webnovel

Almost Invincible (Invincible SI)

What do you do when, without any explanation or reason, you wake up in someone else's body? You survive, you fight, and you stand tall; to stay alive, you do whatever you deem necessary. You become invincible. . . Patreon Early Access Chapters! patreon.com/EmmaCruzader Now you can find illustrations of this and other stories on my twitter (@Emma_pressure) where I will start uploading them some time after being published in advance on my patreon (patreon/EmmaCruzader) there you can also find advance chapters, exclusive votes and previews (like sketches) as well as the final illustration in the best possible quality.

EmmaCruzader · Anime & Comics
Not enough ratings
16 Chs

7: Loss and Gain

7: Loss and Gain

The entire capital city of Flaxan was engulfed in a storm of destruction.

The few remaining Flaxan civilians fled for shelter; many had to hide underground, and many failed to find refuge in time.

Buildings collapsed, structures that had stood for thousands of years were destroyed in a matter of seconds.

Mark burst through a hundred-story building, his body passing through each floor until he reached the ground, then the entire structure collapsed upon him.

In the sky, Omni-Man watched impassively, observing the dust cloud that engulfed the area.

His eyes watched attentively, then from the corner of his eye, he saw a blurry figure emerging from the smoke at high speed.

Nolan managed to raise his hand before Mark's fist struck his face; the muscles of his arm trembled, and his eyes opened slightly as he felt the almost forgotten sensation of pain.

It had been a while since something had hurt him.

With no time to dwell on it, he had to twist his body to dodge a kick; his hands blocked dozens of blows, and his own fist crashed into his son's face.

He saw blood spatter, but Mark did not flinch; even after being hit, his own attacks did not stop.

Nolan found his chin being hit, his teeth clenched, and he felt the pull on his neck as his head was forced upward.

There was no blood yet, but this blow had made something clear to him: his son was stronger than before.

He couldn't help but smile.

Pride, disappointment, sadness, and anger, different feelings mixed within him.

He was happy and proud because his son was strong, because he was a warrior, because he had proven his worth in battle.

He was disappointed that his son couldn't see beyond human morality, that he refused to do what was necessary.

He was sad because he was fighting against him, battling his father for a bunch of worthless insects.

He was angry because he chose them over him, because he fought for them.

Another blow struck his face, the air cracked, and Nolan had to snap out of his thoughts.

He took a few steps back in the air, still showing no signs of being hurt, raised his hand without knowing why, causing Mark to halt in the air, looking at him with doubt.

Nolan, Nolan should be hitting him; he should be showing him the Viltrumite way, proving to him the error in his action, why he was right and Mark was not.

Mark was a Viltrumite, he had seen it, when he swept through the soldiers of Flaxan, when he destroyed their armies, when he scared a man to death with just his presence.

Deep down, his son was a true Viltrumite; he just had to make him realize it.

"Are they really worth it, Mark?" he pointed to the city beneath their feet.

"Are you really willing to do all this for them?"

Mark wiped the blood from his nose and looked at him seriously.

"No"

The response surprised Nolan, leaving him perplexed. He looked at his son with doubts, and Mark continued speaking.

"I don't know them, I don't speak their language, nor do I know their customs. Until a few minutes ago, they were all trying to kill me. I'm the one who killed their children, their parents, their siblings. As long as there's someone who remembers what happened, they'll always hate me"

His words confused Nolan. If he knew that, if he was aware of it, then why was he fighting against him?

Mark looked at the city with some doubts. The reality was that he rationally knew Flaxan was nothing but trouble. Logically, he knew and could deduce that as long as there was someone who remembered what he did to them, they would always be at war with him.

The most optimal option was simply to kill them all.

"So why? Why do you fight for them?"

Wasn't that a difficult question? Not because he couldn't answer it, but because the answer was one that only made sense to him.

It had a lot to do with who he was, who he was now, and with Mark, the original Mark.

