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Earthbound fanfiction?

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Troll face. 0.5 50.0% [ 3 ]
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May 21st update: Chapter 7 is up. xp

Even if you never played the game, you can still get into the story.

I remember renting it from the video store. 3nodding

Years later, I've decided to write a story for it. I thought the game was the best thing on two wheels, but I've become a cynical adult and want to put a gritty edge on my beloved children's game.

Earthbound, or 'Mother 2' for all you hardcore fans, is an RPG from the early 90's that's been marked as a 'cult classic'. It's wacky graphics and memorable soundtrack are what make this my favourite SNES game. If you go to youtube, I'm sure you'll find a 'let's play' so you can see what I'm talking about. If you haven't played it, it's a great way to get into the series.

If you have played it, I warn you, my fic will bring you back (with a twist).

Thanks. Here are the links to the current chapters on fanfiction.net, but they are also fully posted below too (thanks Aryn).

wahmbulance Chapter 1 wahmbulance

wahmbulance Chapter 2 wahmbulance

wahmbulance Chapter 3 wahmbulance

wahmbulance Chapter 4 wahmbulance

wahmbulance Chapter 5 wahmbulance

wahmbulance Chapter 6 wahmbulance
NEWEST CHAPTER
wahmbulance Chapter 7 wahmbulance


I think you guys will like what I did with the characters. I've gotten some positive feedback, so I'm excited to be writing this. mrgreen

In case you don't have a FF.net account, they're free. You should try it if you're interested in writing with a big fanfiction community. whee
Anyway, I loved the game, but it really lacked in one way: Characters. The personalities of the main characters, well, didn't really exist. They were just a bunch of kids who saved the world! I like to take a spin on things, so I'm going to alter and flesh the story a bit. Not major stuff, so no worries hard core fans, I will leave it intact. You'll start to notice the differences right away, but I'm sure you'll enjoy them as the story progesses.

I'm basically using the original game as a template for this story.

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Earthbound

The Retelling
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-Chapter 1: Initial Contact-

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The year is 20XX and all is well in Onett. The early evening hours gave way to the darkness, allowing the street lights to shine. Very few people were out walking around, mainly the ones returning home from a long day of work.

Onett was a small town located in the mountainous section of Eagleland. While only a few homes resided on the cliff above, the town below was filled the hustle and bustle of day to day life. A drugstore, an arcade and a burger shop was all the kids of the town needed to get by. There was also a library, and a town hall, but they didn't draw as much attention as the other attractions.

A short distance away from the main roads, up on the hill, Ness's house sat on the path leading to the top. It was toward the back of town and got really dark during the evening hours, as compared to the rest of the city. Normally by the late night hours the lights would be out in the quaint country house, but tonight was different. Ness, his sister and his mother had been awoken by a large crack, then a bang, and finally a sizzle. "What was that," Ness asked no one as he sat up in his darkened room. Sliding his feet to the floor he made his way downstairs. The living room light was on and his mother was peering out the back window to see what was going on. "What are you doing?" he said with slight derision as he watched her balance a knee on the table to get some extra lift.

His mother had a bad habit of being a gossip. She was most likely trying to be the first to know what was going on, so she could call everyone she knew. It was the only status she had in such a secluded place, "I'm looking for what fell. Something crashed into the top of the hill...would you go look for me?" but she wasn't willing to expend te effort herself.

Ness groaned, "Come on, can't I check in the morning? It's dark and there's dogs wandering around."

"Bring Misty with you," she quickly suggested.

He looked down to the dog in question, chewing on the back of her leg, "She's useless."

The dog stopped, 'And I have feelings,' she thought.

"Here," she said and reached to her side, emerging with a baseball bat, "take this," and tossed it to him. "I thought someone was breaking in, so I brought it out with me."

Ness examined the bat, "There's a crack up the side," he said and balanced it on its tip on his middle finger, his mother didn't pick up on that.

"No one's going to attack you if you have that. You won't even have to swing at them," she said and began nudging him towards the door.

He skid his heels on the carpet, "Can I get dressed?"

With a shake of her head, she plopped a red cap on his head, "All the kids are wearing their pajamas out, go in that. Hurry before you miss it," she said and shoved him out onto the front stoop.

A chill wind blew by and Ness held his arms, "Can I get a coat?" he bellowed at the slammed front door. It opened briefly to allow a jacket to breeze past, but closed quickly once again. "Stupid..." he grumbled as he pulled the coat of his face and proceeded to put it on properly. Bat over his shoulder, he began the treacherous hike up the hill.

It only took him five minutes to reach the top, but he was nervous around every corner. While the path itself was nice and tidy, the dogs that roamed in from the surrounding forest were a little less than forgiving. As Ness came up to the police blockade, he saw a person poking their nose in where it didn't belong. Ness groaned, "Not this guy," he muttered. It was the annoying fat kid from next door, Pokey. They had grown up in Onett their whole lives, but he didn't really know him that well. All he knew was that the boy was worse than his mother when it came to gossip.

"Hey, Ness, don't be rubbernecking! You're getting in the cops, oops...I mean, officer's way." He began shooing Ness away. This was the other problem with Pokey, he interjected his importance in any situation he was faced with. "You can go home now," he proceeded to give Ness orders, "Tomorrow I, Pokey, will tell you more about the strange meteorite. I'm fine here, but you're bugging the officers!" he gave Ness one final push and turned his back to him.

Ness walked home, saddened that he was now going to have to face his mother with little to no information. All he saw while on top of the hill, was a large crater, with a strange glowing rock in in the middle. He wasn't saddened because he didn't find out, rather, now he was going to have to face the music of not getting the scoop on the impact zone. As he walked up the slope leading to his front door, he saw his mother standing there, a cigarette in one hand and a phone in the other, ready to make calls.

He gave her a reassuring smile as he shrugged, "I didn't get a chance to get a good look. The cops blocked me off. Besides, Pokey was there."

His mother sighed and butted her smoke, "If that's the case, everyone already knows. Let's go inside. I'll make you a sandwich and you can head off to bed."

Finally settled for the night, Ness pulled the blankets up to his chin and made his second attempt at sleep. Not even twenty minutes passed when there was an insistent rapping on the door. "Ness, dear! It's your friend Pokey!" said his mother from downstairs. It would seem she wasn't trying to get back to sleep at all.

Ness threw the covers off and stomped out of his room, not before getting dressed first this time. Passing by his sister's room, she cracked the door and peeked out. "Pokey? Tell him to go home," she said sleepily and closed her door again.

"I'll tell him more than that," Ness huffed and trotted down to the living room.

It was obvious he was quick to make himself at home. Ness saw his mother sitting at the table with him, drinking tea. "A meteor? How exotic!" she exclaimed as she stirred her drink.

"Yeah- oh, Ness. What took you so long? You need to come with me," he said and pushed his half finished tea aside.

"Do I now?" It seemed Ness was not only not allowed to get sleep, but he was also alleviated of his free will. Pokey was pulling him by the sleeve to the front door. "Stop! What do you want?"

Pokey hooked his thumb over his shoulder, "After I came back from the crash zone, Picky was gone. Mother said he went out looking for me but got lost along the way."

"He'll find his way home again," Ness tugged his shirt sleeve out of Pokey's grip, "he doesn't need my help."

"He's...not...right...right now," Pokey said with an awkward tone.

Ness rolled his eyes, "Of course he isn't," he said and turned to his mother, "I'll be back." He raised an eyebrow and shot a look at his dog, "You're coming with me this time." He was referring to the dog, Misty.

She yawned and stretched, 'Fine; I better get some bacon for this.'

The three set out to find Picky. Picky was a good guy, Ness had no problem with him. He was much more tolerable and less pushy than his younger brother. The only problem with him, which didn't bother Ness, was the smoking. There was a special plant that grew nearby that produced a euphoric state, one which Picky absolutely adored. He never revealed the location of where it grew and refused to share, so they never knew what it was. Ness suspected it may have been cannabis, but he never smelled that kind of smoke before, so he could never tell.

"He mentioned wanting to see the meteor, we should check there first," Pokey said and walked on ahead.

"Sure, let's climb the big hill a second time in the middle of the night," Ness said as he looked at his watch, "It's only three in the morning, who needs sleep?" he was being sarcastic.

"That's the spirit! Let's hurry, maybe we'll catch him at his stash." Pokey pumped his arms as he walked, his pudgy little arms swung awkwardly at his sides as did so. It seemed less like Picky was in trouble and more like Pokey wanted to be pokey.

Selfish as the reason may have been, now he had intrigued Ness with the hops of seeing Picky's stash. Ness wasn't interested in trying any, he only wanted to know what it was. Picky, as stated earlier, was a good guy; Ness didn't want him into anything that could hurt him. "I really don't want to be out here, huh girl?" he said and laid a pat on his companion's head as they walked.

'You don't want to be here? Why am I here? Why make me do something you aren't willing to do yourself? I should run away? I know a nice wolf who gave me a lusty eye the other day out back of the house.' She turned to face the grove where the wolf once stood, 'I could be running free with him. He was so handsome. Such a nice coat of fur...' Misty looked up to see her master walking away. 'Fine, walk away when I'm talking to you. No, that's fine...I BETTER GET SOME BACON!' she barked and caught up. It was a shame her pleas fell on deaf ears.

Finally making their way to the barricade, they noticed the police were gone. "Strange...isn't this thing still hot?" Ness said, pointing to the glowing yellow rock.

"There you are!" Pokey exclaimed, disregarding Ness's observation.

"Huh?" the boy in question looked out from behind a nearby tree. "Yeah, I came up here to chill with the space rock. I keep hearing a buzzing though, it's throwing off my vibe," he said as he stood up, discreetly shoving something in his pocket. Immediately after getting up, a bee buzzed right in front of his face. "AH!" he yelled and clapped his hands together quickly, squashing the insect asunder. It swirled and twirled toward the ground and landed with a plop. "...the hell?" he said and leaned down, "This thing is talking."

Ness and Pokey gave each other a knowing glance and then went back to Picky, "Sure he is," Pokey began in a slowed tone, "let's just go back home and get you some food."

By now, Picky was ear to the ground with a disturbed look on his face. "He's screaming for you Ness..."

They paused in their attempt at collecting the potentially inebriated one to listen to him, out of sheer morbid curiosity. "That's creepy," Ness rubbed the back of his neck. He looked down to Misty who was falling asleep standing up.

"He said, Ness...you're our only hope. You have to stop Gig...the future...save them...then the insect went quiet." Picky poked the twitching critter.

Pokey proceeded to pick at his older brother, "We'll get on that."

Ness nodded and turned on his heel, "I want some sleep. I'm suppose to meet up with people at the arcade tomorrow." Misty happily began to walk along side him.

"Arcade?" Pokey exclaimed.

Ness halted his steps immediately. It was a good thing his back was turned, lest Pokey see the 'oh s**t' expression on his face. He never told Pokey when he was doing anything because if he did, the guy showed up and annoy everyone there. "I'm...meeting...a girl there. I'm going alone," he lied. He was actually meeting a few good school friends. But how would Pokey be able to tell? The guy seemed to accept his answer well enough, so he breathed a sigh of relief.

"Are you guys just leaving? We've got to help him!" Picky pressed on the bug in an attempt to resuscitate him. "C-P-R," he said as he nudged the bug three times.

Pokey rolled his eyes, "Would you come on," as he said this, he walked over and stepped on the thing, making sure to twist as he squashed.

"NO! Buzz-buzz!"

"Buzz-buzz?" Pokey questioned.

Picky stood up and gave his brother a shove, "That was his name!"

Pokey calmed his brother down, "I'm sure there will be more Buzz-buzz for you to find tomorrow. Come on, mom's pissed enough as is."

They passed by Ness, arguing all the way. Ness walked up to the bug carcase and leaned down to look at it. He glanced from side to side, "...hey?" he asked as he poked the bug corpse, hoping it still had some life. Misty too looked at the bug, then tried to eat it. "Misty!" he said and pulled it from her mouth.

