Chapter 2: A Dino-Sore Loss

"I didn't hear anything about this! Just what is going on?"

Ben winced as Akiko was stomping across the office floor, glaring at the American superhero as he sat in a chair in the green half of the room. Philip, standing nearby, was looking into his book, and Shotaro sat at his desk with his back turned to Akiko, the radio playing in the background.

After the T-Rex Dopant had gotten away, Shotaro took the memories out of his belt, causing both his armor and the Cyclone Memory to disappear. With no other leads to fall back on, he and Ben had come back to the office to regroup. When they got there, Akiko was freaking out about Philip collapsing, then suddenly sitting back up like it was normal.

"So...when you transform, Philip's mind transfers into your body?" Ben clarified after hearing from Akiko about how Philip fainted.

"Indeed," Shotaro confirmed as he walked towards his desk.

"Huh," Ben said as he scratched his head. "That explains why you were so confident about taking out that Dopant. I should've guessed that you were a Kamen Rider."

"Kamen Rider?" Akiko asked as she listened in. She wasn't happy being the third wheel of Ben and Shotaro's discussion, and her temper began to show itself. "What are you two talking about?" Following this, she pulled up her registration. "As your landlady, I expect an explanation now!"

Shotaro sighed in response, and he was about to respond when something caught his ears.

"Futo resident, Togawa Yousuke, 21."

Ben had heard that as well, and the hero and detective both went to the radio, Akiko in pursuit of them both.

"The fisherman called the police after he found the body floating in the ocean."

Ben felt knots in his stomach form as he also clenched his fists while Shotaro turned up the volume.

"Guess that confirms your theory Shotaro," Ben noted.

"Hmmm," Shotaro nodded grimly in response. "He had a partner in crime with a Gaia Memory of their own, and they shut him up after his Magma Memory was destroyed." Shotaro faltered ever more, looking down at his feet. "I–I need to tell Marina if she's not near a radio. If that's the case...then I should be the one to tell her."

Ben could only sigh. There wasn't any words that came to mind that would cheer Shotaro up.

"Ben? I need you to come with me."

Ben could only look up to the detective. "What?"

"Once Marina's told what happened to Togawa, I'm going all in into finding his killer. I wouldn't mind having back up to help me out."

"Are you sure, Shotaro?" Ben asked gently.

"Yeah, I am," Shotaro nodded. "Just...when I tell Maria...could I be alone for it?"

"Of course," Ben said. "Take all the time you need."

"Appreciate it,"


The two made their way to a park, which Ben guessed might have had some importance to Shotaro and Marina. He waited by the bike as Shotaro stood near one of the larger windmills in the city, but he didn't have to wait long as Marina approached him. Ben looked away as the poor woman fell to her knees, breaking down sobbing as Shotaro kneeled to comfort her. As the two talked, Ben tried to get an idea of his thoughts about this whole predicament. Gaia Memories, Dopants, Kamen Riders. Questions began to circle in his mind. Why did Shotaro turn into a superhero instead of a Dopant? Did it have to do with how different his Memories looked? Maybe something to do with that belt he put on? Why did Philip transfer his mind into Shotaro's body when they transformed? Whenever they had an opportunity, Ben hoped he could ask.

Additionally, Ben knew he had to alert his grandpa as soon as possible. Even if the Plumbers couldn't do anything with no aliens present, perhaps Grandpa Max, Gwen, Julie, and Kevin could keep an eye out in case somehow Gaia Memories did end up finding a market in America. As before, the idea of kids being sold Gaia Memories left an unpleasant feeling in his stomach. It also wouldn't be good if the Forever Knights or the Techadons got their grubby hands on them, either.

"Still," he said to himself. "What does any of this have to do with why she approached me?"

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It was a peaceful night in Bellwood, something as rare as a blue moon at this point. Ben was on his way home with a bag of chili fries from Burger Shack and a couple of smoothies from Mr. Smoothy, and all to enjoy a Sumo Slammers marathon. What could possibly go wrong today? The answer came when Ben pulled up to his house, slamming down on the brakes of his car and making himself lurch forwards, as standing in the driveway was a woman wearing a black trench coat and a fedora over her long black hair. Turning her head, Ben saw that her face was covered by a pair of sunglasses and white bandages that covered her entire head.

Ben's eyes narrowed. "Yeah, that's not suspicious." Slowly, he undid his seat belt and opened the car door. When he got outside and walked to the driveway, the woman's head turned to follow his movements.

"Hello, miss. Can I help you?" He greeted politely, but not without a slight edge to his voice.

"Ben Tennyson?" The woman asked in a low, husky voice.

"That's me. But, who are you?"

"My name is Shroud." She answered as she began walking towards him. Ben pulled his sleeve up and readied the Ultimatrix for activation when the woman stood at his side. "Go to Futo City." she whispered in his ear.

Ben blinked. "Uh, what?"

"Seek out the Narumi Detective Agency once you're there."

"Wait, what? Futo City? Narumi Detective Agency? What are you–" Ben turned to face her...only to realize she had disappeared like some kind of ghost. "Ooookay, creepy."

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"Oi, Ben!"

Ben jumped, both figuratively at his memories and literally as he turned to see Shotaro sporting a downcast expression on his face. "Time we get going."

"Alright, Shotaro. Where to, now? The office?"

"We're gonna go see one of my informants."

"Wait, you actually have informants?" The disbelief that emanated from Ben was very palatable.


"Oh, good! Oh, beautiful! Unbelievable!"

As Shotaro made his to an outdoor restaurant, Ben saw him going to a man whose hair could best be described as a frizzled bowl-cut, one who was taking pictures of a foreign, blonde-haired waitress in a maid uniform. Ben would've objected to the pervert, but relented when he saw that the waitress was actively posing for the pictures. Shotaro simply sat down at a nearby table and held some yen in his fingers.

"Oi, Info Dealer," Shotaro spoke. "I need your help."

The man stopped photographing, looking between Shotaro and the offered money, grinning in amusement at the "hard-boiled" antics.

"It's fine if you want to play hard-boiled detective, Sho-chan," He said as he walked over to Shotaro's table, his grin not fading. The waitress, seeing that she was done, went to go to the other customers. "Informants like in the dramas don't exist here now!"

"Maybe not human ones," Ben muttered, remembering how Argit had alerted him and the others about the Forever Knights' plan for non-human genocide.

"Sometimes I wonder if your common sense left you!" The man chuckled as he shoke his head.