He wasn't a hero, nor did he consider himself a good person. His morals could change depending on his circumstances, but he would never get rid of them. He could kill his enemies, fight those who sought to kill him, but he would never massacre those who couldn't defend themselves, never trample those who were already on the ground.

Perhaps it was hypocritical of him in many ways.

"I don't know..."

It was stupid, illogical, a course of action that could get him killed.

But it was what he wanted to do. This was his life, and he chose how he wanted to live it, what he was willing to do with it, and the lines he was willing to cross.

He was not a monster, and he never would be.

In the end, he was just a human, and humans were never logical.

Mark wanted to live, wanted to keep living, but he also wanted a life he could be proud of.

If by continuing to live he threw away all his values, crossed all lines, and violated all morals, was he still himself? If he became the monster that the universe seemed to want to turn him into, if he only chose the easy options...

Mark couldn't imagine himself, or rather, didn't want to imagine himself taking that path. Not because it was inconceivable or because he believed he had superior morals.

but because he feared what kind of monster he could become if he did, how easy it would be.

And the difficult decisions were never easy.

.

Nolan, not for the first time in his life, found himself unable to understand his son.

He looked at him, his eyes still defiantly meeting his gaze. Somehow, Nolan could understand that his son wouldn't change his mind, no matter how hard he hit him or how he tried to reason with him.

That look was one he was familiar with, the look of someone willing to do anything to pursue their ideals, no matter what they were. It was a look he himself had once had long ago.

Nolan wondered when that look had stopped appearing on his own face.

Not for the first time, doubts flooded his mind about what he had to do, about his mission, about Earth, about humanity.

Doubt gave way to anger. Why did he doubt? The empire was everything, it was above all and everyone. The empire was the most important thing; he would live and die for the empire!

"Do you think you're doing the right thing because you forgive their insignificant and miserable lives? Do you think you're better for protecting them?!"

Mark laughed.

"Didn't you teach me that? To protect those who can't protect themselves? To fight for the weak? To be like you?" The mocking tone in his voice only fueled Nolan's rage even more.

His figure became blurry, his fist launched towards Mark at full speed. Mark barely had time to block, yet his entire arm still trembled from the impact.

"Do you really believe that?! Fine, then prove it!" Nolan delivered another blow; the shockwave cleared the black clouds in the sky, gusts of wind sent debris flying, and the earth shook.

"Try to stop me, come on!"

Mark dodged a blow and countered with his own; his fist buried into his father's side, but it barely seemed to affect him. In his rage, Nolan's hand stretched out and grabbed him by the neck, quickly dragging him through the sky and slamming him into the ruins of the Flaxan capital.

Almost breathless, he looked at his father standing over him, his hand gripping his neck tightly.

"What are you waiting for?!"

He delivered another blow that struck Mark's face; the entire place trembled, and the ground cracked, deepening the crater they were in.

Mark felt his teeth loosening, blood streaming from his face, and his vision blurring.

Despite this, adrenaline coursed through his veins, his strength seeming greater than before. With a swift movement, he twisted the hand gripping his neck and loosened its grasp.

He raised his head, and his forehead collided with his father's face, sending his body several meters away. The shockwave caused dust to rise everywhere.

Mark stood up, looking at Nolan, who held his face with his hand. It was barely noticeable, but a trickle of blood ran from his nose.

This was the first time he had hurt his father. Nolan seemed to be in shock, staring at the blood on his hand. That gave Mark a moment to gather his thoughts.

Mark had considered many ways he could get Nolan on his side.

But he didn't understand his father enough to believe that his words would easily sway him.

So he only had three options: try to talk to him and somehow miraculously convince him to be on his side, fight him, defeat him, and persuade him to join him, or kill him and do it on his own.

At this moment, the second option seemed the most unlikely, the third option wasn't better, and the first option wasn't reliable.

He was at a crossroads, a dilemma that seemed impossible to solve.

Fortunately, he still had an ace up his sleeve.

