Actions

Work Header

Forces

Chapter Text

Forces Prologue I

*

Suggested Theme:

Main Theme- Paint It Black by The Rolling Stones

*

            “Chaotic Crisis” is what Kaz would later call his dream. Or is it a prophecy since he is damn certain that it will come true? Either way, it begins with Tom calling him from the PortCourt. Kaz groggily wipes his eyes and sees Tom that is freaking out like he has to babysit his baby cousins again. Yet, this time there is nothing but pure terror on Tom’s face and he rapidly tells Kaz that Chaotic is under attack. Then, Kughar attacks Tom and the transmission cuts out.

Kaz ports to Chaotic. Everything—the bots, the Dromes, the foliage—is razed by the invading Creatures. The smoke coming from the main Drome makes Kaz run inside to find Tom. Instead, he finds Peyton, who sustained some sort of head trauma, under a table. Kaz flips over the table thanks to the adrenaline coursing through his veins. Peyton dazedly explains which Tribes decided to show up first, but Kaz only cares about if he has seen Tom. Peyton doesn’t remember Tom, so Kaz tells him to port him and he does. Kaz is able to find Tom, but his best friend is charging with the OverWorlders. He calls for Tom, but Chaor and his UnderWorlders interrupt him.

Chaor grills him about his loyalty before he and the rest of the UnderWorlders are pelted in the back by Iron Balls. The Danians show up and Sarah is fighting with them; he cannot tell if she’s infected with a parasite or just plain insane. Through a rebounding onslaught by the UnderWorlders, the Danians are sent packing, while Kaz is forced to listen to Chaor’s plan to getting to Earth. He notices that Ulmar’s tridimensional wormhole generator looks similar to his “failed” science project. In the end, Chaor makes it crystal clear that Kaz has to work for him.

Then, the Danians return for another attack, and Chaor uncharacteristically defends Kaz from an attack. Or maybe Chaor just did it to protect his advisor? The generator malfunctions and sucks up all of the Danians along with Chaotic Sarah. Fire surrounds Kaz like he is being prepared to burn on his pyre. Chaor—with the flames accenting his demonic appearance—orders Kaz to kill his best friend. Kaz runs to find Tom and……he’s not sure what he’ll do. He just wants to warn his best friend and save him. But Tom returns to Earth, and Kaz has to face the murderous glints in Maxxor’s and Intress’s eyes. He returns home before the OverWorlders could kill him.

Paris is invaded by the Danians like giant ants in an old, B-rated horror movie. He goes to Tom who plays dumb like he doesn’t know that the Earth is being invaded. Tom locks him up, calls him a traitor, grabs a Liquilizer from his coat rack, and heads back to the school. Kaz kicks down the closet doors and runs to the school, but Chaor appears from a wormhole and starts burning cars. Then, Maxxor appears from a wormhole. A fight ensues between the archenemies.

Peyton appears out of a wormhole and makes an uncomfortable joke. Both of them run to the school and are nearly stopped by Mr. McGrutter. Peyton makes a comment on how the out-of-shaped teacher seems familiar, but Kaz insists that they find Tom. Tom is in the auditorium and grabs his Liquilizer. Once again, Tom calls him a traitor and then promises that he’ll freeze Kaz and bring him to Maxxor. Peyton saves Kaz by pointing out that Mr. McGrutter is the traitor. A siren goes off and they go to the windows to see Mr. McGrutter and Chaor. Tom finally realizes that Kaz isn’t the traitor and then promises that the OverWorlders will wipe out the UnderWorld Tribe for good.

The UnderWorlders take on the military and win for the most part. Then, a final showdown ensues between Chaor and Maxxor; it is revealed to Tom that Maxxor wants to conquer Earth for the OverWorlders. Maxxor loses the fight after Chaor uses Song of Fury Mugic and throws a tank at him. Kaz confidently tells Chaor that he won’t allow this invasion and tries to send him back, but Mr. McGrutter grabs his Scanner and throws it to Chaor. His Scanner is then crushed like a skull by the UnderWorld Lord.

The military comes back and uses electricity to harm Chaor. Kaz shields Chaor from his death blow. He then tells Tom to plug in his Scanner to send the Creatures home. While he lay dying, Kaz pours out his admiration for Chaor and hopes that the red gargoyle lead his Tribe to victory in Perim. The Creatures vanish. Kaz is revered as a hero by everyone who didn’t give a shit about him. The popular girl that he likes admits she secretly likes him.

And-

*

He wakes up with sweat like he has waken from a century sleep of nightmares. His heart is beating fast and rapidly like there are two hearts in him. It was a dream, but, no, it isn’t just a dream. It’s more than that. Far more than that. He knows it in his gut that his dream will come true. But, nothing has happened. Tom didn’t call him about Chaotic being invaded like in the dream. Would reality actually play out his dream perfectly? No, realistically, it would take time for his project to be of any use to Chaor. Ulmar is a mad genius, but Chaor would demand perfection when it comes to screwing with wormholes. With that time, Chaor will prepare his army for the invasion.

Yet, this all depends if Mr. McGrutter would betray Earth to get his own country. Kaz remembers that his project is still in the auditorium along with his blueprints. He knows that Mr. McGrutter gave him an “F” for fraud, but he still has Kaz’s blueprints. Mr. McGrutter is the kind of teacher that doesn’t believe in further assessing a student’s work in order to give them some credit. Once he gives out the grade, there is no way that the teacher will change it.

He runs back to school. School doesn’t close until eight, so Kaz can still catch Mr. McGrutter in his classroom. Mr. McGrutter is hunched over a detailed blueprint. Kaz knows that he is the only one who actually bothered to make blueprints for his project, while everyone else just made crappy volcanoes. Except, Tom is the only one who made an edible volcano and got full credit, even though he got a “D” for delicious.

“Mr. McGrutter, why are you looking at my blueprint? I thought I failed.” Kaz resists the urge to pant after running to the school in a span of ten minutes. He made two blueprints. One for Mr. McGrutter as his own personal copy and one attached to his project. Mr. McGrutter took both blueprints after he failed Kaz. There should be two, but there is only one. Mr. McGrutter looks up at Kaz. The man does not seem annoyed like he normally would be when students come unannounced to his classroom during his office hours. There’s a twinkle in his eyes like he’s barely containing his excitement.

“Oh, Kaz, I was just seeing if I could give you some extra credit. I cooled down after you left and re-evaluated your project. You put a lot of work into it and it’s not a volcano like your other classmates.” Mr. McGrutter’s face breaks out in a smile. He’s as happy as a farmer looking at his prize-winning pig. Kaz smiles too like he buys into the greasy teacher’s lies.

“Thanks, Mr. McGrutter, so when can I have my project back? I would like my blueprints back for sentimental purposes.” Players can bring stuff into Chaotic, but they cannot bring anything out of Chaotic except for memories. Players know that they have to make sure their pockets don’t have their keys, IDs, or cellphones, or else they’ll be unable to bring them back from Chaotic. Also, items found in Perim or brought into Perim, stay in Perim.

“Considering how complex and detailed your blueprints are, it may take me a few weeks to properly assess your work.” In other words, Mr. McGrutter isn’t going to return his blueprints ever. Kaz nods like he understands and leaves. He’ll let Mr. McGrutter continue to believe that no one knows about his future treachery. He’ll have some time to prepare for the upcoming invasion.

He hopes Tom will believe him. If not, then……..he hopes for the sake of their friendship he does. The least he can do is save his best friend when their world comes to an end.

*

Chapter Text

Forces Prologue II

*

Suggested Theme:

Main Theme- Vampire Smile by Kyla La Grange

*

            His dreams are only about the invasion of Creatures. Of watching Chaotic burn. Of Chaor conquering the Earth. Kaz is lucky to get even five hours of sleep a night. His respite for these awful nights are preparing for the oncoming invasion. And, perhaps as a consolation gift from the Cothica, Kaz is granted superhuman clarity for these next few weeks.

*

His two selves, Earth and Chaotic, are very busy. His Chaotic-self is trying to gather as much intelligence as possible, while his Earth-self is getting survival stuff like a zombie apocalypse enthusiast. Both selves try their hardest to make Tom believe that the invasion is coming, but they fail both of the selves of their best friend.

*

Chaotic Kaz, the night after he received those invasive dreams, decides to warn his friends. Tom is his best friend; it has been that way since they met each other in second grade. Peyton is a very good friend; he could almost consider the laidback boy his second best friend. Sarah is a friend; she’s more Tom’s friend than Kaz’s, but he considers her his third best friend. Altogether, he considers these three people as his best friends in the whole world, which is why he’s willing to sound like a paranoid schizoid in hopes that they believe him.

“I had this dream that Chaotic was invaded by Creatures thanks to my science project. Mr. McGrutter betrayed us to get his own country. Chaor invaded Chaotic with a functioning tridimensional wormhole generator. I know he has my blueprints and is working on invasion plans. His goal is to conquer Earth.” He unloads all of this information on them. A part of him hopes that they will believe him immediately. They will be able to team up and try to prevent the invasion. Or at least prepare for the worst together. However, with his cruel clarity, they just raise their eyebrows like he is speaking nonsense.

“Do you have any proof?” Tom asked with the skepticism of a CodeMaster. Kaz bows his haggard head like a dying animal. He did try to get some evidence earlier by going to Ulmar’s lab, but some Igor-looking thing chased him away. Ulmar’s lab “assistant” promised that he’ll throw Kaz into the Lava Pond if he ever came back.

“Maybe, you need to sleep some more, Kazzer.” Peyton nonchalantly said, completely unaware by how his indifference is hurting Kaz’s idealism. It’s just a joke to him. Everything is a joke to him, Kaz thought bitterly.

“Yeah, you look awful.” Sarah bluntly pointed out. He is tempted to chew her out. He is tempted to scream at them that he is being serious. But he does none of those things. He has warned them, so they won’t be completely clueless when the invasion happens. He decides to crack a worn smile at them and lies that he was kidding. They are content now and return to watching the screens with matches playing on them. Kaz tries to enjoy this moment, all of the moments with his friends, because he knows that it will end in another few weeks.

*

Earth Kaz, once school is over, goes to Tom’s house. They are playing “Kingdom Hearts II” and reach the awful, Atlantica-singing level; Kaz decides to convince Tom that the invasion is going to happen. This time Kaz does not sum up his dream. He tells Tom all of the details. He tells him how the Dromes were on fire. He tells him of Creatures attacking players like savages. He tells him how Maxxor is just as greedy as Chaor. Unfortunately, the last part of his admission causes Tom to scoff and disregard Kaz’s words just like in Chaotic.

“Kaz, I think you’re sick. I mean you look really pale and sweaty. You should head home and take some Tylenol for that fever you must have.” Again, Kaz fails. Like before, he doesn’t press his case. It would only upset Tom like back in the days when Chaotic was just a card game and not a real place. He decides to go home and mumbles a lie that he’s sick. He goes down the creaky steps and nearly collides with Tom’s dad.

“Hey, Kaz, how’s school?” Mr. Majors asked. Tom got most of his looks from his dad. However, Mr. Majors’s face is more weathered and darker than Tom’s will ever be. He is an archaeologist that loves to conduct his excavations near the equator. His black hair is peppered with silver, which makes him appear a decade older than he is. His kelp-green eyes are swimming with mirth like he’s about to embark on another excavation soon.

“Mr. Majors, I really need to speak to you. In private.” Kaz’s instincts tell him that Mr. Majors will listen to him. This man has gone after lost cities that could only exist in myths; he is required to be open-minded. He is also a parent. Parents, at least loving ones, would do anything to protect their child, especially if it involves an invasion of Creatures from another dimension.

“Okay, Kaz, let’s head into my office.” Kaz has only been in Mr. Majors’s office before when Tom first gave him the tour of the house. Nothing has drastically changed about the office. The walls are as brown as the exterior of the house. The faux-pine floor still squeaks like the stairs when Kaz steps on them. The massive, stone desk is still firmly rooted in its spot; Tom once told him that the desk is the only remnant of a lost civilization. It will probably be there till the end of time. Or until Creatures decide to ruin Tom’s house. Mr. Majors closes and locks the door to ensure that no one can come barging in. Also, it signals to Tom that his dad is in some important conference call and to not disturb him.

“Now, you can tell me what’s got your brilliant mind frazzled.” Mr. Majors isn’t being nonchalant with him like Tom was. He is staring into his eyes and is ready to listen to anything that Kaz has to say. Kaz wishes that Tom inherited his listening skills from his dad.

“I have to start at the very beginning for you to comprehend completely…” Then, Kaz tells of the world of Chaotic. How winning enough matches can give you a code to send a part of you to another world. How Creatures are real and they live in warring, four Tribes. Throughout his explanation, Mr. Majors would ask questions pertaining to the cultures and customs of those in Perim. Not once did Mr. Majors look at him like he was a weirdo. It is refreshing and he will cherish this moment like his time with his friends.

“………..And I am certain that Chaor has the blueprints to my invention. He most likely has Ulmar working on it right now. Mr. McGrutter claimed that he needed a few weeks, most likely three, before he could ‘return’ my blueprints. I can’t stop him. I’ve tried to tell the CodeMasters, but the robots won’t even bother with my claim if I don’t have any proof. The problem is I don’t have any, but I know it will happen. Earth is going to be invaded. Please, give me your honest opinion.” It has taken exactly an hour and a half for Kaz to finally make his point.

“Kaz, I believe you. You wouldn’t tell me all of this unless you are certain. You aren’t the kind to make up stuff on the spot. You’re not a very creative liar, or even good at writing a story. I know Tom isn’t going to believe you until it happens. He inherited his mother’s stub-logical disposition.” Kaz snorts at Mr. Majors’s quick correction on the last part. Well, at least someone believes him.

It’s a good thing that Mr. Majors believes Kaz. Together, they gather supplies within the next three weeks. Mr. Majors has three backpacks that double as survival kits with essentials like bandages, canned food, and portable stoves. In the trunk of his car are more supplies like tents and sleeping bags. Kaz has his own survival kit, but most of his medicine deals with burns since there is a good chance that he’ll suffer some 1st degree burns.

Mr. Majors has to cancel his expedition because he wants to be here and ready to rescue his family when the invasion hits. He has to dip into his Christmas money to be able to purchase most of the supplies. He’s fine with spending thousands of dollars to ensure his family’s safety. He offered to pay for Kaz’s supply, but the fiery-haired youth refused it. He has his own secret stash from years of babysitting for Tom when his baby cousins were saddled on him. He didn’t buy any supplies for his mom. Kaz knows his mom won’t be back in town for another month, so at least she’ll be safe and far away when the invasion happens.

