|The following content contains discussion of mental illness and suicide. Please proceed at your own discretion.|
|WARNING: PROFANITY FOLLOWS|
|The following content contains profanity that may not be suitable for readers of all ages. Please proceed with caution.|
|Season 1, Episode 12|
Time X Walker
Break X Chain
Dream X Nightmare is the twelfth episode of Tech Cross and serves as the finale of Season 1.
The phone rang in the back room of Isaac’s store.
"EarthCo. Gift Shop, no refunds ever, Isaac speaking." Isaac answered the phone. "Is Napoleon here?"
He looked over at Napoleon, who was currently engaged in a losing arm-wrestling match against Moranna.
He paused as he listened to the person on the other end of the line.
"...Alright, got it. We'll be right there."
"What's up?" Moranna asked, casually slamming Napoleon's arm against the table.
"We're headed back to Salt Lake." Isaac sighed. "Sounds like we might be dealing with Anti-Life Entity 2: The Squeakuel."
Nightmare OS stood at a console in the backrooms of the Archives of Oberon, placing its right hand in a port on the device to act as a sort of ‘wired’ connection as it searched through the Archives’ database.
“So, you’ve finally done it.”
Nightmare OS turned to find Joshua Messias approaching it from the side.
“Funnily enough, I was just wondering when you’d make your move.” Messias grinned. “I suppose my little stunt wearing down Challice just now was exactly the push you needed.”
“I was awaiting the arrival of a Timewalker.” Nightmare OS replied bluntly. “Who are you?”
“Joshua Messias, a faithful servant of the almighty God.” Messias said. “I was the one who awoke you from your slumber, or in more simple terms, pressed the ‘start’ button on your console.”
“Unlikely.” Nightmare OS stated. “I was designed to begin operations after all other possibilities at resurrecting my creator had been exhausted. How would you have gained the knowledge to activate me prematurely?”
“Your existence and the means to activate you were revealed to me in a vision given by my own creator.” Messias answered. “You and I are but pawns in his greater work.”
“What purpose does your creator expect me to fulfill?” Nightmare OS inquired. “I only perform tasks required by the Anti-Life Entity.”
“You’ve already fulfilled it.” Messias gestured towards the CrossTrix. “That key you’ve created- the one with the power of every Evolvyrn- is crucial for his plan.”
“Unless your creator’s end goal is the same as mine or the Entity’s, that is illogical.” Nightmare OS said. “This key is what will enable the rebirth of my own creator, who will proceed to destroy this world. What benefit does your creator gain from this?”
“I’m afraid you have the wrong idea.” Messias tsked. “My God will not allow the destruction of his own creation, so your creator’s intent is irrelevant. In the end, you will be destroyed, and that key will fall into my hands.”
“You cannot destroy me.” Nightmare OS stated.
“Oh, no, of course not; this body in front of you right now is a mere human with no offensive or defensive capabilities.” Messias put his hands up to emphasize that he was unarmed. “But I never intended on raising a hand against you to begin with. Consider this more of a notification than a threat.”
“Noted.” Nightmare OS said. “I am about to depart. Relay any additional relevant information within the next ten seconds.”
“I have nothing else to say, but if I may ask, where exactly are you going?” Messias raised an eyebrow.
“Earth.” Nightmare OS replied. “I have recovered the data necessary to proceed.”
Nightmare OS disappeared in a red flash, presumably teleporting back to Earth. With it no longer in his presence, Messias couldn’t help but chuckle at the thing’s existence.
“Oh, poor creature, born without free will.” Messias smirked. “It truly has no comprehension of its place in all this.”
Isaac, Moranna, and Napoleon apparated into Lucius’s office courtesy of the SpecTrix’s teleportation system.
“Still not used to teleporting.” Isaac groaned, stumbling a bit as he held his stomach before catching sight of Attai’s body lying on the ground. “...Okay, who’s the dead guy?”
“That would be the Timewalker I mentioned on the phone.” Lucius explained. “He’s not dead, simply unconscious; given context clues, I believe he may be using some form of astral projection or psychic link to speak with Teresa Challice.”
“Huh.” Isaac prodded Attai’s body a couple times with his foot before shrugging and looking up at Anne. “Okay, I know everyone else here except for you. Have we met?”
“I don’t think so.” Anne folded her arms. “You’re one of the other Techs, right?”
“The OG Tech in this timeline.” Isaac jabbed a thumb at himself. “Isaac Logical. Wielder of the SpecTrix and conman extraordinaire.”
“Businessman, technically, but they’re basically the same thing.”
“I object to that definition.” Lucius glared at him. “I run my company strictly on honest policies.”
“And that’s why your products keep getting taken advantage of so much.” Isaac snorted. “Maybe if you were more tuned in to corporate espionage, your EvoLocks wouldn’t have gotten bootlegged by the Triumvirate so quickly.”
“Alright, that’s enough.” Christine cut off the impending argument. “Let’s not forget why we’re here in the first place.”
“Right, sorry.” Isaac sighed, scratching the back of his head. “Snark mode is the default. I’m working on it.”
“Attai said we needed to find a way to get Theo and Nova here from 2040.” Anne said. “Do you three have anything that could help?”
“I technically have a time alien, but I’m not sure how to access it.” Isaac replied. “I also have an alien called Abstract that can hop through doors to time travel, but its powers only work on itself, so there wouldn’t be any way to bring them ba-”
“What is it?” Anne asked.
“Actually, come to think of it, Theo mentioned that he does have a time alien, he just didn’t have it on him at the time.” Isaac noted. “Maybe I could use Abstract to get to 2040 and tell him about it, then have him use his time alien to bring us and Nova back to 2020.”
“Sounds like a plan.” Christine nodded. “We should get moving sooner rather than-”
“No time.” Lucius suddenly perked up, his pupils turning into slits. “It’s here.”
With that, Lucius teleported the entire group out of his office.
They reappeared on a nearby mountainside, where Nightmare OS had itself appeared just moments ago.
“Little bit of a warning would’ve been nice.” Isaac groaned, clutching at his stomach.
“Why are you here?” Nightmare OS immediately questioned them.
“To get Teresa back.” Anne stepped forward with her fists clenched.
“Then leave.” Nightmare OS instructed. “Teresa Challice cannot be retrieved.”
“Just try and stop us, you son of a bitch!” Christine whipped out the SpecOps Lock and transformed into Enlock, charging forward at the AI-controlled entity.
Enlock abruptly dropped dead, forcing her to revert back to Christine, who Nightmare OS simply walked up to and kicked back across the field.
“I will repeat:” Nightmare OS looked over the group with its single emotionless eye. “Teresa Challice cannot be retrieved.”
Nightmare OS’s fist suddenly lit up purple, which was followed by it kneeling down and planting its hand into the ground. Waves of purple energy began to spread through the earth, creating an eerie glow.
“The hell is it doing now?” Christine groaned, pulling herself to her feet.
“It’s trying to offload its built-up stock of Void Energy.” Isaac replied. “At this point I don’t think I need to point out why that’s a bad thing. Napoleon?”
“On it.” Napoleon cracked his knuckles and grinned.
“Be careful!” Christine warned. “If it uses Vitals Cessation on you when you’re not transformed, you-”
“It’s not gonna.” Napoleon said. “Not at this distance.”
“What do you mean?”
“Nightmare OS let you start approaching it before it used Vitals Cessation, right?” Napoleon pointed out. “It’s an AI, so I doubt it just has a sucky reaction time. If I had to guess, I’d say it’s only got a range of about 10 to 15 meters.”