"Shut up!" Shotaro said childishly as he reached to grab him. Ben, seeing how their antics had drawn a crowd, winced.


That wouldn't be the last time he winced, though, as the whirring of power drills blared in the basement of the attack that occurred the previous week. The construction workers didn't pay the duo any mind, but whether that was due to them not noticing them or if they didn't care as long as they didn't interfere was anyone's guess.

"You think we'll find something here?" Ben asked.

"Doesn't hurt to take a look," Shotaro figured as they walked down the hallway.

Before anymore questions could be asked, the yellow doors suddenly closed behind them. Shotaro quick ran to it and banged on it, calling for the workers to come, but to no avail. Ben was about to suggest that he simply use one of his aliens before he heard incredibly deep breathing. The two turned to see what looked like a T-Rex's head on a human body, the left hand like that of said dinosaur since it only had three fingers ending in sharp claws. Out of the back of the T-Rex's head was a small ribcage with tail-bones attached in some kind of twisted ponytail. The Dopant snarled, charging towards them like an angry bull. Shotaro quickly shoved Ben to the side, catching the teen hero by surprise, before he jumped up and rolled over the Dopant's large head.

"Leave him, and get me!" Shotaro taunted to keep the Dopant focused on him. Ben regained control as he saw Shotaro sidestep the charging T-Rex head. He then pulled out his camera and pulled out a blue flashdrive with the image of a bat on it. "So you want me to stop sniffing around?"

BAT!

The camera unfolded into a robotic bat, the lens making up part of its torso. Immediately, the bat began to use the lens to flash blinding light repeatedly, causing the Dopant to stagger back as it tried to get away from the disorienting light, howling in pain.

"And one more!" Shotaro smirked as he inserted a red flash drive with the image of a stag beetle into his cellphone. "A bonus for you!"

STAG!

The phone transformed into a robotic stag beetle that flew towards the Dopant. The T-Rex had pushed into standing in a puddle formed by leaky pipes thanks to the robotic bat, and the robotic stag beetle took the opportunity to cut down some nearby electrical wires. The Dopant roared as the cables landed in the puddle, and roared in pain as it was shocked by the electrified water. Shotaro covered his eyes with his fedora while Ben shielded his with his arms. The ceiling lights turned off for a second, but in that time, the T-Rex managed to escape, and the stag and bat duo went to try to locate it.

Ben went over to Shotaro, grinning. "Okay, that was pretty cool" Shotaro could definitely hold his own without transforming. However, Ben's grin faded as he saw Shotaro's eye had caught something.

Following his new friend's line of sight, he saw that Shotaro's eyes focused on a shelf. In particular, he seemed especially drawn to a piece of cloth with a symbol like three feathers positioned as if they were spinning like propellor blades. Whatever that symbol meant, it was making Shotaro very uncomfortable. Ben chose to say nothing as the two made their way to the parking lot, catching up with the stag beetle and bat.

"You wouldn't happen to know where I could buy one of those, would you?" Ben asked as Shotaro picked up the stag beetle phone. That at least brought a smile to the detective's face.

"Custom made," Shotaro smirked as the bat camera flew into his palm, where it proceeded to fold back into its camera mode. It didn't take long after Shotaro pocketed the camera for his informant to come back to them.

"What happened?" He asked. "Are you two alright?"

"It ain't nothing," Shotaro replied, waving his hand. "What'd you find out?"

Watcherman put his hands on his hips, immediately taking on a more serious expression. "It turns out that someone managed to see Togawa purchasing a Gaia Memory."

Shotaro nodded at this information. "Were there any distinguishing features?"

"He wore a black suit and a white scarf," Watcherman recalled. "But what really caught their eye was the red spot on his scarf. It was like a bloodstain."

"Oh yeah. Because THAT doesn't scream 'bad guy'," Ben huffed, crossing his arms.

"I see," Shotaro noted the mentioned features. "Was Togawa accompanied by anyone, another person who wanted a Gaia Memory of their own?"

"Oh, that's right!" Watcherman snapped his fingers. "There was someone else there! But it seems that it was dark, so he couldn't make out any of their features."

"Well, on the bright side, we at least have an idea on who sold those Gaia Memories," Ben noted optimistically. "And considering the walking head that attacked us, we know that he sold a T-Rex Memory. Should we go after the seller?"

"We will track him down, but right now, we have to take of this Dopant first," Shotaro said in response.

Shotaro's posture and facial expression made Ben tilt an eyebrow in confusion. "You–have an idea who the user is?"

"Come on," Shotaro answered, his voice softer. "Let's head back to the office."

Ben and Watcherman shared a glance of concern as Shotaro walked off.

"Oh, yeah, I forgot to ask," Watcherman said. "Who are you, anyway? Some American intern for Shotaro? To be honest, when I first saw you, I thought that Shotaro was trying to earn extra yen working as a tour guide."

Ben chuckled at the apt comparison. "Something like that, yeah."

"Hey. Do me a favor and keep an eye out for him. Sho-chan may treat everything like a noir book, but he's a good man who really does want to help the city."

"I could tell. Don't worry, I'll keep him safe."


Meanwhile, the man with the blotched scarf was opening a case, revealing rows upon rows of Gaia Memories. Dog, Injury, Time, Key, You, Crab, Zero, Jazz, Bean, Ear, Pyramid, Hell, Orange, Lightning, Umbrella, Apple, Star, Music, and Gravitation Gaia Memories were all on display, each equally capable in causing chaos and mayhem when given to the right person, and emblazoned with pictures that resembled an image of their specification warped to resemble the first letter of said word. "There's no rush in making your selection," he said to an elderly businessman. "These aren't cheap after all."

The businessman looked at the Gaia Memory in amazement as a coworker similarly gawked at the case held by the man in the blotched scarf. "With this, is it true? I can become a superhuman?"

"Superhuman?" The man in the blotched scarf chuckled. "No. 'Superhuman' is far too dull to describe what you'll become. You would become a god among men!"

The men looked at the Gaia Memories with renewed interest, as the man smiled, having another satisfied customer under his belt.


"I'm interested in this...Kirihiko person," Wakana said as she sat at the table with her sister and father. Her hair had been tied into twin pigtails, each held by white ribbons. "He's the best Gaia Memory salesman on record. Besides, anyone who can date my older sister and survive has to be someone incredible!"

"Wakana, you shouldn't be talking about other people like demons," Saeko scoffed.

