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Which character/creature would you like to see art of next?

Mikey 0.14705882352941 14.7% [ 5 ]
John 0.14705882352941 14.7% [ 5 ]
Fluffs (post which one) 0.23529411764706 23.5% [ 8 ]
Father Garghoul 0.088235294117647 8.8% [ 3 ]
Malevobear 0.29411764705882 29.4% [ 10 ]
Other: Please post 0.088235294117647 8.8% [ 3 ]
Total Votes:[ 34 ]
<< < 1 2 ... 19 20 21 22 23 ... 24 25 26 >
Berryfarmer
LabTech Kestin
Berryfarmer
LabTech Kestin
Berryfarmer
LabTech Kestin
.what would happen if he died before then? Would he disappear from the game, or exist on borrowed time until he left the virtual reality?)

Something I'm still working on timing wise. I've played with writing scenarios for different possibilities here. When I get to the finale, I'll probably use the scenario that fits the rest of the chapter and how I want to close out the story.


So you're actually going to kill him off? You wouldn't do that. Would you? Yeah, you would. ...you wouldn't, right?

He should at least get Kerri pregnant first I'm sorry. Ignore the crazy one. It spends too much time on TV Tropes.

Still unsure, but it is a possibility he could die. I don't know if a virtual impregnation really works, not to mention that might move the story to a different rating.


Hmph. Well, it wouldn't surprise me. You're pathetically predictable; I bet you don't have the guts not to kill off your main character. *leans back, satisfied* Oh great and powerful gods of reverse psychology, grant me thy blessing.

It could work. Maybe not under regular circumstances, but the coding on this server is all screwy, and people can legitimately die. Computers like to have all their numbers balanced, right? So if the programming allows for people to die and therefore be removed without proper exit procedures, then certainly it would allow for new people to be conceived to replace what it sees as missing pixels! In fact, it would encourage it, resulting in super-fertility for all! (I am the supreme master of logic right now.)

I can see a whole spinoff about the life of a child created in a virtual world, plagued by weak biometric integration and struggling to fit in with his/her better-rendered peers...until one day s/he discovers a game called zOMG (which is now up to chapter 400 or something) and finds out s/he has superpowers based on the rings in the game (inherited brainwaves from daddy, obviously) and is destined to...uh...save the world from the unholy offspring of Kamila and the Phantom do something interesting. Naturally, being a sequel quite different in tone from the original, it would be critically panned and the movie adaptation would never be made, but that's life.

Alternatively, he could die shortly after the game ends, living just long enough for sexytimes. But that would be less interesting.


ಠ_ಠ Pixel children... I don't want to cross that frontier unless it's in a standalone science fiction novel, not in a game based fanfiction. Any sequel I would write to zOMC would more than likely happen in the real world with events from the fallout of what will happen in the finale, or be its own story with some new faces set in a chapter three of zOMG.

Might see another chapter by mid-week, currently adding more content to the mini-chapter I used for a contest entry to make it a full chapter.


Hahaha! I've never seen that much of a reaction from you. I am now thoroughly amused. biggrin And if you won't write it, I will! *takes deep breath* Once upon a time there was a game and a guy and a girl and the guy and the girl were inside the game and the guy was gonna die so the girl was all "hey let's make a baby" so they did and then the guy died and the girl was sad and the story skipped to the future where the baby was a dude and the dude was kind of weird because he was kind of a little bit computery but he didn't know that cause his mom who was the girl didn't want to talk about his dad who was the guy so the dude didn't know his parents saved the world or anything and then one day he goes online and he's all "hey what's this game it seems to resonate somewhere within my brain" and he goes and plays it and he's like "wow this is awesome and also I feel totally at home in here it's like I was conceived in here or something" and his mom catches him playing and she's all like "okay I guess it's time to tell you that me and your dad like saved the world and stuff and I was his love interest and there were other people and also he had superpowers or something so you might have them too" and then they get a super secret spy message from the devs saying that chapter 5 is coming out soon cause it's way later in the future and stuff except that it has an evil dude in there and they need to get it out so the dude meets all the other people's kids because the people in the crew had kids and so all the kids who were mostly young adults but whatever went into the game and had to fight through chapter 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 to get into 5 and then they found out that the evil dude is actually an evil chick and she wants to avenge her evil dad and evil mom even though her evil mom is still alive because she's a boss and they respawn and then they all go through character development and there is shipping between the good dude and the evil chick because foe yay and there are lots of references and cameos and stuff from the first story and other people's kids are there too and also whole new characters because it would be unfair just to pick from a pool of people you already know and trust the potential of because then how will anyone without a famous family get glory and then they win and everything is awesome and there is more shipping between all the people and then the good dude goes home and defibs his dad who is the guy because now he has ring superpowers and stuff and everyone is happy. 3nodding Now you must bow to me, for I am the greatest writer of all time! (I'm high on exhaustion.)
Berryfarmer's avatar

Winged Abomination

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This chapter started life as a contest entry that had to be less than 10k words. I've augmented it to be a more rounded and full chapter. Hope you enjoy it.

Chapter 19: Battle for Halloween Town

“Mikey, why are we going to Halloween Town?” Kerri was still brushing dust from the battle with Doppelord off of her sleeves. She looked at the shiny purple amulet that had come to her after the monster’s defeat.

“Shouldn’t we be rejoining the Anari in Aekea? After all we did lose communication with them and KJ.” Henry tried changing Mikey’s mind but he was dead set on the path to Halloween Town.

“We may have all the amulets now, but we still need more power before we are able to fight The Phantom. I was told by the Otami Warriors that Jack of Halloween Town possesses something that can help us. It’s out of the way if we go to Aekea first, so we’re going now.” Mikey lead the crew as they crossed the Phazian Wastes. The blowing sand made visibility almost nothing.

“Do we have to march so fast? My feet are still worn out from the running in the Underworld.” Everyone was having trouble keeping up with Mikey as he marched them like a slave driver.

“Mikey it might help us all if we knew what was damned important to be marched across chapter two to an out of the way location while we’re still exhausted from fighting our toughest battle yet.” John, Jeremy and Kerri collapsed to the ground as Mikey kept going.

“Mikey everyone is tired, we should take a short break.” Penelope jogged a bit to catch up to Mikey as he scanned the horizon.

“We can’t take a break. We have three weeks to find and stop The Phantom. Now that we have the amulets we can find the Axis of Time. It can be anywhere, but Halloween Jack has a means by which to find it. The Phantom is about to launch an attack on Halloween Town. We need to beat him there. If you all want to stop and take a break, go ahead but I’m going to keep going.” Mikey checked the map he received in Otami. “We have more than two days walk to get there, I’d rather not waste time.”

“Alright. Go on alone. You never needed us and we never needed you.” Henry yelled.

“Henry!” Penelope called, “We don’t need to be fighting now.”

“No Penelope, I think we need to. He comes back after leaving and expects us to follow him like nothing happened. We’re all exhausted and collapsing and he’s pushing us on and on. We need to stop.” Henry retorted.

“You’re more than able to leave if you want Henry. But I’m trying to complete our mission. We have no idea where The Phantom’s base is, how to get there, or anything else. Our only available information source is about to be attacked and given the animated dwelling in Halloween Town, they won’t last long. Maybe I would have been better off staying alone.” Mikey glared back, “Of course you’ve given up a lot in life haven’t you?”

“What did you say?” Henry clenched his fist.

“You heard me Henry. You give up on everything. You quit a relationship as soon as she shows some clinginess. You dropped out of school because you couldn’t handle the effort of finishing your degree. Up until they said they were moving DMS to chapter two, you had quit zOMG. I don’t need your quitting attitude holding us back.” Mikey and Henry stared each other down.

“You take that back.”

“Why should I, if it’s true.”

“At least I didn’t abandon my crew because I had a mental breakdown.”

“Of course with your mother abandoning you when you were so young, it’s no wonder you grew up a quitter. After all she quit her family.”

“Don’t you dare insult my mother. She was a saint.” Henry squeezed his fists, “Take it back.”

“No.” Mikey saw the clenched fists, “So if I don’t you’re going to fight me? Give me your best shot.” Henry lunged at Mikey the force of the impact sent them both tumbling down the side of the sand dune. They tumbled and rolled down trading punches.

“Guys. Stop.” Jeremy and the others ran and slid down the dune trying to catch up to Henry and Mikey. The two were trading punches, Henry’s stance resembled a boxer while Mikey stood like an MMA fighter. By the looks of the two Henry had got a blow on Mikey’s nose, while Mikey had given him a solid blow to the eye.

“Stop it you two. This isn’t helping anyone!” John yelled.

“Stay out of this. It’s between me and Mikey, and it’s about time this happened.” Henry and Mikey were grappling as they skidded across the sand.

“Bad idea Dole. I lived on the streets for three years and had to fight every day for food.” Mikey flipped Henry over and held his arm across his back.

“Bad news Berth, I got into college on a wrestling scholarship.” They flipped a few times before a nearby sound caught both their attention. Mikey looked down at Henry as Henry looked back up.

“Guys, Jeremy says we have Shriekworms incoming.” Kerri called at the two.

Mikey pushed Henry back down as he stood up, “We’ll finish this later.”

Henry wiped his face, “Count on it.” The crew made a circle as they saw burrows in the sand approaching them.

“Shriekworms always attack in clutches of six. Their shriek can cause temporary crowd control depending on the color of the worm it can be fear, root or sleep.” The burrows began to form a ring around the crew. Mikey reacted faster than the others he fired his lancer and as the beam reached a point in the air it met with a leaping Shriekworm. The green writhing creature whined as the beam ripped through its fleshy body. Its two halves thudded into the ground as they landed.

