Hello, all of you awesome people! Today, I shall release of the first of many chapters of a rewrite of my original story. But this is more than just a simple remake. This will not only drastically expand on the story, but it'll be almost a complete retelling, with almost everything different in some way. So if you've read the original story, don't worry about potential spoilers. Only a few things will be crossing over to this version.

Anyway, how about we start?

G - ∞

And now we begin.

Mark - May 28, 2016 - 7:07 AM

I see my little brother, Andrew, running in panic from something unknown... a glowing gem... an ocean with a green sky, a glowing man, a green ball with spots of dirt on it... a battlefield... a tree falling over... These images begin to fade out into the green ball being absorbed into a larger green ball with several smaller and different colored balls attached to it. Then suddenly, a pair of glowing red eyes staring directly at me...

I wake up with a loud gasp. My eyes dart around the room for several seconds before I sigh in relief when I realize it was a dream. It's not the first time that I've had a nightmare similar to this. I've been having it since around five days ago when I was waiting to sign up for this experiment designed by Dexlabs called Project Future. I think I dozed off a little, because the next thing I knew, those eyes were staring at me. I have no idea why this dream is taking place, or why I'm having it so much. I wonder if it means something. I believe that in dreams, a falling tree means that you are "tired" or "burned out". Kinda makes sense considering how for the past week or so, I've been studying extensively for my finals before summer. I spent days and days organizing things and taking notes... But it was worth it. I got mostly A's in my finals, and summer has begun.

As I sit up in bed, I turn to the Dexlabs clock on my nightstand. The time is "7:08 AM". "Uh, oh," I accidentally say out loud, because I usually get up at 6:00. And no, it's not because I slept in. It's because Andrew usually gets up at around 7:00 AM most of the time on weekends, and if I end up sleeping in, he runs into my room and jumps on my bed, screaming "WAKE UP, MARK!" I don't hate him for it like some other people might, because he's young. He doesn't know any better. His antics can be a bit annoying at times, though, even if well intended. I'm usually fine with it, but there was one time I wasn't, which was about two years ago.

What happened was that Andrew somehow woke up in the middle of the night, at about 3:30 AM. Apparently, there was a "light" coming through the window that led him to believe it was morning already, and he ran to my bed and started his wakeup ritual, and it was loud. Now, if this was before Dexlabs had installed that cool, adjustable soundproofing system within the walls of each of the apartments, this wouldn't be a problem. But it wasn't, and so it woke up a ton of our neighbors. Yeah... they weren't happy about it. While my parents apologized to the other residents who were woken up, I put Andrew back to bed, only for him to wake me up again 3 and 1/2 hours later! And so a day of being really tired began. And of course, it had to be on a day where I had a math test. I don't know how I got an B+. I thought for certain that I'd get something lower than a C, at most. I checked the news for that day, and there were strange lights spotted in the sky, in and around the area our apartment/hotel was in. I didn't know what exactly they were, but I have a hunch.

Wait. I hear something. Loud footsteps running down the hallway outside, toward to door to my room. I instinctively roll off my bed to the left, taking the covers with me. I don't know how the door doesn't fly off its hinges: That's how fast Andrew runs into the room, and he does that on a daily basis. The door doesn't fly off this time, though. As I fall, Andrew screams out, "IT'S SUMMER!" Once I hit the floor, the air gets blasted out of my lungs. I take a deep breath, when I hear something else hit the floor, I look up and notice that the small mirror on the other nightstand fell. The mirror is in a position where I can see my face. My hair is so messy right now; there are dark blond strands going in every direction.

"Mark?" I hear Andrew ask again. I look to the right and see he's peeking over the side of the bed at me. His scraggly black hair is also going in every direction, just like mine. His emerald green eyes are unnaturally large for an almost 8-year old. He's wearing his favorite pajamas too: his Upgrade pajamas. Green-and-black stripes with the bright green Omnitrix symbol on the chest. Once our gazes meet, he lights up again.

"Yay! Mark!" Andrew says, keeping that smile of his. He's glowing with happiness. "I thought you'd be up earlier because it's summer! IT'S FINALLY SUMMER!"

"Well, I honestly didn't intend to wake up this late, but it's OK!" I say. "Regardless, this is a good way to start the summer, right?"

