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Steel Sponge


Steel Sponge last won the day on February 16

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    The gnarliest stuff in the ocean
  • Birthday 03/28/1995

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  1. Bump 'cause we're now getting a Switch and PC port of Reignited:
  2. Alright, one week in and so far I have two submissions. I have one complete top ten list while one other person is still working on his. I will provide an update next month, but until then, more submissions will be very appreciated.
  3. https://variety.com/2019/film/festivals/nickelodeon-ramsey-naito-spongebobs-big-birthday-blowout-annecy-1203237788/ Some more talk regarding Kamp Koral from one of Nick's execs.: Thoughts? I also just thought that I'd post this news since it's making it clear that Nick still has yet to address any concerns most people are having with their spin-off announcements. Also, while I'm not completely accurate, this quote from the same article strongly implies that a S13 for the original series will happen:
  4. Hillenburg wasn't around during the production of S4-S9A yes, but what differentiates it from the current hot button issue is that he was still an executive producer during Tibbitt's time as a showrunner and Nick had mostly left the franchise in the hands of SB's creative team. Now, we're dealing with the higher ups of the company making their own additions towards their IP without any feedback or acquired approval from Hillenburg since he's longer with us and this is happening while it only has been a matter of months since he's gone. I'm not making an early judgment about whether or not Kamp Koral is good. I was questioning about if I should continue to watch it after I catch my first real glimpse of it. Also, just for the record, some people in the past have made an uproar over Hillenburg's absence during the series' post-movie era. I have the memories of the "nostalgia wars" during 2011 on SBC and tv.com to guarantee that.
  5. ...I've been thinking way too much on the morality of this spin-off project lately, so yeah...screw it, I'm going hard on this. This whole Kamp Koral situation has been challenging my own stance as fan of the series. I've often cited SpongeBob as Nick's most timeless series and despite what would be my growing fears of the series' future, I made the prediction that the series will end up continuing past Hillenburg's life, in the form of perhaps the same life cycle as most of any of the Hanna-Barbera cartoons. The problem I have with this new SB series announcement has not always been the spin-off itself. It's the timing of it. I do not know Stephen Hillenburg personally. I never met him. I don't know everything in what he would have wanted for the franchise to be and what he would've never wanted for it to be, even if I'd really like to know what he would and wouldn't have wanted. While it's best that I don't make assumptions about someone that I don't know at all, I know one thing about him as much as anyone else including the people behind the spin-off project: he has zero interest in spin-offs based on his show. I don't know if the announcement of this upcoming SB spin-off would make him feel aggravated if he were still with us, but after seeing how Paul Tibbitt has spoken up against it, he has made a very solid and crucial point. Kamp Koral very much goes against Hillenburg's original vision of SpongeBob and Hillenburg himself probably wouldn't have approved of it. That's not even the worst thing about this news. While the news articles centering on Nick's call to create SB spin-offs seem to suggest that they're being made in Hillenburg's honor, NOWHERE does Robbins or any of the other higher ups spoke of their sorrow towards Hillenburg's death. Nowhere did they say that were making new, multiple SB series because they felt that Hillenburg would've appreciated them. Nowhere did they say that Hillenburg approved of their decision to keep making SpongeBob for as long as they pleased. Nowhere did they say that Hillenburg approved of this whole Kamp Koral concept. All that these news articles have ever implied to me is that Nickelodeon is going keep producing material for the SpongeBob franchise because SB is their most successful television series, cable is dying, and they need to do whatever it takes to survive in the industry, even if it means going against Hillenburg's vision. BUT do you want to know what really makes my blood boil about this news? Once again, it is the timing of it. I wouldn't have felt very mad if Nick had made this announcement some goods year later, but instead, we're getting hit with this news just a mere few months after Hillenburg's death. This not only produces the strong implication of grave-robbery, but this also strongly implies that Nickelodeon was waiting for Hillenburg to die so they could eventually announce that they will do whatever with the franchise now that they have the complete freedom to do whatever they want with it. Now I know that Nick and Viacom has always held total ownership of this franchise, but it's very clear now that Hillenburg's presence had laid the company his own ground rules regarding SB. Also, because Robbins nor any other higher up working Nick have talked of Hillenburg in-depth, they still have, by far, never denied this kind of behavior that most people believe that they are displaying right now. Perhaps they are waiting for the right time to speak about this problem, but still. I've said this many times before, but I'll say it again: this is the current state of Nickelodeon we're dealing with. Cyma left Robbins and everyone else with a dysfunctional business and seeing just how desperate Nick's current approach to stay afloat is, I'm willing to bet that the company may take quite a long time to recover from this, but who knows? Maybe Nick will never make a proper recovery. From the looks of it, Nick is continuing to make the same mistakes they're making by cutting corners, showing a lack of care towards their IPs that aren't SpongeBob, and of course putting way too much focus on their most profitable IP and over-saturating its market. Back on the topic of Kamp Koral, I've finally jumped to a conclusion on how I pretty much feel about this upcoming spin-off. I will give it a chance and see how it pans out for the first few episodes or so. It will feel like an unwarranted retcon of SB's original vision, but who knows? Perhaps it's not actually canon to the original SpongeBob universe and it merely takes place in a different universe. Maybe it will not feel so much like it's taking so many elements from Camp Lazlo. What matters most to me though is that it treats Hillenburg and his legacy with the utmost respect. If not, then I will refuse to support this spin-off and any other new SB series that Nick will throw at me. I can easily write off Kamp Koral as a SB series only in-name. As long as the project is also not being spearheaded by the creative team behind the original SB series, I shouldn't have to treat this is as a genuine SB series. The main reason why I've come to this conclusion is primarily because this string of news that we've been receiving from Nickelodeon has completely cemented my feelings on them being a POS company. It's not because they're making a new SB series that's very suggestively going to retcon certain key points from the original series. It's not because of the company's current desperate plea to continue thriving in the cable television industry. It's not because of some of their faulty business practices. The reason is because Nickelodeon is and always has been treating each one of their shows as objects and will also probably always have creative control over them as well. Why else would The Fairly OddParents end up becoming worse with each new character Nick pressured for Butch to add? Why else would they be prematurely cancelling any of their shows? Most of all, why else would the SB franchise be suffering from all that's going to happen to it? I may have already answered that last question previous times in this same post, but still. So yeah, if Kamp Koral doesn't manage to be a very pleasing addition to the SB franchise, it's definitely best that I simply write it off not just as an in-name only SB series, but as an effort that's only being headed by a group of people who treat SB as an object and not by a team of people who genuinely respect Hillenburg's vision. Like Jjs has said before on Discord, it's a little too late to get Nick to hold off on this new project, but hey, I don't expect Robbins and the rest of Nick's current executive staff to keep their promise to quote-unquote make SpongeBob forever. At the very least, it's important that I, and as well as everyone else, have a voice and speak loud enough so that the company will have to listen. There's the old-fashioned saying never say never and if Nick will never say never stop making SpongeBob, then I say never say never try to make them reconsider. Finally, I just want to say that I show absolutely no disrespect towards anyone who is working on the new SB spin-off. I do not blame them for letting the project pull through 'cause as I ever so implicitly stated, the spin-off has Robbins and the executive staff's strings attached to it. If anyone writing/producing/drawing/etc. for the Kamp Koral spin-off ever end up receiving death threats, I know I'm going to sympathize for them. Heck, I also somewhat feel bad for Ceccarelli and Waller when it comes to the thought that they're giving a hand on this spin-off not primarily because they wanted to, but because they have to AND that they might probably also be on the receiving end of death threats. Most of all, however, I sympathize with Paul Tibbitt and I fully support him for speaking out on the matter. Now, to this close this rant, all I have to say now is this: Screw Viacom, screw Nickelodeon, screw Cyma, screw Brian Graverobbins and others in Nick's staff for enabling and displaying this level of disrespect to the series creator, and screw anyone else that objectifies the SpongeBob franchise. Either Nick acts up and leaves SB the hell alone, or I continue to hope they go bankrupt before anyone with a good heart takes SB from their hands and treat it and Hillenburg with a great deal of respect.
  6. In time for SOF 9, here's a new episode of this series. Because I chose a special that wasn't very dialogue-heavy, I went ahead and copy/pasted most of the scenic actions...and also put them through Google Translate. Enjoy. 20. Iftiin (Ugh) Recreation: The nose is a unique case! But today we can not use it when we go to Ankoio (Greek detected word for ‘Anno’), California, because ... …/ About 100 million years ago! So ready ... …/ BC Lightning Storms! Ro Launch piracy, history of piracy! [Listening and Listening. Get out of the house rock. Every animal is a good home, but it is kept in writing. Flood, rockstones, dinosaur paper] Taxi: Haha! They are equal to what you said, what did he say? There is a little question ... [Need. Dinosaur is located in the deep and deep depth of the wall] …/ Now this is a prelude story ... [See meat and flour] ... when people try to live and die in the big dinosaur site. [Cheese-free food and diet, but taking dinosaur life] …/ Yes, okay? But now I'm leaving. [Dinosaur leaves the park garden and is available] [This is one side. It takes responsibility and takes two steps. Stand Standstill. Please try again later] …/ As I have seen, this is the biggest story. It was a simple and easy game. [Have two placements and one slice of cuts] …/ Your clothing is always changing. [Use this site in the future] You can save the walls. Nobody likes you. [We have good spaces] Football is easy to hit. [She will live in Dijon] Yes, it was a good story. Men men? I believe in congratulations to support the fans. [Introduction, but it has Coekkola and Hume Pak] Points: I'm sorry for the delay. Taxi: Gabay! (Filipino detected word for ‘Guide’) Why are you wearing clothes? I spent all night. Points: You took time. Prudence is forbidden. Everyone knows the future. Taxi: Is this? It is not. Save The Reason Plymouth Pinpints are some of the early things that children would say "great". Points: No Taxi: Halkaa (Somali detected word for ‘there’) Points: No Taxi: It often works in the garden. Points: No Taxi: So! Points: No Taxi: I know! Points: No …/ Recreation: Read more ... ... t Sri Krishna: Imagine what you are Drop off: Mr. Cooper does not know, but the sea and sea water have unusual experience about me. When the crown is finished. …/ Taxi: K. Points: No Taxi: K. Points: No Taxi: K. Points: No Taxi: Let's talk about why we are and why we go for food. A safe carpenter! ... do it Points: No Iftiin [Fans are open, the plants are blue and blue. The program will start. See Bikini Online for most. But the ancient island contains water and strong martyrdom. Every man hath done hunting;] Recreation: It was buried in the morning. [The former friend of the world] Millions of millions of lives live in the air, opening new eyes and bright eyes. I have been here for a long time. [Do not hurt. These elderly families are in three pairs. In Spanish Spanish, this large house is located in stone, stones and bones. The big eyes of the sun, the sun, was the same hour. The recent waves are looking for stone stones and come to the end of this historic stage. Almeria, the bedroom (Karma), but the door was opened. He laughs and returns to shelf. Then he pulls out the floor and has two packages. It looks chrome and its details, the right to travel] Drop off: …/ Bananas are ready! Taba, a car. Gas Sheeko: M Drop off: Gary Tonson Tab [Fruit and Vegetable Chips with Allan and Dinosaurs] Gary: M [For a long time, the backbone. Legally and impoverished people are particularly dedicated to a group of travelers, especially when traveling on a blue airway] Include: …/ Group Hoo ... [He went, but he stood up.] …/ Sug (Swedish detected word for ‘Suck’)... [Accelerate and carry. A great creature is coming back. The official wants to grow, but the clothes are often seen. It is divided, and the war is gone from SKQ, but there is no way to turn it off.] …/ Hmm ... [Walking and taking two clubs. She said she should use her. It takes heavy tire and gloves. Locations are cheaper. Weight needs pets and doors on the right track.] …/ Bob's letter! [Donkey leaves eye and eye] …/ Punang Harry Puppy Maya! The sites are the collection of bottles! Tabo (Slovenian detected word for ‘you’) Duo! Tabo Duo! Drop off: Arjiga (Somali detected word for ‘Application’) Tab Hm ... Tongang (Chinese detected word for ‘Ton just’) Dodo ... [Remember the head and stamp seal again, but the cheeks are flying on the car, returning to the site using the red suitcase. But the cloud must work. Skvipik opened home Patrick's Stone House, which is frequently used in the leg of Patrick booga dhaslaawe.] Color: …/ Travel! [Stormy ice mines, now dead] Come on! [Image images] Boo! [see photo] Crown [Then he took salt and gave it a little soft, then he went out. It looks at this time now at the office] Oh! Include: Travel! A group ... [Seriously grow and kneel] Color: Confidential! [I will laugh and accept] Nothing! [Drinking hands after the pen and the tip of the tip is not plaque] …/ Confidential! Include: EE! Color: Confidential! Drop off: Travel! Color: Drop off [Spongjack begins and hit his head. The girl shakes her face. The cloud lay in the nose and slip the face. He is confused, so the nose is outdoors. Some laughter. Peter put his head on his head. He will not stay there] …/ Drop off Drop off: to continue Include: Pffffft! Sparkart (Swedish detected word for ‘Save Map’) and Pat of the Gabrielle Castle. Hey, house, look up ... [Before returning to the ground, stop him, look at his head and go back to the house. Review] …/ so ... [Go back to Sandwich, go home, sponge keeps the leaves and drinks half the juice. This ship was surprised. Compare it. If the job enters the liquid, flush slowly into the brush, then the hole will end. The story tries to cover the grass, but it looks like pop, you do not need any risk and safety. Then he loved and cried out. Then the clouds and rain show. Then it is over, the rain fall, and the cloud changes. Laughter is fun. He tried to shoot, but the rainbow. Many clouds will rains and rain. I'm sorry. Press it once and repeat. They are happy with most doors. It starts with rain, but it will not stop. Then, remember the sound and the way you want to call. Peter is still vibrant and there are two lights of light. Squawk watches his house on the second floor of the floor] …/ Thank you Prairie and Spoonard. Squoc Squac can not be searched. [Start feeding. Iftiin. Fire and light bulbs, such as Peter and Spoon, look like windows and gas.] …/ Travel! Drop off [They both grow back and forth. And they went out and saw the fire. Pager, Kwuig (Igbo detected word for ‘talk’) and Pou (Haitian Creole detected word for ‘for’) are bright. She laid her hands on her, and beat her hand. He burned his hand, and stretched out his hand, and his hands were broken. Hispanic and Peter in their hands] Both: …/ Well, yes ... yes, yes ... [Try to go. Then unexpectedly happen. And Peter spake in the voice and the voice. Then they grow on salt and wheat, spreading a series of needles to the next home, spaghetti and stomach. And he took hold of stones, and brought a vessel into the temple. They do not want, but they are starving. Stores saw two factories] Drop off: …/ This fan! Include: Yaa [While