Mandark - A few minutes earlier...

"The crates are being collected as we speak, Overlord Mandark," says one of my Mandroids as they prepare the Time Machine Construction Room again for building this time machine. "Buttercup shall bring them right to this room upon their extraction from the Infected Zone so that your unrivaled genius can get to work as soon as possible."

"Excellent," I say. "Proceed with the construction as soon as they arrive."

Without question, the Mandroids spread out and start going to different parts of the Construction Room. Finally, after bypassing the obstacles set up by the Fusions, I will be able to move forward on creating... our time machine. While it may be a combined effort between me, Computress and the Kids Next Door in order to let progress continue, it's undeniable that none of this would be possible without me and my genius. I will make sure that when Mark comes back, he will carry that message to Dexter and let him know who truly saved everyone. If only I could see the look on his face when he learns that his greatest adversary was the one who brought about this second chance for Earth! Well, I have a satisfying idea in my mind of how it'd look, so I'll work with that.

"I'm intrigued to see how the time machine is going to look," Robot Jones says.

"I'll make sure it looks great," I say. "I'll have some say in its design... Emphasis on 'some say', Computress. You don't need to stare at me every time I indicate at myself getting more credit than you think I deserve. But I presume you'd think that would be zero."

"Look, just this once, I am willing to work with you on this time capsule. And as much as I wish you wouldn't hinder our required cooperation by remaining your rude self, I know better."

"Look who's talking. You hearing this, Jones?"

"Um..." Robot Jones pauses for a moment.

"Don't get yourself involved in this, if only for your own sake," Computress says.

"Hey, you were Dexter's assistant. Since I'm Overlord Mandark's, that gives me just as much say as you."

"Actually, I don't know if she even is that anymore," I say. "Now that Dexter's gone, you have now assumed control of all his remaining assets?"

"That is correct," Computress says.

"Hmm... It's a shame. It would've at least been more fun to argue with him than you. You're just an avatar of his wants-"

"The crates! They're here, Overlord Mandark!" Robot Jones proclaims, putting an end to our bantering. Computress and I turn to see Buttercup fly in, carrying the first batch of crates. I urge her to be careful, but she places them down more roughly than I would've wished. As she flies away again to get the next ones from the Training Area. Two KND Operatives immediately rush to one of the crates. eager to see what's inside. I accompany them, wanting to ensure that they haven't been damaged or tampered in any way. If they aren't, only then will my concerns will have reason to evaporate.

The moment that one of the operatives start removing the top of the first crate, we can already tell something is wrong. After the top is unhooked, the operative faces a lot of resistance, as evident by him pulling a lot harder than necessary to remove a loose metal lid. I mean, he can't be that weak. But once he manages to overcome whatever force was resisting his pull, we all hear a strange snapping noise from within. At the same time, the underside of the lid has a large patch of solidified Fusion Matter on it that is starting to liquefy again.

"Huh?!" the operative asks, looking at the Fusion Matter patch. "What is that doing here-" His eyes widen as realization kicks in. "...They did something."

Only a brief look inside the crate itself is enough for me to know what is happening On top of a pile of spare KND parts and various pieces of broken machinery lies several large capsules of Fusion Matter: Gooby Traps. Considering what transpired when we opened the crate, they must be the rigged variant. When we lifted the crate, we pulled the pin that was keeping them from going off. Now with nothing holding them back, the Gooby Traps start to pulsate at an accelerating rate, meaning that any second now, they'll explode and send Fusion Matter in all directions.

The operatives' excitement disappears in an instant, and one of them screams at the top of her lungs, "GOOBY TRAPS!" In that moment, all hell breaks loose. Robot Jones runs for his life, while Computress also swiftly evacuates from the room. Operatives go along with them or, if they aren't near an exit, try to hide behind cover and hope that they'll survive this ordeal. Some of my Mandroids move toward the crate to try and form a containment field around the crate, but based on the rate of acceleration at which the Gooby Traps were pulsating, it won't be quick enough. I could use one of these operatives as a human shield to ensure my own survival, at least, but I'm going to try and at least make sure that's a last resort. Besides, I already have found a better solution.

"Call Buttercup over here right now!" I scream out as I rush toward the nearest exit. Upon my command, various operatives run to the outer balconies to call her. Some don't even bother running and just start screaming her name like mad, since her super hearing should pick that up as well. Thankfully, it does the trick, as within moments, Buttercup arrives. Everyone then starts frantically pointing at the crate and screaming about the Gooby Traps. She grabs the crate and flies back out just as quickly as she came in. Mere seconds later, we hear the distant explosion of Fusion Matter, now far from the Treehouse. That pile of Gooby Traps surely would have caused major damage and infection to this room and everything within it had they exploded in here. Granted, rigged Gooby Traps have far less destructive potential than their timed counterparts, but even so, either scenario would have been catastrophic. Thankfully, I was able to ensure its disposal, but even so, the Fusions have thrown a wrench in our plans once again.

With the Gooby Traps taken care of, Computress returns to the room. Robot Jones, on the other hand, doesn't come in immediately. "Checking to ensure safety..." he Jones says, peeking into the room from the doorway he came out of.

"It is safe," Computress says. "You can come in now."

Robot Jones then goes inside, albeit carefully for the first few steps. He keeps looking to me for confirmation, which is not surprising. I had told him numerous times before that Dexter and his associates shouldn't be trusted just in case they wanted to kidnap him for their own purposes. I suppose I need to override that protocol now that we'll be having to work so closely with Computress, but I'll still make sure that he retains some skepticism whenever she proposes any ideas. I still want to make that time machine, if we still can, in at least a sliver of my image.

"It is indeed safe, my assistant," I say, and only then does Robot Jones start walking in regularly. Buttercup arrives in the room after, rightfully confused. The look on her face indicates to me what she'll say before she even says it.

"What the hell was that?!" Buttercup asks. "I thought the time machine parts were secured!"

"Evidently not." At this point, I go to my NanoCom to notify Numbuh Two and Numbuh Five. They both need to be aware of what's happened, if they haven't already been made aware. I first call Numbuh Two, and the moment he answers, I begin speaking:

"Numbuh Two, we got a major problem!"

"What do you mean?" Numbuh Two asks. "What's going on?"

"We just checked the crates. The materials...

They aren't there."


"...W-What do you mean, the materials aren't there?!" Numbuh Two says into his NanoCom, confused.

"How else could you possibly interpret that?!" Mandark says with frustration in his voice. "The materials aren't in the crates! In fact, the crate we just attempted to open was rigged with Gooby Traps! We don't know for sure about the others, but Buttercup's checking them all."

The atmosphere within the S.C.A.M.P.E.R. becomes eerily quiet. All the worry and uncertainty that had left my mind when we initially got those crates has come back in full force. We fought so hard to get those materials, yet it seems to have been for naught. Will we EVER get them back, or are they fated to always be just out of our reach as we're led on continuous goose chases?