"Guess you're right! NOW LET'S WATCH CARTOONS ON THE FIRST DAY OF SUMMER!" Andrew says. I get up, Andrew gets off the bed, we brush our teeth, and then we head toward the living room. As we walk down the hallway, our imaginary friend flies toward us. A green cat with bright blue eyes, the ability to levitate with almost zero effort, create or transform into numerous crystalline forms, and think and speak like a human would. In fact, her green fur and relations to crystals are the source of her name: Jade.

I say "our" because while it may seem like Andrew was the one who originally imagined her into existence, she wasn't. I created her when I was around 4 years old, but since kids my age aren't expected to be seen hanging out with imaginary friends, Andrew has recently been saying that Jade is his imaginary friend now. Of course, I don't think Jade belongs to just one person. Jade is pretty much a part of our family now, and she has been for a decade. In fact, I remember when I first met my now best friend, Evan, in preschool, and I wanted to introduce him to Jade, he asked me, "Is she your sister or something?" But now that I think about it, Jade really does feel like a sister to me and Andrew now, and I know he doesn't want to give her up. Thankfully, when he first told Mom about that, she said that she would never do that, but still said we should also have non-imaginary friends, too.

"Good morning, Mark!" Jade says, smiling.

"Oh, by the way, we're watching the cartoons, right? Right?" Andrew asks me. I look down at him and say,

"Of course we are. Why would we not? Oh, and good morning, Jade."

Every Saturday morning, Andrew, Jade and I head over to the living room, sit on the large couch, turn on the TV and watch the morning cartoons. The cartoons today were very interesting, especially this episode of Realms. This was the Season 2 premiere, and what was really interesting was that at the end, Dr. Amalga, the main antagonist, created an evil version of Aura, the protagonist, using the Dimensional Shifter he managed to take from her earlier in the Season 1 finale. Andrew got really hyped at that revelation.

After we finish watching our cartoons, we usually play video games until noon or so. Right now, we're playing Heroic Battles II, where you can play as all sorts of heroes and villains from this world, such as Ben 10, Dexter, the Powerpuff Girls and more. Andrew, Jade and I are currently doing one-on-one battles, and whoever loses, the third person switches with. To shake things up, we are using random character selection. For this battle, Andrew gets Ben 10, which he's really good with. However, I end up getting Fuzzy Lumpkins, which I still don't really know how to use well. So needless to say, I start getting wrecked by Diamondhead, Humungousaur and other aliens in Ben's arsenal.

Just a second or two before Andrew delivers the final blow in the form of Fourarms' 4-Hand Slam, my phone starts ringing. I pause the game and walk over to the table my phone is on. I look over at the screen, and it says I am getting a call from my best friend, Evan. I press the button named "PROJECTION" on the screen, and almost immediately after I do so, a hologram of Evan appears above the phone, looking toward me.

"Sup, Mark?" Evan says.

"I'm alright," I say. "It's awesome that summer's started."

"Yo, do you want to hang out at Townsville Park?"

"Just you or our other friends?" I ask.

"Uh, everyone, dude. I mean, it's the beginning of summer! We gotta do something cool! That means you're coming, right?"

"Yeah, I'll be there," I say. "When do you want to meet up?"

Evan shrugs. "I just messaged Amanda and the rest. They said they'd probably all be able to meet at the park at 12:30 to 1:00."

12:30 to 1:00? Uh, what's the time... Oh, it's 12:14 PM. "Alright. Let me just finish this match with Andrew and I'll get ready to go!"

Evan smirks at me. "You guys are playing Heroic Battles II again, aren't you?"

"Uh... yeah, we are," I say. "Alright, I'll see you a moment!"

"Cool. Oh, and by the way, um, I told my viewers that I'd stream most of my day today. Just saying now so you aren't surprised when you get there!"

"Oh, OK! That'll be cool! See ya at the park!" I hang up the call, and the holographic projection fades into nothingness. I turn to Andrew and Jade, who are both looking at me.

"So what's going to happen, are you going to see Evan?" Andrew asks.

"Yeah, I'm going," I say as I walk toward the hallway. "You and Jade can continue playing without a need for time-outs now."

Andrew stares at me, confused. "But what about the match?"

"All you have to do is unpause the game in order to win," I say. It's true, Andrew was literally about to blow my character to bits with Ben's final combo. Andrew picks up my controller and presses "START", and seconds after doing so, Ben 10 wins.