traveling and travel] …/ Drop off [Feeling emotional. As he did, Pedro saw his hand and died. Pittsburgh hands occur when hands are attached] Travel! Throw away! [Peter died. Kandang (Indonesian detected word for ‘Cage’) Shpanggart, Holy Star Megag, two farmers have been delayed by the fire and then abandoned. We have been hearing a secret, because both are fast and fast. Later, when we saw the rubbish of Nigeria, we saw Sarsi. An eternal cloud.] Drop off: AT! Confidential! Confidential! Does he speak spoon? Mmm [Good luck and nephew] …/ Maybe! Maybe! Maybe! [Que. This is because of the light source. He accepts and goes. Since then, hunting has increased. It was a great taste. See Squig. Then the cloud is too long, by eating tropical plants.] Include: It's right [Food is good and allergy. Again on the road.] …/ Taila foo spong! Silence is not a tree. [Mouth Suck - Parrot Albert Einstein. Then add fresh spin, mix and bake. Petatchell uses all sticks to indicate and stop the pen. We came from a red currant. Providers must eat and eat to provide support.] Drop off: …/ Travel! MM-MM Tab Tab! Prehistoric Cup: Money! Money! Yahah! Money! Money! Money! Money! Money! Oh ... aah! [It takes Peter grades, takes and cares for Peter's activities. Take control, keep it in the fire. Stolen. Three men jumped, crying, and cried out. Unnecessary oversight.] Recreation: Therefore, our previous story may have been recently thrown out, but you can quickly play with a fire. Save yourself …/ Taxi: It was fun when I was there! Gay How can I learn to analyze the children ... So ... do not refresh? Multiple injection needles! ["Weight" on "Earth" is placed on the wall of the question.] …/ The way ... …/ It looks like flour. …/ Gabay! Points: Radiological technology will give you the future. ["The digital address of the digital divisions is related to the future." The report consists of '00' to '01'.] Taxi: Well, "" Well, "I did not see anyone living. …/ I saw his children, I fell on ice, and then I ate three days. I talk to the cave. is not it? The account is in the port [I am surprised by the history of the prison] Points: There is no longer a long time. To find a job. Work: Hello, what is my service? [Future results are longer than "01" to "02".] Taxi: Where you expect Points: There is no father who thinks what the world says. [[Cavey] pulls out the work and produces it. The eyes of the robot are red. The teacher is locked] Work: …/ Attack! Attack! [Green begins to shut down, and the work breaks out with noise. Each form, "future" results will be returned from "02" to "06".] Taxi: Gabay! You are looking for a hole Work: Attack! Attack! Recreation: Sometimes the record can be a different way of controlling it. What does he pay for? Square inch of square round! …/ Spring Bulls Bobbogi b. The question is good. We came [[Robert] goes on the road, and the rock has a big rock. After removing See how you are looking for soda and foil] Points: very well Taxi: Please call the BBA Center. Here we are waiting! …/ No …/ Recreation: We were looking for a fire when they saw the legs. How often do you feel sick? we see [This is accompanied by trips, roads and costs. All are closed. Pengurur (Malay detected word for ‘Artist’) strikes many tall leaves. Squawk blocks some of the leading and closing colors and pages and advertisements. Peter tried to protect him, put his head down and eat. He tore the tree and threw down his face to the ground. Three things are still food. Spaghetti Take a little wine, add it and win it. Squwig features some tile stones, puts it together and uniformly. Things to eat. The car remembers the rock, and there are some "money" in some accommodation. Scale length. The soft card pulls the ground, the wall and the elements lost, lost. He stood up. Strengthen three shoulders. Eat and buy.] [Pastor, Porter, and something, tell me, give it up and eat. They are in the interior, because they are becoming more and more. They will stop and raise] Include: …/ War, Pt. Eraser, spoon Color: Guggenheim, Scott Scott, Spoon Drop off: Hot, Wag, Pantar. (Icelandic detected word for ‘order’) [Three houses can not be returned to the house. I saw three men and saw a fire. Fire and stone] …/ Great War! Bike Spongebob! Include: Burns [About gypsum in the geometric shell. It's offense, and it will come back to you. Impact and danger. Stopping the memory of the memory, so Spoon-Fuel itself is their head. The woman lives in her club when she is in difficulty, Squig is with her. They hold two clubs, Peter is covering the fire. Spouting and Stopping Stopping where it is going and the buyer's way. Peter Gates is killed. Peter, apparently, is interested in Kiswick and Spunkarom] Both: …/ Travel! [[Peter] threw his heart into the air. Spaghetti Chachavar is responsible for carrying Chevavar boats to secure the release.] Include: …/ A group ... [Jade herself himself, but Peter takes it, and then sneezes the trash and makes mistakes. The project is over. The test is going on for a long time, but it is summarized as a tree. She leaves and goes to the ground. Psychological sites - farms. It was made of a sharp knife and stood at his base. Since then, in Iraq, there were shocking statements.] …/ Dumbo Patcher Fwee Fwee Squw! [It will come back, but it is closed, looking for the keys on the pocket. I found] …/ What is it? A group ... [The flutters flipped out, but they caught and caught another pound. Peter was shaken and full of joy.] Drop off: …/ Travel! Bwah, this little girl! Savior …/ Do not let it go! Color: Congratulations! [Hold and decorate the four tents in the hall. Afterwards, he walks and walks next. Patrick laughs at] Include: Fwee Fwee Squw! Fwee Fwee Squw! Color: Congratulations! Drop off: Bike Spongebob! [The three jobs are hidden, but they have stopped and they will not refuse] All: No, no. [Traveling signs and writing. They stood, and went, because there were three things. This trip will be canceled and everyone will finish.] Drop off: …/ Bike Spongebob! Include: Read it Color: Congratulations! [Fire is suddenly rarely seen. Everyone will live.] Drop off: …/ Oh, the shoe. Color: Oh so deep ... Drop off: Oh, the shoe. Color: Oh so deep ... Include: Sakaki! (Japanese detected word for ‘Moth’) [He will go to the club, but he was very slow. Land on Earth] …/ ... submission [Black team of Asa (Romanian detected word for ‘So’) and Kidney Club] Recreation: Some events in history can not be provided. …/ Taxi: Now I know how I feel ... Points: What is a long time? Taxi: I understand you can wear a little clothes. I want people to know. But all people were thinking about technology! Points: Come on, I think I am happy. Taxi: Cyber-Tech and Military Trucks Looted? Points: Even more. Taxi: I'm waiting for you, I think you care. …/ what you do When the world happens Points: Is this girl in red? You can do this But no one is missing When the world happens I am very happy You will certainly die When the world happens Keep in your hand I am your guide When the world happens Walk ... Walk ... good travel Keep your comment When the world happens Points: Look! The world goes forward, it is unusual Is the job and the file? Some of these works are in a single box How looga heart goes out to the heart? We continue I'm dead But this does not mean that marriage will be stopped He was in the lab in the cave That is why you have it Students: in the future! Points: Cool! Drop off: I am a girl. You can But it is not When the world happens Taxi: I think you're right, potatoes, right. Future is good Points: You see only the problems that I publish. Taxi: AT! What is it? New contact Points: No Taxi: Including the border Points: No Taxi: Yes, right? [Puterino's door opened. The lion is suffering, their eyes are cool, then from the bow] …/ Gabay! [Cooling is cool. Turn on light and window] PATT: I'm fine. [Dinosaur is very bad. In the ground floor there are many legs in the legs] Taxi: Yes, Spiegel, thanks to the children. Good luck! …/ Now tired! She stopped! -------------------------------------------------------------------- NOTES/TRIVIA: Google Translate setup for "Ugh:" Nepali-Esperanto-Scots Gaelic-Georgian-Amharic-Ukrainian-Somali
  7. So, here's a project coming from me that I'm sure most of you have only just been suddenly hit with. The idea for this project came to my mind while I was on Discord. While it feels kinda unorthodox to create this in a very SB-centric internet forum, I would still like to see this happen. -The setup and rules for this countdown project will be the same, but since I am not expecting for this to be as popular as the SB episode countdowns by any means, this project will be that of a smaller scale. Therefore, instead of doing a top 50 countdown, this will be a top 30. -To make this project happen, I need a minimum of 10 submissions. Instead of a top 25, please PM me your top 10. -The deadline to submit your list will be Sunday, September 1st, so there will be no rush. On the first week of collecting ballots, I will make my first update. After that, I will update this thread monthly to let you guys in on how many submissions I have received so far. If this pulls through and I manage to receive the required minimum of lists, I will start the countdown on Wednesday, September 4th (the anniversary day of FOP's first showing as a series of Oh Yeah! cartoon shorts) -Let me know if there's an episode on your top 10 that you want to write commentary for. For any episode without any guest commentary, I will cover for it. -If I receive at least 16 or more submissions, I will start a topic for a top 30 worst countdown by the end of this one. With all's said and done. Feel free to send me your top 10 if you have one.
  8. There's not much else that I need to say about why I've hated "Stuck in the Wringer" so much beyond the long piece that I've written the past month. IMO, it is without a doubt the worst that SB can get. Anyways, here's my unsurprisingly divisive bottom 25 list:
  9. The staff behind the film and for this spin-off series must feel very proud of this whole Kamp Koral idea that they have made originally for It's a Wonderful Sponge, considering that they're announcing a spin-off series based on this concept even before releasing a trailer for the third SpongeBob film. One thing's for sure though, this new spin-off series, whenever it comes out, will probably only feel like Nick's own version of Camp Lazlo. The fact that Marc Ceccarelli and Vincent Waller are giving this their support speaks some lengths. And although while I can speak for everyone when I say that none of us have really asked for this, I am curious to see how this pans out.
  10. So now it's Squid Baby vs. Stuck in the Wringer. Considering that the latter is my #1, I'm just going to hope for that one to take the #1 worst title for the second consecutive year.
  11. (Continued from the previous post) I’ve felt relieved to have ended that conversation, because I’m no good at them. There’s so much else that I feel like that I need to tell my friends, but I’m nervous about how they would feel if I told them that I have autism. Someday, I’ll take the courage to tell them, but not now. Someday too, I could be able to talk to them without having to speak. How soon will it be until I can? I have to socialize if I really need to survive on this island, but I don’t feel so much like myself when I do… After that stressful night, I’ve spent the next few days practicing what I’ve recently learned of Z-Storm’s powers. My other friends have been making preparations as well. Captain Tide gave Zowe and Monique gadgets to use in the battle. He gave Zowe a pair of electrical brass knuckles and an automated force field belt to protect against attacks and he gave Marina a detachable circuit board that can deactivate armor. Then the day finally came. First thing in the morning, I’ve noticed that Arthur was gone from his hammock while a dry husk that looked like him laid there. Arthur came into the room to reassure me that it was his dry skin pelt that he had shed a day after our first day of practice. He also told me that he’s planning to use it during the battle so that he can take less recoil damage when he merges with Brave Bolt. I trust him, but it’s going to feel weird to see him looking all dried up and baggy. Before I get out there to fight Seymour, I just wanted to say that I am thankful to all the people who have had my back during this journey: Shazza, Bruce, Monique, Zowe, Cam, Zack, Marina, Kiyoko, Sal, Captain Tide, and Arthur. This might be the last page that I’ll ever write, so if I die during my fight, then hopefully someone will find my journal and give it to my family. I want to tell my younger siblings that I love them a lot: Cassie, Farley, and Leon. I want to tell my parents that I respect them too and that I have no hard feelings towards them after I had to move in with my cousin Ben. Ben, I’ve wanted to say that you’ve done of a good job of looking after me. You are a great cousin. Yours truly, Strezz Stormond. After Strezz finished inscribing in his journal, he places it inside of his polar bear stuffed animal backpack, zipping back up the opening afterwards. He then squeezed his stuffed animal gently and set it still on his hammock before grouping up with his other companions. There, Shazza handed each member, including herself, a wireless earpiece. “Sal and Captain Tide will watch over the hut,” Shazza was explaining. “The captain had set up a wireless radio signal that will connect between us and this place. If any of you are in a dire situation, just holler.” “Hey Zowe, where are your weapons?” Strezz uttered, pointing out that Zowe had both her brass knuckles and belt unequipped on her. Taking notice, she then said, “Oh silly me, I left them with my other things! Hold on while I get them.” As Zowe left the room, she scrimmaged through the purse she had close to her hammock to grab an ordinary-looking belt and a bag of coins. She promptly places the bag into one of her pants pockets while tying the belt around her waist. As she returned to the group, Marina peered through the window to see Seymour, Vandyke, and eight Thunder Troopers inside their respective battle armors walking towards the hut. “Here they come,” Marina alerted. “Then it’s time we stepped out,” said Shazza. “Is everyone ready?” The other members of the team nodded in agreement. However, before Zowe could step out, Shazza stopped her, motioning her to have a small talk. “Zowe, I can’t help but notice how different your belt looks compared to the one we gave you,” she acknowledged. “Don’t tell me you lost it, mate.” “I’m very sure this is the one that the captain lent to me,” Zowe responded. “Also, just to be safe, I have my brass knuckles in my pocket.” “Just make sure you take this mission very seriously, okay?” Shazza replied. “You’re going to be assisting Strezz. That’s a huge responsibility.” “Trust me, I will,” Zowe replied. “Oh, and by the way…Strezz is mine. Don’t forget that.” “If this is a romance thing, then I’d say he’s all yours. Jokes on you mate, I’m asexual.” Zowe put her arms behind her head and then said, “Hey, I didn’t know that! Forget what I said, then.” After Shazza and Zowe were finished talking, they regrouped with their other companions outside. Strezz’s group waited as Seymour’s group continued to walk down the shore to meet face to face. Seymour and the rest of the armored Thunder Troopers were lined up. Unarmed, Vandyke had positioned himself at the center of the assembly alongside Seymour. Strezz’s group had also lined themselves up with a battle-ready pose. Kiyoko, Monique, Bruce, and Zack stood on the left. Shazza, Zowe, Marina, and Cam stood on the right. Of course, at the center of the battle formation was Arthur and Strezz, the latter in which was giving Seymour sincere eye contact. In addition, Strezz appeared to be anticipated in activating Z-Storm. Vandyke walked closer to Strezz and his group and spoke, “Since Z-Storm has a team of ten, Seymour and I handpicked our nine best combatants to even things out…and I’m glad we went through with that decision because you all look very prepared. Perhaps it’s because you have Seymour’s adopted brother Arthur on your side.” “Funny, we only see nine of you,” Zack remarked. Vandyke gave a small chuckle and continued, “We do have ten on our side. Wherever he or she may be is something that you’ll have to figure out yourself.” Seymour, Vandyke, and the Thunder Troopers watched as each member of Strezz’s force stared at their opponents fiercely. “This will be the most exciting bloodbath that Seymour will ever experience,” Vandyke sneered, “or we’ll have most of you become prisoners for our organization. Whatever the outcome may be, it’ll still be fun to see how any of you will manage to survive. I’ll be waiting inside our base…” As each opposing side was filled with anticipation, Vandyke walked slowly back inside the submarine. From that point forward, the battle had begun. Within the first few seconds, Strezz activated his Z-Storm armor, while every other comrade on his side started to budge. Seymour was idle, but the rest of the members of his side started to make a move. Strezz started off flying into Seymour’s range to try and land an early hit on Seymour. However, at the moment that Strezz could make an impact, Seymour changed his direction and quickly lifted himself up above ground. In the instant that Strezz realized that he had missed his target, he looked up to see Seymour, who had then started to soar away from his sight. Strezz reactivated his boosters