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Steel Sponge

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  1. I am also open-minded about getting into other music genres, I do admit that I can find it hard sometimes to get myself invested into a hip hop/rap album and when I enjoy a certain song from an album that I listen to, I try to keep a mental note of that for when I'm building my playlists. While I'm certain someone above me has already said this, one method I have in mind is that I'd look into instrumental hip hop acts like Flying Lotus and DJ Shadow to get something more out of the genre. If you aim to put more effort into getting into rap and hip hop, some artists I recommend getting into if you haven't yet are Run the Jewels, Outkast, M.I.A., BROCKHAMPTON, Milo/R.A.P. Ferreira, Lupe Fiasco, and The Roots if you're looking for music that can be both fun and introspective while I recommend albums like Cosmogramma, To Pimp a Butterfly, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (or The College Dropout if I'm going with something besides an easy choice), The Score, Things Fall Apart, Purple Moonlight Pages, ATLiens (or like Aya suggested, Aquemini), We Got it From Here...(besides beng a tribute to one of the deceased members of A Tribe Called Quest, it's diverse with sounds and guest artists as well), and basically any Run the Jewels album. There's also Gorillaz to consider, even though their music is genreless. Their debut album has quite a lot of hip hop influences, so I'd get into that too if you haven't. There's more that I could name, but of course, when it comes to getting into hip hop, I still consider myself a beginner.
  2. Sometimes - My Bloody Valentine
  3. I don't know how long you're going to stay committed to this, but I will at least vouch in a request if that can keep the ball rolling. Try mashing up Underwater Sun with any other song from The Cramps as you please.
  4. I don't know how many times I'll have to bump this thread to say that I've regained motivation to draw when I don't want my goal of becoming animator to be further away from me, so from this point on, I plan on posting my art on a more regular basis (Besides, I have a drawing tablet now, so I should have no excuse now to not do any drawings). I've at least wanted to post some new art before the end of the year, so here's a series of rough sketches where I put my skills to the test and make my Chemist Bob avatar more expressive, and it shouldn't go without saying that I'm still a novice at making abstract drawings:
  5. 29. Fire and Ice Here's my 6th original one-shot, and my last one before the end of 2021, the one that won me the Snowcember story contest. For this one, I've decided to experiment with a style that I haven't tackled before on this site but I've been meaning to try for a while: poetry, or in this case, haiku poetry that blurs the line between Japanese culture, story-driven poetry (which is another way of calling them 'Epics'), and animal fiction familiarized by the works of Jack London. As you can see, this is another one of my one-shot stories that just came to me naturally. Of course, I don't consider myself a professional in this lane. Chances are, I might have used one too many syllables somewhere in my paragraphs that could get me kicked out by the local haiku club's bouncer. But hey, the judging panel for the contest did like my haiku poetry well enough to give it the win, so I can say that I've accomplished something with my writing. Winter approaches The cold snap is quite ahead Chills you to the bone Autumn had fallen The heat of the summer passed Spring can only wait It is the harshest Of the four season cycle For a few reasons Your vital senses Are threatened by the winter Scent, sight, and hearing Winter invokes fear For 'ankle-biters' like me Left out in the cold Animal instinct The most important aspect Towards survival I’ve learned all the ways To live amongst the wolf pack As an outsider I plow through the snows I trek through the blizzards I keep myself warm I skate on smooth ice With my paws, without cracking The delicate sheet Out on a journey Finding my life’s purpose Through the Japan Alps When we seek shelter We spend our nights in cold caves We keep ourselves warm Wolves live for the hunt They rip through flesh of their prey And spit out the bones As part of the pack I soldier on in the glades Hunting down my prey Despite my own youth I sink my teeth into game Mightier than man Bird, fish, rodent, man I tear right into the flesh And spit out the bones It is a standard When it comes to surviving I live for the hunt We shelter once more It’s snowing on Mt. Fuji Three months and counting The blazes within It keeps the mountain burning And makes the soil warm I have heard stories Of what fire symbolizes In both life and death It is a resource It‘s also a destroyer Dividing us so Stored in volcanoes Fires erupt from mountaintops Ash falls from the skies Fire intrigues me In the cold and stark winter The touch, sight, and warmth Thinking about it There is a deep connection Between fire and ice The cold in my blood And the flame that burns inside My eyes and my heart I feel them function Both simultaneously So I can survive The hunt continues I follow among the pack We stretched and we scratched Living and dying Expectations of the hunt We lose our own too Heart beats like a drum My mind like a metronome I’ve risked death again Afraid, that I’m not I’ve grown to face obstacles Though I’m young and small Other animals They hibernate through the cold But I will not sleep I’ll keep on going My journey is not over I keep myself warm
  6. I feel really bad for Lindsay Ellis right now.

  7. As far as I'm concerned, Korra gets its praise for not being one of many of Nickelodeon's failed SpongeBob clones during the channel's so-called dork age. And it got mistreated regardless of the show's quality because that's just how Cyma's Nickelodeon rolls. (you know i'm joking along with you guys, so don't take this seriously)
  8. Here's my late entry at a little over 400 words, so yeah, take it for what you will: Fire and Ice Winter approaches The cold snap is quite ahead Chills you to the bone Autumn had fallen The heat of the summer passed Spring can only wait It is the harshest Of the four season cycle For a few reasons Your vital senses Are threatened by the winter Scent, sight, and hearing Winter invokes fear For 'ankle-biters' like me Left out in the cold Animal instinct The most important aspect Towards survival I’ve learned all the ways To live amongst the wolf pack As an outsider I plow through the snows I trek through the blizzards I keep myself warm I skate on smooth ice With my paws, without cracking The delicate sheet Out on a journey Finding my life’s purpose Through the Japan Alps When we seek shelter We spend our nights in cold caves We keep ourselves warm Wolves live for the hunt They rip through flesh of their prey And spit out the bones As part of the pack I soldier on in the glades Hunting down my prey Despite my own youth I sink my teeth into game Mightier than man Bird, fish, rodent, man I tear right into the flesh And spit out the bones It is a standard When it comes to surviving I live for the hunt We shelter once more It’s snowing on Mt. Fuji Three months and counting The blazes within It keeps the mountain burning And makes the soil warm I have heard stories Of what fire symbolizes In both life and death It is a resource It‘s also a destroyer Dividing us so Stored in volcanoes Fires erupt from mountaintops Ash falls from the skies Fire intrigues me In the cold and stark winter The touch, sight, and warmth Thinking about it There is a deep connection Between fire and ice The cold in my blood And the flame that burns inside My eyes and my heart I feel them function Both simultaneously So I can survive The hunt continues I follow among the pack We stretched and we scratched Living and dying Expectations of the hunt We lose our own too Heart beats like a drum My mind like a metronome I’ve risked death again Afraid, that I’m not I’ve grown to face obstacles Though I’m young and small Other animals They hibernate through the cold But I will not sleep I’ll keep on going My journey is not over I keep myself warm
  9. 6. Lost and Won Lost and Found Lost Soul The battle between Zowe and Deacon, assisted by Kinuyo’s supernatural power, continues on with Zowe still struggling to fight against Deacon’s appearance as Strezz, while the Cyclone jacket user still inflicts damage on his opponent through his disguise. In the sidelines, Marina, ever so faint at heart, is rooting for Zowe to overcome her opponent while also trying to avert her attention towards the fight and Zack continues to try and convince Zowe that the Strezz that she’s fighting is an imposter, to little avail. “What are you doing!?” Zack exclaimed. “You can’t just these two win like that!” “I know…it’s just that I can’t bring myself to cause physical harm to someone I really care about…” Zowe groaned, “…even if he’s not the real Strezz. All I can do…is bide my time.” “And just how long do you plan on keeping this up?” Kinuyo tormented. “I thought by using Evangelos to your disadvantage, we would be able to search the hut sooner than later. Turns out you are so much more persistent than I bargained.” “…Evangelos?” Zowe questioned. “You mean you don’t know his actual name? I thought you knew almost everything about your precious lost and scared baby penguin!” “If he never told me about his real name, then how did you know about it…and how did you even know about what I’ve been referring to Strezz as?” “Like I’ve said, I’m Seymour’s spy. Vandyke has also been acquiring personal info from the world outside this island as well, while posing as agents for different kinds of work, and likewise, that brand-new information is spread to all the other members of the troupe. Making assumptions as you will about why I’m assisting Seymour, but my motive for that is similar to those of you and your marooned friends: to have my own life spared, to be given a sense of freedom, and most importantly, to survive. That has been my vow ever since I’ve been brought here from my own universe against my will, and ever since I’ve been separated from Kiyoko after I was found and then taken in by Seymour to become one of his pawns.” “Kiyoko is your sister, huh?” “That reminds me, where has she gone?” Zack questioned. “The last I’ve heard from her, she was going after one of Seymour’s guards.” “Since I’ve said enough that you’d ever needed to know about me, I’ll give Deacon the honor to lay the final blow on you.” “Zowe!” Marina cried out. Marina and Zack saw as the disguised and controlled Deacon produced a punch with an intense electrical discharge, knocking Zowe unconscious in the process. Deacon stared down at Zowe’s unmoving body that yet continued to pulse. Before Deacon could do more, Marina and Zack interfered by approaching to her side while Kinuyo’s eyes were focused on the hut. “Now that we’ve taken care of our hindrance, we can continue with our job and search the hut of Seymour’s missing troopers,” said Kinuyo. “After that, we can investigate the source of that loud explosion in the jungle and see if Kiyoko is involved somehow. Let’s move out, Deacon. Your fight is over.” After being knocked out by Deacon, Zowe found herself elsewhere from the island. She viewed from her surroundings that she was now inside what appeared to be a rehabilitation center. Am I…back home? Zowe thought. No, it doesn’t like it. Where am I and what am I doing here out of the island anyway? “Thank Neptune you’re okay, Zowe!” She heard her mother speak. That was when she viewed her parents entering the room to run up to her and embrace her. “Speak to us, Zowe! What happened to you? Are they taking good care of you?” She heard her father speak. Zowe attempted to say something, but she wasn’t able to move her mouth. She didn’t know why. Her parents continued to talk until the image around her began to blur and warp into something different. This time, Zowe saw herself someplace else that was also unknown to her. She saw herself in front of what appeared to be a hotel room within a resort, and in