"Ness! What are you doing?" Pokey yelled from half-way down the sloping hill.

His eyes widened, "Looking at the meteor!" he said and trailed behind them with his dog. He was so preoccupied with the bug, he forgot to get a good look at the thing that fell from the sky. Ness found it odd that it was the only thing burning. He remembered from class that when something like this hit the earth, it was far more destructive. Coming back tomorrow alone seemed like a better idea, so he left the mysterious stone behind.

On the way home there wasn't a ounce of peace. Pokey kept accusing Picky of being high. Picky claimed that he hadn't had any in days, but his sibling refused to believe him. This went on until a large flash of light appeared in front of them and a gust of wisn knocked them all backwards. When their burned retinas focused, there was a seven foot tall being in front of them. He was clad in armor that was a brilliant silver that had no seams or joints. He moved like fluid.

Picky pointed a finger at the offending obelisk of a man that appeared from thin air and yelled, "Alright, if I'm high, explain him!"

"...contact high?" Misty suggested, but no one heard, so she began growling at the thing.

"I don't know," Pokey said, cowering in fear behind his big brother. Picky shot him an 'unamused' glance over his shoulder.

Misty growled and made an attempt at a lunge but Ness grabbed her, "No Misty! Down," he instructed as he watched the strange silver being eye him and his pet with great intent. "What's up?" Ness said casually as he brought himself to his feet.

"...you know not of the future one? Then all is going as planned." He said and raised a long, shimmering, tentacle-like arm and tried to touch Ness's forehead. In a flash, Misty bit on to the intruder's arm.

It did not phase him. "How dare you! Do you think you can handle a 'Starman'?" He flung the dog to the side and into a bush, where she lay silent.

"Misty!" Ness cried, but before he could take a step the other arm of this creature was wrapped around his neck.

"I cannot chance you becoming a nuisance in the future," he said and touched the boy's forehead with his free arm. A light glow lit up his head and died out quickly. He released Ness and the boy crumpled to the ground. He looked over to the two cowering passersby. "Must conserve resources, no need to annihilate," he hummed and a bright light hit the them. In another flash, he was gone, along with either of their memories.

After collecting morning dew, Ness came back to the rest of the world. Judging by the temperature in the air, the moisture on his skin and surrounding grass, and the budding light of the sun that he was in a lot of trouble. He shot up and looked around having no clue of what time it was or how long he was out. Ness could see his mother standing in the doorway with her arms crossed, no cigarette in hand and tapping her foot wildly. The middle aged woman leaned against the door frame, making eye contact with her son as soon as she could see the whites of his eyes. Why hadn't she taken him into the house? She could see him from the front door. And now Pokey and Picky were nowhere to be seen. 'It figures. First sign of trouble and he's gone.'

"What were you doing out there?" were the first words out of his mothers mouth.

He raised an eyebrow, "Yeah, I'm fine, thanks for asking," he sounded slightly offended that she didn't want to know if he was alright. Ness tried to begin the story about that night in his head, but could find the 'not crazy sounding' words to describe it. It was then he realized why his mother was so mad at him, she hadn't seen it, and he left the house to hang out with someone who used. "...we got jumped by some guy on the way back. He knocked me out." 'An alien teleported in front of us and tried to kill us' probably wouldn't sound convincing if said out loud.

"Really?" she began, "Then why do your clothes smell like smoke?" It was true, his clothes did smell burnt. That must have happened when that thing grabbed him. The metal suit reeked of charcoal and sulfur; the same smell as matches. "I couldn't carry you, and you wouldn't wake up. But you kept talking in your sleep, 'Aliens are coming!' You sounded ridiculous, so I left you there. Get in the house and I'll make you breakfast when you're ready to come clean."

Ness hung his head. That was going to be impossible. How does one tell a parent that they were accosted by an alien? "Seriously," he said and held his head. "The guy had me around the neck," as he said this, he tugged down the collar of his shirt, revealing some red marking.

She examined the mark, "I told you to bring that bat," she hugged him close. "I'm sorry. I thought since you were out with those boys you were experimenting with...you know-" she trailed off.

He shook his head, "No. Besides, Picky made it clear he doesn't share."

She rolled her eyes and led Ness to sit down at the table, "That's a relief," she said sarcastically, "What did this guy look like? I'll put a report in with the police."

Ness panicked inside, "You don't need to do that! I-uh, couldn't make him out, he was black-wearing black...clothes" Quick save on his part.

"That could mean the Sharks." A local street gang. "I'm going to tell them that at least. The mayor needs to get off his fat rear and do something about these Sharks. We'll have to go down to the station later today. You should get some sleep first."

He sighed, "Do we really have to? I have plans. I'm going to the arcade." Ness also really didn't want to look like a rat. It wasn't comforting to accuse the sharks of a crime, report it and then immediately go to the location of their main hang-out.

"Yes. If more people come forward, the better chance we have of it being taken seriously. It won't take long, you can walk right over afterward." She gave him a pat on the shoulder, "I'll make you some hot-chocolate, but then it's off to sleep for a couple more hours." She walked off to boil the water.

Ness sighed and slumped down in his chair. He wished he just stayed in bed.
-Chapter 2: 'Woo' Girl-

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Ness fussed as his mother tried to arrange his hair to the side. "Mom," he complained.

"We're going to talk to Captain Strong, you should look presentable," she said with a mile wide smile.

Not being a stranger to his mother's antics, he decided to call her out, "You want to flirt with him," he said and looked off in the other direction. Not missing a beat, she went in and started to fix his collar. He pushed her away, "Stop it already, or I'll pop the collar."

His mother took a step back in horror, "You wouldn't!"

He got a devilish smile on his face as he touched the collar, flattening it. After the threat passed, his mother walked through the front door, holding it for Ness. "Captain Strong," she exclaimed and released the door, effectively pinching her son in middle.

"Nice," he said as he rubbed his forehead.

"We came earlier," she said and happily skipped over to the lumbering, vending machine-sized man. "I'm glad you could talk to us on such short notice."

The officer smiled, his crow's feet became visible from behind the large lenses, "It was no problem," he said and stepped awkwardly close to Rachelle, "Such a frail woman living alone, how could I not make it a priority? Without a man at your side to protect you, it must me difficult."

It was a brief notion, but long enough to make Ness look away in disgust, "I'll bet," he said under his breath.

At this point Captain Strong was sneaking a hand in around his mother's shoulders, "Why don't you go play a game?," he said to the youngster and reached into his pocket. He emerged with a crumpled ten dollar bill and handed it to Ness, "You let the adults do the work."

Ness shut his eyes and tried to fish out the logic as he accepted the donation, "But..I was the one who saw the guy," he said quietly, hoping he wouldn't have to talk to the bull-sized man. They went into Captain Strong's office and began to close the door, unknowingly helping Ness dodge a bullet. He was somewhat relieved that he didn't have to blame the incident from last night on the Sharks. There was no way of telling if the one who called himself 'Starman' was even remotely related to them.

"We'll be fine sweetheart, I'll just tell him what you told me," his mother spoke through the crack the door made. She then closed it with a click. Another click followed; probably a lock.

He shivered, understanding the implications. "Why did I bother-..." he said and ruffled his hair into a shaggy due. Ness looked at the money in his hand; it all made sense now. His mother wanted to come down to see Mr. Strong, she was using Ness's encounter as a cover-up. The woman had done things like that since his dad left, the whole 'sneaking around' thing. And Ness was now fifteen, plenty old enough to understanding when his mom was 'fishing'. He didn't mind, he knew she was looking for someone else to fill the void. As much as Ness said he was okay with it, he really wasn't at the same time. While he held out hope that his father would come back, he knew his mother was lonely and needed affection. It was the kind he or his sister couldn't offer.

Ness dismissed the depressing prospect for something more mind numbing: Games! He had shown up far too early to meet with his friends, so blowing some quarters before they got there seemed like a good idea. He popped a few of the silver pieces in a machine and began pummeling zombies. After a ten minute excursion he had the console lit up and buzzers were going off. He had accessed a secret that never had been done before. Even the clerk was in awe, and she had been working there since the place opened.

"Woo," a voice said from his left side.

"Awesome," a voice from the right.

The pressure was on now; the two voices were girls! There were no gamer chicks in town that he knew of, so this was a treat. Possibly some out of town girls to impress. He got to show off his expertise and smiled as he blew more zombies away. When he finally lost his last heart of health and the game whirled into its 'game over' screen, the high score screen immediately followed. He keyed in 'nes', no room for a fourth letter. Turning around to see a few people talking about the score, he scanned for the girls. His buddies had shown up early and gave him kudos on the score and he let them know about the two elusive voices. His friends suggested they may have been there with their boyfriends.

Ness saw one girl leaning on the shoulder of her partner across the room and the other girl was nowhere to be found. She was the one who said 'woo', blond and sporting a preppy pink attire; one not normally witnessed in the arcade. The rest of Ness's friends showed up and they started out with a game of air hockey, followed by icy slushies.

After a couple hours spent in the arcade with friends, Ness made his way home. He had only gotten halfway up the street when he was accosted by a familiar countenance, dark outfit with a matching mask covering the face. These guys were with the Sharks, the gang Onett started having problems with recently. One of them stepped close, "Saw yo' moms today." The guy was backed by two others as he spoke, "She lookin' fine. Whas d'eh deal wit her an Strong?"

Ness grew nervous. He had no clue on how to fight, let alone take on three at a time. "She's got this thing for him. Something about a guy in uniform, I guess." He tried to keep it light and funny, not wanting to be stepping on any toes.

"D'at ain't what I peeped. One our boys jumped you? Tha's bullshit! Thas bullshit cause we be smokin' wit the boys up on giant step!" Giant step was a small secluded collection of caves that led to the top of a sheer-drop cliff. Very private. "We ain't no wer near you normies!"

Ness nodded, "I know where you're coming from. I got jumped by someone and my mom assumed it was you guys. Why would you guys waste your time on me? I got nothing you want." It was then that he realized his mother was right to send him to the debate team. He talked them down and saved his own a** from a 'whuppin'.

"Thas right," he said as he brushed past Ness, deliberately bumping him back a step, "We got mo' class den dat! This comes back on my boys, I be on the horn and you be runnin!" He made his stand and continued on by. The two friends he had with him laughed and walked on by. One hopped on a pogo stick and he slipped off the curb to the gutter. He snickered like a fool and kept bouncing along.

He held his pounding heart. Ness was certain his a** was about to be handed to him. At the beginning of the year, his mother forced him to pick an extracurricular to make his high school transcript look better and he was glad he listened. The debate team wasn't physically taxing and he got to tell people they were stupid. It was nice to see his skills be put to the test and pay off, outside of school.

"Hey, wait up," came a voice from behind.

He turned to face the person calling out to him and saw that it was the 'woo' girl from the arcade. "Yeah," he said, still winded from the encounter with the Sharks. Ness felt that fate was throwing him a bone for not fighting. This girl was gorgeous with golden hair to top it all off. She stared deeply at him, concentrating her stare directly at his face, "...is something up?" he said with a confused expression but still tried to posture a little.

"...You really can't hear me?" she said.

"I did right then..." This girl was beginning to weird him out. So much for the karma and that bone.

She rolled her eyes, "No, I mean in your head."

That tipped it, "...have you been talking to a guy named 'Picky'?" he asked, sure the girl was high.

The girl looked offended, "I wish. I've felt your aura for a long time but I can't anymore, so I walked from Twoson to talk face to face. My feet are killing me and now it's freaking me out that I still can't feel your aura. What happened last night?"

"You're crazy." He said and turned to walk away.

"I'm not kidding Ness, this is serious," she said.

He paused and did a one-eighty, "I didn't tell you my name...who put you up to this? Alec? Roger? Pokey?" He assumed that one of his friends was messing around with him, or one of his 'not-friends'.