“One down.” Penelope was next to shoot at a leaping worm. It squealed as its blue body burst into flame.

“That’s two.” John said as a red Shriekworm flew over his head. As it let out a squeal John began running. Henry’s attack missed its blue mark and he felt his eyes become heavy as it shrieked. Kerri and Jeremy teamed up against a pair of Shriekworms encasing them in a billowing cyclone of darkness. Henry cut his Shriekworm down the middle of its head as it flew overhead for another attack. Everyone tried hitting John’s worm with their lancers but the six elemental beams collided before reaching their mark. As the six beams wrapped around each other and merged they became one silver beam, it struck the Shriekworm and encased it in a material that could only be described as crystal.

“That’s new. I didn’t know we could do that once we had all six amulets.” Kerri commented.

“I didn’t either.” John shrugged.

“It was a programming quirk left in by Swarf. When six different elements combine into one attack it creates a crystal made of solid Ghi. But we don’t have time, we have to get to Halloween Town.” As he spoke a purple lightning bolt streaked across the sky in the direction they were travelling.

“Fine, I’m convinced. Let’s go.” Henry and Mikey got the group moving again. Mikey led the group as they marched across the desert wasteland. Nobody felt like talking as the wind kicked up the sand. They crossed across the desert until the sun began to set, they began walking in darkness, guided only by the faint glow cast by Mikey’s amulet.

“Alright, we can stop for the night. If we start again at dawn we can reach Halloween Town by sunset tomorrow.” Mikey finally broke the silence.

“Regular watch schedule?” Before Jeremy finished asking Mikey had nodded and lit a fire to keep them warm. Jeremy closed his eyes, and while it only felt like minutes, he was shaken awake to the grey light that precedes a sunrise.

The group began another quiet march as Mikey took point and Henry brought up the rear. Everyone could feel the tension between the two. The day passed slowly and quietly as the sun beat down on them. The heat rose up in waves and licked against their faces as they kept moving. As they passed what would have been noon, the sandy desert gave way to weathered stones laid out as if left by an ancient civilization long gone from the world.

“We’ve just crossed into the Realm of the Ancients. In this area we’ll find Halloween Town, Eastertropolis, North Pole Village, Odanoville, and a number of other locations inhabited by the more ancient and renowned denizens of Gaia. It looks like a small group has already been marching here.” John noted some foot shaped cracks in the rock.

“You mentioned other places amongst this area, do you mean to tell us this section of the zOMG world is devoted entirely to holidays? Like fighting Jack, Santa, the Easter Bunny, and Odanodan?” Jeremy asked.

“Why yes actually. There’d be Halloween Town where you fight Pumpkin Fluffs, Jack-o-Bombs, Ghosts, Jacksters, and the king of Halloween himself, Jack. In North Pole Village you’d fight Gingerbread Fluffs, Reindurrs, Coal Sprites, Peppermint Squids, Elftechs, and Santa as a boss. Then there was the modern city of Eastertropolis where you’d fight Easter-Egg Fluffs, Bunny Bombs, E-Corp Techs, and the Easter Bunny in his cyborg glory. Odanoville was going to have 4-Leaf Clover Fluffs, UnLucky Charms, Leprecons, and Odanodan. Too bad we don’t have more time, the other towns here would have been nice to visit.” John rambled. As soon as he was done the group fell into the silent marching again.

The sun was just starting to set when they saw the skyline of Halloween Town poking over a recently and hurriedly built wall around the city. It was already under attack from six stone behemoths that each stood about eight feet tall. “Mini-Juggernauts. We have to stop them and help the city’s defenses.” Mikey sped up into a sprint towards the nearest Mini-Juggernaut.

“Right behind you.” Henry was right behind Mikey as they began to close the distance to the wall. He looked up to see if there were any kind of guards along the wall and to his surprise he could see man-sized figures garbed in the orange and black of Halloween tossing jack-o-lanterns at the stone golems. As the jack-o-lanterns landed they’d flash red a few times before exploding. Those must be Jack-o-Bombs. Jeremy and Mikey plowed into the first Mini-Juggernaut with their blades drawn. They rapidly began hacking and blasting it while Jeremy and Kerri reached the second Mini-Juggernaut. Penelope and John brought up the rear and attacked a third foe. The three Mini-Juggernauts they hadn’t targeted continued attacking the stone wall. Even with two people to each of the juggernauts they were barely scratching the monstrosities.

“This isn’t working. Their defenses are insanely high. Mikey we need a new strategy.” Jeremy called.

“Let’s try combining our lancers. Remember what it did to Shriekworm. Maybe it’ll do the same thing.” Mikey and Henry joined Jeremy and Kerri. Penelope and John backed up towards them.

“Can’t hurt to try.” Penelope said as they took aim at the nearest Mini-Juggernaut. Again the six beams fused into one as they arced towards the golem. As the silver beam struck it, the juggernaut shuddered and then fell lifeless. It fell into numerous pieces as it crashed into the ground.

“Not exactly the original idea, but it works.” Kerri said as they targeted the next juggernaut.

“It seems to be shorting them out with an energy overload.” Jeremy said as the second combined attack hit its target. The same thing happened, shuddering followed by complete collapse. After repeating the process for the other Mini-Juggernauts, the Jacksters standing on the wall stood mouths open.

“Hold, hold, don’t attack. They just saved us you technological miscreants.” Came a voice on the other side of the wall.

“I know that voice. Curt? Curtneko is that you?” Jeremy shouted.

“Jeremy? Man! Fancy meeting you here. What brings you to Halloween Town?” Curtneko called down. Curt turned to a nearby Jackster, “Open the gate. Let them in, I think they can help us.” A part of the wall cracked open and slid open revealing the town beyond. Curt ushered them in and as soon as they were all within the wall the opening slid closed.

“Curt what’s up man?” Jeremy and Curt exchanged a fist bump and high five as they greeted each other. “How did you end up here?”

“Oh you know the story. Volunteered to stop a phantom, crew fell apart yada yada yada. I wandered the area for weeks before collapsing; the Jacksters picked me up and brought me here. I’ve been helping them defend the area since, including building the wall.” Curt began leading them through the town.

“We need to see Jack. Where is he?” Mikey was in a hurry to get to the point.

“That’s the thing. The last anyone saw of him, he was going to the Stone Table to meet Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and Odanodan to discuss The Phantom. That was weeks ago. We don’t know what happened to him, he never came back.”

“Shame. We need to find Jack.” Henry said as Curt continued their tour of the town. Music came over the speakers around the town.
“ Boys and girls of every age
Wouldn't you like to see something strange?
Come with us and you will see
This, our town of Halloween…”


“Unfortunately, we were told by those stone menaces, before you got here, that The Phantom’s full army of them will be here within the hour. We need to protect the town or else Jack, wherever he is will die.” Curt continued. Mikey had taken the guidebook from Jeremy and was reading certain sections of it as they walked.

“Why’s that?” Penelope asked as he lead them into a chapel-like building.

“ This is Halloween, everybody make a scene
Trick or treat till the neighbors gonna die of fright
It's our town, everybody scream
In this town of Halloween…”


“Well, it’s complicated. There’s a pumpkin shaped crystal. It’s called the Heart of Halloween. Lots of Jack’s power comes from it, including the magic that keeps him alive. We cannot allow those juggernaut’s to destroy it.” Curt said as they entered a chamber in the chapel. Hovering off the ground in the center was a giant crystal at least 15 feet in diameter and shaped like a giant cursed pumpkin. It glowed red, blue, purple and orange as it quietly hummed. The main entrance swung open again and they could hear something running across the stone floor. The music from the town could be heard faintly.

“ Our man jack is King of the Pumpkin patch
Everyone hail to the Pumpkin King now!
This is Halloween, this is Halloween
Halloween! Halloween! Halloween! Halloween!
In this town we call home
Everyone hail to the pumpkin song.”


“Sir, Curtneko sir! Sir!” A Jackster came sliding to a halt just in front of the group.

“Speak dear one.” Curtneko said.

“Our scouts have made it back and just in time. An army numbering in the hundreds pursues them. But they are not the same as the ones that attacked earlier. They are different colors sir.” The Jackster collapsed out of breath.

“Curt, the catacombs mentioned in the guidebook, do they still run under the entire town?” Mikey finally asked.

“And then some. Some say they go as far as North Pole Village and Eastertropolis. Why?” Curt stared blankly.

“I have a plan. We obviously can’t hold the wall indefinitely but we might be able to use the catacombs to our advantage. We still need someone to find the meeting place and find Jack. Jeremy, I want that to be you. If you find him, you have the best chance at figuring out how to get him back here. Curt, can we get the troops together to plan out a coordinated defense?” Mikey looked like he had a plot.

Within a few minutes the chapel was full of the citizens of Halloween Town. The floor was packed with Jacksters, Pumpkin Fluffs and Jack-o-Bombs, while Ghosts hovered in the air. Mikey spent several minutes going over a battle plan with the assembled forces. “Look, we have to defend this Heart of Halloween at all costs. We cannot allow them into the town wall. Jacksters, I want you positioned along the walls. Aim those Jack-o-Bombs towards the juggernaut heads. If they can’t see they might hit each other…” Mikey continued on. He’d already briefed the others on his plan so they were taking some time to walk around the town, only John had decided to remain and hear the plan again.

As they walked along the once fun streets they could see some decorations that hadn’t been torn down yet. Hanging from an orange and black candy-striped lamppost was a white sheet with a face cut into it. There were fake spider webs, with engorged real spiders living in them, hanging on the eaves and windows of the rundown shops. There was still a sign in one window even though it was long since deserted. “Sale ends October 31, masks 40% off, body suits 50% off, decorations for your house 20% off, candy 85% off.”

