As we tumbled through the vortex, the enemy was showing his displeasure for failure. “I GAVE YOU A SIMPLE JOB!” roared Lord Vortech as he swung his staff at Hiro. Hiro flew to the other end of the rapidly finishing fortress of Foundation Prime. As he flew, Vortech’s minions, the Vortexons, featureless humanoids that were made of the same stuff as their master, looked on. “I told you to get the Keystone located in that absurd little dimension and you let a green skinned woman get it! Don’t forget that I can easily destroy you for failure, Hiro!”
“There’s something you’re forgetting, Vortech!” Hiro roared as he charged at his employer and decked him. “If it weren’t for me, you wouldn’t be able to get Ichimonji’s typhoon! If I recall, that’s one of the Foundation Elements. If I didn’t discover the Rogue Driver and reverse engineered it to make a transformation belt for my colleagues in Shocker, my native dimension would very well be a null dimension and it would pass your notice!”
“And if I recall, I was the original genius behind the Rogue Driver’s construction!” snarled Vortech. He threw a punch, which Hiro caught. He then raised his staff and was about to bring it down when he felt the barrel of one of the Rogue Driver’s guns at his belly.
“It’s been so long since you built me,” boasted the Rogue Driver, “that you forgot that I know your weakness.”
“I’m not afraid to cheat to win,” exclaimed Hiro. Vortech considered what was said.
“Point…taken,” He lowered his staff and backed off. “Perhaps I overreacted. A Foundation Element is on its way, so a Keystone isn’t a big loss.”
“A wise decision,” praised Hiro as he holstered the gun. A portal opened to deposit Dorothy and her friends in front of the throne that just finished.
“Ah,” mused Vortech. “Good guys?”
“I might be a villain!” called the Scarecrow.
“Ignore him,” hissed the Tin man.
“Thank you, to the left, please,” responded Vortech as he sat on the throne. The Vortexons grabbed the group at their master’s mental command. “Oh, and you won’t be needing those lovely ruby slippers anymore, my dear!” A Vortexon took the slippers off. Dorothy and her friends were place in separate cages near Robin, Frodo, MetalBeard, and our parents.
“Have you got any idea where we are or what’s going on?” asked Robin.
“Sorry,” replied Fred, Richard and Emily’s dad, as he spoke for all our parents.
“A nightmare, maybe?” asked my adopted mom, Haruna.
“Might as well be,” mused Ichimonji as he wore a different belt without a fan inside.
“I know it’s not Kansas,” observed Dorothy. “They took my slippers.”
“They took the One Ring, too,” recalled Frodo.
“And the Kryptonite I was holding,” exclaimed Robin.
“And my treasure chest of ill-gotten booty,” sighed MetalBeard.
“And my belt, the Typhoon,” reported Ichimonji.
“They did not steal anything from us,” observed Sergei, Mikhail and Irina’s dad.
“Maybe we’re not important,” mused Amanda, Fred’s wife.
“My treasure…” moaned MetalBeard.
“Don’t worry, MetalBeard,” assured Robin, “We’ll get it back.” MetalBeard brightened at this. “And then I WILL have to return it to the rightful owners.” The grin faded.
“I’m Frodo Baggins, madam,” said Frodo. “Who are you?”
“Dorothy Gale,” introduced Dorothy. “This is the Scarecrow.”
“Scarecrow?!” yelped Robin.
“Not Jonathan Crane,” assured Angela, Xiomara’s mother.
“Oh,” Robin sighed with relief.
“And this is the Tin Man,” continued Dorothy. “And that’s the Cowardly Lion.” Said talking animal was muttering “I DO believe in spooks!” over and over. While introductions were made, the Vortexon with the slippers approached his master.
“Excellent!” cheered Vortech. “Place them with the other elements.” The Vortexon obeyed. Vortech then used his magic to lift them and place them on their images in the hole in the floor and reactivate the shield over it. He cackled once the job was done.
“Must you cackle?” protested Hiro.
“It’s therapeutic,” explained Vortech. “You should try it.” Another portal opened and released a clown in a purple suit and an old man in white robes and a staff. “Bad guys?” asked Vortech. “Excellent. To the right, please.”
“I am Saruman the White,” protested the man in white. “I am not a ‘bad guy’!”
“Pfft! Please!” scoffed the clown.
“Look!” cried Vortech, putting on a show of fear. “Sauron!”
“My lord!” yelped Hiro, pretending to be scared. “What brought you here?!”
“My lord, Sauron!” exclaimed Saruman as he turned and kneeled. “It is I, your faithful serv…!” All he saw was the fortress’ interior. He realized he was played for a fool as he heard the clown laughing at him.
“If I recall,” mused Hiro, “Sauron is a Dark Lord. Doesn’t that imply evil, Saruman?” Saruman was about to argue but couldn’t get the words out and slumped his shoulders in defeat. “And then there’s you,” said Hiro to the clown. “You call yourself the Clown Prince of Crime. Wouldn’t crime be evil? Not that I complain about your work, Mr. Joker.”
“Well, at least SOMEONE appreciates my work!” cheered the Joker. “Unlike a certain bat in my belfry and his Boy Blunder!”