Mr. Majors hopes that the invasion doesn’t happen; if it doesn’t, then he just wasted his Christmas money. Kaz hopes for that too, but his dreams indicate otherwise. Mr. Majors is able to acquire Kaz some gunpowder. He didn’t ask what Kaz is going to use it for. But it is fairly obvious between the two of them. He’s using gunpowder to create homemade bombs. If he fails to return the Creatures back to Perim, then he’ll blow up Ulmar’s machine. That way no one has control of a device that powerful. Creature or human.

*

Chapter Text

Forces Prologue III

*

Suggested Theme:

Main Theme- Protectors of the Earth by Two Steps from Hell

*

            For the last time, Kaz goes to the UnderWorld. He does not know that this will be his last day in the UnderWorld, but he has a feeling that the invasion is going to take place in a few days’ time. He is wrong about the time; it actually takes place tomorrow afternoon. His power of clarity is waning now.

UnderWorld City is as lively as the dance of a man on fire. Kaz can see the merchants bustling around in their district, trying to sell metal scraps, stolen jewelry, or maps like normal. He sees families, some looking like mutated demons, walking and laughing to their homes. The cobblestone and poorly painted houses are still producing dreary smoke from their filthy chimneys. The sky is still its usual tinge of despair thanks to the sulfur and smog. It’s like nothing has changed and nothing will change. But it will, Kaz sadly knows this.

He walks on the cobblestone path with a hefty, green bag slung over his shoulder. He has just recently returned from a quest. Well, not a scan quest, but something that is as of equal importance. He has ported between the OverWorld and UnderWorld to gather the finest, most disgusting treats that he could find. He can feel the slime from the Dractyl scales dampening his back. All for H’earring.

H’earring’s home is tucked between two, ugly stone houses like a pebble between two boulders. The UnderWorld Scout’s home is two-stories and has a ramshackle balcony that probably has a nice view of the grimy streets below. Kaz knocks on the red door. It has been almost three weeks since Kaz last saw H’earring. He has been trying to get physical proof of the invasion.

After his failure to break into Ulmar’s lab, he tried to find evidence in Chaor’s castle. Unfortunately, he was unable to acquire any because Chaor wisely had guards in every room of his palace. He was barely able to port out in time before being burned by the firing squad. Then, he just started porting all over the UnderWorld for proof, but his curiosity and concern became unrewarded.

He is visiting H’earring for one last chance to prevent the invasion. To prove to his friends that an invasion will take place. To make the CodeMasters do something. However, if this goes as well as his precious endeavors, then he’ll have to rely on his bombs and survival kits to see him through the invasion. He wonders bitterly, as though he lost against SamShady again, if the CodeMasters will actually do something when the invasion happens. Or will they just continue their laissez-faire during the crisis and let the non-players and Creatures solve it?

H’earring opens the door and steps out. His blue eyes are downcast like he has a terrible duty to perform, but he’s not tugging on his ears in a nervous manner like he does when that’s the case. Kaz does his best not to show his disheartenment. He unstraps his bag from his back and opens it. H’earring’s eyes briefly flicker with hunger, but it goes out quicker than a whisper.

“Sorry, I haven’t been around in a couple weeks, but I brought all of your favorite treats!” Kaz is cruelly cheerful. He is well aware of this. He is also well aware that H’earring is involved with the upcoming invasion in some way. He hopes H’earring will provide him with information, any scrap will do at this point.

“Kaz……thank you.” If Kaz was like Tom, if he was a merciful person, then he would just leave. His presence, his kindness is obviously tormenting H’earring’s guilty conscious. But he’s on a quest, one last attempt, to save his planet. He is an Earthling with a mission, but H’earring is an UnderWorlder on a mission.

“Hey, H’earring, I’ve noticed that Ulmar’s lab and Chaor’s place have more security than usual. Is something going on?” Kaz is a terrible liar, but a “good” friend. H’earring knows this, but he doesn’t like how Kaz is putting him into a corner. He knows that the human, who brings him these wonderful treats, wants confirmation. H’earring cannot do this; it will be like sacrificing himself and he’s not an altruistic person. Neither is Kaz.

“Kaz, you need to go. Go home and never come back.” He isn’t referring to going back to Chaotic. No, he’s telling, begging, and warning Kaz that he needs to quit Chaotic and go back to Earth. But he doesn’t give a timestamp when the invasion will happen. He’s willing to help save his life, but not willing to save another species.

“Why?” He wants a confession from H’earring, but the UnderWorld Scout bites his green lips to keep silent. Kaz isn’t as fearsome as Chaor, but he can make H’earring paranoid like Chaor. H’earring is resisting the urge to scream in frustration. Doesn’t Kaz know that there are spies everywhere? Rarran is watching them from an alcove in his house. Doesn’t he understand that it’s too late? Far too late to stop it now.

“You’re not an UnderWorlder.” It is very clear to Kaz that H’earring isn’t going to say anymore. It’s funny, H’earring looks like a twig about to snap. Except he’s the kind of twig that doesn’t break after the first snap; you’ll have to tear the twig apart to fully break it. Kaz isn’t cruel, which goes against his planet’s survival.

“H’earring, I forgive you.” Because H’earring is not the one who came up with the invasion. He’s not the one that is going to lead the invasion. He’s a part of it, but he couldn’t say no. Chaor doesn’t accept disobedience. Both Kaz and H’earring are well aware of this.

Kaz uses his right hand to grasp his left wrist and raise his left hand. His left hand hangs limply as a corpse’s hand. He is performing the final salute from one of his favorite sci-fi shows, “Star Quest”, and it means: “This is the end and I shall never come back.” It is a gesture of love and friendship from a truly macabre show. H’earring presumes it’s an Earth gesture of goodbye. He simply closes the door in Kaz’s face.

“Didn’t even have the heart to take the bag.” Kaz quietly bleated. He ports back to Earth, leaving the bag by H’earring’s door. Again, Kaz’s hard work has yielded nothing. Absolutely nothing.

*

Chapter Text

Forces Chapter One

*

Suggested Theme:

Main Theme- Last Day of Magic by The Kills

*

            On February the 16th, at exactly 2:05 PM, Kaz decides it is time to bid farewell to his best friends. He believes that the invasion will happen soon, but not today. He has been with his friends all day today in the PortCourt, watching them in matches or watching other matches with them. They are on the ground floor of the PortCourt and only a flight of stairs away from the transport discs to Perim.

It is a “lazy day” for the group, as Peyton would say. However, the events of yesterday has made time, time with his friends, even more precious. He knows that his words will unnerve them; they might believe that he’s going to commit suicide, but he’ll assure them that he won’t. He’ll just tell them the truth again, which might earn him a laugh from Peyton, a glare from Sarah, and a dismissive look from Tom. Then, they’ll just return to watching matches and pretending that it never happened. Kaz is happy with that likely outcome.

“Hey, guys, I have something to tell you all.” Tom, Sarah, and Peyton stop watching the match in an instant. It isn’t like the match was all that interesting, but the look on Kaz’s face raises red flags in their minds. Kaz has the strangest smile on his face that the group, including Tom who has known Kaz longer than anyone here, has ever seen. The look is akin to someone who knows he is about to die.

“I just want to say that you guys are the best friends that I will ever have. I hope we’ll get to meet each other again, someday. We might be changed, for the worst, but I do hope we’re still friends in that far-flung future.” Every word out of his mouth makes him feel like they were going to be his last. His best friends look very, very concerned. He did not expect them to react this strongly. They look scared like he told them that he was going to blow his brains out back on Earth.

“Kaz, are yo-” Kaz isn’t sure who asked first. Tom, Sarah, and Peyton opened their mouths at the same time, but whoever asked first was unable to complete their question. At exactly 2:07 PM, Chaotic is invaded.

SWOOSH!

CRACK!

BOOM!

A violent, red wormhole of code tears apart the PortCourt. Tables, food, and even some players are flung into the air by the ferocious winds that the temporal shift generated. Their table flips over and pins them beneath, which causes them to miss a minute of the invasion. However, they may have missed seeing a minute, but they can certainly hear it. They can hear screams, all of them from players, and Creatures calling out their attacks.

The noise becomes earsplitting motivation for them to get the table off of them. They should’ve stayed under the table, if only to be spared the sight of bloodied corpses. As much mental preparation Kaz has undergone for the invasion, he could not help but vomit onto the floor. His dream did not prepare him for the death of others. Mercifully, his best friends share his same reaction. None of them has ever seen a dead body—especially not ones with horrified, last-minute-of-life expressions—in their lives, not even ones of Creatures. It was widely theorized that when a player dies; the player disintegrates into code like Creatures in Drome battles. The theory has now been debunked.

Drolly, Kaz notes that his vomit is almost the color of his shirt. That’s what he gets for eating Maxxoroni & Cheese. He doesn’t dare look at his friends’ vomit puddles; it might cause him to vomit again. He wipes away some spittle and focuses his mind. They need to get out of here now. But he doesn’t see their Scanners anywhere. Not even under the table.

“Shit! Our Scanners must be around here somewhere!” Kaz hears his voice crack like he was starting puberty again. He is trembling and sweating like he might faint or go into a seizure. His eyes dart around quicker than his heartbeats. The smoke and the deafening sounds from the Creatures’ attacks are preventing Kaz from locating the Scanners. He turns to ask if his best friends found them, but he notices that his friends aren’t even moving. They are frozen in place with stunned expressions and bits of vomit clinging to their pants. They watch as the Creatures destroy their world away from home.

“PEYTON! TOM! SARAH!” Kaz screams at them. Like a curse has been broken, they tremble and clutch their heads. Tom is breathing heavily like he’s having a panic attack. Sarah eyes dart around like she’s trying to find an exit. Peyton heaves as though he might vomit again.

“GUYS! We need to find our Scanners, port back to Earth, and tell everybody what’s going on! My dream has come true! The Creatures are going to invade Earth! We have to go!!” Kaz barks orders like a drill sergeant. He isn’t used to being a leader. He didn’t even bother to prepare himself for being a leader. But the situation calls for it since Tom is freaking out. If they weren’t in a hurry, Kaz would’ve smugly told them that he was right.

“I saw our Scanners in the air and hit the floor. I don’t think they broke, but they were scattered by all the running by players until they……I think mine went west. Peyton’s was to the east, while yours and Tom’s went upstairs. Somehow. I think they did, but this chaos makes me uncertain.” Thank the Cothica that Sarah paid attention, she still looks scared, but at least she has regained her wits. Tom is still out of it, while Peyton appears to sluggishly coming back to reality.

“Okay, Sarah, you find your Scanner and port out of here. Call me as soon as you return to Earth! I’ll help Peyton and Tom look for their Scanners since……they’re useless.” Sarah looks west and sees Danian Mandiblors blasting some UnderWorld soldiers. Kaz realizes that there is now way that Sarah can make it there unscathed. She can’t go by herself.

“Don’t worry, Kazzer, I’m good. I can find my Scanner on my own. So can Sar-bear.” Kaz’s face creases with worry lines. The corpses in the PortCourt probably thought the same before they were killed. There just humans against Creatures with powers that they can never hope to obtain. What chance do they have against these Creatures?

“Kaz, you just worry about finding your Scanner and getting out of here. Peyton and I can handle it ourselves. But Tom might need your help.” Sarah, Peyton, and Kaz share a smile that is supposed to be reassuring, but their eyes scream the exact opposite. Nevertheless, they depart. Sarah goes west, in the direction of feuding Danians and UnderWorlders. Peyton heads east where it was a graveyard of corpses and robots. Kaz tugs Tom along to the second floor where the essential transport discs are. Unfortunately for them, they are caught in a battle between UnderWorlders and OverWorlders. Like in his dream.

*

Kaz curses himself for following his dream’s route in this reality. He should’ve just discarded this route and waited for the battle to go out like a key shutting off the ignition. Instead, he’s at the heart of the ignition and the key is jammed inside. The PortCourt’s tiled floor bursts beneath their feet, but Tom refuses to react like a lifeless husk. Kaz wishes that Tom would just snap out of it and move by himself. But then Tom would probably go running to Maxxor and it could end with Tom accusing him of being a traitor. Or doing something else stupid when he wants to be the hero.

Their Scanners might be here, at least Sarah said so. But then again, they could be smashed into a million pieces by now. That’s very possible. And even if they do find their Scanners, will Tom be able to send himself back to Earth? Even with Kaz’s screaming and the flurry of war around them, Tom has yet to do anything other than letting Kaz drag him around. Kaz wonders if their roles would be reversed if he dismissed his dream like his friends originally did.

Kaz drags Tom down to the floor with him when Flame Orbs come toward their direction. Briefly, Kaz believed an UnderWorlder had orders from Chaor to attack them, but then he hears a sizzling sound like water turning fire into steam. The floor then rumbles like Chaor and Maxxor have finally meet. He figures that Maxxor must be using a Lavalanche attack.

More fire attacks meet water attacks above Kaz’s and Tom’s heads. They dare not move from their spot. Kaz hopes there’s a lull in the fight, but the rumbling keeps getting worse and the attacks are getting closer to their spot. If they move, then there’s a good chance that an attack will hit them. If it’s a water attack, they might get a broken bone from the pressure of the attack. If it’s a fire attack, then they could be burnt to a crisp. Kaz doesn’t want to break a leg or be burnt to death.

Kaz may not be able to get back up, but he can turn his head. To his right, he can see the UnderWorlders crowding around the transport discs like they were hoarding the Cothica. He can see Takinom, the yellow demoness in tarnished armor, barking orders from above. She launches an Inferno Gust to someone—most likely, Intress—and then dodges a Rip Tide attack. Kaz doesn’t see Ulmar or Chaor, so they might be at the farthest side of the room. Hopefully, far away from a transport disc.

Then, he swivels his head left and sees the OverWorlders. Intress is barking—or would it be hissing since she is a cat?—orders at some OverWorld soldiers while launching some water attacks. He does not see Najarin, so the old Muge might be helping out Maxxor against Chaor. Too bad, the old Muge probably could’ve used his Mugic to save their skins right now.

He hears the terrible whirling and ripping sounds that a distant wormhole is generating. The wormhole sounds like it’s on the second floor and in the direction that Sarah was in. Kaz hopes that Sarah was able to port home. Hopefully, she didn’t get sucked into the vortex or brainwashed by the Danians. Either way, Ulmar’s machine is still unstable, so there may be hope that the rest of the Creatures could be contained here.

There is a lull in the battle. It might be from the troops finally noticing the sounds of a distant wormhole. It might be from the ceasefire orders from Intress and Takinom. Kaz isn’t certain, but he takes the opportunity to get up from the ground and run. He fails to account the paranoia running on both sides and that wearing bright clothes (like his shirt, vest, and hair that happens to look like fire) makes him a prime target for paranoid soldiers.

What he also fails to take account for is how much of a dead weight Tom is. Getting him down to the floor was easy, but lifting him back up without any help is a strain on Kaz’s stressed body. Tom is like an anchor tethering Kaz to a fairly dangerous spot, which also allows the soldiers ample amount of time to aim.