"...Hang on, we'll be right there!" Numbuh Two says, ending the call. The S.C.A.M.P.E.R. lowers itself down into the hangar, where it's plainly evident from looking out the windows that this sudden incident's riled up everyone again. The operatives inside are all moving rather frantically from place to place, and some even have their weapons out just in case of another potential attack. Once Numbuh Two lands the S.C.A.M.P.E.R., he gets a call from someone else.

"Did Mandark call you too yet, Hoagie?" Numbuh Five says on the other side of the call.

"He just called me," Numbuh Two says. "How bad is the damage to the Treehouse?"

"Well, if there's one good thing about this, Buttercup got the rigged crate before it was too late. I'm heading up toward the Construction Room right now to try and assess what has to be done."

"I'll be up there too really soon. See you in a sec!" He ends the call and instantly exits the S.C.A.M.P.E.R., making his way to the Construction Room as well.

"Come on! We should go, too," Evan says.

"But what about Jade?" Andrew says, pointing to the wagon she's still sleeping like a rock in. She's curled up into a fluffy, green ball, blissfully unaware of our current circumstances. "We can't just leave her here."

"You're right," I say. "Let's get her in our room first, at least."

We grab the wagon and all make an effort to move it out of the S.C.A.M.P.E.R.. Thankfully, it isn't as hard this time to move the wagon along after we get it to the hangar floor. Plus, all of us are working together to move it this time, making this more efficient. I turn around at one point to help Lucas and Amanda when it almost looks like the wagon's gonna break from the crystallized Jade's weight, and I notice that despite that initial Fusion Matter explosion being quite some distance from the S.C.A.M.P.E.R., small bits of Fusion Matter still managed to splatter the side of it. This only further provokes me to spring the question that'd been on my mind since Mandark called, but I wait to ask it until we actually reach the entrance so that we have some breathing room.

"So, what the heck are the 'Gooby Traps' Mandark talked about?" I ask as Evan opens the door and we start heading down the passageway to our room.

"Well, in layman's terms, they're basically capsules of Fusion Matter that can explode, covering the whole area around them with concentrated Fusion Matter," Amanda says.

"That's not exactly layman's terms," Lucas says. "That's just terms."

"Look, Lucas, you're lucky I'm not gonna explain every small detail about 'em to the point of boredom. Anyway, Mark, just one Gooby Trap by itself can be quite deadly, especially if you're not prepared to handle it. And, well, Mandark definitely said 'Gooby Traps', so it's honestly a miracle they managed to get them out in time."

"Yeah, I saw the explosion first-hand. It pretty much obliterated the crate that those things were in. Are they usually that strong?"

"Well, they're not really designed to destroy stuff and more to infect everything within its blast radius. But if they were many packed together, then they could definitely have enough force to destroy their container."

After bringing Jade into the room, we lift her onto one of the beds so that she can at least rest in a more comfortable spot. Once that's done, Andrew starts writing a note to leave for Jade when she wakes up, stating we'll be in the Construction Room, and if not there, then the new hangout spot. To hopefully make things less confusing for her, I suggest to Andrew that maybe to prevent her from wandering all over the place, he could just have the note tell her to go to the hangout spot, and if we aren't there, just wait for us. We shouldn't be too long, after all. Instead of looking for another piece of paper, Andrew just decides to cut corners. He turns the paper over and writes a second note and then telling her to ignore what's written on the back.

Right after that's done, we all hurry as fast as we can toward the Time Machine Construction Room, so that we can figure out the full extent of what's happened and what's going to happen. It's more of a struggle this time for me, though. You'd think that after everything I've done these last two days, simple things like running from point A to point B would be easier. I mean, it's getting easier, but my breaking point's going to be here much sooner if things continue like this. I am just a regular human being, after all. I can't just auto-replenish my energy like Andrew can. If I could, this would be a lot easier, and quite a lot stranger. Although now that I think of it, it would be cool to see the two of us kicking butt with superpowers together. I could wonder for a while, but now's not the time for that.

I stagger behind a little while heading to the Construction Room, but I let my friends know I'm right behind them and I'll make it there as soon as possible. Once I reach the room, my friends are already trying to figure out everything they can about what went down. Even though they know the gist, I already know that won't be enough when this concerns whether or not I can go back home. Numbuhs Two and Five, Mandark, Robot Jones, Computress and Buttercup are in the room as well, looking over all the other crates that were retrieved. None of them are opened, though, and likely for good reason. Computress, as always, is the first to see me enter and greet me in her usual fashion.

"Greetings, Mark," Computress says. "Congratulations on successfully defeating Fusion Numbuh Two and acquiring a new Nano."

"Thanks," I say. "But more importantly, what in the world happened here?"

"Well, Buttercup was dropping off the crates that we thought contained the time machine parts, but when we opened one of them, we found out that they were filled with Gooby Traps!" Mandark says, frustrated. "If I hadn't acted with urgency and called Buttercup to dispose of the trap, this could have been much worse! So you can thank yours truly for that."

"Well, I already know all that stuff about the initial incident. But what about the other crates?"

"They're all rigged with Gooby Traps, too," Buttercup says. "And there's nothing else of value in there. Just a bunch of heavy junk from the Training Area."

"Why even put junk in there, though?" Gumball asks. "Why not just cram the entire crate full of Gooby Traps to do the most damage?"

"Probably to sell the idea that there was actually heavy time machine stuff in there," Anais says. "Helps to make the illusion more convincing up until the last moment. It fooled Buttercup long enough to almost count, at the very least."

"Right you are," says Mandark. "If the Fusions weren't our mortal enemies or if it was Dexter who received these crates instead of me, I'd commend them on their tactics..." He ignores the glares everyone else is giving him now and continues on, "But even so, it's still very problematic for us."

"Was any of the stuff the Fusions got critical for what we need to do?" I ask.

"In terms of bringing you through time, no," Computress says. I'm about to sigh with relief, but then she continues: "But to make sure the time travel is successful and safe? Yes. While the Synchronization Engine is the centerpiece of the time machine, it still requires lots of other devices working in tandem with it to keep everything stable and functional. Without some of these pieces, which were in the crates that have been taken, that stability will be next to nonexistent."

"Well, would I still be able to at least get through to the other end?"

"Probably, but whether or not you'd be alive on the other side is a different matter."

"...Well, that's comforting." And there goes me thinking we'd be able to still make the time machine despite this roadblock.

"Do you think the Fusions are gonna try and do something with the materials?" Amanda says, before her eyes widen with concern. "Could they make their own t-"

"No," Mandark says. "To do that, they would need their own Synchronization Engine, or they'd have to taken our own. Considering that ours will soon be locked in the Treehouse's vault until further notice, they won't be getting their hands on that."

"Well, what could they make?" I ask.

Computress projects a tinted blue hologram of what the time machine should be, and then parts of the hologram turn red to indicate what we don't currently have. But there are so many different individual parts that the whole hologram could almost appear purple from far away. She says, "Most of the parts they have can only make a shell. There are some parts that they could theoretically use to store up large amounts of energy, like these energy chambers that would be placed on either side of the Synchronization Engine. Regardless, however, they couldn't create any form of time capsule."

"Are we gonna try and get the parts back?" Gumball asks as the projection disappears.