"That fat kid? Ew. And, no. This isn't some joke. 'Starman'. You saw him last night, didn't you?" she assured him.

As she said this, a chill ran through his spine, "...this isn't a joke." He wanted to make sure.

"No, you retard. This is way too 'out there' for me to be making anything up. Anyway, I'm Paula. As I said, from Twoson." She folded her arms and tapped a finger wildly on her opposite elbow.

"Ness. From here."

"I know. Can we talk 'not-right-here'?" With the brief introduction out of the way. He led Paula to a little tree house tucked away in the back of town. "You best keep your hands to yourself." She wagged a finger upwards, to the sky.

Ness raised an eyebrow. He had no intentions of putting the moves on someone who could very well be schizophrenic. Though she was hot, that didn't matter, she was bad candy. He gave her no reason to be snippy, yet there it was. "Do you always flatter yourself?"

She gave him a silent sarcastic 'ha-ha'. They sat facing one another, cross-legged, about eight inches apart. Their backs were up against the walls of the tree hut, as far as it went. The craftsmanship was obviously that of children, but still reliable. "It's this thing called Giygas. He's from outer-space, some kind of alien overlord, or robot, or I don't know...doesn't matter. Those on the surface who are edible will be used for fodder. Ore will be stripped from the ground using foreign technology. Eventually Earth will be rendered a dump for galactic garbage. Or if we're lucky, a factory for building unforeseen machinery bent to Giygas's rule. Beings like 'Starman', I guess."

"...how do you know all this stuff?" Ness complained as he ran his hands through his short black hair. He grabbed the back of his now ruffled mop and closed his eyes in frustration. "This is the kind of stuff kids believe...why is it real?"

"I see these things in visions. That's how I found you and knew about the 'Starman'. What happened with him? I felt your presence right up until he grabbed your neck," she leaned forward a bit as she spoke.

Ness was really beginning to get freaked out. This was real. How else could she have known about him being grabbed by a creature that appeared from nowhere? "He touched my forehead and this bright light appeared, then I blacked out. When I woke up, he was gone and I was covered in morning dew."

Paula folded her arms and thought deeply; eyes closed, face toward the heavens. "Why didn't he destroy you if you're one of the four who kills Giygas."

"I'm suppose to kill him?" he said in a panic. "What? Do I hand out flyers to rally the masses?"

"No. You, myself and two others. We're suppose to do it. Power of love, friendship and all that crap," she said and glanced off to the side, as if something in the corner of the room was more interesting than the fate of the world.

"Beat the aliens with love? That's rich. Maybe this is some kind of group hallucination, I've heard that happens," he made a stab at rationalizing the otherwise hopeless sensation.

"I think you have to be in the same place for that to happen, or experience a similar event," Paula effortlessly avoided the stab. Swish.

With a heavy head, Ness rested it on his fists, elbows on his knees. "So what now?"

Paula straightened her long, light pink sundress over her knees. "I have no clue. I'm suppose to be able to call you when it's time. Exactly ten years from today."

"Ten?" he said almost silently. "...I guess that's enough time to build up an army," he lamented, hoping that there was something they could do between now and then to get out of this.

"There's a problem. I can't sense you." She held up an empty palm, symbolizing the hoplessness of the situation.

"What does that have to do with anything?"

Paula shifted, her foot had begun to fall asleep. "I'm suppose to be able to talk to you after you're contacted from someone from the future," she held up a hand, "Yes, there's time travel. He was suppose to give you a stone. After you charged it once at a 'sanctuary' location, I was suppose to be able to talk to you. Now, I can't even feel your aura."

Ness straightened a leg, "A stone? Sanctuary? Aura? I take it back, this isn't something kids believe, this is a video game. I've gone crazy from playing too many games, and this is the resulting psychosis. I was getting worried for a second there. Nice meeting you crazy manifestation of the girlfriend I'll never have. Funny, aren't you supposed to remind me of my mother? I guess Freud was wrong." He smiled wide and shrugged.

"What are you on about? Get it together," she said with a twinge of worry. Paula feared she may have broken the poor boy.

"Oh, I have it together. I need to talk to my mother so she can send me to a doctor to give me pills to make the aliens go away." He began to turn to reach for the door.

With a twitch in the left side of her face, she grabbed Ness by the scruff and held him close to her face, "You're not nuts! This is happening!" Just then, the door opened, "******** off! We're busy!" she yelled to the unknowing person on the other side.

The guy at the door yelped and slammed it shut again, "Sorry, Ness! I'll spread the word of your conquest!" he yelled over his shoulder as he surried off through the underbrush.

Ness smirked, "You're the best figment of my imagination ever. You made the usual's think I'm getting laid. Props." He loosened her hands and stood of his own accord. "Alright, I'll accept this title."

"Under what condition?" she said with an eye roll.

"Condition? What condition?" Ness said, confused.

"Aha-nothing. It sounded like that was where you were going." Paula began leaving.

"I can have a condition? Wait, let me think of one!"

"Too late, let's move. This stuff is too heavy to talk about in public," she exited the hut, deeming it unsecure.

"Dammit," Ness followed suit. "Wait, shouldn't I lead?"

"Don't worry, I know where your house is," she said as she pushed through the bushes.

"Oh, I think I should worry." He followed the new, strange girl to his own house.
-Chapter 3: Water from a Stone-

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"You went to the meteor, then-" she asked, standing at the end of the walkway to Ness's house.

He thought hard, "We went looking for Picky and found him near the meteorite. He started talking to a bug, so we took him home. On the way back is when we ran into Starman." Ness figured that the bug wasn't too important, but it was funny enough to mention.

"A bug?"

"Named Buzz-buzz," he said with a nod. He was embarrassed for Picky.

"That was the time traveler!" Paula exclaimed. "Okay, where did he go?" She was growing excited, wringing her hand with anticipation.

"He's dead," Ness said with regret. It then dawned on him that Picky wasn't hearing things and was being honest about being sober. The bug mentioned 'Gig', which he now knew meant 'Giygas'.

Paula's facial expression fell and she dropped to her knees, "We're doomed..." she looked up, "Unless...where did the meteor fall? Where is Buzz-buzz's body?"

Ness led her to the top of the hill to where the crash site was. "The bug was about here," he gestured to the skid in the grass where Pokey had trampled it. The meteor was still laying there, glowing hot. It was strange that no one was protecting it or blocking it off, but he was glad to finally get a look at the thing.

Paula got on her hands and knees and began examining the ground. After a solid minute of looking, she found something. "Ness, look at this," she said, hovering above the dead bee.

"Yup, that's him," he said skeptically because he failed to see how this was helpful.

"I'd say," she reached down and pulled something from beneath the bee. It was a uber-tiny belt with a small pack on the side. She pried it open with a pinky finger nail and revealed a pebble, smaller than half a split pea. "I think this is it," she said as she gingerly pinched the rock between two finely groomed nails. It had a strange symbol in the center that was glowing.

"Awesome...so now what?" he rubbed his hands together with anticipation.

"Something's not right. This thing is supposed to fit in your palm," she said holding the pebble in front of her eye.

"Maybe I have to be the one holding it," he suggested.

She gave him a look of annoyance, "We've established this isn't a video game. It's alien technology at work here; this belt must shrink things..." She paused, hesitated some, but then placed the object in question in Ness's palm. After waiting a second, "...that would be too easy wouldn't it?" she said and took the rock back and replaced it in the container, clipping it shut. "Aside from the insect guts, we're on a roll."

"Picky knows stuff about electronics. We could try asking him," Ness suggested.

They gave Buzz-buzz a small burial and Paula agreed to talk with Picky. "Wait, is this the fat kids brother?" she wanted to double check. She saw him nod, "Of course he is. Can you use the phone to call him over? Something about Pokey irks me." When Paula could detect Ness's aura, she could sense the agitation he felt toward Pokey. She described Pokey in the same breath as black coffee, bitter, awful and to be avoided (in her opinion).

"That's do'able," he said and popped out his cell phone. Ness preferred that Pokey not be educated on this whole prophecy deal, he also prayed he wasn't one of the other two boys Paula mentioned. That thought being pushed out of his head, he sent Picky a text and invited him over. They sat at the kitchen table while Picky glared through a small magnifying glass being carefully pinched between his brow and cheekbone. "Anything you can do?" Ness asked hopefully.

"...not a damn thing," he said and let the glass fall into his free hand, "Sorry dude. But I do know someone who may have the expertise I lack." He put the tiny, almost grain sized, pebble back in it's bag. "He's in Twoson though."

Paula raised and eyebrow, "Really? I guess I could swing by and let my parents know where I'm at."

"You're from Twoson?" Picky asked, "Wait, does that mean you didn't tell them you were leaving town?"

She shook her head, "We were at a dinner reception and I took off during. It was closer if I did it from there."

"Why?" Picky continued asking questions.

Ness intervened, "It's complicated-so, who exactly is this guy you know?" This was the thing he liked about Picky the most, his inquisitive nature; but right now wasn't the time to be giving out any answers.

Picky gave Ness a sly look, thinking the other guest was there under the pretenses of some kind of 'forbidden love'. "Fair enough. His name is Orange Kid," he said with pride.

"That nut? Please," Paula scoffed. "He's always creating crazy inventions that are useless to everyone else."

Picky pointed a finger up, "That may be true, but he's brilliant when it comes to electronics. I bet he'll get a kick out of this. What is it exactly?" He held up the miniture bag.

Ness gingerly took it from his friend's hand, "It's a watch...compact watch...from Dalaam," he tried to come up with a convincing lie. Fortunatly Picky stopped prying and offered them a drive instead.

Picky had begun working for a delivery service known as 'Escargot Express'. The business was opened by none other than Ness's older sister, Tracey. A brief conversation with Tracey got Picky the 'go ahead' to borrow his parents car to do deliveries. He would make the deliveries and keep on going to Twoson. The trip was only an hour, though for Paula, it was a several hours.

"He's on the corner. I'll go see if he's home." Picky hopped of out his car and up to the front door. He went to knock but stopped; there was a note taped to the door that had instructions. After a second of reading, Picky went back to the car. "'The genius is in 'session' right now, we'll have to come back. We could go talk to your parents while we wait," he suggested.

"I'd rather wait untill we have an answer. I'll probably be grounded the second I get home, and I'd like to know one way or another about this belt-watch...thing." She pulled her legs together, flattening the dress over top of them.

"As the closest person to an adult here...I have to ask why." He was eighteen, apparently that counted.

She slouched in her chair, "They're busy running a successful daycare. Not to mention I'll be grounded to my room until fall when I go back. I'm going to do my thing, let them do theirs. We'll talk later."

"They run a daycare, and you're worried about talking to them? I figured they'd be good with kids," Ness suggested. He couldn't help but take notice to how unfriendly Paula had been this whole time. If her parents were so great, why was she so caustic the whole time?

"They're interested in little kids. You know, one's that don't have opinions and can't talk back. Please, let me wait. Crack one nut at a time." She closed her eyes slowly but immediately opened them again. She had seen something out of the corner of her eye. "He's done."

Picky looked over to see a guy with orange sunglasses and matching hair coming out to the front step. He waved them over as he brushed dust from his shirt. The three friends entered the house and noticed it had an interesting smell. "Welcome. What brings you here?" Orange Kid said and checked his phone. He flipped it shut and stashed it back in his pocket.

Picky introduced his friends and followed it up with, "We have a gadget for you to look at."

Ness handed him the small belt. "We found this thing, it's maybe a watch...from Dalaam..." he said, unsure if this guy was going to be able to tell him flat out 'no, this is no watch'.

The orange one took the device to his work bench and swung in a large, overhanging magnifiying lense. "Leave it with me. I'll tinker and see what I can do." They let the genius get to work and headed out to the car.

"Did you smell that?" Ness complained as he shut his door.

"I bet it was drugs," Paula folded her arms in the back seat.

"That was gasoline," Picky mentioned and fired up the car.

