crossoer..." said the now delirious Four, not noticing being dragged by the leg down the wooden floorboards. "Lemme figh ese alens irst..."
Ben continued trying, trying to get back up. But while his injury was healed in surprisingly quick time (Dexlabs medicine normally would do that), he still felt a little sore. He was able to deal with the pain enough to sit back up, but he couldn't straighten his back without straining his vertebrae, and that hurt like HELL.
The medical bay wasn't entirely soundproof. He had been hearing most of everything loud clearly, including Dexter's turmoil towards dealing with this first wave of Fusions. He had heard a lot of slicing and dicing, though he wasn't sure with or by who, but there was a lot of shouting and screeching. He didn't hear the commotion that was supposedly taking place outside, but putting two and two together wasn't hard.
They were here.
And the world needed their Alien Hero back on their feet.
"Okay, okay...One..." He held his hands down on the med-bed, ready to face the pain, hopefully overcome it.
Quickly breathing in measured huffs of air, he tried the next step. "...Two-ACK!"
There was the pain again. Sharp as ever, sore as a sprain, and nothing about it felt like it was healing. He sat back down, catching himself by holding onto the bed. Hanging his head down in defeat, he took a deep breath and sighed in minute frustration. They needed his help more than ever, but something more was holding him back...not just the back-pain. He knew what it was, but couldn't find the strength to confront it.
He heard footsteps approaching his door, fully expecting Dexter to come in. He could tell that Dexter's apparent disbelief didn't hold, and he would relish telling him how wrong he was. But at the same, he couldn't help but feel bad for shouting him, especially towards how Dexter revealed he handled his absence. Ever since Gwen disappeared, his cousins and family were scared out of their minds; they couldn't bear to lose anyone else, and that more than likely put the boy genius in a difficult position. What was he supposed to say? He had to apologize to his friend.
The door began to slide open, and Ben turned to face him with words ready. "Look, I-"
But as Ben turned around, who he met was very different from who he expected.
The man was Asian, clearly, but looked completely out of time. He wore a white and grey robe, also wearing some kind of belt with red tassels on one end. He had his hair tied up like that of a Samurai, and he had a scar on the right side of his face. He was calm in his posture, mood; everything about him radiated feelings of peace.
Jack mentally sighed as the teenager continued to stare at him with assumed confusion. Maybe it was finally in order to update his wardrobe.
"A friend." Jack told him in peace.
Ben paused, not taking the response seriously enough. "No seriously...who are you?"
"You may call me Jack, if you prefer."
Then the gears began to shift in Ben's mind. And a quick glance back at his attire further corroborated his working theory. A samurai called Jack sounded vaguely familiar. "Like...that samurai guy?" Ben recalled, beginning to remember the dreary history classes echoing in his mind. "From my history classes?"
The man's quaint nod confirmed everything. Ben, however, was still reeling from the shock of everything else, that his reaction to this miraculous visit from the world's first superhero hadn't yet hit him. All that could go through his head was why...why was this guy here? But quickly enough, that sense of awe began overwhelming him, clouding his speech, becoming unsure of what he wanted to say to the world's first superhero. He had to refocus himself. Ask him. Ask him why he's here.
"T-The guy whose story they based Sumo Slammers 3 on?" Ben asked in a trivial sense.
Well that was a bust.
Excitement and trepidation got the better of Ben. He had no idea how to say what he wanted to say. Luckily, Jack wasn't about to throw a table over it.
"They used my story for what?" He played along.
"I...uh...you are him, right?" Ben asked again in a moment of doubt.
Jack smiled again, mirthfully chuckling. "Yes. I am."
A blizzard of questions were now breezing into Ben's brain. How was this possible?
"Should I...even ask how you got here?"
"I wish I could say, but it would be another story to digest. All you need to know is that I intercepted your message from the Future. I came back here to help."
Ben looked back up at the samurai in disbelief and awe. "Wait, the message made its way to you?!"
"A strange coincidence, is it not?" Jack joked, acknowledging the absurd timing and incredible luck at play here. "I think retelling this story wouldn't be favorable...especially in the aftermath of your own." Jack said, comforting the confused hero.
"Did...uh...Did Dex tell you 'bout that?"
"Not entirely...but I know a tired warrior. I know the look of despair and hopelessness."
"Poetic." Ben sardonically replied. "You don't have to call me a warrior, dude. You're the one with 10 times more experience than me."
"Wisdom does not measure our ability to lose or feel pain, or regret over our actions." Jack told him.
"Heh..my Grandpa would probably disagree." he responded. But a glance at the Samurai's raised eyebrow prompted him to elaborate. "He's uh...he's an ex-astronaut and retired space cop. Tha-That's what I meant." He concluded. But even then, more elaboration was needed. "He once told me that being a Plumber, that whole job, learning how to make the right call, came with a lot of sacrifice. He screwed up more times first before things ever got better. And I've been doing this hero thing for 5 years...well, 3 years technically, and I've screwed up. But it never stops. It never feels like I'm capable of making the right call, and even after everything, it's...it's like a bundle of self-doubt."
Jack smirked. "Your grandfather sounds like a wise man. What he said remains true. But nevertheless, letting the doubt eat your soul...will fail you more so. But your grandfather would also know this much: wisdom is a measure of our actions and our will to act. It is in building off these mistakes that we achieve victory; it is what makes us human."
"But what if that's not good enough?" Ben raised his voice, frowning upon the reassurance that the samurai was providing, and calming down upon meeting his serene stare. He shouldn't have shouted like that, not to a legend like Jack. He repeated his question in a softer tone. "What if that's not good enough?"
Another raised eyebrow, this time in contemplation as opposed to confusion, continued making Ben talk.
"I never know if it's good enough." The alien hero admitted. "I joke and I act immature a lot to hide that fear, maybe even to make others feel less scared...but when I'm out there...I have to be more than human, literally and figuratively. They count on me, and if I fail, then I fail them...and I lose them."
Jack remained silent as Ben looked to him, nodding slightly to ease the boy into being comfortable to talk about his feelings.
"And...it got worse with this whole thing. The invasion and the...the experiment." Ben admitted. "I...at this future I was at...the goal was to get back here, and that's what we did...but then they started saying that my absence in the beginning gave them a serious disadvantage, and that my safety was their main goal. I understood what that meant, but...I saw all these people die because I couldn't do anything, and I let them down." His eyes began to water as he stared into the concrete floor. "And the worst part is I don't know what will happen now, with everything suddenly colliding, a war's coming, I-I..." Ben stopped in his words, crippled by the weight of the world on his shoulders and the doubt in his mind. A few tears dropped onto the floor in anguish.
Jack could see how much pain the boy was in internally. He more than empathized with Ben's plight. The self-doubt, the failure, the frustration and the loss of life before him. All familiar to the aged warrior.
"Without you, we would not be nearly as prepared as we are now. Do you know when these invaders arrive with their planet?"
He sniffed a little, gaining a little composure to speak up. "In a month. Approximately. That's what Mandark told me on my second day in the Future."
"Then we have more than enough time to prepare. I can guarantee that without your arrival, these early Terrafusers would not have been taken nearly as seriously as they are now."
"Whether or not Dexter believed me...I don't know. He probably did eventually, all things considered." Ben realized. "But Fuse sent more fusions, didn't he? And it caught everyone off-guard. What if this is how the future really begins? They lose and...I fail them."
"It doesn't sound like failure is the only reason you fear these invaders, Ben." Jack implied. "What do you fear?"
Ben froze, thinking back to the statues at Hero's Square that he saw. His best dreams subverted into his worst nightmares. "My...I don't wanna be forgotten, and I know that sounds selfish but...I fear being forgotten because of it. I don't want to fail, I don't wanna sit still while the world burns...but the worst part is that I don't know if I'll be able to live up to what people want...who they want me to be for them. And...and going into that future proved to me that I couldn't be a hero for them. I failed...and I might as well be forgotten." Ben lamented. "I don't deserve to be remembered if all I can do is let people down."
A thick pause came between them, with Jack continuing to remain silent, drawing up the words Ben needed to hear. It was a delicate situation, and a test to himself. If he could not give Ben his hope back, what chance did he have of having that same hope? Carefully breathing, and finishing meditating on his response, Jack engaged.
"Someone of your age told me not too long ago, that what happens in this world does not need to be scripted. There is no point in a life of contemplation, or if you seek answers in the uncertain." he began, recalling that moment Buttercup had given him a spark of hope. His experiences in this new future may have been limited, but his wisdom clearly held no bounds in understanding Ben's anguish. "To be forgotten is not a consequence of failure. It is a consequence of giving up, and losing hope. And in our conversation you have proven to me that it is not easy for you to give up. The challenges we face ahead of us will only further test you in this, but it is up to you to maintain your spirit."
"But what if nothing works ou-" Ben nearly finished before being interrupted by the wise samurai. Turning his head to meet his aged eyes, he continued listening.
"I am here, and why I of all the people of the world is unknown to me, but now I know there is a new world ahead, a new world to mark my own way. If the time comes where we must despair, then we will despair, but the time of now holds no chains on the future when we have been given the chance to change it, thus we have no reason to stop making our mark in history." Jack said. "There is no need to think of a future anymore, be it past or upcoming. It remains our choice to make the future our own. And the most important parts in all of this are the will to act, and the will to hope." Jack concluded with an assuring smile. Patting his hand on Ben's back, he could tell that whatever he said, however nonsensical it must've sounded to the young hero, had some kind of impact.
He felt the need to continue, though. Perhaps one final part of his story was in order. "Ben, I once had a friend in Aku's future. He and I were similar in many ways, different only in our...um...cultures." Jack visibly cringed as he remembered the screeching sound of the Bagpipes, scratching and tearing at his eardrums, nearly driving him insane. No matter what brotherhood he held with the Scotsman, he could never forgive his taste in terrible music. "As a consequence of my quest, the future he lived in no longer exists, and I may never know if he lives the same life, if he will even exist at all. What I did weighs down on my conscience every day."
"So how do you know whether or not he wanted that?"
"He was among the bravest men I ever knew." Jack lamented, mourning his death and apparent non-existence. "The moment he truly met me, he knew that helping me would mean his death and undoing. I cannot tell myself that he would have wanted it otherwise, no matter how much I doubt it. We have to keep hoping for better things."
Ben thought to that hard, thinking back to his narrow escape from the future. Dexter, Finn, Mandark, Number Two, Number Five, and so many others risked their lives to send him back to the past and save the world. They knew that the war was lost, the invasion was succeeding, and they were hanging by a thread. They put themselves in front of him to make sure that their second chance counted. The Scotsman sounded like he did the same for Jack, and at this point Ben was realizing a lot of commonalities with their missions.
Jack really was speaking from experience. And despite falling into that abyss of self-doubt and misery, he made it back up. He triumphed.
Maybe he could too.
Out of the corner of Ben's mind, he realized...he was no longer in pain. The soreness finally left his body.
[Injury fully healed] Computress notified over the intercomm, confirming that Ben's treatment was finally over. But the eavesdropping AI had a little more to say to the alien hero. [Commence Complimentary Statement: I conclude that I speak for everyone when I say...[loading]...it is a pleasure to have you back, Mr. Tennyson.]
Ben stretched his back slowly, hesitant to avoid the feeling of the sharp pain of soreness. But to his relief, he felt nothing, nothing that felt like being stabbed in the back with a thumb-tack. He had a great grin on his face, exuberant about finally being able to stand up and walk. He laughed in disbelief. These med-beds really worked like magic. He turned to Jack, who had an unfazed expression. "Not even amazed?" Ben asked.
"Ben, I spent half a century in a dystopian metropolitan future with advances in the world occurring every minute, and I rode a motorcycle." the samurai bragged. "I'm not surprised, young man, rather I suppose I am excited for what awaits me here." Jack finished with a smile...
...something broken almost immediately with Dexter's loud voice over the intercom.
"Jack! We are in need of further assistance."
Jack's thoughtful smile quickly transformed into a glare of determination and objective. He was needed. "Though it seems what awaits me is more trouble." Jack lamented as he unsheathed his blade. "I will see you soon."
"Soon?" Ben questioned, catching the Samurai's attention. "Why bother waiting? We're needed."
Captain Calan sat idly in the armored truck as it sped to the city of Townsville, the Providence soldiers around him quickly assembling and arming their weapons for what they had heard was an Alpha-level alert. There was panic in the streets, and it spread like wildfire in the city. The report said something about a major commotion in the local park, and also that certain superheroes were already on the case. He had been given strict orders to not engage the Powerpuff Girls, but he didn't know if his men would follow that order willingly.
What confused him, however, was that the report also mentioned something about green aliens and a meteor. If it was aliens they were dealing with, wouldn't it have been better to call in SECT? Then again, the situation was escalating fast; by the time he received his orders to investigate, aliens may have not gotten involved yet.
Finally arriving at Townsville Park, the agents of Providence put on their masks and got to work quickly, arming themselves and turning on a private NanoCom channel for all of them to communicate. They unloaded the armored truck and raced towards the gates...
...before stopping dead in their tracks on Calan's signal. It didn't necessarily look like the heroes were winning, but it looked like they were trying their best to contain the spawns to the Park. Calan calmly assessed the situation, trying to see how his squad could help while the metahumans did most of the heavy lifting. He figured to go for the most basic containment protocol.
"Men, form a perimeter around the park. Anything that looks green, hostile, and like Johansen's dish detergent, I want shot on sight. I don't care if it takes you a full magazine clip to kill just one."
"And the enhanced vigilantes, sir?" one agent inquired, clearly referring to the girls. "Do we bring in the metahumans?"
Calan's earlier suspicions concerning his men appeared to be correct. "Clearly, soldier, you've never heard of Townsville before. Or the Registration Initiative. We can't interfere with their good work. " Calan barked back, soon relaying his orders into his radio. "All Providence units within the vicinity of Townsville, this is Captain Calan with new orders. Our goal is to contain and evacuate as many citizens as possible, and cordon off Townsville Park. Nothing gets in or out." He fiercely commanded.
"Sir, is this something we should call Rex and the team for?"
"Rex's team is held up handling an EVO outbreak all the way in Marzipan." Calan ordered. "We can't afford to waste their time. Now dispatch those units!"
"Right away, sir!" the other agents loudly saluted, moving along the sidewalk and setting up shop across the fences. Calan took off his standard Providence mask with a scowl, revealing his scarred face, intently looking at the battle ahead of him and ready to execute his own orders.
The battle in front of him, however, was far more chaotic and difficult to manage than it appeared from far away. The girls were no longer in the air, punching and zapping as many of the spawns as they could, shaking off spawns from their legs and shoulders as they overwhelmed them. They were getting drenched with an inordinate amount of fusion matter, which was quickly dripping off them and retreating into the soil. They were not winning this battle, and were barely holding a stalemate, and it wasn't helped by the spawns adapting and regenerating at a faster rate to combat the girls. They were learning quickly.
"Blossom! They're regenerating faster!" Bubbles exclaimed.
Gritting her teeth, the determined Blossom kept fighting, no matter how tired she was feeling. "Keep at 'em! Remember how we took them down before! Overwhelm them so the spawns will have less energy!"
"Before they overwhelm us, right?!" Buttercup shouted back. Looking behind her though... "Uh...Blossom?"
Turning around, the KND operatives had apparently bolted.
"WHAT?!" Blossom screamed in confusion, but soon after, she heard someone call from further away. It was Number Five, with Number Two's pilot hat poking out from behind the massive amount of melting debris, whose fires were extinguished well into the battle.
"OVER HERE!" Five shouted, signaling them to join them over there, with Two poking out and sniping a few spawns amongst the horde to distract them.
And distract it did indeed, now having the undivided attention of Fuse's wrath. But it bought the girls enough time to escape their position and quickly fly over to join the KND behind the debris.
Once behind, the girls knew that the spawns wouldn't give up that easily, and so held their arms against the wall of the wrecked S.C.A.M.P.E.R's hull, expecting the spawns to pile on the pressure. To avoid side attacks, Five threw Two a P.0.P gun and they both got to work creating an ice wall and ceiling large enough to hid them.
Hiding behind a legion of fusion spawns with a weak material for protection...this felt oddly familiar. And Number Two was well aware of that as well.
"I need a break from the deja-vu..."
"At least we're hiding behind metal instead of a slightly durable wood table." Blossom joked, she too remembering their earlier predicament from 5 years ago.
"Wouldn't bet on that..." Two spoke, worry still ever-present in his voice. "the first time we saw these things, they disintegrated some kid's gun! These things were holding back last time!" He was practically biting his fingernails in anxiety, much to the annoyance of Buttercup.
"Yeah, we figured that out!" the toughest fighter, now trying to barricade the makeshift igloo in a fight for dear life, said with the same frantic anxiety.
"Providence has no idea what they're in for..." Blossom realized, remembering seeing the units continue to cordon off the area. "We need to draw them away from the perimeter!"
