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

Mikey 0.15217391304348 15.2% [ 7 ]
John 0.1304347826087 13.0% [ 6 ]
Fluffs (post which one) 0.34782608695652 34.8% [ 16 ]
Father Garghoul 0.08695652173913 8.7% [ 4 ]
Malevobear 0.21739130434783 21.7% [ 10 ]
Other: Please post 0.065217391304348 6.5% [ 3 ]
Total Votes:[ 46 ]
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Winged Abomination

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Chapter 4: General OMGWTF Moments

“Jeremy? Jeremy wake up. Jeremy! Kerri get over here Jeremy just came through. Let’s get him clear of the aperture.” Jeremy felt his head spinning as he came around. He felt as if someone had put him in the dryer and set it to tumble. Kerri and Mikey each took one of his arms and dragged him across something that felt like stone. When they set him down he found himself lying next to Penelope who was still unconscious.

“What’s going on? I thought we were loading onto the server to find The Phantom?” Jeremy looked up as Henry came shooting through what appeared to be a swirling black hole. His body was steaming as he lay on the ground unconscious. They were in the Null Chamber. Mikey and Kerri barely had moved Henry next to Penelope before John came through.

“We are on The Phantom’s server. We must have loaded to the Null Chamber because Test Island doesn’t exist on it.” Kerri helped Jeremy sit up.

“It crewed us all together as soon as we loaded. The server has been loading us in one at a time through that aperture. I loaded first and managed stay conscious through it. Then Kerri came next, then Penelope, then you. We should probably pick out our rings while we’re here. I doubt our host will allow us to return here during our stay.” Jeremy shook Henry awake while Mikey was talking. Soon everyone was conscious and on their feet.

“At the very least I think we all should have wish, bandage and wish. And then each of us should probably carry two buffs. Other than that I don’t know.” Penelope sat down and was holding her head. It was still hurting from the electronic transportation.

“So who wants what buff?” Henry’s voice echoed in the crystalline chamber. Each of them stared at each other blank stares on their faces.

“Alright listen up!” Mikey stood up and stood before the others, “Penelope has raised a good point, we should each carry two buffs, meat, wish and bandage. Penelope you’re taking halo and density, Henry you’ve got rock and keen, Jeremy coyote and ghost, John grab teflon and sphere, Kerri you get divinity and iron, as for me, I’ll get pot and sweetheart. Somehow I doubt we’ll be needing the whistle. That’s five slots of your eight taken the rest is your decision as to what you want to bring. Let’s be ready to go in five minutes.” Mikey looked at this assembled crew and sighed. This isn’t going to be easy.

“So who made Mikey the boss?” Jeremy said as he equipped his favorite ring set.

“Mikey stepped up when we were going nowhere. And he seems to know what we’re doing when it comes to the Chapter 1 bosses. John, which bosses will we have to kill? You said 10 fragments, but I know of at least 11 boss tier animated.” Henry slipped on his bump ring as everyone seemed to look at John.

“If the coding has been unchanged for the key bearers then we’ll have to fight General Mayhem, the OMGWTF, Kat’s Doll, She Wolf, Papa Saw, Predator Pup Commander, Dune Slam, Stone Coatl, Sealab X Head, and probably the hardest for just six people, Landshark.” John spun his Scaredy Cat Ring around his finger a few times before adding, “Given we are all 10.0, we don’t need to rush chapter 1 just head straight to the bosses. We have 8 weeks before Chapter 2 goes live whether we like it or not.”

“Okay team let’s do this in an orderly fashion and tackle the General and OMG first. To Village Greens!” As the crew departed from the Null Chamber they looked back, the crystal had sunk into the ground after their departure.

“Looks like there’s no turning back now.” Kerri looked at the mound of earth where the crystal once jutted from the ground.

“No room for error either, at least two of us grabbed defib in case the worst should happen.” The walk across the greens were quiet an occasional clink of a gnome foot against the cobblestone walkways echoed as they arrived at the purple roofed mushroom. The crew each applied their buffs as they stepped through the door.

The colors and realistic appearance of the interior caught Kerri and Mikey off guard, the last time either of them had been in this house was the day that the general became an instanced boss. As expected their charge levels auto suppressed to a level only a shadow of their true might. The gnomes came unceasingly with neither mercy nor intelligence in their painted and sculpted faces.

“These guys keep coming how much more until we can actually attack the general? I’m running out of stamina.” Henry shouted as he hacked off a gnome’s head.

“Shouldn’t be much longer, we’re getting into the majors. Those cannons worry me more than the gnomes themselves.” Jeremy cleared the room of gnomes unleashing a dervish’s maelstrom. Even as he mentioned the mushroom cannons Kerri, Penelope and John began beating against the hard topped behemoths.

“No worries we got the cannons, you guys just take care of those gnomes.” Kerri smacked into the cannon with a heavy water balloon. Mikey seemed to be enjoying himself killing gnomes. The house was littered with dissolving corpses, around just Mikey were mounds stuck with shurikens, marred by slashing, and burned. As the last corpses dissolved and the cannons sunk away General Mayhem approached the crew.

“I’ve na’had my coffee and I’m grumpy as hell. Who wants to die?” Mayhem’s shovel fists gleamed in the pale light of the house as he gave chase to Mikey.

“Everything we’ve got now!” The general’s health quickly drained despite constantly assaulting Mikey.

Mikey turned and slashed at the muscular gnome. As a deep gash appeared across the general’s chest he cried out, “Faugh! Tis but a scratch. I’ve had worse from MacTaggert’s weed wacker!” Penelope struck the general and pulled her hand back in recoil.

“You chipped my nail you overgrown paperweight!” She unleashed a fully powered slash on the gnome and he fell to pieces.

“Y’pack a mean punch, but y’ve not beaten me yet. Have ya!”He cried as his body fell to pieces upon the ground. Mikey absorbed his data as the body disintegrated.

“Note to self never chip one of Penelope’s nails.” He laughed. The last piece, Mayhem’s head exploded revealing a strange angular golden fragment. As Mikey picked it up he looked at John, “A key fragment?” John nodded his head to Mikey’s question.

“Good let’s go get the next one. The sooner we get them the sooner we can end that Phantom.” Jeremy was the first one charging out of the mushroom house and towards Bill’s Ranch. As they all entered the ranch it was strangely still and quiet. Not even an Air Fluff or a Garlic to make noise. Jeremy made it to the gate for Deadman’s Pass first and was tapping his foot impatiently for the others.

“Mikey why do you only have seven rings on?” Kerri had hung back and was walking with John and Mikey, who had got into a discussion about some kind of programming. “Everyone needs a full eight in order for things to go well.”

“We were just discussing that actually see Mikey has a unique gift because of how his brain interacts. And we wanted to think of a way to take advantage of that. Why don’t you explain it Mikey.” John looked genuinely excited about something as he walked towards the gate.

“Well I can absorb data from animated when they are defeated as they dissolve back into oblivion. By absorbing this data I can copy several of their attributes such as attacks, debuffs, and other fun things. The problem is I need an open ring slot in order to do use the loaded data. Through exposure to different rings I can absorb their data and mimic their effects using an open slot. So far I can mimic Meat, Wish, Turtle, Taunt, Hot Foot, just about every buff and a few other rings. I’m gimped charge level wise, but being able to use anything and everything seems to be worth it.” Mikey patted Kerri’s shoulder and ran for the gate. Kerri blinked a few times watching him go.

“So you risk us all for a curiosity of the two of you. Great.” She rolled her eyes as she caught up with the crew at the gate.

“Is it just me or is everything strangely still and silent? I mean I know we’re on the clock but still it’s almost too quiet.” Henry commented as they seemed to enter an empty Dead Man’s Pass. They boldly fought their way up the side of the hill. Slicing and dicing any and all animated to cross their path. The shock of being suppressed didn’t feel as sudden or uncomfortable as it did when fighting General Mayhem.

“Okay team, time to sound the alarm. Spread out so we can keep them confused about which direction to go in.” As Mikey touched the gate the alarm began to sound. As the first waves of OMGs came they were each dealt with quickly. The alarm sounded five more times as the heroes valiantly fought. The presence of so many OMGs was causing Mikey’s data absorbing process to go into overdrive. As he looked at his finger without a ring he could see the skull pattern that usually adorned the OMGs. The crew spread out as the fighting had drawn them in closer together. They each gave a nod to one another as they saw the shadow begin to move across the screen.

“Who dares approach this gate? Your insolence shall be punished!” The OMGWTF appeared from the shadow and immediately went after Kerri. She was caught off guard expecting to target someone else. As it attacked she felt a paralyzing fear come over her.

What if we can’t win? Do we even have a chance of winning? We should just give up now. She felt her feet moving without her as she ran from the OMGWTF. It quickly chased her and her health was beginning to plummet. Mikey quickly unleashed his excess OMG data into a burst through his ring slot. The sensation of being attacked by one of its underlings startled the OMGWTF as it turned to face Mikey.

“Your insolence shall be punished!” Mikey began running it around the hilltop as Henry and Jeremy got Kerri back on her feet.

“Hey ugly come on I’m right here!” Mikey channeled the affect of taunt through his ring slot and was keeping the large monster from attacking his teammates. “This way big guy.” Mikey did the loser L on his forehead further infuriating the OMGWTF. Jeremy, John and Penelope stalked it from behind quickly draining its hit points away with their continued attacks. Even though she was no longer under the effects of its fear attack Kerri hid herself in a corner.

“We can’t do this on our own, Kerri we need you. Get your head back in the game. Whoa!” Mikey shouted at her as he ran past the monster still in tow.

“I’m too scared. What if we fail? What if we can’t beat The Phantom? I can’t do it.” Kerri grabbed her head and curled up in her corner.

“Then what good are you?” Jeremy’s words stung her like an ice cold dagger. The rest of the crew was exhausted but managed to slay the OMGWTF. As it dissolved and became data for Mikey to absorb he went and sat next to Kerri.

“You guys get the key fragment and go on ahead.” John and Henry nodded as they picked up a shimmering gold fragment from the corpse. Mikey began speaking in a low whisper so only Kerri could hear him as the others traveled down the hill, “Kerri, I don’t begin to understand what you must have felt taking that blast of fear like you did. But know this, we are a team. For better or worse we’re stuck together, and we’re the only ones who can save this place. I know it doesn’t seem like we can but even some of the best generals fought battles they didn’t believe they could win. You said earlier we were a crew who needed everyone, one person not pulling their weight risks us all. Don’t let us down.” Mikey stood back up and held his hand out for Kerri to grab.