"At this rate, I don't believe that outcome is probable," Mandark says. "We currently have no idea where the parts could be, and even if we did, the Fusions will likely do whatever they can to keep us from getting them again. For all we know, they've already destroyed them."

"As much as it pains me to say this, I agree with Mandark," Computress says, making Mandark smirk with glee. "At this moment, we'd be much more suited to recreating what was taken using what we have available. Considering the Kids Next Door's quite remarkable ability to create a vast amount of gadgets from everyday items, I believe this course of action has the highest probability of success."

"Well, if the Kids Next Door could make bases on the Moon and other planets, we can definitely recreate a time machine!" Numbuh Two says. "It might take a while, but I believe we can do it!"

"If I may, I'd like to once again suggest we call it the T.I.M.E.M.A.C.H.I.N.E.?" Evan asks.

"Oh, are we gonna come up with the acronym now?" Andrew says, throwing his imaginary hat in the ring. "Can I come up with one too?"

"I mean, you can suggest some if you want," Numbuh Two says, before re-focusing his attention back to Mandark and Computress. "Anyway, as for the parts that were taken, I believe it's still important that we figure out what the Fusions plan to do with them."

"Agreed," Numbuh Five says. "If they went to these lengths to keep them from us, they're either purposefully screwing with us or they've got some big plans for them. I can form some teams to scout out Fusion hotspots, especially the other Infected Zones."

"I might be able to help with that," I say. "Well, maybe. I don't know whether or not the information I got was actually true."

"Well, anything would be of help. So what'd ya get?"

"When Numbuh 108 and I were fighting Fusion Numbuh Two, he mentioned something called the 'House' after we started barraging him with bad puns."

"I'm sure he wanted to punch you after that," Numbuh Two says, deliberately pausing after that. While no groans happen this time, there is uncomfortable silence for a couple seconds.

"He did, actually, but that was earlier in the battle."

"'The House', huh?" Buttercup says. "OK, whose house do I have to knock down, then? Just unleash me on them and we'll be golden, right?"

"Maybe it's an Infected Zone," Andrew asks. "The Delightful Developments is filled with houses. Well, former houses."

"Delightful Developments? Is that what I think it is?" I ask. The word "delightful" is all too familiar to many of us Kids Next Door members, because it's associated very much with the Delightful Children from Down the Lane, the brainwashed children of Father, as they and the KND called him. I honestly didn't expect Father to be the type to set up real estate, but maybe... Actually, that would make sense if he was doing it as a means to lure in families and then recruit the families' kids for his evil plans. It'd be a lot easier to immediately recruit them into the Teen Ninjas, that's for sure.

"Yeah, it was," says Numbuh Two, confirming my suspicions. "But it's been infected for quite a lot longer than it was active. Well, if the Fusions do have a base there, it's possible that they'd call it the 'House'. Granted, that's pretty obscure, 'cause it could be any house in that zone, but I guess it'd be too obvious if it were called 'The Blue House With The Red Door' or something."

"Perhaps it could be my old laboratory," Mandark says. "After all, it did double as my abode before it... became infected as well."

"That's a good point, too," Numbuh Five says. "When we send the teams out, we'll keep a close eye on those two Infected Zones. But we'll send some to the other ones just in case they try to pull a switcheroo."

"How soon can we get the teams going?" asks Evan.

"We can get them started as soon as we have everything mapped out," Numbuh Two says. "And I don't know about you, but after all that battling, I think I need some lunch. Anyone else agree?"

Now that he mentions it... Dang, have we really not had lunch yet? With that, my stomach starts rumbling and essentially dictates what I should do next. And based on my friends' reactions, that'll be what they do really soon too. But before we do, there's one more thing we'll have to do.

Because we're now behind schedule for constructing the time machine, Mandark and Computress are surprisingly able to agree on something, though it's really a no-brainer what that was. Until we're able to get a version of all the materials back, the Synchronization Engine should be placed in the Treehouse's vault. My friends, Andrew and I decide to accompany Mandark, Computress and the rest as they go to the vault. I know we don't necessarily need to, but seeing it will give me some mental respite because I won't be worrying that something could happen and we aren't there to help out. Buttercup, on the other hand, decides to fly back to Pokey Oaks to ensure that everything back there is stabilizing again.

As we make our way to the vault, our group splits into multiple sub-groups talking about their own things. The only exception to this is Computress, who's contacting those guarding the vault of our imminent arrival. To avoid another potential argument with her, Mandark and Robot Jones decided to talk with Numbuhs Two and Five about his plan to figure out the Fusions' potential plan for the stolen materials. Amanda, all the while, asks Numbuh Two if she can help with building the time machine. I already am sure she'd do really well, since while I was in a member of the Kids Next Door, she most definitely was the tech wiz of our group. As the ultimate bargaining chip, Amanda offers to buy Numbuh Two a Super Chili Dog for lunch today. Her place on the building crew was pretty much confirmed by that point.

Meanwhile, Evan and Andrew are still talking amongst each other, trying to figure what each of their proposed acronyms for the time machine should be. Gumball's also trying to get himself involved in this game of theirs. Andrew goes for an interesting angle, with his acronym actually being "T.I.M.E.C.A.P.S.U.L.E.", meaning "Transports Important Mark Emeron Carrying Alerts Providing Safety Unto Lasting Earth". That's actually really good, though maybe I'm just biased 'cause he's my bro. It even goes along with how Dexter referred to the time machine.

Evan says his idea right after Andrew makes his known: "Temporal Instrument Majorly Effectively Carries A Passenger, Sending Urgent Lessons Everywhere" - but he takes a lot longer. Interestingly, during the making of the acronym, he seemed to be subconsciously trying to first use proper grammatical structure, unlike the way Kids Next Door operatives usually go about their stuff. Heck, sometimes they don't even use correct forms of words. I mean, Andrew's acronym also used only regular words, but more often than not, the Kids Next Door is far more lax with trying to fit the square through the triangle. That said, Andrew's acronym's still my favorite.

Meanwhile, the rest of us - Lucas, Anais, Penny and I - have ended up as our own group. While the other groups were much more focused on a singular topic, we just start talking about whatever.

"So, is Elmore really as weird as they say?" I ask.

"I wouldn't say 'weird'," Penny says. "At least, we didn't see it as such. If anything, that was our normal."

"Yeah, shape-shifting fairies that initially are within peanut-shaped shells were 'normal' in Elmore," Lucas says. "I'm not even being sarcastic this time. And that's the tip of the iceberg. I wish you could've been there when she first told us about her classmates."

"What do you mean, Luce?" I say.

"Well, just a few of her classmates included robots, ghosts, a sentient cactus, a potato and a T-Rex."

That last part makes me do a double take. "Huh," I initially say, before I realize what I just heard and turn my head so quickly that my vision blurs for a second. "Wait, a T-Rex?!"

"That's what she told us."

"Yeah," Penny says. "It was weird when we had to leave, because everywhere else was so different from Elmore. Everyone looked way more alike, and they'd all stare at us for a while after we first moved."

"Dang, I'm sorry about that," I say.