"We don't have that kind of authority, though. We get closer, and they might start asking questions! It's not worth a chance!" Number Two shouted, flinching back when one projectile came crashing through the popsicle ceiling, and came within an inch of his face. Blossom, hating pessimism as always, saw the operative's point. Another crash would only escalate the situation further than it already was, and risk more surrounding citizens' lives. Moreover, if they were all hurdled in one flavored igloo, the spawns would make an easy target out of them.
But Number Five disagreed. "Well any chance is better than NO chance, Numbuh Two!" she said as she reached for her NanoCom, shouting into its radio station. "Sector V command! Sector V command! This is Numbuh Five orderin' for immediate backup!" Five screamed into the NanoCom. But nothing was receiving from the other side. "Sector V command! Numbuh Six!" Five shouted louder into the device. "Bradley! Dangit! Numbuh Five can't get a signal!"
"Sounds like they're preoccupied!" Bubbles noted.
"Guess you're stuck with us." Buttercup said with a sheepish grin.
"No offense or anythin'," Five began, trying to make her next phrase carefully, "but Numbuh Five ain't sure that's any better!" Another blast of energy penetrated the metal barricade, a mere inch away from her face, and the spawns flooded in, quickly overwhelming them before Blossom sealed the igloo tight with her freeze breath.
But it wasn't quick enough, as a solitary fusion spawn that made it through was now trying to bite Bubbles' face off, jumping her and wriggling in her hands as she caught it, resisting any attempts by Bubbles to throw it away.
"Get off! GET OFF!" Bubbles pleaded to no avail. It lunged and shrieked inhumanly, using all it's force while Bubbles tried to hold it off. Buttercup tried to intervene, but was aptly thrown into Blossom, making the two rather indisposed.
Bubbles was hanging on for dear life, but the fusion spawn didn't seem all too interested in that, now reaching for Bubbles' backside, which would have been vacant, were it not for...
"OCTI!" Bubbles screamed as one of the 8 tentacles of her beloved stuffed-animal-turned-backpack was ripped off, chewed, and promptly consumed by the spawn in the chaos...
...and Bubbles was not happy. The joy and the laughter was now living up to another meaning of her name, bubbling with rage and pain. Her eyes glowed a dangerous glow of baby blue, gritting her teeth and seething with rage. Her sisters looked upon her and their faces sunk. They had only seen this look so many times before; it was a rarity because no one ever messed with their sister and got to speak another word ever again. She responded to the spawn with something spine-shivering.
"YOU. HURT. MY. FRIEND!" And she screamed, letting her heat vision loose and eviscerating every molecule she could of that putrid, disgusting, and defiling creature.
But the evisceration of this one being, only further encouraging the army of spawns to bang and pummel the icy doors.
"Well...that was tearrible..." Two joked, trying to bring some levity to the situation.
No one liked the pun. Bubbles even shed a tear over it...not that kind of tear. The homophone.
"I...I'll shut up now."
"Numbuh Five's thinkin' we can make a human sacrifice..." she said with gritted teeth to her best friend.
Walking to meet Dexter, Jack wanted to make sure that there wouldn't be another Techwing situation. He kept his katana sheathed and held it by his side. "Have you sealed the breach?" He asked serenely.
"Yes, I have." Dexter confirmed. He then pointed outside the glass door, calling attention to the Tech Square Terrafuser spasming once again. "But there waits a new batch of fusion spawns outside. Take care of them."
"At once." Jack cooperated, not looking back for one moment and going to do his job. Dexter turned around to face his computer just as Ben was entering the room. Looking over, he frowned with a restrained regret. He confined his best friend to a room for an injury he caused, barely believed his story until the last second, and didn't bother to return to him or inform him. Dexter always prided himself for remaining professional and trying to hide his arrogance and emotion as much as he could.
But he failed the most this time, and his arrogance got the better of him. He was feeling so sorry for what he did.
"I...I wanted to apologize...for-"
But Ben, seemingly enlightened and re-energized, stopped his apology mid-sentence, with a kind sense of understanding. "It's alright...I'll call my mom later. You didn't know what to do." Ben admitted, forgiving his friend. "I can't say it's what I would've done, but thank you for trying."
Such a simple exchange with so few words spoken, and yet their confidence and friendship in one another had never felt stronger. Dexter let a smirk loose, truly content that Ben could forgive him. Because that's what heroes do.
Some of the lab scientists weren't as sensitive, though.
"Dexter and Benjy, sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-"
"Damnit NOT NOW, Fassy!" shouted Anthony Automata.
Ben nodded and walked closer by the Computer, leaning in to discuss something that boggled his mind for a while now. "We do need to talk about how you treat your sister, though." He told him. He remained forgiving of his friend, but he couldn't fathom Dexter doing something so horrible.
"You do know that she is not just an aspiring ballerina, right? She is apparently training to become a paramedic." Dexter responded, revealing all kinds of new information.
"So how could a paramedic-in-training not realize that some buttons must not be pushed?!"
"That's not the point, though."
"(Sigh), whatever..." With a sigh of exhaustion, Dexter hand-waved the conversation and returned back to work. Moving to the large computer monitor, he began typing at fast speeds, setting a new plan in motion. "Computress? Establish a connection with all current heroes and KND operatives on the field. We are giving them a new set of instructions."
[Affirmative; establishing connection] Computress complied. [Channel opened: connection established]
"Am I clear on all comm-channels?" Dexter spoke loudly and clearly. He waited patiently to get responses, but it didn't take much time at all, much to his luck and success.
"We're a little busy right now!" Buttercup spoke.
"These things just don't die!" Two said, using his own commlink.
"Major MAJOR casualty!" Bubbles spoke loudly, catching Dexter's concern for a second. A major casualty?! What could have happened? Was someone in need of a cybernetic limb replacement? Perhaps they needed an antidote for fusion matter poisoning (if it was capable of poisoning). Or maybe someone had actually DIED in action. Well, in actuality... "MY STUFFED ANIMAL WAS MAAAAIIIMED!" She promptly lost his concern.
"We read you loud and crystal clear, Dr. McPherson." Number One spoke, clearly running and with two sets of footsteps behind him. Dexter could hear moaning grunts coming from Number Three, as though she was carrying someone's comatose body. "Might I ask-"
"Not yet, Number One. This is an important update. Additional orders will follow, but listen closely for now." Dexter commanded, press the speaker button and keeping Computress on standby. "Ben, come with me. I need you to deliver something."
Ben followed Dexter to a corner of the room, past the vaulted door and came into a room where the most impossible things he had never seen before laid dusting. This was Dexter's Laboratory archive, where he kept some of his most prized inventions. From a literal think tank to three sets of robot exosuits, it was a massive collection of items. But Dexter only sought out one. A cylindric piece of metal with several ports on its dome-shaped backside, and a blinking yellow light on the top. Dexter picked it up, dusted it off, and began pressing a few standby buttons. Setting it down, he quickly opens it up and finds loose relay wires. He makes short work of it, reconnecting the relays and allowing the device begins working. It shoots out a short antenna from the area with the blinking yellow light. Dexter has a smirk of success, having found a weapon from the not so distant past, ready to be used once again.
Stepping out of Dexlabs' glorified closet, Dexter returned to the main area, where the call was still going. He could hear more grunts and screams of effort against the endless hordes of fusion spawns. Ben followed him to the console top, where the boy genius began again.
"This," Dexter loudly spoke to make sure everyone was listening, pointing to the device for Ben to understand, "is the imagination energy transducer. We used this device to fight the fusions in the previous encounter 5 years ago. I was planning to use it for the synchronization engine before Mandark's message had been intercepted by Jack. When he arrived, we learned it wasn't necessary." Dexter explained, at least getting the attention of Johnny, and across the communication line, Bubbles was also quite fascinated.
Ben looked at the device with...hesitancy. All that immediately came to his mind was the last time they had to deal with this, and how well that had turned out. "Did you...y'know, make it easier to use?"
"You mean to ask if I had discarded all of Mandark's additions from the transducer. Of course I did." Dexter confirmed. "This time, it'll be upgraded to MY specifications. There will be no room or margin for error this time."
"Where are you going to take it?"
"To Townsville. Back to Mojo Jojo's observatory on top of the volcano. We can use the transducer to project rays of imagination energy to counter the Fusions. We know it has beat them in the past, and I am not about to rule out this potential weakness on the idea that they are more powerful than before." Dexter reasoned. "His telescope, if modified correctly, can project the appropriate amount of lumens and joules to incapacitate the fusion spawns, perhaps even kill them.
"And what if he's there?"
"He's not!" Blossom confirmed.
"Yeah we sent him to Fuddgate last week!" Buttercup elaborated. "Hnnggg!" She groaned as she maintained the barricade against the rampaging spawns.
"It is even worth trying to use it on the Terrafusers themselves." Dexter hoped. "As for Sector V, I understand your base is in Bellwood, and thus in another city, which is why I am going to send someone over to help. Hang on tight."
"Understood!" Number One confirmed. His call signed out.
Dexter turned to Ben, who was listening closely. "Ben, you will take Blossom and Bubbles with you to the volcano. They can help you modify the telescope, and they know how to accomplish it. Do you accept this mission?"
"Got it." Ben said with a sharp nod as he took the transducer from Dexter's hands. The thing was heavy, jeez, really heavy! How was Dexter able to carry it with such ease?! Whatever those purple gloves were hiding, it was nothing to sneeze at. Holy crap. Ben looked back up, shaking off the moment of bewilderment he had. Looking back up at Dex, he gave a firm nod. "You can count on me." he said confidently.
"See you when you get here, Ben!" Buttercup shouted while firing her heat vision.
Two also joined in before signing off the call. "Remember to make an entrance!"
"It's like a sleepover! It'll be fun!" Bubbles added.
"Guess I'll make a sweet looking diversion!" Buttercup reasoned. "Again." She signed off the call shortly after.
Taking out his NanoCom, the very same that Finn had given him from the future, he scanned the transducer into his inventory, digitizing it and storing it in the Lyoko subspace...gosh was that ever useful. Imagine if it got corrupted by an AI malfunction. Anyhow, once the device was securely in his inventory, he placed his NanoCom in his pocket, extended his forearm and readied the Omnitrix.
He needed someone fast. The Powerpuff Girls were barely holding on, so he needed to give them backup quickly. Perhaps Cannonbolt could give him the speed and force he needed to get there in record time. Granted, he would have usually gone with XLR8, but this damn watch barely gave him what he wanted half the time, he figured he would just settle.
"Please be Cannonbolt, please be Cannonbolt, please be Cannonbolt..." he wished out loud as Dexter and the lab staff watched him intently. With the pressing-down of his hand, a transformation occurred.
Skin began turning blue, his cranium extended backwards into a fine point, he began hunching over, his fingers merging into one another and shaping into long claws, and his shoes disappeared into thick pronged toes grasping bio-organic balls. A striped tail sprouted out of him in record time, and next came the uniform: a black bodysuit with a white space covering the torso with a green outline surrounding it. A green arrow marked the area of his pelvis, akin to a belt, and the bodysuit extended down to the form's knees and elbows. A familiar hourglass symbol formed onto his chest, and in a blinding green light, the transformation into XLR8 was complete.
In a surprising subversion of expectations, he got the alien he truly wanted.
"H-HOLY HELL!" Ben shouted behind the alien form's mask, immediately retracting it into his skull. "Reverse psychology! IT WORKED! HOLYCRAP! YEASS!" The energetic velociraptor-like alien shoved its fists into the air and cheered in victory. He got the alien he wanted! After the minute celebration, not another second was wasted, and XLR8 sped into and shattered the glass doors of Dexlabs, making its way to Townsville...much to the irritation of the building owner.
"They can use the door, for Darwin's sake. They can use the goddamn door..." He muttered as he turned around and stepped away, pulling out a NanoCom display that replaced the lack of doors and lack of windows with a metal shutter. Soon after, he came face to face with a toe-tapping blonde teen with flaming red-highlights in his hair. He seemed eager to do something.
"So." Johnny said. "Got anything for me?" Johnny asked. He found Dexter surprised at his sudden willingness to volunteer. The former reasoned it with a simple idea. "Thought it wouldn't hurt to ask."
In an instant of deep thought, Dexter moved past him with a surprising task. "Pair your NanoCom with Computress. If you lack one, take a prototype from the table, and try to head to the coordinates as assigned. Fusions are holding the Kids Next Door's Sector V treehouse hostage. You are needed to aid them and provide any further assistance."
That certainly caught the thrill-seeking teen off-guard. Wasn't this guy calling him an idiot just minutes ago? What happened then, he wondered. He thought to take his own advice. He thought it wouldn't hurt to ask. "What happened to you doubting me and everything?" Johnny asked, spitting out his gum in a trash can. It...made a whip-crack noise? Is that supposed to be funny? "You kept me on the sidelines so long, you could barely remember I was here. And frankly you've already got a speedster with that alien dude."
"Frankly, Mr. Test, I do not doubt that you might be faster than XLR8, and despite your inexperience with your speed, I am sure you would be more than willing to experience a proper test run with them. Besides, I understand you do have other powers, do you not?"
"Then use those instead if your speed is too volatile; run along and go play superhero. Now."
After a moment of silence, a devilish grin formed on Johnny's face, and his feet began vibrating at supersonic speeds. He was so ready to charge and give these powers a proper test run.
But then his sisters appeared behind him, just as he was about to get set. He immediately petrified, but his eye twitched in utter frustration.
"If it's all the same to you, Dr. McPherson..." Susan spoke...
"...we'd like to keep our little bro here." and Mary finished.
Exchanging a look, Dexter saw the two sisters adamantly defend their brother's place here. But he had little time to deal with any of them. The world was at stake and her best defenders were being overrun. They were running out of options. "I will maintain contact with him. He will not escape my metaphorical eye. Right now, Test sisters, your brother can save an entire treehouse full of children. It is illogical to deny him this chance."
"He's a superhero all the time back in Porkbelly." Susan argued. "This isn't about a chance to be a superhero again."
Mary continued her sister's well-founded and worrisome argument. "This is about our little brother facing off against an invasive assimilating species of what is basically toxic bacteria. If there's any fight he might die in, it would be this one over Bling-Bling Boy."
Dexter was indeed faced with a minor moral dilemma, one that under more normal circumstances would lead to him conceding and giving the girls their choice. But too much was at stake for those kinds of thoughts. "Right now, I do not see another choice. You cannot weigh your brother's safety over the lives of an entire treehouse of children." Dexter rebutted. This was getting ludicrously arrogant, even for him. "Besides. You wanted to test his new powers? This is your chance."
That piqued their interest; the thought of testing their brother's mutant abilities never ceased to hook them into something. And this time, unlike most times, Johnny himself seemed on-board with it. But they would need to think it over, right?
As they were deep in thought, they were still holding Johnny back, and he was really getting tired of just staying in one place.
Calan felt like a little kid at the local town arcade again, shooting approaching enemy after enemy, scoring a few points, etcetera. It felt invigorating, exciting, but nothing about this moment of euphoria clouded where he was at the moment: shooting spawnlings of a hostile alien army that could kill him with the right touch. It wasn't anything like an EVO, but Providence agents like him were prepared for anything, and were willing to help everyone they could. He had already dispatched all available and local units to patrol the streets. Nothing would leave or cross his sight without him knowing.
That's why this next moment is so freaking funny to the narrator.
"Uh...sir?" said a Providence agent that stopped firing to turn around. "You said not to let anything in or out, right?"
"I did say that, agent!" Calan confirmed, eyes still focused on the targets.
"And you said it had to look green and evil, right?"
"Green and hostile!"
"Okay, but what about THAT GUY?!"
"What about who-?"
Not even a chance to glimpse at who the agent was referring to, and suddenly the wind attacks him as a black-and-blue blur streaks across him and discombobulates his senses for the tiniest moment. Hell, some of the agents even were knocked off balance, shouting in shock and total surprise, falling over the fence and into the perimeter bushes.
If only things were nearly as joyful in the center of the park, because the heroes were on their last legs. They dealt with an onslaught, a dismemberment, and this had to be their third igloo now. They had no idea...they had no idea how much more they could take.
But lucky for them, hope had just arrived.
"Hey uglies!" an alien voice shouted from a long distance afar. It echoed through the winds and trees, and drew all the spawns' attention. Before they could even look in the right direction, a series of streaks zoomed around them, past them, on top of them, and into them, taking them out like a bundle of balloons. "I'm right here!" The voice shouted, giving the remaining spawns and the heroes a chance to look for their attacker and respective new defender.
It was Ben, shifting back to human form from XLR8 as he ran towards, decelerating and ready to kick some more alien butt.
"Alright everybody! It's hero time!" Ben shouted, reaching for his watch, and slamming on his watch. He didn't care what alien he transformed into at this point. Whatever he got would be just enough to kick some alien butt.
As he charged forward mid-transformation, another hero enthusiastically followed. "Oh yeah!" Buttercup cried out in response. "Now THAT'S a plan I can TOTALLY AGREE WITH! YOU LOSERS ARE FRIED!" Joining Ben to impulsively join the fight, she rocketed off the ground with extreme force, followed by her signature streak of green light.