Iron Balls in his dream just knocked the air out of his lungs; real Iron Balls are actually bruising and bone-breaking. Kaz screams as he hears his own kneecaps shatter; he crumples to the floor and the battle is reignited. He screams and screams from the agony being radiated from his broken bones. He’s pretty damn certain that most of the bones in his left arm are broken and the broken bits are sticking through his skin like a baby whose teeth are coming in.

He is a screaming, hysterical wreck now. There is no way he’ll find the Scanners. He can’t even breathe without his ribs cracking like the PortCourt’s foundation. He’s failed. There’s no way his Earth self will be able to do what needs to be done in time. He wishes he could just curl up into a ball, but his injuries can’t even allow him to exhale air without crying. He’s failed again.

“KAZ!!!” H’earring’s nasally, panicky screech cuts through Kaz’s scream fest. He stops screaming and lifts his head to see H’earring. The green, mutant-rabbit has two Scanners in his small hands. Kaz smiles briefly, hoping the Scanners were his and Tom’s.

“Oh, H’earring! Thank you….” His cracking ribs never cease to punish him for breathing more heavily. He wants to ask the scout where he got the Scanners, but his ribs would give him more pain. His right hand snatches one of the Scanners and he turns it around to see whose Scanner it is. The back is engraved with: MajorTom.

“Tom, please. I need you. Please, I need you!” Kaz cries into Tom’s ears. If his screams didn’t reach his best friend, would groveling work? Tom turns his head towards him. His glazed eyes shine again like he has regained consciousness; he coughs back into reality.

“Kaz? What? What the fuck happened to your arm!” Kaz laughs and cries. Tom is so lucky that Kaz’s body is in agony, or else Kaz would’ve bashed Tom’s head in with his own Scanner. He can feel H’earring duck on top of them to dodge another wave of Iron Balls. Kaz cries out from added pressure on his bruised body.

“Take the Scanner. Port home. I’ll follow. Listen to your dad. For once, just do what you’re told!” The words leave like bullets from his trembling lips, but they are clear enough for Tom to hear over the roar of battle. For once, Tom listens to Kaz and ports out. Kaz could laugh and cry again, but he needs to port out too.

“H’earring, my Scanner!” H’earring rolls off of Kaz’s body and to Kaz’s right side, much to the relief of Kaz’s aching body. Kaz uses his good, right arm to grasp his Scanner, but H’earring refuses to loosen his grip on the Scanner. The UnderWorld Scout looks directly into Kaz’s red-rimmed eyes.

“Chaor was the one who gave me the Scanners. I think he still has a use for you. So, Kaz, please run!” Again, H’earring is trying to save his friend, but not another species. Well, it’s not like he can save the human race at this point. Neither can Kaz. H’earring lets go of Kaz’s Scanner.

“Did you ever eat those treats I brought?” Kaz wants to end this on a joke, even if his lungs are against another wasted breath. H’earring smiles in a sad, small way like a funeral goer at a stranger’s funeral.

“No.” Kaz snorts and then winces. He would’ve responded with, “What a waste.” But his ribs and his messed-up, left arm is begging him to port out. H’earring’s watery eyes are also begging him to go. And he does.

*

It is exactly 2:47 PM when Chaotic Kaz returns to his Earth self. At 2:35 PM, his Earth self was released from school early when news of giant “ants” invading Paris broke out on every channel and on every social media platform. The school briefly told students to stay in their seats and to remain calm. However, the students knew that the world has come to an end, so why should they listen to the teachers? This isn’t like when terrorists attack civilians or some madman committing genocide. These are monsters, literal monsters, from another dimension invading their world like in the movies. And there is no deus-ex-machnia that humanity can pull out of its ass to save themselves. This will probably end with the planet nuking itself. So the students decided to run like Hell to their homes and have emotional breakdowns with their families.

Kaz did not see Tom when he ran home because they were in different classes at the time. Also, he was being aggressive and pushing people out of his way to make it back home. He spent the rest of the time gathering his bombs and watching the news while waiting for his Chaotic self to return. He found out what happened to Sarah at 2:45 PM; she is “with” the Danians and helping them conquer Paris. It was a blurry cellphone picture of her, but all the channels ran her picture on endless loop. Even with the awful quality of the picture, he could see that she has antennas now, which means the Danians did something more than brainwashing her.

Now, Kaz has all of his Chaotic memories and dry heaves in reaction. He collects himself to call his friends and see if they made it home, but there is a “stop sign” flashing on his Scanner. This normally happens to signal to the player that their Chaotic self is still in Chaotic and not ready to come back, which also prevents the player from accessing their online deck and other functions (like calling other players on Earth) are disabled. However, his Chaotic self is already back, so did the CodeMasters just disable the Scanners in order to prevent any players from returning and getting hurt? What’s the fucking point in this? Kaz snarled in his thoughts.

His Scanner is useless for an unforeseeable amount of time, but he still has his cellphone. He doesn’t know Peyton’s number and he knows Sarah is alive at least. He should call Tom because he should be at home and packing his things if he’s actually listening to his dad, but his mom hasn’t called him yet. Maybe his mom is in a state of a shock like Tom was back in Chaotic. She’s pretty fragile as it is, so she’s probably suffering some sort of breakdown. He dials his mom’s number and only gets her automated voicemail, so he decides to leave her a message.

“Hey, mom, if you haven’t figured out already, Chaotic is real! So no need to question my sanity under your breath anymore! Sorry, terrible time to be smug about this. Anyways, I’ll be going with Tom’s family pretty soon. Just got to take care of a few things first. So stay in Chicago. Don’t come back here to get me, I’ll get back to you. I promise. Also, I love you, mom.” Kaz was going to call Tom, but then he hears the same, terrible sounds of a wormhole opening like in the PortCourt.

SWOOSH!

CRACK!

BOOM!

Kaz breaks out into a cold sweat; in his guts, there is a feeling of dread for knowing what will likely happen next. The pragmatic thing to do is to call Tom and tell him that he needs a ride out of town. Then, he and his best friend can kiss Cinderella Village goodbye and let the Creatures tear it and each other apart. He can save himself, but then Ulmar will still have his machine and the UnderWorlders will win.

Kaz squeezes his cellphone like he wants to break it, but then silences his cellphone and tosses it on his loft bed along with his useless Scanner. His bombs are the size of cherry bombs but have the papery and wrinkly appearances of Bang Snaps. The bombs are made with a mixture of gunpowder and his homemade hair gel that keeps his hair gravity defying. Like Bang Snaps, once the bomb hits their target, they explode. However, one explosion wouldn’t even be enough to burn a hole through Ulmar’s machine; he will have to use all of his bombs to be able to destroy it. Unfortunately, he has only five bombs since he had to spend most of his gunpowder and hair gel for experimenting. He hopes that the five bombs will be enough to destroy the wormhole generator or sufficiently damage it.

He pockets the bombs and runs out of his house. Society hasn’t died since there isn’t any looting going on, but he sees many people driving faster than it is legally required. He can see his neighbors, many of them with kids and spouses, jamming most of their possessions in their cars and driving away while taking out their mailbox or ruining their lawn. He can still smell burnt rubber marking the pavement even after the cars have been long gone.

He runs to school because he figures it would be a good starting point. In his dream, Ulmar’s machine was literally in front of the school. At worst, he’ll just encounter Mr. McGrutter and will have the opportunity to beat the shit out of that greasy traitor. Or maybe he’ll let loose a bomb on him and watch the man burn for selling out his species and using Kaz’s hard work in doing so.

On his way to the school, he sees cracks in the tar-black roads being turned into jagged fissures; he has a feeling that he is getting pretty close to a battle between Creatures, most likely between UnderWorlders and OverWorlders if his dream is accurate. He hears metal on metal clashing along with the hissing sounds of fire meeting water. He hopes that the Creatures will be too busy killing each other to attack him.

His school looks like someone used a Viledriver to wreck it. The L-shaped building is on fire and the vertical part of the building is nothing more than smoldering rubble. During rough days at school, he would wish that the school would get destroyed along with most of the people in it. However, he hopes that no one is trapped inside the building. His heart beats violently at what he sees next.

Maybe by the divinity of the Cothica or by the cruelty of the universe, Ulmar’s machine and Mr. McGrutter are right in front of the school. Along with a small contingent of red-armored, UnderWorld soldiers standing a foot away from the evil pair. He has no idea why Ulmar would not be manning his invention, but his mind does not care about the mad scientist’s whereabouts at the moment. His mind, his soul, and perhaps his code are focused on Mr. McGrutter. His out-of-shape science teacher with the bad comb over is standing right beside the machine like he’s attached to the hip. There’s a snickering expression on his face like he is certain that he will get his country now. He does not see Kaz. More importantly, he does not see the flicker of bloodlust in Kaz’s pitiless eyes.

Again, by divinity or cruelty, the soldiers become enthralled with the battle between Maxxor and Chaor. The soldiers figure that this might be the battle in which the mighty OverWorld leader will finally fall. Kaz can hear the attacks being exchanged by the monoliths of power, but his attention is solely drawn to the machine and the traitor. He sees the guards’ attention are drawn to the clash, so Kaz dashes as fast as he could—in order to get closer to the machine while not being seen—and pulls out his bombs.

Mr. McGrutter sees him in that instant; he sees a blur of orange and red like Kid Flash. The traitor opens his mouth to alert the guards, but Kaz pitches his bombs right at the machine. Kaz believes that the bombs will just create a small fire hot enough to melt the machine and maybe burn Mr. McGrutter. He forgets to account that Ulmar is the one who built the machine and the Creature is known for using experimental, volatile materials.

BOOM!

Kaz watches as the machine and Mr. McGrutter are instantly consumed by hellish, red flames. The guards fall to the ground and clutch their helmets; Kaz can hear them screaming. He turns to run as fast as he can home. He only gets half a foot away before he is hit in the ass with fire. He doesn’t know if the fire attack came from a guard or some other Creature. The fire burns through his pants and sears his ass and upper thighs like a steak. He screams and falls to the ground; he can smell his own cooked flesh and hears the ominous stomping of Creatures coming to him. He’s crying uncontrollably from his burns and from the fact that he is about to die. Chaor definitely saw the explosion and probably ordered some of his troops to kill the perpetrator.

He feels claws dig into his back and flip him over, so his burnt ass and thighs are chaffed against the hot, tar road. He is flailing and screaming harder than before when he sees the Creatures that find him are the same guards that were caught in the explosion. He can see the red helmets are melted and warped around their face; their yellow eyes promise that they will flay Kaz alive with Whepcracks.

Then, like ants being burnt out of existence by a magnifying glass, the guards are burnt out of existence by blue fire. In his grateful, tear-stained view, a Creature clad like a dominatrix with pale features appears before him. She bends over and her face has a guarded expression like she considers this burnt, crying boy a possible threat. The ends of her white hair flicker with blue flames. Kaz finally realizes that the Creature is Skithia.

“Please, help me.” Kaz whimpered and croaked like a toddler who wanted his mother fix his booboo. He knows that he sounds pathetic and he has nothing to offer her. Hell, she might’ve seen him blow up her ticket home, so she might be here to inflict retribution.

She says nothing and cradles Kaz like he is a baby. Then, she runs faster than he ever thought she was capable of. Kaz nestles against her chest, feeling so overwhelmingly happy to be alive. He feels his mind finally going and folding due to the agony of his burns and from adrenaline crash. His last thought is a happy one. His loved ones are far from the fray. Mom is in Chicago. Sarah is in Paris. Peyton is…….somewhere safe. Tom is also somewhere safe too. They’ll be fine as long as they are far away. Far, far, far away from the end of their world.

*

Chapter Text

Forces Chapter Two

**

Suggested Theme:

Main Theme- Pyramid by Jason Webley

**

            On February 16th, at exactly 2:05 PM, Tom Majors is interrupted from watching a match between Skithia and Intress by his best friend. Ever since the science fair, Kaz has been awfully quiet. Actually, to be more precise, Kaz has been quiet since he told them about his dream where Creatures invaded Chaotic and Earth. On Earth, he has been more withdrawn than usual like he hasn’t forgiven Tom for not believing him. But normally when Kaz holds a grudge, he would be more snappish and cocky. So far, Kaz has been reserved and seemingly solemn.

“I just want to say that you guys are the best friends that I will ever have. I hope we’ll get to meet each other again, someday. We might be changed, for the worst, but I do hope we’re still friends in that far-flung future.” Immediately, Tom is inwardly panicking. Kaz sounds at peace with his words like a person enjoying the last day of life before suicide. Is Kaz going to kill himself? No, no way! Kaz has once told him that he would like to live forever if possible. So did something else happen? Is Kaz’s mom sick? Is she dying and he’s going to be sent away to live with evil people like the Baudelaire orphans? Tom opens his mouth to ask, but does not even get his words out when all Hell broke loose.

SWOOSH!

CRACK!

BOOM!

Tom sees red lightning and gale tear through the PortCourt. The winds flip over everyone’s plastic tables, causing some players to be pinned under. Tom’s body is pinned under the table, but his head is free. His eyes, blue and bright as a free sky, are open and bears witness to something that he never expected to see. Death.

Klay and Krystella were sitting at a table that was basically the focal point of the turbulence. Klay’s pink shades are skewed on his face and cracked worse than a dropped IPhone. His lanky chest rises like a sickly sunflower. Krystella’s hair-tie must’ve snapped because her brown hair is pooled under her like the murkiest of drinking water. Her red eyes are sluggishly looking at Tom like she’s just woken up. They are still alive.

Just not for long.

Dardemus appears from the focal point of winds and red lightning. His giant, green feet plunge into Klay’s chest like a yellow gourd. Instead of yellow flesh and seeds, blood and bone cake the green ogre’s feet. Klay did not get to scream when his lungs, ribs, and heart were squashed by the UnderWorlder. However, Krystella is close enough to hear her cohort’s body break beneath the green behemoth. She turns her head and screams at seeing Dardemus’s feet were the cause of Klay’s death. The unsympathetic UnderWorlder merely step out of Klay’s broken body like he was just a mud puddle.

Krystella is still screaming and tries to crawl away. Tom wants to scream at her to shut up or else Dardemus will kill her too. But he keeps his mouth shut because he doesn’t want to draw Dardemus’s attention. He doesn’t want to die. Instead, he watches Krystella’s futile efforts to survive. She only succeeds in irking Dardemus.

“I DON’T WANT TO DIE!!!” Krystella screams out either in hopes of earning Dardemus’s mercy or out of desperation; most likely, the former. Dardemus replies by stepping on her head like she is a cockroach. Like Klay’s chest, blood and bone soak Dardemus’s massive foot. However, Tom can see bits of pink like uncooked ground meat. It’s her brain, Tom thinks.

“You coward!” Krystella’s imagined voice echoes Tom’s mind. He loses consciousness.

*

He doesn’t recall much during his blackout. He could feel himself being tugged somewhere like a dog on a leash being led home. He could hear things cracking and booming. He doesn’t like to think where the noises come from. Noise reminds him of Klay and Krystella….

