“…What?” asked Megumi as she still controlled Vortex: Trinity Soul.
“After I had killed my people,” explained Vortech, “the Chizarans asked me what the reward would be for seeking Eternity…but I still haven’t found it! What is this hopelessness?! I see all of reality before me…and it is useless! Does this mean I have dragged myself through the rift…for NOTHING?! Why do I not know what my reward will be?! Am I…insignificant?! The mere question is…is…sickening! …I have been in one place for too long! I…I cannot…! I am…tiny! I am…incomplete! I cannot…process this without…without…! They can’t help me now! The Vortonians cannot give me what I seek anymore! I am…I am…I am…unimportant! No, not true! …It’s true, though. Nothing matters! Nothing I do matters! The multiverse doesn’t care if I turn it into one universe or not! It…it simply IS!” He then grabbed Vortex: Trinity Soul by the shoulders with fear and pleading in his eyes. “I need existence! I need reason! GIVE ME LIFE! GIVE ME FUNCTION! I…I CANNOT…!” He then released Vortex: Trinity Soul and stumbled to the portal generator ground controls. “…I fear!” he gasped. “I…I can’t process this! I am MORE than this…but I am tiny! …Nothing I do matters! Tell me! I beg you! Tell me how I can exist! How I can live!”
“So THAT’S what you’re afraid of,” mused Arsha as she took control of Vortex: Trinity Soul. “…Honestly, it’s the same thing I’m afraid of. One day, we expire and that’s it. Not even rank will make people really remember you. Nothing we do matters before we die. …But it does.”
“She’s right,” agreed Optimus as he took control. “There’s always something new. There’s always something to test you and make you better. Maybe…maybe you could turn human? Abandon the quest for a bit and live out…”
“NO!” roared Vortech as he slammed his fist to the ground and made an energy shockwave, knocking everyone back. “I know your experiences! I know your existence! I have been part of you for three of Megumi’s years! I have seen your ups and downs! I KNOW how life works! I have seen all of your battles! YOU ARE SMALL! I AM…!”
“Tiny,” replied Vortex: Trinity Soul as all three of her components released their hold. “You said so yourself.”
“You are but dust!” snarled Vortech. “I am the fiery core of a planet! I am the rocks that destroy a town! I am the seas that flood the lands! I am the wind that rips buildings out of the ground! Don’t even dare to THINK that your existence compares to mine!” He then swung wildly with his staff and tried to land a hit on Vortex: Trinity Soul. She didn’t permit herself to be struck down. She leapt up into the air and pressed the button on the Transcendant.
“Triple Final attack!” it announced.
“RIDER TRINITY KICK!” she declared. She flew through the air, foot first, and struck Vortech down. Vortech was gasping for breath before an explosion engulfed him. When the flames died down, Vortech was on his knees as Vortex: Trinity Soul removed the Transcendant and split into Megumi, Optimus, and Arsha.
“I am the fiery core of a planet!” whispered Vortech as he curled into a fetal position. “I am the rocks that destroy a town! I am the seas that flood the lands! I am the wind that rips buildings out of the ground! …But what is the fiery core of a planet to Eternity but a smoldering ember in a firepit long doused? What are the rocks that destroy a town but grains of sand on Eternity’s beach? What are the seas that flood the lands but a glass of water to hydrate Eternity? What is the wind that rips buildings out of the ground to Eternity but a breeze generated by a fan? There is nothing that lasts within Eternity. …I am afraid. …I…I cannot bear this confusion any longer! I am…I am alone.” Blue mist then came from Vortech’s skin. “I am…irrelevant.” By then, Vortech was no longer clutching himself tightly. “There is no reward for seizing Eternity, is there? Mortals know this and still continue to live.”
“…No, there isn’t a reward for seizing Eternity,” replied Megumi.