"My turn!" Jade says, before flying to where I had sat previously and picking up the controller with her paws. I head over to my room, which is the second farthest from the end of the hallway. I sit down on the bed and put my socks and hoverboard shoes on, before walking to the closet and opening the doors. I put a white vest on over my green-and-black Upgrade-textured shirt and get my white-and-blue Dexlabs hoverboard. I don't really rush because it's not like all of us will meet at exactly 12:30. I could be there as late as 1:00, because those were the accepted terms. But I'm going to get ready at my own pace, because I have lots of time to spare. Once I know I've got all my stuff, I walk back into the living room, I see that Andrew and Jade have already started another match. I take a peek at what's happening, and I see Ben 10 and Major Glory, the leader of the Justice Friends, fighting on top of Dexlabs. I can't tell who is playing who. Andrew sees me and pauses the game, causing it to freeze around his character, Ben 10. Wow, Andrew got that character twice in a row! I then walk over to Mom, who is across the apartment. Dad had already left to Dexlabs while Andrew, Jade and I were watching cartoons.

"Hey, Mom!" I say. "I'm going to Townsville Park to hang out with my friends, OK?"

"Alright, Mark," Mom says. "Make sure to be careful on your hoverboard."

"Mom, I haven't gotten anywhere close to falling off even once. Dexlabs even said that the odds of dying while using a hoverboard are like, 1 in 150 million, due to all the safety precautions like the magnetic Dextronium that keeps your shoes attached to it, and the spot-on dives and maneuvers the hoverboard makes in the unlikely event the rider does fall off."

"Well, be careful anyway."

I chuckle a bit. "Oh, you and your anxieties, Mom. Don't worry, I'm gonna be fine."

"Bye, Mark!" Andrew says, waving goodbye. Jade does the same with her paw. Once again, I tell Mom that I'll be fine, as I walk toward the large balcony. I flick a small switch on the bottom of my hoverboard, and almost immediately after I do so, the small repulsor engines on both ends activate, as evidenced by the glowing blue light on the bottom and the small humming sound. I then kneel down and hold the hoverboard around a foot off the ground. When I release it, it remains floating in midair. I then step onto it, and take off toward Townsville Park.

Since I've flown around on my hoverboard many, many times, I've basically mastered it. I begin to maneuver southward toward Townsville Park. I don't need the holographic map to get around, because I know the ins and outs of Townsville, from Tech Square all the way to the Sunken Mall. As I go down the street on my hoverboard, I look down at the people below on the streets. I see two people, one with blue hair and the other with pink hair, trying to get their instruments into a building. A red-haired woman talking on the phone, pushing a baby stroller. A kid with brown hair running down the street with his blue imaginary friend. But the most noticeable is this middle-aged man wearing an unusual "steampunk" outfit and a metal hand, staring directly at me from a balcony that's... at my level. I see someone else with him, but I don't pay attention to this other person as I turn onto a street on my right to take another route.

12:35 PM

The city of Townsville... You always see that in the advertisements to come here. One of the reasons Townsville became so famous, other than being the hub of heroes, was the active volcano in the center of one of its parks. And with the addition of Dexlabs, the Powerpuff Girls, and a few other notable things, Townsville is the most famous city on the planet, followed closely by Bellwood, the home of Ben 10. After flying down the streets on my hoverboard for a minute or two, I come across the large park, and I see the volcano. An observatory is on top of the volcano, home to one of the greatest villains in Townsville, Mojo Jojo.

I look down toward the eastern end of the park, which is closest to me. Almost immediately, I see a person with that familiar brown hair. I can even see his brown eyes from here; that's how noticeable they are. Evan. He's looking at me, waving and calling out "HEY!". The rest of my friends aren't here, though. Evan already has his phone out, streaming everything going on right now. I swoop downward toward him at the speed of a peregrine falcon and pull up feet from the ground. I admit, I'm showing off a little bit, but only because I want to show everyone on the other end of that stream my hoverboard skills. For the umpteenth time.

"Whoa! Hey, Mark!" Evan says as I dismount my hoverboard. I shut down the miniature repulsor engines on the hoverboard, place the hoverboard in my backpack, and walk to Evan. He's wearing a yellow T-shirt with an orange triangle pointing downward on the central part of the chest, blue jeans and orange sneakers. All my other friends aren't there, though.

"Sup?" I say as we high five. I then turn to Evan's phone to say, "Hey, guys!" before turning back to him. "Where's everybody else, by the way, Evan?"