Wakana clicked her lips again, making a face afterwards. Considering that she turned into the twisted lovechild of a voodoo convention and a bagworm, who was she to talk about demons? Regardless, her face turned back to normal as her bubbly self remerged. "I'll be looking forward to it! Won't we, father?"

"Of course," Their father answered, scratching his cat's left cheek. "But tell me, Saeko. Do you think this man is worthy to become a part of the Sonozaki family?"

Saeko simply smiled in response to her father's query.


Soon enough, Ben and Shotaro had returned to the office, specifically making their way to the hanger. Philip stood atop the platform on the hangar floor while Shotaro had a grim expression on his face. Ben and Akiko stood to each side of the "hard-boiled" detective.

"I need you to access the Gaia Library," Shotaro asked Philip. Hearing this, Philip turned to perform the same motion as he'd done when looking Togawa's next target, his body glowing all the while.

"I wanted to ask earlier," Akiko began as she turned to Shotaro. "But what is the Gaia Library?"

"The place where every iota of information on Earth is kept," Shotaro revealed. "Philip has the ability to access it."

"All information?" Ben parroted as his jaw fell to the ground. "How even?!"

"Philip described it to me, once. Think of a white void filled with rows and rows of bookshelves. Whenever Philip narrows his search, the irrelevant shelves move away, leaving Philip only with the important ones. As the search narrows with more keywords, he eventually gets the book."

"So, what? It's some kind of dimension?"

"More like a plane of existence only he can reach," Shotaro answered as he kneeled.

"Wow...forget about the Gaia Memories. Philip alone would–" Ben's gears churned as the implications of Philip's abilities sunk in.

"I know," Shotaro answered quietly.

"That doesn't explain how he doesn't know about more obvious things," Akiko noted.

"Philip may have all the information in the world, but it's more like he has to borrow books from a library. He himself doesn't have the information," Shotaro explained.

"Okay, that explains the look-up," Ben pieced together.

"Beginning the look-up," Philip announced as if on cue. "The goal of this look-up is to find the identity of the one who murdered Togawa Yousuke, and is the wielder of the T-Rex Memory. First keyword?"

"First, Windscale," Shotaro told him. Ben began to imagine bookshelves flying about to match the input. "Second, feathers."

"Next?" Philip asked.

Shotaro got out of his kneeling stance, putting his hands in his pockets. Akiko tilted her head in confusion, but for Ben, his stomach churned, having an idea they were going to see what had wound Shotaro up.

"You've got something, don't you, Shotaro?" Philip asked, curiosity piqued.

"Final keyword," Shotaro began before he released a deep breath. "Female."

That word sunk into their skulls. Ben blinked as he realized what made Shotaro's behavior change so much.

"Bingo!" Philip exclaimed. "The T-Rex Memory needs a specific physical make-up for the best compatibility. And there's only one person who fits all three keywords."

Philip opened his eyes and climbed up the stairs to the whiteboard across the room. The other three made their way across as Philip uncapped a black marker and began writing a name down. Akiko gasped, Shotaro lowered his head in grim realization, and Ben shoved his hands into the pockets of his jacket as Philip finished writing. In English and all capitalized was a familar name.

MARINA TSUMARA

"N-no! I don't believe it!" Akiko sputtered. "She's the one who asked us to help find him in the first place."

Shotaro briefly glanced at his mentor's daughter before taking an interest in the floor. "Marina was a designer for Windscale."

"That design we saw on the building," Ben realized. "It was one of hers, wasn't it?"

Shotaro gave an affirming nod. "Togawa wasn't the only one who held a grudge against the company. He and Marina were accomplices during the first two attacks on Windscale buildings. After that happened, though, Togawa lost control of himself, succumbing to the Magma Memories influence."

Ben felt a pit in his stomach grow. "So when she asked you to find him..."

"It was so she could dispose of him," Shotaro finished, making the pit deepen. He began to make his way to the door when...

"Shall I predict what you'll do next?" Philip suddenly spoke up. "You'll go forth with those naive presumptions of yours, but the criminal will try to kill you all the same. She's been taken over by the T-Rex's power. You're probably going to be her next meal."

Ben wasn't sure what was worse. The way Philip seemed to be taunting Shotaro, or how the situation felt strangely familiar. And not in a good way.

"E-even then, I..." Shotaro said as he walked back. "want to believe in her."

"The only way to stop her is to finish her off," Philip pointed out.

"I suppose this means we won't be seeing eye-to-eye," Shotaro countered his partner's words.

"How interesting," Philip said as he turned around. "'A man of iron who doesn't get swayed by his emotions.' Isn't that what you said about being a hard-boiled detective? I suppose...you're more of a half-cooked egg. No. You're...half-boiled."

That concluding two-word statement left Shotaro trembling, and he slowly walked back. When he reached Philip, he grabbed his shoulder to make him turn, before Shotaro slugged him across the face.

"Hey!" Akiko called out as she ran towards the surprised Philip, leaning near a whiteboard. "That was uncalled for!"

Ben winced when he heard Shotaro's fist connect to Philip's face. That was a drastic measure, but Philip had been provoking him all the same. Shotaro reached into his pocket before slamming them onto the desk. When Ben took a look at them, they were revealed to be a trio of Gaia Memories. The black Joker Memory was familiar, but alongside it was a blue memory with a T in the shape of a gun and a gray memory with a metallic M, bolts studding it.

"I'll be doing this without your help," Shotaro coldly told the pained Philip as he walked out.

"Ben! We've got to follow him! He's going to end up killed!" Akiko cried as she held Philip.

"I'm not about to let that happen, Akiko," Ben assured her. "Let's get going!"


The two managed to track Shotaro down to an outdoor theater, but when they got there, they found him and Marina together, her hands around Shotaro's neck.

"Please, Sho-chan!" Marina pleaded as she broke into tears. "Please let me go!"

Slowly, Shotaro pulled away from her. Marina looked at him with pain and confusion as he looked away from her. "Sho-chan?" She asked, realizing that he saw something ahead. Following his line of sight, Marina froze when she saw multiple police cars gathered in the parking lot over the back railing of the theater. Jinno was amongst them, scratching his back as Makura came up to him. Just as Makura was about to address him, Jinno held his back scratcher up to silence him.

"I told you long ago..." Shotaro began as he turned to face her. "I don't want to see a single person in this city cry. You, however..." He sharply turned to face her. "are making the city itself cry!"

