"So, this is Earth."
The horned crimson figure walked further into the desert he had landed in. His dark purple cape flowed behind him in the harsh wind of the wasteland, as the burning sunlight beat down upon the scorched landscape.
"I suppose I was expecting it to look much less like home."
He turned to face the river he had been walking alongside. The flowing water provided the only relief from the heat that battered down on any life that may have lived in the area, a fact that was not lost on him even if his own biology rendered the intense heat a moot point. He continued following the stream, reasoning that it was the most reliable way to find civilization of some kind.
He silently reflected on and momentarily begrudged the fact that his ship had started breaking apart while entering the Earth's atmosphere, forcing him to make an emergency landing so far from his intended destination. The fact that his species had once been among the galaxy's finest engineers before being reduced to a primitive society on the edge of the galaxy that could barely build a functioning FTL Drive was already a large source of bitterness for him, and this recent incident just seemed to rub salt in the wound, so to speak.
'This will all be worth it when I finally find what I'm looking for.' He reminded himself in an attempt to stay calm. 'And if the rumors about this "Ben Tennyson" are true, I may very well find it sooner rather than later.'
"So, Aquadilus, how are our stocks doing today?"
Tech flopped down in his chair in the back of the store. It was just past noon, and he was expecting to have a fairly empty shop while the tourists went out for a lunch break. Aquadilus looked up from the paper he was reading with an exasperated expression.
"Tech, we don't have stocks. We don't have them now, we've never had them in the past, and it's highly unlikely we will have them in the future. You don't even know how the stock market works. Why the hell would you ask me how our stocks are doing?"
"Because I like screwing with you."
Aquadilus opened his mouth to deliver a rather vulgar monologue in response, but was interrupted by the door of the shop opening. The horned crimson figure walked into the building, making his way up to the front desk. Aquadilus settled for shooting Tech a dirty look and exited the back room, making his way to his position at the counter. He paused, giving the new arrival a suspicious glare.
"Huh. Don't see many Emotispecters off Tavastrin."
"Not many leave it." The crimson figure replied.
"And since you're not rampaging around like a lunatic, I can only assume you came here under special circumstances."
"That is correct, albeit unrelated to my state of mind. I am Warlord Kroz, the only surviving Leader class of my race."
"Leader class?" Aquadilus raised an eyebrow. "I thought those were a myth."
"As did most Specterians before I rose to power."
Aqaudilus thought to himself for a few moments before replying.
"Well, it's not like I have much room to talk given where I'm from." Aquadilus sighed. "Anyways, what do you need?"
"I would like directions to the city of Bellwood."
Tech let out a scoff from the back room, drawing Kroz's attention.
"Geez, another Ben 10 fanboy?" Tech rolled his eyes, walking up to the doorway of the room and lazily leaning against it. "You morons sure seem to end up in the middle of the desert a lot when you're looking for a coastal city."
"For your information, I'm only here because my ship broke down."
"Whatever you say, Horny." Tech yawned.
"And in any case," Kroz continued, mildly annoyed by Tech's tomdickery. "I am no "fanboy", as you put it. I'm here to challenge him for posession of the Earth as specified in the Galactic Code of Conduct."
"Wow, someone with a legitimately interesting reason to see a celebrity." Tech absentmindedly scratched the side of his head. "Too bad he's gone."
"What do you mean, "he's gone"?"
"I mean he's gone. Absent. Flew the coop. No longer in the general vicinity of this area."
"...You are a rather grating individual." Kroz sighed.
"Stupid question, stupid answer."
"Alright then, how about this question: where is he?"
"Couldn't tell you exactly." Aquadilus replied. "He's been dodging the media lately after something went wrong on some planet in the east sector. Rumor has it he's entering that cross-galaxy race that's getting advertised everywhere, but nobody really knows for sure."
"I was planning on entering that myself, assuming my flagship is completed on time." Kroz mused. "Perhaps that would be the best occassion to do battle."
"Well then, I guess that's all settled." Tech stood up straight and clapped his hands together. "Tennyson's entering Wacky Races and the Crimson Edgelord wants to fight him. Would you like to buy a snowglobe on your way off Earth?"
"You don't get to call other people "Edgelords"." Aquadilus rolled his eyes.
"I'm afraid I can't leave this planet quite yet." Kroz said. "As I said, my ship is wrecked."
"Whatever." Tech waved him off. "If you need a ride, Salt Lake City has the closest spaceport. Your thoughts, Aquadilus?"
