Peach and I followed Scorpainia and entered the warehouse. I got my Vortex Driver out, ready to transform, but a fireball knocked it out of my hands. I ran after it but another fireball just blocked the way and pushed us back. “You think you’ve won,” taunted Heather’s voice. “You think you have a chance, but the truth is, you’ve already lost. You have no sense of permanence. No means of remembering the glories of the past. Purity, on the other hand, purity is strong. Purity is perfection! Purity reminds us of the past! Diversity destroys what existed and was strong. In the end, those that cling to diversity are cowards!” I then realized that the voice was behind me. I whirled around only for Heather to wrap her fingers around my neck and toss me into boxes. Peach rushed forward with a cast-iron pan at the ready. Heather slammed her fist into Peach’s gut and threw her aside. Scorpainia swung her sword at her but Heather side-stepped and drove her foot into the exposed flesh of Scorpainia’s knee joint. One of the disadvantages of an exoskeleton, your joints are so easily exposed. Scorpainia was down but Peach and I got back up. I swung a punch but Heather side-stepped and my punch hit Peach’s face.
“Oh god! I’m sorry!” I apologized. Heather then grabbed my braid and flung me aside. Damn dress! I can’t move as effectively! Heather then drove her knee into Peach’s jaw, then pressed her fingers to her ear.
“Install the parts and destroy the enemy ship,” she ordered. “I’ll finish down here and kill Emily.” She then approached me. “Did you hear that?” she chuckled. “Everything you love will burn!”
“Oh, Heather, for all your technical genius,” I taunted, “you’re such an idiot and a loser!”
“Loser?!” snapped Heather as she slapped me silly. “You idiots are all at my feet and I’m not even in my Rider persona! What makes you think I’ve lost?!”
“Those baubles around Scorpainia’s waist aren’t a belt!” I replied. Heather turned to her and was jabbed in her side by Scorpainia’s stinger! She shoved her aside and fled, the pain of the venom flooding her nerves. I decided now was a good time to warn the ship. “Guys, the enemy’s about to bombard the Virginia!” I warned.
“Already in space!” reported Mikhail. “We have a plan and have the Source!”
“Good, act on the plan!” I ordered. “I’ve gotta keep Heather down here!”
“Understood!” replied Mikhail. The call ended.
“You know, there are moments where I don’t know why I’m even fighting!” grumbled Scorpainia as she massaged her knee joint. “I mean, that venom’s not lethal to humans! Maybe I’m just staving off the inevitable! No, wait, I got it! I’m waiting for the next reboot since this whole thing is like a comic book!” She then laughed for a while, stopping only to reflect. “I don’t know,” she sighed, “maybe I’m finally starting to hate my life.”
“…Do you?” asked Peach.
“…You know what, I don’t,” replied Scorpainia. “I still love my life. I love seeing what comes next. I love being around you guys. I love wandering the multiverse with you and seeing new universes. I wouldn’t be satisfied until I explored as much of the unexplored as I could and…” Her eyes then went wide. “That’s why I gotta live,” she breathed. “I’m an explorer! I like discovering the good and the bad! That would be the only thing that would allow me to stave off boredom if I became immortal! That’s why I need to live!”
“A good answer!” I praised.
“You two!” laughed Peach. “The way you go on!”
“What about it?” asked Scorpainia.
“You act like there’s nothing separating the two of you!” replied Peach. “You guys act like old friends instead of a Queen and foreign dignitary!”
“…We ARE friends,” answered Scorpainia. “Peach, is that what’s holding you back?”
“Titles mean nothing in terms of friendship,” I supplied. “We ARE friends. You don’t need to be the same class as others to be friends.” Peach then got the look of someone who had an epiphany.
“…I’ve been so isolated from my friends because of the class difference between us when I could have just ignored our classes,” she mumbled. She then got a look of resolve. “Time to really defend the kingdom!” Just then, the crews of both ships appeared with the Tarlaxians restrained.