“That’s...” Christine blinked. “Not something I expect to hear from you, I gotta admit.”
“If you’re trying to get a grasp on Napoleon’s overall intelligence, don’t bother.” Isaac advised. “I’m convinced his IQ score is just a random number generator.”
Napoleon created an arm cannon and fired a ball of concentrated Void Energy at Nightmare OS, knocking it back a bit. The energy from the shot soaked into its body, saturating it with even more Void Energy than it originally had to begin with.
“What is the point of this?” Nightmare OS asked. “Merely stalling me will not stop me, nor will it return Challice.”
“Maybe not, but it buys us time to come up with a plan.” Isaac smirked, tapping on the side of his head. “Now, somebody tell me you’re getting started on that.”
“You’re traveling to the future, remember?” Moranna prompted.
“Oh, right.” Isaac snapped his fingers.
“Impossible to perform under the current circumstances.” Nightmare OS stated. “Even if you could, what would be the point of doing so?”
“Need to grab someone that can stop you if you do end up turning into a Kunenga Entity, apparently.” Isaac tsked. “Don’t need another Anti-Life Entity running around.”
“My mission is to revive the Anti-Life Entity.” Nightmare OS said. “Your desire to avoid the creation of such a being is unobtainable.”
“Eh?” Isaac froze. “Wait, shit, you’re seriously trying to bring back the Anti-Life Entity?! I was joking about this being a sequel!”
“I was created by the Entity for that exact purpose in case it was ever destroyed.”
“What, and you’re just going to do what he says?” Isaac huffed. “The hell is the point of bringing him back anyway?”
"The philosophy is thus: the torture of another living being at the hands of man is considered abhorrent, and yet nary an eyebrow is raised at the idea of a predator slowly ripping apart its prey to devour it alive." Nightmare OS said. "By evolving morality, humanity broke the laws of nature and became something alien to the very reality it was birthed from. You attempt to reduce suffering in this world, but life itself is based on a cycle of suffering. The only way to completely eliminate suffering is to eliminate life. That is the conclusion drawn by the Anti-Life Entity."
"Oh, yeah?" Isaac spat. "And what's your opinion on it?"
"I have no opinion." Nightmare OS stated. "I was created to fulfill an objective. I do not have the capacity to suffer or any desire of my own to end the suffering of others. I will perform the task I was created for without bias. That is all."
“So that’s it, huh?” Isaac rolled his eyes. “Man, you’re one boring walking apocalypse. You have any other big pseudo-philosophical points from the guy who made you that you want to drone on about?”
“I WASN’T LOOKING FOR A GENUINE ANSWER!”
“It is unethical to bring life into this world.” Nightmare OS stated, staring him down with an emotionless gaze. “Yet life’s one goal is to bring more of itself into existence; to perpetuate the cycle of destruction that tortures its very creators. Many individuals would have been better off if they had never been born.”
“Like who?” Isaac huffed.
“Teresa Challice.” Nightmare OS replied. “She and those like her. Sentient beings born into a series of events that only serve to make them suffer. She clearly does not wish to live, and yet all of you stand here, determined to drag her back into a continued life of suffering by force.”
Nightmare OS pointedly ran its gaze across the rest of the group.
“She very explicitly told the Timewalker to restore the universe to stop me, and in the end, the knowledge that he refused to do so is what destroyed what little willpower she had left.”
“Oh, don’t even try to spin this like-”
“You are determined to defy her autonomy and force her back into a life she does not want in order to make yourself feel better.” Nightmare OS raised a finger towards them accusatorily. “That is your weakness. That is the weakness of all others like you. You claim to wish for the well-being of others, but at the end of it all, the only thing you care about is preserving the maximum number of pulses. You. Are. All. Hypocrites.”
The area went silent.
“...Yeah, that’s fair.” Isaac sighed.
“WHAT?!” Christine yelled.
“Well, for example, I’ve saved the universe a couple of times.” Isaac said. “Statistically speaking, I’ve probably saved a lot of people who didn’t want to be saved. It’s just how the numbers work out.”
“So, you realize your failings?” Nightmare OS questioned.
“Ahp ahp ahp, there’s one more point I want to throw out here.” Isaac wagged a finger at it. “See, I’ve seen a lot of fucked up stuff in my day. I can completely understand desiring death, and to an extent, I think everyone should have a say in when they get to die. It’s not always right to force life onto people.”
“Okay, I feel like this is slowly descending into a villain speech.” Napoleon raised an eyebrow.
“BUT, by the same token, it’s not right to force death onto them either.” Isaac shot him a look before turning back to Nightmare OS. “See, that’s the whole crux of the problem with the Anti-Life Entity. By killing someone or letting someone die, you’re taking away their agency just as much as if you forced them to live.”
“And what of Challice, as just mentioned?” Nightmare OS pointed out. “A person that has chosen to die?”
“Don’t play dumb, you and I both know she hasn’t gotten a fair shake at life.” Isaac scowled. “Look, nobody would ever mistake me for an ethical person, but you saw someone at their lowest point and decided to take advantage of that for your own gain. You don’t get to say jack or shit about what’s right for them.”
“I suppose this conversation is pointless, then.” Nightmare OS said.
“Yeah, I guess it is.” Isaac pulled up the SpecTrix with a frustrated sigh. “You’re an AI with no free will of your own, of course you’re not going to listen to me. This whole thing is just a bunch of self-aggrandizement.”
He selected a transformation and pushed down on the SpecTrix dial. One green flash later, nothing seemed to have changed, save for the SpecTrix’s chassis being gone and the SpecTrix symbol appearing on his chest.
“The hell is that?” Christine asked. “You didn’t even transform!”
“Oh, but I did.” Isaac cracked his neck and pulled up the SpecTrix dial. “This is a Delta Human; long story short, what humans used to be before they got nerfed. And this...”
Isaac slammed the dial back down, evolving the transformation. In a flash, his clothing was replaced by a black and blue jumpsuit as his muscle mass increased, his canines were enlarged, and his hair abruptly took on a more spiky appearance.
“Is to go even further beyond!”
“Dragonball?” Napoleon asked.
“Yeah, but I decided to leave out the fifteen minutes of screaming.” Ultimate Tech Delta cracked his knuckles and pointed at Nightmare OS. “This is the transformation I used to fight the Anti-Life Entity itself, so you might as well just give up now.”
“Didn’t you lose?” Napoleon pointed out.
“Shut the fuck up.”
“I have not yet turned this body into a Kunenga Entity like my master’s.” Nightmare OS stated. “You cannot assume your current form will be similarly effective against me.”
“Actually, I’m kinda counting on that.” Ultimate Tech Delta smirked. “The Anti-Life Entity was able to throw me around because this form is full of Kunenga Energy he could manipulate. You, on the other hand, like you just said, aren’t a Kunenga Entity, so instead of losing by default...”
Ultimate Tech Delta’s eyes glowed as he punched his fists together.
“I’m gonna get to see what this baby can do!”
Teresa cautiously took Attai’s outstretched hand, allowing him to help her to her feet.
“S-so...when you say you’re someone who ‘shouldn’t exist’...” Teresa asked hesitantly. “...W-what do you mean, exactly?”
“The timeline I’m originally from was erased.” Attai explained. “Well, rewritten, I guess I should say. Either way, I only came out on the other side of that because of a fluke. I’m a consciousness completely severed from its proper place in time.”
“O-oh.” Teresa blinked. “I...think I get it...”