to come chasing Seymour in his path, leading into the far left side of the wilds. Zowe then came following after Strezz. As the rest of Strezz’s team began to lunge towards one of the Thunder Troopers, all eight reacted by shifting their direction towards the thicket of kelp and retreated into their own respective paths. Straightaway, Cam came after Matt, who is piloting the Dark Goliath armor. In the direction that Matt went, Cam found himself in the left section of the jungle and leapt atop of a kelp tree immediately afterwards to conceal himself from Matt’s trajectory. Kiyoko was agile enough to be on the tail of Chameleon Collision, piloted by Quinn. She followed him into the middle section of the jungle. Arthur activated Brave Bolt and his boosters shortly after to launch himself through the same section of the jungle that Kiyoko bypassed, having caught eye of a suit of armor with a shiny coat of red in most of its body and a shiny hue of blue on the limbs. As she was caught within Arthur’s view, Nike, who pilots Lightning Speed, zoomed around his field of sight to mesmerize him. Thereafter, she landed a direct on Arthur’s Brave Bolt armor. Without a target clearly in their sight, Shazza, Bruce, Monique, Marina, and Zack headed off into the jungle in a direction of their own. Shazza and Marina dashed into the middle-to-left section of the jungle. Bruce directed himself towards the far right section as Monique crossed the middle-to-right path. Finally, Zack rushed his way into the far left section of the jungle – the same direction that Strezz and Zowe previously took. Shazza was shown sprinting through the jungle while trying to watch everything in her move. I have to keep a sharp eye on any suspecting enemy, Shazza thought. I need to form a viable battle strategy before I have to act. Looking for a place to be hidden, Shazza slowed her feet and then turned to face the area surrounded by kelp trees. She climbed up to on and stood on its left branch. She looked down to inspect any familiar looking objects while pondering about her strategy. Eventually, she saw the armor of Crimson Kill, piloted by Hector, patrolling around. There, she jumped down as an act of ambush. “Hey, I never thought I’d only take me this long to find someone that I can fight,” said Hector. Before Hector could ignite any of his powers, Shazza solemnly said to him, “Before you can try to do anything to me, I have a couple of questions to ask you. …First of all, what was the last thing you’ve remembered before you were drafted into Seymour’s organization?” Thinking about Shazza’s words for a moment, Hector then responded, “Are you serious? I’ve always been close to Seymour. Most of my memories are from when I’ve worked alongside him.” “That’s not the kind of answer I’m looking for,” Shazza replied sternly. “Do you recall how you got on this island at all or anything that happened before that?” Once again, Hector paused for a moment. Hector spoke, “I could remember very well that this island is my home. I could also vaguely remember the faces of my own family, that I’ve been wondering for a while because all that I seem to know about my family is that Seymour told me that they’re go-“ Hector’s words were interrupted by a shock coming from the neck of his Crimson Kill armor. As it then filtered into the armor’s controlling area, Crimson Kill’s legs bent down while Hector groaned in pain from the shock. “What was that?” Shazza questioned. “It’s none of your damn business,” Hector said as Crimson Kill stood straight back up. “One more thing I need to ask: do you know about any of my past memories from when I first arrived on the island?” Shazza continued. “I don’t know some of my memories either, but I do know that Vandyke has been holding on to them. I was wondering if you know what he’s hiding.” “I’m just an ordinary foot soldier,” Hector replied. “I don’t have access to whatever it is that they’re keeping. …Say, you were probably buying some time with your talk, weren’t you? Well, I don’t have time for any more of your questions! Let’s fight!” “Have it your way,” Shazza said as she laid down her surfboard gadget, pressing her feet unto it. Hector starts the fight by blasting his double palm laser beams. Shazza manages to dodge Hector’s attack once she activated the surfboard’s hovering function. Afterwards, Shazza turned on the gadget’s cannon and it fired a plasma blast against Hector. Hector lifts his armor’s right arm to sustain Shazza’s attack before launching a series of crimson honing missiles. Rotating her surfboard around the field, Shazza strives to dodge each of the missiles. While she ends up running into a few of Hector’s missiles, Shazza kept her composure on her surfboard, managing to hold on to the surfboard after the impact for each missile strike and escaping from the smoke clouds that came into her view. Shazza then used her surfboard to fly higher above the field. She then shifts the weapon on her surfboard from the cannon into an eight-barrel projectile. As she was preparing to fire her weapon, she aimed at Hector with a dive and landed several hits on his armor. Hector retaliated by conjuring more double palm blasts that Shazza managed to dodge with ease. Hector then fired another series of his missiles. At same time of trying to dodge each of the honing rockets, Shazza fired more rounds from her surfboard’s laser projectile. Shazza waited as Hector cleared the smoke from the damage that she landed on the Crimson Kill armor. Both fighters stopped to take in some breaths before Shazza fired more shots from her laser projectile while Hector launched more of his honing missiles. Charging up the boosters on her surfboard gadget, Shazza used the enhanced amount of speed to bolt north into the jungle. Hector chased her until they both reached a creek. Shazza and Hector stalled the fight once more to catch some breaths. Hector then deactivated his armor to uncover Burden from the folds of the Crimson Kill jacket. “So you think you have the upper hand against me,” Hector remarked as Burden slithered over to his back shoulders. In an instant, Hector reactivated his Crimson Kill armor while Burden still stood at his side, discharging electrical currents through his armored body. “Consider that last squabble as a warm-up. It’s time to get serious!” Shazza starts by swapping the weapon on her surfboard gadget back with the cannon. Hector begins to display his boosted power by conjuring a faster and larger double palm blast attack at Shazza. Shazza narrowly dodges the attack while firing a series plasma blasts from the cannon. Hector manages to dodge most of Shazza’s attacks before launching his next honing missile attack. This time, the boost from Burden made them into a series of missiles that turn into a large rocket missile when touching each other. Shazza quickly shifts the weapon on her surfboard into that of a shield to barricade herself from the attack. The impact of the hit sends Shazza flying forward while still on her board. “You seem strong, but that weapon of yours feels like nothing more than a gimmick!” Hector exclaimed. “Yeah, I do have a lot of tricks on me, but it matters more that I have a good idea on how I can get you to crack,” Shazza responded. As Shazza regained composure and shifted her weapon for a set of torpedoes, Hector prepared his blood fist attack. Shazza flinches for a moment as Hector’s attack reaches her. Plotting to reuse the same attack for his next few turns, Shazza moved her surfboard around the shield in order to dodge each attack. As Hector used his next blood first attack, Shazza went above Hector and quickly fired the torpedoes with a dive. Shazza zoomed further from Hector’s range as he then launched a series of double palm blasts. Each time, Shazza shifted her surfboard from left to right before firing her next set of torpedoes against Hector as he was in the midst of shooting another plasma blast. Hector dodges Shazza’s attack, however, as he then shot his next double palm blast before releasing another set of his missiles. Shazza was above Hector’s range and as the missiles got closer to her and formed into a large rocket, Shazza dived and got as close as possible towards Hector before she lets his own attack do damage to him. Shazza quickly swapped the weapon on her surfboard back to her eight-barrel plasma projectile and fired multiple shots into Crimson Kill just before Hector could completely regain his composure. Hector then resorted to releasing a series of X-shaped blasts. While barely trying to avoid each blast, Shazza once again swapped weapons on her surfboard for the torpedoes. As Hector was preparing his blood fist attack, Shazza fires her next set of torpedoes at the very moment that Hector would land his hit. As Hector’s blood fist attack had touched Shazza, she flinches in pain before using her surfboard to move higher above ground, barely avoiding one of Hector’s X-shaped blasts. Shazza waited as Hector fired his next set of missiles before beginning to unleash another blood fist attack. Shazza moved herself closer to Hector’s range while the missile rocket chased her. Shazza avoids the blood fist attack, gets behind Hector, and fires her next set of torpedoes straight-on. Afterwards, she zooms under the Crimson Kill armor before Hector would lose balance and lets his missile rocket completely reduce his energy to continue fighting. Shazza saw as Hector’s armor deactivated and walked to where he laid. “I guess I underestimated you, but I…” Hector groaned. “…I refuse…to admit that I’m weak!” “You did put up a fight,” Shazza remarked. “As I carry you back to my keep, I’ll make sure that the Crimson Kill jacket is no longer in your hands.” However, as Shazza was about to remove the Crimson Kill jacket from Hector’s body, she heard a voice that came off as someone being in danger. Without much hesitation, Shazza left Hector behind and ran over to the source. She then found Marina being apprehended by Warden, who pilots Teletorrent. Warden was pointing a musket attached to the left arm of the Teletorrent armor at Marina while she appeared to be bound to a kelp tree, wrapped tightly in iron materials that came from a temple nearby. Marina’s attachable circuit board gadget appeared to be on the ground, suggesting that she had dropped it during her confrontation with Warden. “Be careful Shazza, he has the ability to move around metal objects!” Marina cautioned. “What are you doing with her?” Shazza asked Warden. “What does it look like?” Warden responded. “I’ve worn her down before I can take her in to our headquarters as a prisoner.” In an instant, Shazza reactivated her surfboard gadget and placed her feet onto it. She set the laser projectile as her weapon of choice, but before she could attack with it, Warden quickly moved Marina’s circuit board and flung it into her surfboard, nullifying it thereafter. While Shazza tried to remove the circuit board, Warden then took control of the surfboard gadget and then used his telekinetic ability to slam it into Shazza and detain her to a kelp tree next to where Marina had been held. Warden then took out a set of electrical metal spears. He yet again uses his telekinesis to repress Shazza’s arms and legs, as well as tossing one spear close to her neck. Warden laughed and then said, “My bosses will feel very proud of me to have caught a couple of rebels. Heck, I’m very proud of myself.” Warden then conjured a couple of wires from the waist of his armor. Now moving the metal objects he concealed onto Shazza and Marina, he then immediately tied their hands around with the cable wires before tightening them. “On to Seymour’s ship with you two,” He ordered, forcing Shazza and Marina to follow him out of the jungle. “It’s his orders.” At the very least, I’ll now eventually find out what Vandyke is hiding, Shazza thought and turned her head towards Marina. Hold on, Marina. Cam was still shown to be hiding among the kelp trees. He looked to see that his target Matt patrolling was around close to where he is. I will not show myself to him yet,” Cam thought. I already promised myself that I won’t fight Matt when I do reveal myself to him. I will try to dodge anything that Matt will try to use on me until he loses all of his energy to fight. If I need help, I will call for backup. Yes, that is definitely a plan that I can work with. Before I consider calling for backup though, I must check and see how anyone else is doing… Cam moved westward, jumping from one kelp tree to the next until he spotted Marina and Shazza being escorted out by Warden. This does not look good, he thought to himself. I must not go any further. Cam headed east, back to his original post. He looked over to his left earpiece and spoke, “Sal, Captain Tide, this is Cam. If you can hear me, I need to let you two know that Shazza and Marina are held captive by one of the troopers. Is there anyone else with you inside the hut?” “I’m afraid not,” Sal’s voice spoke through Cam’s earpiece. “Dammit,” Cam muttered. “Well, if any one of us comes back, tell them to find Shazza and Marina.” “Will do,” Sal finished. Cam continued trekking through the kelp trees, going east until he spotted Arthur in his Brave Bolt armor. Cam couldn’t see the opponent that Arthur was facing, so he kept making his way east through the jungle before he saw Kiyoko with Quinn, the latter in which appeared to be assisted by an invisible object in front. That’s the guy with camouflage powers, Cam thought. I better steer clear from his view. Kiyoko was now shown preparing her fight with Quinn. “You must’ve made a mistake showing yourself in front of me without much help,” said Quinn. “I will definitely enjoy bringing you down.” “Oh, but I am ready for a fight,” Kiyoko said. The invisible moving object, courtesy of Quinn’s Chameleon Collision jacket, made its first move against Kiyoko. The unidentifiable object missed Kiyoko as she then jumps over to where Quinn’s jacket rested on the object, whacking it off with the stick and revealing the now-visible creature. It was a giant enemy crab. “You…you broke my façade!” Quinn exclaimed. “Now you’re really asking for it!” Quinn then grabbed his Chameleon Collision jacket and hopped onto the top of his crab ally before activating his armor. “You might’ve already figured out one of my tricks while I was experimenting with Chameleon Collision’s powers, but I’ve still got some more aces up my sleeve,” said Quinn. “Try and see you can get through this!” Quinn touched both sides of the crab’s head. His arms then phased through before the rest of the body of his armor vanished. The giant crab’s eyes then turned white and each part of its body began to move at Quinn’s own free will. “Now I’m in control of this creature!” Quinn exclaimed. “Are you feeling all down on your luck now!?” Controlling the giant crab, Quinn started by trying to whack Kiyoko with its left claw. Kiyoko jumped out of the way from the enemy and ran further north into the wild until she came across a tall, giant creature that resembled a plesiosaur. She stunned it on the head her with her stick before getting atop of its back. She and her allied creature both turned to face the controlled giant crab. “So, it looks like we’ll have to fight with our monsters,” said Quinn. “No matter, I can still put up a fight!” Meanwhile, Arthur appeared to be struggling in his fight against Nike as Lightning Speed. Nike was running swiftly across the field while Arthur tried to focus his eyes on her armored shell. Every time that Arthur caught eye of it, none of his attacks manage to hit Nike. After Arthur lost sight of her, he felt a shooting pain at the back of his armor. Nike had swiftly come behind Arthur, charged up the power in her middle and index fingers and attacked him with a quick stab. The shock had caused for Arthur to turn the opposite direction, only to see that Nike was still zooming across the field to divert him before she would hit him again, but in the form of a fist. Nike gave a laugh and taunted to Arthur, “What’s wrong? You can’t catch me? I’m not too far!” While Arthur left himself in his thoughts about a possible strategy, Nike continued to attack Arthur through her same methods by doing damage to him from behind. “Hahaha, you can’t catch me!” Nike teased. “Come on, try to get me! I don’t want a dull fight!” He or she is too fast for me to hit properly, Arthur thought. I can’t merge with my armor unless it’s a real emergency and I can’t leave my spot if my opponent is going to keep trying to beat me until I’m down. If I’m going to have my opponent where I need them, I’ll have to create a diversion myself…but what do I do? Nike then struck Arthur with another stab from her middle and index fingers before resuming zigzagging across the field. Okay, I got it now…if it’s going to take until I’m down for her to stop for just a moment, then I’ll have to pretend to be defeated. If I’m going to have to make it look convincing though, I’ll have to play along this opponent’s little game of tag for a while…” Arthur started to budge, looking around for an image of Nike’s armor in his view. He then activated his boosters, flying around the field to appear as if he’s really trying to catch Nike. As Nike caught notice of Arthur’s change in direction, she fired several small laser beams at Arthur, who tried to sustain the damage by covering his upper body with both arms. “Come out and show yourself, why don’t you?” Arthur called out. “Okay,” Nike responded. Arthur saw as Nike suddenly stopped for a moment. Arthur was about to prepare a surge