"I hear there's a nice sushi place around 18th West. You should check that out while you're there."
"Hold on a moment." Kroz pointed to the SpecTrix, noticing it for the first time. "Is that an Omnitrix?"
"It's the SpecTrix." Aquadilus explained. "Basically think the Omnitrix but with ADHD and no proper direction in life."
"I see." Kroz replied, not really understanding the metaphor but not really willing to get into a discussion about it either. "And do you know how to use it properly?" He gestured at Tech.
"No, but that's what makes me even more dangerous." Tech struck a dramatic pose. "I'm unpredictable."
"You're an idiot." Aquadilus interjected.
"No matter what he is, I would like to fight someone as long as I'm on Earth, and since Tennyson is gone, I believe the duty of being Earth's representative in a Galactic Conduct duel should fall to the next person with an Omnitrix."
"And I believe I don't give a shit." Tech yawned. "I've got a shop to run and and subtitled Japanese media to pirate, so how about you screw off and let me be useless in peace, okay?"
"You realize if I defeat someone in a Galactic Conduct duel, the Earth will belong to me, correct? Do you really trust someone without an Omnitrix to perform nearly as well?"
"And why should I care if you take over the Earth, huh? What are you going to change about it?"
"I would..." Kroz paused for a moment to think of something that would get under Tech's skin. He didn't particularly care about making any changes to the planets he conquered, but he was more than willing to strong-arm his way into fights if the need arose. "...Ban 'subtitled Japanese media'. Whatever that is."
Tech suddenly whipped around to face Kroz with the kind of death glare you might expect from someone who's just seen their family massacred by an inordinately angry raccoon.
"Okay, I don't give a shit about you taking over the Earth, but nobody fucks with my Chinese cartoons, you son of a bitch!"
"Didn't you just say they were Japane-"
"FUCK YOU AND FIGHT ME."
Tech never really got used to teleportation. It made everything start tingling and always left him feeling dizzy afterwards, but he couldn't deny it was useful. He took a moment to survey his surroundings. He was in the middle of a large desert with sparse plantlife and red soil. Warlord Kroz was already there, standing about thirty feet away from the spot where Tech teleported in.
"The middle of the desert, huh? I kinda figured you'd want a more public location to fight in."
"I was never one to show off." Warlord Kroz replied. "I assume you've informed the Plumbers of this duel?"
"Yeah. They were cool with it."
"Not really, but they conceded that there really wasn't much they could do, considering how poorly written the Galactic Code of Conduct is. Seriously, you could battle an alley cat for the fate of the Earth as long as you claimed it to be the most powerful opponent on the planet."
"I suppose that's true, but it would kind of miss the point."
"Fair enough. You ready to fight?"
"You may make the first move whenever you are ready."
The SpecTrix started buzzing static, which was quickly replaced by Aquadilus's voice.
"Okay Tech, remember: Emotispecters aren't the strongest or the fastest things out there, but they're still quite a bit more powerful than humans. Striking fast and hard would probably be your best bet; that way, he doesn't have time to use his dispersement or neural control."
Tech started spinning the SpecTrix dial.
"Let's get this started, shall we?"
Tech slammed down on the dial, transforming into Electrolite. He charged forward, pulling his fist back into a striking position and charging up the shot with electricity. He swung his arm, aiming for a direct impact...
...but suddenly found his arm twisting itself to the side, throwing him off balance and making him scrape by his target without a hit. Warlord Kroz hadn't so much as flinched.
Tech quickly swung around to take another shot, but his arm twisted off to the side again, missing his opponent completely. Tech jumped a few feet back, keeping his eye on Kroz.
"Okay Aquadilus, what's going on?"
"Well, it would appear as if your opponent has excellent timing."
"But he hasn't even moved!"
"Neural manipulation, remember? If he's faster than you and you're using an alien with anything resembling a nervous system, he's got the upper hand."
"Well then, we'll try something different."
Tech transformed into Terminano and shot forward at a blinding speed, aiming for Kroz, who dodged the blow and slammed his fist into Tech, severely denting his metal exterior and sending him flying. Tech hit the ground and skidded to a stop, barely having enough time to get up before Kroz shot forward and delivered a vicious uppercut, sending him flying into the air and falling back down with a painful thud.
Tech quickly transformed into Rebide, standing up and using his crossed arms to block the punches being thrown at him a mile a minute. He suddenly threw his arms out, knocking Kroz away and forming an energy ball with his barbels. He shot the energy ball at Kroz, who formed a hole in his body that the ball passed through and shot forward at Tech, smashing him him in the face and sending him stumbling backwards.