"Wasn't any kind of gasoline I've smelled before," Paula rubbed the end of her nose, the smell was really strong and it stuck around.

"Yeah, the guy's into some pretty heavy stuff. He's cool though," Picky drove off and made a left, then an immediate right. He looked around while waiting at the stop sign for a rather round lady to pass, "Hey," he said. "There's a bazaar. Mind if we check it out?" He saw Paula and Ness shrug.

The bazaar in Burglin Park could be a shifty place, but on regular days it was where Paula hung out with her circle of friends. It was just the usual junk shops, food stands and hemp jewelery. "She's not here today," Paula said with a hint of sadness.

Ness picked up on this right away and decided to dig a bit deeper. "Who?"

"A friend of mine."

"A boyfriend?"

"You don't need to know that...but no. It's a girl. She usually sells bracelets and tea...and plays her guitar." The person she was talking about was a bit older, so she acted as a mentor to Paula. She was an only child, and not having someone to turn to was something she didn't enjoy.

"Does she know about the aliens?" Ness kept the questions coming.

She glared at him, "Shut up. This place carries rumors like a grocery bag in the wind, you don't know where the information is going to go."

"...does she?" Ness asked quieter.

Paula rolled her eyes and sighed, averting her vision she said, "No...I was told not to say anything to anyone. I only made that mistake once. I can just tell those who are involved." Unfortunately Paula was unable to tell her friend about the visions; and she was reluctant to tell anyone else after how the first person she mentioned it to handled it.

Ness glimpsed Picky several feet away, eying some seasonings. "What about him? He's trustworthy, and he's helping us."

She shook her head, "He offered a drive. Not quite what I mean by 'involved'."

"What about Orange Kid? He's going to wonder what the hell we just gave him," he said and caught something out of the corner of his eye. It was a pile of bananas, and he was starving; but without money, starving he would stay.

"No. I'm trying to think of a way to convince him it's not from...you know," she said and darted her eyes up and back down quickly.

"Oooh...so many secrets." Ness was instantly reminded of his mother, sneaking and equivocating things all the time, trying to keep Ness in the dark about her life. He sighed, because now he was doing the same thing with the 'Giygas' situation. With all the rules in place, it looked like he wasn't going to be able to tell her anything, even if he could find the words. While the thought of his mother was in his head, he turned to Paula again, "Shouldn't we go see your parents?"

She huffed, "Yeah..." she said and sat down on a bench.

"...well?" he queried.

"Well, what? I told you I'll go see them when we hear from Orange Kid."

It was obvious she was stalling now. Ness got the feeling, it wasn't just about getting grounded. "Are they strict or something?" he asked and sat next to her.

"Don't talk to me about my folks. It's complicated," she said, quoting Ness from earlier.

It was complex. And while they weren't lying to anyone, Ness felt the equivocation was enough to be considered a lie. "Alright," he let it go. Why was it complicated for Paula? He watched the girl with the blond hair twirl a lock around her finger in a cliché manner. He smiled. Though she had been gruff and short with him since they met, it was kind of nice to see a different side of her. Even if it was only slight, and only for a second, it was a weak representation of her girly side. It was a side he would have to learn to exploit next time she got on his nerves.

"I want to go to the theater first...then I guess I'll pop in on my mom. Dad's probably buried in paperwork." She got up and paused for Ness to follow.

He gave a shout to Picky to let him know where they were going. He waved them on. Paula was silent as they walked up the street. She held her arms loose and stuck them in the pockets of her dress. Maybe attacking her weak side wasn't such a good idea, she was obviously having some issues at home. No one asks to be born into misfortune or freaky alien prophecies, she was probably as overwhelmed as he was.

Out in front of the big theater was an older man. He wore baggy, green parachute pants and a floral print top. On top of his head was a fedora and right below, a pair of round black sunglasses. He took a step towards them with a casual swagger that suggested he knew them. "Paula," he knew one of them, "Your folks are looking for you." His voice was rough; being a chain smoker had that effect.

"Probably. Ness," she glanced at her new acquaintance, "this is Everdread. He's a friend of mine."

Ness looked the guy over, his countenance suggested he was some person of importance. Not because it looked like he chummed around with MC hammer and John Lennon, but rather it was the over confident smile coupled with a gold tooth right up front. He shook the man's hand. "Are you two going to elope? Is that why you took off?" Despite his demeanor, he sounded caring as he joked with her.

Paula flipped, "What? No way! I only met him today, we're hanging out. Right, Ness?"

He decided to play into it, "Yes, dear." This earned him a cold stare from the blond girl.

Everdread laughed out loud, "Ha ha, glad to hear it," he cocked his head backward slightly, as if to point at the building behind him, "Looking to go in?"

"I'm broke. I came to look at the billboards and drool over the runaway five," she said and glanced behind him to see the billboard. It was the Runaway Five this week, then the Mario brother's concert was going to be shown the following week.

The concert was a compilation of all the songs in the Mario games from the last twenty years, done in the style of classical and new age techno music. Ness's eyes brightened, "I have to go!" he said and got close to the window, pressing his noes on the glass. He memorized the date and price. "And it's right around pay day for mum, I can totally get my allowance this week."

"Let me know how it is...I'll be even broker when I go talk to my parents. I bet they'll even recall some of my past allowances. I took off from the banquette last night," she smirked at Everdread.

The older man nodded, "They were saying."

Paula looked shocked, "When were you talking to them?"

"Last night. They came pounding on my door, assuuming you were with me," he said, sounding kind of hurt. While there was a huge age gap between them, Everdread was very respectful of Paula, she was like a daughter to him. He recalled the knock on the door, at one in the morning, from her parents. They were fuming. He told them where to go in respects to their 'right' to search around his place for their child. The line 'maybe if you listened to her' was thrown around more than once. "I think I convinced them it wasn't me because I agreed to help them look. I've been asking around the market ever since. I know how much you like that Runaway Five band, so I figured I'd check here too. I'm glad to see you didn't run off with the group."

She nodded, "Good call. They'll be leaving soon; I wanted an autograph by the way, there'll be no joining the circus for me." Paula pondered if she would get a chance to meet them. "...I should go talk to my parents..." she said suddenly, "Before they alert the press and begin a search party. I'll catch up with you at the bazaar!" she said and took off running back the way they came.

Everdread reached into his wallet and emerged with two tickets. "I was going to use these to convince her to come home, but..." he handed them over to Ness, "You can tell her you bought them; earn you some points," he snickered and bumped Ness with his elbow. "Good on ya'. I hate to ask because we don't really know one another, but could you make sure she sees her folks before she runs off again? Paula's a good girl and she needs them in her life."

"Really?" Ness said and looked down at the tickets, "Sounds to me like she's better off." He planned to give the tickets to her, but he wasn't interested in earning any of these aforementioned 'points'.

"You only know half the story, bro," Everdread slapped him on the back and continued on his way. He seemed like an alright guy but his lifestyle put him at a disadvantage for becoming a trustworthy name.

Ness recalled hearing people talking about Everdread in the bazaar, and how he was involved with 'sketchy' doings. He laundered money and worked with smugglers, so he racked up a bad rap with the locals. At least the locals on the outside. The people who loved him, loved him a lot. Taking one last look at the tickets, Ness shoved them in his pocket, unsure if he wanted to attend with Paula. Pawning them for money crossed his mind but he didn't act on it, they technically belonged to her. All Ness had to do now was locate Picky. He went back to Burglin Park to look around and found his friend buying spices from a man in the corner of the market grounds. "Yo," he said and caught his attention.

"You're back; where's Paula?" He said zipping up his goods in an over the shoulder bag.

"She's gone to talk to her parents...and-uh," he said awkwardly. Ness proceeded to produced two tickets.

Picky lifted the left side of his hair, for his bangs were many, to get a better look. "Where did you get the scratch for those?"

"I didn't," he said and explained how he got them. Polishing the explanation off with, "If I do this...is it considered a date?"

"I'd call it...kind of like, an on-the-spot-blind-date. You'll have to let me in on how it goes," he smiled.

Ness quivered, "The word 'date' is still in there. I haven't done this before, is there some kind of etiquette?" His first date was going to be with someone who frequently spat venom, he feared for his safety. She seemed like the pushy type.
-Chapter 4: Runaway Paula-

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If the two tickets weren't dated for that very night Ness might have been able to muster the nerve to ask Paula. He just didn't have the guts. "Why don't you ask her?" he suggested to Picky.

He shook his head, "I only chase one bird at a time."

"What does that mean?" Ness asked.

"I've got someone else I'm interested in. She's actually from this town, thought she hasn't been around today..." he said and checked his watch. It had been an hour since they heard from Paula. "Shouldn't we try to find her?"

Ness nodded, "The daycare is over a few blocks." He looked off in that direction and was able to see a sign on the front of the building. It was a large cat with the words 'Polestar Daycare' beneath, except backwards from where he was standing. Not wanting to burn too much gas, they made it there on foot. The sun was setting by now and the little daycare was shutting down. "What if her parents are pissed? They're not going to want to see us calling for her."

Picky stroked his bare chin, "I have an idea. We'll tell her we wanted to thank her for doing the deliveries with us and we're paying her with the tickets. Let me see one of those tickets."

"At least she'll have an alibi for being in Onett, if it comes up," Ness said as he reached to his back pocket. It was empty. "The tickets," he said and checked all other pockets in his pants, "They're gone."

"Let's trace our steps, maybe you dropped them," Picky suggested and they began their way back to Burglin Park.

As they did this, jealousy reared it's ugly head, rather it 'poked' it's ugly head. Pokey emerged from the tall bush at the front walkway and brushed the leaves and twigs from his clothing. Swiping the tickets hanging from Ness's back pocket was a breeze with his back turned. He composed himself and went right up to the front door and knocked heartily. An older blond woman answered the door. "Good evening mam', I was wondering if your daughter Paula was home," he said with intense amounts of bullshit.

The lady shook her head, "I'm sorry, but she's not allowed out right now."

"I won't take long," he said, "I really wanted to thank her for all the work she did." Hearing an unlikable voice from around the corner, Paula came to investigate. "There you are, it's me, Pokey," he said.

"Um, excuse me?" she looked like she had bitten into spoiled food.

"It seems doing those deliveries caused more grief than you planned. I told you, your parents need to know when you're out looking for work," he said flawlessly, and subversively, giving her a hook.

"You were working?" her mother stated.

Not missing an opportunity to get out of trouble, Paula jumped all over the ruse. "You got after me for spending my money on hair ribbons," she said and touched the two hot pink streaks of silk hanging from her piggy-tails. She changed into them when she first ran bawling to her room; it was a comfort thing. "I wanted to earn money to buy some without touching my savings." Though she did touch her savings, it was making her sound really good.

Her mother held her chest, "Dear, you didn't have to hide that," she said it that way because Paula told her the reason she left was a 'secret'. Not with those words, but essentially she couldn't tell them anything; nor did she want to ever again.

"You said I wasn't allowed to work after the thing with 'Venus Sparks'." Venus was a local singer who was trying to make it big, 'Sparks' was the name of her tour; it was also speculated to be her last name. One of the concerts went awry, and ever since then Paula was restricted from certain activities.

Her mother laid down a rule: No getting a job that wasn't at the daycare. "I know...but that was being a bit harsh. I shouldn't stop you from being independent, look what it's done. I didn't want you to run off doing a late night job for extra cash." She turned back to Paula's new friend, "If you wanted to speak to Paula you can, but I do want her to stay in for supper tonight. We'll talk about it more, later." That said, she left them alone.

Paula was bitterly grateful, "Thanks, but why would you be covering for me? I don't even know you," she said. Her eyes brightened when he flashed the two pilfered tickets. She plucked one from his hand saying, "Where did you get this?" and examined it closely. It was for the show in a short while.