Klay and Krystella

Klay and Krystella

Klay and Krystella

They’re dead now. They’re just bits of bones, blood, and brains on Dardemus’s feet. He would’ve died too if he screamed like Krystella. But he didn’t. He’s alive. He’s safe in this darkness. The UnderWorlders can’t get him here. Nothing is happening. He’s alive.

The coward lives.

“Tom, please. I need you. Please, I need you!” Kaz’s voice cuts through the darkness. His best friend needs him. He comes back to reality. He is determined to help Kaz. He won’t be a coward for him. He’ll save Kaz!

“Kaz? What? What the fuck happened to your arm!” Kaz’s left arm is a mess of bone and muscle coming to the surface. He can even see bits of metal poking out of Kaz’s abused skin. Then, H’earring jumps on top of them because of a wave of Iron Balls. Tom almost glares at H’earring for causing Kaz pain.

“Take the Scanner. Port home. I’ll follow. Listen to your dad. For once, just do what you’re told!” Kaz’s words fly at a mile a minute, but Tom gets it. He takes his Scanner from Kaz’s right hand. He ports out because Kaz promises that he’ll follow. But then again, it could be that Tom wants to live. He doesn’t want to be a meat piñata for UnderWorlders. He wants to live. And he’s willing to port out and leave behind his injured best friend.

“You coward!” Tom curses himself when he returns to Earth.

*

At 2:35 PM, Tom’s Earth self is released from school. Well, not really released; he pretty much runs out of the building with the rest of the panicked crowd. He didn’t even bother to look for Kaz in the mass of panicked bodies. He is too concerned on getting home and pretty much seeing his dad. A few weeks ago, his dad, for some reason, cancelled his planned expedition and decided that he wanted to stay home for a while. Tom thought nothing of it at the time because he figured his dad was just tired (he wasn’t as young as he once was) and wanted a vacation after dedicating most of his adult life to uncovering lost civilizations. Also, Tom got to spend more time with his dad, which was always a blessing since his dad was normally gone for most of the year.

“Tom, I need you to start packing. Right now. Pack clothes that will help you survive in the wilderness. Especially in winter. Your mom will be home in about ten minutes. When she gets here, I’m going to need you to help me load the food pantry into her car. Can you do this for me?” His dad literally gave him orders the second that Tom ran into the house. Tom is flabbergasted because his dad wasn’t asking the standard “Shouldn’t you be in school?” or “What’s wrong?” questions. No, his dad pretty much is acting like a busy and serious leader; something Tom imagined his dad being like during his excavations.

“Please, don’t stand there doing nothing, Tom.” Tom frowns slightly and runs to his room; he does what his dad asks. He grabs his luggage bags on wheels and stuffs it with underwear, socks, pants, mittens, shirts, PJs, jackets, and shoes. He pretty much crams half his wardrobe in one bag and the rest in another. He has the TV off because he’s pretty certain all the channels are playing the same news. The news that Earth has been invaded from monsters from another dimension.

It is at 2:45 PM when his Scanner finally beeps and lets him know that his Chaotic self is ready to return. He presses the flashing button and receives his memories from Chaotic. Then, like the normal teenager that he is, he falls to the floor and sobs. He cries and hiccups like the wretch from Omelas. Klay and Krystella are dead, well their Chaotic selves, but Tom did nothing to help Krystella. He just watched her die. And Kaz. He was the one who saved Tom. He was the one who brought him back from the comforting darkness, even though half his body was fragmented and torn.

“Please, don’t stand there doing nothing, Tom.” His dad’s words from earlier cuts him deep now. Deeper than the Iron Balls that cut through Kaz’s left arm. He’s just doing nothing. Nothing but crying like he did back in Chaotic. He’s useless. He’s a coward that knows he can’t stand up against Creatures. Kaz would call him smart. Perhaps, he should call Kaz and make sure that he got back to Earth.

SWOOSH!

CRACK!

BOOM!

Screaming. The sky is screaming like in Chaotic. Tom looks out his window and sees a wormhole opening up in the middle of his street. He sees Skithia landing with all the grace as a magical skeleton. She looks around warily and runs off somewhere. Tom immediately grabs his bags and runs downstairs. He wants to get the Hell out of Cinderella Village because he knows that this place is going to be turned into a bloody, burning battlefield in perhaps another hour. He hopes that Kaz is not in the fray.

If he can do one thing, he would like to save Kaz from this. He would like to save someone. Anyone at this point. If only to prove to himself that he isn’t just a useless coward. If only the Cothica felt inclined to not twist his wish.

*

“KAZ, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, OPEN UP!!!” Tom shouts at the top of his lungs as he pounds onto Kaz’s front door. His dad goes to the back, most likely busting the backdoor to get into the house. Two cars, his dad’s tea-green 1970 Berlinette and his mom’s 2005 silver minivan, are parked right in Kaz’s driveway. It’s 3:17 PM and Tom can hear the clash of metal and names from attacks all the way here. He can tell a battle is going on near the school because Kaz’s house is about twenty minutes from the school. Well, it takes twenty minutes by walking from Kaz’s house to school; it’s almost half that time by running like a madman (Kaz did that like a year ago when he overslept and almost missed taking his final in English) or by car.

“Tom, stop! I think Kaz would’ve answered by now if he were here. So there’s no need to alert these mons-Creatures to our location!” His mom’s voice is higher pitch than usual; it is clear to Tom that his mom is stressed out. She’s running her tanned left hand through her mostly black hair; her grey roots need to be dyed again, he notes. Her dark blue eyes dart around the place like she expects a Creature to jump out of a bush and roast them alive.

Tom doesn’t blame her for being this stressful. He’s pretty stressed right now; on the way to Kaz’s house, he kept seeing flickering flames. Like cool fire from the rear-view mirror on his dad’s car. Skithia might be tailing them, but for what purpose? Also, why hasn’t she just attacked them and forced these “weak” humans to do her bidding? She’s such a creep, Tom thinks irritably.

“Okay, I looked everywhere in that house for Kaz. He’s not there. His cell phone and Scanner are on his bed. Tom, do you have any idea where else Kaz might be?” Tom stops himself for cursing Kaz’s stupidity for not even taking his cell phone with him. He thinks back about the dream (when Tom cruelly and stupidly didn’t believe his best friend) that Kaz warned him about. The school was where Ulmar’s machine (or was it Kaz’s science project?) is supposed to be. Kaz hooked up his Scanner (no, it was Tom’s because Chaor smashed Kaz’s to pieces) to the machine and sent all the Creatures back. Maybe Kaz is going to try the same thing like he did in his dream? Then, why would he leave his Scanner behind?

“Dad, we have to go to the school now! Kaz must be there! He has to be….” His mom’s eyes widen because she (and even the partially deaf) can hear a battle raging on there. It’s basically a war zone and there’s no guarantee that you’ll walk out with your body intact.

“Mom, we have to go there! We have to save Kaz!” Tom’s eyes flash like powder blue lightning. His mom shakes his head wearily like he’s being stupid. So very, very stupid.

“I know that, Tom. But I don’t want you out there. Look, I think your dad should be the one to check the place, while you and I go to the mountains. If he doesn’t see Kaz, then he’ll meet us at the mountains!” Mom’s plan is a safe and smart one; it’s a reasonable and understandable one. However, Tom is certain that Maxxor will be there. Maybe he could get Maxxor’s help while saving Kaz. He could somehow convince Maxxor to regroup and maybe team up with humans (or more precisely, the US army) soon.

So, against his mom’s reason and his dad’s sense, he runs like a madman to the school.

“TOM!!!” Tom’s parents scream after their son with a developing inferiority complex. They immediately follow after him. Even if they are driving to their deaths, they aren’t going to let their only child die. They are determined to save Tom just like Tom is determined to save Kaz.

*

Tom’s and Kaz’s school was plopped in the middle of neighborhoods of townhouses that seem to be the only architecture that comprised Cinderella Village, Virginia. The school’s foliage, which basically reflects the town’s flora, was comprised of tall fescues grass, well-managed shrubbery, and a nearly three-story bald cypress; Tom used to love eating his lunch under that tree. The school was cream-colored with brown trimmings and large bay windows that provided more light than the actual lightbulbs. Tom actually loved the school, even if half the people there make fun of his best friend, and loved how peaceful the walk to and from school.

But that’s all in the past.

He is greeted with chaos. The tar-baked streets are cracked and risen like Rock Wave attacks have been used. Correction, Rock Wave attacks are still being used since he sees Tangath Toborn sending a good chunk of the road hurdling into an UnderWorld drone (those red-wearing soldiers that are indistinguishable like clones to Tom) and the drone is sent careening into another drone. If this was in Perim, Tom would have cheered, but he’s more preoccupied with trying to find his school and Kaz at the moment.

Since Tom is at the end of Kaz’s street that leads to the school (while the other end leads to a road that connects to the highway), the school should only be about two miles to the west. Tom should be able to see his school from where he’s standing (well, hiding since he had to take cover behind a bush) but sees nothing. The dirty smoke from Fire attacks and Battlegear being used is obscuring his vision. He wishes that he has Creature eyes right now; they’re still able to fight even with all the smoke tainting the air.

BOOM!

Tom almost jumps out of his hiding spot, and nearly out of his own skin. Briefly, in the haze and to the west where his school should be, he sees a massive, irregular ball of orange, red, and green. There is a lull in the fighting where every Creature clearly stops due to the explosion that probably came from his school. Was the explosion due to someone hitting a gas line? No, fire isn’t normally green. In the UnderWorld, green fire usually comes from Ulmar’s inventions when they malfunction and blow up, or at least that is what Kaz told him once. Maybe it was Ulmar’s machine that created the explosion? But what caused it? Was Kaz the cause?

“Oh dear God, please let Kaz be alive!” Tom utters his prayer to a God that he believes in. His prayer is just one of billions; most of the prayers on Earth are for salvation from these otherworldly monsters! He hears the screeching of tires from a block away; he is certain that his parents are here to drag him to the car (most likely kicking and screaming), so they can hide in the mountains together like they’re supposed to.

But he hasn’t saved Kaz……

Tom gets up from his hiding place and runs into the battlefield that is taking place on his school’s road. He does not look back; he does not need to see his mom’s fear-stricken face or his dad wisely holding her back from the fray. His dad might have faith in him by not running after him. Or, darkly, his dad is not so eager to sacrifice himself for his own son.

Tom has to crouch while he runs, so his face doesn’t get hit with a Flame Orb or a crackling, fiery whip of thorns. His brilliant eyes are searching for Maxxor or even Najarin; he trusts them and he’s certain that they will listen to him. Maybe they’ll comply with his request and rescue Kaz for him. It’s cheating to let someone else do your work, but he can’t fight the UnderWorlders to get to Kaz. He’ll die……just like Klay and Krystella.

“Tom!” He sees orange and feels a cat-fur hand wrap around his wrist, pulling him to the right. His eyes focus and realizes that it’s Intress. And then, he hears something pop where he was standing; heat claws at his clothes but doesn’t make it to his skin. Intress just saved his skin from being horribly burned.

“Intress, thanks and I need to see Maxxor!” Intress almost smirks at Tom’s politeness. However, she pulls Tom like a lifeline to the Creature he seeks. Tom is a human; he knows how his kind thinks and behaves. Maybe Tom can aid them. Maybe Tom can prove to his kind that the OverWorlders aren’t here to conquer. They just want to stop Chaor and go home. In fact, they could also use some reinforcements because barely a third of the OverWorld army is here. Those wormholes appeared randomly throughout Kiru City and perhaps throughout the rest of the OverWorld. Inconveniently, it would seem like almost the entire UnderWorld army is here.

Tom and Intress weave through the battlefield like smoke. Tom has a feeling that the only reason he hasn’t crashed into someone is because of Intress’s natural grace. And maybe because they were entering the part of the battlefield that is secured by OverWorlders. For now.

Tom sees a lot of blue OverWorld soldiers holding back a mass of red drones. Tacky townhouses snap like stiletto heels from the clash between the OverWorlders and UnderWorlders. On the OverWorld side, Tom can see that the ground has become more jagged and fractured like it has been fracked. On the UnderWorld side, the grass has become brittle and brown like during a drought, but there are puddles of black sludge that may have been remnants of lampposts and cars. On both sides, anything made of wood is burning furiously.

“Don’t look.” Tom’s instincts warn him when he nearly trips over something. But he looks down because he wanted to be brave. He sees a standard OverWorld soldier with green skin and in blue armor. The soldier’s blue helmet has been smashed into his head like a concave mirror. There’s a dried blood pool under his head and flies fluttering around the body. He’s dead like Klay and Krystella, Tom thinks and almost blacks out. Maybe she saw what he saw, perhaps for the tenth time today, but she refuses to stop like Tom wants to. She might’ve let me see this to toughen me up, Tom theorizes. But Intress does not say anything, she just tugs him to his hero.

Maxxor is not fighting Chaor like Tom imagined. He believed Maxxor would be in the middle of defeating Chaor, or at least the irrational fanboy hoped it would be. But Maxxor looks like he might’ve clashed with Chaor sometime before Tom arrived. Maxxor’s massive, tea-green hands are covered in bandages, but there are patches of heat blisters that Tom can see. Did Maxxor made the mistake of holding a lamppost that then got heated by Chaor? Tom wonders with a grimace on his face.

“Tom, why are you here?” Tom is almost transported back to Mudeenu’s fortress when Maxxor gave a speech about how players viewed Perim as a game that they can leave while Creatures had to deal with the strife between the Tribes. Maxxor sounds just as pithy and tense as he was that day. Clearly, Tom was the last person Maxxor wanted to be here.

“I…….” Tom pauses and looks around momentarily. It is perhaps the rudest thing that Tom has ever done, but he is ultimately grateful that he does. He sees fallen OverWorld soldiers; some of them obviously as dead as the one that got his head smashed in, while others are wrapped up in bandages and slathered in some medicinal ointments to heal their burns. He hears low, rasping groans of pain like men choking on mustard gas in the trenches. Too much, too much red amongst the blue, Tom thinks in an elegiac manner. He feels so much. Far too much.

“Come with me. I mean you and the rest of your men come with me and my family to the mountains. My parents know the way to the mountains and there’s no way Chaor knows about them. The mountains have rivers and dense forests, so you and your men can recover there in peace for some time. So, please, won’t you come with me to the mountains?” Tom nearly curses himself for sounding like a terrified rambler. Yet, he knows that he has presented Maxxor with an option other than to fight against an overwhelming, opposing force. Maxxor doesn’t speak immediately, and Tom knows that Maxxor is just assessing his options like the rational leader that he is.