Tech transformed into Carbon, assuming a diamond form and rushing at Kroz, who stepped out of the way and slammed his index and middle finger into a cleavage line on Tech's back, cracking the diamond and sending Tech flying forward.
Tech stood up, and was immediately charged by Kroz, who hit the SpecTrix dial, sending him flying again and causing him to transform back into a human. Tech used the SpecTrix interface to summon the Pyronaut Blade in midair, shoving the blade into the ground and using it to halt his flight, propping himself up on it.
As Warlord Kroz rushed towards him for another attack, he activated the blade, superheating it almost instantaneously. As Kroz was about to make contact, he rolled to the side to dodge the blow and swung the blade, managing to slice through Kroz's legs. Kroz yelled in frustration, and dispersed then resummoned his legs.
This bought Tech enough time transform into Heatjet, sending a large plume of fire billowing towards Kroz, who jumped above the fire and landed a heavy kick on Tech, knocking the wind out of him and giving him time to throw a few more punches that landed like sledgehammers, kocking Tech back a few steps and dazing him.
He recovered in time to sidestep away from Kroz's next attack, and tranformed into Sandrill, immediately melting into the ground and sneaking up behind Kroz. He shot up out of the ground and shot a drill at his opponent, who whipped around, grabbed the drill, and crushed it back into sand before slamming Tech upside the head.
Tech jumped back and transformed into Umbra, turning invisible and shooting shadow energy at Kroz, who managed to block the shots and track the imprints Umbra was leaving in the soft soil, executing a well-timed punch, landing a perfect hit on Tech and knocking him back. Tech transformed into Luminferus and started glowing intensely, momentarily blinding Kroz, who used his neural manipulation to force Tech back and stop glowing, allowing him to land another hit.
Tech tranformed into Splitter and cloned himself, using his clones to kick up a large butt of dust and attack Kroz, who had been blinded by the dirt. Kroz ripped through the weaker clones like tissue paper, quickly disposing of them and wiping the dirt out of his eyes.
When he could see again, he was surrounded by a group of Splitter clones. He shot towards one and swiped at it, revealing it to be nothing more than an illusion. Kroz started ripping through the holograms one by one, decimating them incredibly quickly and revealing the real Tech, who had been hiding behind one of the illusions and messing with the SpecTrix.
Kroz's attack sent him flying forward, and he slammed the dial, hoping that this would work. He hit the ground hard, and everything went black.
"Well, well, well, who do have we here?"
As Tech slowly forced his eyes open, he noticed three things. One was that his body ached all over, and that he would probably be raiding the painkillers once he got home. The second was that he was in a gray room with no obvious walls, floor, or roof of any kind. Oh, and there was a large entity seemingly composed of three transparent ovals layered inside of each other floating above him.
That was kind of important too.
Tech shot up into a standing position, something he rather quickly regretted doing, seeing as his body didn't particularly feel like doing anything yet. As he momentarily lost his footing and grunted in pain, the entity floated down to a couple of meters in front of him. Tech noted that the entity was around his size, though it's constant shifting made it hard to tell how large he might specifically be.
"I certainly don't see many of you human minds around here." The entity mused, it's thoughts ringing out through the space as if it was speaking. "Come to think of it, I've never actually seen any lifeform's mind exist in this realm for more than a few seconds."
"What about yourself, then?" Tech managed to spit out, still rather hung up on the whole 'in ridiculous amounts of pain' thing.
"Oh, I'm not a lifeform, at least not in the way you might think of one. Think of me more as a sentient force of nature, or your friendly neighborhood Eldritch Abomonation here to tell you you've made a terrible mistake."
The entity started to float smoothly around the room, never quite leaving Tech's field of view.
"What...what are you talking about?" Tech panted.
"Well, it's actually very simple." The entity responded. "I'm The Void, and this here is the multitemporal pocket dimension where I reside. If you're here, that can only mean you're about to get a whole lot less sane."
"You're...really not making this...any clearer."
The Void sighed, the circles comprising it rolling in a fashion very similar to an eye roll.
"Let me finish, okay?" It asked with exasperation in it's 'voice'. "So, here's how this works. My role in reality is to drain creatures of their sapience, reverting them to a more animalistic state. The people that go insane and get really violent, as opposed to most insane people, who don't really harm anyone but themselves? Yeah, that's my doing."