Ben heard what Shotaro was saying, and he rubbed the back of his head. "I hope this works out."

It did not work out. Marina hung her head in apparent shame, but she soon began to break into a fit of giggles that changed into full-blown laughter as she threw her head back. "Well then! I suppose you're not a little boy anymore." She turned to face Shotaro. "You're now a cruel man without blood or tears."

Those words from his childhood friend stunned Shotaro as she began to walk away from him. "Turn yourself in, now!" He pleaded with her. "Face justice! Become the person you used to be! Get rid of that Memory, Marina!"

Smiling, Marina pulled out a gray Gaia Memory, one with a T-Rex skull reshaped to resemble a capital T in her right hand. Kissing it, she adjusted her shirt to reveal her left shoulder, which had a port-like tattoo on it.

T-REX!

Where she proceeded to jam the memory in.

"NO! DON'T!" Shotaro cried out as he ran towards her, only to be blasted back by a shockwave created by the Memory. Light flashed throughout Marina's body as she morphed into the T-Rex Dopant, releasing a roar that knocked up the dirt around her.

"I don't think so!" Ben declared as he readied the Ultimatrix. "It's Hero Time!" At this, he slammed dial down, making Akiko cry out as she closed her eyes from the flash of green light.

"Ben?" Shotaro asked as he turned to his new friend's voice, only to shut his eyes as the flash clouded his vision.

Marina turned towards the flash, an act that also drew the officers' attention. Rubbing the spots from her eyes, Akiko gasped when she saw that Ben had been replaced by a seven foot tall strange plant-like humanoid. Green and black plant matter made up most of his body, with small red petals growing out of his shoulders. His feet were replaced with what looked like rocks that were tied up by roots, and his head seemed themed after an open flame while having an entirely black face like rotting wood. The Omnitrix symbol was on his chest.. "Eh?! Another alien? I—" She winced as she got a whiff, pinching her nose. "Ugh, what is this awful smell?"

"Sorry about that," the alien said in a nasally voice. "This guy isn't known for his fragrance."

Akiko backed away, still pinching her nose. "I didn't hear anything about this!"

The T-Rex Dopant snarled at the alien hero. "Who are you?"

"Usually I go by Tennyson, Ben but for now you can call me," He held up his hands and fireballs formed in his palms. "Swampfire!"

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Codon Stream Entry: Swampfire

Species: Methanosian

Home World: Methanos

A swampy planet toxic to most life forms, underground deposits of methane often result in deadly flame geysers, rendering the planet incredibly humid, hot, and dangerously toxic. The species that evolved here use this to their advantage, most notably the Methanosians. Evolving from carnivorous plants and slowly gaining sentience, they eventually became the dominant race of the planet. With their ability to produce methane and generate heat, they are capable of limited pyrokinesis, and are also masters of using plants in combat, creating vines out of seeds and controlling other plants to do their bidding. However, they are most famous for their regenerative powers, reattaching severed limbs and sealing holes within their bodies in seconds, and can similarly alter their bodies to create tentacles and whips out of vines.

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Marina let out another roar. Akkiko was pushed into the wall behind her, but Swampfire had his root-like feet dig into the ground, anchoring him. Narrowing his ovular eyes at her, Swampfire released a bevy of fireballs at the Dopant. Each one that hit caused Marina to howl in pain. The police could only gawk as the two creatures duked it out.

"Did he say Tennyson?" Jinno asked, almost dropping his back scratcher. "As in Ben 10?"

Swampfire briefly paused when he heard that. "Huh. Guess some people here do know me after all."

Marina didn't hesitate, charging at the Methanosian and hissing as he shot streams of flame at her. Despite feeling great pain, Marina endured, tackling Swampfire and quite literally uprooting from the ground. Swampfire was sent flying over the fence and into the back theater seats. Marina knocked the gate down and jumped into the seats while Swampfire picked himself up. The Methanosian began flinging his arms, throwing what looked like seeds at the Dopants feet. Almost immediately, they turned into vines that quickly wrapped up the T-Rex Dopant. Marina howled as she flailed against her botanical bindings.

Akiko and Shotaro quickly rolled over the fence while Ben kept Marina occupied.

"You two followed me?" Shotaro asked, not taking his eyes off the fight between the walking alien plant and the addicted T-Rex monster.

"We were worried about you!" Akiko answered defensively.

Police began to pour into the theater, aiming their guns at the bound Dopant. Marina let another roar, more powerful than the last that tore up the seats and destroyed more of the ground. The officers scattered as they dodged the incoming debris.

"Get to safety! I'll deal with Chomper over here!" Swampfire called to them as he charged towards Marina, who'd broken free of her bindings. He swung a fist, but the T-Rex Dopant jumped right over him. "How the heck does someone with a head that big jump that high?"

The T-Rex landed before Shotaro and Akiko, the former of whom putting himself in front of the latter to protect her. Marina's voice then came out of the T-Rex's mouth.

"My dear Sho-chan. I love you. That's why," The sound of licking lips could be heard. "I'm going to eat you up!"

Any further musing were interrupted when she cried out in pain when Swampfire suddenly dropkicked her. "Sorry, but vegetables are before meat!"

Snarling, Marina picked herself up and readied to attack as shots rang out. Shotaro quickly fell to the ground while grabbing Akiko as bullets began pelting the Dopant. She and Swampfire both turned to see the police take cover behind their cars, firing everything they could at Marina. Unfortunately, the shots did little more than irritate the Dopant.

"Get out of here!" Swampfire told the officers. "RUN!"

Marina, however, had other plans, lunging at them. Swampfire quickly jumped at her, grabbing the Dopant as she let out another shockwave roar. The closest cops were blasted off their feet. Seeing this, Swampfire quickly struck Marina across the face with a flaming fist before sending vines from his back that flew towards the airborne officers like tentacles. The vines wrapped around them, gently putting the officers on the ground. The cops could only stare at the alien in surprise as he responded with a thumbs up and a smile. Only for him to cry out in pain when Marina suddenly chomped his right arm and tore it clean off, quickly turning it into salad in her massive jaws.

"BEN!" Shotaro cried in horror, Akiko's hands flying to her mouth.

Swampfire turned around, glaring at the growling Dopant. He then smiled as foliage began to grow out of his right shoulder, soon turning into a brand new arm, which he proceeded to stretch with. "Nice try. But you know, I kinda liked my old arm better. Well, guess I'll just have to brrrrreak this one in taking you down!"