“It’s a shame what constantly having to defend the town has done to this place.” Kerri motioned towards a building completely boarded up.

“I wish we could have come here when it was in its prime.” Henry said as he and Penelope walked hand in hand.

“We will once we’ve defeated The Phantom. We’ll revisit all the places we’ve been and play chapter two the way it was meant to be played.” Penelope tried being hopeful.

“Do you think we’ll all be friends still after this?” Jeremy was nervous about being sent off alone shortly.

“I don’t know about remaining friends with Mikey but the rest of you are cool people to hang out with. That’s plenty enough for me to remain friends with anyone.” Henry tried smiling.

“Mikey’s a good person. You just don’t understand everything he’s gone through. I met him almost ten years ago. He was a little strange then, but then something happened to change him. I don’t know if he’d like me sharing.” Penelope took on a tone like she was lecturing.

“Trick or treat!” They passed by a group of young Jacksters roaming the town trick or treating.

“Oh you kids look so lovely in your costumes. But you should be taking shelter. Didn’t your parents tell you a storm is coming?” The elderly Pumpkin Fluff bounced around a bit before dropping some pieces of candy into each of the children’s bags.

“Alright, Granny Puff we’ll go to the shelter.”

“That’s a good children. Now, don’t you push or shove.”

Jeremy went over to the old fluff, “No offence meant ma’am, but shouldn’t you be heading to a shelter too? Your home is towards the outer wall.”

“Oh you’re too kind young one, but I’m old. Maybe it’s my time to go.” The fluff spoke.

“With all due respect, maybe those youngsters could use your guiding hand err stalk after all this is over.” Jeremy replied.

“Oh alright, just let me get my things and I’ll go to the shelter.” The fluff disappeared from the door way a few moments before returning with a purse shaped like a clutch. “Alright, good luck humans. We’re all counting on you.”

Henry, Jeremy, Kerri and Penelope kept walking, the chill breeze sent dried orange-yellow leaves scraping on the stonework streets and walkways. They soon found themselves back at the chapel as the assembled army of Halloween Town was leaving. Mikey came out through the door with an almost sad look on his face, “Are you ready Jeremy?” He seemed depressed even asking the question.

“Yeah.” Jeremy sighed his reply.

“Let me go instead. Jeremy is just a kid.” Henry finally blurted.

“Henry, I need your strength on the wall. And Jeremy has the quick wit needed to solve any kind of problem he might face when he finds Jack.” Mikey replied dryly.

“Good luck guys. Hopefully, Jack is alright wherever he is.” Jeremy tried smiling.

“Good luck to you too Jeremy.” John shook Jeremy’s hand as they lifted him onto his mount. The Jacksters had found the swiftest horse in the town to carry Jeremy quickly to the last place they knew Jack was going.

“Hyaa!” The horse took off through the town gate at a gallop.

Everyone waited quietly at where they’d each been stationed as they could hear the footfalls of the stone army approaching. As the army appeared on the horizon Mikey gasped, the approaching force was larger than he anticipated. At the head of the first approaching column was a gold colored Juggernaut, from what he could see there were large blue ones, medium sized red ones, and slender green ones; they had also brought trebuchets with them. “Well that explains why they took so long getting here.” He looked down the wall to where he’d stationed Henry. Henry looked back at him with a nervous look on his face. “Get ready!” The gold colored Juggernaut swaggered towards the gate, a smug smile upon its face.

“So this is the famous Halloween Town. I must say, I was expecting some more festivities. No matter, I came here to conquer.” He cleared his throat, “Citizens of Halloween Town, you are invited to join The Phantom’s empire peacefully. To signify your compliance you need only send out the humans, destroy the Heart of Halloween, and pledge your allegiance to The Lord High Phantom. If you decide to fight, your town shall be erased from the face of Gaia, as shall all of you.” Some of the Jacksters and fluffs along the wall were talking to each other before one of them spoke up.

“Now here this servant of evil, we will not kill our lord Jack to appease your phantom. We will fight to our last warrior but we will never bow to evil!” The Juggernaut seemed taken aback.

“Very well. We shall raze your town to the very foundation.” The golem strode back to his army. “Wreck them all,” it said to the column. There came a loud cheer as they began marching towards the wall.

“Steady. Steady.” Henry looked back to Mikey. They were both watching as the juggernauts approached.

“Curt! Now!” Mikey yelled down the wall to Curtneko. He nodded as he lit an arrow and fired it past the line of juggernauts. The approaching line of juggernauts paused as the arrow hung in the air. It landed behind the approaching juggernauts and immediately there was a wall of fire between the approaching juggernauts and the main body of them.

“Archers to the ready!” Kerri’s group of Jacksters had orange fletchings on their arrows. They raised their bows and knocked their arrows, “Aim!” The archers moved into a readied stance. They could feel the footfalls of the juggernauts as the battlement below them quivered. She looked to where Mikey was stationed and saw the signal she was waiting for. She raised her Hunter’s Bow, “Fire!” The sky was filled with the shower of black and orange arrows as they crossed through the sky into the approaching column. Many of the green and a few of the red Mini-Juggernauts collapsed under the black rain, but the larger blue ones were unphased by the arrows.

“Is it time yet?” Curtneko asked Mikey.

“Almost,” Mikey watched as the juggernauts began passing a pumpkin sitting on the field. He counted to five before raising his arm. He swung it down rapidly.

“Fire!” The Jacksters around Mikey and Curt began tossing Jack-o-Bombs into the approaching juggernauts. Mikey, Henry, and Kerri began firing their lancers into the crowd of juggernauts. Mikey and Kerri’s attacks blinded the juggernauts with light and shadow while Henry’s water forced them back or broke them apart depending on how damaged they were. Only a handful of juggernauts remained when the dust cleared, but to everyone’s dismay the gold juggernaut sent out some kind of energy pulse that put out the firewall and another column of juggernauts was approaching. This time the trebuchets were hurling massive round boulders, each of which left small craters as they struck the ground.

“There is still time to stop this. You only need to surrender.” The gold Juggernaut said.

“Funny, I was just about to say the same thing.” Mikey called over the wall.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

The twisted black trees with jack-o-lantern faces on their trunks eventually began to thin out as Jeremy rode down the stone road. He looked back towards the town and could only see a plume of smoke rising up. He knew he had to hurry, so he looked forward again and urged the horse into a gallop. The black trees gave way to pine trees on one side of the road and colorful flowers on the other side. He could see off in the distance a thicket of aspen trees. He saw a domed structure on the road ahead. As he got closer to the dome he could see there were two green juggernauts guarding it. “Okay there’s only two of them. I can do this.” He snuck around behind them and took a deep breath. He unleashed a tornado, it swept the two golems up as he ran into the domed building. He bared the door behind him to prevent the golems from following behind him. His footsteps echoed on the stone floor as he moved from the door, he saw a glowing black-purple sphere in the center of the room. It seems to pulse as it glowed and Jeremy could feel himself getting sleepy around it. He was startled awake when he saw four other sleeping figures around the room. There in a heap on the ground was Halloween Jack, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and Odanodan. “Whatever that device is. It must put anyone in proximity to sleep. In order to wake them up, I’ll need to destroy it or shut it off.” Jeremy yawned as he was looking around the device.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Parts of the town wall were beginning to break from the impacts of the hurled boulders. “Mike, they’re starting their third wave.” Curt called.

“Right.” Mikey began blowing on a horn. Some Jacksters and Pumpkin Fluffs jumped down over the wall following Mikey. A boulder was sailing over their heads towards Kerri and Henry’s position.

“Brace yourselves!” The tower beneath them gave way and Henry and Kerri clutched onto the edge a few moments before they dropped onto the ground below.

“One… two…” Mikey began counting as he saw the charging golems.

“Three… four…” Curt counted to himself from the wall.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

John and Penelope heard the horn from above. They had an army of fluffs and ghosts with them underground in the catacombs just waiting for this signal. “You all know the music, time to dance!” Penelope called. They could hear the thundering booms as massive boulders struck the ground above.

“Five… six…” John was counting as all the fluffs and ghosts moved into position. The foot falls of the golems above was deafening.

“Seven… eight… Get ready!”

“Nine… ten… Blow it now!” The columns supporting the ceiling above began breaking apart as small explosives began going off. Some of the ground on either side of the catacombs fell into ramps the ghosts and fluffs ran up as the ceiling behind them collapsed, creating a pit that many of juggernauts fell into. As the juggernauts struggled getting back to their feet Mikey and his group of fluffs fired down into the pit, any still in the charge were flanked by John and Penelope’s group of ghosts and fluffs.

“I think this is working.” Henry whispered. This strategy of Mikey’s was actually fending off the Mini-Juggernauts pretty well he thought. But then his mood dropped when he saw the gold Juggernaut was mobilizing his remaining troops into a single march from all directions. “Mikey!” Mikey turned as Henry yelled and saw the movement.

“Back to the wall!” Mikey and the animated troops began running for the gate as Curt ordered the forces inside to open it.

“Fire now!” The golden golem called and the trebuchets loosed another barrage of stones. They all hit around where the gate was opening. The boulders crashed into the wall and left a broken open gap in it. “Excellent, we have our way in. All forces move in. Destroy anything in your path.”

“At all costs defend the shelter!” Curt called to the Jacksters and fluffs as they moved from the wall to the hole. “We have to hope Jeremy can find Jack now.”