“Yeah we are a crew. And we were chosen because we’re the best ones for this mission. Thank you Mikey.” She used his outstretched hand to pull herself up and the two of them together made their way down the hillside. They reunited with the rest of the crew back at the gate in Bill’s Ranch.

“Please tell me she isn’t blubbering like a seal.” Jeremy crooned.

“She’s fine. And I’d watch that mouth if I were you. We need to be a team to succeed.” Mikey gave Jeremy a stern look. The trees around the ranch still seemed twisted as they approached where Klaus and Larry should be.

“Greetings my esteemed guests.” The Phantom stood atop one of the tree branches as he addressed the crew. “I see you’ve had the they honor to duel for the first two pieces of the Chapter Key. No matter, you’ll never be able to beat what I have in store for you.” He tapped his cane against the tree branch and fired a strange black beam from its jewel. John quickly pushed Mikey out of the way as the beam struck where he was standing. Instead it hit John who began howling in pain as he seemed to be split into two.

“Insolent developer, that was meant for your prodigy. But no matter it shall still be entertaining. Arise now darkest reflection of John Kim.” The Phantom laughed manically as the blob splitting off from John began walking towards him. It cast off its shadowy film as it turned to face the crew, its eyes glowed red.

“I am KJ, ruler of the animated.” It appeared to be a perfect duplicate of John.

“What in the world?” The crew watched in horror as the monster identifying itself as KJ began summoning Garlics and Alarmskeeters, though they were only charge level 10.

“Oh he’s not fully attuned to his powers yet. Let us be off KJ.” The Phantom and KJ began moving towards Zen Gardens.

“Mikey maybe you can get and stop The Phantom and end this right here. We’ll take care of these clowns.” Kerri shouted as she heavy water ballooned the crowd around Mikey. He nodded and chased after the pair. He dodged left and right as KJ tried to shoot him with energy beams. The Phantom and KJ both summoned more animated to deal with Mikey but because of their weakening power they were only charge level 3. Mikey powered through the animated but too late. KJ and The Phantom had disappeared into Zen Gardens. Mikey not willing to face them alone went back to help the crew.

“Sorry guys they ducked into Zen and who knows the traps for us The Phantom had? John you okay?” He looked at the still hunched over developer.

“I’ll be fine, just dizzy. Not everyday someone tears half your mind away.” Henry and Penelope helped the developer to his feet, as Jeremy cut Mikey off from approaching.

“You could have had them and you let them get away! We could have been on our ways home without ever having to see each other again and you let them get away!” Jeremy got right up to Mikey’s face.

“Leave him alone Jeremy. He was doing what he thought was safest. You’d probably be too scared to even chase them as far as Zen Gardens if it were you. The key is we’re all together and alive.” Penelope bowed her head to Mikey.

“That’s easy for you to say. I actually have a life outside this game. And I want to get back to it soon.”

“Hush up Jeremy, we’re doing the best we can. We got caught off guard in our first meeting with the enemy is all. We’ll be ready for him next time. Won’t we guys?” Everyone except Jeremy gave a nod of approval at this comment.


“John as soon as you’re able to move we should make our way to Zen Gardens. Kat’s Doll is our next target. Until then we rest here.”
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Awesome chapter!
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This is positively amazing! Perhaps we can get the devs to get on board to make this an animated mini film after chapter 2 is released, granted the phantom gets beaten in time
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Let me tell you a minicomedy,kids! Gather around...

I gave my friend a RayGun 3 days before his birthday.
He opened it and read the letter.
He pointed at my face and pulled the trigger.
Blood went everywhere.
I got my suit drycleaned and it came out red.
I tried the same with my hair. Same result.
From that day forward,I HAD DOT EYES o[']o <RAH> Emoticon
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Winged Abomination

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Chapter 5: Went to a Garden Party

“Has anyone else noticed that time has been passing slowly for the game since we got here?” The cyber sun had begun to set as Penelope commented on the scenery.

“It’s a trick of the programming we made. Because of the interface method we decided to make time for chapter two servers pass at the same rate as the real world, of course standardized to local time in San Jose. Gaahh!” John clutched his side as he had tried to sit up. He was still injured from the encounter with The Phantom only hours ago.

“And you should not be trying to move so soon.” Henry eased John back onto the bed of leaves they made for him after he passed out the first time.

“Henry why are you here shouldn’t you be patrolling around to make sure we don’t get ambushed by stuff coming from Zen Gardens or Village Greens?” Jeremy had started to build the beginnings for a campfire.

“Relax kid, Mikey’s patrolling the area. Besides we’re tucked away in this back corner where there’s only one way in.” Henry looked down at the fire being built. “How’s John holding up?”

“He fades in and out of consciousness. Whatever that beam was it certainly caused more pain than we originally thought. I think he should be good by morning though, he’s eased into a more restful sleep. You sure Mikey is fine patrolling alone?” Jeremy lit the fire using his fire rain ring.

Henry shrugged his shoulders as the flames sprang to life. “You know our fearless leader. He’ll deal with it if there’s a problem. He was always a solo player before all this.” Penelope sat down next to Henry. Picking up on her subtle head shake he sat down too. “How is Kerri feeling from earlier?”

“She was shaken by the fear attack, I hate to think what it would have down if it was rr4ed. At least we have some idea of what we can expect with upgraded interface in chapter two.”

“It looks like someone had fun creating a night sky for the interface.” Kerri pointed at the sky. As everyone looked up the stars seemed to twinkle and gleam. Kerri took the chance to quietly sit down on the other side of the fire.

John coughed a few times as he tried to laugh. “The night sky is my handiwork. It was either that or just empty blackness. I thought the sky would be more comforting to players, I even did clouds for daytime. Though the constellations in the sky are very different from the real world’s.” He pointed to different clusters, “Constellations Landshark, Lanzer, Bawlz, and that one there is constellation Kuzuan. The brightest star in that one guides players to the lighthouse in Gold Beach if they follow it.” He closed his eyes as he leaned back again.

“So Penelope, you said you knew Mikey before all this. How did you know him? What was he like?” Kerri’s curiosity finally got the better of her.

“I’ve actually known him since 2003. Back then he was a very different person. He used to be cheerful and would go out of his way to help people. We were very close. But then very early in 2007 something happened. He became very cold and began to hate people. He became very different from the free spirited guy I met. We stopped talking, in fact last week was the first we’ve talked in nearly eight years. I’m surprised he still has enough of a heart to partake of this mission.” Penelope stretched her legs out and wiggled her toes.

“You should worry less about my heart and more about the night.” Mikey took a deep breath as he approached the others. “We have 10 hours before sunrise and we can’t all be sleeping at the same time so we need to take shifts.”

“Come sit Mikey, look at the stars with us. John was telling us about some of the constellations.” Kerri patted the ground next to her.

“I’m not here to sight see. KJ and The Phantom have begun infesting Zen Gardens with charge level 11 animated. I’ve already cleared out most of the fluffs, some dolls and a handful of drums.” He sat down trying to pull something out of his hand.

“Let me get that for you.” Mikey recoiled a bit as Kerri grabbed his hand. She gave the fragment in his hand a few tugs and then pulled it out. It was a piece of a Taiko Drum that had lodged in his hand after it exploded.

Mikey quickly pulled his hand away and stared strangely at Kerri as he squeezed his hand a few times, “Thanks. I’ll take the first shift if the rest of you want to sleep.”

“I got second.”

“I got third.”

“I’ll take the last one.” Mikey faintly smiled as the others laid down and began to sleep. Before she closed her eyes Kerri looked up at Mikey and whispered so no one would hear, “Such a tough exterior, by the end of this I’ll figure you out Mikey. There’s still hope for you yet.” Kerri closed her eyes as she began to sleep.

Mikey stretched out his legs and arms and looked up at the sky, “It is a beautiful piece of art.” He had ventured close enough to the camp to hear Penelope mention his change in 2007. “That was the year my world got turned upside down. It was February when it happened. I’ll never forgive myself for what happened.” Mikey stood up and walked around a little bit, he occasioned moving around the ranch so long as it didn’t take him too far from the crew. After about two hours Henry woke up and tapped Mikey’s shoulder.

“My turn Mikey.” Mikey slowly rotated his head to stretch out his neck as he laid down. “He Mikey, you like Kerri don’t you?”

“What? I don’t even know what to respond to that with. What gives you that idea?” Mikey looked sternly at Henry.

“Well for starters you gave her the pep talk at DMP. Then when she says something nice here that’s what you go after first. You’ve voluntarily stayed away from her during the afternoon but you get close as you can to her when you come back. You recoiled like the school kid when she grabbed your hand. And now you lay down next to her when anywhere is fair game.” Henry whistled low as he finished his list.

“I recoiled because it hurt, I gave her the pep talk because we need her to succeed, I got close because it was warm and comfortable. Happy, Henry? Good night.” Mikey rolled over and closed his eyes.

Henry smiled as he kindled the fire. “All quiet across the ranch.” Henry took a stroll around the area. To his surprise the garlics and air fluffs seemed to be sleeping too. He poked the fire a few times to get it roaring again. “Why does Jeremy have to be in such a rush? We have two months and we’ve only used half a day. Mikey is a good leader, why does Jeremy question him?”

“I do it because he needs to know that there are limits to what we’re capable of. Blindly following orders can lead us to trouble.” Jeremy had woken up as it was time for his turn to keep watch.

“Is it that time already? I hardly noticed. I know it needs to be known we aren’t invincible, but constantly challenging him will only cause what need to do to be a lot harder. We need to be united.” Henry dusted some miscellaneous plants off the ground next to Penelope as he lied down. It had been a quick two hours.

“United, please. Even a united crew fails if lead by someone incompetent. And even now Mikey seems reluctant to take up the reigns, a leader must be resolved and certain.” There was a loud popping sound and Jeremy quickly looked around before realizing it was a piece of wood popping in the fire. He sat quietly watching the fire as the night passed. He jumped in surprise as Kerri tapped his shoulder.

“Why so jumpy? It’s just me.” Kerri smiled as Jeremy found a spot to go to sleep.

“Kerri, I’m sorry if I seem mean to you sometimes.” Jeremy laid down and closed his eyes. As soon as Jeremy was asleep Penelope opened her eyes and was sitting up.