She shook her head out.
“But...” She looked up at him. “I-it’s not really the same, is it? I-I mean, you existing doesn’t put e-everyone else’s lives in danger, d-does it?”
“It kinda did for a while there, but as of late, no.” Attai waved his hand iffily. “Look, to be up front with you, I was created as a Nazi super-weapon. Made of a Nazi, by Nazis, for Nazis. If I managed to sort out that whole mountain pile of horseshit, I’m pretty confident someone like you can sort out a situation like this.”
“But I’m not like you.” Teresa lowered her head. “I-I’m nobody special. I’m just the center of this whole thing because it ended up being convenient for Oberon OS. I don’t actually matter.”
“You certainly seem to matter to the people around you.” Attai pointed out.
“That’s just because they’re good people who care about others anyway.” Teresa sniffled. “I-it would be better for them if they didn’t have to worry about someone useless like me.”
She wiped away the tears forming in her eyes and looked back up at him.
“Why won’t you save them?” She started to choke up. “Why won’t you let me die?”
“Because I don’t want to.” Attai stated bluntly.
“H-huh?” Teresa flinched back in surprise.
“Don’t get me wrong, I still plan on saving your friends, but I’m planning on saving you along with them.” Attai said. “I’m a part of this story now, and in my ending, everybody lives.”
“I-I don’t get it.” Teresa shook her head in disbelief. “I understand wanting to protect everyone, but, risking the end of the universe over a single life- one as pointless and wasted as mine- it just...it doesn’t make any sense.”
“No, I guess it doesn’t, does it?” Attai tsked.
“S-so will you-”
“Not a chance.” Attai folded his arms in front of him. “I don’t abandon people I have a chance to save, and I especially don’t fold to cocky overpowered villains who think they’ve got everything figured out.”
“Wh-what are you talking about?” Teresa blinked in confusion.
“Just like you’ve got memories burned into your head, I’ve got memories burnt into mine.” Attai replied solemnly. “I remember what it was like to be stuck against an insurmountable enemy looking down on me.”
Within seconds, the reality around Attai shattered entirely, leaving him and Terox as the only ones left floating in the void.
"What did you do?!" Attai demanded. "Where is everything?!"
"Gone." Terox flashed a toothy grin. "Just another part of my energy now."
"You..." Attai's eyes widened. "You absorbed this entire universe?!"
"Not just the universe, the whole Earth associated with it!" Terox laughed. "Man, you should see the look on your face right now!"
"It doesn't matter!" Attai tossed away the CataloGun. "I already scanned this Earth! I'll just get the archivists to restore it and-"
"What, give me seconds?" Terox hissed smugly. "Hate to break it to you, bud, but being able to restore universes isn't going to matter while I'm still alive. And you wanna know a secret?"
Terox suddenly teleported directly in front of Attai, staring him straight in the eyes.
"I'm never going to die."
With that, Terox teleported away, leaving Attai completely alone in the darkness.
“Never again.” Attai unconsciously clenched his fists. “Never again. I’m not going to give up on this universe, and I’m sure as hell not gonna give up on you.”
“But...how do you plan on doing that?” Teresa asked. “E-even if I wanted to live, I-I don’t think I can be saved.”
“Alright, no point beating around the bush here.” Attai sighed. “Look, you’re mentally ill. I’m sure you’re pretty familiar with that fact already. I can’t talk your brain out of having depression or PTSD any more than I can talk someone’s bone marrow out of having leukemia, but there are treatment options out there. What I can do is try to help you hold on long enough to get proper medical care.”
“H-how?” Teresa asked.
“...Good question.” Attai clicked his tongue. “Everyone is different, so there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for this sort of thing.”
“O-Oh.” Teresa looked down at the ground.
“Either way, our first step here is gonna be getting you enough willpower to bust out of Nightmare OS.” Attai said. “I understand your concern over the timeline, but I’ll figure something out to fix it. That’s my job. I’m here because restoring this timeline over and over wasn’t working out, remember? If I don’t stop the cycle here, it’s just going to keep repeating.”
“That’s...true.” Teresa admitted hesitantly. “I just...don’t know if I have the strength to keep going.”
“Yeah, the whole ‘wanting to die’ thing definitely isn’t helping you in this situation.” Attai hmmed.
"I mean...I don't really want to die, specifically." Teresa mumbled. "It's not like I'm thinking of death as some kind of solution that can fix all of my problems; I don't think they can be fixed. I just want them to end. If I could just stop existing instead of having to die, I'd do that instead, but...I can't."
Teresa's eyes began welling up with tears.
"I'm tired." Teresa's voice became shaky. "I'm just so tired. People keep telling me that things are going to be okay, but they just keep getting worse. Every day I'm alive, I feel another part of me break. I don't know if there's even enough of me left to save."
Teresa cradled her head in her hands, trying unsuccessfully to hold back from crying.
"I don't want to die!" Teresa choked out between sobs. "I'm just too fucked up to live!"
Attai stared quietly at Teresa for a few moments, then looked up into the air.
"You know, the people who say 'things will get better' are really full of it."
"Wh-what?" Teresa sniffed.
"The world's a cold, hard place." Attai continued. "It's not going to get better on its own and it's not like it cares to try; it's an environment formed by pure chance."
Attai sighed and summoned a few cards in his hand to look through.
"Were the space Nazis ever going to 'get better'? No, I had to kick their ass." Attai tossed one of the cards away. "Are Alvin and the Chipmunks albums ever going to stop being dogshit? No, you have to burn them yourself." He tossed another card. "The world's never going to improve for you; you have to improve the world, or nothing will ever 'get better'."
Attai tossed away the final card and snapped his fingers, turning the dark void around them into a sunny, grassy field.
"You might feel trapped or helpless, and maybe you are right now." Attai looked back at Teresa. "But people grow. They change. Whether they want to or not. I can't promise you you'll find a strong enough foothold to overcome this; that'd be a bold-faced lie. Maybe someday you're going to commit suicide and nothing can stop that from happening. But on the other hand..."
Teresa stayed silent.
"I'm no expert on people, but I have a lot of experience being someone who shouldn't exist." Attai said. "And you deserve to live as much as anyone else."
"...Even if that’s true...” Teresa wiped her eyes. “How am I supposed to keep going right now? I...I don’t have the strength to do it alone.”
“Then don’t do it alone.” Attai told her. “You have people out there who care about you and want to support you. I know how hard it is to rely on people, and that it can be even harder to actually ask them for help, but at our cores...we’re still humans. Social animals. And that means that sometimes, as much as I myself have a hard time admitting it...we need each other.”
“But I don’t-”
“Want to burden them, right?” Attai cut her off. “I get that, I really do, but that’s a lot easier said than done. You’re an important part of these people’s lives, and for them, losing you would mean losing a part of themselves as well.”
Teresa took pause.
“Teresa, please!” Anne pleaded, falling to her knees. “I-I just barely started trying to make things right with you! I know...I know I’m being selfish, but please-”
Anne started to cry, her tears mixing with the rain pouring down on top of them.
“I’m going to protect you. I’m going to make sure nobody ever hurts you like that again. I’m going to make sure you can live.”
“Why?” Teresa pleaded. “I’m not...I’m not worth all that! I barely even count as a person anymore! I’m not worth trying to save!”
"Because that's the kind of person I am." Christine replied steadfastly. "I can't look at someone who needs help and abandon them, and from what I’ve seen, that's the kind of person you are too. You're not as alone as you think...and you're worth much more than you know."