sphere attack, but Nike quickly unleashed an electrifying sucker punch attack from her left arm as bright, clear flashing light coming from it blurring Arthur’s surroundings for a moment before he felt the blow coming straight into him. As Arthur expected, the clear image of Nike’s armor had instantly escaped from his sight after she landed the attack. So she changed her fighting pattern but she still has the energy to evade any attack that I would try to use on her, Arthur thought. So I ought to keep up with my act. That way, maybe I could also learn about her pattern. Arthur continued to try and create his diversion by flying around the field while trying to sustain Nike’s physical shock attacks in the process. As Arthur saw Nike suddenly stop again, he quickly exposed his shield. While the shield managed to block Nike’s shocking fist attack, she quickly reacts and zips over to hit Arthur on the backside. Regaining focus, Arthur continues to zip around the field to tempt Nike. “I’m going to catch you!” Arthur proclaimed. “No you won’t!” Nike retorted. Charging up a great deal of power into her left hand, she slams her left fist straight into Arthur’s armor. At the time Arthur could react and see Lightning Speed, Nike then zoomed around the field, but while frequently landing a hit on Arthur’s armor at the same time. After getting hit by Nike’s flashing, sucker punch shock attack, Arthur resorted to letting his armor fall over. At that very moment, Nike stopped and walked over to inspect it. “My masters said that he would be strong, but I guess he wasn’t strong enough for me-” Nike commented. Once as Nike slowed herself down, Arthur quickly drew out his large dagger and quickly swung it through her armor. The impact sent her flying into the trunk of a kelp tree. Before Nike could regain her composure, Arthur then unleashed a flurry of vivid blasts and struck her armor with his dagger once more. Arthur waited to see if Nike was down, and to his surprise, she hasn’t budged after the dust cleared. Should I get back up? No, I shouldn’t let the thrill of a battle get all over my head, Nike thought to herself as she’s shown inside of her armor. I’m not just here to fight. I need to find the one that my masters call Strezz… Nike then willingly turned off her armor and laid herself on the ground with her eyes shut, to appear critically injured. Oh my gosh! Arthur thought. That was just a child inside of that armor! Upon seeing Nike lying down motionless, Arthur, while still inside of his Brave Bolt armor, removed her jacket, held her up, and carried her over the shoulders, making his way back to the hut. “That fight turned out easier than I thought. She had a very skilled fighting style, though. Hopefully, she’s just exhausted.” I don’t know where this guy is taking me, Nike thought. Wherever he’s taking me, I should be able to get myself closer to Strezz. It’s best that I play possum until I get my chance to run off. Strezz, now outside of his armor, and his companion Zowe were now shown wandering around the far west section of the jungle, still looking for Seymour. “Oh man, I just hope everyone else is doing fine,” said Strezz. “Why isn’t Seymour showing himself to me right now? Is he buying time?” Suddenly, Zowe got a hold onto Strezz’s right hand and then reassured to him, “Don’t get all worried. You’ll find him soon enough and you at least have me by your side.” “Yeah, you do make a point,” Strezz replied sheepishly. “Before we keep going Strezz, let’s wish each other good lucks, in hopes that we both make it out alive,” Zowe replied. “What do you mean?” It was then that Zowe clutched onto Strezz’s body to hug him. Realizing her actions, Strezz returned her affection and wrapped his arms around her as well. However, while Strezz wasn’t paying attention, Zowe was gone as a suit of armor peculiarly took its place. As Strezz’s eyes looked back up, he saw an orange and red-tinted suit of armor. He gasped as he tried to back himself away, but he already appeared to be in its clutches. “You’re not Zowe!” Strezz cried out. “Good on you for figuring that out just now,” a voice spoke. Strezz turned around to see someone standing atop of one of the branches of a kelp tree. It was Seymour’s agent, Kinuyo. She was draped in a kimono with loose threads of silk around her fingers. From Kinuyo’s own eyes, however, there appeared to be a couple of spirits connected to her loose clothing strings that Strezz couldn’t see. “Where is Zowe!?” Strezz demanded towards Kinuyo. “Great work, Deacon!” Kinuyo chirped towards the armored individual. “If it weren’t for my help, you wouldn’t have been able to pull the wool over the eyes of anyone with Cyclone’s powers.” “Hey, aren’t you going to tell me what you did with Zowe?” Strezz asked, still directing towards Kinuyo. “You must hold still,” Kinuyo responded as she lifted her right and left little fingers. “It will hurt, but you will feel a lot better afterwards.” As Kinuyo was about to hurl one of her silk threads onto Strezz’s jacket, Zack suddenly jumped in to block it with the pole of his fishing rod. Zack then swung the hook of his rod onto Strezz’s head to pull him away from Deacon’s grip. “Zack, you-“ Strezz spoke. “Strezz, get out of here and find Seymour!” Zack interrupted. “Don’t worry about me. I’ll take care of this one!” “What about Zowe?” Strezz asked. “You go find her too,” Zack replied. Following Zack’s advice, Strezz nodded before then reactivating Z-Storm. He turned on his boosters and made his escape from the area. “It’s no fun when someone has to go and interfere,” Kinuyo said towards Zack. “It’s such a pity now that I can’t take control of that Strezz kid, but I could still make use of you and your hooded jacket.” “What are you talking about?” Zack demanded. “Just be still and you’ll find out,” Kinuyo replied as she flung the thread of silk from her left finger sticking onto Zack’s hooded jacket. To prevent resistance, Kinuyo ordered for Deacon to grab a hold of Zack. As Zack is unable to break free from Deacon’s grip, Kinuyo launched her second thread from her right finger and onto the same article of clothing. Kinuyo watched as her web demons phased inside of Zack’s jacket and eventually into his subconscious. Zack was visibly groaning in pain and trying to fight it until the demons completely took over control of his mind. Deacon had now let go of Zack once as his eyes widened up and gazed at Kinuyo obediently. “You know those so-called friends that you stand up for?” Kinuyo said. “They’re the real enemies. Now…I have a favor for you to do: get out there and find us some game.” “Definitely,” Zack said with a dampened tone and a menacing grin on his face. “Alright, then let’s go!” Kinuyo perked. “Come on, Deacon!” In the eastern section of the jungle, the real Zowe appeared running through the jungle with an aggressive look her face. “Damn that bitch for capturing and interrogating me like that!” Zowe exclaimed, with the image of Kinuyo displaying her head. “I need to find Strezz, now!” Zowe continued running through the jungle until she came across someone in red and violet armor. It appeared to be Adrianna, piloting Cannon Cadet. Zowe stopped as Adrianna motioned her to do so. “Hold it right there!” Adrianna exclaimed. “I’ve been wandering around here for a while looking for someone to fight.” “Out of my way, I’m not here for you,” Zowe retorted. “Hey, you look familiar,” Adrianna replied. “You’re the one who upstaged me that one time while I was guarding Seymour’s hideout! This feels exciting now that I have a second chance to take you down.” “Yeah, that’s me,” Zowe replied. “Now get out of my way. I don’t have time for this.” Adrianna let out a small laugh before then saying, “Well, if you want me to make this quick, then I might as well.” Adrianna lifted the right arm on her armor to show the Fountain of Youth gem that she has attached to the palm. “Say your prayers as I wither you out of existence!” Zowe grunted in annoyance as Adrianna conjured a blast through her gem. Before it could hit her, Zowe immediately pressed a button on her belt to activate an electromagnetic shield and ducked from the gem’s range for safety. Seconds later, she noticed the force field’s deflective abilities as she saw the gem’s beam striking Adrianna herself. “Hey, what’s the meaning of this?” Adrianna said as her voice was becoming shriller. “I can’t make it stop!” Zowe watched as Adrianna struggled. It wasn’t until Zowe heard the sound of a baby crying that she willingly deactivated the force field. She was still bent down from the gem’s range until the gem’s blast stopped due to the lack of weight from inside the controls forcibly deactivating Cannon Cadet. Adrianna’s jacket, gem attachment, and as well as her own clothes, was left in a pile. Zowe examined the pile to see if anything was moving. Once as she noticed a tiny particle moving underneath the jacket, she lifted up the jacket to see a small single-celled organism in its place. “It’s good to see that she’s apparently still alive,” said Zowe. “I didn’t expect for the fight to be a cakewalk, but now I more time to try and find Strezz.” Zowe picked up the Fountain of Youth gem and then Adrianna’s reduced body on the pile of her clothes before covering her back inside of said pile. “But now I have to return back to the hut to show them this before the gem’s effects wear off.” Zowe began running south from the jungle, directing herself back to the hut while carefully holding onto Adrianna and her clothes with her right arm. Meanwhile, Bruce and Monique are shown running along their path in the jungle. While trying to look for any willing opponents, the two stopped as they nearly ran into each other. “I guess we’re destined to stick together,” Bruce remarked towards Monique. “Yeah, I guess…Let’s go somewhere else, we haven’t found any one of Seymour’s troopers here,” Monique suggested. “That’s where you’re wrong!” A male voiced uttered. Bruce and Monique looked behind to see two armored individuals now in front of them. One was colored in white and gold while the other is colored in blue and black. “Hey, speak of the devil,” said Bruce. “Look Tempest,” the male voice continued, “we have ourselves a double!” “I don’t know who you two are, but since our eyes met, you’ll have to fight me and my brother Terrell,” says Tempest. “So, what do you call yourselves?” Monique asked. “I’m AC Arrow!” Terrell answered. “I’m DC Downpour!” Tempest answered. “Well, we don’t have our own personas, but we do have our own powers,” said Bruce. Bruce and Monique held onto their gemstones with their palms and waited for their respective powers to form within them. Bruce’s skin and clothes turned light and dark blue while Monique’s eyes turned brown and was shrouded in sand. “Heads up Mo, I’ll take on that AC fellow while you can take on DC,” Bruce advised. “Fine by me,” Monique replied. Bruce started his fight with Terrell by conjured a vast ball of ice and hurling it swiftly at him. Taking out his bow, Terrell retaliates by shooting thunderbolt-shaped arrows at Bruce. Bruce froze part of the ground to create an ice wall to try and block them, but Terrell’s attack shatters the wall and does damage. Bruce more parts of the ground to skate closer to where Terrell stood in his armor. He then touched the bottom limbs of the AC Arrow armor before bringing out a large ice pick to shatter the ice on the legs and deal damage. Terrell kept balance as he then shot electrical currents into the ground with his arm cannons. Bruce felt pain from the first few currents but reacted quickly enough to jump backwards into the ground that wasn’t covered in ice. Terrell launched out his next attack by focusing on his mind. The clouds in the field overhead turned gray as Terrell summoned a swarm of golden, electrified arrows to strike at Bruce. While getting hit by some of the arrows, Bruce managed to dodge most of them while he prepared his next attack. Bruce shot a blast of icy air into the gray cloud and motioned for it to move above the head of Terrell’s armor. Bruce then motions for the cloud to produce hail, inflicting some damage on Terrell as well as diminishing his guard. Bruce then stomped over to the ground covered in ice and created a frozen upward ramp. Bruce slided over and got himself close into Terrell’s range. While mid-air, Bruce created a set of icicle sticks, tossing them and dealing more damage on Terrell’s armor. As Bruce got under and appeared behind Terrell, Bruce’s opponent turned the other way to face him and prepared to shoot another set of thunderbolt-shaped arrows. Bruce jumped over to reach Terrell’s upper limbs, froze them, and finally damaged them with his ice pick. As Bruce came down, Terrell aimed at the ground to send electric currents, which ends missing after Bruce freezes the lower limbs. Terrell now prepared to use his arrow summing power, but then Bruce froze the rest of his metallic body before completely taking him down with another hit from his ice pick. Monique started her fight with Tempest at the same time as Bruce’s fight with Terrell. Tempest starts things up by unleashing a small, raging tidal wave to crash down on Monique. Sliding of its range, Monique managed to dodge it before conjuring up a sandstorm to hit Tempest. However, it misses as well when Tempest nullifies it with her water blaster. Monique unleashes her next attack by shifting the ground beneath the feet of Tempest’s armor to point up and send her flying and hit the ground. Letting the pointed stones return to its smooth, sandy position, Monique watched as Tempest sent out her next swift tidal wave attack. It misses as Monique then shifts the ground within the wave’s range into a trench. Monique then shifts the same flooded trench to hit Tempest right back before letting the soil return to its normal state once more. Tempest then uses her mind to summon a raincloud and send large bolts of lightning down on Monique. After getting stricken by the attack a few times, Monique then has herself concealed by conjuring a sandy force field. Monique then shifts the shield into another sand twister attack that Tempest interrupts once more. Monique then conjures another sandstorm, but this time, from behind. That time, it manages to inflict damage on Tempest’s armor before she falls into the ground. Tempest gets back up and summons another raging tidal wave. Monique shifts the ground beneath her own feet to raise herself higher from the attack before then creating a few more clay pedestals, motioning for them to hit Tempest. Tempest’s next attempt to summon a tidal wave is interrupted as the pillars restrain her. Monique finishes off the fight by sending a strong gust of sand against Tempest. The lack of energy from Terrell and Tempest’s respective armors would then cause for them to deactivate. Monique and Bruce deactivated their abilities and rushed over to the two troopers who are both lying motionless due to their exhaustion. “At first I thought they wouldn’t be just a couple of pushovers,” Bruce remarked. As she and Bruce removed the twins’ jackets and held them up and onto their backs, Monique replied, “I was thinking the same thing. Let’s head back to the hut.” In the Midwest portion of the jungle, Cam continued to check around to see what Matt is doing. While Matt appeared to be waiting impatiently for a battle, he didn’t display any clear violet behavior. “Come out Cameron,” Matt was heard saying. “I know you’re out there somewhere!” The time still doesn’t appear to be right to reveal myself to my brother, Cam thought. I better check the progress of any other member in my group again. Cam traversed further left into the jungle to see Warden, Shazza, and Marina completely out of sight. However, looking up high, he saw Seymour and Strezz in his Z-Storm armor face to face. To avoid confrontation with Seymour, Cam immediately made his way into the eastern section. He saw Bruce, Monique, and then Zowe running back over to the hut as well as Kiyoko and Quinn still in the midst of their fight. Returning to the spot where he saw Matt, he noticed something else. A figure was feebly crawling his way over to the Dark Goliath armor. It was Hector, Cam realized. What is he doing down there? Cam mused. Did he already lose a fight to someone? If so, then why is he still there with his powers intact? “Fancy seeing you Hector,” said Matt. “What the hell happened to you anyway?” “I was beat out by that Great Barrier Reef girl,” Hector responded. “She left me here, but I thought that I’d make my way over to you. I may not have enough energy to continue fighting…” As Hector continued conversing with Matt, he then took out the power slicing device from his pants pocket, “…but I’d like for you to carry out my task.” “You’re a persistent fellow,” Matt replied. Without any other option, Cam slid down a kelp tree and showed himself in front of Matt. As Cam noticed the device in Hector’s hand, he then thought to himself, No, this does not look good. “Oh look Matt, your brother is here after all,” Hector informed. “It’s about time you showed yourself,” Matt said towards his brother. “You didn’t arm yourself, eh? Heh, I’m definitely going to enjoy beating you to a bloody pulp.” “I’m not going to fight you,” Cam uttered. “Even if you’re hell-bent on destroying anyone that gets in your way, you can’t forget that I’m your brother. I’m here to make you come to your senses.” “What’s that, you don’t want to fight me? Well, too bad,” Matt retorted. “Whatever Seymour says goes. So we’re going to fight even if you don’t want to!” As