"Marina!" Shotaro called to her, grabbing the stunned Dopant's attention. "It's me you want! Come and get me if you can!" With that, Shotaro took off, surprising Akiko as Marina growled, quickly beginning to pursue him as she ignored the gobsmacked Akiko.

"Get back here!" Swampfire shouted. He quickly turned towards the officers, all of whom seemed shaken. "Is everyone okay?"

Jinno nodded slowly, the others simply staring at the Methanosian. Nodding back, he proceeded to create streams of fire that propelled him like a rocket ship in pursuit of the Dopant.


'Marina was my responsibility,' Shotaro thought to himself as he ran to the far side of the theater parking area. He really had wanted hoped that she would be willing to turn herself in, but it seemed that ultimately, the power of the T-Rex Memory had been too much for her after all.

Shotaro felt a force blast him off his feet, sending him sprawling across the concrete. Wincing as he tried pushed himself up, he saw Marina rush towards him. He tried to push himself, but his legs were aching. Above Marina, he could see Swampfire being propelled by his own fire, and he looked ready to divebomb into Marina when something suddenly slammed her from the side.

"What the–?" Swampfire blinked at the unexpected turn of events.

A black, eight-wheeled vehicle was what crashed into Marina, sending her flying across the lot. The body of the vehicle…greatly resembled Double's head, albeit in all black. It also had the same, circular structure Ben had seen in their hangar, meaning it was actually a gigantic wheel the entire time. One of the red, eye-like windows opened up and Philip climbed out.

"Philip!" Swampfire quickly put out his flames as he landed near the vehicle.

"Philip-kun!" Akiko called out as she walked towards them. Swampfire cocked a non-existent eyebrow, noting how she'd gotten friendly enough to add the "-kun" suffix to Philip. They must've bonded while he and Shotaro had been investigating.

Philip ignored both of them as he made his way over to Shotaro. Grunting as he pushed himself to a sitting position, Shotaro avoided eye contact with him. "What is it, now?" He asked, no doubt expecting Philip to rub his predicament in. Instead, Philip scratched his chin.

"I was doing quite a lot of thinking, but not matter what I did, I just couldn't find the answer. Just why did you hit me?" Philip mused. Shotaro finally turned to face Philip, smiling and holding his hand out. Shotaro glanced at the outstretched hand, then to Philip. Soon, Shotaro was smiling and took Philip's hand. Swampfire and Akiko both looked at the scene of Philip helping Shotaro up with smiles on each of their faces.

"Lend me half of our power...partner."

Nodding at this, Philip handed the Memories Shotaro had left in the office. After the "half-boiled" detective took them, they both walked towards Marina, who'd finally picked herself up. Shotaro pulled out the red and silver buckle and slapped it on. The moment he did so, an identical one appeared on Philip's waist out of thin-air.

Akiko gasped at the event. "This is just what happened last time!"

Marina snarled as the two men approached her, her eyes fixated on Philip. "And who are you?"

"The two of us are a single detective," Shotaro and Philip announced in tandem as each held a memory: Shotaro wielded the Joker memory in his right hand while Philip had the Cyclone Memory in his left hand.

CYCLONE! JOKER!

"HENSHIN!"

Shotaro crossed his arm over himself like before, Philip mirroring his actions, their stances making them look like a W. Philip slid his Cyclone Memory into his buckle's right slot, only for it to disappear and then reappear in Shotaro's buckle. He pushed it down and slid the Joker Memory into his buckle's left, then pushed the slots into the W formation from earlier.

CYCLONE! JOKER!

Double's green and black armor formed over Shotaro's body while Philip's collapsed beside him, the wind blowing everywhere. Akiko let out a yelp, holding her skirt in place before her jaw dropped at the sight of Double, with even Swampfire and Marina taken offguard against the zephyrs billowing around them. "H-he turned into a half-and-half monster!"

"That's no monster, Akiko," Swampfire chuckled at her reaction and her now standing hair. "That's Kamen Rider Double, the next in a long line of heroes!"

"NOW! Count up your sins!" Double declared before he turned to Akiko. "Please take care of my body," Philip's voice said as Double's right eye flashed. At this, he ran to Marina and attacked with a barrage of kicks like he'd done against her boyfriend.

Akiko's body went white at the turn of events. "I didn't hear anything about this!"

"Let me handle that," Swampfire offered as he picked up Philip's body. "Yeah, now I see why he didn't go with us last time."

"In there!" Akiko pointed to a nearby police car.

"I don't think that's a good–"

"Come on!" She shouted, running towards the car. Looking at it uneasily, Swampfire followed. Akiko quickly opened the passenger side door, letting the Methanosian put Philip's body inside.

Swampfire then noticed the key in the ignition. "Akiko, can you drive?"

"Of course!" Akiko said in annoyance. "I've got a license!"

"Then get out of here! Like yesterday!"

Marina let out another roar, and Swampfire turned to see that the shockwave was not only breaking off concrete from the roads, but even chunks from the surrounding buildings. Additionally, the rubble seemed to be attracted towards her, creating a makeshift shell. That was when the Methanoisan realized that she was forming the same massive T-Rex body she'd used to turn the Magma Dopant into digested lava cake. He was about to tell Akiko to hurry up when he noticed a steel cable being pulled towards Marina, and it was about to wrap around the rear tire. Immediately, he grabbed the rear bumper and lifted it up, earning a squeak of fear from Akiko. Once he saw that the cable had passed, he gently put the car down.

"What was that for?!" Akiko demanded to know.

Swampfire would've answered, but chunks of rubble began falling around them, Akiko also screaming as some of said rubble struck the car. The Methanosian turned to see that Marina's body had become that of an entire T-Rex. Marina shook her now massive body, flinging a piece at Double that he shattered with a single kick, only for her to charge like a raging bull at the two-in-one detective. She chomped on his shoulder like it was a ham shank and rammed him through a nearby wall. Swampfire proceeded to pursue them, an anxious Akiko looking through the window to see what was going on.

As Swampfire followed them, he entering a particularly narrow road.

HEAT! JOKER!

Rounding the corner, Swampfire saw Double stand before Marina, but his right half was now bright red.

"We know you can't handle the heat thanks to our friend," Double proclaimed as he ran to Marina before punching with his right fist. When said fist connected, a burst of flame struck the Dopant, making her roar in pain.