If he could use the Speed Force at the right moment, he could deliver a devastating blow. He didn't know if it would be enough to kill him, but temporarily incapacitating him should be possible.

But... he didn't know if he wanted to kill him. Maybe it was the part of the original Mark speaking, but if it was possible, Mark didn't want to kill his father.

It was a tough decision, but he had been postponing the use of the Speed Force for that reason.

From the moment the Flaxan portal opened on Earth to when he entered it and spent all those days fighting against the Flaxan army, Mark had been working on his connection with the Speed Force.

The way time passed faster in this dimension seemed to stimulate the energy seed within him in some way. Esoteric ideas about how acceleration and time related to it passed through his mind every day.

Much of it was incomprehensible, but what he could understand gave him new ideas on how to use the spark of Speed Force inside him. He felt like his understanding of it was greater, and that led to his connection increasing.

He didn't know if it would be enough.

So for now, he would have to go with the first option. Improbable as it was, if he could get his father on his side, he would have a valuable ally for the future.

But first, he had to convince him not to destroy the Flaxans and then not to conquer Earth. Super easy, right?

Mark wanted the Flaxans alive for more reasons than just staying true to himself. It wasn't just about crossing certain lines or not. Selfish as he was at the moment, he could also think about the future in the same way.

His father was just his biggest current obstacle. He still remembered who the real enemy was to defeat. The Flaxans might be problematic, the different passage of time in their dimension was also a great advantage they had, which could come back to bite him if he wasn't careful.

But if he could get them on his side, make them share their technology with him, make their dimension his own, one where he could train whenever he wanted, one he could escape to if necessary.

A base, a second home, a world to hide in... where he could prepare.

Of course, he didn't think it would be as easy as he imagined. Things didn't seem to go as he wanted, and this probably wouldn't be any different. But if he didn't try, he felt like he was just letting go of an opportunity.

Now he just had to find a way to make this work.

.

Nolan looked at the blood on his hand, the burning pain had momentarily dissipated his anger.

What was he doing?

He looked at Mark, at his son, he saw his body covered in blood, the wounds on his skin, his bruised face.

He looked at his hands, his knuckles covered in blood, his son's blood.

Why were they fighting? Was it because Mark was soft, because he showed mercy? Because he had decided to go against him?

Or simply because he didn't act as he expected him to? No, it wasn't just that.

He remembered his words, he remembered everything that had happened so far. He wasn't angry with Mark; he was angry with himself. He was furious because Mark sounded like that stupid voice in the back of his mind, that part of him that wanted to do things differently.

That part of him that didn't want Earth to be conquered by Viltrum.

The worst part was his response. There was no logic, no sensible reasoning. Like Mark, he didn't know why. Why did he want to protect them? Why did the threat to Earth irritate him?

Humans were weak, insignificant, stupid, and unworthy.

And yet, Nolan couldn't crush that part of him that wanted to protect them.

If he were on Earth, he would have razed their cities, killed thousands or even millions, just to reaffirm his path. Just to deny any chance of changing his mind.

But he wasn't on Earth, and the only one he could direct his anger towards was his son.

"What's wrong, aren't you going to keep fighting?" Mark spoke, confused about his father's strange behavior.

"This fight... makes no sense" Nolan said, a sigh escaping him. As a Viltrumite, he had never backed down in a fight, never fled or surrendered.

But looking at Mark, at his son... he didn't know if he could keep doing this.

.

Mark would say that everything was going according to plan, if there had been a plan. In reality, nothing was going as he expected. He thought there would be more fighting, that he would have to break several bones in his body, that somehow this would end with one of them dead.

Instead, it ended with Omni-Man not wanting to fight anymore. He didn't know if this was a ploy, if he expected him to drop his guard. The reality was that whether it was the original Mark or the one who had taken over his body, neither of them knew Nolan. What he had seen on the show wasn't enough for him to understand his thoughts, and the Nolan who had raised the original Mark would never have massacred an entire city with a smile on his face.