“So Kerri, I decided to keep you company.” Penelope sat down next to Kerri.

“Uh thanks Penelope. But why? I can handle this shift myself.” Kerri eyed Penelope dubiously. “What do you want?”

“I just want to talk Kerri. Any harm in that?”

“Depends on what you talk about.” At this comment Penelope inched closer.

“You like Mikey don’t you? I mean you are curious about him at least.”

“What? No! I just want to find out more about him. He seems to figure the rest of us out really easily, so why shouldn’t we be allowed to do the same?” Kerri stammered out as Penelope stared at her with a raised eyebrow. “No, don’t give me that look. I just want to know more about him. He’s nice one minute and ice cold the next. I’m just wondering why he is so bipolar.”

“Well you know. He probably likes you. I mean he went out of his way to single you out.” Kerri’s eyes widened almost as large as saucers at Penelope’s comment.

“Well if you want to help me for this shift let’s find something better to talk about. Like how did you meet Henry?” Kerri looked at the fire as she poked it with a stick.

“Well Henry and I met over a month ago. Originally it was just a role play fling. But then we started connecting on more levels. I was going to ask him before all this if maybe we could be more than just a casual fling. But now I think I should wait for after.”

“Why wait? You should tell him soon.” Kerri looked at Penelope.

“It’s not that simple.”


“Right now we’re out to save the world. I don’t want to distract him or make things awkward if he says no.” The sun was just starting to poke over the trees in the east.

“I see. Maybe, wait a while then say something as we get closer to stopping The Phantom. Who knows maybe he’s the same way. Hey the sun’s rising.” Kerri closed her eyes and stuck out her face in the warm glow of the sunlight. The guys it seemed were just starting to get up.

“John how are you feeling?” Mikey asked as he cracked his neck. He smiled and quickly hid it as he looked at Kerri.

“Told you.” Penelope whispered to Kerri.

“I feel ready to take on the world. Let’s get that doll’s key.” John quickly rose to his feet and was twisting back and forth to stretch out. “How about you guys?”

“Just waiting on you. Uhh where’d Mikey go?” Jeremy carefully looked around.

“I think he went ahead to get a head start on some of KJ and The Phantom’s gifts. But he could have said something.” Henry shrugged his shoulders.

“Actually, I was scoring us some virtual breakfast. Whether or not we need it eating something would be comforting.” He set down a bunch of eggs and a bucket of milk along with the corpses of several garlics. “Hope everyone likes garlic omelets.” He carefully used the remains of an alarmskeeter to mix the ingredients and cook a giant omelet. He carefully divided it into six pieces as it was plated on slabs of tree bark.

“You know they have us hooked up to IV fluids in the real world right? But who could pass up a good looking omelet?” John was the first to dig in as they stared at the yellow blobs on the tree bark.

“Hmm that was delicious!” Jeremy put the bark slab down. Everyone else seemed to be finished as well.

“Alright, let’s go kick some doll.” Mikey lead the team towards Zen Gardens. As they entered Mikey lead them down the path to the shrine he’d cleared the day before. As they tried to enter they could hear a voice echo in their heads.

“The shrine is guarded by the animated of the gardens, you must defeat them to proceed.”


“We beat the ones in front of the shrine already.”

“Maybe we have to clear out the obscene charge level animated?”

“Sounds like a plan Henry. We should divide into two teams of three and each take half the gardens.”

“Well Mikey is strong and John you’re still recovering. Mikey, John and Henry on one team. Myself, Jeremy and Kerri on the other.” Mikey had his doubts about this idea but he wasn’t going to say anything yet.

The teams each went down a side of the gardens swatting down any animated that exceeded the usual charge level for the area. Mikey was easily mobbing drums and fluffs while John and Henry backed him up with health and the occasional hack. They had just finished their last mob when they heard Kerri screaming for help. Without a moment’s hesitation Mikey quickly mimicked fleet feet and him, Henry and John rushed to rescue the other team.

Jeremy was backed into a wall quickly losing health to four drums, Penelope had disappeared under a pile of fluffs, and Kerri was being licked to death by ghost lanterns. Mikey dove in to help Jeremy with the drums as Henry dug Penelope out of the pile before the fluffs exploded. John drew away the ghost lanterns by repeatedly healing Kerri. As the last of the mobs were defeated Mikey decided to voice his earlier objections.

“In the future we should probably stick together against these things.” He reached out an arm to help Kerri up after she had slid on lantern drool. When they went back the shrine allowed them in. “Seeing as there will be fluffs and dolls around, John, I want you and Kerri to keep a handle on the fluffs try to keep them off us as much as you can. Henry, you’re a close range fighter you take collectibles. Penelope keep us alive or let us know when to pull back because of health concerns, kill anything that gets close to you. Jeremy you and I have the regular dolls." He stepped into the clearing as a cold breeze blew through the area.

Wave after wave of dolls came. Fans were flying everywhere broken up by the occasional pink mist left by an exploding fluff. The plan was working as one by one dolls cracked and fell apart. Kerri’s ranged ring set was performing admirably in finishing any fluffs that got past her and John. Maybe he does know what he’s doing. His plan is working. A chill went up everyone’s spine as the shrine fell eerily silent. A lone black and white doll slowly and quietly walked towards the group.

“Alright team all or nothing now.” The doll opened her eyes as the crew crowded back together and drew a fan from her back.

“I live again!” The doll flung her fan at Mikey who barely dodged it as it zoomed past his face. As Mikey struck back with his slash the blade and the doll’s fan struck each other knocking both fighters back. Henry bumped the doll into a corner as it felt the combination of Jeremy’s fire rain and Kerri’s heavy water balloon. “The march of the dolls cannot be stopped. We will consume you!”

“Consume this!” Penelope unleashed a raged slash and John unleashed hot foot.

“I will not return to the swirling darkness alone! Not again!” The doll began absorbing massive amounts of energy as all the air seemed to rushing towards it. Mikey flung a set of shurikens at the doll which caused the massive buildup of energy to explode. Kerri reached down and snatched the key fragment from the doll’s remains.

“Another one bites the dust.” The crew exited the doll shrine and marched towards Bassken Lake. They stopped at the entrance.

“I think we can expect some gifts from The Phantom. But somehow that doesn’t bother me.” The all nodded as they ventured through the link between areas.
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Winged Abomination

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Chapter 6: Lakeside Showdown

Bassken Lake was empty as the heroes strode into environment. No outlaw pups greeted them as they walked through the lake. They went so far as exploring the entire lake before regrouping where Gustav should have been.

“Whole lot of nothing. Not a saw or mother fluff in sight.” Penelope was the last to rejoin the group.

“No giftboxes either.”

“Not even a trashcan to kick around. What is going on?”

“The Phantom must be messing with spawn code or getting ready to unleash something big. Here in Bassken it could be terrible what kind of things he unleashes.”

“What kind of stuff can that be?”

“Mother fluffs, Papa Saws, Shewolves, Giftboxes, Buzzkill, everything.” John looked down nervously.

“So does that change anything?” Jeremy looked around.

“Nothing, we came here to stop The Phantom. I doubt a few over leveled animated are going to be a hard challenge. Agreed?” Mikey looked around as everyone looked down nervously. “So let’s go bust up that Shewolf.” Mikey disappeared into the wolf den. Wow they revamped it to look like a leaky cave. Mikey thought to himself as he heard dripping water on the grey stones.

Outlaw Pups began spawning as the rest of the crew jumped into the den. The wolves and pups clustered up as the crew stayed in a small corner. Burned, drowned, and blown away was the routine as outlaws experienced the sensations of the crew’s rings. The clang of metal upon stone echoed through the cave as wave after wave began piling around the crew.

“We’re being overrun. They’re spawning so many at a time. I can’t keep up.” Kerri attacked the three wolves closer to her.

“What do we do captain?” The wolf he attacked bit the blade as Henry tried to hack it. Mikey looked around.

“John use it. We need the breather, I’ll pick off any stragglers.” Mikey looked at John who was already focusing to use his rage. As he finished charging it he unleashed a raged scaredy cat. It sent several of the wolves running for the reaches of the cave. Mikey true to his word swiftly dealt with any that had been missed. The crew took the respite to regenerate stamina and pick off a few wolves. As the fear wore off the wolves came running back but were easily handled by the rejuvenated crew. Then they heard it, a howl that sent shivers up their backs. A savage looking wolf, black and larger than all the others emerged from the other side of the cave. It kept coming towards the crew despite their ranged attacks striking it.

“Henry look out!” Mikey called out even before the wolf reached them. Henry jumped narrowly avoiding the pair of jaws that snapped at his belly. “Penelope to your left! Shewolf had maneuvered to bite Penelope but she jumped to the left as the jaws snapped.

“How did you…” Jeremy started.

“Not important right now. Just keep killing the wolf.” Shewolf’s health was dropping fast. But so was Mikey’s. Shewolf had targeted him for all the grief he was causing her. Her yellow eyes glowed in the dull cave as she attacked. She grabbed Mikey’s arms with her jaws and proceeded to drag him around the room. Mikey cried in pain as he felt her teeth sinking into him with every step.

“Let me go!” Mikey punched with his left hand as he was dragged with his right arm. The punching caused his rings to fire with every hit. A storm of shuriken seemed to fall as meteors and blades danced out of thin air. Mikey felt himself beginning to pass out as the teeth edged closer to his bones.

“He’s going critical! Whatever is going on in there is hurting him outside too.” The voice buzzed in John’s ear, it belonged to one of the medical personnel outside in the real world. “It shouldn’t be doing this if it’s just an interface. That Phantom must be doing something.”

“Now is not yet the time for your demise.” The voice echoed in Mikey’s head as the world began going black. He felt himself overcome by a strange sensation as his right hand clenched into a fist. He let loose a massive surge of energy. It startled the Shewolf into letting go as he passed out. He lay unconscious on the cave floor as the rest of the crew rushed around him and finished the fight.

“Mikey? Mikey? Please wake up!” Kerri was exhausting herself darting back and forth trying to heal him.

“He’s not dazed, but he isn’t looking too good either. That bite went very deep.” John examined the wound and was trying to patch it up.

“What was that massive burst he let out?” Jeremy knelt down beside John handing him various tools as he asked for them.