"That...sounds more than just a little...ominous."
"Yes, I can see how you would come to that conclusion. Well, there are two things you should know about the whole process. One, I don't actively control it. Two, and this is really important, if the sapience of creatures such as Humans, Galvans, and what not weren't kept in check, there would be drastic consequences for the whole multiverse. The last species to entirely escape my influence were the Zenturi with their fancy nanomachines, and we all know how THAT went down."
"Uh...no. No 'we' don't. You're...probably one of the only beings to...know what happened."
"Oh, right. Well, suffice to say it wasn't pretty."
"Okay, but...what does this have to do...with me?"
"Well, you've somehow managed to turn your body into some abomination made of crudely smashed together light and shadow energy. Your mind didn't approve, and so it got sent here. At least, that's how I think it works. Probably. Point is, you're gonna have to return to that body sometime, and it ain't gonna be good for your mental health. Your sapience is gonna get majorly drained pronto, so I suggest once you get back, you revert to your previous state ASAP, if at all possible."
"And just how...am I going to do that...if I'm violently insane?"
"Eh, I dunno. You'll probably figure something out. You humans seem to be good at surviving things. Tata now!"
The room started to fade to black, and Tech felt as if he was being drained of energy. He collapsed on the ground, and the last thing he saw before he fell into unconciousness was The Void looming over him.
Warlord Kroz, unlike most of his brethren, was not easily confused. Very few things could genuinely puzzle him; however, as he stared at the limp form of his adversary, he conceded to himself that he was truly puzzled.
Tech laid on the ground in the form of a creature that quite frankly looked like it shouldn't exist. Bones were exposed, corrupted tissue was evident, and it was hard to tell if the strange beast was even alive. Kroz paused for a moment to consider what he should do next, when all of a sudden, the form started moving. It rose slowly and methodically, joints twisting in ways they really probably shouldn't.
Once it stood, it turned around to face Kroz, revealing a seemingly blank face. Several moments passed, Kroz unsure as to if he should attack or run. Suddenly, two glowing orbs appeared on the featureless face, appearing to be eyes. The rest of it's face split open in several directions to reveal four mouths filled to the brim with sharp teeth, seemingly in a constant state of half-smiling, half-frowning. The creature spasmed, and it's mouths opened, unsettling laughter spilling forth from them like a chorus of insanity.
"What's so funny?" Kroz asked warily.
The creature stopped laughing.
"What?" It replied in a voice seemingly not used in eons. "Don't you get the joke?"
The creature shook it's head.
"Oh well. You're in my way."
"What do you mean?"
Instead of responding, the creature suddenly leaped forward, swiping madly at Kroz, who managed to dodge the blows. The creature started teleporting wildly, apparently trying to telefrag it's opponent. Kroz attempted to counterattack, but the creature was too fast. It jumped out of the way and turned invisible, launching a volley of light and shadow energy in rapid succession, manging to land a few blows.
The creature teleported directly in front of Kroz, revealing itself, and then performed a strange five-point pressure attack with it's energy. Kroz could feel his limbs seperating from his body, and dispersed then reformed behind the creature, landing a punch on it's back. A sickening crack rang through the area, and the creature twisted it's head around, opening it's mouths and shooting beams of light and shadow from it. Kroz managed to dodge the beams and grab the creature in a choke hold, taking a hold of it's head and twisting it back around to face away from him.
The creature started wildly flailing it's limbs around, trying to attack the opponent that was holding it from behind. Kroz loosened his grip and kicked the creature away, knocking it to the ground. It got up and charged at Kroz, who braced himself, and as it got close, he reared back and slammed his fist into the SpecTrix symbol on it's chest, as it shoved it's arm through his chest, creating a large gap.
There was a moment of silence, before Kroz punched the creature's symbol a second time, sending it flying and finally forcing it to detransform, revealing a very battered Tech. Kroz reformed the gap in his chest and walked over to Tech, who was sttempting to stand up.
"It appears that I am the victor, human." Kroz stated. "Concede before you recieve further injury."
Tech coughed a bit, then reached for the dial on the SpecTrix.
"It certainly appears that way, doesn't it?"
Tech rotated and slammed down on the dial, transforming him into Golurth, who towered over Kroz by a good meter.
"But then again, you shouldn't judge people based on their appearances."