“I have only the same questions since I began my crusade,” sighed Vortech. “Now…now I am falling apart.” He gestured to the blue mist coming from his body. “For some reason, I feel no pain. I always thought death was painful. I guess it depends on how one dies.” Speaking of which, Death arrived with her scythe. Vortech looked up, the white lights making up his eyes fading and revealing brown eyes, HUMAN eyes. “…It’s getting dark now,” he muttered. “The game is over; the players depart from the table. I am alone. …I am afraid.”
“Don’t be afraid,” soothed Megumi as she, Arsha, and Optimus knelt by Vortech. “We’re here with you.”
“…Death, will you permit me to ask my last questions?” asked Vortech.
“Very well,” replied Death.
“Everyone, let’s assume, hypothetically, that I won,” pondered Vortech. “I would give you the perfect lives you’ve always wanted. No stigmas. No tragedies. No need to suffer.”
“And we wouldn’t be here talking about it if our lives went exactly as we wanted it,” countered Batman. “Yes, every day I wish that my parents didn’t die. But, while I always miss them, if they didn’t die, I wouldn’t be fighting crime right now. I would be a bratty rich kid with only the name Bruce Wayne as the single identifier. I wouldn’t have made the friends I did; I wouldn’t trust Commissioner Gordon; I wouldn’t constantly reach my hand out to those that needed help. I wouldn’t be Batman.”
“If my life went the way I wanted it,” supplied Gandalf, “I wouldn’t consider the Hobbits as very heroic in their unique fashion. I doubt I would even be in Middle-Earth. I would still be a scared Maiar spirit staying in the Undying Lands.”
“I doubt I’d have any drive to join a resistance group if my life went the way I wanted it to,” mused Wyldstyle. “I wouldn’t have met Emmet or fought against Lord Business.”
“I wouldn’t be the one inspiring others to fight against evil if Shocker didn’t make me what I am today,” continued Hongo. “I would just be a nobody who never really learned anything outside of a textbook and spent his days riding his motorcycle.”
“I had five people die under my command,” recalled Arsha. “I always thought it was a Captain’s duty to keep every single crew member alive. My crew told me that was an unhealthy conceit and I saw why. Without having them die, I wouldn’t come face to face with the fact that they knew the risk of death was there as they signed up. They wanted to protect the Realms and they gave their lives to do so. If they didn’t die, I don’t think I would be a good Captain.
“The fact that my brother leads the Decepticons still breaks my Spark,” recounted Optimus. “I also stumbled as Prime as I let my arrogance take hold. Still, I came out stronger and continue to do so. There’s no reason for me to need a different life than the one I’ve got now.”
“I know exactly what would have happened if Hiro acted as a father to me,” mused Megumi. “I wouldn’t be adopted by a more loving family. I wouldn’t have moved to America. I wouldn’t have made many friends. I wouldn’t have met you. I wouldn’t be a student of After Academy. I wouldn’t be married to an American. I’d be a normal Japanese woman, unknowing of her dad’s old home in the Kamen Rider universe.”
“You believe there’s a point to existence, even if that existence is imperfect,” Vortech summed up.
“I’ve always thought so,” replied Megumi.
“What if you’re wrong and there isn’t?” asked Vortech.
“Then I hope that, if I ever DO regain my mortality and die,” answered Megumi, “that I die thinking that I would do it all over again still.”
“…Braver than I am,” sighed Vortech as he shut his eyes. Death swung the scythe and Vortech simply turned into blue mist that faded away.
Up in space, the Vortech Clones fell to the floor and returned to a HumaGear state. They were no longer functional and all weapons-fire stopped as everyone saw Vortech die. Everyone performed sensor sweeps for any lumps of Vortech left behind. “All scans…negative,” sighed Rosadera in relief. The other ships reported the same.
“N…no,” remarked Caan.
“It’s over,” sighed War.
“No,” repeated Caan.
“Well, I don’t know about you,” growled Megatron, “but whatever deal Hiro made with me is no longer worth it. I’ll stick to conquests within my own universe.