"Cool! He's got other powers as well!" Swampfire blasted flames into her back, only for her to brush it off.

"Ah, Ben!" Philip's voice rang out. "Aim for the head. That's the only part of her body that's exposed."

"You got it!" Swampfire noted as Marina reared back from another flaming punch, sending another set of fireballs, causing the Dopant to roar in pain while thrashing wildly. Double sent flaming punch after flaming punch, eventually having one strong enough to knock her to her side. "Nice hook!"

"Thanks," Shotaro nodded as Marina got back on her feet, shaking her head and growling. Instead of attacking as the two expected, she turned tail and began running down the street.

"Running away?"

"We can't let her get away! Ben do you have something fast?"

"Naturally!" Swampfire grinned.

"Good. Keep following her and don't let her escape. We'll follow up and perform a Memory Break."

"Memory Break? Oh! That thing you did to Togawa?"

"Yes. It's the only surefire way to destroy Gaia Memories."

"Got it. I'll keep her distracted," At this, Swampfire hit the dial on his chest, turning into a brand new form. Resembling a red manta ray, its patagia were yellow as were its horns, and the Omnitrix symbol lay on his chest.

"JETRAY!" He announced. "I can catch up to her easily like this. See you later!" Jetray soon took flight and soared after the runaway dinosaur

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Codon Stream Entry: Jetray

Species: Aerophibian

Home World: Aeropia

Aeropia is a world made mostly of water, and while there are landmasses, they have been mostly been covered in water for millennia. The only landforms that go above ground are giant, spiraling rocks that make Mount Everest look like a small hill. As such, most of the life has adapted to live either underwater, or in the air most of their lives. Nowhere is this more evident than with the Aerophibian race. Able to reach speeds going to Mach 5, they are adapted to an airborne life, having created cities on the rocks. They are also capable of surviving underwater and in space. Finally, they have the unique ability to launch neuroshock blasts, and these can disable a prey animal's nervous system, or just act like normal lasers if need be.

¦l¦l¦l¦l¦l¦l¦l¦l¦l¦l¦l¦l¦l¦l¦l¦l¦l¦l¦l¦l¦l¦l¦l¦l¦l¦l¦

"Huh," Shotaro noted as he watched his ally fly after Marina. "That gives me an idea."


Cars swerved wildly and their horns blared as a T-Rex formed from rubble charged across the highway. Marina even threw one of the running cars into the air towards the pursuing Jetray with her giant head. Jetray immediately caught it by the rough, as in spite of his lanky frame, Aerophibians like him were decently strong. After catching it, he gently set it down on the road, seeing the driver was shaken but otherwise unharmed. Resuming pursuit, his eyes glowed a brighter green as he fired neuroshock blasts into the back of Marina's head.

The T-Rex bellowed in pain before launching more debris at the manta alien as she continued fleeing. Jetray dodged the rubble before firing more neuroshock blasts. Remembering what happened last time, Marina held out her tail to protect her head. Following that, the T-Rex took a sharp turn towards a building. Jetray assumed she was going to smash into it like last time, but she instead began to run up the walls, making his eyes widen in surprise. Shaking his head, Jetray flew at the Dopant as she reached the roof, launching more rubble from her psuedo-body. Jetray kept dodging the rubble and firing neuroshock blasts when he could, but avoiding her attacks and retaliating was frustrating.

"Sorry we're late!"

Jetray turned and smiled when he saw Double flying on a red hovercraft towards him and Marina. Taking a closer look, he noticed that the control seat looked like the front of Shotaro's bike, almost as if he'd detached the front of it to the hovercraft. "No prob! The more the merrier!"

The two flew around Marina as she chomped at them; Jetray took to the right, Double went to the left. The Dopant swung her tail and the two reared back. Roaring in frustration, Marina launched more of the concrete making up her body at them. Double then pulled out the gray Memory from earlier.

METAL!

At this, he swapped the Joker Memory for the Metal Memory.

HEAT! METAL!

The left half of Double turned gray as a metal quarterstaff formed on his back.

"Time for a Memory Break!" Philip declared as Double unhooked the staff from his back.

"Right," Shotaro agreed as he loaded the Metal Memory on a slot on the staff.

METAL! MAXIMUM DRIVE!

"I'll get you an opening!" Jetray offered as he soared behind the Dopant and fired beams from his eyes and the tip of his tail, striking Marina's head. She painfully bellowed at the sky in response. "All yours!"

"Thanks!" Shotaro said gratefully as he flew to Marina, fire bursting from the tips of his staff "Metal Branding!"

At the call, Double struck the neck of the T-Rex, tearing off pieces of concrete as the Dopant lost her balance. Her neck glowed red before her golem body exploded, sending chunks of rubble that forced Jetray and Double to fly back. Double gasped when he saw Marina return to her human form, falling to the ground below. Before Double could fly to catch her, Jetray swooped in, using his feet to grab her before making a gentle descent. Double drove the hovercraft towards the ground, running towards Marina. Jetray then gently put her in the Kamen Rider's arms, where the T-Rex Memory finally ejected from her body before falling to the ground into little pieces.

"Will she be okay?" Jetray asked delicately.

Double sadly shook his head. Marina was the furthest thing from alright: not only would she certainly be facing punishment for her actions, but the Gaia Memory had taken a bad toll on her mind and body. Jetray looked at the fragments of the memory, feeling his heart clench. No matter what Shroud had intended when she asked him to come to Futo, the swore that he wouldn't allow anyone in America to get their mitts on the Memories.


At the Sonozaki mansion, an important event was occurring. Saeko was introducing her fiancee to the rest of her family, and they'd gathered in a special room. The only sources of light were those from stained glass windows. The line was filled with curtains of various colors.

"Father," Saeko announced in her Taboo form as she held a glass of wine in her hand. "May I present...Sudo Kirihiko-san."

Kirihiko himself, stepped from behind a red curtain—completely naked much to the amusement of another Dopant. This one resembled a human-sized clay doll with two bulbous protrusions growing out of her head. Her head was also littered with lines that glowed blue. Her feet and hands were brown, with her left arm having a somewhat longer one while also being gray, contrasting with the rest of her white body.

"Oh, he's quite the looker." The Dopant giggled in Wakana's voice.