"I saw you doing deliveries with my brother earlier today and the idea just came to me." Earlier today apparently meant 'a few seconds ago' to Pokey. "So, what do you say? Want to go to the show with me?" he said, really slathering on the charm.

Though the 'charm' was there, she wasn't biting. "Listen," she began in an apologetic way, "I don't date, I'm not allowed. I'll go with you, but we're going as-"

"Friends?" he finished her sentence.

"Friendly acquaintances," she corrected him, "we met thirty seconds ago, remember."

"I will. You, not so much," he said and looped a necklace around the back of her neck, it's magnetic clip shut hastily. It instantly zoned Paula out. The charm that hung from the chain on her chest gave off a slight hum. "The Franklin Badge. It controls electricity, so at the right setting," he waved a hand in front of her face, "It controls the electricity in your brain. Come, we have a show to attend," he said and took her hand gently. Pokey began to lead her out of the house and was sure to close the door silently behind them.

They slinked around the back roads to the theater. The pretentious club had an alternate entrance for V.I.P. tickets, which they had. Everdread wanted Paula to be able to meet the Runaway Five to get a few signatures, but his gesture was lost. Even though she was there, she couldn't do a thing. The necklace had robbed her of free will and she couldn't even ask to use the bathroom.

Pokey flawlessly led her into the theater. He claimed she was coming back from dental surgery, so no one tried to assist her 'dopey' demeanor. He rubbed his porky mitts together as he sat across from Paula in the bistro setting lounge area. "It's a shame Ness didn't make it, he paid for this and all," he said with a snicker. Paula didn't respond, she just stared. "Come on, you don't want to appear ungrateful, we're having fun. Smile," he said and balanced his round chin on his round fingers, propping his round head up. When he said what he did, her lips upturned in a half smile, warming the cockles of his manipulative heart. "Nice."

Though her actions were lifeless, Paula's mind was furiously at work. It was a dark swirling void that consumed her; her consciousness seemed lost in a vicious torrent that had no visible indications of setting her free. 'Dammit, break this spell,' she yelled at herself. 'Wait, this isn't magic, this is physical...so I'm only cut off from my body...I can still use my mind.' There was a pause, 's**t! I can't contact that idiot! Why did I listen to him! Go talk to your parents he says! Dammit...I have to try...something.'

Paula's world went quiet. Though the space she was in was shifting constantly, it made no sound, apart from a simple hum that didn't seem to be coming from the void itself. Paula prayed. She had no definable god in mind, she just knew that channeling her energy in such a way was the only thing she could do. It was all done with her mind, so she sent out a signal. 'Hear me. Someone. Please. I'm in the theater. Help me.' She chanted on and on in her mind, various distress calls in hopes that one of them might be heard. If not by Ness then by someone around her, anyone who could come to her aid.

She said all this not truly knowing where she was. It was presumable that she would have been taken there, if only for the tickets Pokey showed her just seconds before hand. Paula was also sure to include his name in her cry for help, he was not getting away with this. If they could find him, they would find her.

Being none the wiser, Ness was quickly making his way to the theater. He thought that maybe if a person took the tickets, they may have used them to go in already. "I remember the lot number," he told the ticket taker.

She keyed in the digits as he spoke them and hit the 'enter' key heavily. She laid a long nail on her screen and drug it to the opposite side, "Yes, those two have been accounted for. I'm sorry, there's nothing I can do. Not without a receipt." The lady folded her hands, "Do you got a receipt?"

"No, thanks anyway," he said and turned back to Picky. "Someone did use them."

"We still have a few tickets left if you wanted to re-purchase the seats," the clerk added.

Picky piped up, knowing Ness had no money on him, "How much?"

Again, the clerk typed in a few numbers and eyed the screen, "Seventy-nine ninety-five."

"Holy hell..." he exhaled, "Sorry dude, I only have forty." They left the theater, defeated. "You could always sell your hat."

He straightened the ball cap, "No way," it was the last present his dad had sent him.

"Yeah, we'd have to buy a sign, then wait for a buyer...we could-" his phone went off, interrupting his plot. With a quick check to the phone, he tilted it toward Ness, "Orange Kid got something, and it's big." The text told of a mind blowing 'you need to see this now' moment. Not wanting to waste any time, the two of them headed back to the very orange house, abandoning the tickets. They quickly stopped by Paula's but discovered she had run off again; there was no sense in waiting, so they continued on to Orange Kid's house.

The orange guy was pulling his hair back, a look a utter bewilderment on his face as he did so. "It just...got bigger. I pulled out the micro kit, found a panel on the belt, popped it open, a small zap...then this." He revealed the tiny discovery had grown into a palm sized mystery. It was mainly sandstone. In the center was a foreign symbol that was glowing a cool blue. "I can't see a way to get in, or open it, or detect any energy or electricity from it...I want one of these watches. How does it work?"

Ness took a step toward the object and looked on in wonder. "I'm not sure," he said, dazed from the sight of the rock. Taking it in hand, it felt warm, and it vibrated some. "I'll have to take it to the manufacturer...for a manual." He held on tight and heard a small voice. It was so faint, if everyone in the room wasn't holding their breath, he may not have heard it. "...the theater," he said quietly to himself. "We have to go back," he said. Quickly thanking the man responsible, he took leave out the front door.

"What's going on?" Picky asked trying to keep up.

"Not sure, but I have a feeling..." He remembered how rattled Paula was when she couldn't contact him, and he also recalled her saying it was because he didn't have this stone. Ness assumed if he 'charged it' like she said to, he would be able to hear her better. It was as if this stone was opening a door and letting her voice in. The closer they got to the 'Runaway Five's' performance, the louder the voice got. "She's in here..." he said, pointing to the building. Now that he was this close, the voice in his head was clearer, and he knew she was in some sort of trouble.

"How could Paula have the tickets?" he said skeptically.

Now Ness didn't want to upset Paula by blabbing a whole bunch of confidential material, so telling his friend about what he was hearing wasn't possible. He decided to equivocate, "I heard her say she would break in if she couldn't get tickets. That's why she wasn't at home," he said.

Picky was reluctant at first, but was eventually coaxed into helping Ness. "There's a ped-way to the theater's upstairs in the restaurant next door." He had made deliveries to the restaurant before and was familiar with the layout. "There's a window out back, I could hoist you into it."

He snapped a finger, "Good idea." Or so he thought. The window Picky was talking about was only a few inches high and few more wide. "Am I supposed to liquify before I go in?" He stepped up on a box and had Picky help him the rest of the way up.

'I can hear 'Water Running'. I don't know where I'm at exactly...please come help me.' Paula's voice rang in his head again.

"Water Running?" Ness began to rethink his position, 'Maybe she's not here.'

Picky said and pushed him until he heard a 'thunk' on the other side. "You bleeding...you're bleeding aren't you?"

Ness picked himself up off the floor and brushed down his clothes. "No, I'm fine. I take a left from here?"

"You got it. Go down the hall and up the stairs on your left. You'll see the ped-way and you'll be able to hear the lounge by the end of it." He knew there was no one watching those doors, they were closed to the public. Picky had gotten him in behind the only locked door, and the rest was easy-peasy.

The instructions led him to the other side of the foot bridge, as planned. He pushed the door open to find a, previously unaccounted for, room full of people. They looked like they were getting ready to leave, they were packing there bags. Ness's eyes widened at the sight; not only was it the 'Sharks' from back in Onett, but they were packing burlap bags full of money. There was a differently dressed man among them, he was referred to as 'Frank' from what Ness could make out. They left in the opposite direction and he breathed a sigh of relief. One run in with the Sharks was enough for him. A terrifying thought crossed his mind: What if one of them remembered him from Onett? He laid the chill to rest and waited until the footsteps faded before he ventured into the theater building.

Making his way down the stairs he could hear the music playing as plain as day. When the door swung open, the band was going full swing. Their song ended and was credited as 'Water Running'. 'Oh, it was the name of the song. That's what she meant.' His mouth upturned in a smile, "she is in here," he said and began the hunt.

Dipping and bobbing through people was hard enough, but the heavy smoke in the air made it unbearable. Brushing the smoke away from his face was pointless, it would only make him look like he wasn't supposed to be there. Braving the fog was the only rout. 'In places like these, you should show up expecting this sort of thing, right,' he thought as a passing waitress offered him a glass of sparkling white wine, she was even kind enough to place it right in his hand. He raised an eyebrow at his glass, 'I have alcohol...but I can't use it here.' It wasn't like he enjoyed the taste, in fact, no more than a sip ever passed his lips; but if he didn't give off the air these people were used to, he'd stick out. Cautiously, he sipped the glass as he navigated the hopping floor.

"Wat' you up here for, you a spying foo?" said a familiar stereotypical voice; it was the punk from back in Onett.

Ness steadied himself, ready to call for help at a moment's notice. "I'm looking for my friend is all," he said, pretending not to hear the frustration in his voice.

"Think so? Well, we be seein' bout it." And with that, he took Ness by the arm and led him to another room. It was all he could do to hold his glass upright. "We have a home boy from the sticks, Frank. Is he cool?"

Frank was the man in charge of the Sharks, "Who, this wiener? He's nobody," the older man said and brushed him off. "But," he said and delicately turned on his heel, "There is one thing. That kid, Pokey," when he said this, a brief glimpse of the boy came into view. Everyone cowered away from the door.

"Pokey? What's he doing here?" Ness said as he leaned to look out.

"Get down!" Frank grabbed his scruff and pulled him down to crouch with the rest of them. "You know him? Then you know he's a blabber mouth. If he sees us, the whole town's going to know we do business through Everdread," his head snapped to Ness, "Forget I said that last part! Anyway, if you can distract him or get him thrown out of here, we won't kick your a**." A few of his flunkies backed him up with a 'yeah'.

"How do I do that?" Ness asked.

"You could start a fight with him," one of the backup said.

"That'll work," Frank complimented him on a good suggestion, "Go pick a fight with pudge-ball over there and we're square. Capiche?"

"Got ya...what does capiche mean?" he said, looking at a bemused Frank.

"Don't get smart with me kid," he said while shifting his toothpick to the other side of his mouth. "Do you want a beating?"

"No, and I don't want a beating from him either," Ness said, pointing in Pokey's direction. "He's a lot bigger than me, one hit and I'll go down."

They all ducked out of the way again as Pokey's I image flashed for a second in the doorway, frightening them all further into their cubbies. It was gone when the swinging door stopped moving. "You need courage?" Frank was holding Ness in front of him with the hops he would serve as a shield, "here," he said and slipped a flask around Ness's shoulder.

Ness sighed, for his options were few. "This is going to end badly."
-Chapter 5: Getting it Done-

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Fight with Pokey or fight with the Sharks, Ness was stuck between a rock and a fat place. "Can't you take the back door?" he suggested as he was being egged on to go and fight.

"Do you know what's out back?" Frank said, looking at him over the rims of his sun glasses. He tossed a small throwing knife up in the air and caught it again. "It's the police station. If we go out the back, we're screwed for sure," he pointed the knife at the youth, giving him instructions, "Come hell or high water, we're going out that front door."

Ness huffed, "Fine, I'll do it," he said and left the kitchen. When he got out there he took a look around for his 'psychic buddy', Paula. He saw Pokey across the room. Pokey was flexing his arm for the dazed girl on his arm. The guy put a walnut in the crook of his arm and crushed it. Despite his physical fitness, he was pure muscle beneath all of it. With all the color washing from his face, Ness headed back into the kitchen. "Can any of you crush a nut with your arm?"

Frank looked to his side and (conveniently) found a bowl almonds. He grabbed a handful and turned them into crumbs with a single fist, "You tell me," he said with a snide tone.

"Okay..." he said, quickly abandoned the idea of taking on the whole group of ruffians. He saw Frank hold up the flask again, Ness sighed, "You know I'm only fifteen, right?"

He shrugged, "You know I don't care about breaking the law."

Entertaining the booze for a second, "...I'll pass," he finally declined for good.

