|WARNING: PROFANITY FOLLOWS|
|The following content contains profanity that may not be suitable for readers of all ages. Please proceed with caution.|
|Season 2, Episode 1|
|Air date||September 2nd, 2015|
The Measure Of A Man: Part 2
A small stealth cruiser sat on a silent asteroid.
“Are you sure it works?”
The ship’s pilot, known to the few that knew of her at all as Moranna Ceres, stared at the EN radio attentively, awaiting a response.
“I find your lack of faith...disturbing.”
“...That was a Star Wars reference.”
“I don’t know what that is.”
“Geez, you really need to spend more time on Earth. Speaking of which...”
There was a ruffling of papers on the other end of the line, prompting a suspicious look from Moranna.
“...Okay, here it is. According to both my data and your own admittance, you have an entire organization of powerful assassins after you, and it doesn’t look like they’d take too kindly to anyone simply working with you, either.”
“What’s your point?”
“My point is, I’m not meeting you anywhere unless you have some sort of backup to make sure neither of us dies if we get attacked.”
“And where exactly do you expect me to get backup that wouldn’t get killed in that scenario?”
There was a chuckling from the other end of the line.
“Well, I don’t know if he could entirely avoid getting himself killed.” The voice explained. “Thing is, it’s kinda hard to keep this guy dead.”
“-and that’s why blocks of cheese carved as llamas cannot be carried within three-hundred and fifty seven meters of Galvan B.” Alvono finished explaining.
Tech, Alvono, and Aquadilus were all sitting in the back room of the gift shop, waiting for customers to come in.
“Man, and you say humans have a colorful history.” Tech replied.
“Hey, you’re the ones who started the Great Emu War. And then lost.”
Before they could continue their conversation, the bell on the front door rang, indicating someone’s entrance.
“Hey Aquadilus, could you get that?” Tech asked.
“That’s all I really seem to do around here.” Aquadilus grumbled.
He got up and walked out of the back room, taking his place behind the front desk. The person who had entered stepped up to the front desk, revealing herself to be Moranna, who had switched to a normal civilian outfit.
“Welcome to the EarthCo gift shop and tourist center, how can I help-” Aquadilus began his normal, bored speech, but paused when he realized who he was talking to. “Hold on a second, aren’t you that assassin that was hired to kill Tech that one time?”
“Uh...” Moranna shifted her eyes awkwardly. “Yeeeess...”
There was an awkward silence.
“Screw it, I ain’t paid enough to care. What do you want?”
“I actually need to speak with Tech, if you would.”
“Whatever. Hey, Tech!” He yelled to the back room. “This one’s on you!”
There was a momentary grumbling from the back room, followed by Tech walking out into the main shop.
“Okay, what is it this ti-”
Tech stopped mid-sentence upon catching sight of Moranna, grabbing a snowglobe off of a nearby shelf and holding it in front of him in a battle stance.
“I’ll have you know I’m trained in the art of the snowglobe, and have three-hundred and fifty of these babies on back order!” He snapped.
After a couple seconds, he lowered the snowglobe in confusion.
“Come to think of it, why the hell do I have three-hundred and fifty snowglobes on back order?” He wondered aloud. “Aquadilus, if I ever try to order three-hundred and fifty snowglobes at once again, slap me.”
“My pleasure.” Aquadilus replied.
“Calm down, I’m not here to fight you.” Moranna interjected. “That was one time, and strictly business. Nothing personal.”
“Well, why are you here, then?” Tech asked, slowly putting away the snowglobe.
“Because...” Moranna sighed. “I need your help.”
“My help.” Tech repeated. “You need. My help.”
“Yeah, that’s what I just said.”
“Last time we met, you shoved a sword through my chest, and now you’re saying you need my help?”
There were a few moments of awkward silence.
“Yeah, that’s going to have to be a ‘no’.” Tech said. “I’ve got things to deal with other than helping out people that tried to kill me.”
“Look, if you need money, I have quite a bit.”
“I quite literally run the most popular intergalactic gift shop on Earth. I’m not exactly strapped for cash.”
“Yeah, I can really see that from all the people here.” Moranna snarked.
“Most of my orders come from the extranet. Besides, even if I did need money, I’ve kinda got an approaching doom that could strike at any time to deal with.”
“What are you talking about?”
Tech glanced over at Aquadilus, who just shrugged in response, then looked back over to Moranna and sighed.
“Well, I guess you’re gonna die too if it makes it here, so I should probably explain.” Tech said. “Cliffnote version: there’s an extra-dimensional being called the Anti-Life Entity that goes around wiping out life in advanced timelines. We’re getting pretty close to the point where it’s gonna notice us pretty darn quick, so I need to figure out some way to stop it without getting anyone killed.”
“Wait, wait, wait, let me get this straight.” Moranna said, pinching the bridge of her nose. “There’s some sort of universe-destroying thing wandering around out there...and you want to try and stop it...on your own?”
“That pretty much sums it up, yeah.”
Moranna stared at him incredulously.
“Are you serious?”