“I heard that!” called Robin. The Joker pretended not to notice.
“To your right, you say?” quizzed Saruman to Vortech.
“If you don’t mind,” confirmed Vortech. He pointed to the weapons pile on his right. “You’ll find lots of fun weapons and we can offer you some excellent opportunities to use them!”
“Well,” giggled the Joker, “we’d have to be crazy to refuse that offer!” Vortech arched an eyebrow and hmmed in confusion.
“Er, I hate to ask this of a comedian,” winced Hiro, “but can you explain the joke?” The Joker twitched.
“That means we’re in,” he groaned.
“Follow me to the weapons range,” called Hiro. “I’ll get you acquainted with our arsenal.” The two bad guys from different dimensions followed him with the Joker laughing his head off.
While that was going on, we arrived back at our base of operations. The gateway was still in one piece. “Goodness,” exclaimed Gandalf, “I almost lost my staff that time!”
“Same here,” agreed Wyldstyle, “except with my lunch.”
“Yeah, I almost threw up the apples I had,” muttered Tonje.
“I don’t understand why Fili was so against apples when he got to Lake Town,” said Gandalf.
“Given that he was in a barrel that smelled of apples before he got there,” replied Michael, “I’d have the same reaction if I were in his position.” Batman took out the gateway piece and examined it. It jumped out of his hands and floated in the air.
“Hey, nice job!” called the voice from earlier. “You brought back the Shift Keystone.”
“Keystone?” quizzed Wyldstyle. “What’s a keystone?”
“I’m guessing it’s this,” mused Batman as he pointed to the Gateway piece as it attached itself to the right-most area. Batman’s left hand then floated in the air and glowed purple before a purple gauntlet materialized with the Shift Keystone’s symbol.
+KEYSTONE POWERS ARE NOW IN YOUR POSSESSION+ announced my belt. +GATEWAY 20% STABILIZED+
“Oh, so that’s why they’re called Keystones,” realized Tanisha. “They’re holding the gateway together like a bridge!”
“Hey, Haruto,” announced the voice, “I found your dimension. You can go home whenever you wish.” The gateway opened a portal.
“In that case,” bid Haruto Soma, “I must say farewell.”
“It was an honor to fight alongside you,” praised Hongo.
“Yeah, alongside, instead of against,” Haruto pointed out. “Last time we met, it was you and the other Showa riders against us Heisei riders.”
“And you proved that you’re still worthy of the name Kamen Rider,” praised Hongo. “Farewell, Haruto-san.”
“Farewell, Hongo-san,” called Haruto. “Farewell, everyone.” He jumped into the portal while we all waved goodbye.
“Now,” I quizzed my belt after the portal closed, “what’s the idea with the studs we got from Glinda?”
+THEY ARE MADE OF A VALUABLE METAL CALLED NONEXISTIUM+ explained my belt. +IT IS FOUND IN FOUR COLORS+ +A STUD IS A MEANS OF CURRENCY+ +THE NOW EXHAUSTED BLACK STUDS USED TO HAVE A VALUE OF ONE+ +THE COMMON GOLD STUDS HAVE A VALUE OF TEN+ +SLIGHTLY LESS COMMON SILVER STUDS HAVE A VALUE OF ONE HUNDRED+ +RARE BLUE STUDS HAVE A VALUE OF ONE THOUSAND+ +THE RAREST PURPLE STUDS HAVE A VALUE OF TEN THOUSAND+
“Glinda gave us a cash reward!” exclaimed Emmanuel. I grinned wickedly.
“Money!” I cheered.
“Easy,” called Batman. “What about the gauntlet I got?”
+WHEN CONNECTED TO A SPECIAL TRANSMITTER, THE KEYSTONE GAUNTLET WILL ALLOW YOU TO USE THAT SPECIFIC KEYSTONE POWER+ explained my belt. +CURRENTLY, YOU ARE BONDED TO THE SHIFT KEYSTONE THAT WE HAVE OBTAINED IN DIMENSION W-1-Z-A-R-D-0-F-0-Z+
“So, this thing can give me the power the Witch had when we fought her?” asked Batman.
+AFFIRMATIVE+ confirmed my belt. +HOWEVER, THAT GAUNTLET IS HARDWIRED TO YOUR DNA+
“No one else can use it,” I guessed. “Still, impressive technology. Where did it come from?”
+THIS DIMENSION IS THE TECHNOLOGY’S DIMENSION OF ORIGIN+ boasted my belt, as much as a monotonous voice can give a boasting tone.
“What is this place anyway?” asked Wyldstyle.
+THIS IS ONE OF THE THREE REMAINING FRAGMENTS OF THE MULTIVERSAL PLANET, VORTON+ said my belt.
“Remaining fragments?” asked Richard. “You mean, we’re floating on a dead planet?”
+AFFIRMATIVE+ confirmed my belt.
“Then, how are we breathing?” I asked.