“Scorpainia! The Eye! Now!” called Pestilence.
“Coming up!” confirmed Scorpainia. She approached the Tarlaxians as the jewel in the center of her armor pulsed with a soft light. “Look,” she commanded. The Tarlaxians looked and got a good view, still struggling against their bonds. Their struggles lessened until they stopped as the jewel pulsed. Soon, its pulsing stopped and the Tarlaxians shook their heads, getting a good look at Scorpainia. “Spidarachnimpa, my sister, how are you feeling?” asked Scorpainia.
“Crappy,” muttered Spidarachnimpa. “Where are we?”
“The Source universe the Council assigned to you without my knowledge,” explained Scorpainia.
“…Did you miss the memo or something?” asked Escargripam.
“They didn’t even draft one,” I replied.
“Us! The Queen! Our allies! Who else did they not tell and what’s that down my pants?!” Octorpindar griped. “Was it placed there when I slept?!”
“You were dead, actually,” explained Pestilence. “We used a green mushroom to bring you back to life.”
“A 1-Up mushroom,” Peach and I said together.
“…So…it’s bowel evacuation,” gulped Octorpindar. “I don’t know if that’s better or worse.”
“Don’t worry!” called Mikhail. “In anticipation of that, I have fashioned you some new pants while you were in the brig!” The new pants were a shade of pink that clashed horribly with Octorpindar’s purple skin.
“…At least I maintain a modicum of dignity,” mumbled Octorpindar. Just then, we heard a roar. “What was that?!” yelped Octorpindar.
“Get your swords and prepare for battle!” ordered Scorpainia.
“What’s going on?!” squeaked Escargripam.
“We’re in another universe that has items that give people powers,” replied Scorpainia, “trapped in a warehouse with a racist b***h that could give the Daleks a run for their money in terms of hatred, while armed with big swords and belts that turn people into superheroes.”
“…And you’re still keeping the multiversal exploration program well-funded?” asked Spidarachnimpa.
“Best use of tax money,” replied Scorpainia. “Octorpindar, wipe your ass and get ready!” As Octorpindar headed off to obey, Spidarachnimpa held up a device, a Chronicle Driver, to our amazement.
“Who needs extra protection?” she called.
“…Peach, wanna try it out?” I offered.
“Me?” yelped Peach.
“Like I said, you’re stronger than you think,” I answered. I held the belt closer to her. Peach seemed to consider…then took the belt and put it on.
“Chronicle Driver!” announced the belt after the strap formed.
“Just follow Liam on the transformation sequence,” I directed. “Speaking of, let’s do it! Hongo, if you please?” We all lined up and faced the door. I.d. tags and Armor Auto-bios came out and poses were struck.
“Rider…!” called Hongo.
“Henshin!” we all shouted.
“Open! Turn! Imagine!” cheered Liam’s belt. “The Shield of Highland!” Liam’s Rider form evoked traditional Highland dress, complete with kilt and sporran. His weapon was a shield with a gatling gun near his hand.
“Open! Turn! Imagine!” announced Peach’s belt. “The Scepter of Crown!” Peach looked like an old knight with a skirt. Her weapon was a long scepter. The door then disappeared in a ball of fire, revealing Heather, looking ready to kill.
“Rider forms, then,” she hissed. “Very well. Henshin.” She pulled the horns down, making the mouth and eyes open and spew fire. It curled around her and she vanished in the blaze until she waved it off in her Rider form. Mikhail started us off.
“Kamen Rider Gallop! My riding skills are unmatched!”
“Kamen Rider Hunt! I shall always get my prey!”
“Kamen Rider Pestilence! You shall be infected with losing!”
“Kamen Rider Herald G! I bring news of your defeat!”
“Kamen Rider Touché! En Garde, thing of evil!”
“Kamen Rider Highland!” called Liam. “It shall be a fine day for winning!”
“I am the start of a group of warriors! I am Kamen Rider!”