“Well, what else do you want me to do? I already told the Plumbers, but it’s not like they can stop it!”
“...Maybe I could help you.”
“You heard me. If you help me out, maybe I can help you try and stop this...whatever it is.”
Tech glanced over at Aquadilus.
“What do you think?”
“I think you need someone helping you out in the field that’s actually useful.” Aquadilus replied. “I don’t think just Alvono’s gonna cut it.”
Tech turned back to Moranna, putting his hand up to his chin in thought. After a few moments, he put his hand out in front of him.
“Okay, fine. I’ll help you out, as long as I you actually keep your end of the deal.”
“I’m a professional, Tech.” Moranna replied, shaking his outstretched hand. “I stick to my contracts.”
“So, what first?”
“First thing we do is get off Earth.” Moranna folded her arms. “You ever heard of the planet Selus?”
There was a bright green flash as Tech and Moranna teleported onto the crime planet Selus, emerging in a dark alleyway paved with strange, misshapen stones. Tech stumbled forward a bit before regaining his balance, whereas Moranna seemed unaffected by the teleport.
“You get teleportation sickness?” She asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Yeah.” Tech replied, shaking his head. “It’s getting better with time, but it’s still a pain.”
Moranna reached into her pocket, pulling out a small, translucent blue screen with a map on it.
“According to this, the scheduled meeting site is about five hundred meters that way,” She pointed northwards. “in an out of the way square that’s only accessible through a series of alleyways.”
“Let’s just hope this ends better than the last time I went to a weird clearing only accessible by alleyways.” Tech grumbled.
“What are you talking about?”
“Nothing important. I hope.”
Moranna rolled her eyes and began walking down the alley.
“Come on. We’re wasting time just standing here.”
“Well, excuuuuuuse me, princess!”
“It’s a reference.”
“I will never understand Earth culture”
“That might be a good thing.”
The unlikely pair stepped out of the final alleyway, emerging into a small clearing. There was a plethora of graffiti on the surrounding walls, and an odd circular pattern was carved into the stone ground.
“You sure this is where we’re supposed to be?” Tech asked.
“Positive.” Moranna replied, checking the map again. “The person I’m meeting should be here in a few minutes.”
There were a few moments of silence, only interrupted by the faint sounds of a shootout in the distance.
“Yeah, I can really see why you needed me for this.” Tech yawned.
“We still have things to deal with after this meeting.” Moranna checked to make sure her pistol was loaded. “There’s a lot that could go wrong.”
“Yeah, speaking of which, could you be more specific about that? I still don’t know what we’re-”
“Quiet. Someone’s coming.”
Tech quickly heard the tapping sound coming from an alleyway on the far side of the clearing. Moranna holstered her pistol, keeping a firm grip on it. Tech pulled up the SpecTrix, hovering his right hand above the dial. After a few moments, a short figure stepped out of the dark alleyway, revealing himself to be none other than Xr. Nullamor, carrying a cartoonishly large backpack.
“You have got to be kidding me.” Tech groaned.
“Hello once again, aggressively pale Earth child!” Xr. Nullamor joked. “I see Moranna was able to convince you to help!”
“If I had known you would be here, I probably would’ve declined.”
“I take it you two know each other?” Moranna asked.
“Sort of.” Xr. Nullamor explained. “I sort of tried to indirectly kill him that one time, so he’s not particularly fond of me.”
“Don’t forget that one time you created an army of killer Death Hounds for Dethrouge.” Tech said.
“Hey, that one I admitted was probably a bad decision on my part.”
“If you two could stop arguing, maybe we should get this transaction completed before we get mugged.” Moranna interjected. “Do you have the device?”
Xr. Nullamor pulled off his backpack and started rooting through it.
“Well, yes and no.” He said.
“It’s a funny story, actually. See, I was going to make the DNA tracker you asked for, but I was feeling kinda lazy, so I basically just took one of my old projects and made it work like a DNA tracker, but with all the features of the original design.”
“What kind of project would that be?”
“The kind I would be lucky if Azmuth didn’t take legal action against me for.” Xr. Nullamor finally pulled two small objects out of the backpack. “Presenting to you: the Aemulum Omnimatrix, or the AemuTrix for short! Now with one hundred percent more pointless Latin!”
Nullamor handed the objects, a thick bracelet and a hexagonal symbol, over to Moranna, who began looking them over.
“You just...went and built a transformation matrix?” She asked suspiciously. “How?”
“Azmuth commissioned me for help when he was designing the DNA combination function on the SpecTrix.” Xr. Nullamor explained. “I may or may not have illegally copied some design files while I was there.”
“And you’re sure it works?”
“Just what do you take me for? I thoroughly tested it! It might not have half the features Azmuth managed to slap onto the SpecTrix, but it does work perfectly fine as both a transformation matrix and a DNA tracker.”
There were a few moments of silence as Moranna finished looking it over.
“...I’m not paying you extra for this.” She said.
“I suppose that’s fair.” Nullamor shrugged.
“So, how does it work?”