To the right, a Dopant resembling an armored, bipedal saber-tooth feline crouched, growling tensely. Alongside its head being like that of one with blood-red canine teeth, each of its hands were like the halves of a saber-tooth cat's head, its right hand that of its cranium and its left being its lower jaw. At the end of the room stood figure beckoning Kirihiko from behind a purple curtain. It was a muscular, shirtless figure with skin black as obsidian, a baggy red cloak on its lower body, and a large headdress that resembled the face of a wide-eyed, fang bearing monster with a yellow cloak flowing behind it. As Kirihiko neared the figure, he placed a silver buckle with a port-like slot in the middle onto his waist, a belt wrapping around him instantly like the Double Driver.

The figure handed a Gaia Memory to Kirhiko: a gold one with a stylized N. He then spoke in the voice of the patriach of the Sonozakis. "This Gaia Memory is only meant for this of the Sonozaki family. There's a chance this could end up killing you. Do you have any last words?"

Kirihiko only gave a smile to the figure. "I will make you proud to call me son-in-law...Father."

Hearing this, the figure nodded in approval, handing the Memory over to him. Inserting the Memory into the belt's port, Kirihiko became bathed in golden light that filled the room.


Back at the office, Shotaro was at his desk, using his typewriter to record the ending of the case.

Marina was left with the police, but Togawa Yousuke will never come back. That is the harsh reality of my beloved city, Futo. Even if it is the reality, though, I swear that I will change it. I'm sure I will.

"You should be saying 'we'," Philip suggested, adding his two cents and catching the ear of Shotaro. He'd been reading his book in the corner, smiling as Shotaro turned to him. "It'd be better if you pluralize it."

"Alright, I know," Shotaro said with a grin as he made the adjustments on his write-up.

"Thanks for being patient!" Shotaro flinched as Akiko strolled into the office, carrying a large plank in her hands as Ben strolled behind, looking uneasy. "Did we keep you waiting for long?"

"No one's waiting!" Shotaro grumbled as he and Philip made their way towards her.

"Rejoice you two!" Akiko announced as she turned over the plank she'd been holding, plopping it on the small table. "Ta-da!"

Shotaro looked at it, and let out a scream of horror as if Akiko melted before his eyes.

"Yeah. That's...definitely the way I saw him react," Ben muttered under his breath.

The plank turned out to be the sign of the agency, only now it was painted blue with white spots, and the kanji was pink. Next to it was a smaller plank that read the kanji for "Chief Narumi Akiko," with various designs like stars and hearts on it.

"You're the chief?!" Shotaro asked in complete shock.

"Amazing," Philip mused, causing Ben to think he actually liked the sign. "Completely out of my calculations." Ah, so that was the reason.

"From here on out, we're going to save all cases with a 'half-boiled' style!" Akiko announced before she began to run out the door, definitely about to put the sign up.

"Oi! It's not half-boiled!" Shotaro cried as he followed her. "It's hard-boiled! Hard-boiled!"

"I'm sorry, Shotaro," Ben tried to comfort him. "I told her you might not be thrilled, but she's one stubborn woman."

Shotaro slumped at this. "Why does she keep trying to ruin my hard-boiled style?"

"She is technically our landlady, Shotaro," Philip pointed out.

"Damn middle-schooler," Shotaro grumbled.

"I think she's made it clear that she's twenty, so why keep calling her that, Shotaro?" Ben reminded him.

"She looks like a middle-schooler, so I'm going to keep calling her a middle-schooler," Shotaro replied, having an actual pout. Ben had trouble keeping a straight face looking at how childish Shotaro was acting, but he suddenly felt himself being watched. Turning to the source, he saw Philip develop a wide smile as he turned his gaze towards him.

"Umm...can I help you Philip?"

"The Dopant case has been solved," Philip reminded Ben, leaning his face so close to Ben that he needed to lean back. "Tell me about your aliens, your gauntlet, everything!"

"That reminds me," Shotaro recalled. "Can you tell us what you're doing here in Futo?"

"Don't worry, I will. But in exchange, could you answer some questions of mine?"

"Sounds fair to me," Shotaro agreed.

"Okay! The sign's been put up!" Akiko said giddily as she ran insidide the office.

"Ben's going to tell us about his aliens!" Philip announced like a kid on Christmas Day.

"Eh? You will?"

"Yeah. It's probably best you sit down, though," Ben told them. "It's a pretty long story."

At this, Akiko and Philip eagerly sat down, looking like kids about to be told a bedtime story while Shotaro leaned against the wall, arms folded. "Okay, when I was ten, it started when an alien device did what it did..."

Thus, Ben told them the basic gist of that fateful summer when he first gained the Omnitrix, how he had to use it once again to protect the entire universe from the threat of the Highbreed, and how he was forced to sacrifice it to prevent it from being used by his archnemesis, the intergalatctic conqueror Vilgax. He told them about the Ultimatrix, his "evil twin" Albedo, and how he was currently using it. That being said, he decided to leave out his most recent big adventure: the conflict with Aggregor, the Forge of Creation,...and the aftermath.

"Just in case you're skeptical, I think you can look me up on the Gaia Library," Ben said when he concluded his biography. "I know it's probably an unbelievable tale–"

"I believe you," Shotaro interrupted, getting up from the wall as the 16-year-old turned to look at him. "Even with my experiences, I'd usually find such a story like something out of a sci-fi manga. Or that you were some kind of Dopant posing as an alien. But I can tell you're being completely honest with us."

"A detective's intution?"

Shotaro shrugged casually. "Maybe."

"This is amazing," Philip whispered in awe, scratching his chin. "Life on other planets exists. Just how many aliens can you turn into?"

"I...honestly can't say," Ben sheepishly admitted. "But I know it's only a fraction of the one million, nine hundred and ten stored in—"

Philip leaped out of his seat and almost seemed to teleport to Ben, making him stumble backwards. Akiko and Shotaro were similarly gobsmacked, their jaws completely slack. "You have that many aliens?!"

"N-not really, but–"

"I want to know all about them! Since their aliens, they're not found in the Gaia Library. You're the only source I have to learn more about them. Tell me!"

"Uh, Shotaro? Philip's scaring me."

"I think you've opened a Pandora's Box," Shotaro said weakly.

"If the Gaia Library only has access to all information on Earth," Akiko wondered. "What if there's a space version of it?"

"Don't you mean a Cosmic Library?" Ben mused.

""Cosmic Library? Do you think it's possible?!" Philip joyfully asked, looking like he would burst.

Shotaro planted his face into his palms. "What have we done? Changing topics. Why are you in Futo, Ben?"