"They're on their way," Evan says before we start conversing. "Hey, have you seen Robot Rebel Ranch 2 yet?"

"No, because I haven't seen the first one. Have you?"

Evan jumps toward me. "Dude, you have to see it! It's, like, AWESOME! There's so much action and battle sequences and... It's just awesome, y'know? Just a note, people! Don't spoil the thing for him, OK?"

I smile. "Well, then, when do you want to see it?"

Evan doesn't say anything for a few moments. "I guess sometime this week. We'll see the first one first, of course. Don't want you to miss out on anything."

"Heh... You know, we could all hang out at one of our places in between now and then to hype ourselves for the second movie, and maybe even have another slumber party. Man, I remember how awesome our slumber parties used to be."

Evan's smile falters, as if I brought up something he didn't like. "Uh... yeah, they were cool," he says as his smile comes back.

"Yeah. I also liked how we themed some of them. I don't think we'll ever be able to top the slumber party before my 13th birthday, when we pretended that a huge zombie apocalypse was happening, though, and how we were trying to stop it."

That's when Evan sighs and looks away from me, and put his face in one of his hands. He's done that every time I bring up the slumber party around my 13th birthday (a bit more than 2 years ago), and I don't understand why. I've asked him about it before, and he keeps putting it off. I don't know why Evan is like this at all.

"What?" I ask, even though I know what Evan will answer next:

"It's nothing."

We suddenly hear a whooshing sound above our heads, hundreds of feet up. We both look up to see a pink streak of light in the sky. Immediately, both of us know that it is Blossom, "commander and the leader" of the Powerpuff Girls. The pink trail fades away, and a blue streak of light follows after it. That is Bubbles, "the joy and the laughter" of the three. Well, what used to be three. Usually, a green trail would follow afterward, but there's none. There's been no green streak for a while now.

"It still hasn't been the same since then," Evan says. He's clearly referring to what happened to Buttercup, the tomboyish, reckless and "toughest fighter" of the Powerpuff Girls. She had disappeared almost 3 months ago, at the hands of Mojo Jojo. Evan and I end up looking toward the tall, megaphone-shaped volcano with the observatory on top of it. I then notice that Evan is clenching his fists. I understand his anger. He had seen the whole spectacle with our own eyes. All my friends and I saw it, and it still gives us chills.

March 4, 2016 - 4:31 PM

Every Friday after school, our whole group of friends goes to the Game Hive closest to our school. There, we play arcade games until closing, and then fly back home on our hoverboards. We'd do this on so many Fridays that it was basically a tradition for us, but of course if something cooler was happening on Friday after school, we'd be there instead. However, the Game Hive in Pokey Oaks is under renovations right now, so we've been going to the one closer downtown near the Dizzy World amusement park until that one is fixed.

Some time into our visit, the ground begins to shake. Oh, no. This is not good. We look up at one of the numerous TV screens above some of the arcade games, and the main focus is a tall, armored robot attacking the city. Given the large white-and-purple striped helmet that's part of the robot's head, we immediately can tell it's a "Mojo-bot". Right now, it's smashing a Malph's establishment into the ground with its foot. The news cameras then show Mojo moving toward another building. It's a Game Hive. ...The exact building we're in. We don't even have to yell out to start running. Right as we reach the exit doors, I hear metal crack and split as the Mojo-bot starts punching the building into oblivion. We don't even look back.

We keep running for several more minutes until we're absolutely sure that we're far enough away.

towering Mojo-bot is moving away from the ruins of the Game Hive. And we've run a major distance, probably 5 blocks or something. As for the Game Hive, it's been reduced to rubble. The large, rotating bees that are connected to the outer walls of the Hive had fallen and were rolling across the ground.

"Are you guys alright?" I ask. All my friends nod. We then proceed to start calling our parents to let them know we're OK. As I call Mom and Dad, the Mojo-bot moves toward the hovering Slider bus line nearby. It cuts the metal beam in one swift motion, causing most of the machinery keeping that part of the Slider system up to malfunction. There's a Slider bus close to where the Mojo-bot split the beam that starts to tilt and sway. There's a guy in a beanie holding on for dear life, now that the force field usually surrounding the Slider between stations has shut down.