front of Marina’s parents. “Where’s Marina?” She heard Marina’s mother ask. “We’ve been told that you’ve both been staying here and we need to know if you haven’t gotten her into any real trouble.” Once again, Zowe tried to speak but her still body prevented her from doing so. “You have been looking after her, haven’t you?” She then heard Marina’s father ask. “I don’t understand why our daughter trusts you when you’re a druggie and you won’t even talk to us when we need you to.” Desperate to speak now, Zowe’s words were cut as the image in front of her began to blur out again. She was nowhere now except in a dark, black background with no one around. However, that was until she saw…herself, with a look and posture of shame. “I apologize that I made you experience what I have experienced while I covered for you,” the other Zowe spoke, revealing herself to be actually Deacon. “What’s going on?” Unable to comprehend all that she was witnessing around her, this was all that Zowe felt the need to say towards her double. “I can explain,” the other Zowe continued. “Those events that you’ve just witnessed are, of course, not your own and they are my own memories. I have a feeling though that they do say something about you, am I wrong?” “Reveal yourself, already! I’ve already dealt with enough crap!” Zowe exclaimed, who was about to tear up from her frustration, confusion, and anxiety. “Why should I have to tell you my true feelings? You’re just someone who’s been made an enemy by Seymour!” “I’ve been fed information about you by Vandyke, Seymour, and Kinuyo. They have forced me to act as you just so they could easily get a hold of Z-Storm and the boy who wears the jacket without having to fight. Being tasked to make myself convincing as possible in impersonating you was where I’ve come to realize that I’m not truly myself and learned self-control while Kinuyo’s back is turned.” “So how have you been able to overcome Kinuyo’s control and reach out to me?” “While I don’t have the ability to see the yo-kai nor the threads from Kinuyo’s kimono that they latch onto, I have just figured out how to use the threads to my advantage after I managed to tug on one of the invisible strings connected to my jacket, so that I could then latch it onto your head.” Deacon, while still under his appearance as Zowe, then reveals the yo-kai and the respective thread that he’s been gripping on. From what it appeared, they were visible. “From what I guess, we seem to be inside of the world that connects the yo-kai and its hosts, which is why we can see it here. As long as I still got a hold of this yo-kai, we’re still confined from conscious world.”’ Zowe left herself speechless for a moment trying to process all the information given to her by her double. She then took a deep breath and continue by saying “Look…I don’t understand everything that you’re trying to say to me. All I need to know is why this is all happening to me right now.” “I reached out to you so that I can help you,” the other Zowe continued. “I’m still being controlled by Kinuyo’s yo-kai since I’m still attached to Cyclone’s powers. Now that I got her yo-kai within my own control for this short while, I can arrange a fairer fight against you.” “So, let me get this straight: if you let go of the yo-kai, we’ll both be back on the island like normal?” “I’m not sure how time works here, but I do know that we don’t have enough of it to stay here since Kinuyo’s just about ready to infiltrate the hut and she may have already noticed that I’ve seized the yo-kai controlling me. So before we snap ourselves back to the island, I have one important question that I still need you to answer: do those memories of mine that the yo-kai displayed reflect your own memories? It’s just a feeling that I have…” “To tell you the truth…there’s one other main reason why I’ve tried to leave for Seaside Springs before I knew about it being a lie. I just never had the heart to tell my parents or my other folks that I’ve turned to drugs to cope with my mental health issues and I thought entering a fresh start would help me kick the addictions that I succumbed to. When I won the fake contest and was given the opportunity to start a new life, I never told my parents that I would be going someplace they might have never heard of, so I lied to them by saying that I was going hang out with Marina for most of the summer and I never told them why or when I was going to come back. I’ve been sober for almost a month after being trapped in this island, but there were moments where I wished that I relapsed and this situation wasn’t helping me with becoming a better person.” “Do you believe you have improved as a person? I am aware that you have loved ones and when you stepped in to fight me and Kinuyo, it was for the sake of your loved ones.” “You’re one to talk when you let Kinuyo take advantage of me and you didn’t have the self-control to drop your act as Strezz when I wanted the suffering to stop!” Zowe suddenly snapped. “I am so sick of suffering. Through fighting you, I’ve convinced myself that I can’t keep wallowing about my past, so there!” Taken aback by the intensity of Zowe’s words, her double paused for a brief moment before then responding, “That’s exactly what I needed to hear from you. Now do you understand why I’m talking to you as you?” “Of course I do, I feel like I’m talking to my own reflection.” “You also understand Kinuyo’s weakness, do you? I can’t promise a fairer fight with you if her guard isn’t down.” “So, can I go back now?” “There’s no more time to waste. Before I do that, think about why we’ve had this heart-to-heart. Remember who you are and don’t think of me as your target, think of me as the old you; the old you that I give you permission to hit as hard as you can. That should be able to prove how much you’ve grown as person.” In a flash, both Zowe and Deacon left the nonphysical world and returned to Shellside Shores, where they spotted Kinuyo in the midst of breaking into the hut to seek Seymour’s now-former guards. Before she could use her powers, Zowe strikes at Kinuyo with her brass knuckles. At that same time, Deacon changed his appearance to that of Zowe’s, as part of his promise. “I knew something was peculiar when I noticed Deacon was unconscious like you,” Kinuyo remarked. “I now know that you’ve been hiding Seymour’s guards in there, so it’s too late.” “Haven’t you forgotten how persistent I am?” Zowe provoked. “I won’t let anything bring me down, bitch! My fight still isn’t over, so I won’t let you lay a finger on them.” Kinuyo used her silk to fling Zowe back in the battlefield alongside Deacon, then saying to her, “Fine, I’ll give you another round. Once you’re down, it’s all over. Now Deacon, do me a small favor and transform back into Strezz for me.” Before Kinuyo could control the yo-kai within Deacon’s armor, her request was interrupted by Zowe, who landed a punch against her opponent. “What are you doing!?” Kinuyo exclaimed towards Deacon. “Deacon and I had a talk,” said Zowe. “You can’t fool me now, Kinuyo. If you’re going to use your tricks, then I’m going to focus on you for my fight.” “Have it your way then, no dirty tricks,” Kinuyo replied. “I’ve already wasted too much precious time for this anyway.” Zowe’s fight with Deacon resumed as for the second and final time. Zowe relied on her electrical brass knuckles as her sole weapon while Deacon, unable to fight as Cyclone while transformed, resorted to using his regular physical strength. Due to Zowe’s boosted confidence, the fight was going well within her favor. For the first remainder of the fight, Deacon dodged numerous hits from Zowe. For the rest of the fight, Zowe managed to overwhelm Deacon after getting his strategy down. After a while, Deacon was knocked down, before reverting back to his original form. “I’ve defeated Deacon fair and square,” Zowe said towards Kinuyo. “You should be able to leave us be now, since that was part of the whole deal.” “That I shall,” Kinuyo responded. “However, I can’t possibly leave without returning to Seymour with a little something special.” Before Zowe, Zack, or Marina could remove the jacket from Deacon, Kinuyo uses her yo-kai to uncloak her partner. Afterwards, Kinuyo then showed the Cyclone jacket in front of Zowe. “I thought you were weak at first, but you proved yourself to have quite a lot of fierceness and bravado. With an attitude like that, you should be begging to become a member of the Thunder Troopers!” As Kinuyo flung the jacket towards Zowe’s abdomen, Zowe resisted by holding it back from herself. She gripped on the sleeves of the jacket and to budge her legs forwards as Kinuyo tried to push her back with her force. Finally, while still clinging on to the jacket, Zowe uses up her strength to lift the jacket with the threads attached and throw Kinuyo overhead to break free from her force. “Looks like I’ve no more business with you folks anymore. There’s nothing else for me to do than find my sister…” Kinuyo finished as she then made a run for the jungle. “You’re not getting away!” Zack called out, throwing the line of his fishing rod to try and catch the spy. Kinuyo uses her silk threads to shield herself from the rod and then uses her same powers to fling Zack’s knife into Deacon’s chest, piercing him through. With the three castaways coming over to support Deacon, Kinuyo was already out of their sights. “Dammit, she escaped,” Zowe snarled, “…and by using Deacon as a sacrifice!” “Damn her, she killed him with my own knife,” said Zack. “I feel guilty for this.” “Don’t be…” Deacon spoke. “I should’ve known that she’d double-cross after I regained control of myself.” “You don’t deserve to die like this!” Zowe said. “If we could just go and retrieve our medical supplies, I’m sure you’ll live-“ “I’m sorry…there’s no saving me,” Deacon interrupted. “What matters now is that I’m free.” “This is terrible…” Marina spoke in a soft tone, in tears. “Before I die, I owe you three thanks for removing my comrades from Seymour’s control. …Tell them I said goodbye for me…” Deacon finished. Afterwards, he lost all consciousness. The three castaways gave themselves a good moment to express their sadness towards the fallen Thunder Trooper. The trio returned to their serious moods after they’ve finished grieving and began refocusing on the main mission. “We’ll find a place to bury Deacon later,” Zack was saying. “For now, let’s focus on the mission of vanquishing Seymour, reforming his soldiers, and getting out of this island. We still need half of our team back in one piece: Strezz, Cam, Arthur, Kiyoko, and Shazza. Someone has to go after Kiyoko while I go after the others. Zowe, you can...” After Zack had mentioned Zowe, she collapsed from fatigue, prompting for Zack to check on her. “All that fighting has worn her out,” said Marina. “Zack, you and Zowe shouldn’t worry about me running into Kinuyo. I’m going to find Kiyoko and bring her back here. If I’m lucky, I may also find the others in the jungle too.” “And if they’re not there, I can always try and find them inside Seymour’s submarine,” Zack continued. “Are you sure you can handle this?” “Shazza and I were able to hold our own against one of the guards after we got captured inside there. Even though I escaped, Shazza’s still out there, as she’s going to face Vandyke, so you’ll surely find her there.” “Then it’s settled, but before you go out and find Kiyoko, you’ll have to carry Zowe into the hut so she can rest. Anyhow, I can start sneaking inside the submarine right now…shit!” Zack said as he noticed that the submarine was gone from the shore. “What are you going to do now, Zack?” Marina asked. “So Seymour made off with the submarine. Well, that’s not going to stop me! Marina, there’s a transporter to the base inside that storage room that’s below our feet. Do you remember where it is?” “I can’t say that I have. I found it while following Hector’s pet eel.” Marina replied. “If I shouldn’t worry about you, then you shouldn’t have to worry about me.” Zack replied. “I’ll find the transporter myself.” Zack then steps on a rough patch of the flat, sandy surface, activating the trapdoor that sent him down into the storage room. Marina peered down at Zack from above and