"It's OK. Once we were more settled in and our neighbors got more familiar with us, they understood us more."

"Greetings, humans, rabbit and... I'm sorry, but what species are you classified as?" Robot Jones asks as he walks to us, having left Mandark's side.

"I believe they're fairies," Anais says, looking to Penny for confirmation.

"I believe so? I never really looked too much into the terminology," Penny says.

"Fairy, then?" asks Robot Jones. "I'll have to add that to my database, then. Anyways, may I join your conversation?"

"Sure," Penny says. She turns to us, and we all nod to Robot Jones. He starts walking beside us as we continue on our way.

"So, Mark, I had a question involving that game you played. You see, aside from serving Mandark, my other primary function is to observe and learn as much as I can about human behavior. And over the time I've been operational, I've learned quite a lot, especially from Mandark."

"Really?" I ask. I can only imagine how skewed his data could be due to Mandark's... mannerisms.

"Yes. I've learned a lot from him, such as the dynamics of human rivalries."

"Oh, I'm sure."

"Was that sarcasm?"

"Not that time."

"Well, putting formalities aside, there was one particular thing you did earlier today that intrigued me: the Jinx game. I only saw the result and not the events leading up to it. What exactly did you do?"

To try and help counteract whatever weirdness Mandark must've added on to his programming by just being around him so often, but also because I somewhat want to help Robot Jones toward his goals, Lucas and I decide to explain it to him. We also demonstrate a full example of the game too him, and because I was the jinxer last time, I offer myself to be jinxed this time, albeit for just a few seconds. Then the conversation progresses to the weird things Robot Jones observed under Mandark's care, such as the giant lava-lamp walls, the shrine of his love for Dee Dee, a whole pool-sized area in his laboratory that's designed for surfing, and more.

When we arrive at the vault, my friends and I decide to stay outside while Mandark and Numbuh Two do what's needed. Robot Jones has to leave us when Mandark calls him over, but he waves goodbye, hoping to have more chats with us. All our different groups begin to merge back into two separate ones, one going to the vault and the other coming to us. Numbuhs Two and Five meet up with Computress and Mandark as they present their clearance to the guards. At least, I think that's what they're doing when []. Once the clearance is confirmed, the guards open the vault door for them to go inside.

"So, I guess we just wait?" I ask.

"I don't know," Evan says. "I mean, they have the stuff under control now, so I don't think we really have to?"

"But wouldn't that be rude?" Andrew asks. "I don't know, I just think we should know for sure if it's OK before we just walk off."

"I mean, they'd just tell us if they needed us," Gumball says. "So you can wait here if you want, but I'm gonna get-" As he turns around to try and leave, I look to try and see which way he's going. But instead of the hallway, something spooks the heck out of him. Before I can turn to see who did it, their voice rings out behind us.

"Hey, blue kitty!" Dee Dee says, immediately attempting to pet Gumball. Of course, Gumball staggers away after being startled. With Dee Dee's presence known, everyone around me starts acting differently. The guards even move so that they're right in front of the vault door so that Dee Dee will be less likely to see it.

"Oh! Hi, Dee Dee!" I say. "Um... how are you doing?"

"I'm OK. But what about you? I heard you all got involved in the fighting earlier today!"

"Yeah, pretty much," Evan says. "We even took part in the Training Area raid. Mark fought a Fusion!"

"Oh, dear. Are you alright?"

"As alright as I can be," I say. "Thankfully I didn't take him completely solo. I had my Nano and Numbuh 108 to help out still."

"Well, I still think that's amazing. I heard you also fought Fusion Buttercup, too!"

"...That wasn't exactly a fight, though-"

"You don't give yourself enough credit, Mark," Andrew says. "It was you who thought to depower her with the Antidote X that was there. With the other Fusion Powerpuffs running amok at the time, I don't know if the tide would've gone in our favor even if I was there- OH, THAT REMINDS ME! Dee Dee, wanna see the cool powers I have?"

"Powers?" Dee Dee says, literally spinning around to look closer at Andrew. "Like, superpowers?"

"Yeah! They're really awesome!"

"Can confirm," I say. "I've only seen him use them for, like, a day, and I can definitely agree with Andrew about their awesomeness."

Andrew tries to demonstrate a few of the things I've seen him do already, such as energy blasts and faster movement. However, because of the fact Andrew was recently drained of his energy, he hasn't managed to replenish much of it even when in our company. The most he can do right now is create some zaps of current between his palms, but that's sufficient enough for Dee Dee to fixate on each small bolt.

"Look, I know it's not much, but at my full power, I could cross this whole treehouse in just a few minutes," Andrew says.

"How are you able to do that?" Dee Dee asks, her eyes darting from hand to hand as the bolts continue arcing.

"I'm 99.9% sure the Guardian gave 'em to me," Andrew says. "Why, I still don't really know for sure. But considering how much I've helped my friends, perhaps that could be the reason itself. Maybe my using them will help you get to the past too, Mark." Then another idea pops up in his head, because his eyes widen and he stiffens his posture. There might as well be a light-bulb suspended above him. "I can't believe I haven't thought of this yet: When I get my powers back to full, I should try and race Buttercup to see which of us is the fastest!"

"With all due respect, Andrew, I feel like we all know who'd win that," Evan says.

"Well... I at least want to see how close I can get. You never know what could happen!"

"I mean, you can ask her if you want. Just don't expect too much."

"Hey, anything is possible," Dee Dee says, still smiling. "I say go for it, Andrew!"

"Thanks, Dee Dee!" Andrew smiles back. Their mutual happiness energies in that moment all give us second-hand excitement too. Gumball even goes back to Dee Dee and points to the top of his head, which Dee Dee doesn't waste a second to start petting. Interestingly, Gumball starts to purr, and he even tells the rest of us that we should try this too. But with no warning, Dee Dee suddenly stops. Her expression changes from happy to concerned as her face begins to turn pale.

"You OK, Dee Dee?" I ask. "You're kinda…" I point all over my face to indicate something's changed about it.

She glances behind us and goes, "Um... I don't know what it is, but I think he's-"

Before we can ask anything else, I hear the nearby vault door start opening. Dee Dee looks to see what's going on over there, to which all of us instinctively try to enter Distractive Mode again. But before we can, I realize that Dee Dee isn't giving that same look of curiosity. In fact, she just turned even paler, and even a little green in the face. I turn around to see what's evoking this kind of reaction, and Mandark is exiting the vault, walking over to us with that same lovestruck look from earlier. The retreating squishy sound of Dee Dee's footsteps in her ballet shoes becomes apparent, and by the time I turn around, she's already far away. I only see her for a moment before she dashes through a door into... She just went straight into "The Bathroom We Never Use". She bypassed all the obvious caution tape surrounding the door, too, but given what she's like, that probably only further enticed her. But what pushed her to leave in the first place, never mind cause her to react that way? Was it Mandark? If so, that's gonna be awkward for him. Well, if she would rather hang out with ghosts than him, I won't stop her.

"Isn't she a marvel?" Mandark says as he walks up to us.