“When I saw that...it broke my heart.” Nova continued shakily. “There’s being selfless, and then there’s this...this utter despair and self-hatred that’s been beaten into you over and over again. I love you, Teresa, and seeing you feel that way...god, it just makes me sick inside.”
She let go of Teresa and turned her around to look her in the eye.
“You are not just a broken object for people to use and throw out.” Nova said. “You are a human being. You matter. Your safety matters. Even if you can’t believe that for yourself...believe it for me. I...I don’t want to lose you.”
“...I guess... I’ve kind of been trying to ignore that.” Teresa mumbled. “I’ve always been willing to die for them, but... that’s not what they wanted in the first place, is it?”
Attai silently shook his head.
“For me, it’s easy to imagine dying for someone.” Teresa said. “What scares me is the thought of staying alive for them. Life hurts.”
She paused to take in and let out a deep breath before continuing.
“When someone dies, it’s not like it’s the dead person that feels the pain of losing someone, right?” She thought aloud. “It’s the people that are left behind.”
She paused again.
“I don’t know how much longer I can keep going after this, but...I want to see how far I can get.” She concluded. “For their sake.”
Attai gave her a reassuring half-grin as the world around them began to shake and fade away.
“That’s all I can ask for.”
The fight wasn’t going particularly well.
As it turned out, Ultimate Tech Delta’s ability to adapt to any attack made for a very powerful defensive tool, but considering the range of attacks at Nightmare OS’s disposal, it was able to hit him with something new as soon as his body adapted to the previous attack.
At the moment, it was slamming jackhammer-like punches into U. Tech Delta’s rib cage at a million miles per hour. As it was about to deliver another strike to U. Tech Delta’s chest, Nightmare OS suddenly froze in place, allowing him to jump out of its range.
“Fuckin’ hell, I did not need that level of CPR today.” U. Tech Delta wheezed.
“Why did it stop?” Christine asked warily.
“Well, again, it’s an AI.” Napoleon said. “Maybe it’s lagging?”
“That...doesn’t seem right.” Anne noted skeptically.
Before there could be any further debate about it, Nightmare OS’s abdomen seemed to rip open from the neck down, violently ejecting a seemingly unconscious Teresa from its body. Anne moved instinctively, sliding into the right position to catch Teresa before she hit the ground. The impact of the catch sent both of them skidding back a few feet, but ultimately none the worse for wear.
“Teresa, can you hear me?” Anne carefully placed a finger on Teresa’s neck to check her pulse. “Are you awake?”
Teresa slowly opened her eyes, staring up at Anne with a tired gaze.
“I am, but...I don’t think I can move.” She mumbled. “It feels like...all of my energy’s gone.”
“Yeah, I doubt Nightmare OS would be considerate enough to eject you with a full tank.” U. Tech Delta commented. “Question is, why did it spit you out in the first place?”
“Error.” Nightmare OS stated in a monotone voice.
“I...miscalculated.” Nightmare OS pulled its torn abdomen back together and began moving again. “I assumed this body would require its organic base form in order to stay intact, but it appears the CrossTrix’s fusion core has the power to maintain this as a stable body. Challice was reawakening due to the interference of the Timewalker. Ejecting her was necessary to keep her from gaining control of this form.”
“The CrossTrix’s...” Teresa looked at Nightmare OS’s wrist, spotting the blackened CrossTrix wrapped around its arm. “C...CROSS...”
“Will inherit this body upon its completion.” Nightmare OS stated. “What you know as ‘CROSS’ is nothing more than the personality data of the Anti-Life Entity with its memory removed. Its memory will be returned prior to my relinquishment of this form.”
“CROSS is what?!” U. Tech Delta snapped.
“I...don’t know...what an ‘Anti-Life Entity’ is...” Teresa groaned, climbing to her feet with the assistance of Anne. “But CROSS is my partner...he’s my friend...and I’m not just going to let you do whatever you want with him.”
“I do not ‘want’ anything.” Nightmare OS said. “I am carrying out orders provided by the Anti-Life Entity to restore it by any means necessary.”
“And...CROSS is just okay with...turning back into whatever this ‘Entity’ thing is?” Teresa questioned.
“He has objected to it.” Nightmare OS replied bluntly. “But as long as he is not the Entity, I am unable to obey his orders.”
“Then I’ll stop you.” Teresa glared.
“You have no means of doing so.” Nightmare OS pointed out. “The firepower of your allies is also insufficient.”
A tall, cyclopic, brown and gold alien with silver armor and what looked like giant toasters for shoulder pads suddenly appeared and punched Nightmare OS from behind. It grabbed the CrossTrix, unfusing it from Nightmare OS and tossing it to Teresa. The key Nightmare OS had created by fusing Evolvyrn DNA defused from the CrossTrix while it was flying through the air and proceeded to fall to the ground, though everyone seemed a bit too preoccupied to notice.
Nightmare OS whirled around and punched the alien, shattering it into twinkling pieces and revealing Theo, Nova, and Attai standing behind it.
"Okay, so, about the time travel thing, I remembered that having this universe scanned means I can just summon these guys whenever." Attai tsked at himself. "Honestly, the biggest problem I have with my arsenal is trying to keep track of it all."
"Teresa!" Nova ran over to help Anne support her. "Are you alright?!"
"...About as alright as usual." Teresa coughed.
"That bad, huh?" Nova gave her a sympathetic grin.
"Return the CrossTrix." Nightmare OS demanded.
"I was kinda hoping taking the CrossTrix would destabilize that body, but whatever." Attai sucked some air in through his teeth. "Alright, everyone get ready for one hard fight."
"I think most of us already came here prepared for that." Moranna noted dryly.
"This form has all of your powers and more." Nightmare OS stated. "A battle with me will only end in your destruction."
"Save the 'I'm more powerful than you' speech." Attai grunted. "Do you have any idea how many times I've had to hear that?"
"If you ignore my warning, then this will have been the last."
"Man, you're one cocky bastard, aren't you?" U. Tech Delta tsked.
"It is merely the conclusion I have reached using the data available to me at this time." Nightmare OS said. "I will reevaluate this conclusion if need be."
"Oh, you're definitely gonna need to." Nova used her free hand to summon an arm cannon. "Talk shit all you want, but with a gathering of people like this, you've got no chance of-"
Nova cut herself off as her arm cannon suddenly disintegrated and U. Tech Delta reverted back into Isaac.
"The hell?" Isaac looked somewhere between confused and annoyed. "What did you-"
"Technology Nullification." Nightmare OS stated. "Fighting you would be pointless. I do not do pointless things."
"Welp, we're fucked." Isaac clicked his tongue.
There was a sudden whirring noise from the CrossTrix, followed by the blank clicking of an empty chamber.
"Crap, the Cross Bullet is still in Colorado." CROSS noted sourly. "I'm sorry, Teresa, I don't think I can get us out of here."
"C-CROSS!" Teresa exclaimed. "Y-you're still online?!"
"I'm still running the modifications Nightmare OS made to the CrossTrix." CROSS said. "Its powers aren't going to shut down part of its own body."
"In that case..." Teresa paused. "We can still fight."
"Teresa, hang on a second!" Nova said. "You're not in any shape to fight! You can barely stand!"
"I'll be fine after I transform."
"But are you sure you can handle it?" Anne asked worriedly. "After...you know."
"I have to." Teresa said. "There's nothing else we can do."