Hector lent his Crimson Kill jacket and power splicing device over to Matt, Cam immediately made a run for it. “Now he’s trying to escape,” Hector pointed out. “Not on my watch,” Matt said as he then holds out the Crimson Kill jacket and Hector’s device with both hands. “DNA activate: Dark Crimson!” Back inside the hut, Arthur, with his Brave Bolt armor currently deactivated, was the first to rush back inside. Holding on to Nike, he placed her gently on one of the hammocks and then placed her Lightning Speed jacket on a table. “Welcome back, Arthur!” Captain Tide called out. “Arthur, if you’re not too busy, there’s something we need to tell you,” Sal addressed. “Cam told us that Shazza and Marina have recently been captured by one of Seymour’s guards.” “Well, I better get out there and do the job to rescue them,” Arthur said with a confident tone in his voice. However, before Arthur could step out, a voice sounded from the radio transmission. It was coming from Cam. “Sal, Tide, I’m reporting to tell you both that I’m in the middle of a dangerous situation!” Cam’s voice spoke. “Matt has combined his powers with that of Crimson Kill and I need reinforcements! I saw Arthur, Bruce, Monique, and Zowe heading back to our main location, so if they’re there, I need you to send either one of them to help me!” Right on cue, Bruce and Monique came rushing into the hut with Terrell and Tempest on hand. Immediately after coming inside, they placed the two troopers on a hammock and put their respective jackets on a table alongside Nike’s jacket. “Just hang tight, Cam. We got our backup right here,” Sal said in a reassuring tone. “Thanks, I appreciate it,” Cam’s voice responded. “So, what’s going on right now?” Bruce asked. “One of Seymour’s guards has taken Shazza and Marina into Seymour’s keep,” Arthur explained. “Cam is in serious trouble as well.” “What should we do?” Monique then asked. “Cam’s situation right now seems like the kind that I think I should handle,” Arthur responded. “I suggest that you two do the task in invading Seymour’s headquarters and help Shazza and Marina.” “That seems like a good plan,” Bruce said. Before any of the islanders could step out, however, they saw Zowe barging inside of the hut with Adrianna and her belongings. “Hey Zowe, weren’t you supposed to be assisting Strezz in his fight?” Arthur questioned. “Yes, but a certain someone captured me this morning to interrogate me about Strezz,” Zowe was explaining. “I suppose that the bitch had replaced me with an imposter while I was held up.” “Do you mind telling you what you have in your hands?” Arthur questioned once more. “I fought Adrianna and I deflected the powers from her gem to reduce her into this,” Zowe continued as she then uncovered Adrianna’s jacket to reveal her as a single-celled organism. “The effects should wear off pretty soon, but now I don’t have any more time to explain what happened. Where’s Strezz? I need to know!” “He must be alone with Seymour,” Arthur suggested. “Now I can’t help but think that he could be in a serious situation as well…” Just above the jungle now shows Seymour and Strezz facing each other, inside of their respective battle armors. “So, you’ve managed to find me, Strezz,” Seymour spoke. “Our eyes have met once more and possibly for the last time too.” “Tell me where Zowe is and then I’ll obliterate you!” Strezz demanded. “Unless she got bested by one of my guards, I’m sure she’s doing fine,” Seymour replied. “I’ve had one of my agents hold her in captivity while her accomplice took her place to lure you into her trap. But alas, you’ve escaped. Enough talk for now, I’ve been waiting for this moment. Don’t disappoint me…” -------------------------------------------------------- NOTES/TRIVIA: -Official character debuts for this episode: Nike, Trevor Stormond, Diana Stormond, Terrell, Tempest, Deacon, Kinuyo
  12. (continued from the previous post) Seymour instantly took Vandyke’s offer and walked off with him into one of the halls. During this time, Strezz was getting ready to learn some of Z-Storm’s techniques that were new to him through Arthur… “You got your jacket, right Strezz?” Arthur asked. “Yeah, I’m just putting it back right now since a storm’s coming,” Strezz responded. “Wait, you don’t know how to switch on and switch off Z-Storm’s armor at will?” “I can do that!?” The thought of being able to regulate the armor gave Strezz a surprised feeling. Afterwards, Arthur then said to him, “Now that’s going to be one of the things you’re going to know about in today’s practice. Are you ready?” “Aren’t you? I’d thought you’d be using your armor…” said Strezz. “Not yet,” Arthur reassured. “There still isn’t a drop of rain in sight, so I can still lecture you about this one technique. You’ve gotten used to Z-Storm’s physical abilities, so now you’re going to learn about the abilities you can only access by focusing on the mind and soul.” “That sounds like quite a lot of information…” Strezz wavered. “All you have to do at this point is concentrate on the feeling in which you want to activate your armor,” Arthur explained. “Let the powers of your armor flow through you.” Strezz watched as he saw Arthur concentrating on his thoughts to generate sparks of electricity from his jacket before he saw the metal concealed within it spreading out and forming around him. Just like that, Arthur was now within his Brave Bolt armor. “It’s your turn now. Don’t forget what I’ve told you to do,” Arthur lectured. Focusing his energy solely on the mind and soul, Strezz’s thoughts were fixated on the image of Z-Storm’s armor. As expected, Strezz felt a surge of electricity forming around his jacket. He watched as the metal began to decompress around his body before realizing that he had completed activated Z-Storm’s armor without the occurrence of a downpour. “Hey, it worked!” Strezz cheered. “Okay, now what, Arthur?” “You move on to the second phase in using your mind and your spirit,” Arthur informed. “There is a way to make your arsenal a lot stronger and it’s a process known as amplification. It’s not just a simple shortcut. You need to really concentrate on your thoughts to send enough nerve signals to generate a course of electrical energy to amplify the power of the attack of your choosing.” Once more, Strezz felt out of loop from Arthur’s instructions, as he then tells him, “Can you shorten that for me? I didn’t process all of that.” “Didn’t you listen?” Arthur questioned. “I really was trying to listen…” “To make your attacks stronger, use your inner thoughts to amplify the energy of which ability to use. I’ll show you how I do it.” Once again focusing on his inner thoughts, static energy formed around Brave Bolt’s armor. He then conjured and released a few surgical spheres that caused a massive burst after hitting the water. After seeing those intensified powers in action, Strezz began preparing his Hydro Blast ability – but not without focusing his inner thoughts of overcoming Seymour first. Using the amplification ability, Strezz conjured a power that combined his collected electrical charges with an immense, fast-flowing, tube-shaped rush of water. As Strezz released his attack far into the shore, it caused a small eruption once it touched the water. “That’s good,” Arthur remarked. “As long as you don’t think too hard, the added volume to your powers won’t deal so much on our targets and on yourself. I’ll leave you off with one last technique. I’ll try to explain it as simply as I can.” “What do I have to do?” “Once again, you need to release the power within your thoughts and within your soul. Think about something that is most important to you and you’ll unlock a hidden ability in Z-Storm.” Strezz paused for a moment before then telling Arthur, “Finding a way back home…that has always been on my mind lately.” “I could already tell,” Arthur continued. “Now think about what you have to do to achieve that goal.” As suggested, Strezz left the controls to the armor idle to concentrate on his thoughts. I just need to defend myself and everyone else on my side. Strezz then reengaged his grip on Z-Storm’s controls, using his mind to transmit nerve signals around the armor. Strezz eventually felt a surge of energy in the hands of Z-Storm’s armor and saw it conjure a long, elastic strap attached to what would then appear to be a spectral pair of seahorse, glowing with a golden hue reminiscent of electricity. So Strezz is a fighter of the guardian kind, Arthur thought. He is truly meant to inherit Z-Storm’s powers. “That was incredible, Strezz! Just disengage the energy to your special ability, and we’ll call it a good day’s work.” Strezz, focusing on his thoughts to stop the flow of energy around the armor, turned off Z-Storm’s hidden ability. Now focusing on the image of his own self, Strezz instantly deactivated his armor. “You’re really getting the hang of Z-Storm’s powers,” Arthur complimented. “Yeah, I won’t be so worried about being too unprepared for my next fight with Seymour at this rate,” said Strezz. After all the practice was done, Strezz and Arthur saw Zack passing by through the shore with a makeshift fishing rod. “Oh hey Zack, what brings you here?” Strezz asked. “Also, what’s with the fishing rod?” “This is for the fight that we all have to prepare for,” Zack responded. “I can’t make a fuss about it while I’m without a weapon of some kind, so I’ve made this tool. I’ve given myself a week to make this and now it’s done.” “That’s good for you that you’ve planned ahead,” Strezz remarked. “Cameron has already made plans of his own too and he’s talked to me about how he’s going to fight his brother without fighting him at all,” Zack replied. “I don’t know what’s gotten to his mind, thinking of going through with that crazy plan, but whatever strategy you’re using against that asshole Seymour, I have my trust in you to take him down.” “You do?” Strezz questioned. “I never thought that I’d hear you say that to me.” “I’ve seen you fight while we were breaking in to that dude’s base. By the way, if you’re looking for your two friends Bruce and Monique, they’re exploring the jungle right now, looking for whatever mystical artifact. Shazza also told me that she’s arranging a group meeting between all of us as soon as they come back.” “Wait, Bruce and Mo are in the jungle by themselves?” “Doesn’t Bruce have powers of his own now? We also got that chameleon guy to piss off for a while, so I wouldn’t worry about them.” “Okay. …Well, if you want to know how I’m doing, I’m making excellent progress in learning Z-Storm’s abilities through Arthur’s knowledge from piloting his own armor.” “Alright, I’ll smell you both later then.” Once as Zack left to return inside Sal’s hut, Strezz and Arthur immediately noticed a peculiar couple of individuals. One was covered in draperies and carried a staff while the other appeared to be a serpent with a body comprised of brine. Their eyes were staring completely towards the ocean’s waves. Even as the two felt Strezz approaching them, they didn’t become fazed and kept focusing on the view. “Um…hello there, what brings you here?” Strezz asked the pair. “Are you the boy with Z-Storm’s jacket?” The mysterious individual inquired. “Arthur, do you recognize these two?” Strezz whispered to him. With sincere uncertainty, Arthur shrugged his shoulders and responded to him, “Beats me.” Strezz then focused back on the mysterious pair and then responded by asking him, “How did you know about me…and-and the jacket?” “It’s true that I have not seen how you’ve tested the abilities of Z-Storm, but I could tell by the commotion that you are the one.” Strezz jumped once as he saw the unknown figure and his serpent turn around to face him. At that moment, Strezz’s eyes were focused towards the man’s body, as well as towards the serpent. “Can you at least tell us who you are?” Strezz asked once more. “My presence has given you plenty of questions to ask, I expected as such,” the man continued. “As for my name, you can refer to me as The Rainmaker and nothing more.” Strezz was going to say something before the Rainmaker resumed, telling him “Before you ask me anything else, I’ll give you some answers – answers in which I can only share with you and your friend with Brave Bolt’s powers. Given my name, I indeed bring order to the weather of this island, until that order was destroyed by a certain enemy with Dark Strike’s powers and his corps.” “Dark Strike, isn’t that…?” “I could already tell that you knew Seymour like I have. He has brought turmoil onto this island for years. I still remember when the tragedy started five years ago like as if it just happened today. Seymour and his associates turned a pleasant inhabited island into a wasteland with no point of return. He took away the lives of many of this island’s natives. Some of them were kept as hostages. Some of them were brainwashed. Most of them were killed. However, two men stood to rise against Seymour. One of them found a jacket, the one that is exactly like yours. That person had a tight bond with the spirit embedded in it and vowed to use those powers as a guardian, just like they were meant to be used. Years after several skirmishes with Seymour, the savior was challenged by him to a fight against him and nine other adversaries one by one. The savior defeated all but Seymour. After his loss two years ago, he just simply disappeared.” Strezz’s eyes were still focused on The Rainmaker’s serpent as he was explaining his story. “You look to be very fond of my serpent. He has been animated and sharpened through my powers and he keeps me company. Go ahead and try to touch him, he won’t hurt anyone with a negative aura, and he looks to be fond of you too.” “Two years ago…that was around the same time that Shazza ended up here,” Strezz muttered. “Ah yes, she was the girl that the man passed on the powers of Z-Storm to, I’m guessing that she somehow passed it on to you,” The Rainmaker responded. “She did, but…but I found and took the jacket after I saw it washed up on shore…from the last place I was before my friends and I got stranded on this island.” Strezz explained. “It’s a long story.” “I see,” The Rainmaker mused. “I would be enthused to hear your story, but you don’t have to tell me. You looked familiar to someone that I knew who shared a story to me that I think is similar to yours. Getting to know you however, you’re different compared to the other guy in many ways. Now I have a question for you: for what reasons do you hold onto Z-Storm’s powers?” “Protecting my own self and others with these powers is my only means of being able to return home right now. In the process, I need to defeat Seymour. You seem very strong. If I can completely trust you, do you think you can assist me in my next fight with Seymour?” “I’m afraid I can’t. That’s because I’m not the one that Seymour wants to fight. You are part of a cycle in which Seymour must fight Z-Storm, and you must fight him as Z-Storm. Sadly, that’s also why I couldn’t stop all the havoc that was wrought into this island after all those years. I believe you can overcome because you’re the only one right now who can defeat Seymour and his corps.” Directing his eyes towards The Rainmaker’s own eyes, he then says to him, “Prove it to me then that you’re not some phony. I’ve been fooled by someone named Vandyke and I’m not going to be fooled by you. Unless you’re not up to it, I want to know how strong you are and I also want to show you how strong I’ve gotten!” The Rainmaker gave a bit of a chuckle and then said, “At first glance, you seem to be a very nervous child, but you’re really showing some moxie. Okay, if it’s a fight you want, it’s a fight you’ll get.” “Hey Strezz, are you sure about this?” Arthur questioned. “I’m positive,” Strezz responded. “Don’t worry about me. This is not your fight.” Using his mind powers, Strezz instantly activated Z-Storm’s armor within the jacket. Strezz started his match with the Rainmaker by charging himself up. He waited for his opponent to draw his attack before Strezz could unleash Z-Storm’s Hydro Blast attack. In that moment, The Rainmaker counters Strezz’s attack by conjuring a swift and raging tide before then using his staff to conjure a cyclone attack to deal some damage on the armor. After regaining his composure, Strezz then conjured his laser blade, preparing to strike against The Rainmaker before the opponent reacted as quickly as he could to motion his serpent to attack Strezz with a freeze-dry breath, immobilizing Z-Storm’s right arm. Before Strezz could try to break out of the stiffness in one of Z-Storm’s forelimbs, The Rainmaker stroke him with an enlarged tidal wave. After taking the hit, Strezz then regained complete control of the armor and fixated on both The Rainmaker and the serpent. He’s a lot faster than I am, Strezz thought. Should I use his strength to my own advantage or should I wait until his guard is down? Strezz, once again, charged up his power before then using his amplified plasma cannon attack against The Rainmaker. Each shot missed as The Rainmaker dodged them as quickly as he was able to. The Rainmaker then motioned for his water serpent to attack Strezz, with a physical rushing move. Strezz tried guarding it with his laser blade to little benefit. As The Rainmaker prepared his swift tidal wave attack, Strezz quickly used his boosters to try to land a hit on his opponent head on, slashing through his attack in the process and then striking a second time on the opponent, but by doing little damage. The Rainmaker, already being able to regain his composure, then