Out came Cannonbolt, skidding across the dirt before firing himself into the air with a blast of sheer force. Curling back up, he made a quick descent as though in a pinball machine. landing a major blow to the Fusion monsters before him. He triggered another transformation, this time into the mighty Arctiguana, and froze any recovering spawns that jumped out at him.
He quickly shifted to Ghostfreak as the others watched in awe, phasing his body through the chunks of ice and dragging the thrashing fusion spawns out with him, feeding them to his lovecraftian set of tentacles and making short work of them. Each of their bodies disintegrated into the soil and returned to the Terrafuser. Ben continued changing every few seconds to keep the battle in his favor, and Ghostfreak was switched out for another classic: Diamondhead, who began producing as many sharp crystal spikes as he could to hold back the fusion spawns. Snapping out of their awe, the girls and the kids joined Ben as they zapped more and more with their heat vision, and Two and Five began chucking 2x4 grenades pulled from their NanoComs while continuing using their automatic weapons.
For a while, it looked like they actually stood a chance at overwhelming the spawn rate.
But a glance to the Terrafuser told Ben that wouldn't happen any time soon. The green meteor began glowing and pulsating even more than he had seen before. It was clearly producing less spawns, but with each new batch, they glowed brighter and looked greener.
It was dedicating more energy into making more powerful minions, Ben realized. At that moment, letting his guard down for the slightest second, one of the spawns knocked his hand out of balance; he had to shake the spawn off, but the opening it gave the putrid little creatures was enough to begin overwhelming the hell out of him. The girls followed suit, and the KND were starting to run severely low on ammo.
He couldn't hold this defense forever, Ben realized, but at this point they had no choice. The Petrosapien form was forced to chuck a shard hard into the ground and pummeled his fists to let it sprout into a large crystal barrier so they could be safe from the spawns until they configured a new strategy. But unfortunately for Ben, his current idea was not well received by the others. For them, it was back to square one of being cornered.
"What?" the diamond-headed Ben asked.
"We are literally back where we started, dude!" Two shouted.
"What'd you expect? I'd just completely K.O these aliens that decimated this world in record time?!"
"Yeah, you said that decimating thing took a year!" Two couldn't believe what he was hearing.
"And one of these things alone can manage to take out an entire army! They held you gals to a stalemate, right?" Ben explained and exclaimed, drawing more concerned looks from the Powerpuffs. "The only reason I'm able to land better hits on them is because I've learned how to use these things called Nanos; I activated one on my way here! Plus...because I got a little more time to harness the bio-chemical produced by nanites-"
"Oh, how convenient, you get better powers than us because you decided to breathe in the apocalyptic hellscape!"
"Breathe?! Are you kidding me?!"
"If I may ask," Dexter piped over the comm channel, "what did you say you used to fight these Fusions?"
"It's complicated. We don't have time to talk about them because I only have so few of them. And I don't even know if they're compatible with everyone else."
"Then tell us what you know about the Terrafusers! How can we destroy them?!" Blossom interrogated, at this point quite desperate for answers for a seemingly unwinnable scenario. But Ben stared back at her with what she could infer was a look of lament. She couldn't quite tell past the Petrosapien makeover and limited facial expressions. But whatever it was, it kept Ben quiet, thinking.
"...These things can't be destroyed, but without a healthy supply of fusion matter and a little dividing and conquering, they'll take incredibly long to regenerate. We'll try to keep the spawn rate at a minimum while you three distract the spawns and spread out their numbers, but we have to get to that tower and use the transducer! It's still our best bet."
"Will that even take it out?" Two asked.
"It won't, because the Terrafuser will regenerate eventually. But it'll buy us enough time to cordon this Park off with some containment shields."
"Providence can help with that! I sold my containment shields to them and every unit arrives with them." Dexter spoke into the comm channel enthusiastically. "But what about the Terrafuser that landed here in Tech Square?"
"I checked yours on the way to Townsville as XLR8. Yours has a lower spawning rate, so you don't need to worry about it too much. But try to build something that can keep it very low!" Ben said. "And Sector V?"
"I sent Johnny to help them. His large arsenal of abilities should keep their fusions at bay."
"Alright then!" Blossom commanded. "We divide and conquer for as long as these things come after us, and you, me, and Bubbles will rendezvous at Mojo's volcano!"
"We got it! Move out!" Five shouted. The Powerpuffs went in separate ways, staying close to the ground to not lose the attention of the spawns. Their plan began taking its course, attracting the spawns and keeping them separate Blossom made her way to the trees, hoping to lose some of them in the branches and leaves where she could eviscerate them with her heat vision. Bubbles went lower and was chased in an open field, moving close enough to the perimeter fence of the park for Providence to help out with their own rounds. Buttercup was having lots of fun scorching the lot of them from a place where they couldn't reach her, but her heat vision wasn't enough anymore. A dead giveaway of her own exhaustion.
Ben stayed with the KND, morphing into Upchuck and swallowing anything he could find to toss back at the Fusions. But due to his short stature, he couldn't tell if all his firings were hits or misses. Trying to catch a glimpse from the side of the Petrosapien stalagmite, all he could see was that same Terrafuser again.
Suddenly, a Fusion came in the way of that, and immediately spat at him, knocking him off his feet. He pressed his badge and fell back down as Ben Tennyson.
Looking down, Five noticed that Ben was caught off guard and had stumbled back. He looked hurt. "Y'alright?" She asked.
Ben could only mumble half words, apparently apprehensive to talk to her. "I–I...I'm fine. It...it's good to see you." Ben said nervously, not wanting to say much about her fate in the dystopian future. Her death still hung over his shoulders, and it was something he wasn't proud of at all, forcing her to sacrifice herself and all.
Five took a good long look at him, squinting in confusion, before her KND spy-training kicked in and put the pieces together for her.
"N-Numbuh Five's gonna die, right?!"
"What?!" Ben exclaimed. How could she have figured it out?! He didn't even say anything! "I didn't even say anything!"
"Ah shut up!" Five said, quickly getting over the dread of death fast. "If these nasty slimers're gonna be the death of me, then Numbuh Five ain't passin' on without passin' a few more headshots!"
"You got over that surprisingly fast."
Five chuckled a bit, welcoming the alien hero's humor. "Welcome back to happier times!" Five retorted.
"MOVING ON!" Buttercup exclaimed as she flew by, being chased by her own army of spawns, snapping Ben out of his euphoria and bringing him back to the battlefield. Readying the Omnitrix for another alien, he began rotating through his collection of holograms as the watch showed them, combing through the massive archives of Galvan indexes to find an alien he could wish for.
SECTOR V TREEHOUSE - EAST WING HANGAR
The hangar was in chaos. It looked like something out of a disaster movie, with people panicking, running in circles, looting random junk wherever they could find it. And as the four leading members of Sector V charged in with guns a-blazing, expecting to find a bountiful of beasts attacking the operatives...they found all the operatives attacking each other, unsure of what to do. Some of them were on their knees wailing, holding only two chocolate bars, as though there weren't enough rations for them if they had to abandon the treehouse.
They hoped to Number Zero that last part wasn't true.
Looking around and calmly setting down their guns, the apparent saviors set their weapons (and weapon systems, for Bradley) down. Shaking off whatever bloodlust they had saved for Fusion monsters, the three of them (and Four in tow) set themselves down near the crowd of bubbling anxiety.
"They're in a way more dire situation than we thought." Number One noted, stating the absolutely obvious.
"Well, the apocalypse just began. I don't blame 'em." Three said, pushing a large C.R.A.T.E. to the center of the pandemonium, being mostly ignored by the operatives running around like headless chickens. To catch the headless chickens' collective attention, she had to shout and stand on the C.R.A.T.E.
"Everybody! Please, just try to remain calm!" Three stood up, attempting to take control of the situation. The operatives stopped screaming, though many still made a run for the various vehicles in the KND hangar bay, ignoring the communications officer entirely. A glance back to Number One and Six was a dead giveaway that things were not going okay at all. They were already screaming orders as loud as they could, what more could they do. "We're gonna find out what's happening, and none of us are going to go insane doing it! Maybe it was just a-"
Three's speech was interrupted by an explosion outside the Hangar wall, blasting through the wood and sending splinters of various sizes everywhere. Everyone recoiled, raising their arms to protect their faces, slowly looking up to find the Shocktanglars back at it, having climbed up from the hole that Number Four had made upon his "landing", intercepting the KND agents at their most unprepared. Their red eyes widened, and began raising their tentacles to move towards them...
...and they were holding soulo shells.
"TAKE COVER!" Number One shouted, taking the still-comatose Number Four by the hand and hiding behind another set of C.R.A.T.E.S, narrowly escaping the blasts of the monsters before them. And to make matters worse, the KND operatives of Sector V were scared out of their minds and not thinking with an ounce of their training.
"EVERY KID FOR HIMSELF!" Someone screamed.
"No! NO, WAIT!" Three protested, but it was too late; her pleas fell on deaf ears as the hangar began quickly descending into complete anarchy as Shocktanglars began chasing various groups of kids, even singling out some with a grab of their tentacles, throwing them off the edge of the hangar floor and down into the larger tree branches. Some weren't so lucky...and screamed all the way down.
Don't worry, they survived. Geez. Just a couple broken...everything.
But the operatives above didn't know that, fearing the worst for their friends and comrades. But now was no time to wallow, and the KND started firing their weapons (and weapons systems) as much as they could to hold off the Fusion monsters. Their shots made it through the mutated and warped bodies the fusions inhabited, but they couldn't pass through the fusion matter within. Their rounds and ammo bounced off the hordes, but did manage to subdue them long enough to slow their approach.
It didn't matter though. The Fusions were a relentless species, intent on absorbing and assimilating everything that came its way; a wild band of human infants would not deter them from fulfilling their Fused will and purpose. They were to consume everything, as it was written.
And the KND, oblivious to their motivations and intentions, were slowly but surely being backed into a corner. What were they to do?! None of their weapons were even working! They couldn't fight back!
Three and Six closed their eyes in a moment of lost faith. None of their rounds did anything, what more could they do? They couldn't be asked anymore, and they tried their best...
Suddenly, the most sudden surprise occurred. A major section in their legion had suddenly collapsed, sinking into the oak and dripping out the bottom of the hangar. One by one, the Shocktanglars fell, each of them frantically searching for who pulled this attack. It had all happened so fast, and all people could make of the phenomenon was the sound they heard: a prominent gust of wind blowing at incredible speeds. But that wasn't possible! It wasn't even windy!
It started making more sense when the blur crashed into the wall of the connecting corridor.
And out came a kid in a half-sleeved thin denim shirt, sporting a radiation hazard warning printed on his t-shirt, and the wildest set of flaming red highlights seen on this side of the suburbs. And Canada.
"Who're you?!" Number One asked demandingly.
"Er...name's Johnny. The angry scientist on the phone sent me." Johnny responded, as he maneuvered past the broken splintered wood and the hole in the wall that he created. "Did I get 'em all?"
Looking behind himself, he saw the legion of Shocktanglars all down, oozing fusion matter onto the wooden floor and staying down, including the ones that chased stray KND operatives. He looked upon his work with a grin; maybe he was getting the hang of this speed stuff after all. He just had to focus on not running into walls.
Johnny felt, however, that he was forgetting something important. Like there was something these fusions were supposed to do once they were dead.
Eh, who cares, he thought. He was too busy basking in this super awesome victory! The KND had a few more questions for him though.
"HOW did you get them all?!" One demanded to know.
"I dunno. Think I vibrated my molecules when I ran into them and destabilized their forms or something." Johnny 'speculated'. "Powerful stuff like that usually does the trick." He said, referencing when he saw Dexter jam an electric wrench into a Techwing. But behind the hyperactive hooligan, it was clear that his pride and victory was wasted as the fusion matter began wriggling and climbing back up into the bodies of several less-injured and sustainable Shocktanglars, regenerating at an impressive rate. He seemed oblivious to the whole thing, not even able to hear the soft but audible scowling noise the rejuvenated Fusion monsters were making. If only someone would tell him!
"It doesn't do the trick for long!" Three screamed, taking notice and pointing with her shaking hand. Johnny looked bewildered at such a preposterous idea. He clearly beat them! He ran into a wall just to take them out! Ugh, he thought. His victory was RUINED!
Never mind that, though. He had to make sure to finish the job. This time for good. But with what? He couldn't exactly risk running off the floor and falling into the open. Even if he could pull something out of his mutant genes to save him, he couldn't afford to keep everyone waiting for his return. They could be dead by then.
At that point, he realized that he was thinking too much about his speed. He had a legion of powers at his beck-and-call, all thanks to those countless experiments over the last 5 years beating his DNA into tin foil. It was time he used them.
"Okay, hold on. I got something better for this!" Johnny said, standing ready and with a mischievous gin. That Dexter guy did tell him to use his other powers in light of his inexperience with super-speed. Perhaps he should have lead with that instead, and that way he could finish the job. His hands began vibrating, shaking at incredible speeds, generating static and moisture in a blizzard of weather. All in the palm of his hands. Straightening out his hands, he channeled all those mini storms into a swirling vortex of its own, remembering to step back as the Fusions approached him closer and closer.
These creatures were lessening the pace because they recognized who, or rather what, they were fighting. An extremely powerful metahuman, and with any move they had to be prepared.
But nothing could have prepared them for what he did next, which was jump forward and smack them with all the elemental energy he had, and it was still swirling and charging. He finally let both mini-storms loose with a fast motion after jumping back, raising both hands and sending the tornados spinning into the monsters ahead. Johnny's attempt at martial arts seemed to be enough to distract them and let their guard down. Now it was the monsters flying and crashing out the wall, plummeting to a pulpy death from the Treehouse. But the sheer force of the mini tornado, which Johnny was struggling to rein in and control, was tearing the Shocktanglar bodies apart, depriving the Fusion matter of the oxygen they had adapted to when coming to Earth, weakening them immensely. Gusts of wind blew into the KND's faces, prompting some to look away from the blow-back, but most of them could look only in awe at the kid with the flaming hair protected them.
The last Shocktanglar was still spinning round and round, trying desperately to maintain this physical form. It drew on the strength that its lord and master provided it, and Johnny was not having it. He tried to increase the intensity of the winds, growing red from exhaustion, and having to set down one of his tornado arms. He had to increase the power somehow, but not with winds.
His mind pondered on using a flame-based attack. But would that work? The lack of oxygen in the tornado would definitely make it hard to sustain a proper fire whirl. But if he made it as hot as he could...perhaps the wind conditions would be enough to sustain the flames!
And Dukey said he never listened to his sisters' science lectures.
"I have an idea," he told the members of Sector V, "and I hope it works!"
"God I hope it works, 'cause I really don't wanna make the flames come from my-"
"AASSS YOU WERE DOING!" Three shouted, well aware of what Johnny was about to say, but she was undeterred and still ready to fire her weapon at the Fusion monsters; ready to strike if Johnny Test's 'brilliant plan' over here would fail them.
"As a wise...uh...fictional character...once said..." Johnny said, stalling for time while his tired arm transferred as much thermal energy as he could store (as well as that stored in his...unspeakable), he glanced back to the Shocktanglar, having adapted to the conditions of the tornado, though not in a position to fight back. His hand glided over to his front, and with as much grit as he could muster, he said, "FLAME ON, SUCKER!"
Firing everything he had, his flames shot out his right hand and were quickly absorbed by the tornado, spiraling and spinning and checkmating the Fusion monster. The Shocktanglar was beginning to react violently to the extra layer of burning atmosphere. Its casing was melting, the wires burning and growing limp, and the blank red eyes of evil were wide open with pain. It screamed and squealed, shrieking and roaring, unable to escape the trap set by the metahuman boy.
But the boy was getting tired. Any longer and the fire whirl could spiral out of control. He should have thought this through more. "I have to let go at some point!" Johnny thought out loud, unsure of when he could do, "but without slowing down, the entire place could be set on fire!"
"NO! DON'T DO THAT!" Bradley shouted, while One and Three looked on with fear. "DO ANYTHIN' BUT THAT!"
Johnny continued gritting his teeth, though not before sheepishly laughing a little; he hadn't intended to say that out loud. But the situation was getting even MORE dire. His choices were between a rock and a hard place. And what was worse was that his arms were tiring, and his head was feeling faint. He couldn't keep up this display forever.
But out of nowhere, he was proven that he didn't have to. He could hear a missile launch from behind him completely unexpectedly. Moving at enough force to cut through the tornado and hit the last Shocktanglar square in the tentacles, sending it spinning through the room and out the tornado in a miserable and burnt state before finally rising out of the hangar and exploding at a safe distance. A yellow beam of light descended upon the base as the Shocktanglar was decimated after being beaten, spun around endlessly, and utterly humiliated at the hands of these humans.
Turning around, they found that the one who fired was none other than Number Four, half-emerged from his concussive coma, gritting his teeth from the splitting headache he had and the enormous amount of effort he had to pull just for this one thing.
"'ow many is at urth..." Four said, still slurring and suffering from his concussion, and quickly falling back into unconsciousness.