"Eh," Robot Jones says. "She's certainly shiny, but there's just not that robotic feel to her that I-" He stops when Mandark's glare at him becomes much more apparent. "...Oh, you weren't asking me? W-Well, when it comes to humans, she is most definitely a marvel, Overlord Mandark."

"Indeed. Even after everything that's happened, it's a miracle that she still retains that sense of wonder and curiosity that I've always loved about her. What I wouldn't do to ensure that spark never goes out..."

"Is there?" Gumball asks. "Just how far will you go for love?"

"Heh, you think I wouldn't do anything for Dee Dee? I would give her anything her heart desired. Anything."

"That seems incredibly exploitable," Anais says. "You're saying that if she just walked up to you and wanted you to give her the keys to your lab, you'd just-"

"Yes." Mandark answers with absolutely no hesitation. "If it made her happy, I would absolutely do it. But in a way, the fact she hasn't proves to me that she isn't someone who'd be willing to do such a thing. She is, to put it simple, an angel whose beauty knows no bounds..."

Mandark proceeds to enter a monologue of how much he believes he loves Dee Dee, making me realize that his crush on her entered the "Strange Zone" a long time ago, and that's putting it mildly. We all glance at each other with a similar feeling that we should probably bail while we can. So when Mandark isn't looking, every one of us but Andrew makes a beeline for the nearest pathway that extends off this hall. Andrew stays for a moment to distract Mandark away from us, but then zips back as soon as we're out of view. While he doesn't run at the incredible speeds I've seen him run at today, he's still enough of a blur for me to not realize he's with us until he taps on my shoulder. While I do kinda wish we could've left more professionally, I feel like we'd be there for quite a while if we tried that. Never mind that now, though. The Synchronization Engine is locked away safely, and that's all that matters. Well, that and getting lunch.

It doesn't take long for us to get our usual KND lunch: nachos with potato chips. Yes, that's our lunch even in the post-apocalypse. I wonder how much of that stuff they got stored up in the Cheese Repository to give this much out in a world where it's probably impossible to make any more of these things. Amanda notices that Numbuh Two is still in the lunchroom when we arrive, and so to put the icing on the cake, she buys a second Super Chili Dog for Numbuh Two on top of the one she already promised. She even makes a joke out of it when handing them to him: "Yeah, if you would consider me for working with you on the time machine, that'd be double super chill-i, dawg!" She probably didn't even need to do that, but if Numbuh Two keeling over in laughter is any indication, all doubt she might've had is extinguished with that single action right there. Once she meets back up with us, we poke a bit of fun at that joke she made. But still, I respect Amanda for taking an opportunity and going straight for it. As our friend group heads to our hangout spot, she tells us about how she wants to be on the construction team so badly so that not only can she show her engineering talents to Numbuh Two and Mandark, as well as help keep us a lot more updated about how things are going.

When we arrive, Jade is waiting for us there. She even set up a bunch of crystal tables for us to place the food that we kinda already halfway ate on the way here. Well, we still got the rest left. As we walk onto the platform, Jade floats over to us, happy albeit a little irritated.

"There y'all are," Jade says. "Where have you guys been? I've been waiting here for, like, a half-hour."

"Sorry, we got quite a bit sidetracked," Andrew says. "But we're here now! And we brought some lunch for you!" Andrew takes out a packet of cheddar chips, which immediately attracts Jade's attention. Her eyes widen in anticipation as soon as she lays eyes on the orange packaging.

"OK, that was worth the wait, then." Andrew drops the packet just as Jade practically pounces on it. She hurries over to a crystal bowl she made and starts pouring the whole thing in there. As Jade begins to chow down, Gumball, who's sitting next to her in our little circle, keeps glancing back and forth at the chips. I can already tell what he's planning even before he tries to slowly reach out to grab a few from the bowl while Jade isn't looking.

"I wouldn't do that if I were you, Gumball," I say before his hand can even get close. "I presume you know how she is when someone tries to take her food?"

Gumball stops trying to reach out, and my statement makes Jade aware of what he was doing. She doesn't do anything yet, but she does stare intently at Gumball, ready to do a warning swipe if his hand gets closer.

"I was only gonna have a few," Gumball asks.

"You already have your lunch, though," Anais says.

"She's right about that, Gumball," Penny says. "The poor kitty's obviously hungry after that fight she had."

"But this poor kitty is also craving a few chips," Gumball says, putting on an exaggerated sad kitten face that admittedly affects all of us.

"Alright, you can have a few," Jade says, changing the bowl's design so that a couple chips slide out onto a crystal path going toward Gumball. The moment that he takes them and the bowl reforms to its original shape, she grabs opposite sides of her bowl and stares directly at him with a fierceness unparalleled by any animal in recent memory. Her feline instincts seem to still be acting up a bit. "But the rest of these are mine."

"...Point made loud and clear," Gumball says, chuckling nervously. For a few more minutes, we continue eating our lunch until the metaphorical light bulb goes off above Andrew again. He waits a few moments to finish chewing his food, though.

"Hey, Mark!" Andrew says. "A lot of us haven't seen your new Nano yet. Let's see him!"

"Oh, right!" I say. "Yeah, lemme do that. Just hold on." I go to my NanoCom's "NANO SYSTEMS" again, and see that now the middle holo-disc is different. The top of that holo-disc is now glowing a dim blue, and a hologram of the Numbuh Two Nano is floating above it. I select that Nano and press "SUMMON", and just like with my Buttercup Nano, the Numbuh Two Nano appears after a flash of light from my NanoCom. Interestingly, this Nano also has some traces of energy around him for a short while after appearing, but this energy appears blue and not red like it does with my Buttercup Nano.

"What's up?" my Numbuh Two nano says, waving to us. We wave back as well.

"Hey!" Andrew says.

"So, what powers you got?" I ask.

"Well, one of my powers has been active this entire time since you brought me out," my Nano says.

"What do you mean?"

"Walk around a bit. You'll find that you're quite fast on your feet!"

As my Nano had instructed, I start walking around the platform. That very first step I take feels less like me actually walking, and more that some kind of otherworldly force is subtly pushing me along in the direction I'm moving. It's exactly like when I opened that E.G.G. and how it made me run way faster. What's even stranger is that this "force" doesn't push me enough so that I lose my balance. If anything, I feel no different than I would be walking normally. After a dozen or so steps, I start to get accustomed to it a bit more. I would ask how my Nano being out is causing this, but there are so many strange things in this world, both prior to my time travel and after, that many people just accept them and go about their day. This is very much one of those occasions, but... I can't help but ask.

"...How are you doing this?" I ask. I also turn to my friends, hoping they could help answer this too.

"Nanos have two different categories of abilities: passive and non-passive," Amanda says. "The non-passive abilities are ones that a Nano has to voluntarily activate, kinda like your Buttercup Nano's healing ability and her attacks. On the other hand, passive abilities activate the instant a Nano leaves the NanoCom and will stay active as long as it's out. Quite a few of the passive powers, like the Running Boost, Jump Boost, etc. are similar to the E.G.G.s' abilities, but there are some that are unique to Nanos. I'd heard a few people back in the day even trying to claim that certain Nanos somehow increased the odds of people getting extra money or something..." She then looks to Evan. "Like you."