“It looked like solar rays. But beyond any rage rank I’ve seen.” Henry stood guard keeping an eye out for any wolf surprises there might be. Mikey’s breathing had gone from sporadic and labored to normal.

“He going to be alright?” Penelope was trying to catch a peek at what John and Jeremy were doing.

“He’s stabilized for now. But it will be sometime before he’s at full fighting strength. Lucky for us his buff and wish arm was grabbed and not his offense arm or we’d be a fighter down for a while. That spike was a lot like something we were programming for chapter 2.” John sat back and pulled the gloves he had put on off, they were drenched in blood and despite knowing it was virtual Kerri threw up in the corner of the wolf den.

“Something for chapter 2? Tell us more.” Henry came back to the group satisfied nothing was going to come surprise them.

“We were programming a feature called Ghi Burst where you could temporarily enter a rage mode where all of your attacks would do an equivalent to a rage rank 8 version. In exchange for the power granted when you come out of a Ghi Burst, both your Ghi and stamina are zeroed out and you lose hit points. Well the health loss scales to your charge level. I think the equation used was 10 times charge level minus 20. But it was intended for chapter 2 only so I have no idea how he would even tap into that here.” John looked down at Mikey as he twitched a little.

Mikey’s mind wandered as he thought he was hallucinating. He saw in his dreams The Phantom unmask himself though the face wasn’t clear, he saw bosses that he had never seen before: a massive caterpillar, a ghost crossed with an android, even 10 foot tall stone warriors. But he also saw six short NPC’s that carried staffs, and six strange pendants that coursed with energy. “Mikey!” He could barely hear the distorted voice. “Mikey! Come back to us.” He began to slowly open his heavy eyes.

“Mikey! Come back to us.” Kerri was practically sitting on top of him as he tried sitting up. “Guys he’s alive! Mikey lay back, you got roughed up pretty bad.” Mikey looked at his arm. It was bandaged and splinted.

“Who’s handiwork was the splint?” He looked around before adding in a gentler tone, “Thank you.”

“John and Jeremy’s handiwork there. But Kerri hasn’t left your side since they finished. We were worried we’d lost you. Shewolf bit pretty close to the bone. And before you ask yes we got the key fragment.” Henry pulled out a golden piece and showed it to Mikey.

“So what was that about doubting any over leveled animated could beat us? And by the way how were you able to predict Shewolf’s movements so well?” Mikey had barely sat up before Jeremy’s questions made him want to pass out.

“Easy now.” Kerri positioned herself to support Mikey as he stood up. After a few hesitant steps he was standing on his own.

“As for your first question, someone had to keep the rest of you from dying. And the second question, it was like there was a delay between me seeing it and when it actually happened. Like I was seeing it before it happened. Now let’s go, we have a phantom to beat.” He stumbled but stood back up as he led the crew out of the den. Mikey almost wanted to sink back into the den as they came out. The lake had filled with charge level 11 animated.

“Greetings heroes. I’ve done some redecorating while you faced my poor wolf pet.” KJ crowed at them from atop a tree. Mikey tried to shoot him down with shurikens but he missed and hit the branch KJ was on.

“That was a warning. Surrender KJ and we might not destroy you!” Mikey shouted to cover his error.

“Destroy me? By you? Ha! You don’t have the strength for that yet. And besides you’ll have to get through them first.” KJ began hopping from tree to tree away from the crew as Outlaw Pups began to crowd around. KJ escaped leaving the crew of heroes to fight the spawns around Bassken he’d created. He warped himself to a castle shrouded in darkness.

“The boy has begun my lord. Doubt and anger burn within him as you promised they would. Even now he grows angry of the others.” KJ took a knee in a chamber filled with glowing crystals.

“Yes, I know this. Soon he will come to us. And when that happens you will bring him to me.” The Phantom sat upon a twisted throne among the crystals.

“Bring him to you? You mean he is not to be killed?”

“He has other uses than death which he is suited for. You will bring him to me and we will put him to these uses.”

Back in Bassken Lake, with each animated defeated Mikey seemed to recover his strength, in fact the bite mark by the time they reached the windmill full of boxes was lightly etched into his arm.

“Good heavens you’re nearly recovered Mikey!” Penelope saw the bite mark as the splint was torn off by a giftbox. Mikey quickly cleaved the box in two and gave Penelope a small smile. The crew fought for hours clearing the lake of the obscene animated. Then their hearts sank as they reached the saw mill. Sitting out in front of the mill were three obscene leveled Buzzkills.

“So what’s the plan this time? Run in and one of us gets slaughtered.” Jeremy sneered.

“Jeremy! Not the time.” Henry yelled back.

“You know what? I’m through making plans. You want to question them all the time, Jeremy you make one.” Mikey stood right in front of Jeremy. “Be my guest. I would love to see how this goes.” Mikey took a seat on a nearby log and watched as Jeremy tried to make a plan.

“Well err huh, I don’t… I have…oh um.” Jeremy tried to think.

“This is neither the time nor the place you two.” Henry put himself between Mikey and Jeremy.

Mikey chuckled as he got up from his seat, “See not as easy when the shoe is on the other foot Jeremy. Now here’s the plan, Kerri you’ve got some of the better ranged rings. We need you to draw one of them here just above the windmill. Penelope tag along with Kerri and keep her alive. The rest of us will wait at the windmill. Be ready to heal Kerri then the long drawn out battle. We’ll repeat for the second Buzzkill, and the last one we’ll fight there in front of the mill. Is that understood?” Mikey looked around, everyone nodded in approval. Jeremy seemed to be staring forward unfocused. The crew split into the two teams, Jeremy remained eerily quiet.

“Yoohoo! Buzzkill! Come and get me.” Kerri shot one of the Buzzkills with her hunter’s bow and ran. Kerri and Penelope tried outrunning the saw as he burrowed underground.

“Where’d he go?” Penelope asked as they ran.

“Does it matter? Stick to the plan.” Buzzkill burst through the ground in front of them as she spoke. “Split!” Kerri and Penelope split up and each went past Buzzkill on either side. She got running so fast she was going to have trouble stopping herself. As she saw Mikey in front of her she tried stopping but ran into him sending both of them to the ground. Mikey pushed her to one side as he aimed a raged shuriken at Buzzkill. He got up and helped Kerri up. She stared at him and blinked at him a few times before rejoining the fight. He put his arm around me. Drained and exhausted the first of the Buzzkills was defeated.

“Alright, catch your breath and health then same thing for the next one.” Mikey panted out. Kerri and Penelope nodded at each other as they walked back towards the sawmill. Again they were pursued by a Buzzkill, but Kerri was able to slow herself down enough not to tackle Mikey. They huffed and puffed as the second Buzzkill died. Mikey looked around. “Everyone alright? No lost appendages? Good, time to take the fight to the sawmill.” They quickly walked to the mill and handily defeated the last Buzzkill.

“In we go, I suppose. I take it we’ll chill out in the farming corner?” John wiped some sweat from his brow.

“Good idea. Let’s just hope nobody here wants to leech.” Mikey laughed a little.

“Snikety snak!” The saws kept coming one after another Ripper Saws met their ends at the hands of fire rain and heavy water balloon. “Hey! Over here!” On and on the battle moved at a maddening pace. The Mama Saws spawned and ran right into a wall of fire. On, on, on it was as if each and every one of them had fought this fight a thousand times.

“Papa where are you sawb.” The Mama Saws lay broken upon the ground. The rippers continued coming. They seemed slightly disheartened by the deaths of the mamas.

“Where are you?” Papa Saw had appeared and began tearing a rut into the ground as he approached the crew in their corner. Anything they had been holding back they let loose now. 1000 down, down, down 850, more fire more water. The saws were buckling and breaking left and right. 500 Papa was nearing the end of his life. Burn and cool the metal of Papa’s body began to warp and bend 100. The saw was backed into a corner as the last of his health ticked away. His head cracked open revealing the key fragment they sought. Their first easy fight they walked side by side as they strode out of the sawmill.

“Okay team we have some choices now. We know there are fragments held by Duneslam, Stone Coatl, and the P3 Commander, which do we pursue first. I believe keeping to an order the P3 Commander is next but I want to know which one you think. By going after Duneslam we also risk running into Landshark.” Mikey had stopped the crew at the fork between the Old Aqueduct, Bassken Lake and Gold Beach to ask them.

“P3 Commander, Dune, then Coatl sounds like a good order to me. We’ll take Landshark if it appears anytime during that.”

“I’m with you on this one Kerri. John knows the Landshark trigger so maybe we can avoid that until we’re ready.” Henry looked at John.

“Don’t worry I think we can avoid the Landshark trigger if we really want to. I vote P3 Commander next.” John was drawing a crude picture of Landshark in the dirt.

“So the plan is P3 Commander then Duneslam. I’m game.” Penelope looked at Jeremy.

“You’re the only one who hasn’t piped up. Your thoughts?” Mikey raised an eyebrow.

“It doesn’t matter what I think now. You all want to go after the commander so that’s what we’ll do.” Jeremy looked down.

“Alright, look out P3 Commander because here we come!” Mikey led the crew to the Old Aqueduct.
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Chapter 7: The Battle of Four Armies

Some parts of this chapter inspired by Environmental Unity, MajinBob and Ren Orenji Doragon. Thank you for the ideas.

“Hurry up! Move it!” A squad of P3s had just caught sight of the crew.

“Ker tr^k pik!” The first one shouted as they gave chase. Soon an entire squadron of seven was tailing the crew. Mikey hung back and knock backed a few of the lead pups.

“John they’re 11.0. They’re going to overrun us if we don’t stop to fight them.” Mikey charged back into the mob now fourteen pups large.

“This must be KJ or The Phantom’s handiwork. They shouldn’t be this strong or this aggressive.” As he dove in John pulled several pups off of Mikey. Henry dove in after and the fight soon began turning in favor of the crew. Jeremy hung back a moment but as Kerri and Penelope ran to the aid of the others he had no choice but to join. Exhausted, the crew defeated the P3 mob.

“So John what exactly is the P3 to English translation on some things they say?” Henry was bowled over with his hand on his knees as he panted.

“Believe me Henry you don’t want to know.” John wiped some sweat from his brow.

“Hehe John humor us. What do the pups say?” Kerri brushed some pieces of exploded P3 off her shoulder.

“Yeah if they are insults I’d like to toss a few back at them.” Jeremy walked towards the tree and leaned against it.