said to him, “You’ll come back soon, right? I’m wishing you good luck!” “Just leave this task to me,” Zack responded and make his way along the halls. I can’t promise her if I will be able to return. He thought. This is a life or death situation that I’ll be facing. I’m the oldest of the team and I’ve seen someone die right in front of me, so I know I’m up to the risk. Meanwhile, inside the submarine, Cam and Arthur could be seen climbing around on the overhead of the submarine. “Attention to all Thunder Troopers,” a voice echoed from the speakers overhead. “If you’re receiving this message, the submarine is on lockdown in case of intruders in cooperation with Z-Storm, to ensure that none get out. Report immediately if any of you spot an infiltrator.” “How do they expect to have reinforcements when we have reduced their numbers?” Cam whispered to Arthur. “Let’s stick to our plan: we find the device that’s transfiguring the weather patterns in Shellside Shores and turn it off,” Arthur whispered. “Then we flee with the other members of Team Z-Storm through the escape pods, if we can find them.” “Sounds like a plan,” Cam replied. Strezz and Nike are walking along the passage leading to Vandyke’s office. Nike was preparing for her moment of reckoning while Strezz continued to look down on himself. He couldn’t think about why he’s having to aide Nike either, leaving himself to his thoughts. Why? He thought. Why do I have to end up like this? Why do I have to carry such a heavy burden after falling for that fake contest, putting my lives and everyone else’s on the line in the long run? I guess I really am just so selfish for wanting to do everything on my own. Shifting the perspective to the month before, Strezz is shown inside his bedroom in his former shared apartment with Ben, listening to his radio. “I hope you’ve enjoyed the music,” said a voice from the radio, coming from Matt. “We have a special giveaway going on, so right now, we’re going to be taking some calls. The lucky caller will win a free vacation to the Seaside Springs with family and friends. For those who are interested in this contest, call this number…” Being interested as ever, Strezz immediately called the exact phone number that was given. “We have our first caller on the line. Go ahead and tell us your name,” said the “radio host.” “Um…my name is Strezz Stormond,” he spoke in a soft tone. “I’m sorry. You’ll have to speak up for me.” “My name is Strezz Stormond!” He blurted with a fretful tone. “Can you spell out your first name for me? You have quite an uncommon name there.” “S…T...R…E…Z…Z, that’s two Z’s.” “So, Strezz, just how old are you?” “I’m fourteen, and I have autism, so I’ll need you to speak clear and slow for me, please.” “I hear you loud and clear. You must be proud to be answering the phone by yourself, wouldn’t you say so?” “What do I have to do to win your contest?” “All you have to do is answer this one question correctly and you’ll win your trip to Seaside Springs! Now here’s your question…can you give me the full name of this 6-name long multi-award winning championship surfer?” “I think I know it! Is it Sydney Teegan Rhonda Evelyn Zamora-Zucker?” “Wow…and you didn’t have to try and think it over.” “Does that mean I’ve won?” “Yes, your answer is indeed correct! Strezz Stormond, you have just won yourself, and a few lucky folks of your choice, a vacation at the exclusive Seaside Springs! How does that make you feel?” “Thank you so much, sir! I’m feeling really happy about this!” “That’s the spirit. All you have to do now is remember and/or copy these instructions to your destination…” Strezz’s flashback ends as he is now shown once again walking across the passage with Nike. She continued her usual impatient pace while Strezz didn’t question or comment about it. “Strezz, you may not know me that much, and you don’t trust me because of my association with Seymour’s group, I am here to help you,” Nike spoke. “I…met your family Strezz. They are super worried about you.” Strezz gave no response. “You still won’t talk?” Nike questioned. “If you’re upset that I got you and I captured, then I accept every bit of blame that you can give me.” While Nike talked, she and Strezz saw themselves in front of the door to Vandyke’s office. “Oh! Now I can give Vandyke a piece of my mind!” Nike opened the door and as expected, Vandyke was waiting for them. He examined the two jacket-wearers while sitting on a chair in the center of the room. “Back so soon, Nike?” Vandyke inquired. “I believe you and Strezz are here to turn yourselves completely loyal to Seymour. No wait, I forgot. You two are here to send me your last prayers before I remove your memories.” “I know you’re keeping something from me,” Nike responded. “Before I should surrender, I demand some answers.” “Make that two of us that you owe in giving back our stolen memories!” Shazza chimed in, stepping inside the office. “Well…you’re all going to forget before I have you each indoctrinated, so I might as well show you the truth,” said Vandyke. “Strezz, do you have any objections are specific words to say in your own behalf?” Strezz gave no response other than a sad, defeated look on his face. “Color me surprised. It looks Seymour broke you somehow,” Vandyke remarked towards Strezz. “Now then, follow me as I escort you three towards the conversion & operations room…” Arthur and Cam continued to trail the corridors of the submarine overhead when they spotted Vandyke with Strezz, Shazza, and Nike, the last in which caught the eye of Arthur. “Hey, it’s that girl that I rescued and ran off from the hut,” Arthur said, pointing over to Nike below. “I wonder what she’s doing here, but we’ll worry about that after we shut off the generator.” “Should we intervene?” Cam suggested. “They’ve held Strezz hostage, and this whole mission will be in vein once as these Troopers gain absolute control of Strezz and Z-Storm.” “That depends on the scenario,” Arthur replied. If Strezz, Shazza, and that other girl are in the utmost danger, they’d make a call for us to answer.” “Besides, if Vandyke is keeping watch of Strezz and the others, then that means one thing…” That was when Arthur and Cam would eventually crawl around the hatches until they spotted the specific room from below. It was being guarded by Seymour. He caught the sound from the noise that the duo were making and he leaned his head upward to spot the source before shifting his focus back towards his area of observation after catching no sight of intruders. In a fast and quiet pace, Cam and Arthur strode away to conceal themselves to avoid being within earshot from Seymour. “Of course he wouldn’t just leave it unguarded.” Cam said, directed towards his partner. “No matter what we’re going to do, we have to face these powerful guys head-on.” “You have a good way of thinking, Cam,” Arthur replied, “and that’s why I trust you to be able to turn off the generator.” “I don’t know…” Cam replied with a skeptical tone. “Considering that these guys have CORE-al-influenced tech, the machinery could be too complex for me to figure out under pressure.” “…You may not realize it, but Strezz is lucky to have someone like you who’s so smart and reliable sticking to his side. I trust you to put your abilities to good use while I divert Seymour’s attention.” “Are you going to do it? Seymour seems to be only interested in Strezz, and Vandyke has him hostage…” “Precisely, so I’ll be luring him to Vandyke so I can let Strezz, Shazza, and that mysterious girl escape. Speaking of which, they should have some vacant emergency escape capsules, which we’ll all retreat to when we have the chance.” “Okay, if you think this plan will work, then I entrust you to handle Seymour.” “Thanks…I’ll be back soon.” After Arthur had finished his talk with Cam, he jumped down from the rafters and landed inside the very room Seymour was guarding. Cam laid motionless, hiding himself from Seymour’s surroundings, due to Arthur confronting the adversary head-on. “So, you’ve decided to show yourself to me, Arthur,” Seymour spoke. “If you’re here to rescue Z-Storm, you’re too late.” “As long as I’m still standing, I won’t let Z-Storm’s powers fall into your hands, so I’m making an offer to fight with you,” Arthur declared. “If you say so,” Seymour replied before re-activating his Dark Strike armor. “Fighting Evangelos at his fullest power was a drag, so it would be a nuisance if fighting you turns out to be a disappointment. “In case you’ve forgotten, I possess a powerful shell, so I can resist longer than you can.” “That won’t intimate me,” Arthur said as he activated his Brave Bolt armor, “because I just need to keep you occupied…” It was at that moment that Arthur used his powers as Brave Bolt to fling Seymour straight across to distance him from the control area. Arthur would then make a dash through the corridors, prompting for Seymour to chase after him. When the coast appeared to be clear for Cam, he discreetly climbed down into the area containing the controls for the weather generator. “Damn you!” Seymour exclaimed towards Arthur. “You think I wouldn’t know that this is a diversion?” “You made a deal,” Arthur argued. “You want Z-Storm so bad, so then you’ll have to get through to me first. I’ll use all the power that my life force can allow to hold you if I have to.” “You would risk your life for Z-Storm?” Seymour questioned. “Aren’t you doing the same for your own self-gain?” Arthur provoked before then thrusting Seymour’s armor further back to shunt Seymour and himself closer to where Vandyke had his captives in his care. Meanwhile, as Cam was alone in the control area, he patiently examined the controls for the weather generator. “Chaos will ensue if I make one wrong attempt…” Cam said to himself. “Everyone is counting on me now to save this island.” While Arthur and Cam were carrying out their own tasks, Vandyke has already guided his captives to a particular room filled with test tubes, monitor screens, mainframe computers, loose wires, hanging wires, AC generators, DC generators, and a rotary device containing disks, which Shazza had her eyes focused on. “Seymour would’ve handled this job easier if he accompanied me,” Vandyke commented. “Oh well, I’ve still rendered you three powerless.” “This place…I recognize it,” Shazza said to herself. “Seeing this place makes me feel sick to my stomach.” “You’ll soon forget that feeling once I empty your mind about pursuing our organization,” Vandyke remarked. “Well, I’ve got unfinished business with you, so you better cough up the disc with my memories you took from me, and it has be the real thing,” Shazza replied. “Ah yes, I should do that now, but…” Vandyke was saying and passed Shazza to make eye contact with Nike, “I owe the truth that I’ve been hiding to your origins more-so. You may defect us even more once I show you what I removed from you in exchange of false memories, but now that you’ve already developed self-awareness about our motive and of our actions, you have the right to know these full details.” While Vandyke’s back was turned for a moment, Shazza sneaked her way towards the device containing the disks. Before she could scroll through the machine to find the one disk with her own named labeled-on, Vandyke had pressed a machine activating the wires that would contain her, Strezz, and Nike, and as well as the wires to connect to their neural networks. “There’s no use resisting now,” Vandyke continued. “This room is so containable that no one else will hear any of you cry for help. Without any further delays…” Vandyke proceeded to insert a disk with Nike’s name labeled on it into the drive of the mainframe connected to a monitor screen to the left from the three captives. Nike let out a screech as a powerful electrical current going through the wires implanted in her nerves blanked out her vision until a different perspective has flashed right inside of her own mind, like she was living inside a dream. Strezz and Shazza saw as Nike was regaining her lost memories, viewing her surroundings from the monitor screen. What was shown from inside Nike’s consciousness was an unidentified inventor standing in front of her. “It is time to test the subject for consciousness.” The