“Intress, find Tangath and tell him to giver orders for retreat to those left standing. I’ll go tell Najarin about the retreat with Tom and his family. Tom, stay right here. I believe your parents would be far more willing to lead us to these mountains if you aren’t hurt.” There’s a hard look in Maxxor’s eyes like he has to restrain his pride from influencing his decision. Tom is okay if Maxxor is a little annoyed with him, but he is glad that at least he’s helping his hero. Even if it’s to run away.

“I’m sorry, Kaz, that I’m such a fucking coward.” Tom whispers to himself like a self-inflicted punishment.

*

Chapter Text

Forces Chapter Three

***

Suggested Theme:

Main Theme- ís by POP ETC.

***

            Peyton is running for his dear life. He is jumping over bodies like they were turtle shells in a Mario game. Where’s the super mushroom and the star of invincibility when you need them!? Peyton’s mind jokes weakly. He nearly gets a face full of an Ember Swarm attack for blindly rushing into a battle between some headless horseman-looking UnderWorlder and a pigtailed pixie-looking OverWorlder. How is it possible that Creatures are here? How did any of this happen!?

He was just watching matches with his friends. Then, BOOM! Everything goes topsy-turvy Hell! He has to strongly resist the urge to vomit when he sees kid, a little boy no more than ten, half burnt like his dad’s chicken kebabs. He nearly blacks out but opts to keep moving. If he finds his Scanner, then he’ll go home and call his friends like he’s supposed to. If he finds his Scanner….

“Peyton, over here!!!” He nearly runs past an overturned table when he hears the squeaky voice. He doubles back to the table and crouches down to see Lulu. There’s bloodstains on her mint-green sweater and plaid skirt. She’s shaking so hard that even her braces are trembling.

“Lulu, did you lose your Scanner too?” There is no way Peyton is going to leave Lulu here. He’ll find her Scanner for her. She deserves to get out of here alive.

“N-No, stop! I was w-waiting for you……okay, calm down, Lulu, I found your Scanner under the kid’s c-corpse! I was going to find you, but……they’re all gone. Blood everywhere. Here!” Lulu nearly drops the Scanner, but Peyton catches it.

“Lulu, thanks, but I want you to port out first. I’ll port out right after you and call you back on Earth. I promise!” Lulu nods her head and ports out. Peyton then ports out; he hopes his friends have found theirs and are back on Earth. At least Lulu got out.

*

At 9:40 AM, Peyton’s high school finally releases the students. For almost the past hour, the students and teachers were just watching the classroom TVs and their phones as the world is invaded by Creatures from another dimension. As did the rest of people on the Hawaiian island of Kumar.

Usually, when school ends early, most of the teenagers in town would head to the beach and just hang out until dinner as tradition dictates. For once, they didn’t. They just want to go home and resume watching the news with their families. Except for Peyton. He has just received his memories from Chaotic and tries to call his friends, but his Scanner wouldn’t do it. He couldn’t even get his Scanner to play music as he walks to the beach to clear his head.

He needs to see the moon-white sands and hear the lulling sounds of the ocean. He needs to see something clean, something not covered in blood like Lulu was. He needs to breathe in air that wasn’t tainted by smoke from Battlegear. He needs to be alone.

It takes him only twelve minutes to reach the closest beach to his school. There’s no one there. Not even the kids that like to cut class and smoke are here. It’s peaceful. It’s so un-Chaotic. Peyton closes his eyes and deeply breathes in the air. No one is dying. No burnt children. No Creatures. All is at peace with itself. He feels like he can finally puke his breakfast on the sand without any worries.

SWOOSH!

CRACK!

BOOM!

Peyton’s eyes snap open quicker than a speedster. He sees an angry red, lightning-spewing portal open. Creatures emerge and plop down on the shore. The portal vanishes like all the thoughts in Peyton’s head.

“What a lovely place, unlike the pissing contest of the last place.” A white-skinned Mipedian with teal eyes and long, charcoal-black hair. He is wearing light, blue armor with golden accents; the armor’s top acts like a midriff and shows off the Mipedian’s hollow, white belly. He’s also wearing a gold and white headgear that kind of looks like a………crown.

“CROWN PRINCE IFLAR!?” Peyton shouts like he has met Eddie X. Prince Mudeenu, Tianne, Zhade, and Siado are right by the Crown Prince’s side. Unlike Iflar, the rest of Mipedians look terribly troubled and confused.

“Oh, I didn’t know I was that popular with you Chaotic players.” Iflar flippantly comments. It is then that Peyton decides to unleash his stress from Chaotic and vomits before Iflar, the Crown Prince of the Mipedians.

*

Chapter Text

Forces Chapter Four

****

Suggested Theme:

Main Theme- Where Is My Mind? By Yoav feat. Emily Browning

****

            At 1:30 PM, in Chicago, Illinois, an accountant in a starchy, white blouse and black skirt is on the roof of her five-story accounting firm. She is taking a much needed breather (as much as one can get in the city) from her work. Molly had to leave work early because her seven-year-old caught the stomach flu at school and needed to be taken home. Mrs. Kalinkas volunteered to do her work for her; she knows that young kids can’t take care of themselves and need a parent to care for them. Although, Kaz was always cared for by his dad because she, the breadwinner, had to work. At least until his tragic demise, but, by that time, Kaz was smart enough to fend for himself. I really should call him after work, see if he’s okay, she notes inwardly.

Cheryl, her supervisor, said that she could take a twenty minute break. Mrs. Kalinkas only needs ten minutes; she would like to return to her work and finish up Molly’s share. She has always loved numbers ever since she was a child, much more than those silly books about princesses or having tea parties with invisible people like other girls did. She loves being an accountant; she spends most of her time with numbers and her coworkers are fun to be around. She even loves living in this city far from her home if only because her career mostly requires her to be here. Kaz doesn’t mind; he’s a teenager who has always loved to have the house to himself.

Mrs. Kalinkas is not exactly excited to go back home in another week. She loves being in Chicago. She loves being able to just do her work in an office with people she sees every day, rather than quietly doing her work and e-mailing her results to her supervisor whenever she’s at home. She likes this office-group setting versus being alone at home. She’s not like her son; she likes being around more than one person. And she thinks, a bit harshly, that the real world is far better than the fantasy world her son seems to be obsessed with. Lately, she feels more and more like a stranger in a strange land when she comes home.

“It’s just the stress from doing Molly’s work that’s making me feel this way. Besides, Kaz is smart and well-behaved, what more could I want from him?” Mrs. Kalinkas sighs and shakes her head like Alan made the mistake of microwaving fish sticks in the break room again. She heads back inside after only seven minutes of “fresh” air, feeling guilty about her anxiety of returning home. I’ll text Kaz and ask how his day was; he probably won’t answer until he gets home. She hopes this will assuage her conscious.

It only takes her about three minutes to go down the cement steps and reach the door to her floor. She opens the door and goes down the yellow-carpeted hallway to reach her workplace. It’s only a minute walk even in her worn heels. She opens the faux wood door to see that the atmosphere has changed while she was gone. Everyone is looking at their monitors like stricken zombies.

“Oh God, it’s the end of the world!” Mrs. Kalinkas hears as she walks back to her cubicle. On her way, she sees the news streaming on almost every monitor. She sees pictures of weird, giant ant monsters that look like they could be from a low-budget SyFy original movie. She checks the news outlets on her computer. It’s the same news on every site, from The Chicago Tribune to MSN, which is about how Earth is being invaded. More specifically, how giant ant monsters are swarming the city of Paris.

At first, she tries to rationalize it. Perhaps, some hacker, it’s always some genius-level, egotistical hacktivist, hacked the Internet and just generated all of this fake news about monsters from another dimension invading the world to scare the world. She scours through the news feed and even Facebook for some hint that all of this was fake. Because there’s no such thing as monsters from space. There are monsters on Earth like serial killers and pedophiles, but not actual monsters straight from Lovecraft’s books.

She spends almost thirty minutes furiously searching everywhere for proof that those monsters are fake, while most of her colleagues are either running home to their families or having their private panic attacks under their desks. Then, an onslaught of “breaking news” in red bars pop up on the news sites that she tabbed over. She sees pictures of her town. She sees pictures of demons marching and burning through the streets of Cinderella Village as people dodge fireballs.

She yanks open the metal drawer of her desk and pulls out her cell phone. She turns it on and curses at her phone for taking so long to power on. She needs to call Kaz and asks if he’s alright; she needs to tell him that she loves him and that he has to get the Hell out of town now! He needs to get a ride with the Majors and wait for her because she’ll come to find him. She’ll bring him back to Chicago where it’s far away from those monsters.

Her phone immediately pops up with the voicemail icon. It’s from Kaz. She plays it immediately and presses the phone to her ear:

“‘Hey, mom, if you haven’t figured out already, Chaotic is real! So no need to question my sanity under your breath anymore! Sorry, terrible time to be smug about this. Anyways, I’ll be going with Tom’s family pretty soon. Just got to take care of a few things first. So stay in Chicago. Don’t come back here to get me, I’ll get back to you. I promise. Also, I love you, mom.’”

She coughs and chokes back a sob. She goes under her desk like a child hiding under her bed from a serial killer in the house. She pulls her knees to her chest and buries her head. She coughs violently and sobs painfully like she’s giving birth to Kaz again. The world is ending, and her son is right at the center of it.

“Oh God, Kaz, don’t end up like your father!” She cries and screams like her husband died again. And like the last time, she feels powerless and broken. What did I do to ever deserve this? Like before, she puts forth the very same question to the unfeeling universe. And, like before, receives no answer.

*

Chapter Text

Forces Chapter Five

*****

Suggested Theme:

Main Theme- Faraway So Close by Nick Cave

*****

            Unconsciousness, it is a blessed break for his pain-receiving nerves. The best part of unconsciousness is that Kaz cannot remember the pain that is surely radiating in the nerves of his ass and thighs. Unfortunately, he’s roused from his painless slumber by the sound of running water. No, it’s not really the sound of running water that wakes him; it’s the creaking and groaning of old pipes, which remind him a lot of the pipes in his house. He cracks open his tear-crusted eyes to see the very familiar blue and white checker tiles of his mom’s bathroom floor. Briefly, he is grateful for the coolness of the tile pressed against his face.

“Can you get up on your own?” The voice sounds like a whispering ghost. He lifts and turns his head to the voice. He can see Skithia standing by the Jacuzzi tub; she is looking down at him, waiting for his answer.

“Let me see.” Kaz’s voice cracks like a scab being picked. He is again grateful that Skithia wisely laid him on his stomach rather than his back. If he was on his back, he would probably be screaming and crying in pain. He’s in pain like now, which, again, he is grateful for. It means that he hasn’t suffered third-degree burns and he’ll heal from this. He feebly pushes himself up with his trembling arms and bends his knees. His body, or at least his ass and thighs, screams in protest; he feels tears of pain rolling down his face but finally stands up.

“I’m going to have to cut off your….trousers. However, some of the material is stuck to the burns on your ass and the back of your thighs. I will have to pull them off from you and most likely some of the burnt skin will be pulled off with it. I have to do this to treat your burns. It will hurt.” Kaz has done some research, well from the internet and a 1999 medical book about burns, on burns. He wants to believe that his burns are first-degree because then it would take maybe a few days to a week to heal from. However, considering the level of pain he’s in, he’s most likely suffering from second-degree burns which takes weeks to heal from.

“I’m going to need something to bite down on. You know to muffle my screams of pain.” Skithia pulls out a dagger from behind her back; he presumes she must have a utility pocket on her belt. The dagger looks like a letter opener from the colonial era; it has a miniature hilt that looks like the hilt of a claymore, but a flame-shaped edge of a flamberge. He is kind of concerned that she may slice off some of his skin with that.  

“First, I’ll cut off the parts of your trousers that aren’t part of the burn area. Then, I’ll give you the dagger to gag yourself, while I rip the leftover bits melted on your burn area. You do understand that you should use the handle rather than the blade, yes?” Briefly, he considers glaring at her for asking that question, but her face is so deadpan that he believes that she’s just trying to help him…….even though this is about to result in a lot of pain.

“Yeah, but before you do any of that, how about you get one of my burn kits. My burn kits are equipped to deal with first and some second degree burns; it’s in my room, which is the first door closest to the stairs. There’s a green backpack and the burn kit is inside; the kit is this red, plastic bag with a white cross on it. The kit will have ointment and bandages for my burns, so they won’t get infected.” Kaz bought about three burn kits just before the invasion. One is in his backpack, the other is in his suitcase, and he has the last one in his bathroom’s medicine cabinet in case he couldn’t make it out of town.

Skithia leaves him with the dagger and quickly goes to get the kit. For a minute, Kaz is alone with the pain radiating from his burns; he is tempted to stab himself in the heart or carve out his burns for the pain to stop. Skithia appears like a ghostly silhouette; she dumps the burn kit by the Jacuzzi tub and takes back her dagger.

“After I pull off the melted parts, I will dump you in the bath to clean your burns. After that, you will have to guide me on how to use your human burn kit since I can’t read your language.” Kaz’s eyes widen in surprise; he had always presumed that Creatures, since they speak mostly perfect English, can read the human language. If they’re able to understand the sloppy pictograph writing that they create, then they should be able to decipher the human language. But then again, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a player writing anything for a Creature. Kaz dismisses his thought and concentrates at the matter at hand.

“I got it. So, please, make it fast like ripping off a Band-Aid.” Skithia pauses slightly as though she was going to ask, “What’s a Band-Aid?” But then, she begins slicing off his pants. The cold air hits his legs, but it does nothing to soothe his pain. He trembles with each piece of his pants that she slices off; it’s not like she’s cutting his legs, but it means that Skithia is getting closer to ripping off the melted bits soon. The pain will most likely be a hundred times worse, but it will be quick. He hopes.

“Considering the amount of blisters, some of which are actually oozing, I would safely guess that you definitely have second degree burns and, unfortunately for you, they are large deep partial thickness ones. You will most likely have scars for the rest of your life and sitting down without agony will take quite a while, even after the burns have healed.” She calmly assesses like a doctor while examining the burns, poking out through the melted bits, on his ass and the back of his thighs.

“That’s about 23% of my body, if I read that burn book correctly, covered in scars. At least, no one will see those scars.” He’s very grateful that he specifically got burn kits that contain silver sulfadiazine, which is a topical ointment that is supposedly good for burns of his degree, even if those kits were expensive.

“Except me, for a little bit. Here, bite on this and try not to scream loudly.” She hands him the handle of the dagger to bite on. The handle tastes like ash and pennies, but he hopes it can gag his screams well. Skithia rips out the first patch of melted pants and boxer-briefs quickly like a wax strip.

Kaz cries immediately and clamps onto the handle hard enough that it feels like his teeth might crack from the pressure. Skithia doesn’t wait to recover and continues to rip off the melted bits like a million of very sticky, very agonizing Band-Aids. He doesn’t pass out nor does he feel hot shame at the thought of Skithia seeing his private parts. He realizes that pain is an excellent medicine for shame, better than five-dollar booze. However, most of him wishes that he was on morphine or anything that can combat the pain and the ache in his jaw.