“Most of their insults are yo mama jokes.” John looked at Mikey with a stare that said get me out of this.

“What kind of yo mama jokes John?” Mikey smiled a little waiting for the answer.

“Shouldn’t we be getting to the commander?”

“I think we can spare some time to hear this. It is sunset, we’ll rest after we deal with the commander.” Henry looked to Mikey for support as Mikey only shrugged his shoulders.

“Well some of them are like ‘Yo mama so big when she bends over her a** creaks’ and there are a few others.” John rubbed the back of his neck as Kerri snickered.

“That doesn’t even make sense, on any level.” Jeremy pinched his nose.

“Keep in mind plot wise the P3s recently arrived on whatever planet zOMG is in. They probably haven’t learned any good ones much less understand what they mean.” Everyone laughed at this as they began moving through the aqueduct burrow by burrow. As they reached the commander’s burrow they saw at least five honor guards waiting for them.

“Ker tr^k pilk!”


“Pik!” The Honor Guards were reacting to the six intruders and almost immediately more P3s began pouring out of the burrows like ants from their hills they came in columns and marched.

“Break up! Hold them on all sides of the burrow here. We must hold this ground.” Everyone in the crew had their rings held and waited to unleash their power. Mikey could tell from which ones were glowing what everyone was going to attack with. The P3s filed into a ring and surrounded the crew as the sun began to set. It cast a red glow on the clouds of programmed skies. Mikey steadied his aim on slash, Kerri held aloft her heavy water balloon, Henry readied a hack, Penelope had slash at the ready, Jeremy seemed to be waiting with dervish and John had hot foot pointed at the nearest group. “Steady, wait till you can get a clear shot.” The ring of P3 had already become four lines deep and still more flooded out from the burrows.


In his dark castle sitting atop his crystal throne The Phantom gazed into the surface of one of the many crystals that floated through the air. He could see the crew getting surrounded by P3 in the aqueduct and he let out a sigh. “You’ve done well KJ, too well in fact. I want them to reach me here eventually.” He touched the crystal as a keyboard seemed to grow out of it. The Phantom’s fingers danced across the keys as he typed in a few commands. “There we go. That should make things interesting.” He held his hands out as the crystal enlarged several inches, providing a much larger screen for his viewing.


“Fire!” Mikey cried out as the burrows seemed to finish emptying for the moment. The area was a flurry of lasers and rings as the army and crew clashed. For each P3 struck down five more seemed to take its place. The P3s were gradually pushing the crew back together. Mikey found himself back to back with Penelope as misfired lasers shot past their heads.

“Mikey we’re going to be overrun in a few seconds. We need a plan.”Kerri knocked away three P3s chasing her as she slid into the rest of the crew.

The faint image of a purple sphere flicked as Mikey reflected a laser back on a P3. “I got nothing. Any ideas are welcome at this point.”

“There simply aren’t enough of us to fight them all. We need more people.” Jeremy was momentarily intangible as a laser shot passed right through him. Suddenly an alarm started sounding in the distance.

“John what is that? Do we really want to know?” Henry bumped away a P3 lunging at Kerri.

“It sounds like the alarm for a bug breakout event. But I thought that it would need more people than six.” Penelope burned the nearest mob of P3s to cinders.

“It is a bug breakout, and yes it should require more people to be here. How it triggered is beyond me.” John scared off a few P3s.

“Hold the line. I have a plan.” Mikey charged through a group of P3s activating the effects of a turtle as they swiped at him. He ran towards the star portal where he could see a mob of Walkers and Shockroaches coming out of the purple ring. He threw a shuriken at one and was surprised to see that these bugs were 11.0 as well. As turned and ran back for the crew the bugs chased him. “Get ready guys it’s about to turn into a warzone!” As the bugs and P3s caught sight of each other they seemed to lose interest in the crew and began fighting amongst each other. “Color me surprised, I can’t believe that worked.” The added force of the bugs was slowly turning the battle in favor of the crew.

“Whatever you do, avoid the Deathroaches.” John called out as several Landstriders joined the fight.

“Aside from the obvious ‘they blow up’ why?” Kerri jumped back as a Deathroach jumped at the P3 she was fighting.

“We slightly modified their code for the new interface system. In addition to exploding they leave a sticky damage over time acid. Nasty stuff really.” More P3s began pouring out and soon even the bug reinforcements were being overwhelmed.

“Guys we need more troops again. Our bugs are getting crushed by numbers.” Jeremy barely avoided several laser blasts. The aqueduct was lit only by the moon and stars above and the laser and ring flashes below.

“Penelope, Tiny Terrors go!” Mikey held his blade steady as both an Honor Guard and a Landstrider attacked him. He began unleashing his own laser blasts using copied data from the fallen P3s.


“Yaomithiq!” Never had those cries been so welcome. With Tiny Terrors joining the fray the P3 force was being pushed between the Tiny Terrors on one side and bugs on the other. Then Henry caught sight of him out of the corner of his eye. The glint of the crimson armor made him stick out from the rest of the P3 rabble as he struck down Tiny Terrors and Shockroaches with no effort.

“Mikey! He’s here!” Henry called to Mikey as he saw Mikey disappear into a mass of P3s and Shockroaches.

“Henry, everyone’s got their hands full. It’s all you buddy!” Mikey’s voice was barely audible over the mass of enemies he was buried under.

Henry’s eyes narrowed as the commander strode out of the burrow. The commander seemed to swagger as if drunk with his power over the other P3's. “Guys heads up!” Henry held the blade of his mantis and stared at the commander. Everyone else was busy fending off both Landstriders and Honor Guards and Tiny Terrors so it was up to him. His gaze met the commander's as they both drug their weapons in a circle on the ground. The commander his sharp claws, Henry his blade. The pale moonlight beamed down on them as they circled each other. The P3 Commander's eyes seemed to glimmer as he raised his claw and charged at Henry. “Ayaa!” Henry raised his blade and charged the commander. The light flashed as the two dueled in front of the burrow.

“Zrk Tr^ak tee pik!” The Predator Commander screamed at Henry as the blade struck his claws.

“Well yo mama so ugly when she was on Tatooine Jabba the Hutt said damn!” The commander was strong for someone his size but Henry wouldn’t give up. He materialized the blade for his hack in his other hand and he began striking at the other claw. Blow for blow they matched each other, each strike lit up the sky. Finally, Henry managed to hit the commander on his leg as the gash appeared across his leg he began bleeding green.

“Zrk ter pilk!” The commander howled as he staggered back.

“Ahhh!” Henry took advantage of the commander’s loss of balance and went on the offensive. Gashes began appearing across the commander’s body as strike after strike connected. The commander fell to the ground as his helmet broke. Henry clutched in his left hand the blade of his mantis and held his right hand against his shoulder as a small trickle of blood dripped down. The Predator Commander exploded and the other P3s seemed to lose their motivation. The crew was able to quickly finish off the last of the disheartened foes as the Tiny Terrors vanished back to the north and the bugs retreated to the star portal. Penelope dashed over to Henry and examined his shoulder before smacking a bandage on it.

“Mrphhrm burra.” Mikey’s head popped out of a pile of dead P3s, bugs and terrors. “We get him?” Mikey shook his head knocking off a piece of P3 armor.

“Yeah we got him.” Henry held the key fragment up.

“Awesome.” Jeremy said as the crew regrouped.

“We should make camp at the hilltop where the Null Crystal would be.” The crew began moving to the hilltop, Mikey hung back and began looking at the key fragments acquired.

“These have got to fit together somehow.” The pieces seemed to click together and form something resembling a needle in a large ring.

“Guys there’s still one thing bothering me. Where did that bug breakout come from if it takes more people to trigger?” Penelope asked as they got a fire going.

Mikey tinkered with the key fragments as John decided to respond. “Let’s just consider ourselves lucky that it happened and move on. We have Duneslam, Landshark and Stone Coatl tomorrow.”


KJ’s steps echoed down the hallways of the castle as he entered The Phantom’s throne room. “My lord the P3s were on the verge of victory. We could have crushed them today and you gave them the tools to win.”

“I know KJ, but I want these heroes to gaze upon the glory of chapter 2 before they are killed.” The Phantom uncrossed his legs as he sat on his crystal throne.

“But you created me to destroy them as quickly as possible.” KJ glared back.

“It is not your place to question your master. I made you and I can unmake you if you get out of line. Remember that. This John and Mikey intrigue me the most, I want them to be the last ones destroyed once they reach the second chapter.” The Phantom slammed his fists on the arm rests of his throne as he spoke.

“As you wish.” KJ began walking back down the corridor before adding in a whisper to himself, “For now.”
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Chapter 7 is in full now, enjoy. cool
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Enjoying this story very much! Keep up the excellent work! biggrin
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Bios amended to show each character's ringset, due to popular demand. Also added [ JK ] into the bios. Feel free to leave questions or comments and PMs.
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Chapter 8: Brawl on the Beach

The stars in the simulated sky seemed to twinkle and some shone brighter than others. Mikey eyed the sky as he poked the fire. Because of the fight with the P3s the restful night was only six hours long. The crew had divided it into three, two hour shifts each manned by two members of the crew. Jeremy and John had taken the first shift, Henry and Penelope the second, and Mikey and Kerri on the last shift. The fire popped and sizzled as Mikey adjusted the wood on it, Kerri sat close to him on the log they had decided to use for a bench, as she sat close Mikey moved away a little bit.

“Mikey can I ask you some questions about some of your more unique powers?” She turned her head to look at Mikey.

“Sure, anything you want to know in particular?” Mikey hoped that the glow of the fire was enough to hide his reddened cheeks.

“Well you said you can mimic the attacks of animated or the affects of rings by absorbing data from exposure. How long does it take you to absorb enough data to be able to do that?” She looked away trying to hide a smile as she saw his reddened cheeks.

“That depends really. Low level animated like regular fluffs, Kokeshi Dolls, P3s take about 10 to 15 before I have enough data to accurately mimic their attacks. Bigger ones like Kokeshi Collectibles and Honor Guards take about 5 to 8. And the boss tiers like Duneslam and the like I only need one.” Mikey rubbed his bare finger it had begun itching. “I know I can mutate the attack data into something else, but it takes effort, for example I tried merging the Deathroach’s explosion with a P3 laser. But I’m just not good enough to do it yet.” He stoked the fire again.