As they contemplated what to do or say, footsteps approached from the ruins. A figure obscured by dust and smoke gradually became visible.

Nolan and Mark looked at him. He was a Flaxan, covered in dust and blood, and dressed differently from the common soldiers or civilians. Although he didn't look much different from others of his kind, it wasn't difficult to deduce that he was more than just a civilian or a soldier.

In his hands was a sphere pulsating with dark energy, which caught Mark's attention. He opened his eyes wide, feeling the overwhelming energy. Even if his connection with the Speed Force was only superficial, it had given him some special senses.

His ability to sense the flow of time was one of them, and he had also begun to feel the potential energy. And that sphere was setting off warning bells everywhere. He couldn't accurately measure how much energy was in it or what kind of energy it was, but it was clearly dangerous.

Why hadn't he sensed it before?

"$%$"

The Flaxan spoke, but it was an incomprehensible language for both of them. His voice contained anger and hatred, and Mark could even see signs of madness in his eyes.

He waved his hands, giving a speech that would surely be incredible to hear if not for the fact that only he could understand himself. He ended with heavy breathing and gasping for breath.

Then he whispered softly.

"Vengeance..."

It was a poorly pronounced word, the tone in several syllables was wrong, but even so, Mark understood it. His eyes widened, blue lightning sparks began to shine within him, his body ready to move.

Instinctively, he summoned all the strength and speed he could muster.

The world seemed to slow down, but it was still too late. The Flaxan hadn't done anything; he hadn't pressed any buttons or activated any devices. It was as if the sphere in his hands had been programmed to initiate a long time ago, and he had simply been venting until the moment arrived.

Even if Mark or Nolan had rushed to snatch it away, nothing would have changed. The trigger had already been pulled.

In a fraction of a second, a wave of dark energy exploded. The body of the former Flaxan King disintegrated instantly, his entire atomic structure was bent and folded, deforming, changing the space around him in impossible ways until he became less than dust.

Time and space shattered as a strange energy began to flood the entire place.

Father and son soared into the sky, breaking the sound barrier hundreds of times as they hurried to escape.

But the explosion of dark energy was extremely fast, much faster than they expected.

In less than a second, the entire capital city of Flaxan was engulfed, then a blinding light seemed to illuminate the whole world.

.

.

.

Mark's vision was blurry, his lungs burned, and he couldn't help but cough. His throat felt like he had swallowed a piece of red-hot iron.

His body trembled, spasms preventing him from standing up, yet he tried to force himself to do so.

He attempted to open his eyes, but it felt like someone was spraying pepper spray into them. The pain made him hold his face tightly.

"Mark!"

His father's voice reached his ears, but it sounded distorted.

He writhed on the ground for a few moments. His skin burned, his body ached, yet he managed to calm himself. The pain kept him awake; he wanted to faint, but he knew he shouldn't.

Breathing felt like inserting needles into his lungs, so he took short, slow breaths. He only needed a little air; he could stay without breathing for a long time even if the oxygen in his lungs was toxic.

He opened his eyes, endured the burning, his vision was blurry. He had to blink several times to clear it. Everything around him was like seeing a crude mix of colors, terrains, landscapes. It was as if someone had thrown various biomes into a blender and ground them into a poorly mixed paste.

"W-What the hell?"

A hand grabbed his arm; panicked, he tried to pull away, but the grip was firm. He looked and saw his father. His previously immaculate suit was torn, wounds, cuts, and bruises covered his body, and perhaps the most astonishing thing was seeing half of his face burned.

His father helped him stand up. Despite his condition, he didn't seem uncomfortable; he certainly seemed to handle the pain much better than Mark.

"Are you okay, Mark?"

His voice was raspier than usual. Mark nodded, still dizzy, looking around bewildered. It wasn't just his eyes that saw impossible things; the sixth sense that the Speed Force had begun to breed in him also sensed things that shouldn't be possible.