Ben explained as best he could about his encounter with the mysterious Shroud, but even Philip was puzzled.

"Whoever this...Shroud...is, she's clearly trying to make herself cryptic on purpose," Shotaro deduced.

"But why would she want you to come here?" Akiko scratched her head at that question.

"Maybe she knows something about the guys making these Gaia Memories?" Ben suggested. "Maybe this is just the starting point for a bigger plan, one she'd want me to team up with you to stop."

Shotaro sat back at his desk, eyebrows furrowed. "What could our enemies be doing that this Shroud would want to involve someone from another country?"

Ben sighed. "I know this is probably asking a lot, but would you mind if I stayed with you guys? I don't know why Shroud brought me here, but it clearly can't be anything good, and this is really the only place in the city I know. I mean, if I can't, that's fine."

"No. It's probably for the best we stick together," Shotaro answered. "It seems a few people already know you, so word's going to get out about you being around the agency."

"Isn't that a good thing, though?" Akiko pointed out. "If Ben really is famous, that could mean we'll get more business!"

"Hey Shotaro. Is it okay if I ask a few questions of my own?"

"Sure, go right ahead."

"Why is it that your Memories look different from the others I've seen so far? Why do you have armor instead of turning into a Dopant?"

"Because our memories are refined," Philip explained. "Purified. Using them alongside the DoubleDriver allows us to access the powers of the Gaia Memories without any of the negative effects."

"DoubleDriver? You mean that belt?"

"That's right," Shotaro confirmed. "That being said, them being purified prevents us from using the full power of Gaia Memory except through a Memory Break. In exchange, though, the DoubleDriver allows us to use two memories at a time."

"How many do you have right now?"

"Six," Shotaro pulled out his three. "Joker. Metal. Trigger."

"Cyclone. Heat. Luna," Philip pulled out three more of his own. The Cyclone Memory, the Heat Memory which was red and emblazoned with a flaming H, and a third, yellow one with a crescent moon in it. When Ben squinted, he could make out an L within the moon.

"Cool, but in order to transform, you both have to become Double?"

"I serve as the main body, while Philip handles the mind," Shotaro said. "Though he can control the right half–"

"I usually leave the active fighting to Shotaro, offering him tactical advice as needed." Philip finished.

Ben nodded at the explanation. "Isn't it inconvenient, though, that you both have to transform to become Double?"

Shotaro admitted, "It hasn't caused any problems just yet. Philip rarely leaves here except for certain occasions like today."

"One more thing if you don't mind me asking. How did you guys get involved with all of this?"

Shotaro and Philip shared a glance and Ben worried that he'd overstepped his boundaries. Philip slowly nodded his head. Shotaro took a breath as he took off his fedora.

"The truth is, the organization behind the Gaia Memories—was using Philip to create them."

Akiko gasped as Ben looked at the two of them.

"More specifically, they were using my access to the Gaia Library to create the Memories," Philip elaborated. "It was Shotaro who helped get me out with the power of Double."

"Begins Night," Shotaro whispered, taking a glance at Akiko and looking away before she could notice. It wasn't unnoticed by Ben, and he had a feeling that her father was involved in this...Begins Night.

"I don't remember anything about my past or who I am," Philip continued quietly. "All I know is that the organization is after me. It's also why I stay here, so they don't take me back,"

"Okay. Now I feel like a jerk," Ben said guiltily.

"Don't be. You were willing to share everything with us," Shotaro assured Ben. "It was only fair that we extend the same courtesy."

"While the building I was held was destroyed, we're no closer to finding out anything about where the organization's headquarters could be." Philip stated.

"Maybe, but we've got an idea on what one of their salesmen looks like, now," Ben pointed out. "We find him, we'll find the head honcho. If that's fine with you guys, of course."

"If this Shroud was desparate enough to ask you to come here to Futo, it means that my city is in great danger," Shotaro resolved with determination as he put on his fedora. "Besides, we actually make a pretty good team."

"And I'll have more of an opportunity to study his aliens!" Philip noted, making Ben cringe.

"And more chances to bring in more business!" Akiko agreed.

Grinning, Shotaro got off his chair and held his hand out to Ben like he had done before. "Welcome to the Narumi Detective Agency, Ben."

Ben smiled in turn as he took the hand and shook it. "Happy to be here, Shotaro."

Akiko clapped in excitement at the turn of events. "We're not just going to solve things with a half-boiled style, we're going solve them with a half-boiled style that's out of this world!"

"Hard-boiled!" Shotaro interjected.

Ben couldn't help but chuckle as Akiko and Shotaro started arguing with each other again, Philip also smiling. He'd have to tell his grandpa and his allies in Bellwood about these Gaia Memories and how he'd probably be in Japan for some time. Whatever the reason that Shroud wanted him here, he was going to do everything he could to help Shotaro and Philip put an end to these Memories.


Author's Note:

Hello again, you wonderful folks! And with that, the first case of the series has been solved, and a partnership has fully formed between the Detectives of the Windy City and the Wielder of the Ultimatrix. I know not many changes occurred from here as in canon, but that's to be expected. Unfortunately, I think Ben's impact won't be felt further down the line. So you can at least expect the Money and Anomalocaris cases to be the same, but make no mistake. Changes to the events will occur, and I have plans for original episodes involving Shotaro and Philip (plus Terui eventually) to go up against members of Ben's rogue gallery as well (some on their own, others with Gaia Memories of their own), but that's not for some time, the first of which will most likely come after the Cockroach and Sweets cases.

Also, to be clear in the Ben 10 timeline, this is between "The Purge" and "The Flame Keeper's Circle", hence the mentions of the Techadons and the Forever Knights here; the events of "Greetings from Techadon" have passed. And yeah, if you were expecting the Kamen Rider Den-O section with Paradox on the DenLiner with the Taros, then I'm sorry to disappoint. I haven't gotten to that series yet, so I don't really feel ready to write about it. Apologies for that.


Next Time: Here Comes the Money!

A few days after dealing with Marina and having Ben join them under the role of an intern, the Shotaro Detective Agency receive a request from an elderly couple to check on their daughter after she starts behaving oddly. When a tip from Watcherman ends in them encountering the greedy Money Dopant, they are dragged to the seedy world of gambling. Losing their target after an attack from an unknown Dopant, the group are forced to look for the mysterious Million Colosseo casino, especially when Akiko gets a bit too involved.