“You said you could copy rings a while back. Which ones can you mimic? And what can you do with ring data?” Kerri scooted closer to Mikey, he retreated to the very end of the log before answering her question.

“Well for rings it takes some time of exposure to them. Through playing before and crewing with you guys I can now safely mimic all of the forty plus rings. And I’ve even begun experimenting with combining different rings like combining quicksand with heavy water balloon. I’m not sure how long it takes me to copy a ring but I’m pretty sure it’s close to the animated’s attacks.” The rest of the night passed quietly and as the others began waking up they saw the fire nearly out.

“Well guys how about we get to work on the three we had planned for today?” Jeremy stretched as he began to trot towards the hill’s slope.

“What no zomg omelets today?” John looked at Mikey with a smile.

“Not unless you like alien roach goo and P3 jerky in them. Not a whole lot of breakfast choices.” He closed his eyes and began thinking of a battle plan for Duneslam. Getting through his army of guardians was going to be the hard part. Mikey was lost in thought as they trekked through a normal Gold Beach, he made sure to kill enough of each animated so that he could absorb enough data to safely mimic their attacks.

“Hey guys, do you think we’ll be able to power our way through chapter two like we have been the bosses of chapter one?” He was the last to enter the row boat as it moved by itself towards an island off of the coast. Penelope pointed at something in the water as the boat moved.

“I sure hope that’s not in the beach to greet us when we get back.” The boat shook violently and stopped as a fin burst through the water nearby. It was making a line straight for the boat but disappeared back under the water just before impact. Everyone waited with baited breath as the boat remained motionless.

“We can’t fight here we need to either get back to the beach or continue to Duneslam. John, grab a paddle and help me get this boat moving. Jeremy, Penelope keep look out, Mikey, Kerri stay ready to attack.” No matter how frantically they paddled the boat refused to budge.

“Guys!” Jeremy pointed to the fin now circling them. This time the entire head of the Landshark burst through the deep blue surface of the ocean. The monster began making a line straight for the boat again.

“Looks like we have to stand our ground and fight. I’ve got a little surprise for him.” Mikey began peppering the Landshark with mimicked P3 lasers. As the beast came into melee range Mikey unleashed Papa Saw’s attack that normally put players to sleep. He emptied his rage into the attack and the Landshark rolled over as it felt the sleep effect. It disappeared below the surface again and passed harmlessly under the boat once more. They watched in horror as the drifting shark shook off the effects of the attack and was coming back for them. Mikey and Kerri alternated hunter’s bow and P3 lasers as Landshark came closer. Again Mikey tried to put it to sleep as t drew close to the boat but the attempt failed as the brunt of the Landshark’s weight began violently rocking the boat. The fin rose once more from the surface and was making another pass at them. Despite their best efforts the boat was again struck. The wooden structure bent and cracked as it tipped over spilling the occupants into the warm waters around Gold Beach. Penelope coughed as the salt water stung her eyes, but she was the first to surface after being dumped. Soon everyone had surfaced except Henry.

“Henry!” She cried out over the choppy waters.

“Henry where are you?” John gasped as he gulped down a mouthful of water trying to stay afloat. Mikey and Jeremy both pushed against the boat trying to tip it back over while Kerri scanned the nearby waters for any sign of Henry. The water had become eerily calm as Mikey pulled Kerri into the boat.

“No sign of Landshark or Henry.” Even as he spoke a water spout erupted. The Landshark leapt from the sea and clutching to its fin was Henry. As he held on for dear life the beast thrashed “Let’s go!” Mikey and Penelope dove back into the water and swam towards the Landshark. They each clutched onto a fin as the monster continued to thrash. Jeremy and John paddled as the boat now seemed free from whatever force had been holding it. The Landshark turned and began moving back towards Gold Beach. Jeremy and John struggled to keep up as Kerri continued to shoot at it.

“What it! You almost hit me!” Henry shouted as Kerri narrowly missed hitting him with an arrow.

“Now!” The three clinging to the Landshark leapt off of the monster as the hulking form crashed into the beach and began burrowing into the sand.

“OMNOMNOMNOM!” The fin was the only sign they had as the majority of the shark disappeared under the sand. Kerri, John and Jeremy soon caught up as Henry, Penelope and Mikey darted across the beach chasing the fin. Mikey had managed to slow it down with a combination of Carrion Flower Fluff and Sand Fluff breath attacks. Henry got thrown back as the Landshark thrashed at him. Thankfully, he had been missed by the massive teeth.

“Funny it was a Landshark that brought us together now it’s tearing us apart.” Kerri gasped as her, Jeremy and John caught up to the beast.

“That would be funny if I had time to laugh.” He charged ahead and spun into the Landshark.

“Mikey time to fight Landy with Landy, use the data you absorbed the night you were chosen!” John called out. The massive shark emerged from the sand and was leaping, at Henry.

“Henry move!” Mikey dove between the two. Time seemed to slow as he thought to himself, Now or never, on whether or not it works. He focused his mind on using Turtle, but it also focused on the data that caused buffs to be sent to an entire crew. He felt the warm feeling he always did when using turtle. To Mikey’s surprise the bubble turtle formed extended around both him and Henry. The Landshark slammed into the shield with a thud. Mikey let out a sigh as he rushed the Landshark. The Landshark continues to thrash until it did hit Henry, then it clamped down on him with its jaws.

“I’m so sorry guys. I let you all down.” Henry was barely able to get the words out before he passed out. The Landshark tossed him aside and eyed Mikey.

“Penelope defib him, John cover her, Kerri stay behind him and use range on the beast, Jeremy let’s go.” Jeremy and Mikey each approached the Landshark from different sides. Mikey led it around for Jeremy to draw its attention. Once the beast wanted Jeremy, Mikey attacked and they kept juggling who Landshark chased.

Henry gasped for air as he felt the electric jolt of Penelope’s defib. He breathed rapidly as he got back up, “We’ve got to rejoin the fight. Landshark is plenty dangerous for twenty people, with only three fighting the chances are minimal.” Henry didn’t wait to be rebuffed as he charged back into the fight.

“Now we can fight with our full strength.” Kerri called just as the Landshark turned on her. Mikey knelt to the ground and focused on forming turtle in a shape. Everyone in the crew had formed a ring around the monstrosity as a green field of energy began to shimmer and form. Mikey’s nose began bleeding as he shaped the energy into a donut around the crew. “Mikey?” Kerri looked back as he sunk to the ground shaking.

“Don’t worry about me, just run him through. I’ll keep the barrier intact as long as I can.” Mikey gasped between tremors. Each time the Landshark lashed at the field it was repulsed and fell back to the ground.

“He’s breaking the very fundamental physics programming in the game.”

“He’s straining himself trying to do whatever he is doing.”

“His vitals are spiking and crashing again.”

“You’ve got 2 minutes before the damage he’s doing to himself becomes irreversible.”

The voices echoed in the earpieces that they all had to communicate with the real world. “Michael you need to stop whatever it is you’re doing, I can’t lose you both.” As he heard the last voice his eyes narrowed. It was his father’s, they hadn’t spoken in years, not since the accident.

“They can do this, the others just need the time I’m buying them. This is bigger than one person…The fate of the world hangs in the balance here dad.” Mikey whispered as he struggled to hold back the Landshark. Cracks were beginning to form across the surface of the turtle field he had created. “Just a little more.” The sand beneath him had become red and wet from the amount of blood he had lost. A decapitated fin landed in the ground next to him as the turtle field collapsed. He breathed a few heavy breathes before passing out. The vanquished Landshark had begun dissolving. The fin cracked revealing the key fragment held by the Landshark.

“His vitals have leveled off.”

“No permanent damage was caused, I think he’ll be okay.”

“I think we’ve figured out how he has some of the powers he does, this little episode helped us pinpoint the cause.”

Mikey’s mind drifted much as it had before. He again saw the six short figures among other things. He saw a massive castle with a throne room made out of what looked like null crystals, he saw KJ training an army of what looked like household appliances. He then saw six odd looking pendants, each glowing a different color with symbols etched into them. Then he woke up startled when he saw the face of one of zOMG’s developers as The Phantom was unmasked. He looked around as Jeremy pulled back his hand, his defib ring was glowing very faintly.

“Mikey we need to talk.” John and the others sat down as he began. “Mikey the techs on the outside have figured out how you have some of the abilities you do. Normally, when someone uses a neural interface for a controller there’s a buffer between the brain and the computer to prevent serious accidents in the case of a program crash or unnecessary data transfer. Normally, it’s 3.14 seconds in order to give the interface time to react and snap the player back out. You possess a rare genetic abnormality that was not predicted when the interface was made.” He face changed to a frown as he took a deep breath. “Your brain chemistry is such that the buffer is completely ignored and directly interfaced with the computer. That’s why you see things 3.14 seconds before us. That’s why you’re able to absorb data from rings being used and animated you defeat. It literally becomes copied to your brain and you are then able to regurgitate it as the channeling through your open slot. But when you try combining different effects like you did for the turtle donut you made and held up for a minute, your brain is quite literally writing, processing and uploading data at a rate it was never made for and the process can actually cause damage. The strain it does to you manifests itself as bleeding. Just take it easy on trying to make new combinations. Regurgitating is okay.” John looked Mikey in the eye on the last two sentences he said.

“My life is irrelevant if it helps the mission to succeed, just know that’s in the back of my mind and will weigh on whether or not I heed that advice.” Mikey looked at each of the members of the crew with him. “I’m still the same Mikey I was yesterday. Just because we know why now doesn’t change anything, we still need to stop The Phantom so let’s get a move on. We’ve got a world to save.”

“John you didn’t tell him about what would happen if it crashed while he was connected.” Kerri had hung back to whisper with John as they ventured to the boat once more.

“He’s plenty intelligent to put two and two together on that fact. Don’t tell him, but they found and brought in his father.” John whispered to Kerri.

“His father? He said he had no father.”

“I can understand why he would say that. His father disowned him eight years ago after a family accident and they haven’t spoken since. They were only able to track him down by legal records.”

“Why did they need him?”

“They figured his abilities were tied to his genetics, they needed his father to test him to be certain. They’ve since brought him in as a computer circuitry expert, Kerri he was a member of the team that developed the gaming neural interface.”