Johnny looked at the Australian kid with blond hair bangs with a darkly humorous grin, before feeling light headed himself. Using his hands, he dispersed the tornado of fire and wind, both elements disappearing with nothing more than gusts and embers. By the end, the human guinea pig was more than exhausted. He was a mess; panting, sweating, a little limp in his legs. With how much force he had to exert, he wouldn't have been surprised if his sweat was turning into C4.
But the job wasn't done yet.
Eh, who cared about the job. All Johnny wanted to do was relax a little. There were only so many times he could be bothered to do anything, and most of the time, he deserved a nice rest afterwards.
Until these fusions could be properly subdued, they forced themselves to keep fighting. They couldn't back down now, not when they still had to get Mojo's Volcano. But there had to be an endgame to this whole thing. They couldn't play Tom and Jerry forever; at least when they did it back in the 1940s, it sounded fun from the history books alone. But this was getting pedantic. Tiring.
Blossom and Bubbles had switched tactics; the former was now racing across the fence of Townsville Park, letting the Providence agents shoot the chasing spawns behind her, looking back to strike some of them herself using her heat vision. Bubbles went for higher territory, colliding into the trees and keeping a lot of the spawns chasing her stuck in one place. Buttercup kept company with Ben and the KND, working outside the Petrosapien barricade to punch, kick and tear apart any and all spawns that came her way. Ben provided as much sniping as he could as Water Hazard, as did Number Five and Number Two, making sure to put at least five rounds of smoothies or freeze rays on the each cluster of spawns.
But even they knew they couldn't keep doing this. Ben was well aware that they had a mission, and a purpose to keep fighting in this instant, but until these Fusions were properly subdued, he wouldn't be going anywhere. But unless they had some sort of sweet diversion...
...oh wait. In the heat of battle, Ben had almost completely forgotten. But in a moment of serenity, he remembered what Buttercup had said before he left the lab. And suddenly, a plan began forming. And just as he was figuring things out, he got an incoming call from Dexter. It looked like he wasn't stoked about their position as sitting ducks either.
"Ben, we are wasting precious time," Dexter spoke into Ben's commlink, built into the Omnitrix badge each of his aliens sported when he transformed. "You need to go to the volcano and reconfigure that telescope!"
Ben knew he was right. They had stalled long enough, and Ben had simply making sure that the Powerpuffs and the KND would have some backup. Now was the time to drop the act. He pressed his badge, contacting the others. "Blossom, Bubbles, lead your spawns back here. We've got a transducer to use!"
"Roger that!" Blossom confirmed. "Headed your way now!"
"Okay...Buttercup! Get ready!" Ben told her with ferocity. This was the moment she was waiting for. To let it all out.
"Way ahead of you!" Buttercup rebutted, quickly hovering up and channeling as much as she could into her heat vision, sending green rays of light across the battlefield. Not all spawns were impacted by it though; some maneuvered past it, but Buttercup was able to multitask, and started punching as many as she could, despite being somewhat blind to where they were. Firing her knuckles at top speed, she pummeled and hit as hard as she could, attacking from all angles that she could find.
While Buttercup and the KND distracted, Ben transfigured into XLR8, running as fast as he could through the various pastel streets and buildings of Townsville to escape the fight. Blossom and Bubbles took a different direction, being far more familiar with their city than Ben was. The volcano was just a few blocks away from the park, and with the right speed for all three heroes, they could make it in time to begin work. It was just a matter of how much work there would be to do.
On the ground, things were going smoothly. Buttercup was continuing her barrage against the Fusions, shaking off all attempts at overwhelming her, but not letting a single spawn escape her sight. As much as she was sure Providence's perimeter was tight, she couldn't be sure that they would be able to handle this horde.
Number Two, realizing that the situation finally called for it, activated his F.L.A.P.P.U.H to give more air support in the absence of the other two girls. But not before getting to say something he'd been waiting to say for a while.
"Kids Next Door! BATTLE STATIONS!" He proudly shouted, despite there being only two operatives on the field.
"We already shouted that." Five said, ruining the moment.
"Yeah, but I didn't do it!"
"Just keep it down, Hoagie," Five warned. "If one of these Providence adults hears that name, the entire KND gets toasted!"
"Right, right, sorry!" Two apologized as he began floating upwards, his gun still in-hand.
"WILL YOU TWO BOZOS PLEASE GET BACK TO SHOOTING?!" Buttercup exclaimed. It was rather frustrating to her how often these Kids Next Door people could get distracted.
They were under such a hurry to enter the conservatory, Ben didn't even bother transforming into Upgrade to hack the security system. This time, he kicked the door down and into a chemistry lab with the might of Four Arms (but still with two legs, though) and all the anxiety of his human self. The Powerpuff Girls that trailed behind him bolted into the lab with their pink and blue trails of light following them even as they descended.
They began combing the area for large devices, which frankly wasn't very hard. But between the gaps in the metal floor revealing giant robots, flying saucers, charging stations, and dozens of monitors and spectrometers, it was a little difficult to find the best parts to take from to modify the telescope. But strangely enough, the girls weren't doing that. They were leaving everything they examined intact.
"What're you guys doing?"
"Finding the right device. In case you didn't notice, there are a lot of them in this one giant room." Blossom told him, finally stopping in her super-speedy tracks in front of one device in particular. "Okay Bubbles, I found it!"
"Fine, but why?" the alien hero inquired. "Shouldn't we be breaking this stuff apart and redesigning the telescope to make that imaginary ray?"
"Gosh, wrecking all his stuff sounds so fun;" Blossom said in a non-joking manner, "but honestly, we don't need to. Let me just check to see if the telescope can still charge an electromagnetic frequency."
Seeing the confusion on the Tetramand's face, Bubbles explained what they knew. "Mojo's used the telescope as a laser pointer before, specifically to project concussive blasts. He used one on Townsville three years ago. We beat him up for it, and then we climbed into the Dynamo to destroy the death ray...and then we beat him up again. It was a fun day."
"Okay! It's still got that!" Blossom confirmed regarding the telescope. "We can make a makeshift EPC!"
"Really?" Ben asked in disbelief. "So why did Dexter assume we'd have to build it? Did he think Mojo destroyed that part of the telescope?"
"Honestly, I don't even wanna ask why Dexter would expect so much of our archenemy." Blossom answered. "But regardless, the telescope could use a few modifications for the spectrometers to process the right concentration of imagination energy. And to do that..."
"We got ourselves a bona-fide imaginary energy transducer!" Ben shouted in victory as he transformed back into a human, running over to hand the device to Blossom's careful hands. "Seriously though. Why does Mojo still have this telescope if he used it for a death ray once?"
Blossom rolled her eyes, not at the genuine question, but the memory of that incident's fallout. "Let's just say our Mayor is really easy to bribe. Like...REALLY easy." she lamented as she took the device from Ben with her careful hands. She remembered the last time she had to carry it and modify it and fire it on a horde of fusion spawns not too dissimilar to the one outside.
But a glance to that same park, now a battlefield, she did feel a slight amount of worry that distracted her. "Are you sure they're gonna survive out there?" She asked, worried about her sister and the KND's lives.
"Let's just say I worked a lot with Future Number Two to know that the guy can make anything work." Ben said, quick to assure her otherwise. "And he'll definitely be able think up something that'll work."
"Holy crap, it worked!" Two exclaimed.
His plan was simple and straightforward. Using his F.L.A.P.P.U.H, he would attain the high ground higher than any of the girls could achieve, and fire on higher frequencies of blended fruits and veggies to overwhelm the fusion spawns.
But like always, the fusion spawns adapt. They begin hopping around each other, building up a speed until they bump heads and begin working to form a pillar out of nothing but their own bodies. They looked like a giant earthworm now.
"Holy crap, it didn't work!" Two exclaimed.
"I knew that wouldn't work." Ben admitted, looking out Mojo's window.
"They adapt, Blossom. That giant Fusion earthworm was bound to happen at some point" Ben told her, confronting her utter disbelief with a strategy of his own. "But the best part about this? We have a clear line of sight of a test subject for the imagination ray."
"If we wanted a test subject, we would've brought along that Johnny kid!" Blossom told him. "I don't feel very comfortable gambling lives here."
"Number Two apparently invented that piece of KND tech he's wearing." Ben told her, not losing faith in the operative for one second. "If he really invented it, then flying will be second-hand for him. He might even be as fast as you. So if I'm telling you he can handle the spawns on that thing, he can do it."
Just then, a transmission over the comm channel came through. It was all for the worse; while Ben had confidence in Number Two's persistence...it seemed like Buttercup was on her last legs. "Guys?" Buttercup said over the comm channel, sounding incredibly tired and weak.
"Buttercup?!" Bubbles shouted, still worried for her sister's safety. And at that moment, the time was nearing the darkest hour.
"Guys...I don't know how much more I can do this...please hurry up!"
"Buttercup's diversion isn't working anymore?!" Ben asked, hearing her distress call too.
"Hang in there!" Blossom said, clearly stressing and freaking out over what could become of her sister if they didn't act now. But the problem was... "We...we don't have time to help her! What're we going to do?!"
Immediately, Ben had a backup plan in mind. He remembered seeing some of the news reports following the girls on their adventures, and recalled that Bubbles in particular had a pretty special move she used on special occasions. It intrigued him to see what Bubbles could do to with help from a certain alien he had in the watch. "Bubbles! You got something loud and noisy to keep them preoccupied?!"
"Gotch'ya covered, boss!" Bubbles complied with a great deal of excitement. She had been waiting to use her special move for the longest while.
"Good. I can help you."
"How? You and Blossom need to work on the telescope!"
"I said I could help you." Ben said as he pushed the Omnitrix hourglass on his chest yet again. Ben's entire body shrank down in height. His facial proportions shifted and compressed, becoming more obtuse than long, and his entire body was wrapped in a white jumpsuit-like material. Headphone-like bumps connected to veins formed around his stretched-out head, and his eyes and hourglass badge glowed a bright neon green. Wasting no time, Ben used Echo Echo to make two copies of himself, and their shared mental link gave them an idea of what came next. "I never said which one of me, though! Take my two clones and get really noisy!" He asked, throwing the clones to the flying blue Powerpuff.
"Hooray! A roller coaster ride!" one clone said positively.
"I'm gonna be sick!" the other clone said more negatively.
Bubbles giggled as she carried the clones on her two arms, both Bens holding on for dear life, but as they bolted up in the sky and set their sights toward the battle at the Park, seeing their friends in constant battle and peril, all fear faded away almost in an instant.
"CANNON. OF. SOUND!" The Echos said in unison, and Bubbles cleared her throat to let their collective voices rip.
And rip they did and more. The sound was at a high enough frequency to completely destabilize the spawns in the park. From afar even, the KND's ears were ringing like crazy. But it did the best number on the spawns, and even unbalanced the large Fusion earthworm. Bubbles and Ben knew that this move would help far more for the time being, and wouldn't need to be repeated for a while. But they knew the more times they did it, the more the fusions would be able to adapt to it. But at least at that point they could give Buttercup a bit of resting time as the hordes of fusion spawns retreated.
"You want me to WHAT?!"
"You have super-speed, don't you?" Number One asked aggravatingly, "You can extract the KND operatives in Townsville!"
"Haven't you been paying attention? Or maybe I should crash more holes in your wall? Hell, why not I just break your entire tree apart, dude?!" Johnny protested, annoyed that this KND agent couldn't see his point. He didn't always think THAT high of himself, with his apparent narcissism being mostly a front, but he knew when he was in the right. "If anyone's best equipped to extract them, it's you guys!"
"You mean to tell me you have no other powers, and no other inventions, that can help our friends?!" One shouted back. "Townsville Park was just locked off by Providence. We came back to escape complete public exposure! If you go, it'll be in and out, and everything we at the KND have worked for will be in vain!"
"Last I checked, I saw your KND thing go public hours ago!" Johnny pulled out his own NanoCom and pointed to the unmarked and public communications server, the one that Number Two opened to reconnect the KND. "Plus, we have no clue if those tentacle things are gonna return! And you want the superhero away from the action? You want me to leave you powerless kids to die?! Look, you care so much about your friends, then you gotta make your call. And it doesn't matter if it's the right one if that's how much you care about them! KND protocol my-"
"THERE ARE KIDS IN THIS ROOM!"
"Whatever! Look at all the cards on the table, and figure out what you wanna do! But all I'll say is that I'm gonna make sure nothing so much as scratches your treehouse. Got it?!"
His rant was short and precise, but most importantly it was straight to the point. It made Number One realize and accept defeat. He wasn't thinking properly or rationally. His worry for their safety was clouding his judgement. At this point, they had no choice.
With a deep and regretful sigh...
One made his call.
"Three? Four? Prime the S.C.A.M.P.E.R." He told them, walking backwards and hopping into one of the many available ships. "We're taking off."
Both operatives looked indifferent to this decision, more so surprised by Number One's concession to this unruly metahuman of all people. But what they had expected to hear was what One asked Johnny soon after. They just didn't expect it so late.
"That includes you." One ordered Johnny, ignoring his wishes to stay at the treehouse, much to his shock. "Your powers might yet be of use to us, but I can assure you the last thing my Sector needs is your protection. All they need is a better push." He explained, and soon after turned to the other members of Sector V. "Kids Next Door! BATTLE STATIONS! Man the fort, make sure nothing touches our base. You now have full authorization to use deadly force, including and not limited to our stash of anti-toxins! Now MOVE OUT!"
All the kids were reenergized, as if a fire had been lit in their hearts as well as right underneath them. They had been observing the argument for a while, hoping someone would at least inspire them. But they couldn't deny each side had a point. It was just a matter of making a call, be it right or wrong, because they were running out of time.
"Remember, the red wire goes over the blue wire! And remember to push the button on the stick to fire it!" Blossom shouted at the now human Ben, urgent to get this right. Surprisingly, Ben made no attempt to talk back, fully understanding the gravity of the situation; this was no time for even levity.
He made sure to contact command for a favor. "Dex! Keep the area readings up! We need to know if we properly killed the spawns this time!"
Blossom quickly hovered over to the towering light-matter generator that would power the telescope's death ray, using the transducer to provide a less deadly fuel source would ensure a proper ray of energy released, deadly only for the fusion spawns that continued chasing Number Two, whose plan had adapted. She looked outside the window to see him circling the long worm like a crow to its prey, almost winding the worm into the soil and trapping it, as it moved with such a force that it shifted the earth beneath itself.
But a little bit longer for this generator and Two wouldn't have to worry about that worm any longer.
"Just a little bit more..." Blossom said, bouncing on her tiptoes as the meter filled up with imagination energy. Reaching 95%...then 97...soon 98...and finally...
...it reached 100%!
And without hesitation, this makeshift Electro-Pulse Cannon was activated by Ben, the telescope lens moved into position by Bubbles...
...and blasted its way into Townsville Park.
Like a ray of light, it immediately touched down on the Fusion worm, pummeling it with an energy hazardous to it and only it, penetrating each part of the polymer chain that made up the fusion matter, penetrating and cancelling it out with pure imagination energy. Very soon, the spawns began collapsing as Number Two looked in awe. They were slowly and surely being disintegrated into nothing.
"BUBBLES! AIM IT AT THE TERRAFUSER!" Blossom commanded, not wasting another second.
And neither did Bubbles as the ray of light and electromagnetism began pummeling the Terrafuser with everything it had. From afar, Bubbles couldn't see much, but a peak from Five confirmed their hopes. The Terrafuser was disintegrating, collapsing in on itself!
The beam began to shrink and shrink, until it receded back into the telescope. Everyone was panting from the insane amount of stress and pressure that had just befallen them for the last half-n-hour. The telescope was still a little warm from the beam, staying ready for another blast, which the three of them were wondering if they would need. But they knew there was only one true way to find out.
A long pause took place, and the silence was killing them. The boy genius himself was taking a while to answer their question, and for a while it almost felt like he was toying with them. But the silence could also have meant he himself was processing what had just happened, or trying his best to hold in his excitement.
"Congratulations...you did it." the boy genius informed them.
Luckily for our heroes, it was the latter.
Their eyes widened without fear for the first time in what felt like forever. A nice change of pace to have a good surprise indeed, and naturally our heroes were quick to celebrate.
"HOLY CRAP!" Ben exclaimed with absolute joy. He doubted this ever happened in the Future's past.
"YES! HELL! YES!" Buttercup yelled over the channel.
Blossom herself was so relieved that she didn't bother to correct Buttercup's language. "We did it...we really did it." She repeated. "We did it! WE DID IT!"
But that victory was short lived, as Bubbles noticed something horrifying above.
"Look up in the sky." Bubbles said, prompting everyone to do just that. For the girls, they used their telescopic vision. For Ben, he couldn't see past the large metal dome, so he had to use the telescope itself. He was hoping for a minor setback, like maybe the imagination energy caused the grass and trees to come to life and start singing show-tunes. But what they saw killed their excitement and that minor hope from not too long ago.