"Get out there then!" Frank said and pushed Ness out of the kitchen. He then locked it tight with a rusty creek.

Ness pushed on it, "I'm not ready yet!" he said and saw a straw poke through the center of the swinging doors, "...no, dammit."

"You'll be fine!" Frank lied. Even if Ness couldn't beat Pokey, he'd still create enough of a diversion for them to exit the building. Frank rubbed his hands together and watched on through a tiny slit in the door.

"Whatever," he said and began lurking around the club. Even though Ness had grown up alongside Pokey, he had no idea who he really was. Ness watched him from afar, he was far too nervous to get close yet. If Pokey were that strong, who knew what kind of training he did on his spare time.

'Ness, I can feel you,' said Paula from within his head.

He was shocked to be able to hear her so clearly. "Do I have to talk out loud for you to hear me?" he said, earning himself a couple awkward stares. Embarrassed by the two pretty girls looking at him, he blushed and with some quick thinking, placed his hand to his ear, "So can you hear me?" he began walking away, diffusing the staring with the guise of a 'bluetooth'.

'Haha, I can,' she giggled. 'Now all you have to do is walk twenty feet northeast ,then line up your left fist. You're a south paw, right?' Her explanation was gentle until, 'Then you take that fist and put it in his fat, ******** face!' the end.

"I'm not ready," he said.

'And stop talking out loud, you sound like a retard,' she finally said.

'Great, thanks,' he said internally.

'And what do you mean 'you're not ready'? You have a fist, it works, you're ready,' she said with some fight.

'I'm not ready to fight him...because he's so big. If only I had something to knock him out with...how did you get here with him anyway?' Ness asked as he tried to get closer to Paula, for some reason her voice was sounded like it was getting further away.

'Who cares, I'm here. Now do something about it,', she said with snip.

'I don't like your tone. You know, I don't have to be doing this,' he said, beginning to get carried away. 'Furthermore, I've done nothing but help your ungrateful a**, you better show me damn respect!'

'Where's all this coming from? Just do it,' she said it as if 'how dare he ask'.

'No, and if you don't lighten up, I head for the door.' He was truly fed up with her attitude. 'Maybe Pokey will want to be tender with you later on,' he mocked.

'...Alright, I'm sorry. I'll give you a kiss if you get me out of here,' she said with defeat.

'No, no, no. That's too easy. I'll think of something, then I'll get back to you. Conditions, right?' He was sounding more like he was in control now.

'Fine...how do you know I'll follow through?'

'Swear on the stone. If you swear on the stone, I'll believe you. You wouldn't want to lie to alien technology now, would you?' he laid a cheek on his limp fist and stared at the girl who couldn't stare back.

'...I don't know if doing that will have any effect,' she sounded uncertain.

'Well then, you better not lie when you do it,' he was being smarmy.

'...I promise.'

'Promise what?' he said and watched Pokey touch Paula's face gently. 'Hold that thought,' he said and made a quick line for Pokey. With no hesitation he lined up his fist and punched Pokey in his right cheek, with little effect. He made a dent in the pudge.

'What's happening? What are you doing?' Paula was sounding frantic.

'I'm digging a hole,' Ness said.

'You're fighting him, great! Now concentrate the heat in your body to your fist, then...and you...keep the distance the...and bam!' she said sounding broken-up.

'I have no idea what you just said,' Ness said to her, but he got no reply. He had lost his connection with Paula. "s**t," he said aloud.

"Ness?" Pokey said, turning his head toward his 'friend', slowly recovering from the hit. "Why did you do that?" Without warning he charged and 'belly bumped' Ness back into a couple tables. They toppled over and upset the patrons occupying it. The group looked at Ness with contempt.

He tried to rekindle their favour, "Get your hands off her," he said and pointed at Paula, shifting their attention to the 'date rapist'.

"What?" Pokey said, rather nervous. He was hoping his strong front would frighten Ness off before he could say anything. "She loves the 'Runaway Five', she wants to be here. Right, Paula?" he asked, earning himself a droned nod. "See?" Ness took another swing at him but missed because he curled up into a ball on the floor. "Don't hurt me, I'm sorry," he bawled.

"Leave the kid alone," said one of the other people from the crowd.

He couldn't believe his ears; could no one else see Paula's condition? She was obviously drugged. "She's coming home," Ness said. "Come on," he touched her arm and heard a loud voice in his head.

'What's ******** going on!' Paula yelled.

Ness cringed at the volume, 'Easy,' he said.

'Take this thing off my neck.' With a quick hand Ness snatched the necklace off of Paula before the other patrons pulled him out of the club. She blinked a few times and finally came to. "Don't come near me you a**," she turned to Pokey.

"Then why'd you agree to go in the first place," he asked, trying to make himself look good.

It worked, everyone seemed to side with Pokey. "Say 'yes' to going to the concert, and then you ditch him for this guy?" one of the others said.

"They're too young to be in here anyway, someone call security," said another.

Paula's eyes widened, "Let's go, before this turns ugly," she said and pulled Ness along. He followed her through the crowd, who was giving them dirty looks the whole way. She didn't get a good look, but she swore she saw Pokey smirking at them and shaking his head. When they finally got outside, she paused for a breather. "Thank you. He showed up at my house and offered me the show tickets."

"I don't know how he got them, but..." he said while catching his breath. Just then, he remembered what Everdread had told him, "They were stolen from me; I got them for you when you ran home, to sorta' cheer you up."

She smiled nicely for a change, "You'd do that?" she snickered, "I appreciate it," she pecked him on the cheek. "We should find out where your friend Picky ran off to?"

Still a bit shaken from the sudden outburst of affection, he managed to gather his whits. "Good idea. He should be nearby," Ness said and looked around the corner and between the two buildings where they started. There was Picky, puffing away. "Dammit dude, would you cut that out? You gotta' drive," and the police station was next door, but he didn't mention that part, not wanting Picky to panic.

Picky flicked the but of his roach away, "I can drive better like this," he said, sounding proud of himself.

"No way," Paula said, "Cops are all over this place; if they smell that, we'll be pulled over for sure. And I'm not getting busted ever again."

Picky raised his hands, "Alright, cool. Give me some time to wind down." And so they did. The three of them arrived in Burglin park and saw a few of the locals had begun a bonfire. They joined in to keep wark for the next hour. "Shame..." Picky said.

"How so?" Paula asked.

"I was kind of hoping to run into someone while we were here. She's not around though," he said and flipped up cell phone up again, "Her phone isn't even on." He could tell because all his calls went right to voice mail and she wasn't responding as she normally did.

Paula looked over his shoulder, "Venus? Is that who you're trying to get a hold of? Good luck."

"How so?" he asked.

"Venus got a gig in Fourside, she's not coming back for a while," Paula hugged her knees, longing for her closest friend. She was the only other girl in Twoson who understood her and accepted her as she was, temper and all. "We won't see her until winter."

Picky laid back on the grass and gazed up to the darkened sky, "Seriously...now I have to go on a road trip. Who's in?" he laughed, "Kidding," he said and closed his eyes.

"Excuse me...are you Paula?" a deep male voice came from behind.

Paula turned around and said, "Yeah, who's asking?" with a snide tone, but that quickly melted away when she saw who it was. It was one of the lead singers from the Runaway Five. "You're asking? By all means, I'm me. I mean, I'm Paula, nice to meet you. Nice for you to come over and talk to me like this too," she was talking fast and becoming flustered.

"Chill, kay? Something weird happened and I wanted to make sure you were alright," he said and pulled his sun glasses down to look at her. "You were pretty zoned at the show."

She blushed furiously, "I know, I'm okay now...thank you for the concern."

The red singer straightened his hat and nodded, "No problem...but...I can't help but mention...nah, it's crazy. Sorry to bug you," he said and began to turn around to leave.

"Oh, it's not crazy, and if it is, I love crazy! I love 'crazy' like crazy, like your song 'Love crazy'," again she babbled. Ness and Picky gave each other a knowing glance; even Paula had a 'fan girl' side to her, and they got to see it.

"You see," he hesitated some, "I could hear your voice...calling for help...see, like I said, crazy."

"...Yeah," she said, calming down, "Crazy..."

"I thought it may have been a sign to go and help you...you seemed really dazed and confused. Now, I wouldn't have said anything, but my band mates heard it too, it's like you were psychic or something. No one else heard," he said and looked at Ness, "Except for this guy, he had it going on! I was gonna go down there myself and help after the song if not for him." He gave her a photo signed by the band, "Here, you didn't get to see the end of the show, and those were one-hundred dollars a pop." He walked off, but not before being thanked a million times.

When the van pulled away she whipped her head around and gave Ness a death glare. "You!" she said with rage.

"What did I do?" Ness asked with a whine.

"You dumb s**t, I almost had one of the Runaway Five come and help me! Why did you come when you did? My life sucks! ********!" she said and threw her hands up in the air, being careful to hold on to the priceless photograph. "At least this'll always bring back the fondest of memories."

Ness raised an eyebrow, "What memories, you were a zombie?" This earned him a quick boot to the head. Later, after recovering from the thrown weapon, they made their way back to Onett in the car. This time they had some cargo with them; it was a rather large box that occupied the front seat. Orange Kid asked Picky to deliver a package back in Onett. Seeing as how they were going that way anyway, he figured it wasn't a problem. At least not for Picky, Paula was another story.

Paula sat in the back seat, next to Ness. "This place is s**t," she was referring to her mental state.

"It's not so bad...you got the photograph," he winced, expecting a tirade again, but got a sad expression instead.

"I know...I just know I won't get another chance like that ever again. I'm so screwed when I get home." Again, she rested her head on her knees.

Ness finally could tell she wasn't really mad at him for saving her, she was just aware of the implications of disappearing again. And so soon after she got back too. This was her way of venting that anger. It wasn't a healthy way of doing it, but at least it was getting done. He wanted to say something to cheer her up, but nothing really came to mind. In a last ditch effort to heighten her mood, he looked down at the seat, right next to Paula. With an unsteady hand he gently took hold of her closest hand. "...your parents are mad because they thought they lost you, forcing you to stay in was the only way they thought they could help you. I'm sure if they had another way to understand you, they would."

She squeezed his palm in hers, "It's not that...it's the timing. We need to go now, and I'll be grounded for weeks."

"Why not tell them the truth?" he said optimistically.

"I did...that's why I was kept in the first time." Her tone suggested she was telling the truth, but something didn't add up.

Ness remembered what she had said earlier, "I thought you got caught at a 'Vensu Sparks' concert."

"I did," she began, "I was smoking with my friends from school and all of a sudden my head is filled with voices. I called my mother, thinking I took a bad hit of something...but then it didn't go away. I kept on hearing them. My mom flipped out and sent me to a shrink who tried to pump me full of pills. One of them even made my vision blur." She poured out her heart to Ness, for she was drowning in herself.

"Pills? Like anti-depressants?" he saw her nod, "I see."

"Yes. I never took them for long, they made the voices stop." Paula knew it didn't make them 'stop', she just couldn't hear them because the drugs were blocking her perception of those images. "I know I didn't really like the voices at first, but then I saw physical proof that I wasn't crazy. A month later, I find you," she said, once again, with that warm, nice smile.

"I help and hurt all at the same time, don't I? Next time we go, I'll be sure to get you in to see the band," Ness said with determination.

Paula looked at him in the darkness of the car, mostly only his silhouette was visible, but she could still see the smile on his face. She looked at his smile and thought it was really nice. "Does that make it a date then?" she snickered when Ness blushed; he almost illuminated the whole back seat in red.
-Chapter 6: In This Together-

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They arrived back at Ness's house and pondered the stone. He and Paula sat across from one another at a small table Ness had in his room. "You sure your mom won't mind?" Paula said, breaking the silence.

He shook his head, "Nah, her pills knock her out. Even if she were up, she probably won't remember it tomorrow." She had warned him when the doctor prescribed them eight months ago that a sort of amnesia would occur.

