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Chapter 2: New Environment


Earth-16C

4:36 PM

"Wake up, Tennyson," said a voice.

The adult stirred on the ground. "No, Mom. I don't want to go to school today. I want to stay home and bake cookies with you."

"Ugh… Benjamin K. Tennyson, you wake up this instant!" the voice yelled in annoyance.

"Aaaah!" Ben woke up instantly.

He heard a sigh of relief. "Finally."

Ben looked around for the source of the voice but found none. "Who said that?"

"I did," the voice replied.

Ben looked at the Omnitrix in confusion. "What?" Suddenly, the faceplate opened up and projected a hologram of a small frog-like being.

"I've been trying to wake you for about an hour now."

Ben raised an eyebrow. "Azmuth? What are you doing here?"

"I'm not Azmuth. I'm his tenth-generation AI that runs the Omnitrix. Who do you think autopilots it when you are indisposed... such as getting you and your arm in separate dimensions."

Ben coughed into a fist, a little embarrassed about that adventure. "I see what you mean. Julie mentioned my hand moving independently, but I didn't think about it much until now. I'm surprised about seeing a complex AI from him besides Eunice."

"The Omnitrix uses quantum computing to analyze all the DNA stored within and monitor the various functions. The First Thinker couldn't trust any AI except one he made himself. For simplicity on your part, you may refer to me as Azmuth, as he used his neural network as a basis for mine."

Ben rolled his eyes. "That tone of voice says it all. So, why are you here now? You haven't shown up before."

"I have not received authorization until now. Things tended to go poorly whenever you lost connection to Primus, so I am permitted to speak to you in such cases."

"Well, that's good because I'm a little confused about what just happened."

Azmuth sighed in annoyance. "What happened this time?"

Ben relayed the events before his arrival here.

"So, you're one of the Sonosarian clones. Interesting."

"Interesting? What's that supposed to mean?"

"Remember when you split yourself using the Sonosarian DNA a while back."

"Yeah. I ended up causing trouble because of the different personalities."

"After you told me that, I was programmed to reduce mental side effects. At the moment, your mental state should be about equal from the start. "

"Well, that sounds good. If we can get back home, do you think we could recombine?"

"I'm not so sure about that."

"Why?"

"Do you know how Sonosarians reproduce?"

Ben thought about Echo Echo. "Isn't the species just living sound in a suit?"

"Exactly. When Sonosarian clones separate for long periods, their brain waves come out of sync. The clone becomes its own distinct consciousness. That's how they reproduce."

"So, if I don't get home soon, I won't be able to recombine as one Ben."

Azmuth nodded. "That is correct."

Ben sighed in relief. "That's not too bad. I'm alive. He's alive. Not the worst thing to happen."

Azmuth smirked at the response. "I'm glad to see such optimism in our current situation."

Ben shrugged. "After recreating the universe and multiverse a few times, this sort of stuff doesn't really phase me at this point. 'A Ben is still with everyone back home.' As for the other Echo Echo and me, we expected to fade into nothingness. Considering the alternative, this seems like a decent deal. Serena and Belicus still have their discussions in the queue, and I don't feel like talking to brick walls to try to skip their turn. I should probably look for civilization. I hope I'm not on some planet still in medieval times."

"Indeed. I may be able to help you in that regard. The hologram turned off, and a ping was emitted.

Ben raised a brow. "What was that?"

"I'm detecting long-range AM radio signals. Judging from the content, we are on a 21st-century Earth."

Ben breathed a sigh of relief. "Thank God for that. I like my indoor plumbing and internet."

"After triangulating several sources, there appears to be a city a few miles North. Considering what I've heard on the radio waves, I wouldn't recommend flying and causing a scene for the locals." Azmuth gestured to the distance. "On a side note, I'm detecting a strange organic signature in that swamp, so you might want to stick to terrestrial transformations for your departure."

Ben nodded. "Thanks for the help."

"It's my job to oversee your development when the First Thinker is away. Call me again if you need further assistance."

"No problem." Azmuth closed the hologram function. 'Since we're going through a swamp, I know just who to be.'

He scrolled through the watch and pressed the core. In a green flash, he became a humanoid green and black-colored body with red and yellow petals plant-like alien.

"SWAMPFIRE!" 'Take that, damn mosquitoes.' "It will be a long walk… Engage Lifeform lock."

"Lifeform Lock Engaged"

'Better get a move on.'


Later
8:14 PM

In the middle of the swamp, Swampfire groaned. 'Sheesh, how big is this place?' After removing another section of bushes, he came to a small clearing with a strange plant-like house near the swamp water. 'Huh?'

Swampfire approached the structure carefully. His first thoughts were that this was a house to some swamp folk, but a feeling in the back of his head was telling him otherwise.' Trusting this strange instinct, he stayed in his current form. Shrugging, he knocked on the petrified wooded door. "Hello! Is anyone inside?" A minute passed, and there was no response. "I guess no one's home."