There were five large, bright green balls, about the size of satellites, falling from the sky, barely visible from down on Earth, and had yet to enter the atmosphere. They were like green twinkling stars...twinkling stars that were getting brighter. They were making their descent much quicker than any normal meteor, catching the attention of our heroes, as well as the Providence agents surrounding the Park.
Ben looked up at that sky with the momentary relief sucked out of him as though a vampire bit him. He contacted command to be the bearer of the really bad news. "Dexter. You...spoke WAY too soon..."
"That's a lot of green eggs..." Bubbles said. "And there's no ham with it..." she said half-joking and half-terrified.
"But...it...that is not possible!" Dexter continued exclaiming, understanding the inference from Bubbles. "My planetary satellites are not picking up any signals!"
Just like always, Ben realized. Fuse was adapting to their strategies, their techniques.
But he can't have adapted to imagination energy yet.
"Blossom, how much charge does the machine have?!"
"It should be enough for a nullification, but not enough to slow their velocity down." Blossom elaborated. "We can try."
"We have no choice. Let's fire it again!" Ben said, grabbing the button stick. "Bubbles, get it into position!"
"They're coming from space! How'll I know where to point it from here?!" Bubbles exclaimed, unsure that the scope's ray would even reach the pack of eggs in their descent. She wasn't the best at trig either, so her confidence was wearing thin.
But Ben had a quick and easy solution. "Follow the sound. They should be entering the atmosphere now!"
And almost as if on cue, the Terrafusers finally made atmospheric entry, lighting up the sky with a fiery color of green and orange, still glowing and ready to strike. But thee heroes would die before letting that happen.
Without even saying 'aim' or 'fire', Ben pushed the button stick once more, igniting the chain reaction again and using up the last reserves of imagination energy left in the transducer. Sparks began flying from the generator, overheating the transducer in the process, but managing to send as much imagination energy into the stratosphere and higher. The blowback on the generator must've been from the amount of energy being converted at such a large distance.
Bubbles once again tried her best to see their hit was a success, and to no surprise it was. The blast engulfed all five new Terrafusers!
"Success. The ionized radiation signals has grown increasingly weak." Dexter spoke, informing everyone. "But that blast was not powerful enough to stop its descent!"
Blossom was more than disappointed by the revelation, no matter how she predicted it not too long ago. "Just like I said. They're not stopping!"
Ben had it up to here with this crap. He let out a cry of frustration. "Aaargh! Damnit!"
"Oh go language yourself!"
"Knock it off, both of you!" Bubbles protested from outside. Getting the both of them to shut up, she reached for her earpiece to contact the ground team. "Buttercup! You there?!"
"W-What's wrong?!" Buttercup asked, still a little sore from all that fighting, and caught off guard by the sudden change in mood.
"We got more meteors incoming! WAY MORE incoming! The telescope nullified them, but you can catch them, right?"
Buttercup smiled as she heard those words. It was a rarity to see Bubbles being so strategic, let alone willing to let her sister do her heroic thing. The previous time, the Terrafuser was active, and that's why Bubbles had pushed her out of the way. With the Terrafusers incoming now inactive, Bubbles was now giving her the chance to do her heroic thing.
And she loved catching meteors.
"Just point me in the right direction, sis!" she exclaimed. "And no funny business this time; got it?" she demanded. She took the following silence as a 'yes', and flew off into the direction her NanoCom was now telling her to go to. It looked like this wave of Terrafusers was going to land in the Pokey Oaks suburbs...where the girls themselves lived.
For Buttercup, the stakes couldn't have been higher. The ray they used only temporarily nullified the Terrafusers as engines of planetary destruction, but at that point they were nothing more than meteors, meteors crashing down at a high impact velocity. Buttercup's mind raced as she raced to her home suburb. What if their house is hit?! What if the Professor gets hurt?! She had to call it in!
"Dexter! Call my dad, tell him to get to the basement! NOW!"
"I will, just a moment! Jack, report back indoors!"
As the meteors cut through the clouds, they left a green moody sky in their wake, and on a peaceful day in the Pokey Oaks neighborhood, that was immediately noticeable by pretty much everyone. People on their NanoComs began to notice how the sky got significantly darker, and how a tint of green were appearing before their very eyes...in fact, it was before them because it was coming right for them!
Buttercup continued racing across her familiar neighborhood at her top speed, finding these people as they began to shriek and cry in terror, and pulling them out of the way, one by one. It was all in a blur, and saving so many people almost made her forget about the issue with these meteors. She mentally face-palming under the realization that the Terrafusers could still land and regenerate afterwards.
"So that was Bubbles' dilemma." Buttercup felt guilty in her ignorance while racing to the next location; right now, caring about family was her top priority anyhow. She kept looking up and down, scanning for her house and making sure she didn't lose sight of the remaining meteors.
Out of the corner of her eye, she finally saw her home as she flew by.
Thank god, she thought. She was so worried, and now she didn't have to hold anything back in flying.
But she did need to still strategize. She saw that the remaining two Terrafusers were going in separate directions. She didn't have a way to keep both from landing without neglecting the other. So, in a quick-willed thought, she fired her heat vision at a remarkable concussive pressure on the Terrafuser the farthest away from her, hoping to change its course; she was counting that it would land in a grass field with a considerable distance away from the suburban houses.
And with that, she increased her speed in the air, and absorbed the hit of the inactive Terrafuser colliding into her.
This time, she could properly fight back, firing both lasers and using all her strength to push back on the Terrafuser's destination. Looking behind her, it was in the middle of a street, and people were a little too distracted to notice her coming in hot.
"COMING THROUGH!" She yelled, successfully getting their attention. They all began screaming and getting out of the way, running away as Buttercup landed; her feet crashed into the asphalt road and a little into the sidewalk behind her as the Terrafuser kept pushing and pushing.
Gritting her teeth, grunting and yelling in exertion with all her might, her powers entered a phase unlike anything she felt. The rush of adrenaline was enough to increase her strength tenfold. She would NOT let this thing land! That surge and extra ounce of motivation was exactly what she needed to pull through...or in this case...
At last, Buttercup's grip and push on the Terrafuser was coming in her favor. And in an indescribable amount of joy, she chucked the deflated egg all the way into space with every last bit of strength, and it rocketed back into the atmosphere, becoming merely a twinkle in the eye.
She found that entire experience to be incredibly stressful...and as the bystanders surrounded her, she felt a desperate need to go back home. The bystanders surrounding her, however, were a little concerned about her. A burly man in black and blue with shades hanging over his eyes took a different approach than the rest, though.
"Whoah, mama," the cool-looking dude said as 'politely' as he could "for a girl you got some-!"
"Don't...don't even say it." the tough Powerpuff warned, falling back down onto the curved but cracked asphalt. Finally taking a breather. It was over. It was finally over...for now.
She couldn't believe the battle that had just finished. They were cornered so many times, outnumbered and outmatched, and faced with doom more times today than ever before. It was unlike anything they faced from Father's forces, or the Proper Patrol's, or the B.R.A. forces, or anyone for that matter. Abby had been a KND operative since she was 4 years old, ever since her sister enlisted her, and with 11 years of service to children everywhere being suddenly undermined by the most haunting and terrifying battle of her career, nearly being slaughtered by a hostile alien army, she was very very frightened. But most of all...
...she was tired. She was slouched against the Petrosapien barricade, too petrified to move a muscle, and too tense to ease and relax. Trauma wouldn't be an apt word to describe what she experienced, nor would exhaustion. But the word she was looking for to define the aftermath of her fight certainly fell in-between.
Even Number Two, who could eat five family-sized pot pies over the course of an entire day and not lose an ounce of energy, was resting on the straps of his F.L.A.P.P.U.H. trying to catch a breath. He limped over in fatigue to slouch next to Five, fearing what would happen next.
All three Powerpuff Girls were out of the way, Ben 10 had saved the day yet again, Dexter and his team were safe in their laboratory, but the KND were completely surrounded and given no afterthought. Providence agents surrounded them. And even though the Terrafuser was temporarily nullified, they feared they would be stuck inside the containment zone if they were stuck exhausted any longer...or worse that the Terrafuser would regenerate quickly and continue the battle. There just was no conceivable way out of this situation. It really felt like they had been screwed over. Even though they knew this would be their riskiest job yet, and that Providence would find out eventually. But they hoped it wouldn't be so soon...and in such a dire state.
Forget the alien invasion or whatever; the world already felt like it was ending.
In fact, Number Five couldn't tell if she had died like Ben said she would yet. The only thing that was keeping her from slipping into exhaustion were the inexplicable gusts of wind that were blowing against her face. But maybe she really was in heaven...because she kept hearing someone call out her codename.
"Numbuh Five!" a voice called out, a familiar voice at that. "Numbuh Five! Abby, it's us!"
Tilting her head just the tiniest bit above, not high enough to expose her eyes, she finally got a good look at who was calling. It was Number One, and Number Three and Four, all on a S.C.A.M.P.E.R, here to extract them.
"Hey Nigel." Number Two called out in a quiet voice, fatigued as hell from the battle and its climatic finish. The most uncomfortable thing about it all was the knowledge that it was far from over. But at least there could be peace for a moment.
The two of them were so tired that they couldn't even jump to think that the S.C.A.M.P.E.R. was completely out in the open. Luckily for them, behind them was a massive tornado, circling their entire position in a thick foggy wind that could barely be seen by the outside Providence forces. The agents watched from afar, unsure of what it even was. They could only make out a silhouette behind the stationary tornado. They knew it was a spaceship, and that the shape looked an awful lot like the crashed one from the mission briefing, but they hadn't ever seen a functioning one at all. All they could wonder was who was piloting it, and where the tornado had even come from. They had a scanner out, and they couldn't get a straight lock on any metahuman signatures.
The silhouettes behind the tornado took hold of Two and Five while still in-mid air, after the both of them reached high enough to grab their comrades' hands, and the rescuers pulled with all their might until they were safely on-board. Three lead the both of them to a comfy resting area as they began to take off, but not before one last thing.
"Activate the hull magnet, opposing charge."
"Sssssuuuure." Four slurred. A few button clicks at his end of the station and the KND S.C.A.M.P.E.R. activated its built-in hull magnet, useful for carrying things like cargo or repelling anything like ammo. Though with the apparent alien war that could terraform the soil itself, making their entire treehouse more vulnerable than ever, some of the operatives wondered if there were any larger applications for this technology, or if there was anything from the tech-heads in Siyenn City that they could poach off of. They used the magnet they already had to pick up the mostly melted, once-frosty, remains of the S.C.A.M.P.E.R. they rode in on when this whole thing had started.
One turned back to face Johnny, who was kneeling down and commanding the currents of wind with his hand. The boy seemed to be sweating and clenching his teeth together. He was clearly getting tired. He turned to face the seated Number Five with his magnetic charm.
"Hey...I'm Johnny," He began. "You wanna help me with somethin'?" He had seen a lot of gadgets come out of the KND's pockets. He was in the hopes that there would be at least one that could give him a boost for power.
"Nnnumbuh Five's...tired as shii..." That was all she could muster to say between panting for dear life.
"Not the reaction I was expecting." Johnny said with his "magnetic" charm, put off by a polarizing reception. "Hey Ray-bands! I think the tornados are starting to unwind!"
"Bradley! We have to go now!" One shouted behind himself. "Hold it for a little longer!"
"I didn't say I could hold on, I said they were unwinding!"
Unwinding they were indeed. The fog and gust began to settle, and the shaped silhouettes of the ship were now being exposed more and more, catching more and more eyes from the perimeter of agents.
"'Kay everyone!" Bradley shouted. "Hold on t'yer lunchbox!" And the KND S.C.A.M.P.E.R. rocketed out of Townsville Park, just in the nick of time and as the storm was fully disperesed. But unfortunately, not enough to stave off the prying eyes of Providence.
As the ship flew off into the greenish clouds, Providence agents were captured in attention, though more so in surprise than in genuine awe. Watching it fly by revealed how low tech the ship seemed despite working just fine. The most interested of them all was Captain Calan, who gave a quick glare and huff before returning to priority one.
"The last heroes are out. Deploy the Dexlabs containment shields." Calan ordered two of his right hand men.
"Sir yes Sir!"
"You got it, chief."
As they were sent out, Calan had other ideas too. "Anderson?" Calan called out. The soldier known as Anderson turned to face his commanding officer, who gave him a new set of orders, "Get a satellite on that thing and find a way to track it. I want to know everything."
Ben looked up as Bubbles and his clones descended from the ceiling, having transformed back into Echo Echo to merge himself back with the other two. He was chuckling the whole way through. As he was, Bubbles landed next to her sister, relaying important intel.
"I just got a call from Buttercup." Bubbles told her. "Looks like three of the five terrafusers landed, and the fourth one got bounced off into a different suburb...hopefully."
"And the fifth one?" Blossom asked, knowing the answer already. "She caught it, didn't she? That's good. But how could she lose three others?"
"Apparently they were headed right for civilians. She had to make some kind of call." Bubbles answered. "Honestly, if I were in her position? I'd...probably do the same."
"Fair enough...but guys? We have a different problem." Blossom called to the both of them, the Echoes, now one singular Ben, stood up with worry. What did Blossom mean by that?
"Are there a few more spawns that need to be pulped?" Ben asked, but her answer was far worse than that.
"No...it's the transducer," Blossom sounded shocked and saddened as she held the smoking hot remains of a once incredible piece of technology, its antenna bent out of shape as though it were melting, and all of the glass buttons and indicators had been blown out from the inside. What was worse was that there used to be a glow to it, something that felt strange and raw...and that was lost. It must've been the imagination energy stored within. It was depleted. Blossom held herself accountable; she didn't realize how it would overheat when firing at 100% capacity.
Ben found himself at a loss for words at first. He had imagined the use of that thing could bring a quicker end to the war...but now...he realized that in his entire experience out of time, he didn't hear the transducer mentioned once. And maybe...maybe this was why?
"That's gonna be a problem in the future..." Ben muttered to himself with worry, hoping what he speculated wasn't true. "That could take months to repair and replenish..."
"Surely there's gotta be some stuff left inside to salvage, right?" Bubbles asked.
"There probably is, but not enough for an entire army." Blossom realized. "I really hope Dexter's planning on getting in-touch with Foster's Home...if they don't shoot him on sight first..." Turning to Ben, she looked for a little bit of credit. "So...we beat them, even though you made them sound unbeatable."
Ben couldn't believe what he was hearing right now. Blossom didn't come off as the one to be snarky about anything like this. "It was a first wave. That whole thing was a first wave. And the only means we had to win cleanly...is now fried." Ben told her. "Planet Fusion is gonna take at least a month to get here, this was just their appetizer or something, and until we can figure out better strategies, we're nowhere closer to beating them than we were when behind those barricades."
"How do you know it's only a month?"
"I got to know from Mandark." he said. "Even if he didn't tell me, he wouldn't have sent me to the start of the invasion, but a bit before so we can prepare."
"Then what are you expecting?" Blossom said sounding the most bossy. "We've got a month. And we're going to prepare."
Though her tone could have used some work, Ben understood completely, and any of the doubts he had were squashed back down. They could focus on the transducer later; they had another job to do before that. They then focused on reconvening with the team at Dexlabs.
He knew to expect setbacks. It was a measure that he had grown accustomed to as a practitioner of the sciences and mechanical technologies. That quote from Thomas Edison, no matter how little respect Dexter had for the man himself, rung true in the face of accepting a failed experiment. But whenever things were on the line, when the world would depend on him, he was far more arrogant and demanding for proper results. He couldn't accept a screw up.
But here, in front of him, was a scenario where he couldn't fault this team of heroes. They had risked life and limb to take care of this test wave of fusion spawns, did everything in their power to make sure that they could make a good impression towards "Lord Fuse". And to do this, they were forced to act upon an unforeseen circumstance, and the loss of a major advantage.
The damage done to the imagination energy transducer.
"Oh no." Dexter softly spoke, realizing the gravity of this turn of events.
"Yeah." Ben said just as softly, guilt present in his eyes alongside Blossom. The other two girls looked concerned about what this meant, and Jack stared with a glare at the damaged device despite dripping with fusion matter, unaware of the device's true significance. But Ben and Blossom were well aware. "Is there anything you can do to repair it?"
"Of course I can repair it, and replenishment will be...difficult, but not impossible." Dexter said, leading them on with a descent into a negative tone. "But I cannot guarantee a quick reconstruction. This may take months, perhaps even a year, before it can operate at a full capacity. And that prediction assumes that Dee Dee will not infiltrate this lab again..."
Rolling his eyes, Ben tried moving on from that conversation. He had heard everything he needed to. "Okay, look, the point being that we need to figure out our next steps after this."
"Like I said. We've gotta prepare, right?"
"It can't just be that, though." Ben argued. "Not only do we have to start manufacturing solutions for weapons, not only do we have to recruit people, but don't we have to call people? Notify everyone?"
"We actually talked about that while you were recovering." Blossom said, cuing Jack to step forward and join in on the discussion. "We weren't able to come to a good decision."