machinist spoke. “Can you say “hello” for me?” “Hello…” Nike’s voice said in an emotionless tone. “I am Hilel Stephenson,” he continued. “I am the one who has brought you to life. There’s so much more that I can teach you. I’ll start with your name. I will call you Nike. What do you say to that?” “Nee…kay,” She intoned. “It’s going to take quite a lot time for you to become adjusted to your own life,” said Hilel. “It appears I’ve made a success with this experiment.” Thereafter, the memory faded from Nike’s point of view. She experienced another white flash until another visual memory was displayed. The spoken words were muffled, as her perspective shows what appears to be Hilel, the inventor, and Vandyke having a conversation with each other. “Listen to me. I don’t ever want you taking all the credit for my ideas again!” The younger Vandyke exclaimed. “You’re one to talk,” Hilel argued. “Nike, This android I speak of, is my proudest creation. I’ve built and programmed her with my own two fins and without any assistance from you. If you wanted credit, you could’ve agreed to cooperate with me.” “She is meant to be a weapon for this institution,” Vandyke continued. “You cannot be attached to her like this because you’re unfit to be a parent to her.” “For what reasons shouldn’t I treat her like she’s one of my own?” “It’s just like with that Arthur kid, getting attached to his own creation!” “It was his choice! Besides, I helped him develop emotions and understanding for the subject after all.” “CORE-al should be all about excelling in the world of technology and you’re not putting that android girl to good use! Perhaps I should step in and provide proper experimentation…” “She’s the only family I’ve got now. I won’t allow any other fins to program her unless I give the go-ahead.” Once again, the memory faded and Nike was to view another image manifesting itself right before her eyes. This time, she saw herself alongside Hilel again, and outside of the CORE-al offices. “Mister Hilel…I’ve been thinking about something for a while,” Nike’s voice uttered. “Am I…real?” Hilel put his right arm through Nike’s body and then said to her, “You are to me.” “What if something bad happens to you, or…?” She asked. “I can’t guarantee that I’ll always be there for you, but I can say without a doubt that I won’t let anyone contaminate your soul…” As Nike saw more of her distant memories come back to her, the last fragment would catch her by surprise. She saw Hilel again. However, he was in pain, lying in a pool of his own blood while he looked at his eponymous creation with a look of terror and grief. All around her, she could also see that a fire had begun to spread inside the CORE-al building, and as well as what appeared to be the Dark Strike armor, in the act of severely wounding the inventor. “Mister Hilel, you’re bleeding!” Nike’s voice uttered. “Are you…going to die?” “I can’t move any more. I’m sorry…this is the last time we’ll ever see each other,” Hilel groaned. “Listen…I need you to take the Lightning Speed jacket and leave me here. The Dark Strike jacket…has taken total control of Seymour.” Nike saw as Seymour, in his Dark Strike armor, caused more damage to the operational room with a volley of arm cannon blasts. The visual memory also showed Nike looking around to see Vandyke darting over to her side, screaming aloud that he was going to be the one to rescue her. She carried her and rushed out of the danger zone to escape from Seymour’s intense power. She didn’t see Hilel again afterwards. Before this visualization came to a halt, Nike heard Vandyke say one thing that reopened the last of her mental wounds. “There’s no need to feel upset. You are now my creation.” In a flash, Nike’s vision returned to where she was, in Vandyke’s confinement alongside Strezz and Shazza. She looked at Vandyke, petrified from what she had re-witnessed. “I really have been living a lie,” Nike spoke, “You took me in and forced me into believing you were my creator, as well as your philosophies…and Seymour’s…” “Yes, I had to hide the truth from you to fulfill my goal of making you into one of CORE-al’s greatest inventions on my own terms,” Vandyke explained. “It is true that you are an android and I’ve separated your most vital memories in order to coerce you into serving Seymour. I didn’t think that you would develop a change of heart on your own, which may go to show that even after corrupting the spirits of these jackets, there is a smidge of one’s own real self in them.” “So what excuse do you have to for being such a cruel, cold-hearted person?” Nike remarked. “Alas, I did sacrifice what was left of my goodwill so that I could retain Seymour’s trust.” Vandyke continued. “I must admit, when my business rival got killed by Seymour, I felt like I got my wish. Of course, you may not see me in good graces as your creator anymore, but I can try again in seizing control of you, along with these two allies on your side this time around.” “And I can fight back. Besides, even though I remember a lot about myself now, I also know that you’re hiding the rest of the story from me. What else do you know about Seymour?” “That is a question even I don’t know the answer to. On top of that, we’ve been trying to get information about one of Z-Storm’s past possessors, who seemed to have left the island without a trace and…this is where you came in Shazza, You remember what happened the day I extracted your memories didn’t you?” “I was about to become one of your puppets on a string, but I resisted before I wound up forgetting everything about myself. Just go ahead and feed me what you took away for me,” Shazza aggravated. Seymour gave a sigh and inserted Shazza’s disk into the drive of the mainframe. As the machine read the disk, the screen began to display the certain fragments of Shazza’s life that were installed in the disk, first showing her in front of a ferryman, who of course resembled Vandyke. “I got my ticket right here!” The voice of a younger Shazza spoke. “I’m going to see my mates back in the Great Barrier Reef. Will the boat take me there?” “You’ll find out yourself…” Vandyke said in a somber tone. The memory then quickly dissolved and remodeled into another. The screen now replayed the moment Shazza set foot on the island. “Is this my stop? This doesn’t look like the home I’ve used to know…” Shazza said to Vandyke with uncertainty. “This is the place,” Vandyke reassured. “Perhaps it’s different from what you’ve remembered it being.” “The atmosphere in here doesn’t feel right,” Shazza continued. “I know my old home in the back of my mind. I was born and raised there for most of my life. Please take me back. This has to be a mistake.” “Frankly, I don’t give a sea bear’s ass about your roots,” Vandyke retorted. “I’ve not mistaken, that much I can tell you.” “Liar, you’re a liar!” Shazza snapped. “What’s going on?” “I let one of our own accomplices explain it to you,” Vandyke replied. On his cue, Hector, donned in his Crimson Kill armor, appeared in front of Shazza and knocked her outcold with his double palm blast. The memory showing Shazza blacking out would result into the next fragment being displayed on-screen, with Shazza appearing inside a hut with a man, who had the familiar blue jacket slung around the back of his neck, and as well as Sal. “Looks like she’s waking up,” Sal’s voice spoke. “Poor girl, why would the Thunder Troopers lure her into this island?” “Where am I? What’s going on?” Shazza asked. “I’ve rescued you from being apprehended by Seymour and his troop,” the unknown man said. “They’ve led you into this island.” “Where is everybody? Where’s the Great Barrier Reef?” Shazza asked, now in a state of panic until she was reduced to tears. “I want to go home…” “I regret to inform you, there’s no point of return.” The man responded. “You’re at the center of a calamitous climate zone, where Seymour and his Thunder Troopers keep their base of operations. Even attempting to escape would put us at such a great risk.” Shazza was still too upset to listen or speak to the two, until she eventually uttered “Strezz…” “What was that?” Sal questioned. “Strezz is a friend of mine and I told him that I would return him after I reunite with my folks all the way back at the Great Barrier Reef…” Shazza began tearing up again. “...This isn’t my old home…I can tell.” “We may have to bide our time, but I’ll make it my vow that you’ll return to the place you last came from.” The mysterious man spoke. “Don’t cry now. If you want to make it out of this island, you’ve got show strength.” Heeding the Z-Storm bearer’s words, Shazza stopped her tears. She then asked him, “Who is Seymour and what does he want with me?” “It seems that he wants to make you into one of their weapons,” the unknown man continued. “I won’t stand for that. What he’s really after though is the jacket that I’m in possession of, containing the powers of a spirit known as Z-Storm. As long as that’s his main priority, I will be sure that Seymour doesn’t ever take control of you.” Shazza rubbed her eyes with her fins to hold back her tears and then asked, “What about Strezz, and what about my family?” “I guarantee that you will be back for them once we succeed,” the unknown man replied. “If the time comes that I can no longer hold on to the Z-Storm jacket that I carry around, these powers will be passed on to you. ..Oh, and since we haven’t introduced each other yet, let’s tell each other our names.” “I’m Shazza.” “Shazza, can you be strong…for yourself? I’m the keeper of the Z-Storm armor embedded in this jacket. You can refer to me as-“ The man’s words were interrupted and Shazza’s vision faded to show another one of her regained reminisces. What is shown on the screen and in Shazza’s field of view now was the same man that she had companioned with on the first day of being stranded on Seaside Springs/Shellside Shores. He was injured and bleeding from his upper body. “I must apologize to you, Shazza…” the unknown man groaned. “What happened, mate?” Shazza asked. “I failed,” the unknown man murmured. “I failed to vanquish Seymour.” “And you tried to face him alone? I could have done something!” Shazza exclaimed. “You could have told me about how Z-Storm works and-“ “That’s why I’m apologizing to you. I’m selfish for going it alone and I was selfish for believing that Seymour would be underestimated. Shazza…he has a sizeable army and advanced technology on his side.” “Will you be okay? Your wounds look very serious.” “To me, they are nothing but flesh wounds. I will survive.” “So we didn’t succeed, we can always try again.” “There’s something that I needed to tell you, Shazza, just between the two of us. I think it’s time that I resign my powers to someone like you.” Shazza was understandably shocked, she then responded to the offer by telling the man, “This…this is happening too fast, wouldn’t you think so? I never even got the chance to test the powers of your jacket yet.” “Technically, it’s not my jacket. It was bestowed to me by other possessors from past generations, including my own ancestors. You’re right though. This is too much to process at a time like this. I will show you the ropes with the little time that I have left to spend on this island as your ally.” “But you can’t escape, that’s what you said…” “I had to make contact with the outside world. …Here in this island rests a fountain, when turned on, activates a whirlpool that connects to multiple universes. I intend to find a solution to this quandary by distancing myself from this universe and finding answers wherever else I may roam.” “So why can’t you stay here?” “That is the sacrifice that I have to make, in order to fulfill the task that I’ve assigned for myself, because I’ve failed as Z-Storm’s bearer. Thus, I am required to clear my ties to this world, to the jacket, and to Seymour. ” “You’ve been sticking up for me ever since I got lured to this place, and now you expect me to continue your job because Seymour crushed your spirit!? You’re leaving me with a bigger burden that your own and you know that I can’t handle it, mate!” “I know you’re stronger than you think! Don’t just consider me as your motivation to take down Seymour and his group. Remember your