As the Slider begins to fall off of the line, and the person with the beanie can no longer hold on, Bubbles flies toward it. I hear someone on one of the rooftops cheering as Bubbles, in one swift motion, catches everybody on or falling off the Slider and puts them all on the roof of a nearby building. At the same time, Buttercup flies at the Mojo-bot and hits it with enough force to send it flying into a skyscraper. This causes a domino effect with other skyscrapers near it. You could see streaks of pink zooming through the buildings about to fall, in order to rescue the people inside. As the plumes of dust surround the Mojo-bot, we think for a moment that Mojo Jojo has been defeated once again. But the fight isn't over yet, as the Mojo-bot emerges from the dust and smoke, only slightly scratched up.

The Mojo-bot blasts massive missiles out of each of its hands, targeting Blossom and Buttercup. Blossom and Buttercup proceeded to dodge them, as more and more missiles keep coming out of the bot's hands. Explosions take place in the sky as Evan starts recording this. After destroying the missiles, the three Powerpuffs regroup. And out of nowhere, there's a bright light shining out of the Mojo-bot's chest. The light was shining on Blossom, but Buttercup pushes her out of the way, only to get hit by A GIGANTIC FREAKIN' LASER! The blast is so bright it forces me to look away, and when I look back, Buttercup's gone. She's been sent flying out toward the ocean. There's a loud, thunderous bang not long after. That must have been when she hit the water. We don't know what to do or say. Did Buttercup just... What happened?

Blossom and Bubbles immediately turn around and punch the Mojo-bot like crazy. My friends and I are just standing there, speechless. We're not even doing the funny reactions that we normally do, like when Buttercup punches a bad guy in the face and we all go "OHHHH!" No. We're just watching as pink and blue send the Mojo-bot everywhere. They break it apart really easily, but Bubbles keeps going all-out. You can hear the rage in every one of her screams. Bubbles then flies right through the Mojo-bot's neck, sending the head flying really close to us. We instinctively run to the left, and thankfully it misses us and breaks all over the ground behind us. We see Mojo fly out and slide across the concrete. We end up running to around half a block away from where Mojo is, so that we can see what goes down next. Bubbles then shows up, and we can feel the anger coming off of her. Mojo tries to run, but Bubbles grabs him and throws him super fast into the nearby wall. She zooms up to him, throws him on the ground, zooms at him again and starts punching him over and over again, without hesitation. Without mercy.

Blossom flies up and yells at Bubbles to stop, but Bubbles is having none of it. She keeps punching and punching, and she doesn't stop. Blossom grabs her and tries to pull her away, but Bubbles blasts her back with her laser eyes. She then looks down to Mojo and is about to blast lasers directly into his face.

"S-stop..." I end up thinking out loud. I don't say it that loudly, though, but Bubbles must hear it due to her super-hearing, because she immediately stops, and the glow from her eyes goes away. She looks up at us and she must be realizing what she's doing is wrong, because she starts to calm down a bit. She looks back at Mojo and his messed-up face. Man... Bubbles really didn't hold anything back. Bubbles suddenly starts winding another punch, and we all momentarily get scared, but she deliberately misses and punches the ground right next to Mojo's head. She gets up, then just floats away. Then we hear the crying. Whenever Bubbles cries, we all feel sad too. A grown man would be affected by Bubbles crying.

The police then showed up and took Mojo in for the umpteenth time. He'll probably just break out a few days later, though, like he always does. But it turns out he wouldn't for at least a month, and when he did get out, he didn't bother to commit any crime since. The Mayor of Townsville then sent out search parties around the world to try to find Buttercup, especially in the spot of the ocean she was estimated to have landed. However, the search parties found absolutely nothing, not even a trace. Blossom, Bubbles and their father, Professor Utonium, tried to deny that she could be dead, claiming that she had survived much worse. But if Buttercup did survive, why would she not reveal herself to her grieving father and sisters? Over the months, there has been nothing to confirm her being alive, but also nothing to deconfirm it either. So maybe, just maybe, she'll come back. When exactly that happens, I don't know.

Mark - May 28, 2016 - 12:47 PM

"HEY!" Evan suddenly yells, startling me and completely wrecking my train of thought. I turn to Evan, and see he's looking down one of the paths that extend through the park. Walking toward us are our five other friends: John, Lucas, Chris, Aidan and Amanda.

John's wearing simple, casual clothing, such as a plain black T-shirt, blue jeans, and shoes. It looks like Lucas and Chris were trying to pull another one of their "twin pranks" earlier, because they're wearing the same exact clothes: a black-and-white striped shirt with a skull on the front, black pants, and purple shoes. Aidan's got on a Heatblast T-shirt (dark red with yellow intersecting lines to mimic magma about to seep through the cracks between volcanic rock), orange jeans, and red shoes, and Amanda's got a custom-made hoodie which is purple with the lavender outline of a cat's face on the back. purple jeans and white-and-purple hightops.