It was as if space and time had been folded, shattered, mixed, and then chewed up, and the result was spat out in front of him.

"What happened?" His voice also sounded hoarse.

Nolan looked around, thinking for a moment before responding.

"I've seen something like this before, a long time ago, but it was on a much smaller scale. It was a weapon created to try to kill the Viltrumites by a civilization that... was against us. I'm not a scientist, but from what I heard from others who were, it used technology capable of twisting space-time"

Nolan touched what could only be called a mixture of different types of rocks, metal, crystal, something purple, and something resembling gum.

"They couldn't hurt us, so they tried to break our bodies using space"

It wasn't just space itself; Mark could feel different space-times intertwined everywhere. This not only sought to destroy their bodies using space but also different dimensions.

Flaxan had used his knowledge to travel between dimensions to create a weapon capable of killing them, by breaking space they sought to overcome their durability and if that was not enough they sought to mix their bodies between different dimensions, twisting and deforming them.

If they couldn't kill them, then they would incapacitate them.

In that case, how were they okay? Of course, they were injured, that was clear. Yet, if what he felt and thought was correct, every atom in their bodies should have been affected, changed, twisted.

He tried to think about it; vague memories came to mind, like the first part of the explosion hitting them, like his father standing between him and what could only be described as fiery flames coming from nowhere, How he had held him after he was burned so that he wouldn't be swallowed by the explosion.

How he had kept running...

He opened his eyes.

Speed Force. It was the Speed Force that saved them.

He didn't know how, but he remembered that the Speed Force could protect its users from external forces. That was why even if they hit something at maximum speed, the bodies of speedsters didn't turn into meat paste. It was how they could travel between dimensions without the spatial forces destroying their bodies and how they could surpass the speed at which matter was restricted and violate the laws of physics.

At the most critical moment, he had kept flying using the Speed Force and had dragged Nolan with him. But it wasn't perfect; due to his weak connection, while the worst part hadn't reached them, they were still affected by the aftermath once the Speed Force returned to him and went out.

Mark could feel his body screaming in pain, as if something had tried to twist it in ways it shouldn't.

Even now, space around them was bent and unstable. Moving was difficult and confusing; his vision could also see these irregularities, making his brain dizzy processing the vision of space in this impossible state.

"We have to get out of here" Mark didn't want to stay in this place. He was getting dizzy, and he didn't want to faint now.

Nolan nodded. Father and son leaned on each other, attempting to fly, but it was difficult and strange. Gravity had also been affected in various ways.

At one moment, they felt as light as feathers, and the next second, they almost fell face-first to the ground when the weight of their bodies seemed to suddenly increase thousands of times.

It took them some time, but they managed to distance themselves from the affected terrain. Fortunately, whatever happened seemed to have a limited range in a certain sense. The familiar sight of Flaxan's natural landscape was welcomed by both of them.

However, their lungs and eyes still burned; it was uncomfortable, and if they breathed too much, coughing fits would come.

Soon, they reached a small town that hadn't been destroyed and hadn't been affected by Mark and Nolan's arrival. Despite that, corpses filled every inch of the place.

Mark lifted one of the bodies; their green skin had turned purple, foul-smelling dark blood oozed from their orifices, and their eyes looked like shriveled, dry raisins.

In no time, cracks appeared on the skin, and the purple body began to fall apart.

Mark stepped back several paces at the horrific sight, while Nolan simply watched thoughtfully without blinking.

Mark didn't need to think much to figure out what was happening.

Whatever that weapon did, it had brought pieces of other dimensions to Flaxan, along with their atmospheres, microscopic life that already existed in them, and mixed them all together.

Flaxan was now a concoction of pathogens, germs, viruses, and microorganisms from different dimensions.

For a moment, panic flooded him; he clenched his fists, feeling his body. Was he going to die like this? In such a pathetic way? Not in a fight, not because his enemy was smarter or stronger, but simply because of an infection? A virus? A disease?