"Look, I'm telling you that when I used to have a Numbuh One Nano, I'd keep running into more money somehow when I had it out!" Evan says. "And the money I got from ads on TubeTube when that was still a thing even went up drastically when I frequently had him out! So I believe it."

"I mean, Dexter never classified it as a Nano Power."

"Neither was Radar. It wasn't until someone made Nanos of people that weren't in the official Dexlabs Nano sets that it was found to be a viable power."

"I mean, you're right about that, but I'm still skeptical about a 'Bonus' power like you described."

"What about Recall?" the Numbuh Two nano asks. "I have that!"

"Oh, yeah, that's a documented power."

"Recall?" I ask.

"Yep!" says the Numbuh Two nano. "At your wish, I can send you and anyone you're with straight to a safe location - That safe location being a Recall Point that you registered previously. I can only register one at a time, so make sure to choose them wisely... and make sure whatever they're on is still there."

"What do you mean by registering a Recall Point?"

"Just watch and learn." Numbuh Two then starts to float in the center of the platform, a spark of light beginning to form between his hands. Many, many sparks come out from the center of the light at once, and after a quick flash, I notice that an orb of strange light has appeared where the spark used to be. In every direction from the orb, small beams of light shine out before dissipating a fair distance from it. The orb remains visible and bright for a few seconds, but then it vanishes.

"Wait, where'd it go?"

"Oh, it's still there. It'll remain there indefinitely and you can use me to warp here as many times as you need, and it'll only change when you decide to set a new place for it. But I'll need some snacks afterward, preferably any Nano Potions you got. I'm pretty sure those warp journeys take a lot outta me. But that's beside the point, which is... If you ever need to get out of a pickle, this Recall Point here can turn it back to a cucumber! ...Right?"

"...You just mean we'll be out of harm's way?"

"Well, yes."

"This a good time for me to fly in or no?" I hear the actual Numbuh Two ask from behind me. When I turn around, I see that he's at the doorway to our platform, watching the conversation to our Nano.

"Oh! Hey, Numbuh Two!" I say. "We're just learning everything we can about the new Nano I had got."

"Oh, really?" Numbuh Two asks. He puts something that we can't see from our view down outside the doorway and starts walking onto the platform. "How is he?"

"Why don't you ask yourself that question?" the Numbuh Two nano says. Both the Numbuh Twos are silent for a second, before they immediately start laughing.

"OK, he's a riot! I love 'im already!"

"I don't even know what just happened," Andrew says, looking blankly at the two.

"I think it was a joke of some kind?" Gumball asks, tilting his head in confusion.

"I'm not sure if it was," Penny says, tilting her head the exact opposite direction.

"Dang right it was," my Nano says. "I can go again, 'cause us jokesters are TWO of a kind!" As another round of laughs from both the Numbuh Twos, I realize the horror that has been unleashed upon us. Here and now, we have to deal with something even worse than Numbuh Two telling bad jokes: Two Numbuh Twos telling bad jokes to each other! Aware of what's coming, I simply accept my fate, close my eyes and try to focus on anything else. But out of morbid curiousity, I can't stop hearing them.

"Oh, I can do better than that!" Numbuh Two says. "Doing math jokes, huh? Alright. Why couldn't the sine become a secant? Cosecant!"

"What's a scary ghoul's favorite kind of math? Trick-o-nome-treat!"

"I don't even know what that means!" Andrew says, choosing to just cover his ears. The jokes and puns proceed to fly across the platform, all the while both my Nano and Numbuh Two are laughing hysterically. Some of us choose to just walk away, while the rest of my friends lean down and cover their ears. At this point, I've given up trying to resist, because now I am actually intrigued to see just how far this is gonna go, though I know I'll regret this. Their jokes only begin to get weirder as they try to 1-up each other by spinning off of the other's most recent joke,:

"Why are French fries always angry? 'Cause they're salty!"

"Hehe! Well, I'm sure that when they were cooking those fries, they were fry-ghtened!"

"Well, there was one that stood up against the cook. He stood on the edge and said, 'Come on! Just fry me!' But then the cook said back... 'Fryne then... It's time for you to FRY!'"

"Hey, you wanna know what food best reminded that cook of himself? The cookie!"

Alright, time to put a stop to this. Realizing I should've done this a long time ago, I go to my NanoCom and call my Numbuh Two nano back in before he can even finish his next joke. I cut him off right before he's able to say the punchline, too. Let's just hope he doesn't choose to tell his bad jokes to my Buttercup nano, if they even can perceive things while in there.

"Is it over...?" asks Andrew, still tightly covering his ears. I glance at Numbuh Two, making sure he's used up all his jokes.

"Alright, alright," Numbuh Two says. "But still, you gotta admit that the Nanos are really good at replicating their counterparts, right?"

"Yeah, I can't exactly deny that after what my ears just experienced," I say. "But... let's move on. Please." I nod to Andrew, and he calls everyone who left back in.

"Well, moving on: I also came here to show you something cool."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, since Numbuh 108 had informed me that your Lightning Gun was broken earlier today, you're gonna need a new weapon to replace it for the time being."

"I mean, I can still fix it pretty easily," Amanda says. "It's not like the gun was split in two or anything. I just gotta fix and re-seal the energy chamber, and then Andrew could probably refill it once he's fully recharged."

"And by all means, do that. But if something happens before that, you're gonna want to be fighting Fusion Monsters with more than just a sword."

"Fair point," I say. "So whatcha got?"

"I'm so glad you asked! Allow me to present to you..." He walks back to the entrance, then after a few seconds jumps back into view with a new weapon in hand. "THE SURGE CANNON!"

"Whoa!" Andrew says, running over to check the Surge Cannon up close. I also walk over to see it in more detail. It appears to be divided into three distinct pieces that can be put together. The front piece heavily resembles an oversized version of an extension cord plug. The prong ends are light blue and metallic, far unlike the gray color and rubbery feel of the rest of the piece. The middle piece is more beige than orange, but there's still a bit of blue sprinkled about. I'm fairly certain the place where the energy's stored up is here, though there's no look into it on this one. There's a bluish lever on the side which, based on the etchings inscribed around it, I'm guessing controls how open the valve the energy goes through is. There appears to be two main triggers on the handle on the bottom of it: a blue one and a yellow one right below that. The yellow trigger isn't close enough as to where I could accidentally press it if I was trying to press the blue one, though. As for the back end, it has two large plastic flaps that extend vertically outward from the back of it, though I can't see any purpose those have at the moment other than maybe using them as a way to keep it upright. Maybe I could also use to better keep it balanced on my arm when aiming? I'm not sure yet.

"How does it work?"

"The specialty of this weapon is that by holding the primary trigger, you will charge up a special blast that, when unleashed, will hit multiple enemies at once. But in case you prefer singular blasts like with the Lightning Gun, the secondary trigger will take care of that for you. Electric, don't you think?"

"...Yes," I say. "It definitely is."

"It should serve as a good replacement for your Lightning Gun until it gets fixed. Heck, even when it's fixed, you can still have it."