family, remember the one friend that you left waiting…” “What about Sal?” “He’s one of the few inhabitants of Seaside Springs left. I can’t entrust him to take the risk of succeeding me as Z-Storm.” At that moment, the mysterious man slid the jacket off his arms and passed it into Shazza’s fins. “With all that I’ve said, I suppose you understand now why I’m lending these powers to you. I promise that what I do from here on out will be for the common good.” Shazza, feeling angered, couldn’t speak as he struggled to process the man’s incentive for a minute before she opens up to say, “You…phony! You’re a quitter and a liar, that’s what you are! How do I even know that he did hurt you as bad, and you’re not just trying to teach me something?” Shazza presses her fins on the man’s wounds, causing for him to groan in pain. “As you can see, these wounds and the pain that I feel from them are both real, and I didn’t do this on my own accord. Shazza, you must take care of everything while I’m gone. Can you do that for me?” Shazza, of course, didn’t want to say ‘yes,’ but she then responded, “I don’t want Z-Storm to be my responsibility. You do realize that with you gone and with me holding on to this jacket, Seymour will now be targeting me. You’re putting a lot of your faith in me, so I guess I have to comply. Defeating Seymour means that I can reunite with my mates, including Strezz, and if that also means that you’ll return, then I will use Z-Storm’s powers.” “I hold myself responsible for these shortcomings, so don’t think that I’ll forget that I owe you something in return for the downfall of Seymour and his troop.” “So that’s it, then. This is hooroo…“ “It is so. Before I depart, however, there is a secret that I need to be kept by you and only you...” Before any more details of this past could ever be revealed, the memory footage stopped right at this point and Shazza’s point of view returned to where she still stood, immobilized by the mechanical wires alongside Strezz and Nike. “As you may already know, Shazza, the memory retrieval progress was incomplete so this is all the information that I’ve gathered on the previous Z-Storm who is presumably M.I.A,” Vandyke explained. “It would be of great help if you could lay me in with any information about this person that you may know.” “To be honest with you, everything else about him that I knew has been gone from my mind right after you removed these reminiscences,” Shazza spoke. “I suppose I can’t argue with an excuse like that,” Vandyke replied and turned to face Strezz, who continued to hang his head low and refuse to look at anyone in the eye. “Strezz, or Evangelos, is there something that you’d like to know before I begin this conversion process?” Strezz gave no response. “Well, if your precious hero doesn’t have a say, then you all should think your last thoughts before you forget them, because it’s about time that you all submit to our organization,” Vandyke finished as he pulled down a lever in the machine that activated the wires jutting through Strezz and Shazza’s nerves. Nike recoiled in anticipation of losing her consciousness from the wires, but to her surprise, Vandyke released her. “You’re letting me go?” Nike questioned towards Vandyke. “Not exactly,” Vandyke reassured. “I need to speak with you before you are reverted back to after I stole you away from CORE-al. Besides, Lightning Speed’s are still nullified, “But…why?” Nike asked. “It’s hard to treat one’s own creation in such a way,” Vandyke replied. “Call me ruthless as much as you want. I’ve wanted to see if I could open your mind up once you’ve seen that I didn’t revert you back into one of our Thunder Troopers by force. Instead, I’m going to ask for your own blessing if you’re willing to start over with us. You have exceptional power as Lightning Speed and it would mean a lot for me to see you continue to use the jacket. Would you do it for your considerate creator?” Vandyke’s offer brought Nike into silence. Instead of a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ type of answer, she instead said to him, “I turned my back when I realized that you and Seymour were treating me like an object rather than a normal person. After regaining those memories about my past, I’ve realized that this is what I want to be, powers or no powers.” “I guess I shouldn’t have misjudged you when you decided to turn against your own creator. I’d hate to dismantle you and remove every trace of you. Since this is the life you chose, this is the proposition that you’ve left me with…” It was then that Nike reached a hand over to the back of her jacket to detect the circuit board attached to it that cancelled out Lightning Speed. Once she felt it, she clutched onto it and ripped it out, leaving a visible tear hole, while exclaiming to Vandyke, “You’re not my creator!” A surge of static emitted through Nike before she would then activate the Lightning Speed armor. She would have Vandyke cornered in front of his device, which was still running and collecting data from Strezz and Shazza. Shit! Vandyke thought. She broke the restraint. Seymour’s going to pin this all on me as soon as he sees what’s going on. How can I hold off Nike now? She’ll never believe a thing I say at this point. Inside Shazza’s mind, she saw another fragment of her past being replayed right in front of her. However, with the screens from the outside being blank, it was only her who is observing this manifestation. Shazza saw her younger self, in a school setting. She was inside a resource classroom. It was there that she saw what looked to be an empty table with paper scattered around, and a plush polar bear backpack strapped to one of the plastic chair. She didn’t notice that someone was sitting at the table until she inadvertently touched the shoulders of the young student, who was a sea sponge in appearance. Being touched without caution, the small student whimpered, uttering noises unusual to Shazza while also flapping his hands until he resumed on drawing on coloring book pages with his crayons. “Uh…hello,” the young Shazza spoke as she pulled out one of the plastic chairs and sat next to him. “Sorry, I didn’t see you there. My name is Sharona, but everyone calls me Shazza, since I am from a place called the Great Barrier Reef. Have you heard of it?” “Mm-hmm,” the other kid muttered, whose eyes were fixated on his drawing. “So…is it okay if I ask for your name?” Young Shazza asked. “…Strezz,” he mumbled. “I’m sorry, mate. Can you repeat that?” “It’s Strezz,” he said once again in a soft-spoken tone. “One more time, please?” “MYNAMEISSTREZZ!” He suddenly shouted out in a panicked and rapid tone. The tip of the crayon he was using broke off as a result of his overwhelming emotions. He started whining and flapping his hands around due to the misfortune. “Oh, don’t be upset! Um, I can find you a new crayon of that color…” “Indigo! Indigo! Indigo!” “I’ll go and ask a teacher for it, and I’ll be back to give it to you, okay?” However, before Shazza could ask for assistance, Strezz had pulled out his chair, slung on his plush backpack, cleared his things from the table and left the room as if he was in a hurry. “Gotta go!” Shazza heard him say. Right afterwards, the young Shazza walked up to a teacher in the room and asked, “Excuse me, do you know the kid that sits at that table with a polar bear backpack? Who was he?” “Oh, that’s just Evan Stormond,” said the teacher. “Evan? He told me that his name was ‘Strezz’…” Shazza replied. “Some kids can sure have such an active imagination,” the teacher replied. “He doesn’t talk or think like the other kids, so he comes here so he can concentrate on his work and catch up to them without worrying about anything that bothers him. Have you been bothering him?” “I don’t think so. He looked super lonely, so I’ve tried to be friends with him…” “It’s normal for kids like him to be by themselves, because they might like to be alone. You can keep trying to talk to him, but it will take some time for him to feel comfortable around you.” The observed memory shifted into the day after Shazza had first met Strezz. Shown now was the young Shazza returning to the resource center, holding onto a indigo-colored crayon that she promised she would find for him. He sat in the same chair and at the same side of the table as the day before. Shazza came over and sat next to him while moving the crayon to his side to get his attention. “G’day, I came back here to give this to you ‘cause you seemed to have stormed out yesterday,” said Shazza before bringing her attention to the drawing Strezz was coloring in. “Thanks,” Strezz spoke in his usual dull tone, without touching the offering. “Is that something that you’re working on, mate?” Shazza asked. “It looks like a surfboard.” “It is a surfboard,” Strezz replied, “the one used by Sydney Teegan Rhonda Evelyn Zamora-Zucker.” “What?” Shazza said in a befuddled tone, trying to wrap her head around the full name. “That’s the name…of the surfer…” “Huh, you’re smarter than I thought.” “I’m smart?” “That’s what I said, mate! So, your name is ‘Strezz,’ right? How do you spell that?” “S…T…R…E…and uh…two Z’s,” he spoke. “That’s a weird name for a kid.” “Well, it’s not weird to me. I like it better than my real name.” At first, Shazza was feeling like questioning Strezz if he came up with that uncommon name. Instead, she replied to him, “If you think it’s great, then I think that’s a great name for you too, Strezz.” At that moment, Strezz stopped what he was doing to look at Shazza for the first time. To Shazza’s surprise, Strezz embraced her with a full-hearted hug. He raised his voice and then said to Shazza, “Much thanks! We friends now, okay?” Shazza smiled back after Strezz’s arms have let go of her. “Yes…” she finished with a soft, heartfelt tone. It didn’t take long for Shazza to realize why she re-experienced this particular moment from her past. It was a core memory being processed by Vandyke’s machine. What made Strezz feel so happy was that she was more than just the first stranger in Strezz’s life to help him communicate. She was the first person to Strezz that truly understood him. Despite being comatose from the attachments joined to her nerves, the strong feeling of emotion flowing through into the jewel that she kept in her pockets and kept a grip on with one fin. Vandyke was inattentive towards what was unfolding right in front of him, due to being intercepted by Nike. Armor began forming around Shazza’s body, with shades of blue, red, and mostly violet. One last core memory fragment played in Shazza’s mind as the helmet and visor surrounding it had formed. “Hey Strezz, since it’s raining out, let’s play a game together!” The voice of child Shazza echoed. “Have you heard about those Z-Storm comics?” “Uh…I don’t think so…” “He’s this superhero whose powers are contained inside of a jacket, and he becomes concealed in a suit of armor in the pouring rain. You’ll be Z-Storm, and I’ll be your sidekick fighting against those pesky evil-doers. She’s a favorite of mine and her superhero identity is Ampure-” The image abruptly disappeared from Shazza’s view as the wires containing her stopped functioning and they were plucked out from her nerves when a hovercraft in the shape of a surfboard was activated below her armor’s feet. What Shazza around her now was the present that she had temporarily been shut away from and she returned to see a violet colored-tint in front of her eyes, a feeling of wearing a suit of armor, Vandyke pinning himself in front of his machine, while being surrounded by Lightning Speed, and Strezz still attached to Vandyke’s contraption until she fired a plasmatic blast by instinct to disable them. Strezz gasped as his vision returned to where he was and saw himself drop down to the floor from his height. He observed the current state of the area without uttering a word. However, what Shazza saw of Strezz afterwards caught her curiosity: tears, running down his face. Strezz had dealt with his share of recollected core memories, of his parents, his siblings, his friends, his neurodevelopmental disorder and diagnosis, of his vague yet repressed reminisces of Z-Storm, and one other thing… It was an entirely