used his staff to make him levitate above the beach. Strezz followed suit by reactivating his boosters. Both Strezz and The Rainmaker took their own time in charging their own powers. Strezz watched his opponent as he was amplifying one of his powers before unleashing it. Strezz prepared his Hydro Blast attack until it was cut off by The Rainmaker, who used his staff to summon a bolt of lightning to damage Strezz and his armor. The previous blow had now reduced Strezz’s power of flight as well as weakening his stability. While The Rainmaker was still above ground, he then conjured another high tide attack against Strezz, landing another hit on him. Strezz then waited for The Rainmaker to descend. Reactivating his laser blade, Strezz rushed over to The Rainmaker, clashing with the water serpent that acted as The Rainmaker’s guard until Strezz landed a hit on the opponent. Strezz then used his amplification technique before using his powered up Hydro Blast attack. Strezz landed on another hit on The Rainmaker as it managed to sear a spot through the opponent’s draperies. It was after that moment that The Rainmaker then stretched both of his arms outward and exclaimed… “Enough!” Strezz deactivated his armor as soon as he noticed that The Rainmaker had stopped himself completely. “Boy, can you tell me your name?” He questioned. “I never actually quite caught it.” Strezz felt confused by The Rainmaker’s question for half a minute. Deciding not to be hesitant, he then spoke explicitly, “My name is Strezz…Strezz Stormond.” “Strezz…I have now seen your worth,” The Rainmaker continued, “but I cannot continue our fight. We agreed only to see how skilled we are in combat. I did not want any bloodshed. I hope you understand that.” Strezz fixated his eyes to the ground, tied his hands around his back and then mumbled, “I understand. So, um…does this mean that I won the fight?” “Since I’ve withdrawn, you can call it a victory on your part,” The Rainmaker replied. “However, I wouldn’t call the fight the kind that determines a victor. Those powers embedded in Z-Storm that you’ve used, I hope that isn’t all you’ve known.” “I’ve actually learned so much more than all that I’ve used in my fight with you. I was afraid that I was going to seriously wear myself out if I used my special techniques more.” “Well, you should be ready for your imminent fight with Seymour, right? You must be ready. One secret that I know about him that I could at least share with you is that he can merge with his armor and he can sustain himself in such a form without losing a drop of blood.” “Now that you’ve told me that…I still don’t feel like I’m ready to fight him again. He even said that he wants to see Z-Storm at its fullest strength…” “Just keep on with your practice on Z-Storm’s powers. Don’t forget, I believe you can put an end to Seymour’s reign over this island.” As The Rainmaker finished speaking to Strezz, he, alongside his water serpent, stared at the ocean floor once more and began to tread through it. “Hey, wait a minute!” Strezz exclaimed. “Aren’t you going to tell me more about how I could defeat Seymour? Or do you know if there’s anything that my friends and I can do to return home?” The Rainmaker turned his own self back around to face Strezz and then said to him, “Whatever answers you seek, you’ll find out yourself soon. …However, I’ll let you in one more secret since I understand how much it means for you to escape this island. I ask of you and your friends a favor to carry out. The island’s weather effects come from a source that is possibly located within the depths of Seymour’s organization. Destroy the source, plain and simple.” “I also have a lot of questions to give and I know you’re willing to talk to me about what’s going on and…” Strezz replied. “Talk is cheap,” The Rainmaker interrupted. “I bid you farewell and good luck.” Strezz watched as the Rainmaker and his serpent treaded through the briny sea and he saw the two mysterious individuals disappear as they completely submerged themselves below the ocean’s surface. Strezz Stormond, The Rainmaker thought, I’ve recognized that name somehow… Hours have passed as Strezz now appeared alongside the other islanders outside the hut, all benched on a set of broad wooden stumps. “I called for all of us to meet here because Seymour is going to launch an attack against us within the next few days and we need to talk about forming a strategy,” Shazza explained. “How do you know if Seymour also wants us to play his game?” Zowe questioned. “I think I know why,” Strezz muttered. “Um, while Arthur had me test out some of Z-Storm’s powers that I haven’t known before, I met someone very strange. He said he used to control the weather of this island and he knew about one of the jacket’s previous owners. There, he said something about Seymour setting him up in a fight with him and nine others who were on his side. He called himself The Rainmaker.” “That seems like the funniest story that I’ve heard all day,” Monique remarked. “It’s true,” Arthur reaffirmed. “I was there with him. Strezz even challenged that guy to a test to see how skilled they both were in combat. The Rainmaker ended the battle to congratulate Strezz for having learned so much about Z-Storm’s powers, but he also told me he needs to practice more on his fighting.” “As I was saying,” Shazza continued, “Seymour has a group of reinforcements and it’s likely that he will enlist multiple troopers for his attack since there are twelve of us here. If we leave Sal and Tide to take care of the hut, that makes us a group of ten and Seymour will probably have nine of his troopers on his side to balance things out.” “So, what kind of plan do you have in mind?” Bruce questioned. “For the first phase in our defense, each of us will face off against one respective target,” Shazza was explaining. “Of course, Seymour will be targeting Strezz. As for the rest of us, we fight against whoever we end up with. If anyone gets caught in a life-threatening situation, either one of us will act as support. One of us will then try to finish a fight that someone in our group cannot finish. We all should have a weapon of some kind at this point. Strezz has Z-Storm’s jacket. Arthur has Brave Bolt’s jacket. I have my surfboard that’s supplied with gadgets. Bruce and Monique have their respective objects that they found in the jungle…” As Shazza was talking, both and Bruce and Monique were eying at their gemstones. The artifact that Monique had just recently found and obtained for herself appeared to be a sandstone gem with a red hue. “That reminds me, I don’t think I’ve shown everyone this thing that I’ve found,” Monique interrupted as she then lifted up the sandstone gem for everyone else to see. “Have you tested to see if it has some powers embedded in it?” Shazza inquired. “It’s important that you assure for yourself that it is an enchanted gem and that it’s not just a piece of junk.” “I haven’t tested to see if it has powers, but I definitely will soon before the big day,” Monique replied. “My weapon is a fishing rod that I made by myself,” Zack added before pointing his thumb towards Cam, “meanwhile, this guy is going empty-handed.” “I plan to fight against Matt,” Cam was saying, “and I want to do it without doing anything fighting myself.” “Are you sure?” Shazza asked him. “Now you’re making me afraid that you won’t be able to handle yourself in your fight with your brother.” “I’m positive,” Cam responded solemnly. “Alright…” Shazza continued, “So, Cam has his reasons not to use a weapon of any sort. Is there anyone else without one?” Upon receiving Shazza’s question, Zowe and Marina casually raised their fins. “I’m guessing this is the part where you rat us out for being unprepared and all,” Zowe remarked. “Marina and I never had any battling experience and we never really worried about having to fight either.” “No,” Shazza said modestly. “You and Marina still need some means of fighting since the ten of us taking down one of each of Seymour’s group is still part of our proposed plan. I’m sure Captain Tide will think of something for you both.” “Yeah, but what if I don’t want to fight?” Zowe uttered. “I never wanted any part of this and I would like to keep myself separate from this Seymour person and his business.” “What would your plan be then?” Shazza asked. “I have no plan. Maybe I have really wanted to be someplace nice like Seaside Springs, but I’ve never planned to be deserted on this island or to put up with anyone that’s been happening here.” “I know you’re upset, mate. At least understand one thing about your friends Marina, Cam, and Zack. They want to help assist in our fight and they very much want to help you. Do you think you can do the same? We’re all dealing with a life or death situation.” Zowe’s body was quavering around, trying to hold back any more frustration until she then exclaimed, “You’re forcing all of us to take care of this mess! Besides, you’re the one who decided to fully lend Strezz powers that used to be your responsibility and he never wanted to hold on to them!” At the moment Zowe mentioned Strezz’s name, he let out a small, nervous mutter. “I didn’t want to deal with the responsibility of being Seymour’s target!” Shazza exclaimed. “You’re right, I may have urged Strezz to continue that responsibility, but he’s not angry with me. He’s feeling really honored that he’s taking on the role of a guardian. I’ve put my trust in him that he can take out Seymour and he’s entrusted us to stay by his side and help him when he needs assistance. If you agree to fight alongside us, you’ll be fighting for him and your friends. You’ll also be doing it for yourself. So tell me why you don’t want to fight with us.” “You wouldn’t understand!” Zowe cried out. “Ever since my parents wanted for me to change my own self, I’ve had to keep in mind what I’ve been told numerous times that if I continued to act hostile, I would end up hurting others and I would continue to hurt myself! You were never there during my early life when I was constantly bullied until I became a bully myself. You were never even there when I had to get psychological help! So if you would be so kind to me right now, just shut the hell up!” The atmosphere went completely silent after Zowe’s vent, as did everyone. Strezz had a horrified look on his face when he noticed that he was involved in another squabble between his two friends Zowe and Shazza until seconds after the bickering had stopped. “Zowe…” Shazza said softly. “If you had personal issues that prevented you from coming into our agreement, you could’ve told me.” Zowe, currently refusing to speak, was now looking down on her own self with her arms crossed. “I’m sorry for pressuring you on this topic,” Shazza continued to say towards Zowe. “Sal and Tide told me that they won’t be able to handle themselves in battle and I thought you were viable in being part of our team.” Zowe, once again, said nothing in response. “Okay, let’s get back to the subject of our strategy. Kiyoko, you didn’t confess when I asked if you didn’t have a weapon on you. Do you actually have one?” “I’m glad you asked!” Kiyoko responded as she then pulled out a large wooden club from behind. The sight and weight of it startled everyone except Zowe, while especially startling Strezz. “It’s a wooden stick; a stick made out of wood.” “I’m not going to argue whether or not you’ll be able to handle yourself with that kind of weapon,” Shazza replied. “Still, if you need help, just call on us. Anyways, let’s move on to the second phase of my proposed strategy. After each of us has completely reduced the energy for any of Seymour’s Thunder Troopers to continue fighting, we must remove their jackets and then carry them to our hut. Seymour and Vandyke’s intentions are still a mystery yet to solve, but we’ve learned the truth that they’ve been trapping people on this island before turning them into soldiers indebted to work for them. Either we can restore their memories or we reform them through our own means. I don’t want any of us to be held responsible for the death of someone who can be reformed.” “…Can you shorten that, Shazza?” Strezz spoke. “I was listening, but I feel like I can’t follow all of those steps…” “Sorry about that. I should’ve remembered that you were like that when I was showing you the ropes for Z-Storm’s powers,” Shazza responded. “Strezz, what we need to do is defeat one of our targets. Then we take off their jackets. Then we take them to our hut. Then we try to free them of their mind control. Did you get that, mate?” “I understand now,” Strezz replied. “In case you don’t know what to do first, I’ll repeat it for you. You will have to fight Seymour. If you need help, just call on either one of us.” “I don’t know. The Rainmaker also told me that Seymour is only looking for a fight with Z-Storm. So, I’m afraid to think about what Seymour would do if any of you interfered…” “Did he say anything else important to you?” “Oh yeah, he said that the source to the constant rain and thunderstorms on this island may be coming from inside the base of Seymour and his group. He then said that he just wants us to destroy.” “And so the third phase to our plan is to fix the weather. Once we take care of that, we will be able to escape.” “Wait a minute,” Cam chimed in. “Don’t Seymour and his organization have their own way back to the other side from the island? They should have a transportation device inside the base. That was how Marina caught up with us during our infiltration.” “Is the transporter that Marina found in the storage room underneath the island the same one that can easily take us back home?” Strezz questioned. “That’s what I’m thinking, but I feel more certain that they have another transporter inside the submarine that allows for them to travel outside the island,” Cam continued. “So after I take care of things with my brother, I’ll volunteer to sneak through the submarine.” “Is there anything else that we need to do, Shazza?” Marina asked. “I don’t think so,” Shazza responded. “In that case, we’re done for the night.” “Oh, come on!” Kiyoko uttered. “Weren’t we all here to share our own stories? Can I share mine if Zowe shared hers?” “We don’t have time for that,” Shazza replied. “I would actually be interested to hear whatever story you have, but it’s getting late.” Everyone else took Shazza’s advice as they all went back inside the hut to rest. As night fell into day, Strezz was shown with Arthur, repeating the same lessons from the previous day on his newly learned powers. After having finished the rest run, Strezz, who still had the Z-Storm armor equipped in him, turned to Arthur. “Arthur, can you tell me about how I can merge with my armor?” Strezz spoke. “I really want to know before the big fight.” “This feels pretty sudden, don’t you think?” Arthur asked. “I could have you wait until tomorrow, but since you’ve been doing excellent and because you really wanted to, I’ll let you in on how you can merge with Z-Storm, but I will not show you. It will hurt after you’re done, but once you’ve learned that technique, you’ll have learned everything about Z-Storm’s powers.” “Okay, so what do I do?” Strezz replied. “Once again, you’ll have to use your own mind,” Arthur was explaining. “Energize it to your fullest potential. Think of yourself being bolder than ever.” “That doesn’t sound difference from all the other techniques that I’ve learned yesterday…” “Actually, it is different. The first thing you need to do in order to accomplish this technique is you need to do while you’re outside of your armor.” In an instant, Strezz focused on his mind to deactivate his armor. “So, why do I have to redo this process?” He then asked. “You can’t merge when you have already activated your armor without linking your mind with the spirit embedded in the jacket,” Arthur explained. “There’s…there’s a spirit that lives in my jacket?” Strezz said with an incredibly dazed expression. “It may sound very odd, but every other jacket that has been crafted like Z-Storm’s carries a spirit within them,” Arthur continued. “As you should know, these coats have been around since hundreds of years past.” “Yeah, and that might be one of the reasons why Seymour and his group are after anyone who carries Z-Storm’s jacket,” Strezz remarked. “We may not know everything about Seymour’s intentions, but that may be true. Anyways, in order to learn the ultimate technique, the first thing you need to do is focus on your thoughts. Then, you need to give yourself enough emotional force to link with the spirit in your jacket. Lastly, you then concentrate on the thought of activating your armor while still focusing on the thought of the spirit.” Strezz’s eyes shifted below, looking down at the ground and at his own two legs as he himself appeared very much like that he didn’t completely comprehend the instructions that Arthur gave to him. “I know, it’s not an easy process to follow, but trust me, you’ll get it one step at a time.” Arthur said. After nearly half an hour of having to repeat some of the steps to the technique, Strezz began feeling understood of how the process works more and more. Eventually, Arthur saw has Strezz started his attempt in assuming his ultimate form with the armor. From where he stood, Strezz felt electrical currents surging through his body from his neuron signals as well as a barrier or wind swirling around him. He focused his mind on the thought of combining with the jacket’s spirit before then focusing on the thought of activating his armor concurrently. At this