Kroz responded by jumping up in the air and throwing a punch at Tech's head. Tech blocked it with his arm, which partially crumbled under the force of the blow. Kroz landed several more hits in rapid succession, whittling down Golurth's body incredibly quickly, before Tech managed to smack him away. Tech prepared a beam of Dark Mana and shot it at Kroz, who dodged it and resumed attacking him, whittling down more of his body and eventually knocking him back several yards. The SpecTrix started buzzing again.
"Tech!" Aquadilus's voice came through the device. "Tech, are you there?! I lost connection with the SpecTrix for a few minutes, and now my console is reading that your form has sustained major damage."
"I'm okay, Aquadilus." Tech responded. He attempted to stand, but was interrupted by the unfortunate occurence of his right arm falling off and crumbling away once it hit the ground.
"Yeah, right. You're in worse shape than a rat caught in a meat grinder."
"Okay, maybe, but I can't just give up!"
"You're going to get yourself killed if you don't!"
"Yeah, sure, whatever! Stop nagging me about small details and give me some actually useful information!"
"Oh, for the love of-Okay, fine! The SpecTrix probably has something that you can use, just try and figure it out!"
"Gee, thanks, you're a lifesaver."
"Enough of this!"
Tech looked up to see Warlord Kroz looking very stern.
"You are gravely injured, and if you do not concede, you forfeit your life! Are you truly willing to continue fighting with this knowledge?!"
"Well, I never really did take too much concern in human life. I'm here for justice, not people. In other words..."
He narrowed his eyes.
Kroz closed his eyes.
"Then I take no responsibility for your demise."
He shot forward, preparing a finishing blow. Tech reached for the dial of the SpecTrix and pulled on it, forcibly raising the dial.
"Let's hope this does something good!" He yelled, then slammed down on it.
There was a blinding flash of green as four metal clamps came from the SpecTrix symbol and fixed themselves to Golurth. Dark Mana began flowing heavily from the wounds Tech had recieved, and pooled on the ground in a fog-like form. The mana suddenly flashed green and became teal, then began growing and suddenly erupted into teal flames, consuming Tech in a blinding light.
The flames grew larger, and suddenly, a huge form started rising out of them, covered in energy. The form grew to forty feet in height and suddenly stopped, the energy surrounding it and the teal flames being absorbed into it's body, revealing a huge being mostly made of energy and covered in faces.
"Ultimate Golurth!" The form yelled, now towering over everything else in the landscape.
Warlord Kroz stopped in his tracks, his eyes widening. He had fought many, many beings across many, many systems, but had never come across something quite so huge.
Tech was rather impressed by the new form, especially the size. The energy comprising most of it's body was also fairly interesting.
"Yeah! Check out who's got the upper hand now!"
Kroz did not respond, opting instead to jump up to the solid matter on Tech's upper torso and delivering a vicious volley of attacks that managed to force Tech back a few steps, then landing a kick to the head that knocked him over onto his back, causing a rather large thud as he hit the ground. Kroz landed just behind Tech's head.
"Your size means nothing if you cannot control your body."
The ground around Kroz started shaking, and he was suddenly trapped a large mound of dirt. He quickly dug his way out, only to find Tech standing above him, about to land a hit with his huge arms. Kroz attempted to dodge, but was stopped by a large wall of dirt rising in front of him. Tech's blow hit dead on, smashing the Emotispecter into the ground. He raised his arms again, but was interrupted by the SpecTrix beeping wildly and suddenly destransforming him about 10 feet in the air.
Tech managed to hit the ground rolling, but it unfortunately didn't help that much. Kroz had managed to dig himself out, but collapsed as soon as he started walking.
"How...how about...we call this one...a draw?" Tech panted.
"I...don't quite think...there's really...much of a choice, is there?" Kroz responded.
Tech surveyed what he could see of the battlefield. The once smooth surface of the desert had been reduced into patches and piles of earth, rubble, and uprooted plants.
"You know..." Tech said. "You were...totally right about...not fighting in a city."
Tech laid in his bed, rather miffed about the amount of bandages he had to wear. Feeling like a mummy is preferable to being dead, granted, but it still wasn't pleasant by any meaning of the word.
As he was about to fall asleep, a rather disturbing noise rang through his head. He shot up, immediately cringed and remembered why fast movements when you're in pain is a bad idea, and slowly laid himself back down.
"Was that...laughter?" He thought to himself. "Well, whatever it was, it's gone now. I must be hearing things."
Tech rolled over and drifted off to sleep, dreaming of things he would thankfully forget in the morning.