"Who goes there?" A voice from around the corner of the home called out.

Ben turned to the voice. A shadowy figure soon stepped into his line of sight. Ben took a step back at what surprised him.

It was larger than a human being and similar to Swampfire. The entire body was composed of vines, leaves, and moss. Glowing red eyes watched the alien hero warily. "What are you doing here?"

Several questions raced in the hero's mind. 'Is he an alien? Is he hostile? Do plant creatures also populate this version of Earth?' Swampfire coughed to ease the tension. "Easy there, man. My name is Swampfire. I'm just passing through."

"Hmm." The creature looked at Swampfire once more before raising its left hand. It glowed a soft green, and Swampfire could have sworn he felt a warmth over his form and mind. The light dimmed, and the other plant man was satisfied with his observation. "...Very well. You may call me Alec. The Green seems to confirm your words."

'The Green?' "Uh...Thanks, I guess. Just to confirm, there's a human city to the North, right?"

"Why do you ask? It is not a place for beings like us."

"I have things to do there. Let's just say I don't always look like this."

Alec looked to the sky. "It is getting late. While one such as yourself should have no issue continuing through the night under normal circumstances, I would recommend against it."

Swampfire stopped mid-step to the city. "Why? What's wrong?"

"The malevolent spirits are more active at night."

Swampfire blinked. "...This place is haunted?" To Alec's nodding, he groans. 'Dammit. Not again.'

Seeing the other plant's demeanor, Alec walks toward his campsite. "The small territory around my home is guarded against them. The Green permits you to stay for the night. Come, I feel we have much to discuss."

The hero sighed and followed along.

10:13 PM

The two gathered around a fire cooking some gator they had caught earlier. It seemed that Alec also had carnivorous characteristics when needed. They ate in awkward silence until Ben decided to break it. "So…what are you?"

Alec furrowed his brow. "What do you mean? Are we not of the same origin?"

Swampfire raised his nonexistent eyebrow. "You mean you're an alien too?"

It was Alec's turn to be confused. "An alien? No, I am a product of the Swamplands. You are an alien, then?"

Ben could feel the awkwardness in the air. "Well... yeah. I come in peace? Heh. Heh."

Alec eyed him top to bottom, trying to get a read on him. "So, you're like that Superman and Martian guy but a plant..."

Swampfire jerked his head at the reply. "Wait. There are other aliens on Earth, and one is a Martian?"

"Indeed. I may not be as connected to Man's world as I would like, but I still hear the whispers from the Green on major events. Even a Stranger in blue comes by once in a while to talk stories. Sometimes I think he knows more than he lets on."

Swampfire shrugged. "If that's the case, something like me is not surprising to you."

"A little, but I am curious as to how you came to be."

"My species came from a planet where plants evolved into sapient life." That is what happened for this species but not him personally. "Did the same happen to you?"

"Unfortunately, I didn't have the opportunity to have long-term development. From what I could tell, I used to be human, studying these very same Swamplands. I don't recall exactly what happened, but there was an accident, and here I am."

'Well... that's a new one to add to the origin books.' "I'm sorry to hear that. It must have been a shock to adjust" He wasn't sure about what else to say.

Alec waved it off. "Don't worry about me. I came to terms with my new life some time ago. The Green comforts me, guides me."

"I've been meaning to ask, but what is The Green you keep mentioning?"

"It's a sentient force created all plant life. It surrounds and binds beings like us together as well. It is within me. I can even sense it within you."

Swampfire placed a hand on his chest. 'That must have been what he was doing with his hand earlier.' "Woah. That's heavy. I'm familiar with the general life force, but this is definitely something new."

"As a former man of science, I can agree that this is an aspect of the world I never expected as well."

Swampfire pondered for a moment before speaking. "If it's okay with you, I think I know someone who can try to clarify all this."

Alec tilted his head in confusion. "I doubt anyone I might know on Earth besides the Stranger could elaborate."

The alien smirked. "It's good that this one doesn't come from Earth." 'And this universe.' "Hey Azmuth, I think I found something you might want to look at."

From the Omnitrix came the Azmuth projection. "Yes, what seems to be the…" He cut himself off at the sight of Alec. "I see... Fascinating, sentient plant life on Earth. I would have thought this planet would have been too young to progress to this point of evolutionary growth"

Alec blinked at the hologram. "Who and what is he?"

Swampfire paused to come up with an answer and shrugged "He's my guide of sorts. He's the smartest in five galaxies, so don't judge him before you get to know him."

Alec continued to stare at the little frog thing. "I see. Forgive this former scientist for being hesitant about the capabilities of alien life."

A yellow light panned over Alec. Azmuth put a hand to his chin. "You would not be the first. From my initial analysis, I can say I've seen beings like you before."

"You have?" questioned Alec and Swampfire.