And now that we're all here, everything feels better.

"Hey, guys! How's it goin'?" Evan says as he fist-bumps Aidan and Chris, before high-fiving Lucas. I high-five Amanda and fist-bump John. After more exchanges of "Hey!"s, and "How's it going?"s, Evan says to the viewers on his stream: "Well, all our friends are here now! Say hi, everybody!" After everyone says "Hi" or "Hey" to Evan's phone, Chris says to Evan and me:

"Well, what were you guys talking about?"

I respond, "We were just talking about things, like when I'm going to see Robot Rebel Ranch and its-"

"YOU'VE GOT TO SEE THE SECOND ONE!" Aidan screams, startling most of us. He jumps in front of me with a wide grin. "IT IS SO COOL! Like, the space travelers are tracked by the aliens to their homeworld and-"

"Aidan, please don't spoil it for him," Amanda says sternly. She really doesn't like it when people try to spoil movies for, well, anyone. "You haven't seen those movies, right, Mark?"

"No, I haven't," I say. "Evan and I were just talking about when I was going to."

"We could all hang out at one of our places sometime tonight or tomorrow, and you could see the first one then," John says. "Oh, and then we could go to the movie theater the next day to see the second one."

"I think tomorrow would be better, in all honesty," I say. "But whose house will we go to?"

Chris shrugs. "Well, I would say that we would watch it at your place, Mark, because your living room has the most space, but Andrew and Jade are there and the movie is, well, pretty crazy at some points. I don't know."

"Well, Jade isn't as much of a concern as Andrew is. I could convince my parents to bring Andrew somewhere, like maybe drive around Townsville to see if they can get him to at least see a day-saving by one of the superheroes," I say. "You know how much he fanboys out when he even sees Ben 10 or the Powerpuff Girls." My friends chuckle at this. They all know how hyper Andrew gets when he gets the chance to interact with super-famous heroes. Whenever I get home from school, he asks me to tell him everything about what happened that involved the Powerpuff Girls. Even if it's nothing special, he wants to know. He really looks up to them, which is why he was so devastated when Buttercup disappeared. But even then, his favorite is Bubbles. Their personalities match really, really well.

"That can work," Amanda says about my idea. "So... what do you guys wanna talk about?"

1:51 PM

Over the next 45 minutes to an hour, we talk about the most recent events for a while and watch the newest viral videos and compilations. The craziest video was one where this guy thought it was a good idea to mess with Brick and Butch of the Rowdyruff Boys, who are evil versions of the Powerpuff Girls. It's fairly obvious what happened next. At one point during our hangout, we actually had seen Mojo Jojo leave the volcano to do a few things that weren't related to world domination. I don't know how nobody gets scared. Maybe it's because they know he's in what we call "Civilian Mode"? Not sure. Anyway, after that, we all decide to go to the large ice cream shop near Townsville Park, which has the largest variety of ice cream I have ever seen in my life. Ever since we were kids, we absolutely loved ice cream, and we still do. On the way to the place, a Dexbot wheels near us, and looks at us for a few seconds before continuing on its way. Weird. I wonder what it was doing.

Once we get to the ice cream shop, one of the kids leaving accidentally drops his strawberry-vanilla double scoop cone and starts crying. Evan jumps to the front of the line as we all get our favorite flavors. Evan gets vanilla and a strawberry-vanilla double scoop for the crying kid, John gets chocolate, Chris gets coffee, Lucas gets cookie dough, Aidan gets chocolate chip, Amanda gets mint chocolate chip and I get strawberry. Of course, we have our ice cream in cones. We sit down at one of the many tables where customers are allowed to eat their ice cream. As we eat our ice cream, we talk about more recent events.