different point of view. On one side, there were manifested images of the people Strezz came to know in his life – Shazza, Zowe, Monique, Bruce, Cam, Zack, Marina, Captain Tide, Sal, all standing there with still emotions right in front of him. As he tried to reach for them, the mirages became swallowed by the darkness and then there appeared another set of faces that he recognized in an instant – Trevor and Diana Stormond, his two parents, Cassandra, Farley, and Leon, his three siblings. They disappeared from his view the same previous way. His anxiety grew as he then saw semblances of Seymour’s bunch of aficionados that he confronted during his time on Shellside Shores – Hector, Matt, Adrianna, Warden, Quinn, Terrell, Tempest, Deacon, and Vandyke. Strezz would continue to experience this stream of consciousness until he then saw two more images form in front of him that resembled Kiyoko and her sister Kinuyo, and then four more that resembled Seymour, Arthur, and Nike, and finally Strezz himself, the latter in which depicted the most unsettling depiction of the probable future, as he saw Arthur, Nike, and himself dead by the hands of Seymour, whose materialization exchanged a sinister grin towards the sea sponge. This grim look of the future brought Strezz down to tears while these images faded without his notice, sans the Z-Storm armor. From that moment, Strezz saw as light shone somewhere in the all-surrounding black void. He caught a glimpse of Z-Storm’s armor. This time, he was outside of it and it spoke to him. “Do you understand the level of responsibility that you have to take as Z-Storm’s current successor?” The armor spoke. Strezz gave no response. His initial thought from his current state of mind, however, was giving up the jacket. “I suppose you can’t talk, so I’ll explain to you further about what you’re doing here. What you’re looking at right now is your subconscious, for you have a connection to the spirit of the jacket, and what you’ve witnessed is the crossroad between your memories and your own future that is being foretold by your consciousness, as you are on the edge of losing yourself to Naja, as well as everyone and everything that you love in the process.” Strezz waited for the disembodied voice to continue speaking, while gesturing that he is listening to what it is saying. “If this is the end that you don’t want to accept, then you must know the most important thing about yourself. Whether you’re looking back at your past as Evangelos or you’re looking at me as Z-Storm, remember who you are. In the grand scheme of everything that led you up to this point, you are…Strezz Stormond.” It wasn’t until twenty seconds after Strezz broke free from Vandyke’s control that he regained all vision of his true whereabouts. Immediately afterwards, he felt the liquid running down his eyes. Looking around, he saw what had already transpired: Nike and Shazza transformed into Lightning Speed and Ampure respectively and had brought Vandyke down to a state of total defeat. As a result of his plans falling through, Vandyke signaled for Nike and Shazza to cease fire. “Stop, you’ve all already have me outmatched!” Vandyke exclaimed while waving his arms up. “Just wait until Seymour returns to see this mess, so don’t think you’ve all won this battle!” “You’ve called?” Seymour chimed in, making his entrance in the room while carrying the unshielded Arthur over the shoulders of his Dark Strike armor before throwing him into a corner to show Shazza, Strezz, and Nike his body covered in blood, bruises, and dried up scrapings of his shed skin. “I’m sorry…” Arthur squeaked. “I can’t…surmount him…” “What happened to him?” Nike questioned. “He pressured me into a fight and brought me here when I should be monitoring our ship, so I taught him a brutal lesson,” Seymour explained. “What I want to know is how the conversion process went...Vandyke?” Vandyke stepped up to the leader with a heavy heart. His mind and body were shaken up but he said with an undeterred tone, “It was a failure, Seymour.” “Failures, failures, failures,” Seymour responded in an irritated manner, “this is all that the plan has been leading up to, like I have to deal with everything myself.” “You can start with those pests over there, including the one who still carries that Z-Storm jacket,” Vandyke replied, pointing a fin at Strezz. “Of all hindrances inside of this ship, I’d rather I start with you,” Seymour said to Vandyke, “Since you’re the most invaluable asset to me now. I can always start over and rebuild with the resources I have left, with the research that I collected from you, and maybe with a new head of research…” As he stopped talking, Seymour, still in his armor, activated his sword and decapitated Vandyke, much to the shock of the onlookers. “Of course, I don’t mean yours. I could return to my post now. However, I’d rather finish this part of the job now.” He directed his focus towards Strezz and said to him, “Your move…Evangelos.” Strezz ripped out the neutralizer patch from the Z-Storm jacket out of rage. This boost of confidence didn’t last as Strezz rendered himself unable to budge and activate the Z-Storm armor. Out of instinct in protecting Strezz, Shazza sprang into action and attacked Seymour as Ampure. The arsenal contained within her armor included a Galvanizing Gatling Cannon, a Bolt Broadsword, and a crystal shield, alongside the hoverboard beneath her feet. Shazza’s sword was blocked by Seymour’s laser blade. The two swords clashed until Seymour released a flinching shock wave attack unto Shazza and dealt more damage with his super speed and laser swiping combos. To try and slow Seymour down, she blasted her Gatling cannon around. Seymour took the hits but he resisted. Shazza continued with using her attack until Seymour pierced through. At the same as Seymour would try to damage Shazza’s armor with a series of electrically-charged jabs, Shazza used her shield to guard herself before then swaying her broadsword at a right angle and managing to land a hit on Seymour. He easily brushed off the damage he received and continued to use his blade against Shazza, who in turn tried to block with her own blade. Her guard was broken as Seymour voluntarily increased the size of his weapon. Shazza employed the boosters in her armor’s hoverboard to zoom back from Seymour’s incoming attack. The impact of Seymour’s enhanced laser blade pushed Shazza against a wall. Shazza shot at Seymour with her Gatling cannon to budge herself forward and shift weapons in time to lower his guard. Seymour used his armor’s dashing technique to evade Shazza’s sword and swiped at her armor with his blade until it deactivated. Shazza lied down with her fins pressed down, her knees up and her head low out of exhaustion and defeat. “Useless, useless, useless, useless,” Seymour exclaimed, “I am insurmountable! I hate to waste my energy on a group of underlings that can’t make an effort to cut through my shell, but that doesn’t matter, now that I can fulfill my revenge with ease-” Without his own warning, it was then that Seymour’s Dark Strike armor deactivated itself, courtesy of the neutralizing patch that Strezz revealed himself to have had bound to his jacket. “So, Evangelos, you’ve crossed me…” Seymour said in a threatening tone while he ripped out the patch, “and for the last time too!” Before Seymour could try and provoke, Strezz, inside his Z-Storm armor, had Seymour’s nerves wired by the same machine that had been used against him, Shazza, and Nike. “Maybe now, we can figure out the hidden truth about you,” Nike added. Projected on the screen in front the heroes were fragments of Seymour’s memories in descending order, from his conversations with his fellow Thunder Troopers, then to his memories of the Z-Storm bearer before Shazza, then him indoctrinating certain people into his loyal guards, then to his invasion on Seaside Springs, then to the laboratory accident that took place in CORE-al, whereas he was overtaken by the jacket’s power, resulting in the murder of Hilel. The last few details of Seymour’s life captured by the memory processing machine had caught the attention of each of the onlookers, in which they saw, on-screen, Vandyke applying the Dark Strike jacket to Seymour, while Hilel was in the room to bear witness. “This jacket is a battle-born artifact meant to be used to demonstrate immense power,” Vandyke said to Hilel. “Though it may have not been used since the ancient past, we have the opportunity to test its power now that we have a proper test subject.” “We should at least have had Arthur’s go-ahead,” Hilel advised. “He’s just a child,” Vandyke replied. “I don’t think he’ll be bothered by us using Seymour for a simple test run. Besides, it’s better him than your precious Nike, right?” Once as Vandyke activated the Dark Strike jacket’s armor, Seymour reacted in a frantic manner and attacked aimlessly around the area without reason. “Dammit, this was a mistake!” Vandyke exclaimed. “I’m going to call for an evacuation while you try and dismantle Seymour!” “No!” Hilel argued, “Not without Arthur’s involvement! We have to neutralize the armor and remove the jacket that’s causing this.” “Is that our only chance? What about you, huh? Nike means the world to you and vice versa. You would leave me to make her my responsibility even if you won’t be able to live through this?” “She is my greatest creation, so I would do anything to make sure she isn’t harmed, even if it means risking death.” Without saying another word, Vandyke left Hilel and Seymour alone, and with bitterness in his heart. This image blurred into what would be the last fragment of Seymour’s memory to be processed by the machine – his inception. Seymour was shown to be waking up in front of Arthur a group of scientists, Hilel included. “The android, it has gained consciousness!” One of the scientists spoke. “Give the kid some time to communicate with it,” Hilel informed. “We can’t call this experiment a success just yet.” “Can you talk to me?” Arthur asked Seymour. “I’m Arthur Veils. I’ve created you.” “Created…?” Seymour inquired. “Yes, and I’ve programmed you to have as high of a vocabulary as possible, so you should be able to understand me and talk to me.” Arthur continued. “I can understand you completely,” Seymour responded. “Just tell me now…what am I doing here, what is my purpose for being given a life, and what is my name?” “I’ve created you with assistance from these CORE-al scientists that you see before you. I sought to create an artificial being because…I don’t have a family, and I at least wanted someone that I could call as my own family. From here on out, you are an older brother to me and your name will be…Seymour. How does that make you feel?” “I don’t feel anything. How am I supposed to feel?” “You should welcome and happy that you’re standing in front of someone who will guide you through life because he’s given it to you.” “So, does this mean I’m not real?” Arthur responded by giving Seymour an embrace. “You are real to me. These feelings I have for you? They are real too, Seymour.” “Then I look forward to being a part of what you call family…Arthur.” He finished. Seymour’s perspective snapped back to the present in an instant and examined the shocked expressions of those who witnessed his truth, sans Arthur, who looked at him with tearfulness. As it seemed, Dark Strike’s control over Seymour’s psyche, as well as his desire to kill, had been interrupted. This whole time… Strezz thought. The biggest obstacle that I’ve been forced to deal with… is an android, and made by Arthur, no less!? Then who’s this Naja that I’ve been told about? “I never thought that I would regain a sense of freedom,” Seymour spoke, “and at a time like this…” “What’s going on?” Shazza questioned. “Is this the real Seymour that’s speaking?” “All this time, I’ve been living a life that wasn’t mine…” Seymour continued. “Seymour!” Arthur cried out. “Can you forgive me for what I’ve tried to do to you?” “There’s no need, Arthur,” Seymour responded, turning his head to face him. “It’s too late to start over with a clean slate. Strezz…” Startled by being called by his preferred name by Seymour for once, Strezz looked at him in the eye. Before