“Go, go, get inside! Go!” Mikey was fending off the nearest Mini-Juggernaut as everyone retreated back into the town. He kicked the juggernaut back once everyone else was safely inside before jumping through himself.

“We can’t hold them here indefinitely. We need another idea.” Henry looked exhausted.

“There is no other plan. We fight. We keep them away from the shelter at the chapel. We hope Jeremy can find and bring Jack back. That’s the plan.” Mikey gasped.

“Really that’s all you got?” Henry shot back indignantly.

“That’s all we can do. We lost the protection of the wall in that last volley. We lost the surprise of the catacombs. All we have left is that this opening will bottleneck them. So we fight.” Henry looked at Mikey bewildered but he understood. They both continued firing at the approaching golems through the hole until they were beginning to come through. Mikey and Henry switched over to fighting them hand to hand.

“Okay I admit. You were right. If we’d slowed down Halloween Town would be rubble by the time we arrived. I’m sorry I doubted you.” Henry kicked over a limp green juggernaut. They were starting to come through faster than Mikey and Henry could keep up with. “We need to fall back a bit. Maybe get some help. Penelope, Kerri, John?”

“We’re a bit busy ourselves.” Kerri managed to shove a red juggernaut climbing the wall back down. All around the town the animated were fighting to fend off the invading juggernauts.

“Trick.”

“Or.”

“Treat.” Three Jacksters managed to hit a climbing juggernaut with explosive candies and knocked it back down.

“Well at least the bodies of fallen Mini-Juggernauts are filling in the hole they made.” An explosion rocked the wall as Mikey spoke. And the small hole was now a stretch the size of a city block. The golden Juggernaut stood in the center of the gap with its arm raised. “Fall back to the shelter, into the inner wall.” A team of Jacksters and Ghosts had been building a wall around the chapel, but they were nowhere near completion. Half the wall was still missing.

“Here we make our stand, I guess.” Henry and Mikey stood together waiting for the Mini-Juggernauts to reach the chapel.

“I always expected to go out in a much more grand way.” Curt stood with them.

“Like in a sea of rabid fan girls?” Kerri had joined them.

“That’s how I’d like to go.” Mikey smiled as John joined them.

“Who knows, we live to tell this tale or hire some writer with a bunch of time to tell it for us, we may just have fan girls.” Penelope chimed in.

“You really think you guys will be in a story?” Curt sarcastically said.

“If we are I hope the writer doesn’t portray me as a scared, whiny girl with no real life goals.”

“Or me as a heartless brain.” Their conversation was cut short as the army rounded the last turn in the streets before the chapel. Lights and explosions flashed as both sides attacked. The Jacksters and Jack-o-Bombs fought fiercely as they held their ground against foes that stood at least twice their size. The Mini-Juggernauts seemed only to be able to punch or shoot a very weak beam attack. It was the golden one hanging back behind his army that worried Mikey.

“Hey how about you face me! Golem to man, winner takes all.” He finally shouted. The combatants on either side paused a moment.

“Mikey what are you doing?” Henry looked at him.

“Buying Jeremy more time.” Mikey whispered.

“An intriguing offer. But why should I accept when my forces can easily crush yours?” The golem yelled back.

“Your master wants slaves doesn’t he? How’s he going to have them if you destroy them all, hmm?” Mikey shot back.

“You are but flesh and bone. I am stone and cold programming what hope would you stand?”

“So you’re boldly refusing to fight someone you should have every advantage over?” Mikey saw he struck a nerve as the golden Juggernaut grimaced.

“I never said I refused.” He pushed his way to the small clearing between the two armies, “I should hope, if I were you, that your blade is sharper than your tongue.” He stared Mikey right in the eyes.

“And if I were you, I should hope your programming is as robust as you brag.” Mikey drew the Ghi-infused sword he had been given by Guardus as he approached the Juggernaut. He could see the brute’s weapon of choice was a stone mace.

“Wait Mikey, take this. It’s a treasure of the town, forged by the Ancients of Gaia.” Curtneko handed Mikey a shield with a swirled wing emblazoned in the shimmering front. It hummed as it reacted to the sword he carried.

“To the death.” Mikey said and the Juggernaut nodded in agreement. He took a few deep breaths as he and the Juggernaut circled one another in a stare down. After what seemed an eternity the golem made the first move. It swung the huge mace and it cracked the ground where Mikey had been standing as he jumped back. Mikey tightened his grip around the blade in his right hand as he made a short swing. The blade struck the golems arm just above the wrist as left a scratch in the stone. Mikey’s yellow amulet pulsed a moment before the blade began to shimmer as he swung. He could feel the weight of the mace as it thudded against his shield in one exchange. To his amazement the metal was unscratched and undented by the force of the blow. The next exchange Mikey’s sword and the mace struck each other in midair and let out a brilliant spark as metal struck stone. Mikey ducked behind his shield as the golem swung again, he swung his shield arm to push away the mace as he thrust with his sword.

“You are a competent fighter. Why do you defend such weak beings?” The Juggernaut asked as it swung again. The shield took the brunt of the impact which shook Mikey a moment before he replied with a slash.

“Strength and weakness is not about who’s the biggest and who’s the smallest. True strength comes from ones convictions.” Mikey spun around the Juggernaut’s attack and slashed at one of its knees.

“A weak answer, from such a weak being.” The Juggernaut threw Mikey back with a punch to the shield.

Kerri and Henry could only watch from the side as Mikey wiped some blood away from his mouth and nose. “You’re wrong. My convictions have brought me this far. They’ve given me great strength, greater than yours.” He calmly walked back towards the Juggernaut. This time Mikey stabbed the knee he was attacking. The Juggernaut howled as it staggered back. As it came back another furious volley began, the only sounds to be heard were the occasional clash of metal and steel or the thud of the mace against the shield. After a few minutes both Mikey and the Juggernaut were gasping for air.

“Respite. Five minutes?” The stone golem said.

“Three.” Mikey said. Both combatants limped back over to their sides of the courtyard. Mikey’s face was pained as he slid the shield off of his arm and tried making a fist a few times. “I think it might be dislocated or broken.” He said as Kerri took a look at his arm.

“You’re doing good out there. Keep him swinging like that and he’ll tire himself out.” Henry was concerned about his arm too.

“Yeah if my arm will let me take that punishment. Ahhh!” He yelped as Kerri pulled his arm, there was a pop as she did it but it hurt less than it did before.

“He favors a downward swing from his right, your left. That means a lot of his weight is going to be on that left leg.” Henry said.

“You noticed it too. Been trying to capitalize on it.” Mikey picked up the sword and shield from where he’d set them down. He stood up and was getting ready to go back into the fight when Kerri finally spoke.

“Be careful. Some of your convictions want to see you come out of this one intact.” She kissed him softly on the cheek before letting him going back in.

“There’s still time to surrender.” The Juggernaut said as he and Mikey stared each other down again.

“Always with the surrender, I think you’re afraid of me. As you should be.” Mikey smiled as the Juggernaut began to angrily swing. He plunged his blade into the golem’s knee and was knocked back by the Juggernauts backhand. The blade remained lodged in its knee as Mikey tried moving around the behemoth. It continued swing the mace wildly but the relentless battering of his shield was wearing on Mikey’s arm and knees as he crouched under the round shield. He stood up and bashed the shield against the golem’s body, while it was stunned momentarily from the impact he bashed the golem’s head. Mikey staggered back as it punched the shield. In the confusion of pain he felt he dropped the shield as he clutched his arm. He realized too late as he saw the Juggernaut raise its arm to swing again. Instinct took over as Mikey raised his arm covered in crystalline armor to catch the blow. He felt a jolt of pain as he was pressed against the ground, he reached up with his other arm and wrestled a moment with the Juggernaut before wresting control of the mace from its master. The Juggernaut charged him again this time swinging its fists wildly. Mikey ducked down as the massive stone hands hovered over him. And there he had an opening. He felt his hand grow as he called on the power of the Smash’n’Bash Ring. He landed a punch just above the sword impaled knee. There was a loud crunch as the Juggernaut came to a stop. Mikey didn’t hesitate to land a second punch and pull his sword from the beast’s knee. As it howled in pain it fell to the ground it knelt there as Mikey still clutching his left shoulder stood up to his full height.

“I see now the strength of your human convictions…” Were the Juggernaut’s last words as it fell apart. A deafening cheer went up from the Jacksters and Pumpkin Fluffs as Mikey limped back over. Henry retrieved the shield as Kerri gave another looking over. The Mini-Juggernauts weren’t at all thrilled and began pounding their fists against their chests.

“We better be ready to fight again, I doubt those stone mooks will uphold their end of the bargain.” Just as Henry said that, they could hear the footfalls of another Mini-Juggernaut charge. They were relentless, and seemed more invigorated as they pushed the fight to the very chapel doors. Mikey and Henry could see most of the fighting had disappeared into the chapel itself and pushed their ways inside. Now even the children of Halloween Town were fighting, and to their amazement quite well. The children had stolen away the town’s remaining decorations and were blinding the Mini-Juggernauts with them. Cobwebs, fake spiders, squirt guns filled with fake blood, even the phony dismembered limbs were all being put to use either blinding or clubbing the stone monsters.

“Things get ‘em!” A young female Jackster kicked over her jack-in-the-box and as the lid opened about fifteen dismembered hands walked out. They began climbing on the nearest Mini-Juggernauts, and Mikey watched as they tried in vain to either brush off or smash the “Things,” the ones that tried smashing them wound up punching holes in themselves.