“Done. Now, remove your shirt if you don’t want it to get wet.” His ass feels raw like someone took a cheese grater to it and sprinkled in some salt. He knows that if he looks down he’ll see patches of his burnt skin and blood dirtying the bathroom tiles like burnt corpses on a hot tar road. Also, he doesn’t want to faint after his “impressive” show of strength. He strips off his shirt and lets it fall with the rest of the filth.

“Good. I didn’t fill the tub to the brim, but you may need to support yourself with your arms so you won’t drown in the water. I would highly suggest you lie on your stomach and prop yourself up with your arms. I don’t need to tell you that you shouldn’t sit or even lay on your back; you don’t need more pain.” Kaz nods because his voice is hoarse from the crying and screaming he did today, coupled with leaving a fairly emotional lie to his mom. There’s no way he’ll ever see Tom again……

“Now, hand back my dagger. I doubt you need the gag anymore. Just try not to make too much noise when I put you in the water.” He wordlessly hands it back to her. She picks him up like a barbell but is careful not to touch his burns. She then slowly lowers him into the water; immediately, he props himself up with his arms like columns, so that the water only reaches his chest. The water on his burns stings them weakly like static shock. He silently congratulates himself for not passing out once again.

“I can see you’re able to hold yourself up. I’m going to go get you some clothes; I saw them in your bag. Try not to make too much noise, unless you’re drowning.” Skithia disappears again. Kaz, finally with the seemingly worst part over, tries to think about something not dealing with pain, or the end of the world, or if Tom’s okay. He tries for about a second, but his pain, physically and emotionally, cuts his effort in half. He then decides to utilize a different method.

“Empty out your pockets,

Toss the lot upon the floor.

All those treasures, my friend,

You don't need them anymore.

Your days are all through dying,

They gave all their ghosts away,

So kiss close all your wounds and call living life a day.”

He sings one of his favorite Nick Cave songs. Now, he’ll always claim that Eddie X is his favorite singer because he and Tom can just rock out to him together and sometimes with Peyton in Chaotic. However, Nick Cave is like a pleasurable lashing for his soul.

“For the planets gravitate around you,

And the stars shower down around you,

And the angels in heaven adore you,

And the saints all stand and applaud you.”

He got into Nick Cave back in his dreadful middle-school years; those years in which he didn’t share a single class with Tom or even interests. Tom was the star pitcher of the baseball team, which didn’t surprise him in the slightest since Tom was always on some kind of sports team back in elementary school. Barring that one summer of ballet camp.

“So faraway,”

Kaz in middle school was not on any sports teams or in any clubs; he tried out for the glee club once, but he didn’t even get a chance to sing a signal note when the members, unfortunately consisting of girls who found him a creepy loner, promptly rejected him. He wore lots of black and didn’t have his signature glasses or hairstyle quite yet; it also didn’t help that he was too introverted to even feign politeness, which also caused him to be a primary target for bullies who like throwing scrawny loners into dumpsters. No one knows that he can sing, except for Mr. Majors who stopped him from making a stupid mistake.

“So faraway and yet so close.”

He hears the bedroom floorboards creak; he hopes it is Skithia and not some other UnderWorlder here to drag him out of the tub and to Chaor. No, it’s Skithia. She is holding a bundle of clothes with a very, very intense expression on her face. He has a feeling that he was singing too loudly and, now, she’s going to reprimand him for it.

“Keep singing.” Okay, he doesn’t know if he just got lucky or he’s in danger. But then again, he is with Skithia, who is loyal to Lord Von Bloot and hates Takinom, and there’s no way she’s doing this out of the kindness of her heart. However, she is helping him and tending to his burns, so he can at least give her some kind of reward.

“Say farewell to the passing of the years,

Though all your sweet goodbyes will fall upon deaf ears.

Kiss so softly the mouths of the ones you love,

Beneath the September moon and the heavens above.”

She dumps the clothes on top of the bathroom counter and then goes into the shower. He hears her opening some bottles, probably figuring out which is the shampoo and which is the conditioner, and then she comes out with two bottles and a peach-orange bar of soap. She approaches the tub and places the bottles on the floor; with the soap, she begins lathering his body with it, carefully avoiding his burns.

“And the world will turn without you,

And history will soon forget about you,

But the heavens they will reward you,

And the saints will be there to escort you.”

This is perhaps the strangest thing that has ever happened to him, barring his first time in Chaotic. He hasn’t been bathed by someone since he was toddler, and of course he has never been bathed by a Creature before! And from Skithia of all Creatures!

“So far away,”

He can’t stop singing, even if the pain makes him want to curl into a ball and drown. Skithia would get upset and may cause him pain; she won’t kill him, he realizes that now. Because she would never stoop so low to bathe a lowly human such as himself if she was planning on killing him.

“So far away and yet so close.”

Plus, singing helps him try to block out the pain and the embarrassment of being washed like a two-year-old. She then scrubs his hair with shampoo and then conditioner; her nail scratches against his scalp like she’s making it her mission to get rid of all the dead skin accumulated there. His scalp feels raw but tingly.

“Do not grieve at the passing of mortality,

For life's but a thing of terrible gravity.

And the planets gravitate around you,

And the stars shall dance about you,

And the angels in heaven adore you,

And the saints all stand and applaud you.”

She dumps some of the bathwater on his head to rinse out his hair. He feels clean like he didn’t spend the day running like a certain doctor in a blue box. She helps lift him out of the tub; he doesn’t look at the water because he’s afraid to see flecks of his burnt skin in the water which would make him hurl like Tom’s nacho volcano.

“So far away,”

He’s once again standing before Skithia naked but wet. She’s examining his body like Dr. Frankenstein looking for parts for his monster. He feels hot with embarrassment again because he doesn’t like having his genitals on display for her to see, even though her eyes are locked on his burnt thighs and flat ass.

“So far away and yet so close…”

She pats him dry with a nearby towel like a newborn baby. She then hands him the burn kit; he opens it up and immediately pulls out the gauze, the silver sulfadiazine, and a tiny book about burn care. He flips to the section about second-degree burns and recites to her:

“Okay, since all of my burns have been clean. Add this ointment on them and then loosely bandaged the burns with the gauze if the blisters have pop. And I did feel them pop. Make sure you’re not encircling them because it could cause swelling. And then, I have to keep my legs raised for the first day or two, and then I have to move around so the burn doesn’t heal too tightly. And of course change the bandages when they get dirty.” He hands the gauze and ointment to her, and she does exactly how she was instructed.

“You sing well. You could’ve been a Troubadour if you were an UnderWorlder.” Kaz isn’t an expert in vocabulary since he wasn’t the best student in any of his English classes, so he doesn’t know what troubadour means. However, her comment makes him want to speak again as she dresses his burns tenderly.

“You’re an UnderWorlder, so why aren’t you helping out your fellow UnderWorlders. I know you hate Takinom and all, but you’re trapped in another dimension with no way of getting back to your home. Wouldn’t it be better to work with Chaor to get back home?” He hopes that he doesn’t get slapped in the face for rude way he was pointing out the facts.

“We are many, but I am alone.” Her answer sounds as cryptic as Najarin’s…….well anything about the old Muge. She finishes dressing his burns and then hands him a t-shirt but doesn’t give him his pants.

“Considering how fresh your burns, it would be ill-advised to cover them with your tight undergarments or even pants for now.” Kaz doesn’t mutter a word of protest because she is right; his underwear would be like a boa constrictor on his burns. He wishes that she nabbed one of his pajama shirts because they are oversized enough to hide his ass, but he’ll just have to make do with his one-size-too-big green shirt.

“How is your pain?” The ointment has a bit of pain-numbing agent to it, so his pain is less agonizing than before. However, he feels like he needs at least a handful of Ibuprofen to function properly.

“Somewhat better. There’s a white bottle with a green pill that looks like glass on the bottle in the medicine cabinet. Would you grab me about two pills inside the bottle and some water?” He was tempted to ask for five pills, but he’s afraid he’ll overdose on it. Skithia goes to the medicine cabinet and opens up to grab the glass, which his mom uses to get her midnight drink of water, and opens up the bottle to grab the pills. She fills up the glass and hands him the items he asked for. He pops the pills in his mouth and chugs down the water gratefully.

“Thanks, so why did you do all of this for me?” It’s possible that she’s planning on holding him hostage or use him as a bargaining chip with Chaor. But then again, Chaor has an army, Battlegear, Mugic, and the rage to destroy anyone who is blackmailing. Especially here on Earth where Skithia clearly doesn’t have an ally or a piece of Battlegear to her name.

“First, we must eat.” She offers her arm for him to steady himself when he walks. He wants answers now, but he’s not the one with any control here. Or leverage. He takes her arm and slowly walks out of his mom’s room with her. He hopes, as he hobbles at a pathetic pace to his room, Tom and his family are a thousand miles away from here. He even dares to hope that Tom won’t do something heroic. But this is MajorTom; his hopes are for nothing.

*

Chapter Text

Forces Chapter Six

*

Suggested Theme:

Main Theme- Whiskey, Mystics and Men by The Doors

*

            Accato knows that he was just playing his guitar to an adoring, albeit slightly drunk, crowd just mere moments ago. He was at a bar with a very forgettable name but served some of the best Liquid Consumption in the OverWorld. He was just wailing on his guitar from atop a table while dancing to the point of knocking his goblet off the table. And then, something like a portal…..came and pulled him out of the bar. He recalls hearing a lot of screaming and seeing the bartender running, but not much else after.

He looks around and knows that he’s not in Perim anymore. The streets are paved like the cobblestone streets of the UnderWorld except with cracking, black tar. There is green grass, bushes, and trees around this place like most parts of the OverWorld, but the foliage is quite small in comparison. There are houses but they appear to be made of wood like huts from small villages or ancient houses from Ancient Perim.

Players, or rather humans since most of them aren’t carrying those Scanner things, are running and screaming about. He wisely hides in a tree because he didn’t want to get accidently lynched by this mob of humans. He has seen mobs, mostly of UnderWorlders, doing horrible things to the scape goat of some nitpicky issue at the time. Even though he knows that humans don’t have the same powers that Creatures have, he’s wise enough to know that a crowd of them can still beat the shit out of him. Also, he doesn’t have a single Mugic or Flux Bauble on him to take him…….anywhere else.

He stays up the tree long enough to see that the screaming mass of humans eventually leave in what look like grounded Levitars; most of them left after stuffing most of their possessions inside their vehicles. He gets down in one jump and adjusts his guitar to hang from his back like a one-strap backpack.

He sees smoke from many paces away from him and hears the cries, screams, and barks of a battle between UnderWorlders and OverWorlders. He does not head towards the battle, not even when he hears the familiar roar of Intress. He is not a coward, but he is no fool. He only has his guitar and it’s not exactly Battlegear and he’s only good at fighting when he has Mugic or his opponent is stupider than him. Unfortunately, he has no Mugic on him and he’s pretty certain that the UnderWorlders are probably the ones who caused him to be pulled into the world of humans. So the UnderWorlders aren’t stupid.

His plan is to find a tree that is tall enough to give him a good view of wherever the Cothica he is. The tree that he was in was barely two stories and not nearly tall enough for him to map out the….town. He hopes that he’ll be able to locate his fellow OverWorlders and just head to wherever they are; hopefully, not running into any UnderWorlders in the process. Or confused humans.

He walks for a few hundred paces, making turns to avoid the battle, until he comes across the only two grounded Levitars on a mostly abandon street. One is pale-green and the other is silver like Raznus’s hair. The two grounded Levitars are heading towards the battle, and Accato groans inwardly at the humans’ stupidity. There’s no way they aren’t going to be blasted death; those things scream targets! He is tempted to just use a Rock Wave attack to take out their tires and stop them from heading towards their death. But if he did that then the humans would have no speedy way of getting out of this damned town.

“I hate escort missions.” He curses out a whisper. He runs as fast as he can to get in front of the grounded Levitars; the Levitars barely screech to a halt and narrowly avoid hitting him. The humans get out of their vehicles; both are about a foot shorter than him and they have worried expressions on their face. The human male has silver and black hair that makes Accato think about his cousin Maxxor’s hair. The human female also has black hair but with only little clumps of silver gathered at her roots.

“Are you Maxxor’s son?” The human male asks him without a hint of fear. His swamp-green eyes are bright with curiosity. Accato almost laughs at the question; many, many Creatures have also asked that question.

“No, no I’m not. I’m his cousin. My name is Accato. What’s yours?” The human female stares at him with absolute fear at him while also managing to glare at the human male with her stormy-blue eyes.

“I’m Lazarus Majors and the one who wants to kill me right at this moment is my lovely wife, Buttercup Majors. We’re the parents of Tom Majors; maybe, you’ve heard of him?” Buttercup looks half ready to throttle her own husband; obviously, their son is missing and they’re trying to find him.

“Yeah, he’s Maxxor’s favorite human. Look, I can’t let you go this way because there’s no way you two would be able to survive. Even in those vehicles of yours. There’s a battle raging on between two Tribes who have hated each other since the Cothica went missing. I can help you just tell me what happened with your son.” And maybe how the Cothica all this shit transpired while at it. Accato cheekily thinks but knows these humans barely comprehend what’s going on. Buttercup and Lazarus then decide to have a “private” conversation with each other for about a minute; by the end of it, Buttercup goes into her vehicle and shuts the door. He looks into her vehicle’s window to see that she’s crying.

“Okay, Tom went right into that obvious deathtrap of a battle to find his best friend, Kaz, even though his mother suggested that he wait with her and I go look for him. However, he decides to play the fucking hero and throw his life away to save his friend without any knowledge if he’s really there. We were trying to find him until you showed up. And now…….I think it’s best if we wait here for Tom.” Lazarus sounds exasperated like he’s pissed off and concerned for his son’s wellbeing. Accato sees that both parents are stressed out of their minds and probably unable to make stable judgements at this time.

“Well, since he went into the battle, there’s a good chance he came across an OverWorlder and is probably being taken to Maxxor. Tom lives here, so he’ll be able to provide Maxxor some much needed information on this place or something. Look, I’ll go inside the battle after…..let’s say ten minutes if he doesn’t come back. Compared to you, I have a higher chance of surviving in a battle.” Accato is slightly lying at the end, but Lazarus seems to believe him. Or at least wants to.

“That sounds like a good plan. Tom will come back. He’s always been lucky like that.” Accato wonders briefly why Lazarus made that comment. From what he has heard from his cousin, Tom is pretty smart……….for someone his own age. However, he’s a bit too foolhardy. Actually, that makes sense why Tom has survived in Perim thus far. He’s really lucky. Lucky in his choice of friends and lucky in his loyalty to the OverWorld. Or rather to Maxxor. However, it still sort of bugs Accato how Lazarus said the last part. It reminds him of the time he told his father that he wanted to be a musician; his father thought he was acting stupid but eventually, reluctantly accepted his choice in life.