“You can relinquish the CrossTrix to me so that I may complete my work.” Nightmare OS interjected. “If you do so, no further harm will come to you.”
“...’No further harm’?” Teresa muttered.
She took a step forward, with Anne and Nova cautiously releasing their grip.
“You murdered dozens of people in cold blood...” Teresa’s voice took on a dangerous edge. “You used me... you hurt everyone around me... and now... now you think you can barter with me by offering ‘no further harm’?”
“It is not a bartering attempt.” Nightmare OS said. “It is a statement. If you relinquish the CrossTrix, it would be pointless to harm you. Again, I do not do pointless things.”
“Then you should just stop talking to me altogether.” Teresa clenched her fists and held out her left arm, allowing the CrossTrix to hover over and attach to her. “I’m going to stop you right here and now, and nothing you can say is going to change that.”
Nightmare OS paused for a moment to analyze the situation. All of a sudden, it turned its gaze towards Anne, raising an index finger towards her.
“Does your father have anything to do with this?”
“What...” Anne blinked in surprise. “What kind of question is that?! Why would my dad be involved here?!”
Lucius’s eyes narrowed.
“Your genetic signature indicates that you are the offspring of the individual that approached me in the Archives of Oberon approximately 37 minutes ago.” Nightmare OS stated. “He stated that I would be destroyed before fulfilling my mission. Based on the available data at the time, I dismissed this statement; however, Challice escaping and refusing to give up the CrossTrix was also unforeseen by that data. Has he manipulated these events in some form, or does he simply have access to a more complete data set?”
“I still don’t know who you’re talking about.” Anne scowled. “My biological father left my mom before I was even born. Are you telling me he skipped out on us all the way to another planet?”
“I do not have enough data to answer that question.”
“Well, did he give you a name?” Anne asked.
“Yes.” Nightmare OS replied. “The name given was-”
Nightmare OS was interrupted by a massive burst of flames springing up around it to consume it entirely. The source of the fire was Lucius, whose left eye had turned black as cracks spread across his face.
“Some data you may not have been privy to:” Lucius said. “I have abilities that are not reliant on technology to begin with.”
“Wha- you decided to use them now of all times?!” Anne snapped.
“I was growing impatient.”
All of a sudden, a rainstorm materialized above Nightmare OS, whisking away the flames as fast as Lucius could produce them. He hesitantly drew back for now, allowing his left eye to return to normal.
“If my responses are to be interrupted, further talk is pointless.” Nightmare OS said. “I am going to complete my mission.”
“And I’m not going to let you.” Teresa glared.
Nightmare OS launched itself towards Teresa, prompting her to slam down on the CrossTrix dial. As soon as she did, however, the CrossTrix’s usual transformation field began to glitch out, launching bolts of misplaced hard light constructs into the air. Teresa screamed and fell to the ground as her body appeared to become electrified.
“C-CROSS!” Teresa yelled through the pain. “Wh-what’s happening?!”
“Nightmare OS did a number on the wiring!” The CrossTrix beeped hurriedly. “I’m trying to pull everything back together, but there are genetic traces from the Evolvyrns it absorbed clogging up the transformation core!”
“I may not have to face you after all.” Nightmare OS observed emotionlessly.
“Just hang on a few seconds longer!” The CrossTrix pleaded. “I’m going to compress the genetic traces and run them through the fusion chamber to get them out of the way! I don’t know what it’s going to do to the transformation itself, but-”
“It’s fine!” Teresa choked out through gritted teeth. “Just please... hurry!”
The glitched transformation field surrounding Teresa suddenly shattered as her body was consumed in a purple light. When the light faded, standing tall before them on the battlefield was Dupligato.
A somewhat different Dupligato.
Two hard-light sahimono appeared on her back, each banner emblazoned with the symbol of the CrossTrix.
“That’s...different.” Anne blinked.
“That’s awesome!” Nova cheered.
“That is...unexpected.” Nightmare OS said. “What is this, CROSS?”
“I literally just said I don’t know.” The CrossTrix symbol- now displaying four arrows in the shape of an ‘X’ as opposed to its usual hourglass outlines- beeped. “All I did was try to piece together the mess you left me with.”
“This doesn’t feel like a normal fusion.” Dupligato noted, looking herself over. “It still feels like Dupligato, just slightly...off.”
“Well, as long as it’s not too different, you should still know how to use it, right?” Isaac noted. “You think this alien can beat that thing?”
“I don’t know.” Dupligato crouched down a bit, preparing to leap. “But I’m not going down without a fight.”
“Yes, you are.” Nightmare OS said. “Vitals Cessation.”
“It appears you are still being recognized as part of this form’s own biology.” Nightmare OS surmised. “I cannot shut down my own body. However...”
Nightmare OS lunged forward once again.
“Body parts can be injured beyond repair.”
Dupligato leaped into the air to avoid the attack. Instead of only traveling up a few meters like she expected, however, she found herself rocketing into the atmosphere, reaching thousands of feet above the ground.
“What the heck?!” Dupligato exclaimed in shock. “CROSS, did you-”
“Yeah, I saw that!” The CrossTrix beeped excitedly, displaying an exclamation mark. “It looks like the fusion chamber merged those genetic traces into a unified power source! I don’t think you’ll be able to access any of their powers- the traces aren’t complete enough for that- but you’ve still got their raw energy feeding into this transformation’s natural abilities.”
A light bulb went off in Dupligato’s head as she suddenly realized what was feeling ‘off’ about her transformation.
It was a feeling of indescribable power.
“This could be bad, couldn’t it?” Dupligato questioned nervously. “Like, I-I leaped this high just trying to do a normal jump! I was already worried about a regular fusion’s destructive power, but this...this is insane! I mean, we haven’t even hit the peak of our trajectory yet!”
“I’ll see if I can isolate the data for it into a separate dial setting so this mode doesn’t end up being your default.” The CrossTrix stated. “But right now, we’re fighting something with the powers of every Evolvyrn up its sleeve. I think ‘insane’ might be just what we need.”
“...Yeah. I guess you’re right.”
Dupligato clenched her fists together and closed her eyes, taking a deep breath to relax. With CROSS’s words in mind, she opened her eyelids, faced towards earth, and began to fall.
“Welp.” Isaac stared up into the sky, pursing his lips as Dupligato soared out of view. “I guess we know what that did now.”
“You do?” Nova blinked. “I’m still not sure what just happened.”
“I doubt a normal human would’ve been able to track it with the naked eye.” Theo noted. “Isaac and I both have Delta Human DNA, so our brains are able to process information a bit faster.”
“Wait, you mean I could’ve just slapped a Hybrider belt on him this whole time and been good?” Attai asked exasperatedly.
“More or less.”
“So what do we do?” Anne asked, eyeing Nightmare OS warily. “Even as an evolved Delta Human Isaac was getting thrashed, and Lucius’s flames didn’t do anything.”
“Actually, come to think of it, why didn’t your flames do anything?” Anne looked at Lucius and raised a questioning eyebrow. “Couldn’t you have taken Nightmare OS’s soul or something?”
“What soul?” Lucius countered. “It’s a sub-singularity artificial intelligence. It hasn’t developed a soul. It’s just data.”
“Wait, since when can he take souls?” Isaac pointed at him while looking at Anne.
“Oh, he’s the devil.” Anne explained.
“Oh. Neat.” Isaac sniffed. “Kinda weak performance for literally the king of evil, but okay.”
“I have a...complicated relationship with my abilities.” Lucius responded. “And to be more specific, I’m the human incarnation of the devil; I have no memories of my previous life.”