“Incredible.” Mikey was stunned at some of the improvised decoration-weapons the children were using to great success. He watched as one juggernaut began to slip and slide on a bunch of gumballs left on the floor. Mikey was amazed they were using their Halloween candy as weapons. Then he saw something that made him choke up, a Mini-Juggernaut was pushing through everything in its path and it was heading straight for the Heart of Halloween. “Curt! Henry! John! Anybody!” He was trying to get the attention of someone closer to the fiend as it continued its approach. Curtneko saw it coming and headed it off to the glowing crystal. He squared his shoulders as he planted himself between the golem and its destination. Mikey continued pushing through Jacksters, fluffs, and other juggernauts trying to reach Curtneko before the Mini-Juggernaut. As it reached Curt it batted him aside with a punch to his stomach. Curtneko crumpled to the ground wheezing as the golem continued past him. It pulled its arm back for another punch, and Mikey dove.

There was a crunch and a thud as Mikey crashed into the ground. He writhed and flailed in pain as Henry and Penelope were finally able to push back the juggernaut and destroy it. Mikey lay in a heap on the ground struggling to breath. It looked like someone had cut open a ripe tomato and allowed its juices to drip down its sides when they saw Mikey’s head. Blood was pouring from where the golem’s punch had landed. “Mikey? Mikey, don’t you dare leave us now! You hear me? Don’t you dare leave us.” Henry sat on the ground and cradled Mikey in his arms. Mikey’s breathing became more labored and rattled. He kept looking like he was going to close his eyes but was struggling to remain conscious.

“Hen….Henry, you’ve got to be strong now… You can’t give up… The Phantom cannot be allowed…” Mikey was struggling to speak, his face was completely white where it wasn’t covered in blood.

Henry shook his head, “Save your strength. We’ll beat him together. Stay with us Mikey.” Henry tried shaking him to keep him from passing out. He hardly noticed the dark red beams shooting through the chapel or the thundering footsteps. All around him exploding presents and Easter Eggs landed.

“Someone call for Jack?” Jeremy hopped down from the king of Halloween’s shoulder and joined the fight, “Sorry it took so long, but these guys are heavy sleepers.”

“Ho ho ho!” Santa Claus’ candy cane staff stabbed through one Mini-Juggernaut, as he threw exploding presents at another one.

“Are ye feeling lucky lady? Well I don’t tink you are.” Odanodan dropped a pot of gold at the feet of three juggernauts and jumped away. The three juggernauts bent over to examine it, causing it to explode and shower them with hot gold projectiles.

“Look Mikey, help’s come at last. Jeremy found Jack and brought him back. We’re going to be okay now. Mikey? Mikey?” Henry looked down at Mikey who had passed out. A faint smile crept across Mikey’s face, and for the first time Henry thought he looked like he was at peace. Within a few minutes of their arrival, the holiday quartet had turned the tide of battle and rallied the remaining troops to fight harder. Mini-Juggernauts one after another fell to the renewed vigor of the Halloween Town citizens, and the strength of the four holiday heroes easily crumpled the juggernauts they met.

“Make way! Make way. Get out of my way!” Kerri shoved her way through fighters until she reached Henry. Her mouth fell open at the sight she saw. She ran to Henry’s side, tears streaming from her eyes. “No!” Penelope and John approached quietly but were shocked at the sight.

“Oh my god. Mikey… I’m sorry I was too late.” Jeremy fell to his knees, it felt like someone had sucked the air out of his lungs. The yellow amulet that hung from Mikey’s neck whined as it glowed brightly and dimmed, it brightened another time before becoming a dull yellow-black color.

“This is the one who wanted to talk to me?” Jack’s approach had been so quiet that hearing his voice startled the group as they looked at his orange face. The black gaps that were normally twisted into a jack-o-lantern’s smile instead were a saddened frown. “He fell defending my people. I am sorry.”

“There’s got to be something we can do.” Kerri stammered between tears.

“I refuse to accept he’s dead.” Henry still cradled Mikey’s lifeless body.

“The Heart of Halloween.” John whispered.

“Speak up John.” Jeremy turned to him.

“The Heart of Halloween acts as a conduit by which Ghi Energy is funneled into Halloween Jack. Each holiday figure has a sort of crystal like it, Santa has the ‘Spirit of Christmas,’ the Easter Bunny has the ‘Flower of Easter,’ and Odanodan has the ‘Rainbow of St. Patrick.’ Each of these act to channel Ghi Energy into their respective owner. If we can divert some of that Ghi we might be able to revive him, though we run the risk of turning him into some partially animated being by doing it.” John had his hand on his chin.

“What do we have to lose? How do we do it?” Penelope spoke up.

“That’s just it, I don’t know.” John shrugged.
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Kerri’s eyes were closed as if she were trying to remember something, “I can’t explain it, but I think I do. It’s like a very faint whisper of a memory, but I remember a symbol that’s been etched everywhere we’ve encountered some kind of Ghi-infused creature. I think it’s a diagram of how to do an infusion.” She dragged Mikey’s body to rest underneath the glowing crystal. She then looked around, “We need a Null Fragment.” She looked through her pouch she carried around her waist “Clutch claws, copper, damaged biochip, gold, jewel eye, leather, metal spike, mythrill, here we are Null Fragments!” She placed the fragment in Mikey’s hand, then grabbed each of the others and arranged them in a ring around him. Pretty soon she had Henry and John next to each other on one side. Jeremy and Penelope were on the other. She took Mikey’s dull amulet and set it in the ring between John and Penelope as she stood between Henry and Jeremy. “I know this sounds weird but, point your amulets towards the Null Fragment and focus your Ghi like Guardus taught us that time ago.” She felt a tingling in her fingers around the amulet as a dark purple beam shot from it to the null fragment. As she looked around a blue beam had shot from Henry’s, a brown-orange from John’s, a red-orange from Penelope’s, and faint green from Jeremy’s. The yellow amulet began to glow in and out and then it too shot a beam into the null fragment. As if responding to an unheard command the Heart of Halloween pulsed and then fired a white beam down into the null fragment. It sounded like it was beating, slowly at first and then picking up speed. As it reached a normal speed for a human heart, Mikey’s eyes opened wide. He gasped a few times before his breathing normalized.

“What… what happened? Was I dead?” He looked around and saw the others around him. The glow of the amulets died down as the beams retreated back into them.

“For a moment there, you were.” Henry laughed a little. As soon as he saw Mikey was able to sit up he and the others dove to embrace him.

“Ack, you’re choking me.” Mikey stared bewildered that the others had hugged him.

“Ah hem.” Jack made a sound like he was clearing his throat, “Forgive my interruption on this happy memory and my lateness earlier, but we have things to discuss regarding the evil that plagues our world.” Jack led them and Curtneko to a sort of minister’s room off of the chapel. He motioned for Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and Odanodan to join them.

“Right the whole reason we came here. Find out the intel you’ve got on The Phantom.” Jeremy approached the desk in the middle of the room, on it was a map of all the chapter two areas of zOMG!

“You know very well that deep in the tunnels of Durem Mines is an entrance to The Phantom’s Castle. That entrance is not the only one. That one will take you to the Null Plains around his castle.” Jack began.

“Hold on, the Null Plains aren’t on this map.” Henry piped up.

“A keen eye ye have lad.” Odanodan said.

“Ho, ho, ho, the Elftechs have been scouting for the Null Plains and we can only reach the conclusion that it isn’t actually a part of the world.” Santa Claus chimed in.

“So where exactly are they?” Penelope asked.

“You humans remember how the Hive World was not really attached to the chapter one areas except for the Star Portal.” The Easter Bunny began.

“Yeah that place gave me the heebie jeebies.”

“Well, we assumed that logically The Phantom would select an area that couldn’t be easily accessed. Logically, he’d make a base somewhere to limit the means of reaching him.” The Easter Bunny continued.

“So we reasoned that his base is out there.” Jack pointed at the sky through the window.

“Space is vast. He could be anywhere out there.” John commented.

“We thought that at first too. But then we put our noggins together. If he aren’t on this world but in a place with two points of entry to it, he has to be close by. Otherwise he would not have the power to venture here or send his armies.” Odanodan spoke.

“Get to the point.” Curtneko sounded a bit agitated.

“He’s on the Null Moon.” Jack finally said, “There are two ways to get there. The first is in Durem Mines and it will take you to the Null Plains outside his castle. The second entrance lies with his most trusted general. She fights you on the Null Moon as part of her boss battle.”

“Kamila. So tell us how we find his base from the Kamila fight.” Mikey looked like he was thinking.

Jack pulled out another map, “The groups that have come before you have determined that Kamila’s Bloodlust chamber is actually one of the outer dungeons in The Phantom’s Castle. The wall facing the Null Plains has just been broken open due to wear and tear and some of the experiments done there before it was his castle.” Jack marked a location on the map. “This is the Kamila chamber,” He drew a wide circle before placing an x on the map, “The x is where the warp from Durem Mines takes you, the ring is all of the Null Plains, somewhere around the Kamila chamber is the castle. That’s all we know.” The room fell silent a few minutes before Kerri spoke up.

“So we can fight through Deadman’s Shadow and Kamila and try to find a secret entrance from there, or we can fight our way back through Durem Mines and god knows what on the Null Plains and lose the element of surprise.”

“He knows we’re coming either way. He knows we have a little under three weeks to find him. So he knows a general idea of when and where, just the how is what he won’t know.” John looked at the map Jack had made.

“For now, our next mission is to rescue our friends in Aekea. I will not abandon KJ and the Anari to whatever horrors dwell there.” Mikey finally said.

“Besides, KJ may know another way in.” Penelope said.

“Curt, I must ask a favor of you.” Mikey spoke softly.

“Anything.” Came the reply.

