Tarlax is…well…WAS a lush place in the multiverse. The trees would always bear fruit, crops were plenty, food of all kinds was available to even the poorest Tarlaxian. I wish I could say that was what the Four Horsemen and I were greeted to. Instead, we got a Mordor like landscape. The people were starving and being smacked around by a race of potato headed, three fingered trolls, the Sontarans. We proceeded to a formerly ornate castle. It was run down now, silhouetted against a red sky. “You should have come here at the height of their Empire,” sighed Death, taking the form of an old woman. “Their entertainment was second to none, the criminal justice system was superb, the Empress was fair, yet firm, and their warriors would make Sontarans and Klingons cry.”
“Then why are there Sontarans here?” I asked.
“Part of Vortech’s design,” growled War, looking like a girl in cardboard armor. We approached the castle, but a guard stopped us.
“We only wish to see your Queen Empress,” assured Death.
“You will have to leave the staff here,” replied the guard, a hulking brute in Roman Centurion gear and a bladed tail.
“Would you take a grandmother’s walking stick?” I asked. “This little girl here would be very disappointed if you remove something of value to her grandmother.” I was referring to War, who gave me a dirty glare. The guard considered my words, then let us pass. The halls were…tall. No real tapestries, though. I was picturing something more opulent. We went towards the throne. On it sat a bug-like humanoid, modeled after a scorpion, I’d say. It had four arms. Two of them ended in scorpion claws while the other ended in clawed fingers. It had its tail wrapped around the waist like a belt, had two big black eyes and six smaller ones beneath the large ones. It had a fang on each side of the mouth and a pale brown carapace. It looked female, but I couldn’t vouch for that until Death spoke.
“The welcome in your hall has gone down, Queen Empress Scorpainia,” she observed. That answered the question about its gender, I guess. Her advisor whispered something to her. The advisor was bipedal, had large, red, metal arms and a triangular head with the point facing us.
“Why…should I…welcome strangers?” groaned Scorpainia.
“A just question, My Liege,” agreed the advisor. He then strode towards us. “Late is the hour in which these false witches come, requesting money to help us when we cannot pay. Our money must go to the Sontarans on our world so they may better defeat the Rutans.”
“But what about the people?!” I wailed. Death motioned for silence.
“I’m afraid our resources must go to keeping our Empress alive,” answered the advisor. “Without her, this universe will die.”
“She seems to be dying anyways,” observed Death.
“Metalran…” wheezed Scorpaina. The advisor, Metalran, headed for the throne. She seemed to whisper something, but it was unintelligible.
“You see?” asked Metalran. “Her mind is troubled and you would heap more troubles?”
“Hold your forked tongue behind your teeth!” snarled War.
“Or what, little girl?” asked Metalran. It was then he noticed the design on the toy sword. “The Horsemen!” roared Metalran. “I told you potato trolls to keep the Four Horsemen from our door!” The Sontarans were confused but trained their rifles on us.
“Now,” declared Death. She and War dropped the disguises and held off the Sontarans. I knocked Metalran down and rushed for the throne.
“I’ve heard tales about your magnificence,” I said to Scorpainia. “Those tales will be told again. Queen Empress Scorpainia, old friend of my teachers, I will release you from the evil side of darkness that has taken you.” She started gurgling with laughter.
“You have no power here, student of Death,” she laughed. I had a feeling that the voice wasn’t her own. I then revealed my belt, but Scorpainia laughed. “What is that? Something to free her with?” I knew it. Someone’s speaking through her.
“Whoever you are, release her,” I demanded.
“Or what?” giggled the person through Scorpainia’s mouth.
“Or you shall bear witness to Kamen Rider Apocalypse, one of two people capable of beating Vortech!” I declared.
“Impossible!” dismissed the person. “There is no Kamen Rider Apocalypse!”
“Wanna bet?” I asked. “Henshin!” I turned into Apocalypse before the enemy’s eyes. After I put my suit on, I turned the dial on my belt to Death’s symbol.
“Death Scythe!” announced my belt. A scythe blade appeared on each of my wrists as energy gathered in my hands.