"All I can say is that this world has become much more complicated. Though, as a Prince myself...I would strongly advise contacting your liaisons and leaders, and forming an alliance if possible. I understand your discontent with them." Jack added. "But in complicated times and the need to recruit, I say we must take advantage of the government here."
"An apt conclusion." Dexter said, having already moved away from the group to his computer. He had to bring in a guest. Tapping on two screens, a projection of a US Army General wearing an ascot and a clean olive green uniform with several decorated awards. He wore a pair of sunglasses to top it all off. Behind him was a tall meager man with a standard boot camp helmet, profusely sweating and sheepishly smiling. They got camera-ready...really fast...
"Everyone, this is General Specific of the US Army; he is also the head of the Department of Metahuman Affairs and Abnormalities...and that is his assistant."
"Hey General," shouted one of the Test twins from across the lab. "How're Agents Black and White?"
"Doing fine, Mary, and getting ready to take a well-deserved AND timed break in Fiji!"
"Who times a vacation?" She muttered under her breath. Seriously, who would do something so horrible?
"These guys got camera-ready really fast..." Ben leaned over to tell Bubbles. But her eyes were squinting. She recognized this person from somewhere. But where was it? It was a story she was reading...she remembered getting really mad about it...and telling her sisters, and then they got mad too...
"Wait..." Bubbles murmured, beginning to seethe with anger. "WAIT A MINUTE! I KNOW YOU! You're that S.O.B that terrorized that poor SHEEP!"
"Bubbles, please calm down!" Blossom pleaded. Normally she would be livid, but under much different circumstances. Now was not the time to throw a tantrum.
"No, girls, he's an idiot!" Bubbles protested. This was more than just about the sheep. To her, trusting this guy with spreading the word to the right government channels would mean suicide for any counter-invasion plan.
But Dexter, with a bit of foresight in this regard, reasoned his appearance better. "He is also Mandark's contractor for military arms and technology. And for the record, General, this is not about me selling out."
"I figured as much from someone as high and mighty as you, McPherson."
Behind his glasses, he rolled his eyes, pushing them up and activating that shining app. "I understand you have been watching the situation unfold?"
"As well as hearing all about the context over your NanoCom chat." Specific told the boy genius. "This is certainly cause for a worldwide emergency, on par with the levels of that sheep running wild." He growled as Bubbles was frothing at the mouth at the mere mention of that episode. "I promise to get this to the right channels, but you have to provide me, and by me I mean Private Public over here, with a full unabridged dossier on everything you know, don't know, and/or any people you know that might have some other ideas on what to know. UNDERSTOOD?"
Turning around to face the alien hero, now a harbinger for salvation, Dexter politely relayed the question. "Well Ben? Do you have anything else you'd like to share?" He asked genuinely.
With a big sigh, he reached into his pocket to pull out a tiny flash drive. "Okay, now this is the part where you'll probably get angry, or want to kill me." Wow. He really did have more to share.
He put it in Dexter's hand, who immediately unstrapped one of his gloves and injected the flash drive into a hidden port. The contents displayed upwards in a hologram. He immediately began combing through them as everyone, including the General, looked on with great focus and awe.
"What is this?" he asked rhetorically.
"It's a list."
"I can see that, Ben. But tell me what this is telling me."
"It's a list of every countermeasure and hindsight that the people from the future timeline came up with for me to send back into the past." the alien hero explained. "In that, you'll find instructions to make weapons, how to infuse imagination energy with ammo, and most of all how to make Nanos."
Dexter jolted at the sound of that name. He had heard it when Ben was fighting in Townsville. He never elaborated on what they were.
"In short, they're the reason I was able to land harder hits on the fusion spawns today. These things contain samples of DNA mixed with inactive fusion matter, irradiated by imaginary radiation, and siphoned through the Lyoko subspace. In short...they can give me power boosts."
Ben was right.
They did want to kill him after he said it.
"You had that on you the whole time?!"
"OCTI COULD HAVE BEEN AVENGED IF YOU GAVE ONE TO ME!" Bubbles shouted again.
"You already avenged your stuffed animal, Bubbles."
"Not another word! This was valuable information and blueprints for a countermeasure several of us could have used today, and it slipped your mind to provide us with it beforehand. Jack had to step outside our shattered doors far too many times to make short work of countless spawns, when with one of these "nanos"..." Dexter paused as he read the contents of the drive, "he could have snared them all and killed each of them without a fight!"
"The same goes for us, Ben!" Blossom chastised the alien hero too. "That would have made for a better diversion!"
Unlike the Powerpuff Girl, Samurai Jack found himself disagreeing with Dexter's assumption. From what he could gather from his battles, the spawns infamously adapted very well to the surrounding environment, adding to its strength. He would have still had to fight that Techwing and the hordes as they came because the more times he fought them, the more they would adapt to his battle strategy.
"Dude I currently have only four of these little guys, and most Nanos require a fusion matter sample from a Fusion doppleganger! Sure, you could try to make one from collecting spawn matter, but the process wouldn't be as fast! We were on the clock to save a park! We didn't have time!"
"Did not have time?! Ben, one of these apparent "Nanos" could have given me SUPERSPEED!" Dexter shouted back in frustration. "With that, I could have been able to build some of the inventions mentioned in this list, other Nanos included! You did not think to give this to me earlier?!"
"Of course I did! But a lotta factors came into the picture, specifically that these things were coded to MY DNA specifically! And to make a Nano requires a separate DNA sample and inactive fusion matter, and the powers that are granted to the Nano tend to be random at best! There was no assurance that we could get a speed power from Johnny even if we made 5 nanos of him! That kid has too many powers as it is!" Ben explained. "Furthermore, like I said, I only have four of these things and one's a Nano Buttercup!"
"I'm sorry, a Nano what-now?" Buttercup's ears perked up at the mention of her name.
"Yeah I do!" Ben shouted angrily for no reason, complementing her Nano. "She's very cute!"
"Private, do you have any frickin' clue what he's talking about?" he heard General Specific whisper to Public. "Hell if I know, Sir." The army private responded back.
"Point is we were only able to get Buttercup's DNA and make a nano of her because YOU had a Nano machine lying in your storage unit! Those machines require imagination energy to operate and generate these things. And we couldn't waste any from the transducer, right?"
Blossom had to admit that he was right. "He's right. Not if we were going to let the Terrafuser remain active in the park."
"Fair enough," Dexter said, resolving this quarrel cleanly and professionally. "In which case, Dexlabs will get to work on manufacturing-"
"Oh, so now you make weapons, McPherson!" The General shouted over the call.
Dexter promptly muted the call. "You know what I mean." He told the heroes. "I can look over this in a day and contact Mandark to chalk out a plan."
"There's one more thing we have to do." Ben said. "We need to know how we're even going to tell the world about this!"
"What I wanna know is how this is gonna affect school..." Blossom worried. Being the top of her high school class was tough enough given her public identity and responsibilities; "Are we gonna have to shift into online learning? We can't really do that when this war'll probably be a full-time situation."
"That is a good question." Ben said, also being a high school student, obviously nowhere near as high up as Blossom was. "But it's not important right now. This is so obviously gonna send nations into panic, and the last thing we or the Plumbers would want is an entire world on fire before it's destroyed."
Dexter looked back at the now screaming muted General, directing everyone's attention to a very close capture of his face. "This may be something that is out of our hands. Whenever an invasion or disaster is imminent, there are nationwide broadcasts sent out by the government to warn of the coming crisis. It is not an ideal way of information, but right now it may be the only legal way."
That thought terrified the daylights out of Ben. Their only possible avenue to spread awareness was one guaranteed to spread fear and panic across the world. Imagining the despair everyone would feel in that fear, the questions they would ask and cry over, the feeling of uncertainty would eat the human race up before the fusions could even lay a finger.
He couldn't let that happen. If they were going to fight a war, they were going to do it their way, and to do it their way, rules had to be broken.
"We can't let them." Ben declared, attracting an audience of his own. "Dexter, we can't let them do that. Not this time. There's gonna be even more chaos and panic in the streets. And I have a plan too!"
"I do not know if I can." Dexter lamented. "It is outside my span of control."
"Then can I? My ties to the Plumbers can help with this!"
"Assuming he has not hung up the call yet, Ben."
"Hey, it looks like the General's trying to get your attention."
"What-oh," Dexter realized, un-muting the General.
"-WILL PERSONALLY SET UPON YOU EVER MAJOR SECRET WEAPON STASHED IN NOWHERE AND EVERY FREAK MONSTER WE'VE COOKED UP AT AREA 51.5 AN-" The General stopped himself, realizing that he could hear his own echo again. He was un-muted. "Er, um (clears throat) hmm. What do you want?"
"Not me, actually." Dexter corrected the officer of the people, regardless of how half of various insults were just mercilessly thrown at him, but he moved out of the way to reveal someone who did have something to say. "But he does."
"Specific!" Ben shouted in the room. He felt a speech coming on. "I wanna ask something!"
"I beg yer pardon?"
"You heard me!" Ben said...before pausing a bit. "Unless you muted me from your end, in which case I can repeat it for you."
"Just tell me what'cha want, kid." Specific said. "And I'm expecting a copy of that dossier in less than 600 seconds STAT!"
"That's the thing...we here at Dexlabs wanna trade."
Everyone went wide at that notion. Trade?! Was Ben seriously trying to gamble with someone that could throw every single metahuman and alien in jail if he so much as sneezed a funny way?! Was he out of his mind?!
"I'm sorry son. I think I might've left you muted. Because did I just hear you question my authority?" Despite a cartoonishly patriotic and happy-go-lucky exterior minutes before, the General was suddenly talking in a deep dark gravelly voice, clearly taking this very seriously now.
"Oh I did, and technically, my grandpa and more can vouch for me. Ever hear of the Plumbers?" Ben asked politely enough. General Specific seemed frozen, even for a video feed. It was clear that the mere mention sent shivers down his spine. "As long as the Plumbers keep this planet and its space sector as a protected space, I have the right to call for aid and a plan of strategy if I say so."
"Listen here, you brat." the General was starting to sound seriously ticked. Looks like Ben had pushed all the right buttons. "It's bad enough that my people have to hold SECT on a leash from you and your organization of intergalactic freaks. I've read every report from every road trip you take, be it with your grandpappy, or your dearest cousin, and I know every exploit you take and the consequences on our larger world. And now when our world faces annihilation, you think you can tell me how to do my job?"
Ben took all the blows from Specific, but none of them were taken to heart. "Frankly I hate that I have to tell you how to anyway. I'm gonna take a wild guess that your plan to inform the world will be through that warning system."
"It always comes through the warning system," said General Specific, raising his voice even more, getting tired of this immature behavior, "it's the best proven way to keep everyone safe and calm indoors."
"Yeah, the blue screen, robotic static-y voice, and blaring sirens will totally get people to remain calm, especially during the apocalypse. No thanks, General." Ben shouted; he had a point to everyone else. Rarely did that blue warning screen ever inspire hope or optimism. "But this is where my offer comes in. Your military can help all they want, and I'll be happy to let the warning system kick in when Fuse actually shows up, but first and foremost...I'M sending a message first. And I want the whole world to hear...and I want to do it now."
With that finally announced, all eyes in the room were on Ben. What exactly was he planning? What purpose would it serve?
"No offense, son, but you're not trained in giving public service announcements concerning the apocalypse."
"I'm not trying to give people a public service announcement." Ben shot back at Specific. "I wanna tell them to fight back."
And now, all eyes on Ben widened. He wanted to do what?! They understood that the dire circumstances of the future necessitated child soldiers, but now?! Why?
"This is why we never should let a kid do an adult's job; your plan is insane!"
"I'm the one coming from a dystopian future where the only soldiers in sight were children!"
"Because it was a dystopian future, you daft teenager!"
"I'm on thin ice in terms of explaining this any further," said Ben, trying his best to keep direct mention of the Kids Next Door out of his argument, "but believe me when I tell you that these children were more than well equipped to fight the Fusions, and most of these kids, some of them with the most incredible powers on this Earth, have been right under your nose without any acknowledgement. And I'm sure with Providence on their side with them, they'd be a greater force for good."
The General had enough of this. Even if at this point he was obligated to follow, he had to get this kid to see reason. "And as for you? A walking alien army? I'm supposed to put the hearts and souls of America and the entire world in your hands?!"
"It's not a task I envy, that's obvious, dude." Ben explained. "But it's the only way I see this playing out. I don't usually like doing power moves, General, but this watch isn't just some fancy Plumber merch. You know exactly what it is, and more importantly, you know who I am. And like it or not, I'm the only one with the bearings to wield it for this kind of job. The creator entrusted me with it, and I intend to live up to that. Age be damned, asshat." He spoke loudly and clearly. He was not going to take no for an answer. They had to do this their way. "So move aside and let us little kids handle this...or don't, and watch our planet die."
General Specific was in deep thought, completely silenced by the argument Ben set forth. He brought up reasonable points amidst completely unreasonable ones. What we was asking for was completely out of line, and something that was ethically compromised. But nevertheless, Ben's position within an interplanetary security force secured greater authority over his own. He hated to have to do this.
"Public. Send them the frequency."
"Make no mistake, kids. I want those files."
And with that, the call was completed, and the General was over and out. A brief pause took hold of the entire Dexlabs Laboratory, only for Buttercup to break that silence almost immediately.
"That was AMAZING!" Buttercup said, absolutely star-struck by Ben's rant against a US OFFICIAL. But to ruining her fun, both her sisters darted to meet her gaze with the angriest and most violent eyes. She reconsidered saying anything. "Uh...I mean...oh no-this is really bad-we're all going to die."
"What?! What did you want from me?!"
"To have a brain when we ask you to!"
"Ben, I understand why you're doing this, but what you're about to do puts everyone on the planet at risk." Jack told him, stepping in as the Powerpuff Girls bickered. "We're not trying to draft people."
"They were going to be in risk anyway with the world ending. The Plumbers can only evacuate a fraction of the planet if we lose, and even if that happened Fuse wouldn't stop there. But we know he can be beaten with the things found here! That's why I'm giving the speech. If this General dude knew what he was doing, he would have realized that living beings like having a choice."
"THANK YOU!" Bubbles exclaimed, only for Blossom to shove her down too and silence her.
"The world needs some hope now more than ever. People in Townsville saw the fight before it escalated. That's gonna make them ask questions. They need something like what you told me. Or they may never move forward." Ben finished explaining why he was doing this, and Jack understood every word. It seemed irrational, and yet Ben was trying his hardest to give the world hope where the threat could only take it. He clutched his katana fiercely by the hilt. This was his mark left on the world, and he couldn't have been prouder to see people like Ben rising up like this.
"You've learned a lot." Jack told him confidently. "I will be honored to fight alongside you."
"Thanks...wait, alongside? But don't you-"
"Hey guys!" said a voice behind them. They all turned around startled, having almost completely forgotten that Otto, their second timeline refugee, was still in the building. "What'd I miss?" the bespectacled boy asked with glee.
None of them, except for Dexter, were happy to see him. They would've been happy if he had shown up EARLIER. "Where. The heck. Have you BEEN?!"
"Ben, it is alright. I sent him away." Dexter explained, jumping in front of the sharks of his friends that were ready to tear Otto into a million pieces. "He needed to work on finishing making a new body for his companion."
"Besides, I WAS there when Jack was fighting them indoors!" Otto explained, with all the embarrassment he had and all the confidence he could muster. "And it was SUPER COOL! You were like, swish swash, hooAH! And the Fusion Techwing was quivering like a little baby-"
"Otto, concentrate!" Ben shouted. "You still didn't do anything! We could've used your help!"
[Oh please, it's not like he's useless.] said a voice from the other side of the room, and the sound of light metal taps across the floor slowly revealed the now complete body of Larry 3000, strutting like he owned the entire laboratory.. [If he was, I wouldn't be back in one piece!]
It certainly didn't look like a million-first century-era robot, but the fact that Otto could pull together all those resources and repair him with such limitations...it really impressed Ben. The others were a little more amazed, seeing a robot from the future in the metallic chasis for real. The Powerpuff Girls were impressed, Bubbles in particular; Jack felt a little bit paranoid, possibly traumatized by all the robots he had to face in Aku's future. Dexter couldn't help but smirk. This kid's intelligence and mechanical skill was nothing to scoff at.
"Hey...you finally fixed him!" Ben exclaimed, stepping forward to admire the robot's temporary new body. "But...are you leaving now?"
"I've got to–we've got to–get back to the million-first century." Otto said, somewhat saddened by the departure. This whole time, he felt like he contributed the least, and due to the nature of the Time Squad, he couldn't offer much help now either. The most he could offer was a small little bit of info "We'll definitely keep in touch, though."
But it didn't stop disappointing Ben, still flabbergasted that they would leave now instead of later. "When everything's gonna go great?! Why?"
"Time Squad reasons...so I'll tell you. This whole Fusion War was an aberration that we discovered not so long ago, and we weren't sure if this was history screwin' around again or if this would be the new state of the timeline. That's why he and I were in the future to begin with: we had to investigate the situation." Otto explained. "And luckily for us, the timeline's repairing itself now."