Her eyebrows rose somewhat, "People normally give me an odd look when I say I was on pills, but you didn't. Is it cause your mom's on them too?"

"Sort of. I know she's been a wreck since dad left, so I don't care. It get's her through her day, well, night, and that's what matters. You gotta do what you gotta do, right?" He poked the eye level rock on the table and it spun slowly. Among the things he had to do, saving the world was one of them, it was looking grim for his future. How much of this was true, how much was a dream? It was hard to tell.

"Your dad left, how come?" she asked innocently and insensitively.

"Honesty, I'm not sure. It was something to do with money. Even though he's not here, he keeps sending a cheque, which I guess is alright." He wasn't really alright with it, but he knew that getting upset wasn't going to do any good. Ness had tried that card when this change occurred, to no avail.

"I always thought it would be better with only one parent. I guess she's making up for the other half then?" she said, displeased with the lack of success in Ness's fatherless endeavor."

Can we not talk about this?" he was beginning to get bummed out thinking about it. If he was going to get any sleep tonight, he needed to clear his mind of the unpleasantness of it all. It was bad enough he was also having a 'pseudo-sleepover' with a girl, that was nerve racking enough."

Ness?" a voice came from the other side of the door, "you're still up..." she cracked the door and peeked in. It was his sister. Sadly she didn't give Ness enough time to to get Paula into hiding. Tracy gasped, "I'm sorry!" She noticed that they were only sitting at the table, "Hi there, I'm Tracy, his sister," she began, "I need to borrow him for a moment," she said and quickly hooked Ness's arm, effectively pulling him from the room and shut the door. "What are you doing?" she said in a whispered hush.

"Nothing."

"There's a girl in your room, and after hours no less. What's up," there was no getting by his sister, she could see the tension in his face. She had done something similar to this in the past, and it didn't appear that she was trying to scold him.

"Paula got in a spat with her parents and needed to cool off. She'll be gone before Mom gets up," he said reassuringly, "Don't worry."

She sighed, smitten by the prospect of young love, "Hold on," she said and disappeared into her room for a second and came back out, holding her hand shut. "I didn't see her, she was never here, and please be safe." Tracy took his hand and placed a plastic square in his palm.

His face turned beet red, "No, that's not what this is," he said and tried to hand it back.

She pushed his hand away, "Treat it like a gun, it's better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it." That being said she hugged him and went back into her room. The only reason she came out in the first place was because she heard the sound of her little brother's voice. When he was on the phone late at night it was usually because he was talking with his father, which normally ended in a long spell of apathy. Tracy wanted to be there for him and since she opened her new small business, Escargot Express, she had been particularly absent.

Ness sighed and placed the sealed condom in his back pocket, it was the only one deep enough to hide the noise of the wrapper. The last thing he needed was to give Paula the wrong impression. They had just met and where he had never done anything like that before, now wasn't the time to start. Some of his friends at school had said they fooled around with girls and encouraged him to do the same, but he declined. The girls, he felt, weren't interested in him. The ones that were, he didn't care for.

"What was all that?" he was grilled by Paula the second he came in. "Did she think we were going to do something?"

"Yeah," he said sounding rather embarrassed, "I told her otherwise, she didn't believe me."

Paula shifted uncomfortably in her spot, "That's cool...so...about that promise?"

Ness blushed, it would seem that was happening to him a lot lately. "It wasn't going to be anything like that!" he sounded shocked.

"And why not? Is there something wrong with me?" she snapped, cocking her head in a demeaning way.

He was about to get apologetic but she finally got on his last nerve. It was bad enough she got him talking about his family issues, now she was implying that he would take advantage of her based on what little he knew of her. "You want to know what that 'promise' was going to be? You have to promise to work on your vicious attitude. And yes, there is something wrong with you, but it's nothing personal, I don't know who you are. What I do know about you, makes me not want to get that close." He flipped his switch off, leaving only the outside front light for vision in his room. "Here's a blanket," he said as he grabbed an extra from his shelf, "Don't talk to me until morning." He tossed her said blanket and retreated to his bed, getting deep into his covers.

A few minutes of silence passed until he heard something. It was similar a sound to the one he heard coming from his mother's room from time to time, except this one wasn't muffled by a door. It was unmistakable, it was sniffling. 'You idiot,' he said internally. 'She's crying...isn't she...' he rubbed his face and listened closely. He only wanted to make a point without cutting her like a knife, but he may have gone too far. Once again Ness had forgotten her situation; Paula was pretty much alone in the world and flat out telling her 'yes' there was something wrong was really insensitive. If he was expecting her to show him compassion, he figured he'd have to go out of his way to show it to her. "I'm sorry," he said, face turned slightly toward the sound of the stifled sobbing.

"No...I'm messed up...I'm sorry." Her head laid on her sweater on the table, the place she was granted to sleep for the night.

"We both are then. I forgot that we're in this together, you're under the same stress as me. Being a bit rough around the edges is how you deal with it. I bet if we met under different circumstances, I wouldn't have said what I did. Probably would have said the opposite..." He felt that smoothed things over nicely.

"Thank you, Ness. I'll have to mark down all the nice things you say, so when I start flipping out I can reference them to cheer me up." She giggled, "I think we're going to do alright...what do you think?"

He thought, "...that we should go check the meteor out again tomorrow. Picky sent me a text earlier that got me thinking," he said and sat up some, "The police aren't paying any attention to the meteor, they're focusing on the Sharks. The thing is still really hot, but no one's doing anything about it."

Paula sat up and looked in his direction, clearing her eyes, "Really? That is odd," she sounded worried. "As soon as the sun is up, we should head out." They slept surprisingly well, despite their current situation, and headed out the next morning as planned. Paula shivered as her feet slogged through the wet grass. The dew of the cliff was particularly cold first thing in the morning, the wind didn't help any. "Maybe the rain cooled Onett down," she said. The gentle sound of rain had fallen upon them before they dozed off the night before.

"Here's hoping it cooled the Sharks down too," he said. When they finally got there they could see the meteorite was still glowing. "It's been two days, why is this still hot?"

"Maybe it's not a meteorite. It could be disguised as a space rock to stop people from tampering with it, this very well could be the ship the time traveler came in." As she said this her vision turned over to the small burial site they made for Buzz-Buzz. A small twig served as a marker. "He had a lot of information for you, it's a shame he's gone. Now we're going to have to play a lot of this journey by ear."

"Journey? You mean travel?" he sounded sad. Not only had his father left, but it was beginning to sound like he'd be leaving too. He didn't know if parting with his mother was going to be easy.

"I'm not sure. All I know is that we have a lot of ground to cover. Maybe it's because we have to look for the other two-who am I kidding-I know we have to look for them..." she said and sat on the ground next to the 'meteor'. "I wonder where they're at." In frustration she kicked the rock. Paula usually had dreams that gave her guidance on her next move. Unfortunately, the dream she had last night didn't reveal anything else about Buzz-Buzz and the message he had; it didn't make any sense at all she felt. It was truly looking hopeless from her point of view.

"Did you hear that?" Ness said and went to the spot she kicked, there was still a wet footprint on it. "Look," he said and pointed.

"I left a boot print, I doubt I broke anything." Her sun dress was oddly accompanied by a large pair of black boots. They looked nice, but still out of place with her current ensemble.

"No, look. The water isn't evaporating. It's supposed to be hot, right?" He knelt down next to the rock and slowly reached his hand into one of it's craters.

"Good eye," she complimented him.

As his hand made contact with the surface of the glowing meteor it seemed strange to the touch. "...it's not hot at all. It's warm..."

"Maybe there's a hatch," she went to make contact and received a shock. "Or not..." She tried again in a different spot and received the same shock treatment. "I guess only you can touch it."

Ness laughed out loud, "Really? Only me?" he chortled.

Paula rolled her eyes, "I bet you're really proud of yourself for that one."

"Oh, I am," he smirked and reached in as far as he could, pleased his video-game logic paid off. "It feels like a man-made...bee-made, structure." Unintentionally knocking something, the whole rock began to hum and whir with metallic sounds. "Please don't explode," he said and cringed as he backed away with Paula.

The pod opened and revealed the inner workings; it was a full scale ship, sized for a bee. A few more pieces moved and spun until there was a long rod sticking up from the middle of the device. Ness looked at Paula, who was as equally as confused as he was. The long rod lifted two equal length arms out at it's sides and the webbing in the middle acted as a screen. It lit up with a tall slender man sitting in a chair, nothing else. Giving it another go, Ness poked the screen in hopes that it would play, it did.

"Ness, I'm sorry I couldn't be there to tell you this in person, but time is running short." He and Paula sat down to watch the screen from the grass. The man continued, "If you're watching this, it means I've died on my journey to the past, so you must listen carefully; your adventure to defeat Giygas begins now. To be victorious, your own power must unite with the Earth's. In the end, Earth will channel your power and multiply it. I know a lot of this doesn't make sense, but please continue listening. There are eight points that you must visit, make those places your own. Each of these locations is called your 'Sanctuary'. For now, the only one I know of is near Onett. It is called "Giant Step."

"Giant step? That's on the other side of town," Ness said, knowing the other side of town wasn't that far. Onett was a small enough town that if you stood on one side, you could have a yelling match with someone on the other side.

"We should go there after this," Paula said, staring at the man on the screen.

"You are a very intelligent young man, but I don't know if I want to trust you with the fate of the world. I know there's no choice as of now, so I must." His image said and he held up something in his hand, the glowing stone. "...it is the Sound Stone. You can record the vibrations of the planet from the eight 'Sanctuary' locations, it is an awesome item. It'll be a lot smaller when you first see it," he said and placed it into his bag, which was the size of a thimble. The stone shifted and shrunk as it sunk into the small sack. "Holding the two nodes on either side of the bag for five seconds will reset the size and you can use the stone as normal." Paula smacked her forehead.

As he finished doing all this, he was seen to pull a lever. When pulled, he was surrounded in a brilliant show of electricity. The man shrunk into a small form and landed on the table in the corner of the video. It was a bee. He walked in front of another camera and his bee-like image magnified and appeared on screen. "I can only time travel in the smallest of forms, so I have chosen a bee. They have venom and will expend their last effort to protect their hive, even though it means they will draw their final breath doing so. I feel that this is what I'm doing, it suits me well. Ness," he said, "My code name is Buzz-buzz, and I have done my best to get this piece of equipment to you, I hope it finds you well. Don't let us down. The Apple of Enlightenment has predicted that you existing is the only way to stop Giygas, lending you power is how we will seal his fate. Live, Ness, find the sound locations." Then the video terminated and the rod projecting it went up in smoke.

Paula laid back on the grass. "Sanctuary? And the first one is up on 'Giant Step'?"

"Apparently." Ness stood and brushed the loose grass from his clothing. "With any luck the locations of these places are probably in some sort of pattern, scattered over the planet." Again, video-game logic.

"Possibly...we could always hope for a ground pattern in this country alone," she said while pondering.

"...Know what's worse? Giant Step is where the Sharks hang out. We'll be cutting right through their territory." He looked off in the direction of the first 'Sanctuary', which didn't seem to be living up to it's name, it wasn't very safe.

Paula huffed, "Is there a time they leave? Like, to go home for the night?"

"They keep a lot of stuff there, it's probably watched overnight by someone." He tapped a finger on his jaw, deep in thought. "Maybe if we went in the back...but then we'd have to scale the cliff."

Paula drew a deep breath and her arms fell and flopped at her sides, "Got any rope?" she said with a ruthful smile. After a few minutes of back and forth on why it was a bad idea, it was decidedly the only way to avoid a Shark encounter. They were really moving up in the world, whether they wanted to or not, literaly.
-Chapter 7: Finding Our Way-

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Stopping off briefly at Ness's house, they grabbed a rope. Finally getting the chance to be honest, he got to tell her they were going to Giant Step to look for a certain location. Paula had to top it all of with deception and said it was a school project she was doing for extra credit over the summer. Luckily she had a digital camera on her to seal the deal.