“I don’t know who you are,” I snarled, “but I will extract you like poison from a wound!” I surrounded Scorpainia with energy and saw a figure of a man. I remembered the shape from one of Death’s lectures. This was Lord Vortech!
“If I go,” warned Vortech, “Scorpainia and Tarlax die!”
“Let Death be the judge of that!” I countered. I saw a slave chip on Scorpainia’s shoulder and a thread that connected Vortech’s consciousness to Scorpainia. I charged at Scorpainia with both blades flashing, one striking the slave chip, the other severing Vortech’s connection with Scorpainia. Once both were severed, Scorpainia fell forward in her chair.
“My Lady!” called Metalran. He rushed forward to catch her. When he did, he turned to me. “You would dare bring harm to my Empress?! You have made a costly mistake!!”
“No, Metalran,” growled Scorpainia. “She has healed me!” Her claw then grabbed Metalran’s throat. “YOU, on the other hand, kept me in the dark!” Metalran dropped the act.
“It is…better…to stand with…Lord Vortech…than to…oppose him!” he choked out.
“Run home to your master and tell him he has no prize in this universe!” demanded Scorpainia. She released him. Metalran caught his breath and turned to the Sontarans.
“KILL THEM ALL!” he ordered before leaving through the vortex. The Sontarans raised their guns at us. Scorpainia grabbed a strange fruit that was triangular and purple. She ate the whole thing, then made a disgusted noise. Apparently, it tastes bad, but restores a Tarlaxian to full strength. Her carapace went from pale brown to reddish brown. Her face contorted to an animalistic snarl. She then bellowed as laser fire bounced off her shell. One of the guards outside heard the commotion and saw Scorpainia destroying the Sontarans. His face brightened as he ran through the city to spread the news. Soon, the Tarlaxians ate the same fruit Scorpainia did so they could be on equal footing with the Sontarans. The fight soon became chaotic. War, Death, and I were following Technarain, a metallic humanoid with a scalp shaped like brain. We were starting to get tired.
“Okay,” I muttered as I gave a chop to the back of a Sontaran’s neck, “any bright ideas?”
“There are the Omega Protocols,” grunted War as she beheaded a Sontaran.
“Out of the question,” snapped Technarain.
“What are you, deficient?!” snarled War. “The Omega Protocols are your people’s only chance!”
“There’s an invading force in this universe!” declared Technarain. “The Omega Protocols will do the work for them!”
“I’ll be the judge of that!” boomed Scorpainia as she leapt onto a Sontaran and injected him with the poison in her tail. She then started glowing red. Technarain saw this, sighed, then followed suit. Soon, every Tarlaxian was glowing red. Blades then formed from blue light. They had a circle around the handle and extended past both ends. They were built out of some blue metal. All blades then started glowing blue. “Initiate the Omega Protocols! Start the Apocalypse!”
“What!?” I yelped. The Tarlaxians slashed and made dimensional rifts everywhere.
“Those are rift blades,” grunted War. “I believe you can guess why.”
“But that many rifts will tear this universe apart!” I recalled, thinking back to Pestilence’s lessons on multiversal stability.
“That’s the intent behind the Omega Protocols,” replied Scorpainia. “A universe can’t be taken if there’s no universe to take. The Vortonian Identifier String would call this universe T-4-R-L-4-X-1-3, Tarlax 13. What do you think happened to the other 12?”
“Wait,” I guessed, “then those energy masses we passed on the way here, those were your previous universes?”
“And this whole mess HAD to happen when we got this universe the way we liked it!” snapped Technarain. All Tarlaxians turned into silver spheres and fled through the rifts. Meanwhile, the Sontarans were in disarray. A trooper brought his gun to bear on us. His commanding officer, a Colonel Starn, stopped him.
“Sir, we cannot let the Tarlaxians steal our prize from us!” called the trooper. “Let me take them out! I will slaughter them like the dogs they are!”
“Brave of you, Trooper Draggh,” lauded Colonel Starn, “but we also cannot afford more losses. And your opponents would have been Death and War. Woman though they are, they would have killed you where you stood and the battle would not have added to the glory of the Sontaran Empire. We will withdraw to Foundation Prime. Our primary mission was achieved anyway.” The trooper complied and followed the retreat with Starn covering the rear.