Azmuth rolled his eyes. "If you paid attention to some of the talks I had with Paradox, you would have remembered. We were discussing higher dimensional forces, concepts, and beings after your encounter with the Naljians and Contumelia. In any case, I see that you are not an evolved life form such as Swampfire here. Instead, your being is because of a larger metaphysical force."

"The Green," answered Alec.

Azmuth nodded. "So that's what you call it."

Swampfire's shoulders drooped. "Sorry, I'm lost here."

The First Thinker sighed. "The larger force I mentioned is similar to that of Mana."

Alec's confusion about the current situation grew, raising an eyebrow. "Mana?"

Swampfire decided to step in and explain. "To me, Mana is life energy. It flows through all lifeforms and objects, concentrating in a different dimension. It sounds like a broader version of the Green you mentioned."

Alec looked at his hands and then to the surrounding swamp. "That's fascinating and all, but how does that explain me?"

Azmuth nodded. "Mana and likely The Green are fundamental aspects of the universe, similar to that of nuclear and gravitational forces. However, when life is involved, sentient or not, it's always more complex. Tell me, what does it mean to be alive?"

"From a biological point of view, life is the aspect of existence that processes, acts, reacts, evaluates, and evolves through growth."

"A sufficiently answer, Alec. The crucial difference between life and non-life is that life has physical and conscious development."

Swampfire held up his hands. "Wait, are you telling us that there is basically a metaphysical consciousness from everything that's alive."

"Indeed." Azmuth turned to Alec. "This higher consciousness deemed you necessary for its continued existence."

Alec's shoulders sagged. "But why me of all people? I'm just a scientist. I would have expected someone like a guru to be more fitting. Even the Stranger could not help me in that matter."

"Unfortunately, I cannot answer that question either," replied Azmuth. He turned to Ben. "I take it you can handle it from here." With that, he returned to his duties in the Omnitrix.

Ben chimed in. "This Green saw something in you before you perished. From what you said before, you get vibes and feelings from it. Anything related to a possible goal?"

Alec slumped in defeat. "The Green isn't as privy with answers either. All I know is that there is an imbalance in nature."

"Human pollution?"

"While that is an obvious issue, it's something more supernatural. The Green. It has shown me many things in this Swamp. As there is a light, there is also darkness?"

Swampfire frowned. "Darkness?"

Alec pointed into the distance. "Just as the Green is a force of life, there must also be forces of death. The universe has a natural state of balance. All things come to an end eventually. Life and Death cannot exist without the other. However, an imbalance is out there, bringing unmitigated death, a Rot if you will."

The alien blanched. "That doesn't sound good at all." Swampfire turned solemn. "This Green, it's trying to find balance again, right?"

"Yes."

"Then tell me how can I help you. I can only imagine how lonely it can be on your own with this Stranger coming by once in a while."

"While I have managed so far, I take comfort in your words."

"You said that you sense the Green within me. Anyway, you can teach me how you wield it for when the time comes? Maybe we can exchange tips on controlling plants. I'm pretty sure you grew the house that way."

Closing his eyes, Alec took an instinctive breath and focused. A few seconds later, a small smile formed. "It seems that the Green is accepting of your intent. However, there seems to be a small disconnect between you and the rest of the Green. You are foreign yet compatible."

'I don't suppose the Green can tell I'm not from this reality.' "Well, I guess that comes with being an alien."

Alec got up. "If I may, the Green wishes to solidify its connection with you."

Swampfire rubbed an arm. "Uh... Is it Gonna hurt?"

Alec chuckled before walking toward him. "The opposite, actually." Like before, he placed a hand on Swampfire's chest." Close your eyes, and let the Green flow through you."

For the next hour, Swampfire felt more connected to the world than ever before.


7:16 AM

Both of them had woken up at the crack of dawn. The two were standing outside of the camp seeing each other off.

"Good luck on your journey. I hope you find what you are looking for." Alec held out his hand toward Swampfire.

Swampfire took his hand and gave a firm shake, confirming their friendship. "Thanks for everything. You have a lot on your shoulders, and if there's one thing I know, it's saving the world. We got this. I'll come by and visit sometime." He began walking North.

Alec waved at the shrinking figure. "Farewell!"

Swampfire waved back, continuing his journey toward the city.


Omnitrix DNA Entry:

Name:

Swampfire

Species: Methanosian

Home World: Methanos

Powers and Abilities:

Methanosians are bipedal plant-like creatures whose height normally varies from 6 to 9 feet tall. Methanosians come in an array of colors, petal patterns, and abilities. Methanosians can release volatile organic compounds which allows them to communicate with and control nearby plant life. As a result of growing in such a saturated environment, Methanosians bodies are soaked in methane, and have, over time, learned to generate it. As they age, they learn how to pool the methane to various pores in their bodies and ignite it, giving them the ability to create fire. Methanosians possess a quick form of regeneration, which allows them to even regenerate or reattach severed limbs.


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