“So you’ve got anything to occupy…these ten minutes?” He could play his guitar, but his mind is a bit too preoccupied with comprehending how he’s on another world. Also, he needs to re-tune his guitar; it’s overdue for a tune-up.

“Follow me to my car, I’ll play us some music.” Accato follows Lazarus to his car, mildly curious what instrument Lazarus will play. He sees the man goes to his driver’s side and fiddle with a metal box with a few buttons and two knobs; at first, Accato believes that the metal box is some kind of instrument that needs to be powered on.

“Well, I’ll tell you a story

Of whiskey and mystics and men,

Da da da

And about the believers and

How the whole thing began.

Da da da

First there were women and

Children obeying the moon,

Da da da

Then daylight brought wisdom

And fever and sickness too soon.

Da da da

You can try to remind me

Instead of the other, you can.

Da da da

You can help to insure

That we all insecure our command.

Da da da

If you don’t give a listen,

I won’t try to tell your new hand.

Da da da

This is it can’t you see

That we all have our ends in the band.”

Accato has never, ever heard this kind of music before. He identifies only about two instruments; one a guitar and the other drums, but the rest is a mystery like songs in Mugic. It’s a pleasant, pleasurable mystery like the existence of the Cothica. The chorus vibrate and breathe like buzzing heartbeats. The singer, like a great narrator and poet warrior in one, sings and leads.

“Da da da

Da da da

Da da da.”

Accato is alight with awe, envy, and bone-cutting wonder. He wants to meet the singer and pretty much beg, grovel if he has to, how did he come up with the lyrics and the arranged the music thusly. He doesn’t know how to comprehend the lyrics: part creation myth, part rambling, part glory, all better than any stuff that Accato has ever sung about.

“And if all of the teachers and

Preachers of wealth were arraigned,

We could see quite a future

For me in the literal sands.

And if all of the people

Could claim to inspect such regrets,

Da da da

Well, we’d have no forgiveness,

Forgetfulness, faithful remorse.

Da da da

So I tell you, I tell you,

I tell you we must send away.

Da da da

We must try to find a

New answer instead of a way.”

Lazarus has his eyes closed and is leaning back into his seat; he’s not smiling, but he’s not as stressed as he seems before. Accato quickly glances over to the wife’s car; she’s not crying anymore, but she’s still trembling. Part of him finds it sort of cruel of Lazarus to not go over and comfort his wife, but maybe he knows that his wife won’t be comforted until their son was back.

“So……what is this metal box? Also, who sung that song?” Lazarus cracks open his eyes at the eagerness in Accato’s voice.

“The metal box is called a radio and broadcasts music, news, and commercials. However, I’m using the CD function right now because all the stations are just babbling about the end of the world. The song is ‘Whiskey, Mystics and Men’ by The Doors; Kaz told me that you Creatures don’t have much when it comes to music.” Accato is not offended by the last part because it’s mostly true. Most of the music really comes from the songs that the Mugic sing; there are very few “professional” musicians in the OverWorld, and he’s including himself as part of that minority. He’s unsure about the other Tribes; although, the UnderWorld has Dyrtax, even if his guitar is basically a rip-off of Accato’s and he sings like Screamer.

“Music was starting to grow……but it’s probably going to stagnate thanks to all of this.” If there was some sort of portal around here, Accato would’ve gestured at it to make his point. Lazarus’s eyes flick to the metal box and Accato finally notices that there are numbers on it. It’s 3:34.

“Five minutes to go before you begin your search. If you somehow don’t come back, what shall I tell Maxxor? If I ever meet up with him, of course.” Morbid, but prudent. Accato inwardly comments. He’s not annoyed by the lack of faith from this man; it is quite possible that Accato could die while trying to find Tom.

“There’s a hole in you / Skeletons walk through it / Ghosts live in it / can you feel them?” He chooses the first three lines of the first song he ever created as his final words to Maxxor. It’s actually fitting since his first song is about his cousin, even if it does come off as a bit too spiteful. He’s actually never shared that song with anyone because……it makes him feel too vulnerable.

“I’m sure he’ll get that. And if something were to happen to me and my wife, then tell Tom that we love him and I’ll haunt him for the rest of his life.” Lazarus chuckles after the last part like he’s telling a private joke. Accato doesn’t envy Tom when he meets with his father again.

Dum-dum-dum

Crunch-Crunch

Crack

They hear the sound of heavy footfalls, but only Accato only recognizes the sounds as a march. His eyes are sharp enough to spot OverWorld blue and a very familiar-looking human. He hears Buttercup give a sharp cry and gets out of her car. Lazarus immediately gets out of his car too. Accato almost grins at how lucky Tom Majors truly is.

“TOM!” Buttercup immediately runs to her son, while Lazarus remains curiously behind with Accato. He has a smile on his face, but it wasn’t really one of relief. It was more like he has gained an advantage in the midst of chaos. Again, Accato does not envy Tom.

He sees his cousin by Tom’s side while also being flanked by an ash-covered Najarin and a bristling Intress. He sees plenty of soldiers, some he recognizes from his time at the Barracks, carrying their wounded brothers-in-arms. Some of the injured look ready to die if their wounds are any indication; fresh blood bleeding through their blue tunics like open faucets. Like Lazarus, Accato opts to remain where he is.

“Accato, since your cousin and the OverWorld army are here instead of fighting, is it safe to assume that they’re retreating?” Accato’s cheeks flare angrily for a second. Like UnderWorlders, OverWorlders do not like retreating since it seems like such a cowardly thing to do. However, given this situation and the surprising amount of wounded soldiers, retreating is a wise option. Especially if Maxxor has a fortified Location to retreat to. But then again, this is not Perim. Maybe that’s why Tom’s here. Accato realizes as his cousin draws barely a few paces away from him.

“Yes, we know nothing of this world and how we got here. Well, except that the UnderWorlders are involved in this. Somehow, I think.” The UnderWorlders seem like the obvious suspects given that they have their own mad scientist……….that lacks any ethics unlike Mommark. Buttercup is holding onto Tom, who looks a bit embarrassed, like she suspects that he’ll run off again. Lazarus does not go up to his son, even when his son is only an arm’s length away from him. Instead, he walks right up to Maxxor with Accato trailing behind him.

“Thank you for saving my son, Maxxor.” If Maxxor was surprised by this human for knowing his name, he did not show it, but his son gaped at him. Clearly, the father never let his son know about his knowledge about Perim……..until now. Kaz told Lazarus about Perim, but he didn’t let his best friend know about this? Why? Accato briefly wonders.

“Actually, your son can save us if you can take us to these mountains he’s told us about.” Tom is somewhat smiling, but he’s straining it like he’s hiding something. He was looking for his friend, Kaz, and probably went to Maxxor for help. Maybe Maxxor rejected him and asked for his help instead. What is one human life versus many? Accato slightly grimaces. He knows that Tom will carry that guilt till the end of his days.

“Yes, see the green and silver cars. Just tell your men to follow them and we’ll lead you there. Accato will have to drive with me just in case something happens. Tom will have to drive with his mom, of course. Can’t have him running off again.” Lazarus slightly smiles at the last bit like it was a joke, but his smile seems very hard. Like he’s resisting his own anger. And with that, he goes over to his son and finally hugs him. On the outside, it’s an embrace of love and relief. On the inside, in Lazarus’s and Tom’s eyes, there are cracks of anger and self-loathing.

“Tom, don’t think you’re getting out of this. When we get to the mountains and make camp, you and I are going to have a long and private talk. But I’m glad you’re alive.” The last part softens the harsh blow in the father’s words. But not by much. Lazarus lets go of his son and the family goes their separate ways. Accato looks at Maxxor and somewhat apathetically shrugs at him, not really sure what to say to his cousin at this point.

“Try to calm him down. Don’t let his anger create more regrets.” Maxxor advises him. Accato looks away from his cousin and follows Lazarus back to his car. He feels like he’s experiencing déjà vu from this event. He takes a seat by Lazarus and buckles himself in; he almost chuckles at how much easier it is to buckle himself in a car versus a Levitar. Lazarus begins to drive away with his wife’s car following him; he doesn’t look back to see if Maxxor is following and neither does Accato. Lazarus doesn’t look at him while he drives and turns the radio back on:

“Riders on the storm,

Riders on the storm,

Into this house we're born.

Into this world we're thrown.

Like a dog without a bone,

An actor out alone,

Riders on the storm.”

*

Chapter Text

Forces Chapter Seven

*******

Suggested Theme:

Main Theme- Lazarus by David Bowie

*******

            “Better now?” Peyton nods his head weakly and hopes that there isn’t going to be an encore. This is worse than the time I dropped grandma’s ashes on the Christmas ham! Peyton feels his face turning red in embarrassment. He just ralphed in front of the Crown Prince of the Mipedians, and of course in front of another prince, a sly Muge, a testy Stalker, and his good pal, Siado. Speaking of which, the same good pal is about seconds away from laughing. Peyton guesses that Siado doesn’t want to appear childish in front of his higher-ups.

“You are not the first person to vomit in my presence. However, you are the first human to do so, so congratulations are in order.” Peyton did not expect Iflar to be so chilled about this. He expected Iflar to yell at him or give him a withering glare like Mudeenu is doing right now.

“I am honored to be your first, your majesty.” Peyton does a hasty bow and hears Siado trying to muffle his laughter, and failing at it.

“You can stop with that; it’s not like we’re in Perim anymore. Speaking of which, where exactly are we?” On a beach, Peyton almost utters but decides not to. Iflar may seem more, way more, chilled than Mudeenu, but sarcasm probably isn’t the best way to ease the confusion that the Mipedians must be feeling right now.

“Well, you’re in another dimension called Earth which is the home to all humans. There are thousands of countries, which is like the Tribes, on Earth. Specifically, you are in the country of the United States of America also known as America or just USA. Within said countries are fifty states that sort of govern themselves, the state that you are in is known as Hawaii. However, we are specifically on an island known as Kumar which is off another island known as Lanai, which means Pineapple Isle, and Hawaii is basically made up of a collection of islands.” If his picky World History teacher was here, Peyton probably would’ve gotten a B for his synopsis of Earth.

“I actually understood most of what you just said. Well, at least this place is better than that other place with the UnderWorlders, Danians, and OverWorlders just attacking anything that moves.” Peyton realizes that Iflar is talking about the PortCourt; he hopes his friends made it out of there alive. And he really needs to get back home and check out the news.

“Yeah, that was Chaotic where players go to port into Perim. You wouldn’t have happen to see a blonde girl with green eyes named Sarah, a red-head with spikey hair named Kaz, or a black-haired, blue-eyed guy named Tom while you were in Chaotic?” He’s kind of hoping that Iflar or at least one of the Mipedians saw his friends; more specifically, saw them port out.

“No, I don’t believe so. I was too busy trying not to get hit by parasite projectors. Did any of you see any players matching his descriptions?” Iflar turns to ask the rest of Mipedians. All of them shook their heads immediately. Like Iflar, they were too busy dodging attacks and figuring out where the Pits were they then.

“Well, thanks. My Scanner isn’t working for some reason, so I can’t contact my friends or even port back into Chaotic. Man, I should’ve gotten their digits and e-mail addresses a long time ago. Anyways, wanna crash at my place?” Peyton can literally see the confusion on Siado’s and Zhade’s faces when he said digits and e-mail addresses. Tianne and Mudeenu remain remarkably cool, while Iflar’s eyes twinkle enthusiastically.

“That would be lovely, but I’m afraid we can’t offer you much in return in this world. Maybe when we get back to Mipedim Oasis, or anywhere in Perim really, I’ll be able to reward you for your hospitality.” Dear God, please let me get a scan of Iflar…….you know when everything goes back to normal. Peyton inwardly prays and motions the Mipedians to follow him.

*

Walking home is surprisingly an easy task for Peyton, well except when one of the Mipedians, most likely Tiaane or Siado, would stop and examine things that clearly don’t exist in Perim. Like cars. Or telephone poles. Peyton is actually surprised that Iflar didn’t stop at all because the Mipedian is the literal embodiment of excited curiosity. He could’ve sworn that the Crown Prince would’ve climbed a telephone pole if said act wouldn’t make him lose his dignity in front of his people. He is not surprised to see Mudeenu and Zhade just looking warily at their newfound surroundings like they expect a Hybrid to bite them.

However, Peyton is more bothered by how literally dead the island is than by the Mipedians’ distractedness. No, seriously, he’s going to be disappointed if he doesn’t see a tumbleweed soon. He has a feeling that everyone is pretty much locked up in their houses and having breakdowns while watching the news. Not even the stoner kids from his school are roaming the streets. At least, I won’t have to hear a guy screaming, ‘Godzilla’ at us. Peyton almost shrugs at the thought.

His home is about fifteen minutes from his house by walking which is helped by how relatively flat the town is on a whole. The only slopes or hills they have on Kumar happen to be located near Mount Kraken, a small, extinct volcano. His house, like nearly all of the houses on the island, was built somewhere between the 1920s and 30s and almost all the houses look postcard-photogenic. He would describe the houses like two-story fantasy cottages with a separate garage and a bunch of hedges in place of white-picket fences.

However, each house has a sort of quirk to them, like unusual colors or lawn gnomes, to make them different. His home has a terracotta-shingle roof and is the color of burnt umber with hay-yellow trimmings. On more than one occasion, he has referred to his home as a “rejected gingerbread house” because of the colors; also, his mom likes to grow many candy-color flowers that resemble sugarless gumdrops. His room pretty much overlooks the garage while also giving him a view of the street; unfortunately, because of the shingles, he cannot climb out of his room and onto the garage like many of his friends here tend to do at their homes.

And finally, as he and the Mipedians walk up the driveway to reach the wooden stairs to the front door, it hits him that his parents are probably not going to be receptive. Unlike Kaz, at least from what he has heard from Tom, he does not go around his school, claiming that Chaotic is real. Also, like many players, he has hardly ever talked about Chaotic to his parents because they aren’t interested in card games, let alone telling them that Creatures and Perim are real.

Now, their first exposure to Perim and its Creatures is most likely riddled with fear and confusion thanks to the media. He imagines his mom would scream and maybe faint after seeing the Mipedians, while his dad would probably ask if he was in a SyFy original movie. And then probably faint or scream. He is starting to regret for not talking about Chaotic more with his parents; at least, they might, and he’s stretching the term like a rubber band about to break, be prepared for what the media is talking about. And what he’ll most likely talk about with them.

“Okay, you guys are going to have to wait out here for a bit because I have to explain my parents…..pretty much everything at this point. But I’ll be back as soon as possible. Also, if you see someone leave their house, then turn invisible if only to prevent them going all Frankenstein mob on you guys.” Peyton quickly enters his house without so much listening to a word from the Mipedians (or looking at their super confused expressions on all their faces at Frankenstein). And he literally sprints down the hallway to kitchen. His parents like watching the news on the little TV in the kitchen while drinking coffee in the mornings.