“Before you leave,” called Scorpainia to Death, “I have something for you.” She fished out an i.d tag. “On this tag is a list of Tarlaxians that were enslaved and those that joined Vortech willingly. I obtained it before Vortech placed me under that spell.” She then saw me. “What’s the matter with your student?”
“But…I don’t…who…” I stammered.
“It’s not uncommon,” whispered Death. “Many species have a similar defense mechanism.”
“I…guess,” I sighed. I shook my head. “Can I have that list? I think Kamen Rider Vortex is gonna need it.”
“I think she’s on Vorton,” whispered Death.
“I thought it was destroyed,” questioned Scorpainia.
“The new Vortex Riders have restored power to the Gateway and the atmospheric generators,” grunted War. “They’re using it as a base of operations.”
“I’ve never been to Vorton,” I told Death. “Where is it?”
“The center of the dimensional vortex,” whispered Death. “Just follow the pull of the vortex past the Transformers cluster. You can’t miss it.” I hopped on my horse and did as she instructed.
“The whole trip took about two hours,” said Lacey as she finished. She then gave me an i.d tag with no decoration on it. “Just put this into your belt and you’ll know who’s friend and who’s foe.”
“Thank you,” I lauded as I bowed. “Would you like to stay a while?”
“I’m afraid I can’t,” sighed Lacey. “My training regimen’s a little harsh and I need to get back to stick with it. It was nice meeting you. I hope we see each other again.” She hopped on her horse and took off through the vortex again. I was left alone again, for a few seconds. X-PO floated by.
“There you are!” he cheered. “Lukas, Batman, Rusty, Elphaba, the Brigadier, and I have just located the next Foundation Element!”
“Wonderful news!” I exclaimed. I then pressed the intercom button on the Gateway. “Everyone, come to the Gateway room at once! Our quest is about to gain more fruit!”
Metalran, his loyalists, and the Sontarans had returned to my domain. Starn was angry with Ambassador Hell, with the feelings of the Shocker leader being mutual towards the Sontarans. Davros joined in the argument as well as Metalran. By this time, I decided to call for silence. “Let us see what had transpired,” I demanded. “Starn, you say that Ambassador Hell did not give you the reinforcements you requested, but, Ambassador Hell, you say there was no such request. Starn, you accuse Metalran of not preparing your troops properly, but, Metalran, you say that your own informant was incorrect in the political situation of your previous universe. Ambassador Hell, you blame Davros for not preparing your men against Daleks, hence why you believe Starn made no reinforcement request, but, Davros, you say that your Daleks would rather die than work with Shocker.”
“An excellent summing up,” mused Ambassador Hell. “You know, Lord Vortech, you would have made a very good judge.”
“You forget, Ambassador, I AM your judge,” I hissed. “Your jury and executioner, too!” I then bowed in mock politeness. “If need be.” I turned to my right-hand man and his fiancée. “Only Hiro and Igura have not weighed in and accuse anybody.”
“Because the whole thing has nothing to do with us,” replied Hiro. “Igura said she has news about the next Foundation Element. I wish this whole thing were put aside so she can get on with it.”
“Excellent!” I cheered. “A shining example of knowing one’s duties! Listen to me, all of you! I am not concerned with this petty argument! One thing concerns me, and one thing alone, we must gather the Foundation Elements!”
“But it’s the dispute here that’s preventing us from doing so,” reminded Hiro.
“Exactly,” I agreed. “So, let me offer a simple solution! The Orcs will retrieve the new Foundation Element as well as our fiery friend and enigma obsessed ally. The Sontarans are to remain here as guards in case anyone tries anything foolish. Davros, you are to work with the Rani and help her create a new body for the Yeti. Ambassador Hell, you are to tell your men to await my orders as they have proven untrustworthy in terms of success. Metalran, you are to tell your loyalists to hunt Scorpainia and kill her! Now, get moving!” No one argued as they moved to obey. Igura headed to the Orcs to brief them of the situation. I went to my throne to rest.