Seymour could continue, he held both his hands on both sides of his face. “For freeing my mind from Naja, consider this my defeat at your own hands...” Seymour finished, using the force of his two hands to rip out his head. Afterwards, his consciousness shut down completely, with his disembodied head dropping to the ground, to the continued shock of Strezz and co. “…Is it over?” Nike asked. “Seymour can’t still be alive.” “Seymour is gone now, but there is someone else that’s been living inside him.” Arthur uttered. “A ghost in the machine, or should I say…” To the astonishment of everyone except Arthur, Seymour’s mechanical remains and the Dark Strike jacket were disintegrated by a powerful electric discharge. In the event of the flare-up, a clear blue apparition in the shape of a serpent took shape. “Hello, bearer of Z-Storm, you’ve managed to release my true form,” the phantom spoke. “You may have thought that you have gotten rid of me by suspending my control of Seymour’s artificial mind, but all that you have done is cut through my shell with a simple shortcut, and freeing me in the process.” “What do you mean your shell!?” Arthur stammered. “You took possession of the one life that I’ve created!” “That I did, and you can thank Vandyke’s unmoving corpse for granting me a life past the curse that the original Z-Storm had inflicted on me.” The spirit continued. “I thought I had a formidable body in Seymour, but it looks like the plan that I’ve been biding my time for can now come to fruition, and you can hold yourself responsible for that, Evangelos…” Upon mention of the name again, Strezz responded to the spirit with a fierce snarl. “If there’s someone that might want to take your anger out on, however, you can pin your blame on the gullible child who created Seymour in the first place and kept the truth about him to himself this entire time,” the spirit continued. To Arthur’s despair, Strezz turned away from the spirit to face him. Strezz reactivated his Z-Storm and threatened him with his blade. “Strezz, we can talk about this…” said Arthur. “Z-Storm went quiet ever since I snuck in my little piece of acquired knowledge from the sidelines right to his face,” the spirit remarked. “If you haven’t figured it out yet for yourself, ‘Strezz’ isn’t his real name, or at least it wasn’t from the beginning.” “Strezz, if you know how much you hate being called by whatever name this guy has learned from you, you shouldn’t be listening to him. I’m not the enemy, he is,” Arthur was saying to Strezz, who still seemed to be angry with him, yet also internally struggling with the spirit’s revelations. “You made yourself a traitor in his eyes by confirming yourself as responsible for Seymour and his actions,” the spirit tormented. “There’s no use trying to make him change his mind now.” “I know I’ve kept some serious baggage from you, Strezz, but you shouldn’t fuel that spirit’s pride by using violence against me!” Arthur said, still trying to appease Strezz’s rage. “Yes, I am responsible for creating Seymour, but I wasn’t the one who didn’t give him that cursed Dark Strike jacket. I had the same goal as you, but my reasons are merciful. I’ve come to accept that one day I had to kill something that was dear to me. Whenever I tried to give myself the opportunity to do what I had to do though, I get racked with guilt. I couldn’t bring myself to inflict harm on my own creation, and I was too young to end up carrying such a burden. No matter what the spirit made Seymour did, you should know that what you’re trying to do to me is not right at all.” Strezz froze, the arm carrying his blade trembling from his overwhelmed feelings. He resumed pointing his sword against Arthur, raising his arm and making it look like he’s going to strike. However, at the same time that Shazza and Nike called out for him to stop, he struck his blade into the ground. The Z-Storm armor deactivated and Strezz knelt down with a teary look in his eyes, melting down in front of Arthur and the others, and without saying a word. Back inside the controls room, Cam still appeared to be struggling with figuring out how to shut off the disastrous weather from the outside. I can’t do it. Cam thought. I just can’t. The way that Vandyke and Seymour set up the controls…it’s too complicated to override it. The only other option that I have…is to crash the submarine. As Cam’s right fin was hovering over the button to crash the vessel, his brother Matt showed up from behind without warning. “I’m afraid I can’t let you do that…brother!” Matt uttered. Cam edged himself away from the control monitor and saw his brother right before his eyes, limping, exhausted (from all the energy he’s used up on with his fight against Arthur), and with a hoarse tenor in his voice as a result of his radiation. “How did you get here, Matt?” Cam asked. “Did you think I would miss the emergency shortcut that was built on this island?” Matt responded. “Look, I’m not here to fight you. I’m about to die anyway because of my senselessness.” “You actually overcame the jacket’s control...” Cam replied. “I wish things between didn’t have to end like this.” “Which is why I’m using my last few moments to try and make amends with you,” Matt continued. “No matter if these memories of you were falsified by Seymour or by Dark Goliath, I must admit that I was overwhelmed with anger. Even while I was attached to Dark Goliath’s powers, I thought about you all the time, and that made me realize that if you are so important to me…I can’t hate you. Besides, I left my jacket in the wilds since I don’t have much use for it anymore, so I came here to find you without it.” “I’m glad that we are now brothers again. My parents are going to be petrified to hear the sad news about you.” “I know. What matters is that I’ve fulfilled my purpose and I’m ready to face death.” “Yeah, and we can die…together.” Cam finished as he pressed the button and laid himself in front of his brother, closing his eyes and waiting for the inevitable to happen to him… …His eyes opened up shortly afterwards and found himself inside an escape hatch. Right in front of him was Zack. “Zack, what are you doing!?” Cam inquired. “Dumbass, I can’t afford letting you die, let alone from radiation!” Zack responded. “You couldn’t think for a moment what your parents would feel if we came back with both of their sons dead?” “What about yours, Zack? Huh?” Cam asked. “That‘s none of my concern. They won’t miss me.” Zack replied. “That’s preposterous! You’re making a big mistake sacrificing yourself like this!” “There isn’t a lot of escape hatches here left anyways for all of us to come back alive, I’ve checked. If sacrificing my life for you means that I’ll die a hero, then at least I’m doing something right. Stop getting so anxious about me, okay?” Zack finished talking and activated the escape pod, releasing Cam from the submarine. “No, I can’t afford to have you die too after I had to watch my own brother die! Zack!-” Cam exclaimed before he could no longer see him. As his escape capsule plunged into the sea, he looked around to see that the submarine was now close to crashing to the bottom. While Cam had escaped from the submarine, Strezz, Arthur, Shazza, and Nike were still inside, struggling against the ethereal adversary. “If you don’t mind me interrupting such a serious moment, I owe you all a story from yours truly,” the spirit spoke. “I should’ve introduced myself as Naja from when I first emerged out of my former shell, and I am the dark spirit from the ancient past who was forced by Z-Storm’s original user to reside in the Dark Strike jacket until I was given another body to possess.” While Naja talked, Strezz reactivated the Z-Storm armor and tried to slash away at the serpent with his blade to no avail. “Z-Storm was born by the bond between a civilian and another ancient dragon spirit such as me,” Naja was explaining. “That peasant’s name was Fargo Zafeiriou. He was a cobbler from the same place as where the multidimensional fountain portal came from, Seaside Springs. I sought that fountain’s limitless power and killed the people guarding it, and Fargo left himself with no other choice than to carry out the job of protecting the fountain and his other folks himself. He used his acquired expertise in tailoring and blacksmithing to create a weapon necessary for slaying me. For his final piece, he sought out the good dragon spirit to create Z-Storm. Of course, I was defeated and was then sentenced to reside my soul in the same type of jacket Fargo used against me. Years passed and Seaside Springs would drift further and further away from where it once stood due to the fountain’s immense power, and that was when the Dark Strike jacket would meet the discovery of the CORE-al scientists, where I would then have my soul unknowingly bestowed to an android. Taking advantage of Vandyke’s resentment towards his own area of work, I was taken by him to organize a silent hostile operation, which would eventually grab the attention of Fargo’s descendant, whose name I have lost my memory of somehow. He spread the word to the rest of the Seaside Springs inhabitants while I was able to use Seymour’s body, combined with the Dark Strike armor, to lay siege onto the island and hold operations there once as there was little opposition left. I sought after the fountain that was still here, but my soul was rejected by it, and that was when I realized that I’ve needed to fulfill my revenge against Z-Storm and its spirit, another goal that I’ve had in mind ever since I was imprisoned. I came to the conclusion that this was what I had to do to gain access. But still, I took advantage of the anomalous power of the fountains by taking the gemstones to harvest their energy to control the weather patterns in this very island so I could trap ‘him’ and any other unsuspecting individual willing to take the baton. Try if you will to make the weather normal again. Even if this vessel goes down, the weather effects will continue because it also runs from my own soul.” After many unsuccessful attempts to damage Naja’s body, Z-Storm was deactivated in due to Strezz tiring himself out. “But that’s enough about me. Tell me about you, Evangelos,” said Naja. Strezz, of course, gave no response, causing for Naja to slam him into a wall with force. Although he struggled due to the damage he took, he stood back up. “Bah, it’s futile talking to you now that I’ve broken you!” Naja exclaimed. “At the very least, you’re still listening, so listen well to what I have to say before you meet your demise. We’ll have one last fight together to determine the fate of this world. I want to see you fight at Z-Storm at your fullest power. Oh wait, you can’t. I can tell by the jacket’s aura that Z-Storm’s spirit had been removed from it, so you’ll disappoint no matter how much you try.” “You sure do love to brag,” Shazza jeered. At the very next moment, everyone in the room felt and heard a crash. “Dammit, looks like someone’s hijacked the controls!” Naja bellowed. “No matter, I have one last resort. Try and see if you all can escape!” As Naja’s spirit disappeared from view, Strezz, Arthur, Shazza, and Nike rushed over to where the escape hatches were. There were three left available to use once as they managed to reach the area. “Either two of us have to squeeze into one of these, or one of us has to…” Arthur was saying. “No, I don’t want to think about it.” “What are you saying, mate?” Shazza asked. “Are you thinking about sacrificing yourself?” “Even after the truth has been exposed about me, and about Seymour, do you all still trust me?” Arthur asked. “You three can go,” Nike declared. “Just trust me on this, I’ll survive.” With not much time left to hesitate, Strezz, Arthur, and Shazza each got inside the three remaining escape capsules. Nike activated her Lightning Speed armor and was already out of view before the three were submerged below. A second later, an explosion could be seen engulfing the entire submarine. Nike was still nowhere to be seen. Elsewhere in the wilds of the island, Kinuyo found herself in front of the fountain said to contain power from across multiple dimensions until she was ambushed by her sister, who was still