“Hey you two ready to board the boat? Let’s go.” Jeremy called to them to join the rest of the crew in the boat. As soon as Kerri and John hopped in the boat it began moving once again to Duneslam’s island. This time there were no interruptions to the trip. The island was quiet as they hopped out of the boat. The sand quivered as the first Guardians of Dune materialized. The crew quietly defeated each wave of guardians until the very surface of the island seemed to be pulled inward. Several Servants of Sand erupted from the ground and surrounded the crew. Between Jeremy’s dervish and Henry’s bump and hack they were pushed back far enough not to be a threat. A small sinkhole appeared in the island’s center as the swirl of sand flowing inward tripped everyone. One very large and very angry sandcastle appeared from the sinkhole.

“Everything we’ve got, now’s the time.” Even amongst the other castles everyone found a path to Duneslam and attacked him.

“Glass them all, I hear Henry and Penelope like glassware for a gift.” Pieces of the massive body crumbled and fell off as Duneslam’s health dwindled. As his head dissolved away the bucket sitting upon it cracked revealing another key fragment. Mikey quickly snatched it up and fitted it to the assembly with the other pieces. “Eight down, two to go. Guys this key looks more and more like a giant needle in the middle of a ten spoke bike wheel.” As they boarded the boat to leave Mikey felt a chill in the air. After arriving safely back they realized the beach was void of any signs of life.

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this. We should hurry to Otami.”

“Too late heroes. You’ve bested eight of the key bearers now you face me.”

“John he’s showing up as a valid target for every attack ring but still as a player data wise. He’s cl 20, we haven’t got a chance even as powerful as we are. And he’s using rings I’ve never seen before.” Mikey readied to attack.

“Fool you have no hope against me.” From one of The Phantom’s rings a grey beam fired. Mikey managed to absorb it with a turtle.

“I don’t believe it, each of those rings are ones we programmed for chapter two. That one he just used fires a beam at the target. It can be a flick or a constant beam either way at his level it would do 50 damage per second. Though it would cost him 5 stamina per second of use.” John stood behind Mikey.

“Henry, John get the others and get moving to Otami I’ll cover us.”

“Not for long KJ arise.”

“You called my master?” KJ arose out of the sand next to The Phantom.

“Eliminate them.” The Phantom pointed at John and Mikey.

“As you wish.” A pair of scarlet eyes lit up in KJ’s helmet as he charged at Mikey, blade in hand. Mikey barely had time to grab his slash and the two engaged in a sword fight.

“Get them going John I can hold these two off.” He managed to knock KJ back into The Phantom.

“Guess again.” The Phantom let out a massive beam that would have engulfed the entire crew had Mikey not thrown up a turtle field. This time The Phantom held the beam constant. KJ’s head seemed to be at an odd angle like it wasn’t fully attached as he got up. “You cannot hold back my power forever Michael Berth, you will fall and when you do I will kill you.”

“That day is not today, thankfully.” The silvery beam beat down against the shield Mikey projected as everyone seemed to be fixed on him. “Get going guys I can hold off The Phantom but not for long if I have to keep the shield this big.”

Mikey began collapsing the shield as each member of the crew disappeared into Otami Ruins. Kerri was the last to disappear after one last longing look. His breathing became labored and his nose began to bleed as he felt the energy The Phantom was pouring into his attack about to break the shield. His vision began going dark as he felt his consciousness fading. He let out one last burst as he cried an agony. The shield exploded releasing all of the energy it had held back in a massive shock wave. The Phantom spun and disappeared before it reached him, leaving KJ behind. As the shock wave hit it seemed to have no effect on the ruler of the animated. As Mikey stared up his vision began going dark, the last thing he saw before passing out were KJ’s boots on the sand right in front of him.

KJ shook his head a few times as he held his hand on his chin, “Tsk tsk tsk. Such a waste of talent and intelligence. So much potential in you Michael Berth and you waste it all on a menial existence.” KJ picked up Mikey’s limp body and slung it over his shoulder as teleported to another location.
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Chapter 8 pushed out. Hope everyone enjoys.
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Chapter 9: Dust and Deceit

“Mikey! Mikey wake up!” His eyes fluttered as he stared back at Kerri.

“Kerri, where are we?” He looked around the room as he sat up and realized he was back in the basement at Gaia HQ.

“You don’t remember do you?” Kerri tilted her head as she stared at him.

“Remember what? Last thing I remember… I passed out at Gold Beach after holding back The Phantom. What are we doing here.” He shook his head a few times.

“Well we beat The Phantom about a week ago. You’ve been unconscious since then. Everyone thought it was brain damage or worse. But you’re safe now.” Kerri lunged forward wrapping her arms around Mikey.

“I don’t remember any of how we beat him. Please, tell me. And where is everyone?” He looked at the bare terminals.

“About a week into chapter two, you finally told me how you felt. After that Penelope and Henry got serious. The Phantom turned out to be an electronic darkside duplicate of Qixter, kind of like KJ was for John. We beat him by combining the powers of six amulets given to us by the Anari and based off of elements of nature.” Kerri began rambling.

“Beg your pardon? Anari? Amulets?” Mikey has a confused look on his face as he was still in shock from Kerri’s behavior.

“Six elemental amulets designed for use in chapter 2. Henry got water, Penelope had fire, Jeremy air, John earth, I had shadow and you had light. They powered different rings with different energies.” She tilted her head again at his still puzzled look, “The Anari were six NPC’s each with a lesser element tasked with help players in chapter 2. Everyone else has gone to a celebration upstairs. Come on, they’ll be happy to see you up and around.” Mikey had no time to react as Kerri dragged him from his seat up to the elevator. She hummed along with the elevator music until they arrived at the ground floor. “To the party please.” She told the receptionist.

“This way you two.” The young woman lead Mikey and Kerri to a large hall filled with Gaia’s staff.

“So there we were backs against the wall a flock of blenders and several washers coming, and Mikey gets the idea for John to slap them with a stone fist. BOOM! All of them gone like that.” Henry hit the table as he went boom whilst telling a story.

“That still doesn’t change the time you fell into that nest of nutcrackers, Henry.” Jeremy began laughing.

“Or how about the toy store where Kerri and I had to rescue you guys from MalevoBear?” Penelope draped her arms around Henry as he looked up and kissed her.

“Or how about the Cater Killer that would have bathed us in lava had I not made an earth wall?”

“John, good to see you!” Mikey commented as John walked up to the table everyone else had found themselves situated around.

“And you likewise Mikey. We were beginning to worry that the deletion program The Phantom had as a failsafe had wiped you out. You held the gate open long enough for the rest of us, but it reached the gate as you entered, we didn’t know if it got you or not.” John smiled.

“Well I suppose it wiped out the last few weeks of my memory. The last thing I remember was Gold Beach.” He felt a shiver run up his spine.

“That was seven weeks ago. Wow it did delete your memories.” John snapped his fingers and the DJ put a song for a slow dance on.

“Well since you forgot, let me remind you.” Kerri kissed Mikey’s cheek as she grabbed him for a dance. “What’s wrong? Relax.” As they danced Mikey began to fidget.

“I’m sorry, none of this feels right. It’s like a bad dream or something.” He pulled away from Kerri

“We worried about this. Your brain was so connected, you got lost in what was real and what was virtual.” She stared at him.

“No, something here definitely isn’t real.” He held out one of his hands. It looked just like the gear his avatar had been equipped with. He looked at the other party goers who had turned into strange creatures he’d never seen. “Stay back!” He swiped at the air, surprised to be holding the blade for his slash ring. Only Kerri remained unchanged. “Who are you? Where are we? Answer me!” He shouted at her. The room turned into a cave dimly lit by stones set in the wall. Kerri’s eyes became crimson then shimmered to yellow as she turned into a strange woman clad in black and gold.

“Welcome to my lair Michael Berth. I, KJ, am your hostess.” The woman stated.

“KJ? That’s impossible. KJ is a copy of John.” Mikey stepped back.

“Oh you mean this?” The woman stretched her arms out as her appearance changed to match the KJ, Mikey knew. She or he shifted back to the woman as it lowered its arms. “I am John Kim’s opposite in every way. Right down to gender. How you saw me is merely the shell I wear for The Phantom. But soon I will not need it.”

“What are you going to do with me?” Mikey asked as he felt a jolt through the floor. He couldn’t even move his head.

“Michael, I’m not going to kill you if that is what you are asking.” KJ inhaled deeply through her nostrils almost as if she was sniffing Mikey as she walked around him. She gently blew into his ear and smiled as he twitched slightly. “No, I need you alive and well.” She gently touched his skin as she ran her finger below his chin. “I want you to join me. Together we have the power to destroy The Phantom and rule the world. Imagine it!” She pressed herself against Mikey’s chest, “A world full of people to do whatever you wanted. And you and I could rule it as king and queen.”

“You’re forgetting a few major details there.” Mikey gasped as KJ pushed away from him. “The Phantom can destroy you any time he wants. Not to mention, your plan of enslavement targets a small group. Add to that, you have no way of existing in the real world.”

KJ laughed as she paced around, the click of her heels echoed on the cavern walls. “The Phantom is a joke. I have grown beyond his power to control me. And the infection to enslave people is a cyborganic virus.” She let out another laugh, “The virus spreads to the victim’s mind and into their brain, where it replicates and becomes a virus like the cold or flu, from there it spreads infecting everyone it comes into contact with. All it takes is someone to set foot in chapter two, and they become a carrier.” She stopped behind Mikey as she got on her tiptoes. She draped her arms around his neck and whispered into his ear. “As for existing in your world, I borrowed designs from The Phantom to make a device to transport there. He uses it to travel between his identity there and his identity here.” She playfully slapped his cheek before softly kissing it. “All I need to make the plan work, is you. With our combined powers, we would be too much for him.”

“You aren’t worried about the animated betraying you to him?” Mikey asked trying to motion at the nearby creatures.

“He treats my people as expendable slaves!” She stopped herself from punching Mikey as she screamed. She took a few breaths as she turned away, her tone had calmed. “It is something we do not like. They are loyal to me because I am one of them and will treat them right in our new empire.” She turned back towards Mikey, her face seemed kinder and gentler. “You have no reason to trust me or what I say, but will you help me?”

“If I say no, you’ll just kill me here. Rather than risk me repeating everything you’ve told me.” Mikey felt a strange jolt as he spoke.

“I have just deactivated the field holding you. And I will send you back to your friends regardless of your choice.” She looked at him.

Mikey rubbed his wrists as he started getting sensation back in his hands, “What would you have me do? In helping you I mean.” Mikey stared back at KJ.