“Well, first you need to put the symbol on where it won’t get damaged, since it holds the core. It’ll attach automatically, but it can be removed at any time. To use it, just press the red button on the bracelet component to pull up a holoscreen. I’d like to think it’s pretty easy to figure out from there. If you need any extra information, I’ve included a user’s manual that can be accessed by pressing the magenta button.”
“Man, I wish I had a user’s manual.” Tech said, looking at the SpecTrix.
“What about the purple button?” Moranna asked.
“That’s the Quick Transform button. Turns you into the last form you accessed right away. Pretty straightforward.”
“That should be about it.” Nullamor said, closing up and putting on his backpack. “The four-thousand Taydens you owed me have already been forwarded to my account.”
“How the hell did you get access to my bank account?!” Moranna demanded.
“Oh, don’t get so huffy about it.” Nullamor waved her off. “I have access to everyone’s bank accounts. Long story there, involved several run-ins with the Plumbers, but it all worked out fine. Well, for me, at any rate.”
He began walking out of the clearing the same way he had entered.
“Oh, one more thing!” He called back. “Let me know if something interesting happens with having two transformation matrixes in the same area! If it doesn’t blow up in your faces, that is!”
Moranna and Tech simply looked on in slight bewilderment as Xr. Nullamor left the area.
“You know, I’m starting to see why you don’t like that guy very much.” Moranna said.
Tech and Moranna had begun walking back down the alleyway they had come from.
“So where are you gonna put that thing, anyways?” Tech asked. “It’s pretty much going to be one big glowing target wherever you stick it.”
Moranna thought for a moment, then reached over and attached the symbol to the side of her left hip.
“...Okay, you’re gonna have to explain that one to me.”
“The hip is generally one of the hardest points on your opponent to damage.” Moranna explained, slipping the bracelet component onto her left arm. “Only an idiot would try to attack it over a more vulnerable body part.”
The two walked in silence for a few moments.
“Where are we going, anyway?” Tech asked.
“There’s one more thing we need to do on this planet before leaving.” Moranna replied, pulling out her map. “You up for a fight?”
“On an alien planet that I know pretty much nothing about, fighting enemies I know pretty much nothing about?” Tech sighed. “Sounds like my average Friday.”
The two eventually arrived in front of what appeared to be an abandoned apartment complex covered in graffiti and gang signs. A few streetlights illuminated the area, casting the ground in an eerie glow.
“What are we doing here?” Tech asked. “This place looks abandoned.”
“It is.” Moranna replied, walking towards the building. “Above ground, that is.”
“Care to expand on that?”
“The assassin’s guild I was a part of has one of their main complexes hidden under here. We take it out, it’ll keep a good chunk of them off our tails.”
“And just how do you plan on taking out an entire complex full of assassins?”
“Simple. You have some sort of alien that can control earth or stone, I’m assuming.”
“One for each, actually.”
“Right.” Moranna pointed towards the ground. “Bury them.”
“You heard me.”
“Sorry, but I really don’t think I did.” Tech’s voice took on a slight edge. “Because it sounded like you just asked me to murder an entire building’s worth of people in cold blood.”
“If you don’t kill them, they’re most likely going to try and kill you.”
“By that logic, I should run you through on the spot.” Tech pointed out. “Difference is, you already tried to kill me, so really, you’re technically more at fault here than they are.”
“Damn it, Tech, listen to reason!” Moranna snapped. “These are highly-trained, emotionally dead assassins we’re talking about. If they knew we were here, we might already be dead!”
“Pardon my French, but kiss my ass!” Tech snapped back. “I already had one bullcrap morality conversation with Dethrouge about stuff like this, and I’ll tell you the same sort of thing I told him: I am not giving up my ideals to get the upper hand! That’s just low!”
“Yeah, I’m sure your honor is going to matter a whole lot to you when you’re dead!”
“Actually, it will, because if I die, I’ll be back in a few minutes, and I have to deal with the consequences of my actions after the fact!”
“Gee, must be a real hard life for you, being immortal!”
“What the hell do you know about my life?! You tried to end my life! Why would I take advice from a psychopathic, heartless, and, in your own words, emotionally dead jerk like you that doesn’t even know anything about her own damn home planet or species?!”
Tech ended his rant, breathing heavily from how much he had been yelling. He mentally prepared another spiel, expecting Moranna to go off on him about her own ideas on the situation. Instead, she simply froze and stared at Tech with something of an unreadable expression. He could instantly tell he had hit a nerve.
There were a few moments of awkward silence, the two firmly glaring at each other. After a few more moments of this, the silence was broken by a faint, underground alarm, and the sound of dozens of heavy footsteps making their way above ground.
“Damn it, they heard us!” Moranna exclaimed, snapping her gaze away from Tech. “I guess we’re doing this the old-fashioned way, then.”
“Just the way I like it!” Tech started twisting the SpecTrix dial. “I haven’t had a challenging fight since Dethrouge!”
“Seriously, who the hell is Dethrouge?!”