The thing that took up the last bit of our discussion at the park and is still taking up the discussion at the ice cream shop was based around one of the most popular bands in Townsville, the Gangreen Gang. Lucas is a huge fan of this band, and is probably a member of all these online groups that love those guys. Lucas told us about how there was a new member to the band, and that her stage name is reportedly "BellaDonna", though her actual name is unknown. When we saw the photos of her, John pointed out she looked kinda like Buttercup, and when I checked the photos, there definitely was a resemblance. But there was one flaw in John's theory: If Buttercup was indeed alive, why would she completely ignore her sisters and join a rock band, the members of which were once their enemies? That's why most of us consider it to be a simple coincidence. If someone looks the right way and dresses correctly, someone could look very similar to Buttercup. I remember that many years ago, Amanda had dressed up as Bubbles for Halloween. She was so good at making herself look like Bubbles that little toddlers ran after her, thinking they were looking at the real Bubbles. I'm sure Andrew would have done the same if he was none the wiser.

After we finish our ice cream cones, we get ready to leave. Evan looks to his phone after not doing so for a few minutes, and when he does so, he says, "Guys, everyone on the stream is saying to check the news right now!"

"On it!" Aidan says, getting his Dexpad out. After booting up the pad and accessing one of the news websites, he leans back a bit. "Whoa, this is interesting!"

"Well, what is it?" Lucas asks.

After Aidan clicks on the screen again, presumably to access the news article, he says, "It's something about-" before stopping. Actually, he's literally frozen, and his eyes have become wider than anything I've ever seen. If you were to snap your fingers in front of him right now, he wouldn't even flinch. What would make him freeze like that?

"Aidan?" I ask, but he still doesn't move. John, who's next to Aidan, looks over to see the Dexpad's screen, and he freezes in a manner similar to Aidan.

"Mark?" John says. "You'll want to see this..."

I get out of my chair and walk over to John and Aidan to see what all the fuss is about. On the screen, I see the bold headline for a news article, saying "Dexlabs Announces First Candidate For Project Future". Wow, that's pretty fast! It's only been a week since people were able to volunteer. Maybe a volunteer is selected per week? I don't know, so I start reading the article.

"TOWNSVILLE - After a week of speculation by the public, Dexlabs has announced that the first volunteer for their Project Future demonstrations has been selected. Mark Emeron, the son of Dexlabs assistant Luis Emeron, has been chosen to be the first Project Future candidate. Dexter's output on the reason behind this choosing is currently unknown.

Project Future is the newest endeavor from Dexlabs, with its demonstrations designed to send test candidates through a portal in Space-Time. "The purposes of these experiments are not to send anyone into the far future in order to see what future civilization might be like, or send people into the past to see history first-hand," Dexter said about the goal of the project. "When a portal in Space-Time is made, strange things may happen visibly, but on the quantum level, even stranger and more complicated events take place, so complicated that we would be here for days talking about it. Not only do we hope to show you that we can create Space-Time rifts, we can capture these events in order to learn more about them and be able to detect Space-Time anomalies faster. Also, being able to harness these rifts would allow for much faster travel, whether it be on the local, interplanetary or interstellar travel. For instance, instead of having to travel at the speed of light for several years to reach Proxima Centauri (the nearest star to our own Sun), we could merely create a stable rift to take us there in moments. Of course, we won't be seeing that for years, but these experiments will eventually lead to that."

Mark will reportedly travel through time later this afternoon. People will be able to volunteer for Project Future until June 3, after which the rest of the volunteers will be chosen for the coming weeks."

That was as far as I needed to read in order to know what was going on: I'd been chosen by Dexter himself to be the first candidate for Project Future. I don't know exactly why he would pick me over the other hundreds of candidates who applied. Maybe he assigned a number to each of the candidates and used a random number picker to determine the order, and I somehow came out first. Whatever the case is, I don't think I'll ever know. Dexlabs is able to hide things very well. We didn't originally know why the company had gone silent for a little while until Project Future was released. I lean back, unable to make any facial expressions but shock and confusion.

"What's going on?" Evan says, confused. "Wha- what happened?"

"Mark! It... you... You were picked!" Aidan stutters. I notice he still hasn't blinked. "For... for Project Future!"

The entire ice cream shop goes completely silent, so much so you could hear a fly from the other side of the room. I zone out of reality as I realize: I'll be going through time today. This is like one of those contests where you hope to win, but don't actually expect to. I turn to Evan and see he is smiling widely. I feel someone pat me on the back, and I turn to see it's Amanda, who is smiling just like Evan. Aidan and John are looking at each other, and Lucas and Chris are smirking at me. Other kids in the ice cream shop are either looking at us in confusion and shock or checking the same news website that Aidan checked.

"That... that's AWESOME!" Evan says loudly, and the entire place erupts into loud conversations of speculation, excitement and more.