“No!” snarled Caan.
“As shall I,” muttered Dr. Borg. “This whole adventure has cost me dearly and I intend to return home and…”
“No, no, NO!” roared Caan. “IT’S A TRICK! VORTECH’S STILL ALIVE!” He opened a rift and arrived on the Tiger’s bridge. He then keyed in a command and beamed everyone on the ship into space. Hiro was rescued, his crew wasn’t so lucky as the ship’s weapons fired on them, then targeted the satellites and fired streams of energy at them.
“Hailing frequencies opened!” called Mikhail on the Virginia.
“Caan, what are you doing?!” demanded War.
“I’ve increased power to the portal generators! There is NO escape for Vortech!” replied Caan.
“Someone get him off that ship! Destroy it if you need to!” called Hiro from the Scorpion’s sick bay. The ships fired on the Tiger, but it proved fruitless. The shields wouldn’t budge.
“He’s adapted to our weapons fire!” reported Megatron. “We can’t stop him!”
“In one hour, the portal will be large enough to swallow the planet!” called Caan. “Vortech will NOT escape this time! This sacrifice will not be made in vain! I will kill Vortech! Behold, the end of this game! The Daleks are supreme! Dalek Caan, the last of the Cult of Skaro, the last Dalek veteran of the Last Great Time War, WINS!”
“Caan! No! Please!” begged Mickey. “Don’t do this! You’re smarter than this!”
“Caan, there’s no need for us to continue the hunt!” called Eggman from the Nemesis.
“You two may act foolish,” replied Caan, “but you are the only two beings I have respect for. You recognized the danger before anyone else and took the appropriate actions to bring us to victory. I am sorry for what I must do to protect reality itself.” He closed the communications channel and stood at the now abandoned helm. “As it was before, so shall it be again. Caan, alone against evil. Let this saucer take me to the edge of infinity if it must; I will end you, Vortech!”
The fleet was still trying to hail Caan or destroy the ship, but nothing was working. “It’s no good!” sighed Mickey. “Nothing’s going to get through to him!”
“He’s right,” sighed Rosadera. “Azuliterii’s trying to circumvent the shields, but it’s going to take the hour needed to bring down the portal!”
“Well, we have to do something!” argued War. “We can’t just…!”
“Er, guys?” asked a voice on a broad transmission. “What’s going on?”
“Prime?!” asked Megatron.
“It’s all of us,” replied Optimus.
“Minna-san, why is the portal getting bigger?” quizzed Megumi. “Vortech’s dead! We need to shut that thing down!”
“It’s Caan!” called Mickey. “He’s completely lost his mind! He thinks Vortech tricked us again and he’s gonna use the portal to swallow Chizara!”
“Because, of COURSE, he would!” rasped Batman.
“Did he even use his clairvoyance to check?” asked Gandalf.
“I don’t think he bothered to!” replied Eggman.
“The portal would have closed itself if Vortech went into it, right?” asked Lacey.
“Right,” answered Azuliterii, “and I’m trying to find a way to shut it down, but Caan’s blocked us out. The longer we wait, the bigger the portal gets, and the less chance we have of getting out of this.”
“I think I have a plan forming,” mused Lacey, “I just need a distraction.” Optimus got an idea.
“Grimlock,” he called, “do you still have my Holo-droid?”
“That’s where the Fear-o-tron came from,” answered Grimlock. “We just heavily modified it.”
“Beam it down,” ordered Optimus. “I need to tinker with it.”
“SERIOUSLY?! RIGHT NOW?!” protested Teletraan. “KID! PRIORITIES!”
“I DO have my priorities, Teletraan,” answered Optimus. “One of those priorities is keeping my skills up! We’ll call back when we’re ready.” The call ended, leaving a lot of people to massage their temples.
“You know,” muttered Tails, “one of these days, he’ll be only halfway through whatever activity he’s got on his mind and we’ll have already saved the world without him!”