“MOM! DAD! DON’T BELIEVE THE STUFF THEY’RE SAYING ON TV!!” Peyton feels himself screech into the kitchen like a car coming to a sudden halt. His parents……are actually watching a bunch of static on the TV while sipping their coffees.

“Woah, Peyton was today like some sort of half day at your school? Also, we need to buy another little TV because this one has finally broke.” His dad does not avert his grass-green eyes from the static and neither does his mom. Peyton is relieved and dumbfounded at the same time.

“Also, what the heck are you talking about, son? Have aliens finally invade the moon or something?” His mom jokes dryly while taking another sip from her floral-patterned mug. She’s wearing loose pajama bottoms with science jokes all over it. She also has on her over-sized Zombie Trooper t-shirt. Well, she must’ve gotten a call from work not to come in today or something. Peyton briefly thinks before returning to his task.

“Okay, mom and dad, I need to tell you something.” And then Peyton explains as much as he can with what is going on in the world right now, and of course about the Mipedians patiently waiting outside. His parents take it surprisingly well; they didn’t scream or cry or look at him like he was lying.

“Peyton, everything you just said sounds like a SyFy original movie. I really want to see if these Creatures are as badly CGI as I think they are. And maybe take a few hundred pictures of them.” His dad is a professional photographer, an amateur video editor, and a party planner for a living; although, he changes between those jobs depending on the season. He also happens to love SyFy original movies just because of how terrible looking they are.

“Uh, I’ll go get them and please don’t scream.” Once again, Peyton sprints to the front door and opens it to find the Mipedians gone.

“Oh no, where the heck could they have gone!?” Peyton half-whispers and half-shouts to himself. But then he sees a shimmer in front of him, and the Mipedians become visible again.

“There was an old woman throwing away her garbage next door.” Siado explains flatly in a blink. Peyton shrugs and then opens the door to let them in. Iflar, Siado, and Zhade get in without much problems since they’re pretty skinny, especially Iflar, but Tiaane and Mudeenu pretty much creates cracks in the doorframe from squeezing their heavier builds in. Peyton suddenly feels a lot skinnier now. All of them head into the kitchen.

“Oh my God, this is better than Sharktopus.” His dad’s eyes are wide and he’s gaping, but he’s not screaming or fainting. Peyton considers this a good sign.

“I am so curious to your dietary habits. Do you eat your prey whole like anacondas? Or do you prefer a more herbivore diet?” Peyton almost smacks himself out of embarrassment at his mom pretty much insinuating that the Mipedians are like the animals here.

“I subsist mostly on tea and fruit.” Iflar replies politely. Peyton, his mom, and his dad immediately burst out laughing. Crown Prince Iflar is the best deadpan comic ever! Peyton laughs even harder at his thought.

“Are you finish?” Mudeenu asks tersely like he’s second away from chewing the Touheys out. Man, Mudeenu is a buzzkill; how closely related is he to Iflar? Peyton wonders because just looking at the two royals remind him how different they are from one another.

“I’m good, I’m good. Well, I’m going to go plan a kickass ‘Welcome to Earth’ party for tomorrow. But I don’t know where all of you going to sleep since there’s only one guest bedroom with the one bed.” His dad loves to have an excuse to throw a party, and what better than a party to welcome otherworldly beings to the island?

“Well, we do have a couple of hammocks outback. And the sofa is pretty comfortable to sleep on. Will that be okay?” The Mipedians are used to the hot, arid environment of their desert; now, they are in a tropical paradise. Siado, Tiaane, and Iflar are practically (in their own unique ways) beaming, while Zhade and Mudeenu are scowling.

“That will work marvelously for us. And may I have some tea? And may I suggest to plan the party for the early afternoon?” Iflar charmingly grins. Peyton can see a faint blush on his mom’s tan cheeks. While the world is going to Hell, the Touheys and the Mipedians, well most of them, are drinking tea and helping plan a party.

*

Chapter Text

Forces Chapter Eight

********

Suggested Theme:

Main Theme- Do You Feel It? By Chaos Chaos

********

            Mrs. Kalinkas cries herself into a horrible, nightmare-fueled slumber. She sees the red demon, a bastard spawn of Chernabog and Satan, burning Cinderella Village with some monstrous robotic contraption spewing fire. She sees the winged demoness snatching up fleeing children and throwing them into burning buildings. She sees the blue and red, evil Mushu ordering faceless, red-armored monsters to tear apart the roads with hunks of twisted metal. She sees her son running through the fire, somehow immune like a dragon, and climbing up the robotic contraption to reach the red demon. The demon yanks Kaz by his collar and then enclose his massive red hands around Kaz’s throat. Kaz’s face goes white and then purple; his eyes are bloodshot and he’s making strangled noises like a dying cat.

SNAP!

“AHHHH!” She screams her way back to reality. Her head bumps the underside of her desk, and she rubs the top of her head to soothe the ache. She crawls out from under her desk and stiffly stands up. She looks around to see that there is no one else in the office, unless they’re hiding under their desk. She notices that all of the lights are out which means it could be a power outage. She also walks over to the large glass windows to see if the world is truly burning.

Outside, it’s a dark night and the lampposts are on, so it means that there’s still electricity going on. She does not see any cars on fire, looting, or people being shot. Nor does she see a congestion of cars getting the Hell out of Chicago. She sees people driving but not crazily like in apocalyptic movies and shows. It’s like everything is a dream.

She runs back to her desk and gets her phone. She frantically checks for messages from Kaz, Buttercup, or even Tom. There’s nothing, except the voicemail that Kaz left for her earlier. It was at 1:50 PM when she received the voicemail; now, it’s 7:25 PM. She is reminded when she was informed of her husband’s…….death. She cried and then fell into an almost cationic state where it took her hours to get out of her state. During that time, she wasn’t certain how Kaz took it, but he didn’t scream at her for her neglect of him. In fact, she once woke up in her bed with little Kaz bringing in a tray of oatmeal and coffee for her. Kaz may not look it, but he is self-sufficient. However, she does call Kaz because even he fend himself from hellish monsters. Unfortunately, it goes straight to voicemail.

“Kaz, would you please call me back as soon as possible. Don’t be a hero, and please don’t come for me. I’ll come for you, okay? So just stay with the Majors until then. Oh, I love you.” She leaves a voicemail for Kaz and hopes that Kaz will call her back soon. She then shoots a couple of text messages at Tom and Buttercup in hopes that they might respond. She waits about ten minutes and gets nothing from either of them. Then, she calls the both of them and it goes straight to voicemail for them too.

“Okay, they might be in trouble right now and have to keep their phones off or something to get around said trouble. Because there’s no way both of their phones can be dead since I did get Buttercup that car charger for her birthday last year. Or she’s driving and she does have that insane rule of ‘all phones must be off while inside the vehicle.’” Mrs. Kalinkas likes to talk out loud when she’s stressed out. For her, it helps her organize the chaos going inside her mind from her stress.

“I’ll just head back home and……get cleaned up. Maybe by then, they’ll call me back.” Mrs. Kalinkas finally decides to leave the office and head back to her home. Her home is a condo that is about five blocks away from her office. Considering how her work largely required her to be in Chicago, she bought a condo, so she wouldn’t have to spend so much money living in motels and hotels. The four-story condominium looks like what a methodical child would make; each condo with a small balcony is framed with some sort of metal art that almost makes it look like colorless, fanciful building blocks. She has always liked this style because it wasn’t loud and the metal frames do add a decorative feel to her balcony.

Inside, it is unusually dead. Usually, there are people in the lobby, usually about to head out for a night on the town. Or there was an obnoxiously loud party happening on the first floor. Instead, it is all silent like everyone up and let the building. Is it possible that everyone fled in fear of those monsters coming here? Those monsters are in Paris and Cinderella Village, and that’s about it. But then again, if Kaz was here, I would’ve taken us all the way to Canada just to be safe. Mrs. Kalinkas sighs regrettably at her actions. She could’ve stayed home this month; Cheryl had offered her that option to work at home, back in Cinderella Village, but Mrs. Kalinkas refused because, truthfully, she didn’t want to. Now, she has to hope that Kaz is safe with the Majors while those monsters destroy their little town.

She took the elevator to make it to her condo on the third floor. The elevator plays its usual repetitive music which is actually very calming for her nerves. At least, this is still the same. She smiles appreciatively but sadly. When the elevator dings, she walks out and hurries down the hall to reach her condo.

321S

She unlocks her white door with the black, metal lettering. Inside, she then bolts her door shut as if she expects a monster to come to her door. Paranoid, she does peek through the eyehole to see if any monster is there. There is none. She lets out a sigh of relief and turns to be greeted by her tiny kitchen and living room. Her kitchen is a checker of black and white colors with granite tops where she dumps her cellphone, while her living room is white with oak floors. She is tempted to turn on her plasma TV but decides not to. The news would just make her feel worse.

She goes to her room; her room is butter-yellow with the same oak floors as the living room. Her queen-sized bed with its blue comforter looks inviting; she almost goes over to her bed but decides to go take a shower. Her adjoined bathroom only has a porcelain sink with a marble counter with a square mirror, a small toilet, a towel rack, and a black and white checkered shower big enough to hold two people. She strips out of her clothes and takes her much-yearned-for shower.

Usually, she would bring some clothes with her to change into after her shower, so she wouldn’t track water everywhere. This time, she breaks her pattern. She takes a cold shower, cold enough to combat any hellfire that a red demon can create. She then walks out and grabs a towel to dry herself. She wonders if Kaz even has a place to take a shower anymore. Once fairly dry, she leaves the bathroom and grabs some PJs from her dresser. She puts on an over-sized blue t-shirt and sky-blue loose bottoms. She feels clean and almost comfortable again, but she then hears her cellphone go off.

TWINKLE!

She runs fast, leaving behind faint, watery footprints and snatches up her phone from the kitchen counter. She looks to see its Buttercup who is calling her. She swallows down her disappointment but happily accepts that at least someone is calling her back. She finally accepts the call and turns on the speaker.

“Buttercup, thank God, are you okay? Is Kaz okay?! Are you away from that horrible place?!” Mrs. Kalinkas almost screams as she shoots out her questions like bullets. She has to clap hand over her mouth to prevent herself from asking even more questions. How else will she get her answers if she keeps asking questions?

“…I’m fine. I’m at the Madonna-Magdalena Mountains with my family. However, we’re also with these Creatures known as OverWorlders who oppose these demon-like Creatures known as UnderWorlders. Apparently, the UnderWorlders are the ones who started the invasion or something. Anyways, they’re going to be here with us……until they find a way back to their dimension. But first, they have to stop the UnderWorlders. If that’s even possible…” Mrs. Kalinkas bites her forefinger to prevent herself from blurting out impatiently for Buttercup to get to Kaz.

“Look……….I’m sorry. I’m really sorry, but Kaz isn’t with us. Tom tried finding him, but he didn’t find him. I think he’s still in Cinderella Village.” Immediately, Mrs. Kalinkas ends the call. She then puts her phone back on the kitchen counter and slowly lowers herself to the cold floor. She wraps her arms around her legs and pulls them into her chest.

For the second time that day, she cries herself to sleep.

*

Chapter Text

Forces Chapter Nine

*********

Suggested Theme:

Main Theme- Treebeard’s Song by Christopher Lee

*********

            Skithia watches the steady rise and fall of the human known as Kaz. He is sleeping on a mattress, which she had to get from his top bunk, on the floor in his room. He is sleeping on his stomach, so he would not aggravate his burns.

Kaz could only sleep thanks to the aid of sleeping pills after the dinner of canned soup.

It will be a couple of weeks before Kaz can move beyond his house. She narrows his eyes at the sleeping human; she does not like remaining in this unfortified, wooden house for weeks.

But he’s weak. Just like father. Her eyes soften, and she sighs quietly.

And he sung exactly like him. But can he help her survive in his world that has been invaded by Creatures?

He is from this world, but this world will be taken by Creatures. She remembers seeing the humans, the adults especially, running away with all their precious belongings. She followed a human with black hair, a human that was a known associate of Maxxor’s, around for a bit.

The human and his family went to the house that belonged to Kaz. They were trying to find Kaz and to get him to escape their city with them. They did not find him, so the human ran into the battlefield of confusion to find him.

And the human did not find Kaz. The human gave up Kaz for Maxxor.

She found him shortly after the human left with the OverWorlders. He took out one of Ulmar’s wormhole generators and also took out the middle-aged human that was with Ulmar a lot in the UnderWorld.

Chaor was being too quiet for Van Bloot’s liking and she was sent to spy on Ulmar because Krekk noticed a strange older human hanging around Ulmar. Ulmar who most certainly hated the humans more than any other Creature could.

She saw Kaz once, trying to break into Ulmar’s lab. Igrog chased Kaz out instead of catching him, which was odd since Ulmar liked to make test subjects out of intruders.

For weeks, she spied on Ulmar and Chaor, when she was absolutely certain that winged-bitch wasn’t around, until Ulmar left for Chaor’s Castle, leaving Igrog behind with the second wormhole generator.

I thought it was some top-secret weapon that Chaor had Ulmar build, so he can finally defeat Maxxor. She rolls her eyes; she’s been hearing Chaor say that since she was a baby.

Instead, Ulmar’s weapon was a wormhole generator that randomly generated portals and sent all of us to “Chaotic” and, eventually, here. To their homeworld. To a place that looks nothing like the UnderWorld. Her eyes go back to Kaz.

I saved him because I thought he might be of value to Chaor since he did help with the triple-cross. But I don’t recall Chaor ever once shouting in Chaotic for someone to find Kaz. Am I wasting my time? Her mind goes back to Kaz’s singing.

He sounded exactly like father. Will I really let such sentimentality get in the way of my survival? Because there is a good chance that Chaor will kill me if he finds me since he knows I’m Van Bloot’s Creature. And it’s not like he needs anymore soldiers when he could summon his army if Igrog uses the second machine. It was only a matter of time.

“We are many, but I am alone.” She told Kaz that and she also promised to tell him why she saved him. She didn’t get to because Kaz was extremely tired from his walk up and down the stairs. She had to carry him back upstairs to his room after dinner because he was in too much pain from walking.

If he did ask, I would’ve told him that he was my bargaining chip. But upon further reflection, he’s not of value to Chaor in this situation. Could he advise Chaor about his world? Yes, but would he? No, I do not think so, not without coercion. Kaz was most likely the one who destroyed the machine since he was attacked viciously by Chaor’s soldiers.

And they would’ve killed him if I did not intervene, so Chaor gave no special orders to spare Kaz. So Kaz is useless to him, and I should leave him since he will not contribute to my survival. But she does not budge from her spot on Kaz’s wooden floor.

He is weak like father.

*