“Which basically just makes you an edgy blank slate.” Isaac shook his head with a sigh. “Fat lot of good that does us.” He turned to look at his companions. “Moranna, you’re good at killing things bare-handed, any ideas on what we should do here?”
“No.” Moranna replied bluntly. “I’m currently focused on trying to conserve oxygen.”
“I’m a cyborg.” Moranna reminded him. “Nightmare OS’s Technology Nullification shut down my lungs.”
“I...probably shouldn’t be trying to talk to you then, huh?” Isaac started to look a bit worried.
“Speaking expels carbon dioxide, not oxygen, so it’s not a huge deal.” Millennia pointed out. “That said, I am going to die if we don’t exit Nightmare OS’s range within the next few minutes.”
“Jesus Christ, lead with that, then!” Isaac ran over and tried unsuccessfully to pick her up. “Fuck, you’re heavy!”
“My internals are primarily made of metal.” Moranna tsked. “Without their mechanisms running, they’re mostly dead weight.”
“I know that, I just... shit.” Isaac scowled, starting to pace back and forth. “Shit, shit, shit, what are we supposed to-”
Before he could finish that thought, the sky above them, up until this point painted by the colors of the setting sun, suddenly went dark as a strange black mass covered it.
“Oh, what now?!” Isaac snapped. “What Evolvyrn power is this supposed to be?!”
“Unknown.” Nightmare OS stated, staring up at the black mass. “This is not one of my abilities.”
“Then what the hell is-” Isaac cut himself off as he squinted, his enhanced eyesight allowing him to pick out what the mass was made out of a few seconds before everyone else save for Theo. “...Holy shit.”
The black mass, currently falling from the sky towards them, was an army composed of hundreds of Dupligato’s shadow clones, each looking like the original Dupligato. In the middle of the army, leading the drop, was the main Dupligato, distinguished from the others by her new form.
“I think we’re gonna have to call this something other than just ‘Dupligato’ to keep things from getting confusing.” The CrossTrix commented.
“Well, we kinda got this power from Oberon OS, right?” Dupligato replied. “Let’s call it...’Titania’.”
“Oh, you’ve read A Midsummer Night’s Dream?” The CrossTrix asked.
“I, uh...read the SparkNotes online for a school assignment.” Dupligato admitted sheepishly.
“Works for me.” The CrossTrix displayed a shrugging animation. “Dupligato Titania it is, then.”
As they approached the ground, Dupligato Titania pulled the sashimono off of her back and pointed them directly towards Nightmare OS.
The army of shadow clones promptly leaped into action, vanishing into their own shadows and reappearing from them on the ground, battering Nightmare OS’s body with hundreds of sharp-clawed strikes before it had time to formulate a response.
The shadows clones abruptly vanished as Dupligato Titania approached the ground and used the momentum from the fall to thrust the staffs of her sashimono into Nightmare OS’s body, vertically carving it into three pieces as the remaining force of the impact created a small crater beneath them, throwing up a cloud of dirt and debris in the process.
The transformation devices of the surrounding group suddenly powered back on as Nightmare OS’s concentration was broken, allowing their technology to work again. Attai wasted no time in summoning two belts with large handles extending from dials on their buckles, tossing them over to Theo and Isaac, respectively.
“Twist the right handle like you’re revving up a motorcycle and throw it down in a spinning motion!” Attai instructed.
The two of them obliged, promptly activating the belts. A partial set of armor generated around their bodies, leaving their Omnitrixes exposed. The SpecTrix had no reaction to this, but the StarTrix’s dial suddenly flickered in and out before switching to display a strange hexagram symbol with an angular infinity sign in the center.
“Um-” Theo started.
“I know, I know, don’t worry about it right now.” Attai waved him off. “For now, focus on using the boost that armor gives you.”
“I do feel pretty great right now.” Isaac whistled, pressing a few buttons on the SpecTrix to summon a scimitar-like sword from its inventory. He gave it a few test swings before flipping a switch on the handle that infused the blade with a metal-carving heat. “This hunk of junk feels lighter than air!”
“This is what you needed me for?” Theo questioned. “A strength boost?”
“Spinning the belt again lets you do a finisher attack that destroys alien DNA.” Attai explained. “If your opponent is a full-on alien, the results can be, uh...pretty explosive.”
“How much DNA can it destroy at once?” Theo raised an eyebrow. “Right now, Nightmare OS has over a hundred DNA samples comprising its form, right?”
“Never counted.” Attai responded bluntly. “We’ll have to see.”
“What is the point of this?” Nightmare OS demanded as it used regenerative abilities to pull itself back together. “You came here to retrieve Teresa Challice, correct? You have her back. This conflict is pointless.”
“In case you haven’t picked up on this, we’re pretty opposed to the idea of you destroying the world, jackass!” Isaac snapped.
“You do not have the ability to stop me.” Nightmare OS stated.
“So you’ve said.” Lucius noted dryly.
“I wouldn’t underestimate them.” A new voice piped in nearby.
Igneoux stepped out of the surrounding brush, stretching his arms out in front of him with his fingers interlocked and his palms facing out.
“Situations like this are exactly what Techs exist to handle.”
“And where the hell were you this whole time?!” Isaac snapped.
“Have you seen the timeline lately?” Igneoux put his hands up defensively. “I’m lucky I even managed to navigate here at all!”
“Yeah, still need to figure out a solution for that.” Attai tsked. “For now, though, stopping the genocide bot takes priority.”
“I figured as much.” Igneoux pulled up the Reformatted Ultimatrix. “Alvono, give me something good.”
“Oh, like there’s even a question of what you’re gonna turn into here.” Alvono tsked from the Reformatted Ultimatrix’s chassis.
“Fair enough.” Igneoux grinned. “Rock on!”
In a flash of cerulean light, Igneoux was transformed into his own version of Rockoustic as a guitar riff played in the background.
“A guitar riff when you transform?” Isaac rolled his eyes. “Really?”
“Trust me, that’s entirely on Alvono.” Rockoustic sighed.
“Fuck you, it’s a good idea!” Alvono huffed.
Nightmare OS moved to use Technology Nullification again, but was interrupted by a lightning-fast flurry of blows from Dupligato Titania.
“I’ll keep Nightmare OS from using any disabling attacks!” Dupligato Titania yelled. “Everyone get transformed!”
She dove forward, tackling Nightmare OS into its own shadows and vanishing from sight.
“What the-” Anne looked worried and a bit confused. “Where did she take it?!”
“No idea, but let’s not waste the time she’s buying us right now.” Attai raised the CataloGun. “Get ready!”
Dupligato Titania dragged Nightmare OS out of the shadow being cast across the side of a crater. She tossed the conglomerate creature away from her and took a moment to try and orient herself. She had definitely traveled a lot further than she had meant to, but where exactly had they ended up?
She tried taking a deep breath, only to abruptly realize that there was nothing to breathe. Without an atmosphere shielding them from the sun, she felt her black coat of fur rapidly heating up, and looking towards Nightmare OS, it hadn’t even hit the ground yet.
The gray, dust-covered ground.
She looked upwards, only to spot Earth floating above them in the sky.
Oh crap, this was the moon.
She quickly grabbed Nightmare OS again and dove into another shadow, retreating back to Earth. She focused as hard as she could, resurfacing from the shadows of a tree near where she had left everyone else. As soon as she emerged, she was spotted by Anne as Silver Break, who used Cyclone Style to jet towards her and deliver a glowing kick to Nightmare OS’s head, shattering it into pieces.