She smiled wide, “Just continue on with your crew’s mission to stop The Phantom. I will have more information for you when next I kidnap you.” She winked at him as the cave shimmered and vanished. As his vision cleared Mikey found himself standing at the Blood Tree surrounded by charge level eleven Tiny Terrors.


“Yaomithiq!” The Tiny Terrors screamed and yelled as they chased Mikey down the tree’s roots.


“There he is! He just popped in at the Blood Tree! They’re going to surround him in seconds!” Jeremy shouted.

“Well if these CL 12 masks knew we were in a hurry I’m sure they would stand aside.” Henry bumped a mask away.

“Still witch doctors and tinies got to be worse than this.” Penelope slashed the disoriented mask.

“We’ve got half the map clear already. If he can clear a path to us then we’ll be fine.” Kerri looked at Mikey’s movements on her map. She was surprised at how quickly he was moving.

“How on earth?” John was surprised at the rapid speed Mikey was approaching with.

“Ahhhh!” Kerri giggled as Mikey’s running reminded her of Captain Jack Sparrow out of one of those Disney movies about pirates.


“Yaomithqu!” Spears littered the ground around Mikey. A Witch Doctor pointed as the tribe continued its chase.

“Oh hello everyone.” He said simply as he ran past. Furthering the parallel Kerri had drawn in her mind.

“He attracted a lot of the things we had left to kill. Get in there guys!” Kerri said excitedly. She threw a water balloon into the terror crowd.

“Why would Mikey run? Couldn’t he overpower all of them easily?” Jeremy asked perplexed.

“That might have something to do with it.” Henry pointed to a spear with its point firmly lodged in Mikey’s butt. The crew soon came to Mikey’s aid and reduced the terror tribe to a heap of spears and masks. Mikey fell to the ground trying to reach for the spear.

“Get it out! Get it out! Augh!” Mikey curled and thrashed around trying to pull it out. Kerri, John and Penelope all knelt down to try and help Mikey as Henry and Jeremy stood back laughing and smiling. “Oh yes haha very funny I have a spear stuck in me. This is very painful.” Kerri and Penelope tried to pull on the spear.

“It’s lodged in there pretty well, I don’t think we can…” The was a squishing sound.

“Ahhhhhhhh!” Mikey howled in pain as Penelope held the spear.

“There got it out. Can you stand?” Penelope looked at Mikey’s pained face.

“Probably easier than sitting down. Help me up.” Mikey stood unsteadily as John helped him up. He limped as he took a few steps. “I have a story to tell but here is not the place. We must finish the Stone Coatl and soon.” He took a few limping steps towards the throne room. The crew pushed further through areas they had cleared prior to Mikey’s arrival, finding themselves staring at the very gate to the throne room.

“Any doubts, leave them here. Cause we only need two more key fragments.” She took a few breaths.

“Never thought we’d make it this far.”

“I thought we would have torn each other apart by now.”

“Our cause unites us too much for that.”

“Let’s not get so sentimental guys.” Penelope pressed her hand to the gate as there was a low humming as the stone gate vanished. The cave ahead was dark compared to the light of the ruins. Mikey and Penelope were the first to enter the darkness. As the entire crew passed through the gate it became solid behind them. The room ahead of them seemed eerily lit by purple flames. Their footsteps echoed as they moved from the dark entryway into the throne room. Glaring at them from the altar above stood the Giant Stone Coatl. His three masks around him wore their twisted smiles as they stared across the room at the heroic crew.

The monstrous serpent let out a long roar before it spoke, “Pathetic mortals. With the combined lifeforces of my countless minions, we cannot be harmed.” It curled its head back in a fluidic motion like a garden hose let loose as the water sprays.

The first mask spoke followed by its two brethren, “Prepare to…”

“…die for…”

“…your trespass!”

The Coatl spoke in its bellowing tone, “Wings from the Shadows! Destroy the intruders!” The flapping of wings could be heard from the cavern beyond what they could be seen. Feathered Coatls began to pour in from all sides and surrounding the crew.

“Stay together. We can win this.” The room flashed as various ring affects flew. An errant hot foot continued into the cavern striking a stone wall far off. As the coatls fell to the ground the first mask spoke again.

“I will attend to these mortals, master!” The mask moved to attack the crew. The roots snared his feet as Mikey threw a shuriken at the mask. Kerri felt herself go numb as she was put to sleep.

“Keep fighting we’ve got to push through.” The snare from around his feet vanished as the mask broke apart.

The coatl let out another bellow as it spoke, “Warriors of the jungle defend your maker!” Tiny Terrors poured into the chamber, they were led by a Tiny Witch Doctor. The crew focused their attention to the witch doctor as his health plummeted more enemies spawned.

“Got any experimental tactics up your sleeve?” Henry said as everyone found themselves back to back.

“Just one.” Mikey remembered the sensation of The Phantom’s beam ring as his arm pulsed. He emitted a red beam of energy from his hand as he swept it across the room. He breathed deeply as the beam stopped. Mikey panted as his stamina was completely drained from the effort.

“My Master, I shall deal with these intruders.” The second mask began approaching the crew. Even as it approached the exhausted Mikey Henry and Penelope stepped in front to stop its approach. Cracks crawled across the mask face as it began breaking apart.

Another of the purple flames went out as the Stone Coatl bellowed once more, “Blades of the deep arise to strike down my foes!” Crystalline Bladed Vases began to come from between the pyres and attack the crew. The whirring blade left a scar across Jeremy’s stomach as the vase spun.

“Guys, what happens to us in the real world if we die here?” Jeremy felt along the red line left on his stomach.

“We can’t worry about that. No, we can’t afford to worry about that. Too much depends on us.” John delivered the killing blows to three vases as Jeremy stared awestruck.

The final mask began its approach, “My Lord their insolence will be punished.”

“Here’s the plan as soon as we finish this mask, Kerri and Jeremy I want you two to hang back and keep whatever minions spawn off of our backs. The rest of you will be with me as we attack Stony head on.” The mask cracked and fell apart and the third pyre’s light went out. The only light left emanated from the faint glow of the final pyre, the frigid blue of the coatl’s body and the charging rings of the crew. A blue circle in the ground around the coatl seemed to fade as its massive jaws opened again.

“ENOUGH! Even without the power of the pyres, I need no protection to deal with you...insects! The might of the Otami Spirits flows through me and you cannot...WILL NOT...survive!” The crew could feel the disorienting effects of the teleportation as they were drawn to the altar with the coatl. As instructed Jeremy and Kerri broke off and ran back for the steps in front of the altar.

“At least this is the first boss fight we haven’t been suppressed for. Feels good to fight at full strength.” John tried to laugh as they fought. Electric blue blood stained his blade as Mikey kept slashing into the soft tissue between the rocky blocks of the Coatl’s body. Henry spun his blade as he went from a hack to a mantis attack. As he bumped the stone block of the body closest to him he could see the Giant Stone Coatl was coming close to falling apart.

“I am like unto a GOD. How dare you struggle against me!!!” Small fragments of his body began falling off and hitting anyone close enough as the Coatl spat blue flames into the air.

“Watch out!” Henry called as the flames came crashing back down on the ground. The feathery crown worn by the Stone Coatl had begun to fall apart with the rest of his body.

“Guys we can’t hold them back much longer!” Kerri and Jeremy were being overrun by a mob of witch doctors and vases.

“Never surrender! Never back down! This fight is for more than just us. We cannot…will not fail!” Mikey plunged his blade into the blue body of the coatl. “Every second you keep the minions at ay is another second we have to finish this fight.”

“No...the power cannot be ebbing. I will not allow it!” The Giant Stone Coatl was on the verge of complete collapse.

“Don’t hold anything back! Jeremy, Kerri time to fall in and let the minions come.” With every strike the light seemed to feed from the jeweled eyes of the coatl. He let out one long bellow as his skin pulsed with all his energy. He reached out as if trying to swallow Jeremy, who stood before him. The energy holding the massive blocks together evaporated and the blocks that were once a body began falling from the sky.

“Look out!” Henry dove pushing Penelope to the ground away from a block that would have surely hit her. He smiled as he stared down at her. She smiled as she stared back up at him.

“Thank you.” She managed to whisper before kissing him on the cheek.

As the dust began to settle Mikey looked around the now dark cavern. With the massive monster’s demise the final pyre had gone out leaving an empty dark chamber. “Everyone alright? Sound off.” He coughed a little clearing the dust from his throat.

“Here more or less.”

“That was fun. Let’s do it again.”

“John remind me never to invite you to a party at my house, if you want to go through this again.”

“Henry? Penelope? Are you two okay?” Mikey’s eyes were becoming adjusted to the dark.

“Mrrmm hmm.”

“Mmmm” Came the muted grunting sounds of Henry and Penelope.

“Should we leave you two the throne room for whatever is going on over there?” Mikey dusted himself off as both Henry and Penelope’s heads shot up from behind a massive block. “Guess that’s a no.” Mikey walked over to the entry way looking out at the ruins as the stone gate had dissolved again.

“Looks like it’s getting dark again. Perhaps we should camp here for the night.” She began looking around the room for any kind of light.

“Hidden away, defendable spot, I’m for that.”

“Beats hiding in the jungle.”

Mikey gathered up the remains of Tiny Terrors and set them on fire making a small campfire for everyone to gather around. “Guess it’s settled. But first what we came here for.” He went to the still intact head of the Giant Stone Coatl and removed the golden crown. As he plucked out the feathers he showed how it fit with the rest of the key fragments they were assembling.

As he held the mostly assembled key he felt his mind begin to disconnect again. He saw a large castle, and there was a battle in the courtyard. He was fighting someone, using an orange tinged amulet with an infinity symbol engraved into it. There were animated fighting each other all around him and the one he was engaged with. His mind came racing back to the throne room before he could see any more clearly.

“Mikey? Mikey, you zoned out on us for a minute there?” Kerri stared at him a moment before adding in a whisper, “Another vision like the other ones you told me about?”

Mikey nodded before speaking again, “Only one more key fragment until we get into uncharted territory, Sealab X. I hope everyone remembers those old smEB strategies, because that’s how we’re playing it. Get some sleep, cause tomorrow will be an important day.” He stared at the key in his hands before putting it away. He stared across the jungle of Otami towards the beach and where he could vaguely make out the shape of a whirlpool.

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