Jokingly, Rachelle told them the urban legend surrounding the area. "People warned their children of the monster that lives there. When Eagleland was founded, there were mythical beasts; they were driven out when humans settled. But one was left behind. He wanders the plains in search of children. If he sees any he kidnaps them and keeps them in his cave for company. The worst part of it is...he's very boring and has nothing interesting to talk about...sheer hell!"

Ness couldn't recall ever being told that tall tale. "How come I don't remember you telling me that?"

"Oh honey, you were too smart for that kind of nonsense," she said with a laugh. The two teens thanked her for the insight and headed off to destinations unknown.

The cliff was a steep incline, not straight up like originally thought. The rope still ended up being a good idea; Ness lost his footing near the top, only the rope aided his fall. Going uphill, they looped it around a sturdy base and used it as a guide to walk up the side. They searched for hours, but nothing popped out at them. Their search finally ended on an area unlike any other of the surrounding structures. "Ness, this place is all flat," Paula said.

"It does look odd," he commented and scanned the rest of the location. "Maybe that 'beast' legend has something to do with the sound stone."

Paula shook her head. "Don't you think parents told kids that story because they knew gangs hang around up here? I mean, when kids get involved in a gang, they tend to 'not come back home', right?"

He stared blankly for a moment. "I doubt my mother was that clever. I always thought it was because she couldn't see us if we got hurt." He defended his mother's position, he felt she was in the right.

"Yeah," she said with an eye roll.

Ness took the sound stone out and noticed something odd about it. "This thing is glowing brighter, and it's pulsating quicker too." He looked around but still didn't see anything noteworthy.

"I had something I wanted to mention..." a brisk wind swept up from beneath them and nearly took the hem of Paula's dress above her waist. She quickly held it down. "The dream I had last night...it was you sitting in a dark spot, in front of a small opening. You kept telling people to look in, but no one listened and kept going by."

He gave her the strangest of looks, one eyebrow was raised, "That's weird...now that you mention it, something does come to mind." He told her about a place he played at once when he was younger. That day he and his friends ventured far into the caves of Giant step without their parents permission. When going down one of the corridors, Ness suggested they try a narrow path he had found. Everyone said they didn't see the hole Ness wanted to adventure into. "Maybe none of them were meant to see it, except for me." His eyes widened and he gave a cat-like smirk to Paula, still beaming about the meteor incident.

"You're getting on a high horse," she sighed.

"Am not. I don't want to have to be the one to save the world, I'd gladly pass that torch. But if that nook is the place we need to be, it's a bit farther." He smiled triumphantly.

As they walked on, Paula couldn't help but sense Ness's mood. "I get it, you're happy your friends weren't assholes?" she asked.

"Close; I'm happy I wasn't crazy," he said with a smile.

Light was beginning to evade them, not because it was late, the clouds were moving in again with threats of rain. "It's going to spill," Paula said and grabbed her hair back into a single pony tail, looping her two ribbon accessories around her newly made hairdo.

"It's down this way," he said and walked in further. The path was still opened at the back of a wide hall. Ness stepped closer and the opening got bigger and bigger. Hardly being able to contain themselves at the sight, they zipped though the crack and found yet another flat plain, this one was covered in a reddish haze.

"Ness," Paula said as she looked around. "Isn't this the same spot we were a second ago?"

He examined the area. "Seems like it...but it can't be, the rope is gone. And look," he said and referenced something marked in the ground. It was several large craters that formed a larger footprint. "That's kind of cool, I wonder who put that there," he said.

"Him," Paula mentioned as she motioned to the ominous outline of some large creature. She and Ness stood their ground as they watched it lumber slowly along.

The majority of his shaggy body was invisible, only feint hints of light accented its edges. It could be seen that this creature walked on all four feet, but had the option to stand on two. His elongated horns protruding from the back of it's head curved inward and nearly touched at their points. They vibrated as he gave a bellow of happiness, finally he had some company. The beast calmed down and then glanced over his shoulder at the two young ones who had come by to visit. "You need me? I will go," he said telepathically. Slowly his body dissolved into small red dots that floated upward from his feet. The beast hummed a soft melody as his body became a part of something bigger. The red pinpoints in the air traveled up the creature's body, more appearing each second, filling the area with a brilliant array. When the beads of light were done dissolving the beast, they surrounded Ness and Paula in a swirling vortex. It spiraled into the center and landed on the Sound Stone, gradually they were all absorbed into the rock. "The Apple of Enlightenment decrees it so," were the last words he uttered before fading completely. The rock went dark, back to it's usual hue of blue.

Before either of them could get a word out, their world 'jumped' for a moment. The once dusty atmosphere that surrounded them was gone, and the world seemed a little less quiet. "What the hell was all of that?" Ness stammered, unaware of how he should treat the encounter.

Paula couldn't help but notice the rope was back, "Maybe we have to enter these places a certain way for them to work. Let's keep that in mind for the rest..." she said and began to go toward the only thing they could call an exit.

"Where to next?" Ness followed.

"That stone started to react when we got close to this place, maybe we just need to walk around until we find another one." She slid along the rope, hobbling her way on down the side on an angle.

Ness gave the rock a ruthful look and put it back in his pocket with a sigh. This was really happening to him and there was no way of stopping it. He felt so helpless. Ness slinked down the rope and he and Paula headed to the local arcade to blow off some steam.

Later on they sat out back, a slush in each of their hands, exhausted from the constant bombardment of noise and lights. Paula slurped from her frosted plastic cup and remembered the 'beast' from earlier, "I've had enough lights for today." No sooner was the word 'today' finished when the street lights decided to come on. "Really now? Come on," she said and laid her back flat against the wall, bending her legs so she remained propped up with little effort.

"Remember when I slipped on the way up uphill? I didn't notice until I was sitting down in there, but my wound is totally healed. No scar either." He tapped his hip.

"...are you sure? It was toward your back, maybe you missed it. Let me take a look," she said and reached out to him, kneeling down on one knee.

Ness tugged his belt out of the way to show her the 'lack of' mark. "Pretty amazing, huh?"

"I guess that place we went is special," she said.

"I'm sorry!" yelled a voice from behind them. It was the same boy who happened upon them in the tree-house that first fateful day. "The hero's conquest knows no bounds!" he said and took off. "You're a beacon of hope for us all."

"Hey, what's that supposed to mean?" Ness mumbled and wondered if that was an insult or not.

"I hate this place," Paula said. "Come on, before they start calling me the 'Whore of Onett'!"

It took Ness a few seconds to replay the scene in his head and how it must have looked from his angle. This caused a bold reaction on his face, "I just hope Pokey doesn't catch wind of any of this. The last thing I need is my mom thinking I'm doing things like that." Public indecency wasn't high on her list of things he wanted to get grounded for. Not that it mattered anymore, soon they would be in Threed.

He and Paula thumbed a ride with some farmers to get to Twoson before the sun was down. From there, they'd worry about getting to the next town, Threed. On the ride there Ness wrote a letter for his mother, explaining his situation in the most vague means possible. Paula hovered over his shoulder the whole time, auto-correcting him on thing's he wasn't being elusive enough with. "Talk about giving people the wrong impression," Ness said, remembering the misunderstanding they had earlier. He had looked over the letter in its entirety, hoping that reading it from start to finish was all it needed. He was wrong. It was blocky and kind of sounded like he was running off to join the circus. "I hope she thinks 'circus' and not 'Shark'. I don't need her or Strong making me look bad."

"I'll bet she thinks you took off to find your dad." She didn't realize her suggestion was going to stir the pot as it did, but it didn't happen right away.

Her words stuck in the back of his head, "No way; I'd have no way to know where to start looking."

"You did though, by leaving. No one can find what there looking for by standing still," she said, not meaning for it to sound so 'deep'.

"That's true..." Ness folded his letter and sealed it away in an envelop. The next chance he could get he needed to drop that off in a post box; he didn't need his mother sending out a search party for him. For her to do that, he needed to be missing for a full twenty-four hours, plus 'no notice'. This letter covered what he needed to be said.

"We come back." Paula said abruptly.

"...to...where?" he attempted to clarify.

"In the end, we come home," she said.

Ness smiled warmly, "Another vision of yours?"

She nodded. Paula had no way of telling how or why, or when, they succeeded, all she could see was Ness walking her home at the end of their journey. She told him this and saw an immediate drop in his anxiety level. His shoulders were less tense and he spoke a little more.

A short while later, "We're here kids," said a raspy voice from out front.

Paula had dozed off on Ness's shoulder. She awoke first and moved before he noticed. "We must have fell asleep,"

"Fallen," Ness said, earning him a confused glance. "We must have fallen asleep." He was barely awake and correcting grammar.

"We're in Twoson," the farm lady said, "So unless you want to end up in Threed, you best be makin' tracks."

Paula inhaled sharply, "You know what...I think we'll take you up on that, if you don't mind," she spoke abruptly. "Ness?"

"Yeah, good," he said and began to doze off again.

The back cab was filled with glass jars containing preserves. The old couple made them in the countryside and sold them in the big city. Threed wasn't the big city, Fourside was, Threed was merely along the way. The clinked lightly together as they motored along the highway, it kind of annoyed Paula.

When they arrived in Threed things didn't seem right. "I don't like the look of this," Paula said as she looked out the small window in the cab. "I'm sorry," she laid a palm flat against the glass leading to the drivers cab, "Can we keep going?" She thought for a moment, "I'm worried that it isn't safe at night."

The lady in the passenger seat slid the window open to talk to her guest personally. "We've come through here for more than fifty years, we never had any trouble."

"You don't understand...something's not right about this time," she tried to assure them. Her worried words were understood when a small circle of lights came into view. "I think that's the town square," the most central part of town.

"I hope no one's gone missing, it looks like a search party," the husband driver said. He could see flashlights going in many different directions. The big truck pulled up alongside a gutter a short distance away from the group of people.

"Maybe it's a town meeting." The wife slapped him enthusiastically in the shoulder, "Let's poke around."

Paula admired the old lady's spunk but still felt uneasy about leaving the vehicle. "I can't leave," she said. The couple was alright with this and set off to see what the commotion was about.

"You were the one who got us here, no backing out now," he said and lifted the handle of the back door to let himself out. His shoes hit the pavement and he turned on a dime, "It's chilly, but I can't complain..." his nose got a better sample of the air now that he was out in the open. "Oh, yes I can. What's that smell? It's like..."

"Death," Paula said and reluctantly approached the back doors on all fours.

"Don't be so dramatic," Ness scoffed. Their timing that day seemed to be spot on; just as Ness was about to get a cap on the drama, something happened out of the blue, yet again. The only difference was that it struck from the darkness and swept them both off their fee, and out of sight.

The old farmer and his wife finally came back to have some parting words with his two, as he deemed them, love bird passengers. They were nowhere to be found. "Odd...I guess they were in a rush," he got back in his cab and continued on to the circle of lights. Walking down there was out of the question, it was surrounded by barbed wire. They needed to gain clearance using a driven vehicle as per the sign out front. 'No admittance on foot'.

When Ness and Paula finally had their worlds turned right side up again, some lights came on. Two agile figures quickly slid out of sight and into the ceiling. In front of them sat a young man, possibly from Dalaam, cross-legged and cross looking. "What are you doing here?" he said with no introduction.

"...Eloping?" Ness said, trying to stay away from the whole 'undercover alien exterminator' role.

"You idiots," he snapped, "Especially you," he faced Paula. "Neither of you are strong enough to be here yet."

Ness reached into his pocket, the stone was glowing quickly, "Paula...is this guy..."

"Yes...he's one of our allies." Her words sounded empty, for her eyes were filled with hearts for the newest addition to their posse.
Getting chapter 3 ready. ^^
Chapter 3 is up. smile
Chapter 4 is up. ^^
Let me know what you think. smile
Bump for luck. ^^

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