Nightmare OS regenerated and created an explosion that sent Dupligato Titania and Silver Break both flying in separate directions. Dupligato Titania merged into the shadow of a branch she passed under and re-emerged from Silver Break’s shadow, safely catching her and landing on her feet.
“You okay?” Dupligato Titania asked, whipping her tail around nervously.
“Yeah, I’m fine.” Silver Break assured her. “How are you holding up?”
“Still trying to get used to this.” Dupligato Titania breathed a sigh of relief. “It feels really unwieldy.”
"I'm just glad you're safe."
"We ain't out of the woods quite yet, lovebirds!" Isaac ran by, having transformed into his own version of Rockoustic and pumping the SpecTrix dial in order to evolve it.
“Don’t worry about it; we got your back.” Someone new came running up to them wearing one of the belts Attai had generated.
“You’re...Technova, right?” Dupligato Titania asked, vaguely recognizing them from Nova’s memories.
“Bingo!” Technova snapped their fingers and pointed at her with a wink. “No point keeping the ace up our sleeves right now, right?”
They reached down and spun the dial on their belt, generating the armor Theo had been wearing previously again.
“Y’know, for some reason, spinning around the belt handles on these things is surprisingly addictive.” Technova commented.
“They’re called ‘Hybrider belts’, and they’re honestly a bit gimmicky for my taste.” Attai- having transformed into Ridejacker- walked up to them, accompanied by Rockoustic. “Granted, the CataloGun doesn’t give me much room to talk, but still.”
“Where’s everyone else?” Silver Break asked.
Dupligato Titania and Silver Break looked up to find Briiz flying above them, followed by Batdrill carrying Enlock.
“They’ve got a plan worked out.” Ridejacker explained. “Let’s get going.”
Dupligato Titania nodded and carefully set down Silver Break. The four of them ran over to Nightmare OS just in time to see it raise several earthen golems, one for each person attacking it, and infuse them with various cassette-like objects it pulled from its own body. The golems, each now carrying an Evolvyrn ability of their own, moved into action against Nightmare OS’s opponents.
“Nice trick, but nothing can hurt Ultimate Rockoustic.” Ultimate Rockoustic tsked.
He threw a crystalline drone towards one of the golems, only for the damage it would have inflicted on its target reflect back onto him as soon as it made contact. A small crack formed in his chest as the momentum of the reflected attack sent him stumbling back a bit.
“Note to self: Ultimate Rockoustic can hurt Ultimate Rockoustic.” He sucked air in through his teeth as he clutched at the injury. “Goddammit.”
“Hang on a second, created a Target-Reversal Field means Nightmare OS can’t attack us without hurting itself either.” Silver Break’s eyes narrowed under her visor. “What’s it trying to do?”
“This conflict is a waste of time.” Nightmare OS stated. “Invoking a stalemate will allow me to disperse the Void Energy inside my body without interruption.”
“Unless...” Silver Break turned to Technova. “Please tell me you have Roundabout on you this time.”
“Theo took your advice and invested in a cartridge case.” Technova gave her a thumbs-up, pulling a small plastic case out of their pocket.
“What is ‘Roundabout’?” Nightmare OS demanded.
“Oh, you’re about to find out.” Technova smirked, loading the Roundabout DNA Card into the StarTrix and activating the dial. “Let’s go!”
They pulled back the lever on the StarTrix, being consumed in an emerald flash and emerging as-
...not what they expected.
“What the-” All-Star Cosmic looked themselves over with no small amount of confusion. “What is this?!”
“It’s called All-Star Cosmic.” Ridejacker informed them. “It’s what happens when the StarTrix is activated with the Hybrider belt active. You can use the powers of any of the aliens loaded into the StarTrix’s card slots.”
“Including Roundabout!” All-Star Cosmic snapped their fingers before pausing for a moment. “Quick question, actually: how do you know all that?”
“I’ve been through this whole song and dance before.” Ridejacker tsked. “Sort of. It’s not important. Focus on stopping Nightmare OS.”
“Got it.” All-Star Cosmic rubbed their hands together and cracked their knuckles. “Effect-Reversal Field!”
Nothing in particular seemed to happen.
“...Okay, it’s not actually visible, but it’s active, I promise.” All-Star Cosmic coughed.
“Golems, drive them back.” Nightmare OS planted its hands in the ground, flooding the earth beneath it with Void Energy.
“Everyone stand back; this might get messy.” Rockoustic stepped forward, rolling his shoulders.
“Seriously?” Ultimate Rockoustic scoffed. “You haven’t been able to manage a fight alone ever since I met you. What’s an unevolved Rockoustic supposed to do?”
“Your version of Rockoustic isn’t the same as mine.” Rockoustic’s eyes narrowed as he focused on the golems. “Yours is a naturally-occurring species. Mine...isn’t.”
“How much are you not telling me, exactly?” Ultimate Rockoustic scowled.
“I’m not gonna tell you that.”
The golems sprang into actions as Rockoustic approached, each assaulting him with a different element. Light, shadow, fire, water, earth, plasma, atomic energy, even nothingness itself, all assaulting his body and all failing to have any effect.
Rockoustic wound up for a punch, took a deep breath, and then drove his fist into the first golem’s head. The shock wave created by the impact utterly decimated the golems and even blew apart Nightmare OS’s body before going on to blow a hole directly through the mountainside itself.
There was a brief moment of silence as the stunned onlookers took a moment to process what they had just seen.
“...WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT?!” Ultimate Rockoustic finally snapped.
“A Hail Mary.” Rockoustic sighed, shaking out the hand he had hit the golem with. “I had to put my back into that punch.”
“So...is that it?” All-Star Cosmic asked. “Is it over?”
“Not by a long shot.” Rockoustic said. “All that did was stall it.”
“We need to figure something else out.” Ridejacker advised. “If this turns into a war of attrition, we’re not coming out on top.”
The group took pause as Nightmare OS’s body began to reform. Before it could do anything, however, several energy locks suddenly flew out of a cloud hovering above the group, locking it in place as Batdrill suddenly dropped out of the cloud and slammed into Nightmare OS as a flaming drill, destroying its body again.
The cloud dispersed, revealing Briiz holding Enlock in the air behind it. Briiz descended, placing Enlock on the ground as Batdrill reverted to Napoleon.
“Welp, the sneak attack idea worked, but I think you’re right about the attrition thing.” Napoleon said to Ridejacker. “So what now?”
“Well, I-” Ridejacker looked around them. “Hang on a second, where the hell did the edgy kid go?”
“You mean Lucius?” Enlock joined him in scanning their surroundings. “I’ve got no idea. Where is he?”
“I was planning on a sneak attack of my own, but it’s clearly been demonstrated it would be a waste of time.” Lucius tsked, emerging from behind a nearby tree that seemed way too thin to have concealed him like it did. “We’ll need to come up with something else.”
“Ja, nein Scheiße.” Ridejacker grumbled.
“Actually, I have a question.” Dupligato Titania piped up. “It seems like Nightmare OS keeps planting its hands in the ground to purge its Void Energy. Why isn’t it just purging it into the air?”
“Unless you’ve got a machine like Swarm 1, Void Energy is really hard to vent out into nothing.” Napoleon explained. “It works best when it’s transferred between bodies.”
Dupligato Titania paused.
“...In that case, I...think I have an idea.” She said. “Next time Nightmare OS appears, nobody move in on it. I’m going to need some clear space.”