No, perhaps this wasn't so bad. He wasn't dead yet. Breathing was unpleasant and painful, the air touching his eyes was uncomfortable, but he was still alive.

Not only that, despite everything, he didn't feel like he was dying or getting sick. Of course, he was tired, sore, and injured, but he didn't feel like he was getting worse. Maybe it was too early to say, but the hope that this was nothing more than an inconvenience for a Viltrumite filled his mind with positivity.

If this were really lethal for them, then he couldn't think of a way to save themselves. But if their bodies could overcome it, then he could keep living.

Nolan broke into what seemed like a four-story building's doors. Both of them entered and began treating their injuries. Although they didn't understand the Flaxan language, there were still things similar enough for them to visually guide themselves.

Cloth was still cloth, metal was still metal, and so on.

Mark managed to find something similar to glasses; he had to modify them to fit, but at least now his eyes didn't burn all the time.

Nolan was adept at searching for supplies; he seemed able to easily identify what they needed given his previous experience with alien environments. In a few hours, they managed to create a small base full of supplies, and both lay back on what could be called a Flaxan sofa while chewing on what could only be identified as a sour-tasting paste.

Mark stared at the ceiling without moving, then glanced at his father sideways. They hadn't talked much since everything went to hell.

"You can say it. I told you so" his voice was less hoarse.

Nolan blinked, turning to look at him.

"If I had let you kill them all, this wouldn't have happened"

In truth, Mark had not thought that there was a Flaxan so crazy and stupid as to condemn the entire planet using a weapon like that, he did not know if his intention had been to simply screw them all and leave with an explosion or if he had not thought about the consequences that such a weapon would have.

Of course, Mark had no way of knowing that the Flaxan king had used an experimental and unfinished weapon. It was even possible that the king himself didn't know the extent and damage it could cause; he had acted out of blind revenge, unaware that it would be the worst mistake of his life.

Whatever the reason, the fact was that Flaxan was screwed now. If the population of the city they were in now was any indication, sooner or later, the entire planet would be infected by the disease and microorganisms cocktail that the dimensional weapon had brought.

If they still had a government, an army, and high-ranking officials, maybe they could devise a way to save themselves.

But they didn't. Mark and Nolan had destroyed their army, their government, and any hope for them.

Mark wondered if it would have been more merciful to simply kill them all like his father had done.

Nolan didn't know what to say, even though Mark now seemed to regret his choice, he didn't feel like this was a victory for him, he didn't feel like he had proven anything.

"This... this isn't your fault, Mark" he placed his hand on his son's shoulder, wishing he had better words, to say what he needed to hear, but he didn't have them.

Mark sighed, feeling the weight of his failure and his choices. He had lost; he didn't know what, but he felt like he had lost.

A childish and arrogant part of himself thought that everything would go as he wanted, that things would always turn out in his favor, that his choices would always be the best, that he would win, that he would survive, that no matter how things changed, he could overcome it.

Now he wasn't so sure.

.

.

.

"What do you think it means? It looks like an -i- but more like an -j-" Mark asked as his fingers felt the engraving on the metal. Nolan looked on while holding what could only be called a notebook made of a type of green paper.

He looked at the hundreds of characters they had been investigating for the past few months using the knowledge he had thanks to his education in Viltrum. Alien languages were always complicated, but they all had certain patterns that you could start to deconstruct.

"Its shape reminds me of this other one, but as if it had been cut. Maybe it's a phrase together?"

During this time, Nolan had been teaching Mark the same method he had learned hundreds of years ago, and together they had slowly been learning about the Flaxan language.

If they wanted to go home, they needed the technology that the Flaxans had used to travel between dimensions.

Normally, Nolan would have forced the remaining scientists on the planet to open a portal by force before killing them in some way.

It was a pity that there were no longer any scientists left; they had combed the planet from side to side several times, and all they found were corpses.