[Obviously, we were supposed to repair things soon after, but then I got mauled and decapitated, Five and Mandy found us, yaddayaddayadda.] Larry continued. [I wouldn't be surprised if the reason for Time Squad not sending a rescue team was because our presence already undid the dystopia.]
"Yeah, no." Ben said. He had had enough of these random factors further jeopardizing his sense of heroism, let alone screwing with his understanding of time travel. "But does that mean we win?"
Otto shook his head disapprovingly. "I couldn't tell you even if I wanted to. And frankly, I don't really know myself. Did I ever tell you how time's like a rope-"
"Yes, you explained that."
"A lot." Dexter piped in, remembering Otto rambling constantly while Ben remained unconscious.
Ben continued. "So all you know is that you played some minor part in resetting the timeline?"
[Well we certainly played some part in it, but it wasn't minor!]
"Larry, just let Ben have his victory..." Otto whispered into the robot, not willing to start another argument.
[Fine...but we need one more thing to take back with us.]
"And what would that be?"
Larry pointed left of Dexter. [Him.]
And thus all eyes were on Jack.
"Was it something I did?" the Samurai innocently asked.
[Oh yeah. We need you back in the Edo period faster than Ham Alonzo's smuggling run.] Larry said, referencing Stellar Odyssey, much to Bubbles' delight and giggles amongst her sisters' more confused expressions.
Otto, knowing Larry could be overly blunt sometimes, tried his best to explain a little more kindly. "It's not something you did, Jack. We're just worried about what you might do."
But Larry didn't care how blunt he was, and cut over Otto to continue. [Frankly, Jackie-boy, the last time you altered the timeline, you changed and even undid several lives over a millennium. We're still investigating how many time aberrations you've caused on your own, but the timeline you created here left the other one completely damaged. So despite your...heroics, you're still classified as a temporal hazard.] The robot explained. [However...time is less relative as one may believe, and the order of events and duty don't really apply to us. So I'll give you a choice. Stay here where we can pick you up later, or come with us and do less damage to the time stream. Your choice.]
Ben looked to Jack, who surprisingly enough was conflicted. Initially, Jack had been resolved to stay behind...but according to the time-traveling robot, his actions had created a major restructuring of the timeline...and any further actions would be unpredictable in their nature.
"I..." Jack hesitated, unsure of what to say next. His mind wracked for a possible way to fix everything. Whatever could he do right now? What was the right thing to do? But as he turned around, looking back to Ben, he realized what was needed of him. He became resolute, and ever the hero he proposed his wish. "As much as I wish to repent for my alterations, I must stay and aide these people. They will need all the help they can get this time, and that time is now."
[You absolutely sure you wanna play hero again?] Larry asked, subtly annoyed. [Even after what happened last time?]
"Don't–uh, Larry, nix-nay on the Ashi-tay..."
[Now now, it's a legitimate question, Otto!]
But the insult left Jack undeterred from his wishes. "Despite what has happened, I can only move forward now. If you, or the fusions, wish to stand in my way," Jack threateningly reached for his katana, "I will be happy to remind anyone of what I fought for in their names, including her."
With that returning comment, Jack affirmed his current place to the robot, who was now looking almost terrified. [Okay then...sooo, you're staying?]
Jack was silent, not bothering to give them anything more than an angry glare
[Okay, you are staying. Otto, let's leave before he murders me...]
"Yeah, remind me to rewire your empathy-circuits."
[No can do, Otto. Now, let's go and pick up Jack.]
[Well obviously in a different time, genius!]
And with that final conversation, the two Time Squad agents beamed out of their lab, returning to their time in a blinding light, leaving our heroes awestruck as the beauty of their exit rose to a crescendo of epic proportions. It made some of them wonder how large their universe really was to allow for a secret Time Squad agency.
Bubbles, however had it up to HERE with the absurdism that befell her eyes all in the span of a single day. "To think a few minutes ago we were fighting green blobs of goo...and before that...making a time machine. Does anyone even want to acknowledge how crazy today has been?" She expressed with a defeated and mentally exhausted attitude. There was only so much of this random stuff she could take, and the only reason she remained without some kind of headache was because she still had Octi on her back with his stuffing still exposed and hanging out.
They would have pondered on their questions concerning the Time Squad further, and naturally avoided Bubbles' venting. But just then, an alert came from Dexter's NanoCom...and it must've been information for the ages if it surprised him that much. "Everyone?" Dexter said, facing an entire laboratory filled with blank stares in the crowd, but the silent glares of concentration in front of him. He raised his NanoCom with his left arm, pressing a button and projecting an encrypted message. "The government representatives...they were genuine. Ben...they gave you a channel."
You could have heard a pin drop, but you couldn't have heard everyone's eyes dilate and their jaws drop open with pure unadulterated joy. They really managed to do it. Their victory began here!
Even Blossom was considering breaking her language policy. "H-Holy...HOLY SHI-"
"Language!" Buttercup said with the most mischievous grin on her face, but she was also antsy, barely containing her own excitement. Bubbles was jumping up and down, running into Ben for a giant hug. Ben, on the other hand, was too much in shock and narrowly avoided Bubbles' hugging attack. She fell flat on the floor. Jack on the other hand was just as flabbergasted as the scientists behind him. This meant Ben was going to get his wish.
He would be speaking to the entire world.
"Just a few moments to decrypt the frequency–you may use my NanoCom, by the way–and you can speak whatever you wish. Just...if you are going to make an inappropriate joke, please leave me and my company out of it." Dexter said as he walked towards Ben with his NanoCom in-hand. "It is important to me that you understand that."
"Yeesh, why so serious, dude?" Ben responded.
"Oh you ask, don't you..." Dexter said. "I trust you will not embarrass yourself, right?"
"Dex, I'll be fine."
"Good." The boy genius nodded. "It is ready when you are. But...Ben, before you do this...you realize that after today...everything is going to change?"
"Yeah..." Ben said, with a huge sigh and butterflies in his stomach. "I know."
Using the NanoCom, there appeared two buttons: a blue one and a red one. As if the late 90s really weren't kicking in completely, Ben recognized that the blue one meant deactivating the frequency, walking away, and letting the military handle the worldwide panic. The red, his literal opposite color, would broadcast this frequency to select parts of the globe, where it would probably spread and gain a traction of lord-knows-how-many followers.
This was it. Today, the future was in his hands.
This mess started with the press of a button.
And now the future would change with the press of a button.
"Hello?" He began, wavering a little in his voice grasping the full reality of what he was doing. "Is this thing on? Well...if it is...then I guess I should say sorry for not calling earlier. Pretty sure every girlfriend I've ever had can attest to that...like Julie Yamamoto, Elena, or Kai...really haven't talked to Kai in a while..." Ben could hear Dexter face-palm hard. This was going to be a nightmare. But hey, at least he could finally call his Mom.
"But...it's me. Ben Tennyson. You...might know me better as Ben 10."
In her home, Sandra Tennyson was staring intently at the radio, hands covering her mouth in worry and surprise. For the past few days her son hadn't come back from that volunteer experiment that he signed up for. She was worried sick, especially since Gwen had disappeared mere months ago. She didn't know if she could handle another loss in the family, let alone that of her own son.
"And you've probably noticed that I haven't been around that much lately. I...uh...took a bit of a sabbatical...into the future...and the experiment went wrong." He continued. "B-By the way, Mom, if you're listening, then I'm sorry for keepin' you waiting. Again, story of my relationship status..."
"So...yeah, it went wrong. Or maybe it went right. I ended up traveling one year ahead of the present, and the next thing I know is that I'm in a dystopia." Ben's voice reverberated through the minor channels it broadcasted through. And this was where he decided to start getting into the details. Taking a deep breath, he began his story. "There's an unstoppable force in the cosmos right now, and it's been traveling the universe for eons, consuming every planet and destroying every civilization it encounters." Ben shouted into the mic, dread dripping from his tongue, his spit, his voice. It could all be heard in the message alone. "And it's finally coming here. Just today, Fuse tried to start the invasion a few weeks early, triggered by my return. But regardless, they were on their way here anyhow. I know a lot of you will have questions, but you can't panic. Everything about these things will be available to the public in short time."
Within the walls and circuitry, Computress observed the message carefully, making sure there would be no interruptions or online hackers. Her prime directive at this point was to, quoting Dexter, "DO NOT SCREW THIS UP".
She would comply with all her spark.
"But here's the interesting thing...today we beat him in a fight." Ben said, his fervor of doom rising into hope. "Today, we prolonged the inevitable. But we struck a blow that not many planets have gotten the chance to do! Yeah, it was a small blow, and it's only gonna get worse...but I've seen how bad this gets."
"And a wise guy that I...literally just met today told me something." He continued. "No matter how bad it gets, we make the future our own, and if today wasn't an example, then I don't know what is. Nothing we accomplished today could have happened if we weren't prepared...but today we were! And in all of this, it's not just about the preparation, but the will to act...the will to hope." Ben looked behind him, facing Jack with a smile. The experienced samurai had taught him so much, and had given him so much hope in the face of armageddon. This was about giving that back to the world.
To inspire the next set of saviors.
"To all the heroes of Earth that are out there, and I know you are out there, I just want you to do one thing: fight. Fight for what's yours, fight for your friends, your family! We're not gonna let these monsters take what they want from us, or let them change the course of history because of they think this is our weakest hour. We're not going to be wiped away from the face of the universe just because some douchebag named Lord Fuse is adding our planet to his antiques collection! I can't have that, and I won't allow that!"
"I know some of you have a responsibility to uphold."
Among the countless others who heard those words, the complete roster of Sector V was among them, and Johnny was laying down relaxing in their seats, not paying much mind to the transmission. Their S.C.A.M.P.E.R was making its way back to the treehouse, flying through the skies to remain as undetected as possible. While most air force patrols could detect UFOs like them, they had special technology that could securely and effectively keep them hidden.
But they knew it was now a pointless gesture. They had to break one of their biggest rules to save each other. Providence now knew who they were, and with enough digging, they could dig up enough intel and dirt to put the entire organization behind juvie bars.
Their secret was now completely out.
Every adult. Every teenager. Every child. They all knew now who they were.
They felt doomed.
Then they heard Ben's voice over their comms.
Many of them tried not to overthink it though, because based on what she had overheard, the major alien invasion, even more dangerous than the return of these spawns. But there was something else about this rude awakening, and the sign of the KND's doom. Something about what he was saying was calling them to action, taking responsibility, the very thing that forced Number One to finally break protocol and rescue his friends.
Four, finally recovering from his nasty case of head trauma, walked over to Three's station while she watched, and tuned up the broadcast; now the message was relaying on multiple different NanoCom frequencies for the entire organization.
"I understand if that means not all of you can help out."
Walking by, a younger brother saw his entire family watching with worry and wide eyes. He snuck up to his older sister, and whispered, "Dude–sis, you should totally help out with that stuff. It'd be so cool!"
But the sister was less than enthusiastic, stroking her pink strand of hair back behind her ear. "You know I can't, Ray-Ray. Even if I wanted to."
"Your idea of heroism probably doesn't involve fighting aliens."
Whatever message was being sent, it was being broadcast on multiple channels, including Mordecai and Rigby, listening as a hologram drone was laying on the floor after the twin sisters stopped transmitting. But the guy on the speaker was right. They had all kinds of thoughts go through their heads as they continued listening: they never dealt with aliens. Their park was a regular run-of-the-mill estate. What would they know?
Well, those thoughts would be a major lie. Their experiences with the whacky and extraordinary didn't end with that disappearing fountain, and they knew full well what kind of dangers hid in the sky...or even the ground.
But what made this guy think they were qualified to fight?
"But right now that doesn't matter."
Among the countless others who heard those words, one boy and his Imaginary Friend watched intently, unsure of how to react. They had only wanted to watch some cartoons.
Neither of them expected to have been faced with an alien invasion.
So what were they supposed to do? Turn the TV off and stop listening?
Or maybe they could let it continue...
"Right now, for those who can, if we don't act now, then what's the point of being a hero?"
As Agent Six piloted the Providence Tri-Carrier back from Marzipan, Rex Salazar paid close attention to what Ben was trying to say. Ever since their encounter in Manhattan, the same event that brought the public eye to Ben's doorstep, he and Providence had been keeping tabs on the alien hero. But this was unexpected to say the least. Rex was aware that Ben was missing for a few days, and based on Providence's intel, it had to do with that tech company in Siyenn City. But he just returns and starts playing alien Paul Revere? Was he trying to raise an army or something? He kept listening to find out.
"What's the point of existing and living at all?"
In the lab, Jack could not help but beam as he watched Ben give his fierce monologue. The Girls couldn't help it either; proud smiles formed on all their faces. The lab assistants, on the other hand, were flabbergasted. This was coming off as a little too dramatic for their taste.
Fassy was fake vomiting, clearly cringed out.
Dexter, however, was in a trance. Deep thought as he processed each of Ben's words with a passion and excitement he refused to show. This would be the age of heroes. He had the tools to make it happen for them, and they had the talent to rise up.
"What's the point of every success, every mistake that we've made if it can't mean something in the end?"
Mandark sat in his laboratory, listening carefully to this broadcast. He had his fingers tented and his mind fully attentive. He did not forget a face so easily, nor did he forget their voices. He knew exactly who this was. A delinquent from one of the three sister cities, rather infamous for fighting aliens.
While he had certainly considered the scale of this apparent invasion based on the events occurring in Townsville Park, he had needed appropriate confirmation concerning the true nature of this event. He reasoned to himself that staying in the shadows was the right move, seeing how Dexter and his friends would handle it. But a small alien emotion entered his heart, a feeling of shame, regret, all a tiny fraction of an overwhelming discomfort. Could this be guilt? A sliver of guilt for dooming the Earth to a fate for the worst? If only he had held his ego back, the EPC would work as intended. Planet Fusion would not be coming here at all.
He looked at the recording in the other corner of his enormous screen with wonder. How would this continue to play out? He began running numbers, quickly typing away on the large desktop. He had to know if there could be a predicted death toll based on what his satellite picked up of the heroes in the park. Based on their stamina and tactics, did mankind stand a chance behind their heroes?
He knew he had to ponder on this further. But perhaps assembling a braintrust was in order.
Pausing, Ben took a deep breath to finish. "Planet Fusion is coming. It's basically already here, and we're getting a chance to prove why our tiny blue planet gets to exist, why it has a right to live. That chance has come to us, this is our time." Pausing, comtemplating everything he said...
...he ended on one last note.
"That time is now…, and right now...the hero…is you."
Ben finished his fervor, panting excessively. He had gone through one hellstorm of a three-day weekend...or whatever. And all of it came to fruition and was paid off in just under three minutes.
"Good luck, and get ready." he finished, turning the broadcast off. "Over and out."
Turning behind him, everyone bore a look of awe, completely speechless from Ben's speech. Their actual faces implied something worse, provoking Ben to think the worst.
"Please don't tell me you weren't recording..."
Okay, it couldn't have been that bad.
Dexter comforted with an apparent compliment. It was a speech for all time. "Nothing of the sort, Ben..."
"But that broadcast was picked up across the world and shared by several different people...on several different channels...and your face or voice was on each one of them...regardless of our limited audience."
Oh...that...was that bad? To Ben, it was nerve-wracking.
Ben could have barfed at the mere thought of that. There was no way it could have reached that many people, right?!
PEACH CREEK ESTATES - CUL-DE-SAC
Peace and prosperity was usually the defining factor of the suburbs. The residents thrived on that sense of tranquility, treating their little cul-de-sac like a bubble of their own world. But as Ben Tennyson's broadcast reverberated throughout the globe, most of their residents were beginning to realize that such a bubble wasn't exactly...well...impenetrable. As soon as that broadcast landed, the streets of the Cul-de-Sac had went into complete panic. Having listened to the broadcast, many parents and families had made a dart for the exits, and some of them were stuck in their denial.
Three young teens were known for taking advantage of their deserted neighborhood at any opportunity. Anything they could do to score some jawbreakers.
But here...the Cul-de-Sac was completely wrecked. Panicking and pandemonium was never good for business, let alone a hostile assimilating invasive species coming in mere WEEKS.
One of them wore a sock on his head. And he was freaking out so much. He had curled up into a fetal position, rocking himself back and forth in an attempt to cope. "I can see it now! A complete breakdown of social order! A war of all against all! Dopplegangers, Ninjas, TIME TRAVEL!? Unspeakable casualties ahead will lead us to DOOM!"
"Double-D…you're overreacting." Eddy told him bluntly. "A lot." Even more blunt.
"It's the apocalypse, Eddy! How on Earth WOULD I be overreacting?!"
"Okay then…welcome to the apocalypse, I guess." Eddy could only sit like a grouch, treating this incoming alien invasion like some kind of afterthought. But unfortunately for him, Edd was tugging on his favorite shirt too much, so he began to think that maybe it shouldn't be an afterthought. "Ed, you mind callin' Rolf for a Jawbreaker? I wanna talk to 'im about those Rangers he keeps around."