"You're gonna be in a time machine..." Lucas says. "You lucky dude..."

"You'll be taking part in revolutionizing science!" says Chris. "That's... well, Evan, you already said it: it's awesome!"

My phone rings. I reach into my pocket and take it out. It says I'm getting a call from someone named "Dexter". Now, the one person I know with that name is Dexter, the founder of Dexlabs. Dexter is extremely brilliant, and when I say "brilliant", that is a huge understatement. Since Dexlabs was first built in Technology Square, he advanced our technology by what experts originally thought would take decades, in less than three years! To add insult to injury, Dexter is my age!

After I see Dexter's name on the screen of my phone, my eyes become as wide as Aidan's was before, if not wider. Evan notices this, too, and says, "Guys! I think Dexter's calling Mark!" Immediately after Evan says that, the entire ice cream shop becomes silent once again. I can feel the eyes of many, many people trained on me as I move my finger to the "PROJECTION" button. I press it, and a hologram of Dexter flickers in. Like Evan's brown hair, Dexter's orange hair is distinctive on the hologram. He's also wearing his iconic white lab coat with yellow buttons and purple gloves. Once Dexter's hologram shows up, everyone focuses on it.

"Hello, Mark!" Dexter says. "It is I, Dexter. Do you know why I am calling you?"

"Aidan showed me the news article," I stutter, trying to comprehend that I'm calling the greatest genius of my generation. "I'm going through your time travel experiment."

Dexter smiles. "Your friend is fast at figuring things out. But that's not the only reason that I'm here. I would also like to thank you for volunteering for Project Future. This experiment has been the most difficult undertaking I have ever done in recent memory, but now, at last, my greatest creation is finally complete! But of course, in order for my time capsule to actually mean anything, I will need you within it!"

"So you're going to bring me to Dexlabs?"

"Precisely!" Dexter says. He's sounding really confident about this experiment. I just hope it won't fall to one of those "malfunctions of unknown cause", but according to Dexter, it sounds like that will not be the case. "I have sent a Dexlabs hover-limousine to your current location. It's already picked up your mother, little brother and his imaginary friend. I would come too, but I have an interview coming up in a few minutes, and I need to remain here for it. Don't worry about what news channel to pick. I shall be doing one with most of the main news channels simultaneously."

"Hey, can we come?" Amanda suddenly asks Dexter. Dexter's hologram turns to face her, and after a short silence, he says:

"Very well. We can interview any of you afterward, as we could use your perspectives to promote Project Future. The hover-limousine should be arriving in a few seconds."

"Alright then," I say.

"See you very soon," Dexter says before he hangs up the call. I look up at my friends, who are looking at me with even more amazement than before Dexter called me. I look at other kids in the ice cream shop and they also have that same expression. I'm not given much time to comprehend it because I see something move in my peripheral vision outside the window. I turn toward the window and see that a Dexlabs hover-limo is landing near the ice cream shop.

"That's our ride!" I say as I stand up, and my friends all look toward the window. They stand up the moment they see the hover-limo and walk to the exit. As we exit the shop, I look through the side windows of the hover-limo and see that Jade is sitting inside. Several of the side doors open moments after, allowing us to enter. When I see Andrew and Mom look at me with smiles on their faces, I sit in the row of seats they are on. Everyone else sits in the rows behind us.

"Hi, Mark!" Andrew says. "Dad told me you're going to go through time!"

"Yep," I say to Andrew, who smiles even wider. "Don't know how far, though. They'll probably tell me when we get to Dexlabs."

That's when I feel the hover-limo rise higher into the air and start moving down the street. A Dexbot is piloting the hovercar. Dexbots are Dexter's other robotic assistants and the main workforce of Dexlabs. The Dexbot turns to us, and asks us, "Would you like to watch anything?"

"Just pick any news channel," Lucas says. The Dexbot activates all the TVs on that channel, and right when the TV activates, I hear the triumphant music that usually shows up before a report. After the short bit of music stops, the alien newscaster that is Will Harangue appears on the screen. Yes, alien. He was once human, but apparently something turned him into an alien. I remember how his ratings skyrocketed when he revealed his new form.

"This is Will Harangue, and you are watching the Will Harangue Nation!" Will says. The text on the bottom of the screen says "SPECIAL REPORT". Before he can even continue speaking, I already know what this is going to be about: Dexlabs, Project Future, and me.