“I am Scorpainia, the exploring Queen!”
“I’m R9-D7! My radical voice will slice through you, dude!”
“Kamen Rider Crown!” announced Peach. “My strength will upend your tyranny!”
“If we’re doing catchphrases, then here’s mine!” snarled Heather. “Kamen Rider Diablo! I shall scatter your ashes to the winds!”
“Yeah, f**k you too!” countered Scorpainia.
“ATTACK!” I shouted. We all charged at Heather, Diablo, and were knocked down as she slammed her fist to the floor, causing a massive ring of fire to surround her. She then drew her hand slowly upwards and caused the flames to be drawn to her hand until it formed a gratuitously-sized sword. The blade was three times as thick and twice as long as a broadsword, thus requiring a main handle and a handle on the side, just beneath the blade. She managed to make a huge arc of fire with her swing. Scorpainia and Peach, Crown, were knocked off their feet. Crown then converted her scepter into a double-barreled gun and fired. The shot pushed Diablo back a bit. She recovered quickly and targeted Peach. She ran at her, but met with Liam, Highland, shield-bashing her, then he revealed the gatling gun and fired! Diablo took some hits, then rotated the side handle 90⁰ to her right and moved the main handle 45⁰ down. She then pointed the blade in its new configuration at Highland!
“Och heel!” he yelped as he raised his shield. A good move. Energy gathered at the blade’s tip. She then pressed a button on the main handle and fired a torrent of flames. Highland was knocked back a ways, thankfully, the shield took the brunt of it.
“This is getting us nowhere!” hissed Scorpainia. She then recalled something about Ichigō. “Say, Ichigō,” she called, “have you ever used your Keystone after the Vortech Wars?”
“Not really, why?” asked Ichigō.
“Did one ever shrink to get inside a belt?” inquired Scorpainia.
“…No, but I someone who can,” replied Ichigō, understanding the plan. “Highland! Over here!” As the rest of us continued fighting Diablo, Ichigō explained the plan to Highland, who seemed to have a mischievous expression.
“Do it!” he called.
“Scale Keystone, activate!” announced Ichigō. “Lessen scale of Highland!” Highland shrank down as Ichigō picked him up and flung him towards Diablo. He managed to scurry inside the belt, unbeknownst to her, while we continued fighting. Diablo grabbed Hunt and hoisted her into the air.
“You should remember your place!” she hissed.
“My place is alongside my friends!” snarled Hunt, not bothering to hide her, to put it mildly, irritation of that phrase being thrown at people of her skin tone. She converted her blade into rifle mode and fired at Diablo’s face. Diablo dropped her and covered her face, leaving her open for Hunt tripping her up. Diablo got up and I noticed her speed was a little slower. Highland then came out of the belt.
“Okay, nae gonnae thaur again!” he squeaked. “Ichigō! Now!”
“Normalize scale of Highland!” called Ichigō. Diablo swung a punch at me but I managed to catch it, not something I’d normally do. Diablo noticed this.
“What the?!” she growled. “What’s going on?!” I drove my knee into her stomach, winding her before she could block it. “What’s wrong?! Why’s my reaction time so s**t?!”
“That’s my doing!” laughed Highland when he returned to normal size. “The Rider’s undersuit acts as a neural interface between the person and the armor! The belt regulates it so the reaction time is the same as if the person’s wearing nothing at all! Mess with that function and the armor slows you down!” At that point, Diablo was struggling to stand. “NOW!” called Highland. We Vortex Riders spun the wheel while Highland and Crown pressed the button on their buckles. Herald G flipped a switch near her buckle while Pestilence opened and closed the buckle again.
“Final attack!” called the Vortex Drivers.
“Final Pen Stroke!” announced the Chronicle Drivers.
“Final Message!” shouted Herald G’s belt.
“Final Plague!” rasped Pestilence’s belt. We all leapt into the air.
“RIDER GALLOP KICK!”
“RIDER HUNT KICK!”