“We have allies across the lands of chapter two; as far as the deep jungles of Otami to the clouds of Tlauixcalpantecuhtliopolis, from the rolling hills of Gnoman’s Land to the sunny beaches of Gambino Island. We need to bring our allies together to prepare for the final battle. I need you to travel out to the far reaches and deliver the message to assemble at the ruins of Durem in two weeks’ time.” Mikey turned his head studying the map.

“I know that look. What are you thinking?” She looked at him sternly.

“The battle here, was just a taste of his army. And we barely held on. We would have lost if not for Jack and his friends. If we assault his full army head on, we’re going to be looking at serious casualties and a lot heavier opponents, we’ll need our own army. That’s why we need our allies. Not to mention the Axis of Time is still out there.” Mikey began before he was interrupted by Curtneko.

“Actually, that is a bit of information I’ve overheard in my travels. The Axis of Time is somewhere on the Null Moon, close to The Phantom’s Castle. Rumor has it, the castle was built around the chamber it rests in. However, the chamber can only be opened by humans possessing the powers of the six other amulets.” Curtneko turned to leave before adding, “We both have long trips ahead of us. If there’s no more to say, we should both be setting out. And guys, it was an honor and a privilege to fight by your sides.”

“The privilege was ours Curt. Good luck and be safe out there.” John and the others exited the room until it was just Mikey and the holiday quartet.

“We’ll rebuild what we can here. But you have earned our support player. We shall be ready to help you in two weeks’ time.” Jack said and Mikey nodded. As he opened the door Jack added, “The shield you were given, keep it. It used to be a set with an ancient suit of armor and a sword. I believe you carry the sword now.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

It was sunset by the time Mikey and the rest of the crew had been bon voyaged by the citizens of Halloween Town. They’d been given an inordinate amount of candy and other sweets to aid them on their journey. As they walked along the path that would lead them back to the Phazian Wastes and later Aekea, Henry finally turned to Jeremy.

“You never told us how you managed to find and bring back Jack.” Henry finally said.

Jeremy chuckled and waited a few minutes before finally replying, “Well,” he cleared his throat like he was going to tell a long story, “There I was, alone on the dark trail. Spooky trees with eyes that glowed red were on either side of me, my heart was racing as I tried to shut all the fears out of my mind. After wandering for a length of time I cannot remember the trees at last gave way to fields. There it was shimmering in the distance, a domed building, right at the border between the holiday regions. Between me and the building were at least five of those Juggernaut brutes. I worked up the courage as I approached them and let out a tornado from my amulet. As it swept them up I rushed through into the building, for I knew alone I had no chance against those menaces. I could hear their fists pounding against the gates into the building, for in my fear of them chasing me I had bared the gates with heavy iron bars. I searched the building and just as I was about to give up, I found a meeting room. To my horror the four holiday beings were asleep around the round table, and hovering in the air above it a glowing gold and purple orb. As I approached it, I began to feel sleepy. I nearly fell asleep, which would have doomed us all certainly, but I fought the exhaustion and reached the glowing orb. Its spherical surface had no indications of how to deactivate it so I improvised. I pulled a Henry and began smacking the orb with my hack.” Henry made a face at being mentioned like that, “I was about to give up and fall asleep when a crack finally crept across the surface. I couldn’t give up then, and little by little pieces of the orb began crumbling, and as it did its power grew weaker. As the last bits broke apart I could hear Jack and the others stirring. I was afraid, for I remembered the fiend Jack had been in his prior appearances at Halloweens. And he was about to attack me, had Santa Claus not stopped him. There was a crash as the golems broke through the gate. It was five against five and after fighting beside him, Jack believed what I said. He agreed to help and depending on our merits share his knowledge and so we were off. He said he could move faster carrying me than the horse could, so we set it free and made our way back to Halloween Town. As we rounded a hill overlooking the town we could see the end of your duel Mikey. We saw how you valiantly fought to defend the chapel until you were forced to fight within its very walls. We rushed, but arrived too late to save you, but not too late to route the remaining Mini-Juggernauts. The rest you already know.” Jeremy’s story had passed the time until they found themselves at the border between the Realm of the Ancients and the Phazian Wastes.

“We’ll continue on to Aekea in the morning. For now, we’ll rest.” Mikey said as the sun dipped below the distant mountains.

“Isn’t it convenient how the amulets can channel Ghi to bring you back from the grave and Kerri happened to come up with how to do it?” Penelope finally asked when they stopped.

“It is a bit disturbing, we designed things so that if something that bad happened it would just eject you from the game. I don’t want to say there was some meddling by him, but this reeks of tampering from The Phantom.” John added.

“Very disturbing he would want one of his most significant foes alive.” Mikey shrugged as he got a fire roaring.

It was Jeremy that finally spoke after a few minutes of uneasy silence, “Maybe he wants to be defeated. Or maybe he has some desire to be the one to finally off Mikey.”

Mikey thought a few moments in silence before whispering to himself, “Or maybe I am dead, and what’s left of me here is an echo.”

Kerri heard Mikey whisper and put a hand on his shoulder. She gave a few squeezes before looking up at the darkening sky as the Null Moon became a visible purple ring, “Think we’ll get there?”

Henry was the one to reply as they made camp, “We will. Because we have to.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

“That worked rather well. The children maintain their crew and my plan continues. How easily I can place information into the neural interface feed. Now to deal with the intruders in my city, how nice it was of Wayne to bring them here.” The Phantom strode down the side hallway of a gallery. He decided to watch and listen in on the meeting occurring in the abandoned museum room below.

“Even from all our information, all our surveillance and stalking we still don’t know where to find The Phantom.” Sisko struck the table with his fists.

KJ stood up and walked around the table, “We have to trust our human allies to find him. Why else would they have delayed coming to Aekea?”

“If there is any truth to the rumors, Jack of Halloween Town knows where to find the enemy.” Deanna calmly said from her seat.

“And in pursuing that rumor they have made themselves late to an important meeting. It has taken weeks of secret messages and planning to bring together this many members of the resistance. And our, would be saviors are off chasing a ghost.” Hoshi sounded indignant.

“You sound as if you don’t believe the humans can save our world.” Miles spoke softly.

“Humans created The Phantom. They created this problem. I’ve lost my faith in humans to be able to solve anything.” Hoshi spat back.

“We were made by humans. Our entire world is their creation. How can you not believe that they will not be able to fix their creation?” Archer’s tone suggested agitation.

“I am beginning to understand how Kirk once thought. Our world has evolved beyond the humans’ original parameters. We have evolved beyond being simple maintenance programs. We are just as capable as they are in solving the problems we face.” Hoshi found herself interrupted.

“Enough!” McCoy slowly stood up, “It is our duty as this world’s guardians to help the humans who are seeking to restore it. Whether we believe in them is irrelevant, but helping them is a must. I can understand that they would pursue information about The Phantom’s base before coming here. In the end they have to defeat him, and his home base is the most likely place for that to open. We need to muster troops to bolster the humans in their battle against The Phantom. Do we have any animated tribes who are willing to lend us their strength, brothers and sisters?”

KJ sat back down, “Well, as a matter of fact, we do. I’ve been gathering allies where I can amongst the animated we meet, amongst other animated tribes. So far, the residents of Tlauixcalpantecuhtliopolis, both Garghouls and Valkyrians are ready to help. The Armor Corps of Durem, the Gnomish citizens of Gnoman’s Land, there are nomads in the Phazian Wastes who will help. Even the citizens of Isle de Gambino have offered their support after the human resistance liberated them. We have allies, we need to go out and rally them to our banner.”

“The Tiny Terrors and Bladed Vases of Otami Ruins will follow me. And I, very much so, pledge my support to the humans. It is through their strength and leadership that The Phantom can be stopped.” Sisko made a mark on a parchment they had on the table.

“For better or worse, the humans are our best hope to lead this uprising. The Deadman’s Militia will pledge its support to the humans.” Archer made a mark on the same piece of parchment.

Miles shrugged as he read over the parchment in front of him, “There has always been tension between the humans and my tribe. They have slaughtered my kind in their greed, but in spite of this I believe the humans we have met here are pure of intent. My tribe of North Bass’ken Lake Saws will support the humans in their fight against The Phantom, but after he is dealt with, all bets are off.” Miles marked the parchment with his symbol.

“I cannot speak for the Ice Wolf Tribe of Thenedrana, but the Claws of South Bass’ken will support the humans.” Deanna made a mark on the parchment.

Hoshi read over the parchment, “And what about you McCoy? Can your tribe pledge help to the humans?”

McCoy’s claws scraped on the table as if the question hurt him, “You know damn well The Phantom erased my tribe from existence. I am the sole survivor of my tribe. But if there were any sizeable force left we would commit to the humans.” McCoy replied in a low growl.

“So my Pulse of Zen Gardens Tribe is supposed to commit to a cause instigated by one with no tribe and help humans who would just as soon attack and farm us as they would attack a cheeseburger? I cannot commit my tribe to such an action.” Hoshi slammed her fists on the table before storming off.

“I shall go talk to her in private. Please continue the congress.” Archer rose and followed Hoshi.

“I have brought here representatives from the tribes of the other cultures in this world. Many of them have already signed the declaration.” KJ indicated some of the more silent members sitting around the table. One was a Garghoul, there was General Disarray of the Lawn Gnomes, an animated Saxophone, a Crabman, three suits of animated Barton Regulars Armor, an TV with antenna arms and cable legs, but the first to speak of this assembled crowd was a stuffed giraffe.