A wave of troops came pouring out of the abandoned building, leaping out of doorways, windows, balconies, and the occasional broken wall. Tech and Moranna stood next to each other, directly facing the mob of assassins in front of them. After a few moments, the mob parted in the middle, letting through a tall, slender alien wearing an armored black jumpsuit.
“Well, if it isn’t little miss rebel herself.” The slender alien hissed mockingly. “And I see you brought a friend along. I take it you still haven’t figured out how useless humans are without implants like yours?”
“Overpompous moron says ‘what’.” Tech mumbled under his breath.
Tech laughed and pressed a button on the SpecTrix’s touchscreen, popping up the dial.
“Let’s just say that out of all the humans out there, I’m probably the one that the term ‘useless’ fits the least.” He said, slamming down on the dial.
There was a bright green flash, which faded almost instantaneously to reveal Tech as Electrolite.
“...Seriously?” Moranna asked. “I rendered that form pretty much useless singlehandedly!”
“Yeah, you took care of Electrolite.” Tech pointed out. “But you didn’t take care of...”
Tech pulled out and slammed down on the SpecTrix dial. A blue electric storm shot from the symbol, forcing those in the vicinity to shield their eyes. Tech's body twisted and grew inside the storm, which had started forming metallic armor. After a few seconds, the storm dissipated, leaving the armor pieces floating in midair for a second before slamming into and latching onto Tech's body, which was now a bulky teal form.
“Kill them!” The slender alien snapped.
The mob of assassins shot towards Tech and Moranna, wielding a ridiculous assortment of sharp objects.
“Yeah, how about no.” Tech said.
Tech created a massive burst of electricity, sending lightning bolts flying towards each member of the approaching mob. Right before hitting their targets, the bolts suddenly twisted downwards, harmlessly striking an unseen object in each assassin’s belt.
“Just like I thought!”
Tech stretched out his arms, then quickly slammed his hands together. The electricity-redirection stones in the assassins’ belts snapped towards each other, dragging their hapless wielders along with them. The mob collided mid-air with a hard crunch, then dropped to the ground in one large pile, magnetized together.
“...Hold on a second, why couldn’t you just do something like that when you were fighting me?” Moranna asked.
“Conservation of ninjutsu.”
“Are you serious?!” The slender alien exclaimed in frustration. “How does an entire army of highly-trained assassins lose before the fight’s even begun?!”
“Well, maybe sending out a group of people trained in solo combat versus an alien that specializes in crowd control wasn’t the best idea.” Tech shrugged. “Or maybe it was just the universe being convenient, I don’t know.”
“If that’s the case, then let’s see how well you fare against-”
The slender alien was interrupted by a shot to the head, dropping to the ground. Tech turned to see Moranna reloading her pistol.
“Damn it, Moranna!”
“What?” She holstered her gun. “You didn’t kill anyone.”
“That’s not the point!”
Tech detransformed, pinching the bridge of his nose in frustration.
“Look, can you at least try not to kill anyone from now on?”
“I make no promises.”
“So, what now?”
“Now, we move on to the point of this whole mess.”
Moranna held up her left arm, pressing the red button on her bracelet. A small magenta holoscreen popped up, displaying several large buttons with white text written on them. She pressed the button with ‘Tracker’ written on it, bringing up an input screen. After a few moments of pressing buttons, the screen displayed a confirmation animation, then switched to a graph-style coordinates map, with a small square on the bottom left displaying a GPS-style map of the area.
“That’s...odd.” She mumbled.
“What’s ‘odd’?” Tech asked.
“According to this map,” Moranna turned to Tech. “we’re heading back to Earth.”
“...I feel like I should probably be more surprised than I actually am right now.”
Tech and Moranna emerged onto a grassy hill in the middle of nowhere in a green flash. A cold wind blew through the area, the sky being obscured by a thick layer of gray clouds. As Tech tried to regain his balance, Moranna checked the tracker again.
“According to this, we need to start heading that way.” Moranna said, pointing to the east horizon.
“Why couldn’t we have just teleported directly to wherever we’re headed?” Tech asked.
“The DNA signatures we’re looking for seem to have deteriorated over the years.” Moranna explained, shutting off the holoscreen. “We need to get in closer before we can get a pinpoint location.”
“Well, that’s just great.” Tech grumbled.
Moranna started walking off, Tech following close behind. After a few minutes of traveling in silence, Tech decided to speak up.
“If you don’t mind me asking, what are we even looking for?” He asked.
“It’s...complicated.” Moranna replied. “For a bit of context, I was raised by that assassin’s guild as long as I can remember. It’s all I’ve really known.”
“So why’d you quit, then?”
“I was getting to that. Thing is, I was a human. In an alien assassin’s guild. I realized that there wasn’t exactly much of an explanation for me being there in the first place. Whenever I asked about it, the question was just straight-up ignored. Eventually, I became too fed up with the whole situation and quit. Never looked back.”
“...So, the people we’re looking for...” Tech began putting the pieces together in his head. “We’re looking for your parents, aren’t we?”