very point, Strezz felt like he knew everything in unlocking the special kind of power, but after unleashing his gathered energy, he realized that no significant change had occurred in him. Thereafter, the flow of energy that he had felt had completely dissipated. “I thought I had understood everything…” said Strezz. “What happened? Am I not strong enough?” “You did actually get the whole process right,” Arthur reassured. “I’m not sure why it didn’t work for you.” Strezz’s frown continued to show as Arthur huddled one of his arms around him and then said to him, “Hey, don’t feel so upset. Eventually, you’ll figure it out and maybe you won’t have to learn that special technique to defeat Seymour.” “I’d try to, but The Rainmaker…he told me that Seymour can merge with his armor and can stay in that form for as long as he’d like,” Strezz replied. “What do I do then?” “I hate to say it, but you got me there,” Arthur replied. “Whatever happens, just know that we are all here for you.” As Strezz and Arthur were walking closer to the hut, Arthur stalled as soon as he noticed Kiyoko, sitting around on a wooden stump, gesturing for his attention. “Now if you’ll excuse me for a moment, Kiyoko wants me for something,” Arthur said to Strezz before walking over to Kiyoko and planting himself next to her. “How’s it going, Arthur?” She asked. “I’ve just had Strezz practice some of Z-Storm’s powers that he had learned yesterday,” Arthur responded. “Is there anything that you wanted to talk with me about? You’ve called for my attention.” “Yeah, there’s something I’ve wanted to tell everyone since last night!” Kiyoko replied. “Well, go on and tell me,” Arthur replied. “What’s been on your mind?” “…Have you ever felt like you’ve been living in a different universe? I don’t think I came from here.” Kiyoko’s query had now left Arthur in a state of shock. With an open jaw and his eyes widened, gazing towards Kiyoko, Arthur then asked her, “What…gave you that idea?” “I’ve been wondering about how I ever ended up on this island,” Kiyoko was saying, “and that was when I remembered that I came here from a whirlpool inside of a well and it brought me into a fountain in the jungle.” “Actually Kiyoko, I don’t think you may actually be from this universe. I’m not from here either.” “Excuse me if I’m interrupting,” Strezz chimed in, “but what’s this about?” “Kiyoko just asked me about the whole idea of there being other universes,” Arthur responded towards Strezz. “She was also talking about how she felt that she came from a universe that was different from the one we’re all living in.” “What!?” Strezz questioned with astonishment. “Yes, and I was about to continue the conversation with my place in this world,” Arthur continued. “The truth is I never really came from Shellside Shores or any other part of this universe. I remember coming from another world and being dragged into this one from a fountain. That fountain had the power to generate paths into the worlds outside of the other. That’s all I know about it, at least from what Seymour had told me about it before he then said to me that it didn’t work anymore. …Unless…Kiyoko, how long did you think you’ve been on this island?” “Aw, I don’t know. I can’t keep count,” said Kiyoko, “but I remember the last time I was in my own world like it was a year ago…” “So that’s it then!” Arthur uttered. “Seymour lied to me so he could hold me in this universe!” “Arthur, do you know how long you’ve been in…our world?” Strezz asked. “Oh yeah,” Arthur continued. “I’ve actually kept track of how long I’ve been outside of my own world. I ended up here seven years ago. That was two years before Seymour and his group caused trouble on this very island.” “I know the Z-Storm jacket is what Seymour is really after, but I wonder if he’s also been after something that Shellside Shores holds,” Strezz mused. “Maybe it has something to do with the fountain that can apparently open paths to other worlds?” “We should tell Shazza and the others about a fountain like that being somewhere in the jungle. It may or may still not work, but we’ll never know until we explore it. Something with that much power shouldn’t be so touched up so irresponsibly by Seymour’s organization to be ruined. I’ve been here before and I remember when this place was filled with life.” “Right, that was when this island was once Seaside Springs.” “If you think it’s crazy that I somehow crossed paths here, there’s something else that I need to confess. When I was made property to Seymour, Vandyke, and the rest of their organization, Seymour took part of my name and made us brothers.” “So, does that mean that he and you are both…related!?” Strezz said, stunned. “Yes, but only terms of him making me part of his property. I’m Arthur Veil while he’s Seymour Veil. Even if I have my associations with him, do you still trust me, Strezz?” “Of course I trust you, but doesn’t Seymour trust you?” “Seymour might already know that I’m on your side, but it shouldn’t matter to him since he currently has his own time to attend to and I’ve escaped his attempts to corrupt me several times before.” Arthur then stretched one of the sides of the Brave Bolt jacket to acknowledge Strezz of his powers. “If you’re wondering how I’ve taken the responsibility to hold onto Brave Bolt’s powers, I’ve had to steal it from the company that was preserving it along with the other jackets. I couldn’t afford for another one of these powerful tools to be abused by Seymour and his organization.” Before the conversation would continue, Bruce and Monique ran over to the same spot where Strezz, Arthur, and Kiyoko were idling in as Monique flaunted her red sandstone gem once more. “Good news! The gem does have magical powers!” Monique exclaimed. “It gave me the ability to control and use sand! Did you see it all work, Strezz?” Strezz, whose eyes were only focusing on Monique’s sandstone gem, promptly shook his head in response. “Oh, but you’ve should’ve seen us out there,” Monique scowled. “Hey Monique and Bruce, you two were in the jungle the other day,” Arthur spoke, “Have either you ever encountered a fountain somewhere over there?” “No we haven’t,” Bruce confirmed. “Was it similar to the fountains we saw in Seymour’s base?” “Strezz, Kiyoko, and I have been wandering about it,” Arthur continued. “Even though I was told by Seymour that the fountain’s powers to link between worlds didn’t work anymore, Kiyoko said that she came to Shellside Shores merely a year ago. Now that you’ve mentioned the other fountains, Bruce, I also can’t help but wonder why is it that Seymour and his group have confiscated the powers to the other fountains while they left one fountain operating in the island? These clues bring me to the conclusion that the one fountain is still working and it’s still in its original spot.” “Should you remember where that fountain was located, since you also came into this island from it?” Strezz asked Arthur. “I honestly don’t. Seaside Spring had changed a lot since Seymour’s tirade,” Arthur answered. “Wait, you and Kiyoko came from a different world?” Monique questioned. “It’s true!” Kiyoko uttered. “We were also just getting started in telling some stories about each other since we couldn’t do that last night.” “That’s not the reason why I was here…” said Strezz. “If you want us to join in on this conversation, then I guess we will. Mo and I probably wouldn’t mind talking about ourselves,” Bruce volunteered. “We might as well also call for everyone else to be here.” “Everyone except Zowe, unless she’s still not too down in the dumps since last night,” Monique added. I didn’t want for this conversation to involve all of us, but we ended up getting everyone else in it. After all that talking that I’ve had to do, I was never ready to participate in this kind of conversation because I really didn’t want to have to say some things about myself. Not right now… “You know, I’ve always been meaning to see some part of my life change, because back when I was in my hometown and when I was in school, I was a complete doormat,” Marina explained. “I was constantly bullied until I met Strezz, who was the first person to be at my side…” The moment that Marina had mentioned Strezz in-name, he had felt a rush in his heart. Until Marina continued on, that feeling became neutral. “Strezz wasn’t the only one who helped me through middle school, though,” Marina continued. “I’ve also eventually met Zowe. Upon becoming friends with her, she tried to show me how to be more assertive, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Now…just thinking about how I’ve become a threat to a particular group, it feels thrilling to me, but I’m also scared because I’ve never been able to learn how to fight for myself before.” “I’ve talked with Strezz about it the past week, but I’d best share this with the rest of you,” Shazza spoke. “I’ve been stranded on Shellside Shores for two years and I’ve being feeling really distressed about my purpose of being here since after Seymour erased most of my memories about my past discoveries on this island. One of the last few things I could remember after resisting the organization from being used as a weapon, I was told to protect the Z-Storm jacket with my life. I never felt like I was qualified to hold onto the jacket’s powers and continue being a target to Seymour and his organization, so I let it go. While I’ve already felt that it was hopeless trying to escape the island, all I could hope for is that the jacket would never be found in anyone else’s hands and then Seymour would quit his scheme after I let it fly off in a strong gust of wind. But then…I saw Strezz and his two friends on the island with the same jacket…” “Pardon me for interrupting, but didn’t you say one time that you and Strezz knew each other some time ago?” Bruce asked. “What was that like?” “Yeah, that was the part I was getting to,” Shazza continued. “Strezz and I were best friends since I met him while we were in third grade. When I met him, he was very secluded and didn’t seem to have any friends, so I’ve tried to make him my friend. I could still remember feeling so surprised by how very well I’ve succeed. In the way that I’ve responded to him by his name, he felt so happy. …So, anyways, when I saw him again, arriving on the island, I could’ve felt happy, but the thought of him carrying the Z-Storm jacket and being stranded as well was the first thing on my mind, and so I felt worried.” “Do you remember how you exactly ended up in this place, Shazza?” Monique asked. “Yes, mate. Although I don’t remember much about my time on the island before I was lent Z-Storm’s powers, I could very well remember how I got on this island in the first place. I fell for one of the organization’s traps. I was told by a source that I had relatives back in the Great Barrier Reef who wanted to see me. This news surprised me because I’ve been orphaned for most of my life since sometime after I’ve started primary school. It was ever since I’ve heard that both of my parents were killed by fishermen. Then, years later, I would figure out that I still have family – family that I haven’t got to know before. Even if this could be a lie made by Seymour’s organization, I’ve been meaning to get back to my home country to see if it’s real. So, if we all ever escape this island, the first thing that I will do is go back to the Great Barrier Reef.” “You’ll be leaving?” Marina questioned. “I have lived in the same suburban area as you, Strezz, and his other friends, but the Great Barrier Reef is my original home. I won’t be gone for long, mate.” Zowe lays still and emotionless in her spot, like she did the previous night. That was until she suddenly spoke, “You know what? I’ll talk. I’ve already let it all out last night, but I’ll be clearer this time.” The rest of the islanders remained in their respective spots in silence before they could hear what Zowe had to say. “Sometime during my childhood, I was bullied by other kids,” Zowe explained. “That led to the decision where I became one myself and after a while, I’ve realized just how it didn’t feel right. I’ve become one of the popular kids and I hated most aspects about it. When my parents noticed my behavior, they checked me into group therapy sessions where I would engage in social conversations with other people in the same room. It was a good way for me to try and be a better person. It wasn’t until I met someone who couldn’t speak for most of the sessions when I felt like I was becoming a different person. …That boy I met was Strezz. He would be staring away from the other kids in the group, but sometimes his eyes would look directly at me. Whenever I saw him in walking around in school, he also looked like a lost, scared baby penguin. He looked like he really needed some help, so that’s when I decided that I would guide him through the hell that was middle school. Because I kept my credibility as a popular student, I used that to my advantage. Barely anyone dared to bother Strezz as I was wherever he was going for any chance I could be.” “So we really do have one thing in common after all,” Shazza remarked. “Yeah,” Zowe continued. “After getting all that out of my system…I’ve felt like I’ve changed my mind about backing out from the fight. However, I will fight under the condition that I will be at Strezz’s side for most of the time.” “I’m glad to hear that you’re now on the same boat as us,” Shazza replied. “If I remembered it right, you said that were was something else that was holding you back.” “Right, it was something that I was told by my therapist about my attitude. I was told that if I continued to hurt others, it would hurt me and my self-esteem.” “You’re a lot more considerate than I thought, Zowe,” Monique commented. “I’ve always hated the whole setting where I’ve had to fight climbing the social ladder since middle school. I’ve never got the chance to be as popular as you, so I got heated over anyone who was at the top of that ladder and then decided that I would try to make friends with people who didn’t have anyone to hang around with. That’s how I became friends with Strezz.” “When we first knew him, he seemed like the kind of guy who preferred to be alone, but we got him feeling comfortable with us just fine,” said Bruce. “I’ve struggled to make friends in junior high and when I started high school. Even though Mo and I were a year ahead of him, he stuck around with me. I’ve just been casted off for being interested in comic books and having a couple of rich parents that little to no one is interested to know. I barely ever get to spend time with my parents, so that makes my life more of a drag.” “Some of you are saying that you’ve had it so bad, but wait until you hear about my life,” Zack uttered. “I’ve faced illegal troubles. I have my reasons, reasons for which I’m not proud of. I’ve never wanted to become a troubled youth or be treated as one, but I’ve been under pressure to be something that I shouldn’t so I could be liked by people. I’ve mostly been pressed be as such because of my tigerfish parents, hassling on me for not aiming towards a goal that they pre-planned for me in which I should be a lawyer just like them. Also, when they hear from me that I’ve caused trouble with the law, my parents would scold me even more. I didn’t want to keep dealing with this, so I’ve got myself expelled from high school and I eventually landed in juvie after several truancies and getting caught underage drinking and driving.” “Didn’t you say that you were a proud juvenile delinquent?” Shazza asked. “I lied,” Zack responded. “Or actually, I just didn’t tell you guys about the real me until now. How I’ve described myself when I first got stuck in this island is what other peers have said about me. Because of the whole dilemma with Seymour, I thought I still had an image that I need to keep, but the longer that I’ve been stuck here, I’ve realized that I don’t need to be edgy to be liked.” “I feel awful that you’ve had it so rough, Zack,” Marina remarked. “Even I escape this island, I won’t really be happy to be home,” Zack continued. “Zowe tried what she could to get her family to pay my bail, and I came to the agreement that I would do community service and the officers won’t have to place me on house arrest if I stay on my best behavior. I made that excuse so that I could be able to leave without a trace and start a new life in a place like Seaside Springs. If I come back, I’ll definitely be sent back to juvie and I can only imagine that my parents will degrade me even more once they see me again.” “Don’t worry about it,” Cam assured towards Zack. “Even once we escape this island, we’ll still have your back.” “I’ve already been through hell, so I know that I’ll be able to handle myself in the fight,” Zack continued. “By the way Cameron, what’s your story with your brother who is working with Seymour? You’ve said it a few times before that you’ve had a falling out with him and you’ve never told us all about it.” “I don’t feel comfortable talking about it,” Cam responded, “but since we’re all here telling each other things about ourselves, I guess I’ll have to come clean then. The last time that I ever talked to and saw my older brother, before I found out that Seymour’s organization has been using him as a weapon, was when I blamed him for destroying my good name. I came from two novelist parents. I became interested in detective work when I read books about them at a young age as Matt had got me into those kinds of books. I was a young part-time private investigator since I was eleven and