“I am Geoffrey of the Plush Pal Tribe. We would enjoy to join this confederation you are putting together to resist The Phantom, but our tribe’s leader is currently under the oppression of Malevobear and we are forced to work tirelessly. Free our leader and we will go to the ends of the earth for the humans.” The other assembled representatives passed around the parchment adding their own signatures to the growing list.

“We have with us a representative of the zOMGaians United Resistance. These are pockets of humans formed by remnants of past groups that have tried to fight The Phantom. They number close to thirty and are spread out working in different areas to help the current group. Jonjon, I believe I’ve made enough of an introduction for you.” McCoy raised his hand in the direction of a human sitting at the end of the table. Before Jonjon could speak the door into the room opened again and Hoshi and Archer returned.

“Very well Archer, I shall listen to this human. If he convinces me I will commit my people to the confederation.” Hoshi sat back down at the table and Jonjon rose to his feet.

“I know what you are all thinking. Why should we give our help to humans who have made a career out of destroying us for gold and glory? I have one question for you as my answer; do you really want to live in a world ruled by a dictator that would destroy you and your loved ones for looking at him the wrong way or would you rather take your chances with humans? Humans you can fight and hold your own against and be guaranteed a respawn after. The Phantom threatens both of our worlds and he is an enemy both humans and animated will face, one way or another. We are already trying to fight him, and we’ve made friends with good animated that are willing to fight and if need be die alongside us, but we need help. We cannot win this fight alone; we need more numbers than we have. We are close to thirty strong, but we are spread across great distances and we fight for our very existence. The Phantom wants us dead so that whatever scheme he has can move forward. He’s counting on you sitting back and doing nothing; he wants you to be doubtful and suspicious because it makes you easier to deal with in the long run. But in reality it only hurts you. When he kills you, there’s no respawn. When a human kills you, you’ll be on your feet in a few hours and good to go again. If I were animated, I’d prefer the option where I could come back. That’s why the zOMGaians United Resistance is willing to join this confederation you are assembling. We’ve sent representatives to Halloween Town, Eastertropolis, North Pole Village, Odanoville, the Otami Jungle and other outlying areas looking for any kind of help we can garner. Help us, and together we can save this world. Thank you.” Jonjon returned to his seat.

“Human… Jonjon, you have told me all I needed to hear. You will have the support of my tribe. And I hope he has touched the rest of you that have yet to join this confederation. We face extinction, I have my doubts about the humans, but The Phantom is a foe who threatens all. If we do not stand together now, then we shall all be alone when he comes for each of us one by one.” Hoshi signed her tribe’s symbol to the parchment. After her several other holdouts that hadn’t sign before began to sign.

The Phantom was still concealed by his perch above as he watched the assembly below. “So they have begun to unite as a force to oppose me. I’m touched. This will make my victory all the more resounding when I am finally ruler of both their worlds. I shall enjoy keeping this one around, if only to torture those who would dare to oppose me.” The Phantom began walking down the hallway to an empty exhibit. “I suppose I should send my own envoys to those areas that will align with me: the Shriekworms, Gemeralds, Blood Spirits, Ice Outlaw Wolves, and the likes, and form my own coalition. It sounds like a fitting task for Kamila to get to when I return.”

In the room below McCoy looked at the document he had spent so long drafting. And marveled at the acceptance it was getting. “Maybe, just maybe we have a chance to win our freedom.” He was saying to himself amongst all the chattering and handshaking. The Confederation of zOMG’s Free Peoples was coming together just as he and Mikey had discussed at so many fireside conversations when the others were asleep.
So quick with the new chapter! I was almost worried I'd scared you off with my "sequel". Thanks for giving me something to do during class!

My question is: Most people won't be in the game for days on end, right? This is a special circumstance, and the players are on life support to enable their prolonged stay. Given the length of time we've seen that it takes to traverse areas (a week in Durem Mines?), beat some bosses, and get from place to place, how will anyone get anything done once chapter two comes out for real? I don't think many people would stick with the game if they were forced to walk through a desert for the equivalent of two days in order to go from point A to point B. I mean, okay, yeah, people do 32-hour BL runs, but...that's only a small subset of really dedicated players. The general public, whose money zOMG is presumably still dependent on, wouldn't go near that kind of thing with a ten-foot pole.

I would think the point of stone soldiers would be that they can't feel pain or get tired, but to each evil overlord their own. *shrugs*

Quote:
Mikey thought a few moments in silence before whispering to himself, “Or maybe I am dead, and what’s left of me here is an echo.”


*shudders* That line. I considered the idea, but never really thought about the fact that he could have died at any time since returning to the game world. Although it's important to note that a terminal illness isn't a time bomb; the body will go through a period of deterioration before dying. If Mikey's body hadn't started showing signs of death by that time, it's unlikely he's already gone. (Doctors give estimates, not deadlines; someone who is not expected to live to 25 could easily live a few weeks past 25 and then die. Or they could die at 16. Or 97. And yes, I'm actually arguing for a fictional character's lifespan. Publicly. My shame seems to have disappeared since October. Not like I really had any before.)

If whatever it was about "adding information to the feed" means what I think it does, that's a nice way of explaining why people know things they shouldn't. I was confused by the knowledge the crew seemed to have (even assuming KJ told them things offscreen while she was with them), and it's easy to get lost in relaying facts to the readers without considering whether the characters would know. Sneaky handwave there. I'm on to you. *puts two fingers to eyes, then points*

I almost snickered at the Phantom hanging out right above the Anari and others while they discuss how they can't find him. I imagine him leaning casually (or intently) over a railing while nobody even thinks to look up...although he could probably go invisible, but that wouldn't be as funny.
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So quick with the new chapter! I was almost worried I'd scared you off with my "sequel". Thanks for giving me something to do during class!

My question is: Most people won't be in the game for days on end, right? This is a special circumstance, and the players are on life support to enable their prolonged stay. Given the length of time we've seen that it takes to traverse areas (a week in Durem Mines?), beat some bosses, and get from place to place, how will anyone get anything done once chapter two comes out for real? I don't think many people would stick with the game if they were forced to walk through a desert for the equivalent of two days in order to go from point A to point B. I mean, okay, yeah, people do 32-hour BL runs, but...that's only a small subset of really dedicated players. The general public, whose money zOMG is presumably still dependent on, wouldn't go near that kind of thing with a ten-foot pole.

I would think the point of stone soldiers would be that they can't feel pain or get tired, but to each evil overlord their own. *shrugs*

Quote:
Mikey thought a few moments in silence before whispering to himself, “Or maybe I am dead, and what’s left of me here is an echo.”


*shudders* That line. I considered the idea, but never really thought about the fact that he could have died at any time since returning to the game world. Although it's important to note that a terminal illness isn't a time bomb; the body will go through a period of deterioration before dying. If Mikey's body hadn't started showing signs of death by that time, it's unlikely he's already gone. (Doctors give estimates, not deadlines; someone who is not expected to live to 25 could easily live a few weeks past 25 and then die. Or they could die at 16. Or 97. And yes, I'm actually arguing for a fictional character's lifespan. Publicly. My shame seems to have disappeared since October. Not like I really had any before.)

If whatever it was about "adding information to the feed" means what I think it does, that's a nice way of explaining why people know things they shouldn't. I was confused by the knowledge the crew seemed to have (even assuming KJ told them things offscreen while she was with them), and it's easy to get lost in relaying facts to the readers without considering whether the characters would know. Sneaky handwave there. I'm on to you. *puts two fingers to eyes, then points*

I almost snickered at the Phantom hanging out right above the Anari and others while they discuss how they can't find him. I imagine him leaning casually (or intently) over a railing while nobody even thinks to look up...although he could probably go invisible, but that wouldn't be as funny.


It was already mostly written, was actually in a final draft before I finished 18, I just needed to add more to certain parts so it would flow better. I do plan on addressing the time issue before the end of the story, in a rather interesting way.

Yes, I did a bit of lampshade hanging, but also remember when sending him back in Swarf gave Mikey a guidebook to chapter two, which would include things like enemies, a small map, and a few other developer notes. So where the information comes from is already established, save for a few exceptions...

The Phantom is a tricky devil, he has been able to sneak up on Mikey before and shown abilities including teleportation as well as an ability to disguise himself as two youngsters from the city in the sky. What's not to say he wasn't watching while disguised. Almost makes it more creepy in that he could theoretically approach them without their ever knowing he was there.
Re: time, guidebook, disguise: fair enough, fair enough. I do have another question though. How does Mikey know anything about Henry's life, let alone as much as he does? He doesn't seem like the type to talk about it, at least not the more sensitive parts. Was there some kind of "campfire confessional" episode I missed?
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Re: time, guidebook, disguise: fair enough, fair enough. I do have another question though. How does Mikey know anything about Henry's life, let alone as much as he does? He doesn't seem like the type to talk about it, at least not the more sensitive parts. Was there some kind of "campfire confessional" episode I missed?

He spent a week or so out of the game world. Perhaps, off camera he decided to read about the people he was crewed with to be able to function better with them, or it could be The Phantom at work again to sow seeds of discord.
Also forgot to address your illness concerns. He was diagnosed when he was around 12. The illness is in his brain which could go unnoticed until death, or it could cause a whole host of problems including rapid mood swings, emotional imbalances, or odd interactions with a technological device designed to function on the brain. A lot of his "powers" are side effects of his brain slowly killing him.
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Re: time, guidebook, disguise: fair enough, fair enough. I do have another question though. How does Mikey know anything about Henry's life, let alone as much as he does? He doesn't seem like the type to talk about it, at least not the more sensitive parts. Was there some kind of "campfire confessional" episode I missed?