“RIDER TOUCHÉ KICK!”
“RIDER HIGHLAND KICK!”
“RIDER CROWN KICK!”
“RIDER HERALD G KICK!”
“RIDER PESTILENCE KICK!” We sailed through the air with our feet outstretched and kicked so hard, she was knocked back at least 5 yards across the warehouse. Her armor cracked in places and fell, revealing Heather in pain.
“…So…did that…?” asked Peach. Heather then got up and made an effort to walk towards me while clutching her side.
“MUST…KILL…YOU…EMILY! …HATE…YOU!” she strained. I then cancelled my transformation and stormed up to her.
“You just don’t know when to stop, do you?!” I snarled. “You know, earlier, you boasted how purity will win! How we need to return to the glory days in order to remember them! How those who cling to diversity are cowards! That’s the thing, though! Purity does nothing but regresses us! It makes us repeat the mistakes of the past! We’re forever stuck in a moment in time! Life is all about making new glory days! I intend to make them happen!” At that, I was near enough that I swung a punch right into Heather’s exposed face! The punch was so hard, the rest of her armor fell apart as she was sent spinning! I then turned as she exploded, her body disappearing into the flames. “…Man, that felt good!” I sighed.
We were back on the Virginia. Unfortunately, the Tarlaxian crew lost their ship during the second space battle, so we offered them a lift to Vorton which they accepted. Peach joined us and took up the second communications console on the lower level while Octorpindar took the weapons console on the upper level to help Hongo. “Course laid in,” announced Tanisha.
“Engage,” I directed. This time, the Virginia entered the rift without lurching. “Contact Vorton and tell them we’re on our way back. Mission accomplished. ETA, three hours,” I ordered.
“Message sent,” reported Mikhail.
“Emily, Vorton replied with a rather weird story,” called Peach. She then relayed how many Sources we have in our possession, which Tarlaxians made it back, who else among the new guys knows about what we didn’t tell them, and the whole thing about the clone of one of the Doctor’s companions. We arrived without incident. After the welcome back, I met with Megumi, the Doctor, and Rusty to discuss the situation with the Rose clone.
“Where IS the photocopy?” I asked.
“Michael took her to After Academy for some food and to try a theory she came up with,” replied Megumi. “Maybe some casual conversation in a new environment will jog her memory. If not, the theory will be plan B.”
“I take it there’s been no luck in finding her memory?” I sighed.
“Nothing,” confirmed the Doctor. “Chell’s just as stumped and I asked every race I know of that uses cloning, even the Sontarans. The Sontaran Fleet Marshal I spoke with asked if she came from batch Z/772-9 and I have no idea why he’d mention that defective batch.”
“What about the Daleks?” asked Rusty.
“Believe it or not, I spoke with Davros himself,” replied the Doctor. “His exact words were ‘Only my children need cloning technology to survive. Why do you think I ordered the Enemy Duplication Program to be shut down?’ before going on a rant about his children’s superiority that I hung up on.”
“I wouldn’t toss out that idea too quickly,” advised Rusty, “not with our history of making duplicates of your companions.”
“…Pardon?” asked the Doctor.
“You know, the Kar-Charrat incident?” quizzed Rusty.
“…There was an incident involving the library on Kar-Charrat?” inquired the Doctor.
“Yes, we attempted to take it,” answered Rusty.
“Why would you guys want a library?” I asked.
“To make one of us a mobile data-store,” explained Rusty. “The library held the entire knowledge of the universe.”
“What does that have to do with the Daleks duplicating one of my companions?” quizzed the Doctor.
“Doctor, don’t you remember?” asked Rusty. “We needed a time-sensitive person to enter the facility and used a duplicate of your companion at the time, Ace. It used the DNA tag that the original Ace was implanted with so she could come and go as she pleased. It was equipped with voice modulation so it could lower the defense grid and we swarmed the place, killed most everyone on the staff, and tried to take the data using you as a safety buffer in case the test subject went insane. You discovered that the staff was using the native Kar-Charratans as data storage within the library’s wet-works facility and managed to free them while foiling our plans again.”