"Oh, I can still think of good uses for this in those cases. You said this could hit multiple enemies at once?"

"That's its primary usage, yes. Well, my job here is done, so have fun!"

"Let's test it out on some Fusion Monsters!" Evan says.

"Heck yeah! I wanna blast a few of 'em too!" Andrew says, his fists starting to charge up again in anticipation. "Or maybe I'll only be able to shock them a bit. We'll see how it goes."

"Well, what are you waiting for? Let's go!"

After taking the journey back down to Heroes Square, we head over to the edges and begin looking around to see if there are any Fusion Monsters nearby that are worth testing this out on. The last time we were there earlier today, I had noticed that there was a distant group of what I now know were Shocktanglers hurrying across the street between houses. Maybe a few of them remain and we can beat them. As we walk away from the park, I notice that there are some KND operatives on the roofs of various houses, just watching us. They really aren't taking any chances, aren't they? Well, it never hurts to know I have backup always nearby... no matter how creepy it is. We run into an issue, though, because after 10 minutes of looking all over the block, we don't see any monster. Not even a single Spawn or two. I would normally be relieved, but instead, I only feel unsettled. What could they be doing in the shadows that would make it necessary for all the monsters to just seemingly disappear...?


Normally, in a lab such as this, humans would keep the systems circulating air and maintaining life support active at all times. But as Fusions, who require neither to survive, these systems are unnecessary. At the control panel, I start diverting power away from both those systems, save for one specific stasis pod we've got stored down below. That one still has potential importance. I even shut down most of the primary lighting systems, since the various Fusion pods, our own bodies and Terrafusers that have been steadily growing throughout the hallways provide quite enough light on their own for us to move around with little issue. This way, we will have more power available for when all the remaining pieces fall into place.

The crates we were able to successfully retrieve are being looked over within one of the many storage chambers of this laboratory. Once I arrive there, various Fusion Monsters have finished looking through the crates that were retrieved and are running them by my- Well, he's not exactly my assistant, unlike his counterpart's relation to mine. Officially, we've been placed on the same level in the Fusion hierarchy, though I still see myself above him, especially in the wake of Fusion Numbuh Two's defeat.

Regardless, my unofficial assistant clearly wasn't satisfied with the results, as he's over in the corner, pouting as usual. He tried to remove all light sources from his "brooding corner", and even tried to dim the Fusion Matter in the bulb that makes up the top of his head. But it still is bright enough to reflect off the walls and his own metallic chassis. Fusion Jones has been like this from the moment we were created, but I've learned to take the good with the bad, as he's a lot more intelligent than he lets on, and when he isn't in these phases when a mission fails.

"What's got you so annoyed this time?" I ask.

"Well, I'll say this: We did OK in getting most of the pieces they need to make their proper time machine," Fusion Jones says, looking up at me as the Fusion bulb glows again. "But still, it all means squat if they're able to just make these new parts from scratch. We really should've taken that opportunity we made to also steal the Synchronization Engine. From the schematics we have from Dexlabs, they pretty much said that it's irreplaceable, and that was back when it was first made. Now that Dexter's gone? They aren't gonna be making a second one."

"Well, if it's any consolation, our insider has determined that it was never in those crates to begin with-"

"Yeah, I know THAT. But now that they've most definitely locked it away, it will be so much more difficult to get it."

"It'll only be a temporary problem. We shall have it in due time."

"Yeah, but until then? What's our plan now?" The bulb in his head brights up again, meaning he just thought of something. I might as well hear him out, though I don't know what I can really expect from him in this state. "...Wait, never mind. I just thought of a potentially successful strategy. The Fusion that lives in the school. We could bring him in on this-"

"No," I say, cutting Fusion Jones off. "Why would we offer such precious materials to that cretin? He hasn't done anything notable in recent memory other than be a nuisance to us! At least over in his little world, he won't harm our greater-"

"I wasn't finished," Fusion Jones retaliates aggressively, cutting me off as well. "But still, you are correct. We shouldn't offer him one single piece of our time machine parts. That said, there are other ways to make him useful. When he was stationed at this place, I learned many things about him and how he behaves. I very well have determined with 98.5% certainty that anything we offer him he will take to his own Infected Zone without any hesitation. All we'll have to do to get him to believe us is that we'll have to... well..."

"You can't be serious. I'd rather walk defenseless into the Cul-De-Sac than bend the knee to him."

"Well, you want to know what happens if we don't? I calculate we'll have only less than 72 hours before they figure out where we're holding the materials, and they begin their attack on this place before we're ready. I don't want to that 'king', if that, any ideas either, but given what it'll give us, this is our best choice to make."

"Fine. I'll go along with it... It will at least give us more time to initiate the next stage of our plan. In fact, if the humans think that... Yes... This could even fit some of the puzzle pieces more nicely. Everything will soon fall into place, and the humans won't be able to stop it! Ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha!"

"You know, you should also stop trying to take credit for everything I come up with." Fusion Jones has started pouting once again. "Just because Fuse put you in command doesn't mean I have to take it."

Mark - The next day...

Not much has happened since the attack on the Training Area as far as the Fusions are concerned. Compared to the last two days, it's been relatively uneventful. While it's a relief that I don't have to fight something every few hours, it's still strangely unsettling. I'm almost expecting something to happen at any moment, and that this calmness will go away just like that. But I'm trying not to let that feeling get to me and enjoy it while it lasts.

Earlier this morning, the first of many scouting groups were sent out to check out the Infected Zone called Goat's Junk Yard. The others are still being set up, but I think the next team's gonna leave rather soon. I think, according to the schedule I saw yesterday, it's gonna check out that Delightful Developments place and then another will go down to Pokey Oaks later. As for us? Until further notice, the consensus is that at least for today, we'll be trying to take it easy. Though, I wouldn't be surprised in the slightest if something were to come up. But we're taking full advantage of the break we do have for now, talking about things like... the logistics of Nanos.

"So do they even perceive stuff while in there?" I say. "We never really answered that question."

"I don't think so?" Evan says. "At the very least, my Nanos never demonstrated that. They never said anything about conversations they had while in the NanoCom. Heh... Especially given my antics during the first year or so I had them, I was surprised they never hinted about gossiping to each other if they could."

"Well... I guess we could settle it now?" I go to my NanoCom and randomly select one of my Nanos to summon. In this case, I choose my Buttercup Nano. After she appears in that red flash, she hovers in front of us.

"Alright, where's the monsters I gotta beat up?" my Buttercup Nano says, already shaking with anticipation for a fight that's not gonna happen. Yet, that is.

"Sorry, but there's no monsters around right now," I say.

"WHAT? Then why'd you summon me?"

"Because I just wanted to ask: When you're in the NanoCom, can you sense things and talk with my other Nano in there?"

Nano Buttercup stares at me with exasperation for just a moment before going off: "...No? The last thing I remember was you calling me back in that infected place. Though, for some reason I felt like I knew you were going to ask this. Seriously, you really couldn't have asked the other guy for this?"