“Right. If we can find them, I’ll hopefully be able to find some answers.”
Tech simply nodded in response. The two continued walking in silence, with Moranna checking the holoscreen map at regular intervals to make sure they were headed in the right direction. After a while, a low rumbling could suddenly be heard in the distance.
“Oh boy, here we go.” Tech said, reaching for the SpecTrix. “Get ready for a fight.”
“You know what that is?” Moranna asked.
“No, but we’re better off safe than sorry.”
The rumbling slowly got closer and closer, increasing in intensity until it became an overwhelming roar that shook the ground itself.
“Shouldn’t we be seeing something by now?!” Tech yelled over the noise.
“Hell if I know!” Moranna yelled back. “It might be-”
She was interrupted by the earth in front of them exploding open, sending them both flying backwards. A large drilling machine exited the ground, followed shortly by a large, six-armed alien wearing an assassin’s guild uniform.
“Hah! The guild master said you’d be coming this way!” The alien gloated. “Not sure why, but I ain’t about to start questioning my superiors!”
“See, crap like this is why I actually like living in America.” Tech said, getting to his feet. “Questioning our superiors is practically the national sport at this point.”
“I would recommend leaving, if you know what’s good for you.” Moranna said, quickly standing up. “We’ve already singlehandedly dispatched the outpost on Selus.”
“What, those low-ranked idiots?” The six-armed assassin laughed. “They’d get taken out by fighting a wet paper bag!”
“Well then, let’s see how much better you are!” Tech slammed down on the SpecTrix dial.
With a green flash, Tech transformed into Destramonium and rushed the assassin, who dodged to the side and punched him in the back with three of her arms. Tech quickly recovered from the blow and whipped around, throwing rapid punches in an attack rush, which the assassin swiftly countered with her own attack rush. Though Tech initially had the upper hand, the assassin was quickly able to start landing hits, thanks to her extra two arms. After a particularly hard punch hit his gut, Tech had the wind knocked out of him momentarily, giving his opponent ample time to grab him by the throat and slam him headfirst into the ground.
“This is almost too easy!” She proclaimed, raising three of her arms for another volley of attacks.
Before she could start throwing punches, however, a purple flash sounded behind her, followed by a blast of flame to her back. Whipping around with a grunt of pain, she barely had time to see what had attacked her before being knocked upside the head by a whip made of fire that dissipated upon impact.
Tech pulled himself off the ground, coughing and rubbing his throat. He looked up, catching sight of a red and black, snake-like alien with the occasional yellow marking. She wore a gold usekh with the hexagonal AemuTrix symbol on it.
“...That is a weird alien.” Tech remarked.
“Look who’s talking.” Moranna replied. “Your top arms are twice as big as your bottom arms!”
The assassin, who had landed a few meters away from the two, got to her feet, prepping another attack. Moranna took notice of this, conjuring another fire whip and wrapping it around the assassin’s legs, tripping her up.
“You couldn’t have just done that in the first place?” Tech asked.
“It’s not like I’m used to this thing.” Moranna gestured to the AemuTrix. “Still have no idea what I’m doing.”
“That sums up like one hundred percent of my life, man. Get over yourself.”
“Hey, I’m still here, you know!” The assassin snapped from the ground.
Tech transformed into Golurth and stomped on the ground, raising up a tightly packed mound of earth over the assassin’s body, leaving her head uncovered.
“I’m no professional mathematician, but by my calculations, it should take even you a few hours to bust out of that.” He said, detransforming. “We’ll just be on our way now.”
Moranna detransformed, and the two began walking off.
“Don’t think you’ve won!” The assassin called after them. “I was only the first of many!”
“Sounds good to me.” Tech remarked, cracking his knuckles. “Taking out cannon fodder is always pretty cathartic.”
After about half an hour of walking, Tech and Moranna made it to the top of a large hill, catching sight of a small town in the distance. Moranna checked the tracker again.
“That’s where we’re headed.” She said. “We’re almost there.”
“Sweet.” Tech replied. “We can just run in there, check everything out, and-”
Tech was interrupted by a loud explosion that sounded from the town ahead, followed by a volley of gunfire.
“...Or we could sneak in.” Tech said. “Sneaking in is always good.”
“What’s going on down there?” Moranna wondered aloud. “Does stuff like this usually happen on Earth?”
“Not unless you bring up politics.”
“I get the feeling that’s not what’s going on.”
Moranna exited the tracker and entered the transformation screen, swiping through a row of aliens before finally selecting one and swiping down to confirm the transformation. A purple flash enveloped her, fading to reveal a gray, ghost-like alien with a wispy appearance.
“Never seen that one before.” Tech commented. “Let’s see what I’ve got.”
Tech twisted the SpecTrix dial, selecting a transformation, then pressed down on it, transforming into Umbra.
“Yeah, this should work.”
“Come on, let’s get going.” Moranna said, floating away towards the town.
“Yeesh, someone’s bossy.”