“You never…WHAT?!” protested the Doctor.
“Has your recent regeneration scattered your brain cells?!” yelped Rusty. “Doctor, we made a duplicate of one of your companions!”
“No, you didn’t!” argued the Doctor.
“I can prove it!” insisted Rusty. “In Michael’s universe, it’s an audio drama called The Genocide Machine! Computer, play The Genocide Machine!” The audio drama was about two hours and the Doctor was surprised at what happened during her seventh incarnation.
“I don’t remember this at all!” she finally replied when we finished.
“How could you forget this?!” I protested. “Ace was cloned!”
“That’s the thing!” argued the Doctor. “Like I apparently said back then, Dalek duplicates are cold! That’s because of their mechanical origin! The clone I scanned was totally biological!”
“Another mystery!” groaned Megumi. “What now?!”
“Okay, the iteration we’re contacting,” explained the Rose clone after plan A failed, “met Rose before. It’s not very logically-minded, thinking itself a god, but it knows some things and masterminded a lot of stuff the Doctor encountered, including the Cult of Skaro.”
“What makes you think it’s involved?” I asked.
“I’m grasping at straws here,” sighed the Rose clone as she tinkered with the machinery. I will say, her technical skill is very commendable. “I guess what I’m trying to prove through this whole exercise is that I’m NOT her.”
“Seems like this whole thing is a little dodgy!” I observed.
“It is,” confirmed the Rose clone. “That’s why only you know about it. Ready?”
“I guess,” I muttered.
“Then throw the switch when I tell you,” directed the Rose clone. She keyed in a command and her console turned green. “Now!” she commanded. I threw the switch and a hologram of a Kaled mutant with an enlarged brain appeared.
“Not the full resurrection a god like me deserves,” it boomed, confirming its status as the Dalek Emperor during the Ninth Doctor’s last episode, “but it will serve to…” it caught sight of the Rose clone. “YOU!” it shouted.
“No, I’m not the Bad Wolf,” replied the Rose clone.
“I know that!” dismissed the Emperor.
“…You do?” I asked.
“Of course, I remember from Pathweb in the…” replied the Emperor before it trailed off. “…Ah! You don’t remember! I can see it in your eyes!”
“What do you see?” asked the Rose clone.
“The truth,” answered the Emperor. “You don’t know it, but your soul does! It’s screaming to be remembered! I can see it!”
“What is my soul screaming for?!” demanded the Rose clone.
“Not yet!” chuckled the Emperor. “It’s too entertaining to reveal it right now! You failed once and will fail unless you remember your origins!”
“Was she some messed-up experiment your Time Controllers made to weaken the Doctor if you lost the Last Great Time War?!” I snapped.
“No, but it would have been a perfect contingency plan!” laughed the Emperor.
“Then who?!” shouted the Rose clone, desperate for answers. “Who created a clone of Rose Tyler?!”
“…Clone?” quizzed the Emperor. “What clone? You are not her clone!” The image then faded, leaving us with more questions than answers.
I stood outside After Academy, just looking at the clubhouse in the distance. A feeling welled within me, a feeling of betrayal. “…Well?” I asked myself. “Do you want to stay?” Just then, something approached me. It was a person wrapped in chains and rags!
“Help!” the person begged. “Please!”
“Who are you?” I asked.
“I was…Carl,” replied the person. “When I was alive, I treated mankind like nothing.”
“When you were…you’re a ghost?!” I yelped.
“Yes,” answered Carl. “I had chosen to move on, unlike those that study in this school. I was deemed not evil enough for Hell, but not good enough for Purgatory or Heaven! Such…such restless pain!”
“I…I’m sorry,” I sympathized.
“Please! Help me! Find a way to help me repent and move on! Help me!” Carl then faded, leaving me stunned.