BRAVO BEACH CITY, BELLWOOD - OUTSKIRTS
Unlike so many of the listeners that probably were tuning in, he actually did deal with aliens. He had just never thought that he'd be dealing with aliens that didn't have to do with Homeworld. What had happened with the Diamonds was still fresh in his mind, even if it had happened only almost 2 years ago. He remembered how he was able to convince White Diamond to accept her flaws, and to become good. His friends had always said that his real superpower was finding good in others.
But according to Ben 10, these new guys weren't good at all. They weren't going to be deterred by his optimism. It had made Steven question what he would be good for in this war at first. If these were the unstoppable and malevolent parasites that he had made them out to be, how could he be useful in this war?
Despite repeating that question over and over in his mind, Steven still kept packing his stuff. He knew that he had to help in some way.
Steven made sure to pack the essentials in the Cheeseburger backpack, along with whatever classified for an apparent superhero costume. He was sure that his black star t-shirt and short jeans would do just fine, while also adopting his varsity coat as well. Remembering how long his hair had gotten, he had to tie that up as well.
He would feel like he had to sneak through the Sanctuary as quietly as possible, lest he wanted Garnet, Pearl, Peridot, or even Amethyst on his tail. But of course...that was two months ago. Things had changed since then. Lots of things changed since then. The feeling of having to sneak out still remained with him, even after so long since he left.
Steven was all alone in his newfound crusade. After so long of trying to move on, it was like he was being reeled right back in. But...he'd be lying to himself if he thought against the idea of fighting in a war. It wasn't his fight, sure, but he felt...compelled to join. Maybe it was Ben 10's wording that made it like that, but if aliens were involved, his powers would most certainly come into use.
But he found himself wondering what would happen if his powers wouldn't be of use. What if his powers were too much or too little, just not being enough to defeat this Fuse guy.
Well, his dad always told him that if every pork-chop were perfect, there wouldn't be hot dogs.
After all, being descended by one of the most ancient races of aliens in the known universe had to account for...something...right?
Knowing he couldn't know the answer unless he found out for himself, he realized taking that risk was better than the safer route. So, moving towards the Universe Car in his new home - a gas station that was far enough from Bravo Beach City to be considered "independent", Steven Universe readied himself to drive away. He knew he had to head to Tech Square to do what he always did...and he knew that even if he couldn't do that, it still wouldn't hurt to try.
ENDSVILLE - 666 COOLHART STREET
It had never occurred to Mandy that she, nor Billy for that matter, would be coerced into joining anything they didn't want to. Mandy despised the idea of playing a part in someone else's game, and that being a game for her worst enemy...the antithesis to what she worshiped...heroism.
She hated doing anything related to the matter. The thought of it made her sick. She didn't want to help these pigs in human clothing, and she certainly didn't like being among them. Why would she have to denote herself to such a level when she could rule over these pigs like a queen?
But what good would a queen be without her kingdom?
As much as she hated saying it...she had to...ugh...help out. At least in order for her to get up close and personal with this resistance...and take it all over from the inside. Walking down the stairs with a suitcase ready, Mandy turned to her mother, who sat calmly on the sofa trying to cope with all the mass-panic was happening.
She expected a lot of things to be done. She expected order. If she didn't have it her way...lord help you.
"I'm going to go fight aliens now, mom. In my absence, as always, I expect my clothes washed, ironed and pressed, room cleaned, the black socks color-coordinated, my goth metal posters framed, the house refurbished, my gun array armed and ready, my knives polished and sent to my NanoCom, along with my secret army of circus bears released onto the streets of Endsville to torment Irwin, WITH custom white t-shirts promoting the oncoming alien apocalypse and enough bleach to soak up the guts and blood they spill. And I expect you to know that I want it all done within the next hour, and as always...all done by hand."
...well, she was already experienced in breaking bones anyhow.
She slammed the door behind her, walking out to prepare for war. Her mom remained completely still, petrified as always by her...high-maintenance daughter.
"S-S-Such a n-n-n-nice girl...s-s-such a lovel-l-ly daughter..." her mother told her, terrified out of her mind. As far as this poor woman cared, this whole alien invasion was just her way of escaping Mandy...if the girl would let such a thing happen. Maybe she could step in the way of a nasty and bloodthirsty alien to...maybe...escape Mandy...in her own way?
It seemed like a good idea at first...but then she remembered that Mandy would kill her for not sorting out her socks.
As Mandy walked out the street, she passed Billy's house, and for a while, she had her mind set on keeping the idiot and the bonehead out of it. But as much as she hated and DESPISED admitting it...
...a queen for the world did need subjects, especially ones of great value to offer to the world. Mandy hated having such optimistic thoughts. She decided to see if there were any brain surgeons in town. Whatever optimism she was feeling, she wanted it crushed as soon as possible. So, instead of staying the course...she jaywalked across the street and went to knock on Billy's door.
LAS VEGAS, NOWHERE - AREA 51.5
The military was already going into overdrive with multiple battalions being readied for deployment. General Specific had made sure to not exclude anybody, including agents of the CIA and the FBI. Whatever was going on, this alien invasion that was dangerous enough for a superhero to talk about, was pushing all the superiors to send everyone they knew into action. Unbeknownst to their superiors, Agents Black and White were already suited up and ready to head out.
The FBI had already begun deploying SECT, and Providence was already sending out their elite agents to convene in California. But for them, they had been stationed in the middle of Vegas, and had high hopes for a vacation for next week.
"Guess the Fiji plans can wait another year, right?" Black said.
"Anytime when you're ready. Anytime except for the next few months!" White replied.
"So why'd you say anytime?"
"I don't know!"
Their banter kept them distracted from their surroundings, attempting to remain focused...which is why they were bantering...
Though to be fair, their current position didn't leave much to the imagination, hence this place's nickname: 'Nowhere'. The only things they crossed within the last 60 miles were a solitary totem pole just standing there, and a small house of wood belonging to a nice elderly couple. They had apparently gotten word of the upcoming invasion, and had been standing outside with their dog looking into the sky. The dog appeared to be trembling at the mere sight of the stars...and the couple knew it wouldn't be helped by what was coming...
BELLWOOD CITY POINT
"Guess it's time to get back into action." Kevin said, almost sounding reluctant. But that wasn't at all the case. Kevin would always be up for a fight, and punching parasitic aliens in their squishy faces. But this was deeper. Another alien invasion, mere months after the DNAlien's secret invasion and the whole spiel with the Validus family. Some of this stuff would drive any normal dude insane. And Kevin, despite being anything BUT normal, really felt like he was teetering the line of absolute craziness with how many battles or wars he was roped into.
Ben had proven reckless in the past, and without his girlfriend to keep him focused, Kevin would be pulling extra responsibilities. Nevertheless, it did impress him how cool Ben got with that message over the radio. That speech was something else.
The former delinquent turned the keys to his holy and hole-ridden muscle car, and ignited his obnoxious engine to drive off to Siyenn City. His spare Plumber badge identified the signal coming from Tech Square. That was where he guessed the rendezvous point was. It'd be a long drive, but he'd do anything to make sure Tennyson didn't screw up without him.
As all of this was happening, Ben failed to imagine how the entire world could have reacted to his speech. Was this even a good idea? Should he have really insulted a U.S General?! Maybe this was a bad idea after all! What if more people were left panicking even more?!
"Well...just minutes after you finished...the Warning Announcement started playing on every public system, televisions included. They did not bother waiting until the end of our preparation period...but I have yet to hear or see any reports concerning looting, rioting, or pandemonium." Dexter said, "I guess you were both right."
"How do I know if I was right?" Ben expressed with a great deal of fear. He still had so many things unresolved in this situation that he couldn't understand. A lot of questions still rocked his mind. Like how would Fuse adapt to their preparedness? How would Finn and Jake come into this war? How or when would Jack go home? Would the transducer ever be repaired?
"You will not." Dexter admitted, being as objective as he could. "But if I have confidence in your words, and I do, then I have faith in them."
"This army could literally amount to a bunch of screw-ups for all we know..."
"Ben, this whole thing started because my sister screwed up...again. Maybe it was a fluke, but without you we would not have been able to catch one." Dexter said, only for Ben to raise an eyebrow. The alien hero clearly had no concept of fishing metaphors. "You were right...I should have treated her better in that instance...but if today has taught me anything...aside from drastically updating my security protocols, it is to have confidence in the unlikely." Ben understood that last part that, nodding in approval.
The boy genius quickly moved onto more important matters. "Now, with whatever tachyons particles are left from our synchronization engine, I can use to reverse-engineer a contact channel to further converse with the Time Squad, especially now since they decided to leave..."
"Of course...fight the aliens to save the future? Nah, we need to fix a tiny anachronism for a tiny reason." Ben mumbled. "We will keep in touch with them, right?"
"As much as I am to agree with Ben on the front of Time Squad's illogical practices, we will require further information if a better future is to be laid out. Even if said information will be filtered."
Ben nodded, but couldn't help but ask Jack one of his many burning questions. "But Jack, you really wanna stay behind?"
"Until my work is done." Jack admitted. "It's not just about this war for me, but I feel an urge to watch this generation of young people you've called forward. I want to see them become the heroes you were confident in...the hero that I am confident in...you, Ben Tennyson."
The samurai's smile radiated more light and peace than a thousand suns ever could. It filled him with the same hope as it did before, and with what was coming, he knew he could count on him more and more.
Behind them, a buzzing ringtone came from Blossom's NanoCom, which she pulled out as her sisters jumped over to see who was using their emergency hotline. Luckily, it wasn't the mayor, who they really didn't want to explain the damage in the Park to, but their dear father Professor Utonium.
The dear Professor Utonium looked frazzled and stressed out of his mind over the video feed.
"Girls! Girls, are you okay?!" The Professor shouted over the NanoCom, a static noise filling his house behind him. Clearly he had watched the broadcast, and was completely informed about the upcoming invasion. It made him realize the fierce and exhausting battle he sent his girls into. "Were any of you hurt or infected?! Any bruises?! Anyone?!"
"Professor, we're fine-"
"No, not all of us!" Bubbles exclaimed, jumping in from the right side and shoving her sisters' faces out of the way. She pulled out her stuffed animal and screamed into the NanoCom. "LOOK AT WHAT THEY DID TO OCTI!"
"OH MY GOD!" The Professor exclaimed, horrified by the mutilation Bubbles' stuffed animal had went through. There was no time to lose, he reached further into the NanoCom camera. "Get Octi back the house as soon as you can! I'll try to save him!"
"Holy crap, HOLY CRAP!" Bubbles exclaimed screaming, bolting off and smashing right through Dexlabs' metal shutters. There was now a giant gaping hole, letting in the setting sunlight, and Dexter's chagrin had had it up to here with this crap. That metal was supposed to be a titanium-promethium alloy! Stronger than the surface of a diamond! How did she just break through it?!
"Oh boy. Blossom, lemme chase her before she has an aneurism over stuffed-animal surgery." She told her older sister. "It's been fun, guys. See you on the front lines!" She said as she bolted out the same hole that Bubbles punctured through the shutters.
That left Blossom waiting to catch up. With a deep breath, she bounced off the floor and began flying, noticing the lab assistants cleaning up the mess that this event left Dexlabs in, with the Test sisters on their NanoCom, surely to call Johnny. But none of them paid much attention to her or the heroes circled around Computress's main monitor. Just as she was about to float out, Dexter called her.
"Blossom. Make sure to tell the Professor to start arming and shielding his house." Dexter asked kindly and softly. "I can offer to provide containment shield generators if need-be."
"Sure thing. I'll pick them up tomorrow from you."
"You're welcome," Dexter responded, still a little nervous. With a deep intake of air, he then exhaled and asked one final question. "Can we count on you to keep the peace? And to be ready?"
"When the time comes? We'll be there. For sure!" Blossom kindly told Ben as she was already in the air, floating before following her sisters out the same hole in a brilliant pink light, ready to go back home to the Professor.
"Yeah...that time is now." Ben reminisced, reflecting on Blossom's words, thinking about what he said to the world. But there was no more room for stalling. It was time to get ready. "So, how about we start getting ready?" He said as he, Jack and Dexter approached Computress's monitor.
"And..." Dexter began, drawing on for long enough for Ben to think he would act pessimistic like Mandark. But to his surprise... "where do you suggest we begin?"
He did not.
Ben gave a small smirk, knowing now that whatever chance laid before them, it was now in their control. Stepping forward, and taking his place in this war, Ben Tennyson began with the most simple of beginnings.
After all, it was a war. It could only be so simple in the beginning. From here on...
"How about with some of these things I got on this USB?" Ben offered, pointing to the flash drive still stuck in Dexter's glove. "Major note, though, don't try to make anything on here cute or cuddly, got it?"
"Why would you assume I would do that?"
"Eh...call it superstition."
DEVELOPER'S JOURNAL: The Time is Now...
You might've also noticed that Nigel spells certain words differently. That's my way of conveying his English accent, given that he's British. I use the UK spellings for him. Also, I hope everyone were able to pick up the various references to other CN properties that were scattered throughout this chapter, as well as elements of world-building that I have yet to reveal. I know you're probably wondering what the Nanite Event has to do with the Imaginary Friends, but luckily I have an answer coming up in a future chapter. Oh, and under the request of AnimeGirl 144, I managed to add in Bradley/Number Six in a hopefully organic manner.
And because I can see people asking about it, yes. Here in this story. General Specific from Sheep in the Big City and the General from Johnny Test are depicted as the same character. Thought it'd be a fun little thing to do for intertextuality.
I also hope no one's being turned off by the further integration of the Johnny Test characters. It's just something that I've wanted to do for a while, but I promise that he won't be overshadowing anyone. This story is meant to spotlight everyone, and I don't intend to play favorites. If I do, it's up to you guys to keep me in line.
This chapter concludes Volume 1 out of 6 in this fanfiction, dubbed "Fate" collectively. The next volume will be called "War", anthologizing a few key parts in the war to help build on characters and the world that I've had to set up. It's essentially going to be a filler arc except with actual meaning to it. Plot elements introduced there will reverberate throughout the story, and I'll be introducing a very special bunch of characters in this arc as well. They accompass characters from the modern age of CN, as well as others that I may not be allowed to do, but will probably do anyway.
And while I'm here, my best wishes go out to Tom Kane and his family. For those who might not know, our beloved Professor Utonium and HIM suffered a stroke about three months ago, and it impacted the speech centers of his brain, which is...not good at all. I'm hoping that the worst subsides and he makes a good recovery. Our hearts go out to you, Professor. I hope you get well, Mr. Kane.
NEXT CHAPTER: Lame Imitation
TOWNSVILLE CITY HALL - FUDDGATE PENITENTIARY
W-wait, are we still going?
The shrieks and cries of the prison from whatever had transpired outside made it impossible for him to get a minute's rest. He did not particularly enjoy such chaos, especially in an environment meant to breed chaos. He usually thrived on it. The pitiful humans always were so enjoyable to watch as they fled in terror, resembling actual fleas. So tiny and insignificant that their tininess and insignificance mattered not in the long run, the long run that mattered to him.
Footsteps approached his cell, footsteps that lacked care or incentive to care for the sake of caring. His turbaned head, which he was finally allowed to keep on in jail, turned to face a prison guard with an unshaven neck and face, with bloodshot eyes and a sagging poster emphasized by a noticeable ponch. His prison guard uniform reeked, and it captured how pitifully he viewed his own job.
"Some sorry moron called for your temporary parole, works for Mandark Industries." the guard said with utter disgust. He didn't want anything more to do with this piece of simian crap any longer. "There's an alien invasion or somethin', no one pays me 'nough to know, and they wanna start formin' a braintrust. Said somethin' 'bout a pitch to Dexlabs."
The mutated ape's own bloodshot eyes widened with interest, for that is why interest plagued his mind and widened the eyes. For too long he had beaten, humiliated, called a liar, for reasons that failed to grasp the concept of a liar, conditions far more humiliating than he could imagine, and beatings too much to bear for his small but powerful body. But now, it was his time.
"I admire your bluntness, as you realize that bluntness is admirable and necessary for the situation at hand. It is a dire situation, I can assume, and only I can assume of the threat that awaits us being such a dire situation. Your reaction indicates such that it is a threat that only I, Mojo Jojo, could have predicted, and thus I have countermeasures for countering this opposing threat that opposes us, for you see-"
"Could ya just shut up and get the hell outta here?!" the guard aggressively requested. "I don't like bein' late for dinner, monkey."
The mutated ape growled for this guard's insolence, wanting so much to attack or kill him now, but this insolence was guaranteeing not only his escape, but his resources to help overcome the threat of Planet Fusion, of which he studied so long ago and people refused to listen to his pleas for preparation. Now, the world would see the genius savior and leader that was Mojo Jojo.
"Gladly." the evil genius concurred. He began walking out of his cell, pacing himself as fast as he could, readying himself for the war that was surely upon them.