The two of them swiftly made their way to the outer suburbs of the town, turning invisible to avoid detection. As they walked through the streets, it quickly became clear that this was a ghost town, with only the occasional rat and the sound of gunfire in the distance to provide any signs of life.
“This is just creepy.” Tech remarked quietly. “What happened here?”
“No idea.” Moranna replied. “Everything looks intact.”
A fog began to engulf the area, becoming thicker and thicker the closer they got to the center. Eventually, it got to the point where Tech had to use his shadow energy to highlight the area around them, giving it an ominous appearance.
“I can’t say I remember seeing any fog from up on that hill.” Tech said.
“Same here.” Moranna replied. “I don’t know if it’s really fog, though.”
“What makes you say that?”
“This species is supposed to have weather abilities, but I can’t dissipate whatever this stuff is.”
“Well, what do you think it is, then?”
“I don’t-” Moranna began to say, but cut herself off, staring into the distance. “Hold on, I think something’s coming.”
Tech paused, looking for whatever Moranna was talking about. After a few moments, laser shots suddenly burst from the fog. Tech swiftly conjured a shield of shadow energy, blocking the shots, then grabbed the side of the shield and flung it in the direction the blasts had come from. Seconds later, there was a considerable ‘CLUNK’, followed by the sound of someone dropping to the ground. Tech ran forwards to see who had been shooting at them, coming across the unconscious form of a Detrovite in Obsidian Death strike force armor.
“The Obsidian Death?” Tech questioned. “What are they doing here?”
“No idea.” Moranna said, floating up next to him. “But if both they and the assassin’s guild want this town for whatever reason, it’s probably safe to say that’s where the shooting is coming from.”
“Great, now we have two packs of idiots to deal with.” Tech groaned.
“Didn’t you just say that you like taking out cannon fodder?”
“Yeah, when it’s one group of them. Any more factions get involved, it just gets to be a pain.”
“Well then, let’s just go around them.”
“Lead the way.”
Tech and Moranna walked off, leaving the unconscious form of the Detrovite behind.
Though taking a detour around the center of town had added a lot of time to their journey, it was probably a much better idea than charging into the fight guns blazing. The fog had grown even thicker, to the point where even the shadow markings weren't helping, prompting the two to detransform and simply follow the tracker map. Many stumbles and trips later, they eventually reached an area where the sidewalk simply trailed off into grass.
“Why is there grass in the middle of a city?” Moranna questioned.
“It’s probably just a park, man.” Tech explained. “They don’t have those anywhere in space?”
“They do, but the parks there usually use a hypoallergenic plastic material for the ground.”
“Eh, I guess that makes sense.”
After a few moments of walking, Tech stumbled over a stone sticking out of the ground.
“Ow! Son of a-”
Tech looked down to see what had tripped him up, finding a rectangular slab of stone carved with several inscriptions, though the fog made it impossible to make out any details.
“What the hell?”
“Hey, come on!” Moranna called back at him. “We’re almost there!”
Tech hurried after her, taking care not to trip over anything else.
“Uh, Moranna?” He said. “Something doesn’t seem right about this.”
“What do you mean?” Moranna asked, eyes focused firmly on the tracker.
“I don’t want to make any early calls here, but this might not exactly be a park.”
“Hold on a second.” Moranna held up her hand in a ‘stop talking’ gesture. “This can’t be right.”
“What can’t be right?”
“According to this, the people we’re looking for are right in front of us. Even through this fog, we should be seeing them right now.”
“Yeah, uh...” Tech’s eyes widened in realization. “You might want to check the ground.”
“...How much do you know about human rituals concerning the dead?”
“Not much, to be...” Moranna’s voice trailed off.
She swiftly took a knee, bending to examine the ground in front of her. This close to the ground, she managed to see two rectangular stones set in the ground a couple of feet away from each other. They both has symbols carved into them, but the fog was still too thick to make them out.
“Damn it, I can’t see anything!” She snapped. “What are these?!”
“I think they’re-” Tech began to reply, but cut himself off in the middle of talking. “Oh my god, I’m an idiot.”
“Hold on a second.”
Tech pulled up the SpecTrix, pressing the ‘Inventory’ button and tapping on the touchscreen a few times. A pair of green goggles materialized above the SpecTrix, dropping onto his arm.
“Here, try these.” He handed the goggles to Moranna. “They can display all sorts of energy and light types.”
“And you didn’t use these before...because?”
“I kinda forgot about them.” Tech admitted. “I don’t really use them very often.”
Moranna slipped on the goggles and activated them, looking back at the stones. This time, the symbols written could clearly be made out. After a few moments, she slowly stood up and took off the goggles, wordlessly handing them back to Tech.
“I guess that explains the decaying signal.” She softly said.
A few moments passed in an awkward silence.
“Are you...” Tech broke the silence. “...uh...okay?”
“I don’t know, to be honest.” Moranna replied. “I had hoped to meet them, but given my circumstances, I guess I sort of...expected something like this.”
“I still need answers.” Moranna clenched her fists in determination. “If anything, this just raises even more questions!”
“Maybe we can find out where they lived.” Tech suggested.