+EMERGENCY POWER KEEPS AN ATMOSPHERIC FIELD AROUND THE FRAGMENTS+ explained my belt. +WITH THE GATEWAY RESTORED AND A KEYSTONE HOLDING IT IN PLACE, THE FIELDS WILL LAST INDEFINITELY+ +FOOD DISPENSERS ARE ALSO FUNCTIONING AS WELL AS THE SHOWER ROOMS+
“Shower!” I exclaimed. “Did you guys hear that? What a wonderful word!”
“I suggest some food and cleaning ourselves of any filth we’ve acquired,” commented Richard. “I haven’t had a decent shower since we left Castle Nerd Skull.”
“An excellent idea!” cheered Emily.
“I agree!” I affirmed. We all departed for the showers and got ourselves cleaned. Our clothes were put in machines marked “Clothes mended and washed while you wait.” Once my shower was finished, I found my dress neatly folded and my tiara sparkling like new in a basket in my changing stall. I got myself dressed and walked out while adjusting my tiara on my head. I met up with the others with clean clothes over at the cafeteria.
“Ye GODS!” exclaimed Michael. “I never felt so clean!”
“I will admit,” mused Batman, “even a hero like me needs a clean uniform.”
“And food is waiting for us!” I called. My belt talked me through how to operate the replicator and soon I was greeted with something from my home country, a comfort food, really, Chazuke, or Ochazuke made with light fish stock poured over rice and topped with things like umeboshi and grilled salmon, my personal preference of toppings. This is one of my favorite rice dishes. Soon, everyone got their meals and we sat down and ate. Those from Japan, Hongo, Hiroki, and I, said “Itadakimasu” (I gratefully receive) before we ate. We all ate our meals and had our drinks in happiness. For just that moment, we didn’t care about a dimensional crisis. Hiroki said his late father would say that if the entire human race got together to eat and drink and be merry, conflict would be nonexistent. I wish I met the man. After we ate, we Japanese said “Gochisosama” (Thank you for the meal) and we all found our bedrooms. We bid each other good night and flew off to Dream Land.
Back in the Merry Old Land of Oz, in the Witch’s throne room, a Winkie in his old gear and green makeup examined the puddle of green liquid that was once a person. He then took a vial and put a portion of the liquid into it and pricked his finger to let blood drip in the vial. The next step was to put a drop of water into the mixture, cork it, and shake it. He turned to leave when he saw a woman in a black ball gown with a skeletal motif, a black cloak, skull makeup, and black orbs for eyes. She looked at the vial, then back at the Winkie.
“Nardo will not appreciate that,” she whispered. “He needs this freedom.”
“Freedom?” scoffed the Winkie. “We were starving before the Witch came. Many of us would rather have food than freedom. Now, out of my way!”
“Even though you know my power, you still give me orders?” asked the woman. “True, it wasn’t her time, but she will not rule here again.”
“Get out of my way!” snarled the Winkie.
“Try and move me!” hissed the woman. She flicked her wrist and summoned a scythe. The woman then got into a defensive stance. The Winkie charged, with the intent to knock her down. It didn’t go so well as she used the staff part of her scythe to trip him up. The vial flew out of his hands as she spun in a circle with the scythe pointing at the ground. It opened a vortex beneath her. She remained floating above it as if she were on solid ground. The vial tumbled in as the Winkie was thrown into a wall, knocking him out. She took a book from her cloak and skimmed over it until she found what she was looking for. “A pity,” she said. She turned to the unconscious Winkie. “Looks like I’ll be back for you in ten minutes. A stress induced heart attack is a rather painful way to go, but you insisted on working yourself to death. In a way, you chose to be a slave instead of living your life to the fullest. I cannot say where you’ll go. Farewell. Your fate is sealed. Forget you ever met me. A freak portal took that vial out of your hands.”
“My lady, hold for a moment,” called a woman’s voice. The woman in black turned to see a Winkie woman in her natural yellow clothes.
“Widow Netterop,” whispered the woman. She smiled. “Good to see you.”
“So, it’s true?” asked Widow Netterop. “The Witch had secret police?”
“I’m afraid so,” confirmed the woman. “I wish it weren’t true, but she feared rebellion from both the Flying Monkeys and your people. However, it DID make her vulnerable to outside influence, as I’m sure you’ve heard.”
“Has the Emerald City been informed about this crisis going across the dimensions?” asked Netterop.
“I spoke with the Wizard of Oz himself,” whispered the woman. “He is preparing accordingly, with the resources available. I would suggest to your brother that he do the same.”
“I’ll tell him at once,” assured Netterop. “Would you like to stay for a while? My daughter is preparing Chicken Soup. She hasn’t seen you in a while, good Lady Death.” The woman, Death, considered.
“I don’t see why not,” she finally decided. “Lead the way. I’ll deal with this man in ten minutes.”
“If you don’t mind my asking,” quizzed Netterop as she led her oldest friend out of the tower, “how will he die?”
“Stress induced heart attack,” whispered Death. Netterop shut the door behind them. The click of the lock woke the Winkie. He had forgotten his encounter and realized the vial was gone. Inside the vortex, the vial cracked and shattered. The mixture then grew into a humanoid shape. It then formed a mouth and a feminine shape. It screamed from pain of the vortex winds reforming her into Elphaba Thropp, the former Wicked Witch of the West.