Fortunately, there were still many structures present, and in them, much technology. They had found what looked like libraries and had rescued the remains of the space station that Nolan had destroyed at the beginning of everything.

With this as a base, now they just had to find the technology to open a portal back home.

Of course, first they had to start understanding the meaning of their written language.

This would take some time.

.

.

.

Mark's eyes darted back and forth at inhuman speed, his hands deftly navigating through the database projected in front of him on a holographic screen, reading the information on it in a matter of seconds.

In no time, dozens of gigabytes of information flooded his head.

They wouldn't stay there permanently, at least not all of it.

Using the speedforce to accelerate the learning process was useful but also temporary.

In the comics, Flash had learned everything about architecture and construction in seconds and had built an entire building afterward, but that knowledge was temporary.

He didn't know exactly why, but that's how it worked. Perhaps it was because Flash was only human; as a Viltrumite, he seemed to have a greater retention capacity but still forgot certain things once a certain amount of time passed. Of course, if he took the time to learn it in the traditional way, he was still quite capable of keeping it in his brain for as long as he wanted.

So he had been using a mix of both to accelerate that process. It wasn't as fast as learning everything instantly, but it was enough for his current situation.

He had managed to learn to read Flaxan perfectly in a day, after all.

Of course, they had to decipher the language first, but once done, it was just a matter of structuring it, memorizing its patterns, and understanding the meaning of its symbols.

In no time, Mark had gone from barely understanding it to being able to read and understand it easily.

That had surprised his father, but he only attributed it to Mark's talent for languages.

Of course, Mark hadn't shown his full capacity to his father. As far as he was concerned, it had taken him two weeks to adapt to reading the language easily.

Thanks to his previous experience, his father had also been able to understand the language, although not to the same extent as Mark.

So both had embarked on their quest for the information they wanted.

Of course, Omniman was only looking for ways to return to Earth. Mark, on the other hand, had been plundering all the technological data from Flaxan.

This dimension and the planet may have been lost, but the technology and knowledge were still here.

And Mark wouldn't leave without them.

.

.

.

"You have to use the momentum generated by yourself like this"

In a wasteland, Nolan and Mark were suspended in the air, the son watching as his father demonstrated what he called the Viltrumite way of fighting.

How to move his body while flying, how to strike, how to use his momentum.

This training had been going on for several weeks; there wasn't much entertainment in Flaxan after all.

So far, their search had led them to a dead end, and Mark had suggested that they would have to use Flaxan's knowledge to create their own portal machine.

It was complicated, but in this place, they had all the time they needed.

Their wounds had healed; there were no scars to show on either of them. Breathing was still uncomfortable, and they had to wear goggles all the time, but they showed no signs of sickness or discomfort. Whatever was in the air only bothered them but didn't kill them.

Which was a relief. Still, Mark didn't want to risk bringing any of this back to Earth, so he had suggested to his father to find ways to decontaminate themselves. He agreed, but neither of them had any idea how to do it effectively.

Which led to having to plunder the Flaxans' databases again.

Mark felt like he would come out of all this with a degree in several fields... if there was anyone here besides his father to validate that knowledge.

Well, maybe he'll try to get some degrees once he returns to Earth.

He raised his arm, blocking a punch, and swiftly counterattacked, landing a blow to Nolan's side. His father grunted, something that had started happening more frequently.

Every day, Mark was becoming stronger.

.

.

.

In what was once a Flaxan military base.

Inside a tightly sealed metal building.

Mark and Nolan looked up to contemplate their creation. After an incalculable amount of time, they had managed to build what Mark called Star-Gate 1.0.

Using the Flaxans' knowledge base on dimensional travel, Mark was able to construct this bridge between dimensions his way. It was more primitive than how the Flaxans traveled; after all they didn't need a structure like this. Still, it was functional and should be able to open a path back to Earth.

A few days ago, he had managed to decrypt the Flaxan military databases. That had been a huge headache—cracking codes and hacking in an alien language was the most frustrating thing Mark had ever done. Still, he retrieved the information he needed; they now had the coordinates to return to Earth.