“There might be a phone book or something in one of the abandoned houses around here. If we find one, we can just work from there.”
“...The hell’s a phone book?”
“It’s a...you know what, I’ll explain on the way. First thing we have to do is find our way through all this fog.”
“Just use the goggles.”
Tech put on the goggles, pressing the ‘on’ button.
“Say, uh, you wouldn’t happen to have any double A’s on you, would ya?”
“Yeah, I guess that is kind of a stupid question.” Tech sighed, taking off the goggles. “Now what?”
As if in response to Tech’s question, the fog around them suddenly began twisting around, then abruptly flowed away from them, clearing the air. Looking to see where the fog was going, the two turned to find a relatively large female alien with a stout body completely covered in armor. Two small fields of Dark Mana surrounded her hands, drawing in the fog and filtering it out into regular air.
“Well, well, what do we have here?” Zetium remarked. “I thought I heard the sound of a pain in my ass.”
“Okay, exactly how many strange people do you know?” Moranna questioned Tech.
“Not as many as you might think,” Tech replied, rolling his eyes. “but more than you would reasonably expect.”
“What are you doing in Obsidian Death territory?” Zetium demanded.
“What do you mean ‘Obsidian Death territory’?” Tech asked. “This is Earth, in case you haven’t noticed.”
“We’ve occupied this town for eleven years, kid. It’s not exactly a bastion of human activity.”
“So you’re responsible for the state of this place?” Moranna asked.
“It was this way before we got here!” Zetium said indignantly. “Our main project has been figuring out why there’s so much Dark Mana in the area!”
“Dark Mana?” Tech repeated.
“Well, yeah. You don’t think this fog is natural, do you? We’ve been able to learn quite a bit about Dark Mana here, but we can’t seem to keep it away. Some of the more paranoid troopers think it might have something to do with angry spirits.”
“I would be skeptical of that, buuuuut, I once summoned a wendigo, so I don’t have much room to talk.”
“You did what?” Moranna asked.
“Hold on a second, why are you telling us all this?” Tech questioned Zetium. “Shouldn’t you be, like, trying to stomp us or something?”
“Kid, I saw what you did to that golem on Veritum. My assignment is investigating the Dark Mana, and that’s all I’m sticking to.”
“I’m going to keep moving.” Zetium said, beginning to walk off. “You’ll be leaving this town if you know what’s good for you.”
“I never do.” Tech remarked.
With Zetium gone, the fog began moving back in.
“Well, if this stuff can be dispelled by Dark Mana...”
Tech used the SpecTrix to transform into Golurth.
“Let’s see if I can do this myself!”
Tech and Moranna made their way through the empty streets, Tech using Dark Mana to clear a path in their field of vision. As they turned a corner, a sudden bolt of blue energy shot from a nearby building, hitting Tech and coating him in a layer of ice upon impact. Moranna quickly pressed the purple button on her bracelet, transforming her back into the ghost-like weather alien. Another bolt of energy shot from the building, which Moranna quickly dodged, shooting a high-pressure gust of wind at the building. The wind smashed a hole in the wall, out which swiftly leaped a white and blue alien wearing a special version of the assassin’s uniform.
“Moranna Ceres.” The alien said. “I suppose this confrontation was inevitable.”
“High Commander.” Moranna replied. “I should’ve expected as much.”
There was a crash from behind the two, followed by a quick green flash.
“Tech Logical!” Tech snarked, stumbling out of the smashed ice. “Because saying people’s names out loud is apparently a thing now!”
“I see a lot has changed since you left our organization.” The High Commander said. “I never figured you for a team player.”
“Actually, neither of us are team players.” Tech corrected. “We’re just working together to kick your ass.”
“That’s not going to happen.”
The High Commander threw a volley of ice blasts at the two. They managed to dodge the ice, Tech quickly transforming into Magmortar and throwing a stream of lava at their opponent. The High Commander threw another bolt of ice, freezing the lava and making it crash to the ground, then shot another ice bolt at Tech, freezing his right arm into solid rock.
Moranna shot another gust of wind at the High Commander, who dodged and nailed her with an ice bolt, freezing her torso and causing her to drop to the ground. The High Commander swiftly drew a taydenite coated blade and shot towards Moranna, aiming for her neck. Moments before impact, a drill suddenly exploded out of the ground, knocking the High Commander away. The drill was followed by a stream of sand that formed into Tech as Sandrill.
Moranna’s eyes began to glow, quickly followed by a dark storm cloud that enveloped her body. The cloud grew and exploded outwards, revealing a secondary form with a darker color scheme and more lightning-based physiology.
“Oh, come on!” Tech snapped. “Sure, you get a cool alien with a second form, but my alien with a second form goes nuts and tries to kill people!”
“What are you talking about?”
“Just forget about it.”
The High Commander began to get up, prompting Tech to transform his arms into a giant drill.
“Hey, help me launch this thing!” He yelled.
