8th Official Tournament: Round 4!
Even to this day, long after I’ve learned so much and forgotten all that is objectively insignificant, I still haven’t the faintest of ideas as to how long I had been knocked out for. I suppose that such matters are of trivial concern though, especially seeing as how measurements of time hold absolutely zero implications in a world where wormholes can open and close with no rhyme or reason whatsoever. My consciousness fluttered in and out of coherency as my eyes slowly opened themselves up and treated me to the sight of an all encompassing darkness. A pungent, familiarly chemical odor invaded my nostrils and immediately filled me with a sense of dread. The puddle that I was laying face down in was that of V-Slime, the substance necessary to enter and exit the FFR Governing Staff complex. I didn’t even have to raise my head upwards to know that I had been dumped in the outside world.
“Halogen,” I scornfully muttered as I wearily brought myself up to my feet. “I always knew that you were up to no good, but actually going as far as to sabotage me? And B-Mah, I thought you were my friend. What happened to those countless rounds of Shirtless Mario Party that we played together in the PX? I guess it’s true…I really am alone here.”
Spreading out before me was a vast plain that looked vaguely reminiscent to the government mandated pictures that children would draw of their parents. The sky was a skeletal gray, the clouds effervescently pink, and the sun was shaped like a businessman’s tie. Every blade of artificial grass was perfectly identical to those surrounding it and refused to change shape even under the most magnanimous of weights. Trees of varying size, taste and texture intermittently dotted the landscape, the likes of which occasionally interspersed with what appeared to be antique bunkers of sorts. The scene would have been idyllic, if not downright beautiful, had it not been for the atrocities taking place a short distance away from me.
Division One: DESIRE DRIVE (LLS HARDCORE REMIX) [Standard]
Even in their tattered and sullied state, I easily recognized the infamous Division One uniforms; discerning the identities of the people that were wearing them, however, was a completely different matter. Their bodies were only vaguely human, stretched and distended to the point that they adopted the likeness of cars, trucks, motorcycles and other common vehicular standbys. The poor souls indiscriminately tore their way around the field, occasionally ramming into each other in what resembled a gory rendition of bumper cars. I had heard of this phenomenon before: people called it the DESIRE DRIVE. It seemed to occur whenever there was a massive influx of amorous emotions juxtaposed with anger and rage, a requisite that was presumably met thanks to the tournament. Thankfully this was only the [Standard] version of the anomaly. Sticking around to see what the full metamorphosis would entail wasn’t exactly anywhere near my list of current priorities.
Division Two: ULTRAnumb
With great haste I retreated into a nearby bunker and descended down below the surface until natural light no longer warmed my back. It was there in the tepid darkness that I came across the remnants of what was once a vibrant Division Two, each and every one of them now reduced to nothing more than piles of human-shaped sludge with highly distorted faces. As I cautiously edged my way closer and closer towards the largest of the clusters of humanoid mush, one of them happened to emerge from its stupor long enough to notice my presence.
“Hey buddy,” it listlessly greeted me.
“Howdy. What the hell happened to you guys?”
The thing attempted to smile. “We’re numb, guy. No, not just numb…we’re ULTRAnumb. It feels…so nice. So soothing. There’s nothing wrong with this. Nothing at all. Care to join? It’s ni~ce.”
I melodramatically shook my head. “I’ll pass, thanks.”
Division Three: Entry
With not all that much in the ways of any other viable options available to me, I was more or less forced to recede further and further into the sprawling depths of the bunker. Every step that I took loudly reverberated throughout the hollow interior of the structure and engendered clouds of dust and debris to shower down upon me. By the time I finished descending a nearly three kilometer long spiral staircase, I was covered from head to toe with so much dirt that my skin was completely obscured from the outside world. Thankfully though my efforts were not in vain; I soon came across Division Three, each of them huddled together within their individual cliques around the perimeter of a room so large that I couldn’t see the ceiling. I proceeded to glance around in search of a familiar face, eventually finding one in the form of the exiled staff member and resident android Netjet.
“Plopadop,” he solemnly greeted me. “Nice to see that you all the way down here. Come to do some sightseeing?”
I shrugged my shoulders. “Something like that. What’s going on?”
“We beat ‘em. We beat the Jazzman, but…look! Look at what he did!” Netjet cried while motioning towards the center of the cavern. “I’m assuming that’s what you’re here for, right? Go ahead and take it; none of us want anything to do with it. This…it all went to hell.”
Division Four: Quark
With a tumorous lump growing in the pit of my stomach, I maneuvered myself over to the middle of the room only to discover a hole barely large enough for one person to squeeze through, along with a rusted ladder affixed to its side. Despite not knowing what I was in for, I nevertheless descended even further downwards. After all, what else could I do?
Once a few days of climbing had passed I finally hit the bottom. It was within that claustrophobia-inducing space that I found not only the charred remains the Jazzman’s powerful mustache but also a small glowing object that was housed within an ornate glass enclosure. I wanted to refuse to believe what I saw, but at the same time I knew that what was resting within that enclosure was indeed genuine.
Finally, after so much searching, it was almost within my grasp: a Quark, one of the four universal power supplies that allowed this world to function without receding into a state of utter disrepair. The one and only reason that the FFR Governing Staff possessed any sort of power over the laymen of this universe was because they had collected one of the Quarks a few years prior. Up until now, the whereabouts of the other three were a complete mystery to all.
Division Five: Sleep
The glass case automatically rose up as I approached the pedestal. Even when standing such a sizable distance away from the legendary object, I could still feel its immense power serging throughout my body. For that brief instance I felt small and insignificant, akin to the Desire Drivers or the ULTRAnumbers. However, I knew that I couldn’t afford to stand around wallowing in self-deprecating sadness. The utopian future that I had been striving for all this time was at long last within my grasp.
However, it appeared that the cosmos still held a grudge against me. The very instant that I grasped onto the Quark I felt unfathomable pain overwhelm my entire consciousness, all the way to the point that I was forced to enter into a state of hybrid Sleep if only to maintain my rapidly diminishing sanity.
Division Six and Seven: 2-9
“This is the second time that he’s gone to Sleep in the past two hours,” I heard a muffled yet still unfortunately discernible voice inform some unknown presence. “He’s too important to get Kkrusty’s Disease. Perform a full blood to V-Slime transfusion and place him in the cooler for now.”
“Halogen,” I attempted to sputter out.
“Oh, good morning, Ensign!” the bearded man grinned at me. “Have a good sleep?”
“Wh-why…did…y-you stick me?”
“Because,” he said as he gently patted me on the head like a common household tapir, “it was the only way. We’ve been through this scenario, oh, what was it, twice already? Or was it nine? Oh well, somewhere between 2-9. This was the only way that we were able to locate it.”
Professor Halogen pointed at the pair of glowing dots that aimlessly danced across the surface of my left palm. “I think you know fully well, young man.”
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