being controlled by her yo-kai within the Chameleon Collision jacket. “You shall not pass, for I contain these powers invested in me!” Kiyoko exclaimed. “Sister…” Kinuyo muttered. “Ugh. What a pain.” Using her yo-kai powers, Kinuyo attached a piece of thread from her deteriorating kimono to detach the yo-kai controlling the jacket and her sister, making the Chameleon Collision armor deactivate itself in the process. With Kiyoko’s own mind being released from control, she became temporarily unconscious. Before Kinuyo could approach the fountain once again, she was stopped by someone else, The Rainmaker and his serpent. “Abandoning your own sister behind to return to your own world by yourself, would you consider this decision wise?” He inquired. “I didn’t ask for your opinion. I can’t face Kiyoko like this and have to explain to her everything I did until the time is right,” Kinuyo responded. “My business here in this world is done.” Rico, Seymour’s other accomplice who caught chase of Kinuyo’s trail, ran up to the fountain alongside her before she or The Rainmaker could continue. “I know I have to make a leave from this hellhole,” said Rico. “I’m being called in for a job “One of these days, I’ll make it up to her. I’ll get tougher. I’ll become more a serious threat to the point where I won’t be moved!” Kinuyo then prepared to make the leap into the fountain’s vortex. She finished by saying, “Kiyoko will be proud and everyone will live to regret facing me!” “There was no use talking things out with her,” the Rainmaker remarked. “I give her sister my pity.” “Hold on a minute, just who do you think you are, trying to getting involved with us?” Before Rico could receive an answer, The Rainmaker and his serpent were nowhere to be seen. “And he’s gone. Well, back to my usual routine, then.” Kiyoko’s eyes opened up to see Kinuyo descending into the vortex of the fountain seconds before she was gone. “…Sister?” She muttered. At the shore of the island, Zowe, Marina, Monique, and Bruce, alongside Hector, Warden, Adrianna, Terrell, and Tempest waited patiently for the others in their pact to return. “Is it safe for them to be out in the open now?” Zowe asked Monique, referring to Seymour’s former associates. “They seemed to have been their minds all cleared from being a part of Seymour’s force,” Monique responded. “Seymour will make you all pay!” Hector uttered. “You may have stripped me of my powers, but you can’t make me change no matter what you do!” “Well, not all of them,” Bruce pointed out. “Boy, I’d sure hate to end up brainwashed and crazy again,” Terrell remarked. “Same,” Tempest said in agreement. “All that I’ve once known about myself is starting to come back to me,” Adrianna remarked towards Zowe. “I owe you my thanks for that.” “I hope Seymour’s reign of terror comes to an end soon,” said Warden. “We’re still experiencing crazy weather, so I suppose we still have to wait.” “We still got more than half of our group missing, though,” said Zowe. “Shazza, Kiyoko, Arthur, Cam, Zack…Strezz, where the hell are they?” It was that moment that the group saw something bobbing in the water by the shore. Cam revealed himself, alive after opening the top of his pod as he struggled to get out. In an instant, Zowe rushed over to lay him on the shore. “Thank goodness you’re alright. So what happened back there?” Zowe asked. “Did you find Strezz and the others?” “I crashed the submarine, and I was about to sacrifice myself for my brother and then Zack…” Cam was explaining before he began feeling choked up about Zack. “Where’s Zack?” Zowe demanded. For a lack of better words, Cam said to Zowe bluntly, “He’s dead. Zack chose to sacrifice himself for me.” Devastated by the news, Zowe knelt down to her knees and cried softly as Marina and Cam tried consoling her. While the group grieved for Zack, three more escape capsules emerged near the shore, revealing Strezz, Arthur, and Shazza. When she saw Strezz still alive and well, she cried even more, out of relief. Strezz joined in to console her for the loss of one of their friends. “Why are you crying, mate?” Shazza asked Zowe. “It’s Zack,” Zowe sobbed. “He’s gone.” “It’s true,” Cam added, “and I’ve lived to tell it.” “If he was in the submarine, then I’m afraid it’s too late to turn back, since Naja destroyed it,” said Arthur, “and it’s too late to come back for Nike too.” “Did you guys finally defeat Seymour or what?” Bruce asked. “It’s hard for us to explain, but…” Arthur was saying, before being interrupted by a raging whirlpool. It was Naja making his entrance without possession of Seymour. “This is where it all ends,” Naja spoke. “Right here, right now, face to face with Z-Storm and no one else. Show yourself if you’re ready.” As Strezz was about to trek closer to Naja’s territory, Arthur stopped him with caution. “You can’t take him on without knowing how to awaken Z-Storm’s spirit,” Arthur prompted. Strezz ignored his words and bumped through him. “I know you’re still upset about me hiding the truth from you. If I can make it up to you, I can give you one last lesson about merging with the spirit.” “Of course, he can’t do it without the one missing piece,” The Rainmaker uttered, suddenly appearing in front of the group alongside his serpent. “As the descendant of the original Z-Storm, and as well as one of the previous bearers of the jacket, it should be my responsibility to lend Z-Storm’s greatest power at a tumultuous time as this.” “You must be the banished Z-Storm that I’ve been trying to wrap my head around,” Naja remarked. “How convenient and fancy it is to see you again.” “Exposing everything about me would result in a fate as harsh as death,” The Rainmaker continued. “It is part of the deal I’ve made from the outside, so it’s not me making this decision for the young Z-Storm bearer. It is, however, the decision of the spirit once contained in the jacket itself. Go ahead, Aegaeon.” The glowing and harmless serpent spirit then moved itself closer to Strezz. The two looked at each other immensely until the spirit, Aegaeon, phased through the Z-Storm jacket, merging with it. With a feeling of confidence now, Strezz stepped closer to the battlefield to confront Naja. “Strezz…we leave this fight all to you,” The Rainmaker finished. “It’s a life or death situation you’re facing, so you must never give up.” Before the final battle between Strezz and Naja would commence, Nike, still in her Lightning Speed armor, was shown in the depths of the sea, floating alongside the wreckage of Naja’s former base of operations. Her vision a blur, Nike examined a ship maneuvering near the battlefield, prompting for her armor to budge. -------------------------------------------------------------------- NOTES/TRIVIA:
  10. Here's my annual Christmas flex, as it's become a tradition for me on here to show what I have: -Spyro Reignited art book -Kingdom Hearts guide book thing -Ho-Oh and Lugia poster (which I had to weigh down with the Funko Pops as shown) -Gift cards for Barnes & Noble, Nintendo, and Hot Topic (I know, I know) -Linkin Park t-shirt -Muse - The Resistance album CD -Beastars manga volumes 6-8 -Danganronpa 1&2 for the PS4 -Miitopia for the Switch -And of course, the main highlight of my gift haul: my Hunter x Hunter stuff: -HxH backpack -Gon Funko Pop (along with the UV protector that came with it) -Gon, Killua, and Kurapika keychains -An assortment of HxH Nendoroids -Also a Gon lamp, which I forgot to put in the picture, oops.
  11. I'm just going to very honest and constructive as I give my last thoughts on this project: I enjoyed Mercury - Act 1 a fair bit and I think it's a genuine improvement over ID's previous two albums, even if it is a mixed bag musically. The album feels like the band is giving themselves some breathing room and that they are trying to move past what made them infamous. There are still some incoherent tracks in the mix, yes ("Giants," "Cutthroat," "It's Ok"), but most of what I have listened to is mostly coherent. "My Life," "Wrecked," "Monday," (this one is type of song that grows on you, and it at least grew on me), "Easy Come Easy Go," and "Dull Knives" are all songs that I've ended up really liking because of how well they flow for me. Is it inconsistent in terms of style? Sure, but when the band is challenging themselves, I don't see much of a problem with that. Of course, I can't deny it either that there are some tracks on here that feel like the band is still stuck in their old ways, but most of the weakest songs the albums are just too inoffensive to really hate (I'm sorry Claps, but I don't know where you got the whole stalker interpretation from for "Follow You," that is seriously hyperbole). If you both really think that Mercury - Act 1 is such an unlistenable and unintentionally hilarious album, then that's completely fine, I can't change your minds. I just think it's a huge stretch to consider it as dreadful, even if it's not just all that hype we've been building up for this very album review that's talking. Regardless of my own feelings towards this band, you both have my pity for the pain that you both put yourselves through for this dive and I respectfully agree with your critiques on each album, even if it's mostly harsh but fair. It's far from the typical fare that I'd expect from the average music journalist that slaps the "worst band ever" label on ID, that much I can tell you.
  12. I'm surprised that you both liked S+M as much as I did. But man, it could've really been a 9 for me if it weren't for it having their absolute worst single to date. Aside from that one big outlier, I feel the album proves a lot on what Imagine Dragons are capable of as a band when you take into consideration that the majority of the album is self-produced by the band themselves (including I Bet My Life unfortunately, but aside from that, it's still mostly good), and it is the most real that they've ever really sounded, and therefore it also knocks down all of those "ALL THEIR MUSIC JUST SOUNDS LIKE COMMERICAL SONGS!!!!" strawman arguments. And because it's their least commercial-sounding album, it makes sense that ID and their management's next course of action would be to target the lowest common denominator. Yeah, even I can't defend Evolve for its direction that the band is now notable for having took. (but it's still no worse of a 2017 album than The Click, yeah sorry, I had to bring that up.).
  13. Cage the Elephant doesn't deserve this slander Both great reviews; don't have anything else to say at this point.
  14. Little Bobby, and little Susie, have hung their stockings with care. Mom and Dad are out looking for Tickle-Me-Elmo ’til five a.m., and all of a sudden, Bobby looks up and he says, “Hey! Who is this Jesus?” Meanwhile, Kris Kringle is drinking Coke, the reindeer are playing Nintendo, the elves are wearing Nike!-

  15. Here's my early Christmas gift to all of you, and I'm going to get the ball rolling with this simple announcement. Yes, after three years worth of delaying this project, chipping away until I got most of everything on my watchlist for this year crossed out, I am now in the process of finalizing my list and eventually getting a written review out of the way. Sure, I could've brought this news to the Entertainment 2018 thread, but of course, it's three years long gone, and I couldn't bring this to the 2021 thread either because it just didn't make sense for me to do that, and considering the wait for this, I thought giving this project a thread of its own could compensate for that (My original plan was to make it exclusive to my Wordpress blog like most of my other reviews after its inception). Expect the review to be out any day between the 26th and the 31st of this month.
  16. I'd never thought you both would decide to push the envelope. As a self-proclaimed Imagine Dragons apologist, I should prepare for the worst but I am also expecting the best out of this.
  17. From what I can understand, it seems as though it's basically that it's because....he's the cartoon version of Patchy.
  18. "Wait...Remember SpongeBob SquarePants?" - a video by jordan fringe

  19. It's time for Cousin Mel to make a comeback, fellas.
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