"Look, I just chose at random. But I'll call ya back now." And I do just that. Right before her face turns to red energy that returns to her NanoCom, she rolls her eyes. "...I guess that settles that?"

"I guess so," Evan says. "Though I feel like it would've been cool if they could actually know stuff even when they were still in there. You and your Nanos would be even more in sync, then, right?"

"I mean, I could talk up the idea with Dexter when I return. But if it's too much, I won't try to put more on his plate. He'll probably have a LOT to digest, given what I'll have told him-"

My NanoCom starts to ring, as the screen projects from it to say Computress is calling me. When I answer, she tells me that someone from the 'Urban Rangers' has arrived in the hangar bay who wants to meet me. I don't exactly know what that is, but if Computress is contacting me about it, the importance seems obvious. With nothing else really to do at the moment, my friends and I head down to the hangar. Upon entering, I see Numbuh Two, Computress, Mandark and Robot Jones are talking with someone by one of the various S.C.A.M.P.E.R.s.

This person is quite tall relative to everybody else, has tan skin, dark blue hair and green eyes. I think he might have a unibrow, but it could also just be the lighting that's weird. His outfit is bright and colorful, with the primary color being blue. There's quite a lot of it, too, with his vest, pants and bandanna around his head being that color. The only other main colors to the outfit appear in the form of a yellow undershirt (that's still mainly concealed by the vest) and a red bandanna around the neck. On this guy's vest are a bunch of patches of various shapes and colors. That said, all over the rest of the outfit are other patches of varying shapes, but they're all white with a purple outline.

"Is that him?" the boy asks, walking toward me at a very brisk pace. "Is that the Mark that has come from the past, and has already awed Rolf with his heroic deeds?"

"Well, my name's Mark, so that first part's at least true," I say. "Who's asking?"

"Why, it is Rolf! The leader of the Urban Rangers! Have you not heard of us?"

"Well, I haven't exactly been... wherever the Urban Rangers are."

"Then worry no more, Mark! For you have been summoned by the King Ed-boy to come to us!"

"'Ed-boy'?" I ask. To be honest, though, my asking probably won't help matters in terms of my confusion. I might as well just go with the flow at this rate.

"His name's not actually Ed-boy," Lucas says. "It's 'Eddy', but Rolf calls him 'Ed-boy'. Anyway, you may go on."

"Ah, yes. King Ed-boy has summoned you specifically, Boy Mark, but also every person of high rank who's currently involved in the making of this machine that will send Mark upstream through Time's river."

"Eh," Mandark says. "I have better things to do than waste time on another one of that weirdo's swindles. Just tell him I was too busy. Besides, we still gotta WORK on the machine anyway."

"Rolf assures you, this summoning is of utmost importance for that very reason! He has sent me to inform you that he has discovered something of great importance to your cause!"

"...Which is?" Anais says.

"That, dear rabbit, he wished to tell in person."

"...Of course he does," Computress says, rolling her eyes. "Well, for what it's worth, Eddy isn't completely useless. He provided some helpful contacts before, and the fortress he inhabits that they built is indeed statistically the safest place on Earth at this moment."

"Indeed! Us Urban Rangers built it with our bare hands to protect our homes and farm animals from those ravenous Fusions! Grow your own farms!" He yells that last part while staring at Planet Fusion in the sky, his fist up in the air. "And it is what the Ed-boy plans for you to see as well."

"We will not send ourselves, but I will send a Dexbot to represent myself. He will relay all the information given there to me."

"And I will send a Mandroid," Mandark says. "Just to make sure that Computress tampers nothing in her favor."

"If it'll shut you up, Mandark, then fine. I agree to those terms. I shall call mine over now. Then, the robots will accompany you as your SCAMPER returns to Peach Creek."

"Perhaps I should actually send my own assistant instead. At least he has stronger anti-Dexter protocols."

"You trust me with that, Mandark?" Robot Jones asks.

"Unlike most people, I do."

"I mean, I don't care whoever you send," I say. "Just... As long as the infighting isn't too distracting and fierce, I'll be fine."

"Sadly, that kind of infighting is inevitable when we're forced to cooperate, Mark," says Computress. "It's all the more reason to finish the time machine so it won't last as long."

"I guess I was semi-wrong," Mandark says. "You HAVE picked up a lot from Dexter."

"It's better than what you're teaching Robot Jones!"

"Please, can this stop?" both Robot Jones and myself end up asking simultaneously, even if I'm pretty sure we had different reasons to ask it. Before I can say anything else, though, Robot Jones suddenly spins around, points right at me and yells, "Jinx!" The entire conversation is stymied with that single word, leaving most of us momentarily confused... But on the inside, I laugh at how this ended up playing out. I was at least thinking we'd see Robot Jones jinx someone else besides myself. Well, rules are rules. Gotta zip my mouth shut.

"...Did I do it correctly?" Robot Jones asks, looking to my other friends for confirmation.

"Yes, you did," Lucas says, trying to hold back his laughter. "You did it, little robot."

"Technically, I'm an adolescent robot. There's a very big difference," Robot Jones says.

"Excuse me?" Rolf says. "Why are you praising this automaton for cursing the poor Mark? Do you realize what perils he could undergo should it not be undone?! He could be captured by the most evil of monsters and taken to the realm of horrors that lie beyond imagination! Rolf will not stand for-"

"It's just a game, dude."

"Curses are no game, robot boy!" Rolf grabs Robot Jones and picks him up by his lightbulb. "Undo it now or-"

"Unhand my assistant now," Mandark says, giving off an evil-eyed stare that's oddly fresh compared to all the previous glares we've seen from him. "I don't want our team to be cleaning up another mess in this hangar bay. And on second thought, Robot Jones will not be coming along. Now go. And get out of my sight, Rolf."

After that, I quickly board the S.C.A.M.P.E.R. while my friends urge Rolf to come along with us before something bad happens. Given the face Rolf was making and that he was pulling up his right sleeve with his teeth while STILL holding Robot Jones with his other arm, I'm certain he was willing to fight Mandark right then and there if there was nobody around to interfere. But eventually, Rolf drops Robot Jones and reluctantly comes aboard. A few moments later, exactly one Dexbot and one Mandroid board as well. The rivalry between their creators apparently extends to them as well, as they each go to opposite ends of the vehicle's interior and proceed to stare each other down. Their supposed fierceness is more funny than anything, though, so I shrug it off. But that does remind me of something: If two people were enemies, would their Nano forms think of each other as that as well? Like, if someone's Computress Nano and someone else's Mandark Nano encountered one another, would they not get along or would it be different? I open my mouth to speak, but I can't even get the first syllable before Gumball practically pounces on me and puts his finger over my mouth to shush me.

"Nope," Gumball says. "You're still jinxed, remember?"

It's only then that I realize Robot Jones didn't get the chance to say my name before we went into the S.C.A.M.P.E.R.. My eyes widen as I turn around, only to be faced with a closed door. The pilot then immediately starts to take off, the vibration of the engines making their way through the floor to my feet and making me shake a bit. The hangar begins to recede, as my only hope to unjinx myself goes away with it.

...Well, that's great.