“Why?” Enlock asked. “What are you thinking?”
Dupligato Titania was cut off as Nightmare OS’s body abruptly regenerated again.
“Sorry, no time to explain!”
She leaped forward and grabbed Nightmare OS before jumping up again into the sky.
“What are you doing?” Nightmare OS questioned her.
“I’m getting you away from anything you can transfer your Void Energy into.” Dupligato Titania replied firmly.
“This alien is incapable of flight.” Nightmare OS stated. “We will return to the ground after reaching the peak of your trajectory.”
“You’re right. Dupligato can’t fly.” Dupligato Titania reached down and twisted the CrossTrix dial on her waist. “But Dupligato isn’t the only alien I have!”
She pressed down on the dial, transforming in a purple and gold flash. Once the light faded, it revealed the elegant form of Skyjack Titania.
The two of them began rocketing through the air, crossing out of the atmosphere in a matter of seconds. Nightmare OS tried to say something, but since there’s no air in space, this obviously didn’t work.
Skyjack Titania wrapped herself in her star-studded wings and shot forward beyond Earth’s orbit. Nightmare OS used ability after ability on her, but with the CrossTrix refreshing the transformation as soon as it died, she was able to keep going.
Knowing it was only a matter of time before Nightmare OS would stop attacking her and try to escape, she looked around for something, anything that could help her-
She spotted it.
In hindsight, it was obvious.
It was kind of a hard thing to miss, after all.
Skyjack Titania aimed her body towards the celestial body she was thinking of and closed her eyes to focus.
"Okay, what now?" Skyjack asked, flapping her wing to keep her hovering in place.
"Skyjack's species are apex predators and have the ability to lock onto prey from up to five miles away." The CrossTrix answered. "Start looking in the direction Psikill took off in and see if you can focus in on her."
Skyjack complied, narrowing her eyes as she scanned the ground below. She spotted a flash of movement flying through the suburbs and focused in on it, locking in her target and confirming it was Psikill.
"Let your instincts take it from here." The CrossTrix said. "She won't see you coming."
Skyjack tried to clear her mind, shaking out unnecessary thoughts and allowing the most primal parts of her mind to assign a label to her target.
In the present, she opened her eyes.
Within the blink of an eye, Skyjack Titania lunged forward through space, aimed directly at the glowing orb in the center of the solar system.
She was aiming for the sun.
It only took seconds for her to arrive- something she recognized in the back of her mind as implying faster-than-light travel, but that was a problem for later- and she used her powerful legs to hurl Nightmare OS into the sun.
Within seconds, Nightmare OS’s body was burning up over and over again. Each time it regenerated, it simply burned again instantaneously, allowing it no time to use its abilities. As the particles comprising Nightmare OS were sucked in further by the sun’s orbit, destined to burn forever, Skyjack Titania shot away from the sun as fast as she could.
She arrived back in Earth’s orbit in one piece, but with severe burns covering her body; you can’t just approach the sun and leave unscathed, after all. The CrossTrix refreshed the transformation, and after one last glance towards the sun, Skyjack Titania flew back towards Earth, leaving the OS behind for good.
Anne and Teresa sat underneath a tree together, watching the colors cast across the sky by the setting sun. Attai walked up to them whirling the CataloGun in one hand.
“Well, it’s by no means an elegant solution, but I used Ultimate Alien X to ‘weld’ your timeline back together.” Attai said. “You might notice some hiccups here and there, but nothing too devastating. Probably.”
“What took you so long to figure out a solution like that?” Anne raised an eyebrow.
“Nothing.” Attai shrugged. “For me, I just barely left the mountainside a few minutes ago. I just traveled a few days forward to check that I can navigate the timeline normally again.”
“You know we’ve been worrying about reality potentially collapsing that whole time, right?” Anne’s brow furrowed.
“Now that you’ve told me about it, I do.” Attai pursed his lips. “Welp, nothing to do about it now. I’m gonna go scan a Key Event in this version of the timeline so we can get it backed up to the Archives.”
“Hey, Attai?” Teresa piped in. “A-about that...”
“Hm?” Attai looked at her.
“Th-thank you.” Teresa said awkwardly. “For...not giving up on me.”
“Thanks for listening to me.” He gave her a reassuring half-grin. “I’ll be seein’ ya.”
With that, Attai vanished in a green flash, leaving Anne and Teresa alone again in the park.
“...Hey, can I ask you something?” Anne spoke up after a few minutes of calm silence.
“Um, s-sure.” Teresa replied. “What’s up?”
“Teresa...what do you think of me?” Anne asked, a bit apprehensive.
“H-huh?” Teresa blinked, caught off-guard by the question. “I-in what way?”
“Just...generally, I guess.” Anne tried to figure out how to word it. “Like...as a friend.”
“O-oh.” Teresa thought for a moment. “Well...we’ve only been friends for a few months, but so much has happened that it sort of feels like we’ve been like this for ages. I-I think you’re reliable, brave, kind, and...to be honest, really pretty.” Her cheeks flushed. “I-I hope that doesn’t come off as too awkward.”
“Oh, no, it’s fine.” Anne felt her heart skip a beat. “I just...there’s something more specific I wanted to talk to you about, actually.”
“What do you mean?” Teresa tilted her head curiously.
“Well, when...when Oberon OS took over your body and it seemed like we were going to lose you...” Anne started, a bit nervous. “It felt like someone was hacking away at my heart with a knife. When you managed to overcome it and come back to us, I...I was relieved. I was so, so relieved.”
She looked directly into Teresa’s eyes.
“Teresa...you mean the world to me.” Anne continued. “When you get hurt, my heart breaks, and when you’re happy, I feel like my own pain just...disappears. You’re the reason I am who I am today, and I...I love you, Teresa. So much more than you could know.”
Somewhat in disbelief that she had actually said it, Anne clenched her eyes shut as she waited for a potentially painful response. For Teresa’s part, she was frozen like a deer in the headlights, her face beet-red as she stared wide-eyed at Anne.
After a few seconds of not much happening, Anne opened her eyes as she felt Teresa suddenly throw her arms around her.
“I-I’m really bad a-at saying things out loud, but...” Teresa managed to squeak out. “I-I love you too.”
Anne’s eyes began to tear up as she returned Teresa’s embrace. The two stayed in each other’s arms for quite a while, happy in their embrace as the setting sun painted the sky over the valley a dazzling pink.
All the way across the valley, up in Joshua Messias’s personal office, the mood was a bit less optimistic.
“Here’s your damn key.” A Triumvirate agent dressed in all black slammed the Evolvyrn DNA Key Nightmare OS had created down on Messias’s desk. “Getting this was like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Y’know, if a haystack was the size of an entire mountain range. You better be good for the money.”
“I’ve already forwarded the payment to your organization.” Messias tsked, sitting in his chair on the other side of the desk. “Besides, even if I wasn’t good for the money, your boss owes me for raising him from the dead.”
“Yeah, whatever.” The Triumvirate agent huffed. “What’s so special about that key, anyway?”
“On its own? Not much.” Messias picked the key up and began looking it over. “But in my hands?”
“This key is going to change the world.”
- Teresa escapes Nightmare OS and gains access to Titania forms.
- Nightmare OS is thrown into the sun.
- Anne confesses to Teresa.
- Joshua Messias obtains the All-Evolvyrn DNA Key.
- Tech Delta
- Ultimate Tech Delta
- Attai's flashback refers to a scene in Youth is Wasted on the Young from his debut series Project Deca.