Moranna quickly created a vortex of air swirling with electricity and launched it at Tech, who released the drill and melted into a layer of sand below the vortex. The drill shot forward at high speed, turning at high speed and absorbing the electricity in the whirlwind. Before the High Commander could react, the drill crashed right into her torso, smashing her through the wall of the building she had jumped out of. Tech transformed into Steelith and ran in after her, using his metal control to rip piping out of the wall and wrap it around her, trapping her against the wall.
Moranna quickly made her way inside the building and detransformed, swiftly taking out her pistol and pressing it against the High Commander’s head.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, no shooting!” Tech protested.
“There won’t be any shooting as long as I get answers.” Moranna snapped at Tech, before turning her attention back to the High Commander. “Now, first of all, what the hell are you doing here?!”
“As soon as you left, I knew you would eventually make your way back here.” The High Commander replied. “As you can see, I was correct.”
“What do you mean, make it ‘back’ here? Where is this?!”
“I’m not going to give you the satisfaction of getting finality. Kill me if you want, but you’ll never know where you came from!”
“Both of you, calm down!” Tech snapped. “You!” He pointed at Moranna. “Put the gun down! You!” He pointed at the High Commander. “You just kinda suck in general! Plus, I can just read your mind to figure out what happened, but I feel like saying that you suck was of more importance.”
“You couldn’t have just mentioned that in the first place?!” Moranna demanded.
“What ‘first place’?! The ‘first place’ was you pointing a gun at her head!”
“...Just do the mind reading.”
Tech rolled his eyes and activated the SpecTrix, transforming into Spiritualist. After an odd series of hand movements, a short, monkey-like creature appeared in front of him.
“Okay, Satori guy, I need you read this wacko’s thoughts.” He said. “Oh, and if you could slow down to normal human speed while talking, that would be great.”
“I will never understand this planet.” Moranna commented.
The Satori nodded, then placed its hands on the High Commander’s head. After a few seconds, it began speaking in a high-pitched tone too fast to understand, but quickly reined itself in to a regular rate of speech.
“-ifteen years ago.” Were the first words that could be understood. “We were desperate. Needed supplies. Ship was damaged. Crashed in small town. Stop reading thoughts. Raided area. Killed many. Took children. Most died. One survived. Stop reading thoughts. Added implants. Eyes changed. Came back later. Town abandoned. Fog moved in. Stop reading thoughts. Obsidian Death here. Forces decimated. Both sides. Found you. Disappointed. Hate. Stop reading thoughts. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Stop reading thoughts. Hate. Hate. Ha-”
“Okay, I think we’ve heard enough.” Tech interrupted. “You can go now. Thanks for your help.” The Satori nodded, then disappeared in a flash of light. Tech detransformed and gave Moranna a hard look.
“See? Everything’s easier when you remember that you’re overpowered.”
Moranna holstered her pistol, glaring at the High Commander.
“...I guess that’s that, then.” She said. “Not so high and mighty when you have to go out into the field yourself, are you?”
“This isn’t over!” The High Commander hissed. “I will escape, and we will hunt you for the rest of your pathetic life!”
“I really don’t think you will.” Tech remarked. “I’m calling the Plumbers after exiting this building, and let me tell you, they would probably be very interested in having one of the most infamous people in the galaxy handed to them on a silver platter.”
The High Commander responded to this statement by demonstrating an impressive knowledge of both Earth and alien curses, loosing a barrage of insults one might only expect from a particularly disgruntled linguist.
“I think that’s our cue to leave.” Moranna said.
Tech pressed a few buttons on the SpecTrix, causing him and Moranna to disappear in a green flash.
The fog began to roll in again.
“You doing okay?”
The two of them had reappeared in the gift shop’s back office, startling Alvono and prompting Aquadilus to look up from his newspaper.
“Well, emotional trauma aside, yeah, I’m doing pretty good.” Moranna snarked.
“You two were gone a while.” Aquadilus remarked. “I take it you managed not to kill each other?”
“Yep.” Tech replied. “We just took down an assassin’s guild!”
“We just took out the High Commander.” Moranna reminded him. “The rest of the guild is still out there.”
“Minus any that got shot fighting the Obsidian Death.”
“...Do I want to know?” Aquadilus interjected.
“I figured as much.”
Tech turned to Moranna.
“We good to start working together?”
“I can’t say I’m overly enthused about it, but yeah.” Moranna replied. “Where do we start?”
“We start by going the hell to bed.” Tech yawned. “It’s been a long day.”
“Uh...I take it normal humans require more sleep than two out of every thirty hours?”
Tech gave her a blank look.
“I’ll take that as a yes.”
“Where are you even staying, anyways?” Tech asked.
“My ship. It’s parked further down the canyon.”
“Hm. Well, I’m headed home to get the medically recommended nine and a half hours of sleep. See you tomorrow!”
With that, Tech walked out of the room and exited the shop.
“...Is he always saying weird stuff like that?” Moranna asked.
“I think our life has pretty much transcended the concept of ‘weird’ by this point.” Aquadilus replied, pulling his newspaper back up. “But yeah, pretty much.”