Mark sighed. His sanity had been hanging by a thread all this time. He didn't know how many days, months, or years had passed. His appearance hadn't changed much beyond growing a few more centimeters and gaining some muscle thanks to the training.

The passing of days had been agonizing; his only goal was to return to Earth, to go home. On the other hand, his father seemed to simply take it as a vacation, an uncomfortable one but unaffected nonetheless. Time seemed inconsequential to him. Still, he appeared much more reflective than before. Neither of them had wanted to resume their fight or their argument.

Mark seemed too focused on finding a way back, and Nolan didn't know how to say what he wanted to say. No matter how much time passed, he never felt adequate.

"We must proceed with decontamination. We have to make sure we don't bring anything with us"

Despite the building they were in having been rebuilt to isolate it from the outside, Mark didn't feel safe. He still wanted to thoroughly clean every part of them before returning.

"Then let's go"

Needless to say, the next part was anything but comfortable. Mark had to learn how to use all the necessary Flaxan tools for decontamination and even create his own. Fortunately, Flaxan had advanced knowledge and technology in that regard. They had conquered other dimensions before finding Earth, so they were prepared to deal with hostile biomes, at least when they were aware of their existence.

Being washed from head to toe, from the outside to the inside, wasn't pleasant. It was a tedious, uncomfortable, and time-consuming process, but once it was completed, they were both ready.

The room where the Star-Gate was located was also disinfected several times. Maybe it was excessive, but Mark wouldn't let another world die this way, much less if it was Earth.

Mark approached the command center and began to activate the Star-Gate. The blue light began to bloom, spatial particles gathered in the machine's center, and slowly, an opening in space-time opened up, swirling like a vortex and shining in a dark blue light.

It was time to go home.

.

.

.

Debbie carefully chopped the vegetables, poured oil into the pan, and started browning the meat.

The sun was beginning to set, the night slowly approaching. The woman glanced out the window, her face seeming impassive, but deep in her eyes, genuine concern began to show.

Several hours had passed since her son disappeared, entering through one of those portals that had appeared in the middle of New York.

As the wife of a hero, she had grown accustomed to such things; it had happened several times with her husband. But with her son facing this, it felt different.

Perhaps the only comfort she had was that the news images had shown Nolan's figure entering the same portal as Mark.

She didn't know why her husband had taken so long to help with the invasion, but he had arrived at the right moment. She just hoped they were both okay.

As she continued cooking, she heard the sound of air displacing and the familiar noise of the back patio door opening.

Her heart skipped a beat; she wanted to look, but she resisted the temptation to turn around.

"I need to shave"

Her husband's familiar voice reached her ears, and it felt like a weight was lifted off her shoulders.

"I need to eat"

Her son's voice was the final reassurance that made Debbie unable to help but smile in relief, a tear almost escaping her eye.

She turned, ready to run and embrace them, but her action halted midway when she saw them.

"Why are you naked?"

.

.

.

Note:

Things are moving forward; I had to rewrite this chapter three times because I didn't feel like I was explaining things adequately. Actions have consequences, and often those consequences are completely beyond our calculations or imagination.

I've been reading the comics, watching the series, and delving into the wiki. I still have to polish many things and improve on others, but I believe I know where to take this story. By the way, these last chapters have been full of non-stop events. I promised that this would be more than just a plot, as it comes from my desire to practice my NSFW writing. So, I hope to get to that soon. Get ready for the disaster because if you think I'm bad at writing normally, then you haven't seen me write NSFW... because I've never done it! Haha.

Anyway, as a final note, I want to thank Danny N from Ko-fi. Thank you very much for your support! It's thanks to you that this chapter is coming out earlier than expected. I took my lunch break to write this, hoping you'll continue to enjoy it.

If anyone else wants to support me, don't hesitate to do so on my Ko-fi / emmapress.

Next update: Still Defiant.