He spent a week or so out of the game world. Perhaps, off camera he decided to read about the people he was crewed with to be able to function better with them, or it could be The Phantom at work again to sow seeds of discord.
Also forgot to address your illness concerns. He was diagnosed when he was around 12. The illness is in his brain which could go unnoticed until death, or it could cause a whole host of problems including rapid mood swings, emotional imbalances, or odd interactions with a technological device designed to function on the brain. A lot of his "powers" are side effects of his brain slowly killing him.


I would doubt the judgment of the devs, then, for allowing one crew member to read about the others' private lives. It's weird enough for them to have done so much research in the first place, but at least they don't go blabbing about it, and one could argue that knowledge of family situations and other major life circumstances would give them an idea of the players' psychological makeup, which would in turn help with assessing their potential for the task. Although other chapters state that they chose their candidates based on previous game performance, and the earliest parts reveal that this particular crew was selected solely for their connection speeds (which should be rendered kind of moot if they're not using their own computers, but oh well), so I don't know why they would have probed so far into these people's lives. Then again, there are some inconsistencies in those chapters; early installment weirdness, I'd call it. So I could be persuaded not to consider that as evidence.

...But in any case, finding out what they drink with breakfast is just sketchy.

(On second thought, that one might have been his dad's fault.)

tl;dr: I'm just surprised that none of them has bothered to ask "how do you know all this?"

As far as the brain stuff goes...dammit, stop making sense. *folds arms and pouts childishly* Killing off characters is so overdone anyway. Happy endings are a whole new territory! It would be groundbreaking! Don't you want to be groundbreaking? Of course you do! Think about it...generations of fanfiction scholars revering your name as the start of a new age in literature: the age of being satisfied upon finishing a story! You'll be the subject of entire courses, even majors, in prestigious universities worldwide! Hundreds of years from now, people will debate endlessly over what caused you to step outside the box and...okay, that stuff probably won't happen. I just have a flair for the dramatic.
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I would doubt the judgment of the devs, then, for allowing one crew member to read about the others' private lives. It's weird enough for them to have done so much research in the first place, but at least they don't go blabbing about it, and one could argue that knowledge of family situations and other major life circumstances would give them an idea of the players' psychological makeup, which would in turn help with assessing their potential for the task. Although other chapters state that they chose their candidates based on previous game performance, and the earliest parts reveal that this particular crew was selected solely for their connection speeds (which should be rendered kind of moot if they're not using their own computers, but oh well), so I don't know why they would have probed so far into these people's lives. Then again, there are some inconsistencies in those chapters; early installment weirdness, I'd call it. So I could be persuaded not to consider that as evidence.

...But in any case, finding out what they drink with breakfast is just sketchy.

(On second thought, that one might have been his dad's fault.)

tl;dr: I'm just surprised that none of them has bothered to ask "how do you know all this?


Or given that the outside world is unaware of Qixter's alter ego and while back in the real world Qix and Mikey talked a lot. The evil plotter thought it might be a seed for later discord to pass along information gathered about his companions. But yes eventually knowing what he knows will catch up to him.

The initial criteria that they were selected for was connection speed to the interface devices, ie: what kind of lag is there between their brain waves firing and the interface interpreting it, etc. Which varies from person to person, but given only one company manufactures the interface would remain constant regardless of where the interface is. xP
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I would doubt the judgment of the devs, then, for allowing one crew member to read about the others' private lives. It's weird enough for them to have done so much research in the first place, but at least they don't go blabbing about it, and one could argue that knowledge of family situations and other major life circumstances would give them an idea of the players' psychological makeup, which would in turn help with assessing their potential for the task. Although other chapters state that they chose their candidates based on previous game performance, and the earliest parts reveal that this particular crew was selected solely for their connection speeds (which should be rendered kind of moot if they're not using their own computers, but oh well), so I don't know why they would have probed so far into these people's lives. Then again, there are some inconsistencies in those chapters; early installment weirdness, I'd call it. So I could be persuaded not to consider that as evidence.

...But in any case, finding out what they drink with breakfast is just sketchy.

(On second thought, that one might have been his dad's fault.)

tl;dr: I'm just surprised that none of them has bothered to ask "how do you know all this?


Or given that the outside world is unaware of Qixter's alter ego and while back in the real world Qix and Mikey talked a lot. The evil plotter thought it might be a seed for later discord to pass along information gathered about his companions. But yes eventually knowing what he knows will catch up to him.

The initial criteria that they were selected for was connection speed to the interface devices, ie: what kind of lag is there between their brain waves firing and the interface interpreting it, etc. Which varies from person to person, but given only one company manufactures the interface would remain constant regardless of where the interface is. xP


That makes too much sense. I have a habit of picking stories apart by the word, but I never actually expect it to be more than an unintentional discrepancy, and so I'm always kind of amazed when the writer can actually provide an answer for everything. How can people think things through so thoroughly? I could never write anything this long and maintain any sort of continuity. I bow to you, master of the defensive side of Canon Fu, as a worthy opponent to my years of training in the offensive side of the same art. As you parry my sword of blighted overthought with your mystic blade of rationality, I grow stronger, fueled by the...okay, I really need to lay off the ham and cheese...so to speak.

That was a compliment, by the way. I feel like I've been too challenging lately, and I really don't mean to criticize. sweatdrop Although the fact that I pay enough attention to ask all these questions might be considered a compliment in itself. xd
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I would doubt the judgment of the devs, then, for allowing one crew member to read about the others' private lives. It's weird enough for them to have done so much research in the first place, but at least they don't go blabbing about it, and one could argue that knowledge of family situations and other major life circumstances would give them an idea of the players' psychological makeup, which would in turn help with assessing their potential for the task. Although other chapters state that they chose their candidates based on previous game performance, and the earliest parts reveal that this particular crew was selected solely for their connection speeds (which should be rendered kind of moot if they're not using their own computers, but oh well), so I don't know why they would have probed so far into these people's lives. Then again, there are some inconsistencies in those chapters; early installment weirdness, I'd call it. So I could be persuaded not to consider that as evidence.

...But in any case, finding out what they drink with breakfast is just sketchy.

(On second thought, that one might have been his dad's fault.)

tl;dr: I'm just surprised that none of them has bothered to ask "how do you know all this?


Or given that the outside world is unaware of Qixter's alter ego and while back in the real world Qix and Mikey talked a lot. The evil plotter thought it might be a seed for later discord to pass along information gathered about his companions. But yes eventually knowing what he knows will catch up to him.

The initial criteria that they were selected for was connection speed to the interface devices, ie: what kind of lag is there between their brain waves firing and the interface interpreting it, etc. Which varies from person to person, but given only one company manufactures the interface would remain constant regardless of where the interface is. xP


That makes too much sense. I have a habit of picking stories apart by the word, but I never actually expect it to be more than an unintentional discrepancy, and so I'm always kind of amazed when the writer can actually provide an answer for everything. How can people think things through so thoroughly? I could never write anything this long and maintain any sort of continuity. I bow to you, master of the defensive side of Canon Fu, as a worthy opponent to my years of training in the offensive side of the same art. As you parry my sword of blighted overthought with your mystic blade of rationality, I grow stronger, fueled by the...okay, I really need to lay off the ham and cheese...so to speak.

That was a compliment, by the way. I feel like I've been too challenging lately, and I really don't mean to criticize. sweatdrop Although the fact that I pay enough attention to ask all these questions might be considered a compliment in itself. xd


tbh Some of your questions have made me reread my older chapters for exact details. I do keep a list of major events and connections in my journal for prewriting, but details aren't as used in the framework, which you seem to have noted with a few discontinuites that I've had to hand waive and explain in later chapters. So there's a bit of covering my arse going on too.

But thank you for the compliments.
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Maybe you should practice having all information, setting/plot/Mcguffin/items, on a spreadsheet. It *might* helps.
From what I gathered, some of the AIs does not realize they are AIs and think they are real people. So, what happen if one of they die? Does their info just gone poof? What happen if they realize they are just playthings?
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Maybe you should practice having all information, setting/plot/Mcguffin/items, on a spreadsheet. It *might* helps.
From what I gathered, some of the AIs does not realize they are AIs and think they are real people. So, what happen if one of they die? Does their info just gone poof? What happen if they realize they are just playthings?

Major points and items are laid out in a plot sequence on my prewrite pad. As for the AIs, will be a point of contention coming up. In the current environment, if defeated/deleted by The Phantom they poof forever, by humans is a temporary poof until they respawn.
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gota say berry another great chapater (2 as i finaly had time to read them) an i absolutely love how you keep useing plasuability for things, such as what many would see as a mental handicap rl, turns out to have great benfits in the game hell bit it the risk it might speed it up

an also the fact you are doin what a good witer should an that is answerin questions that make people go back to reread, or even add a deeper level of meaning to the story an the characters, also how some of the events remind me of aspects from doctor who

all around man keep it up an i look forward to the next chapter an pickin at things if somethin stands out -mew
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Maybe you should practice having all information, setting/plot/Mcguffin/items, on a spreadsheet. It *might* helps.
From what I gathered, some of the AIs does not realize they are AIs and think they are real people. So, what happen if one of they die? Does their info just gone poof? What happen if they realize they are just playthings?

Major points and items are laid out in a plot sequence on my prewrite pad. As for the AIs, will be a point of contention coming up. In the current environment, if defeated/deleted by The Phantom they poof forever, by humans is a temporary poof until they respawn.

So, what if we live in a simulated world, and we are just AIs, but we don't know that? eek Physics say this doesn't matter (read the last chapter of SAO's Underworld arc, got this idea stuck in my mind now sweatdrop ) It is nice you will do a chapter on it.

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