I became so well-known and knowledgeable about investigative work that I was given a letter from a university that offered me to skip getting my high school degree and study abroad on the career that I aimed to be in right ahead. The problem was, I would be starting college the same year as my older brother would and he didn’t want me to get in his way. Shortly after I got the letter, my brother and I had a violent argument at a library that got caught by the security cameras. Once my school’s officials found about, I lost my part-time job and my offer to enroll in the university was annulled.” Cam paused afterwards and lowered his head out of his own disgrace. For a moment, the atmosphere had gone completely silent for a moment while the other islanders waited to hear more from him. Cam continued on to say, “It was merely a year ago since I last saw or spoke to Matt. The last time I heard from him was when he sent me a message saying that he got a scholarship to someplace I never heard of. I couldn’t try convincing him not to go since we had already kept our distance from each other. As the months went by, I became more certain that my brother had gone missing. The so-called college would send my family fake letters supposedly written by him that sounded genuine to me at first, but eventually I would realize that I know my brother more than anyone else to believe them. Now I’ve figured out why he’s been gone for so long…” As Cam continued trying to speak his thoughts, he was visibly shaking as both of his hands were buried in his face. “On top of that, I’ve been feeling like…this all happened because of me.” “So, what was this you were saying about how you got our backs? From the sounds of it, you don’t seem like you could take care of yourself for the fight,” Zack remarked before Cam exchanged a glare. “Sorry. The point I’m trying to make is that you shouldn’t be holding yourself down like that. Why blame yourself for your brother’s behavior anyway?” “I am the problem, that’s why!” Cam exclaimed, leading the rest of the group in the conversation back into silence. “After I impressed my parents about my investigative knowledge, they have been paying more attention to me than towards Matt. That’s very much why he’s grown to hate me.” As Cam continued, his body was shaking more visibly. “When I face him again, all I want is to get him to come back to his senses and I want to tell him…that I blame myself for what had happened to him…” “Cam…” Monique said solemnly. “It worries me to see you feeling that way. I can help you in battle if you need me to.” “I’m fine, I won’t let my feelings for my brother get the best of me,” Cam reassured. “Thinking about Matt and what had happened to him, it just really discourages me. I probably won’t do my mission alone, so I could ask for help from any of you.” “Alright,” Shazza said as she then stood from her spot. “I think we all said enough tonight. We only have a few days left before Seymour attacks us, so let’s make them count.” However, before Strezz could stray away from his spot, Arthur uttered, “What about Strezz? He has been especially quiet tonight. He should have something to say…” At the moment that everyone else began to turn their heads to gaze at him, Strezz let out a gasp and burrowed his face with the sides of the Z-Storm jacket while his eyes still stared directly down at the grainy beach. “Is there something wrong, Strezz?” Arthur asked him. “I…I just don’t feel comfortable talking about myself,” said Strezz. “Come on, we’ve all trusted you as our leader and some of us haven’t got to know you much,” Arthur replied. “Some of our stories have even been coming back to you. If there’s anything that you are comfortable about saying, you can tell us.” As Strezz’s eyes were still looking down, he eventually closed them. After a moment of silence, he then spoke, “All I feel like saying is that after all this time I’ve spent here...I just want to be home again. Before, I was in such a rush to be like a grown-up, living by myself, depending on myself and all. Then my feelings changed when I got set up for a trap along with my other friends. I also couldn’t help but feel like it’s partly my fault we ended up here like Shazza, Kiyoko, Matt, and you, Arthur. My mom, my dad, my three younger siblings, they’re all really worried about me now, and one of the last times that I’ve been with my parents, they…” As Strezz continued to speak, he was shaking as he a cracked tone of voice. “…They…they kicked me out!” And at that very moment, Strezz tore up. “They didn’t really do that, did they?” Shazza questioned. “I’ve known your parents and I’m sure they couldn’t do something like that.” “You’re right…” Strezz continued. “I had to move out with my cousin Ben because my parents were struggling financially and they told me that I’m old enough to be able to live with someone else. My parents didn’t kick me out, but it felt like I was. I was never ready to deal with a situation where I had to move so suddenly, so I planned to get out on my own before I graduated middle school.” After Strezz had stopped talking for a moment, Arthur then asked him, “Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?” “No, I’m done for the night,” Strezz responded. “That settles it then,” said Shazza. “Let’s all go back inside the hut and call it a day.” As the ten islanders headed back inside the hut, Kinuyo was shown to have been hiding behind a thicket of kelp.
  13. As I'm writing this, I'm still in the process of finishing the last half of this episode. Because publishing the episode in full won't reach the site's data limit for each of its posts and so that it won't feel a lot like a chore to read, I'm splitting this segment into three separate posts. Just so you guys are warned, the episode is over 20,000 words. It was longer than I anticipated for it to be. 4. A Hidden Truth An Unveiled Truth I Will Fight for You and That’s the Truth Within view was the outside of a semi-detached home. There was a female individual similar to Strezz shown walking over to the house in formal work attire and with a handbag on one of her shoulders. She turns a key on the knob of the locked door to her household and she was greeted by her three kids upon entering inside. Her husband was also home, as he was sitting beside a wooden table, waiting for her to return from work. The wife had herself a seat with her husband at the same table. In an instant, they took a glimpse at the family photos hanged around the kitchen before walking back to the den to see the pictures hanged on its walls. One thing that both the husband and wife couldn’t take their eyes off of was one of their sons who, in particular, looked just like Strezz. He’s been gone for about two weeks without a single word, the husband thought. What could have led for this to happen? Where is our son? The wife took notice of her husband from the sweat and serious eye contact that he was feeling anxious. The pressure from the thought of an implicit loss consumed him. Ultimately the husband spoke, “Did things go well while you were at work? Were you caught by any stress?” “I was able to handle everything,” the wife reassured. “Although, I couldn’t stop thinking about Strezz…” “So have I,” the husband replied and embraced the wife. “We’ve always been thinking about him since he suddenly went up and left.” Before the couple could have another moment, the sound of a doorbell came through to them. “Now who could that be?” The wife inquired. The wife opened up the door to reveal a face unusual to them but familiar to other parts of the ocean. He was in very casual business attire while his dorsal fin was gelled down to the back of his head. Within that physique was Vandyke. Other than him, there also appeared to be someone standing beside him, in the form of a small girl who was only four inches taller than Strezz’s two brothers. “Are you two Mr. and Mrs. Stormond?” He asked with a blank but solemn expression from his face and tone. “I’ve been expecting you two. This place tells me that this is where you and your children live.” “Vandyke,” the wife spoke, who somehow recognized him. “What are you doing here at a time like this?” “I came to deliver a message,” Vandyke responded. “I’ve had obtained directions that would lead me here from your work. I came to deliver a message to you about one of your sons.” “Is he alright!?” The wife immediately exclaimed. Vandyke delivered a moment of silence before he could tell her, “He is in good health.” Through his words, the fretfulness in the wife’s eyes has turned to relief. “How is he?” The wife asked again. “I’ll answer your questions later.” Vandyke then shifts his eyes towards the husband and holds his right arm out. “We should be telling each other our names first. I’m Vandyke Chambers, mister…” “Trevor, Trevor Stormond,” he greeted as he and then his wife give Vandyke’s hand a shake. “And though we’ve already known each other, I’m Diana, in case you have forgotten,” she greeted. “You would mind if I introduce you to the rest our family, right?” “Go ahead,” Vandyke continued. As Vandyke and the child walked inside the house, the child laid her jacket on the coatrack. Diana moved over to see her children from where they stood inside the living room. Her two sons were seated in-between the couch and the television screen. Diana held her arms in front of her two sons. “They are Farley and Leon. Over there is Cassandra,” she said gesturing towards her daughter, lounging on the couch, preoccupied with her phone. “Hey there,” said Cassandra. “Don’t bother me.” “And isn’t this…?” Vandyke questioned, gazing upon a photograph of Strezz. “Yes, that’s our other son, Strezz,” Diana responded, taking a look at the picture herself. As she looked back at Vandyke, she immediately noticed the small child that has been following him around. “Pardon me, but I didn’t notice you have your own kid.” “You could say that, but I would refer Nike as a creation of mine,” Vandyke said, introducing her to Diana. Diana looked down to see Nike, saying to her, “It’s a pleasure to meet you!” “I’m feeling so bored,” she grumbled. “Nike, while I have a nice, long chat with the couple, why don’t you play around with their kids?” Vandyke suggested. “Okay,” Nike droned, walking over to Farley and Leon. Vandyke hurried over to the kitchen, pulling up a chair before seating himself beside the table as he waited for Diana and Trevor to sit alongside him. “So, Vandyke, tell me…” Diana said. “How have you known that Strezz is still alive and what has he been doing during the past few weeks?” “Allow me to ask one question before I could answer,” Vandyke uttered. “What’s your story on your son’s alleged disappearance?” “If you insist...and it’s going to hurt Trevor and me just saying it. All of a sudden, Strezz ran away.” Diana explained. “It started when Strezz told us and his cousin Ben that he won a trip to a getaway spot called Seaside Springs from a radio contest.” “He said that he took two of his friends with him, so we can’t help but think that Bruce and Monique’s parents are worried about them as well.” Trevor added. “This is why I came to you both,” Vandyke responded. “It’s so that I could tell you that Strezz and his two friends are having a fine stay at Seaside Springs.” “How would you know?” Trevor asked. “Diana, you were notified six years ago that I quit my job at CORE-al, correct?” Vandyke inquired. Diana simply nodded. “These days, I’ve been making a living as a booking agent at the vacation spot.” “If that’s the case that Strezz and his friends are just enjoying their time at Seaside Springs, then why didn’t he give us a message or a phone call to reassure us that they’re alright?” Diana asked. “Strezz has had times where he acted stubborn, but…” “Relax,” Vandyke interrupted, “the downside to living in Seaside Springs is that there’s no service there, but its staff is working on that.” “Can you please notify us once that’s taken care of?” Diana asked. “How about I come back here for another visit once that job is done?” Vandyke suggested. “I’m going to be very busy for most of this week and the next.” Diana just lowered her head close to the surface of the table and then spoke, “I understand.” “So, let’s talk about the issue at large. Your son seemed to be in such a hurry to leave his home behind, so what do you think might’ve caused him to behave as such?” “We don’t know exactly why, but it’s hard not to think that it might’ve been our faults,” Trevor responded. “Raising Strezz has been difficult, and it’s a long story to tell.” For a moment, Vandyke became motionless as he lost himself in his thoughts. Focusing back on the conversation, he then says, “I’m into long stories. Tell me anything that I should know.” “This story goes all the way back to the beginning, during the first few years that we have raised Strezz,” Trevor was explaining. “His life was completely normal until sometime after he started Kindergarten, when he suddenly became distant from the real world. Less and less he would respond when we called his name. Less and less, he would talk as well. He even appeared not to be in good spirits most of the time. The few things that always kept him feeling satisfied was watching surf videos on TV or playing with his favorite things. When Diana and I noticed that our son was this displaying this sudden shift in behavior, we took him to a doctor who diagnosed him of having ASD.” “I’m sad to hear that life wasn’t very easy for your son,” Vandyke uttered. After giving his say on the matter, Vandyke turned his head to see a portrait of young Strezz on the wall. In the picture, Strezz was seen with a frown, clutching onto a stuffed animal close to his face, and a teary look in his eyes. “The story doesn’t end there,” Trevor continued. “Strezz would start becoming more responsive after we got him his first surfboard. He also went through several therapy sessions, and once he entered the second grade, we enrolled him for a special education class that would help get him on track. Since there, Strezz was able to talk more. However, major progress hasn’t been made until a miracle happened sometime after he entered the third grade. While he was in special ed, he met a student who exchanged from the Great Barrier Reef. Her name was Shazza.” Hearing that name was enough to make Vandyke’s heart skip a beat. Keeping his composure, he then asked the couple, “How much has Strezz changed since he met that girl?” “No other kid around Strezz’s age could be able to communicate with him the same way that girl did,” Trevor continued. “She and Strezz became such good friends. She got Strezz to break out of his shell, talk more, and learn more words. He would even hang out with the girl at the orphanage that she stays in, pretty often if I might add.” “She must’ve meant a lot to your son,” Vandyke remarked. “Yes, and since those days, Strezz has acted a lot less secluded…at least until two years ago, when Shazza had to leave to revisit the Great Barrier Reef. I was told by Strezz that his friend reassured to him that she will come back. However, we never saw her since, nor did Strezz. This took a toll on him after three months went by with no word back from her, as some of his past behaviors have returned and he started to fall behind with school again. His siblings were at least around to console him and make him feel less isolated and distant, but during that timeframe, I’ve had to quit my first job to provide Strezz some proper care, like enrolling him in group therapies. Once some things have improved for Strezz when we reregistered him for those sessions, we stopped scheduling them for him until we noticed that he’s been feeling so much better than before. He still inherits a few behaviors such as refusing to make eye contact though, but that’s never a problem for us because we’ve already come to terms that our son’s ASD is a part of who he really is.” “So, I suggest things have been fine until something convinced Strezz to suddenly run away.” “Actually, not everything has been fine. Since I was unemployed at the time, our family eventually faced a financial struggle. Diana and I had no other option than to have Strezz temporarily move in with his cousin Ben. We were able to afford to let Strezz revisit our home every once in a while, but I can’t help but think that this decision of ours might’ve lead to the decision that Strezz had made to just leave with his friends out of the blue because he was completely against the idea of having to move out.” “Yes, that sounds like the very reason that he ran off to Seaside Springs.” “Having Strezz move out was a dreadful moment in our lives,” Diana spoke. “We didn’t want him to think that we were kicking him out and I’m afraid that was how he felt since he lived with Ben. We check on him frequently and we would usually call to ask him if he’s become adjusted in living with Ben. He would always tell us that he’s feeling alright.” “That sounds quite peculiar,” Vandyke remarked. “Is there anything more about your story on Strezz that you’d both like to add?” “He met one of his friends through his group sessions,” Trevor spoke, “Zowe in particular. Interestingly enough, Strezz will focus his eyes on Zowe quite often. It’s like he’s attracted to her.” “Hmmm…” Vandyke mused. “I think I’ve heard enough about your son. Hopefully, I can get him to send a message back to you two once I return to Seaside Springs.” “So we’re done here, right?” Diana asked as she and Trevor pulled their chairs back. “No,” Vandyke continued. “Trevor, you’ve told me that you’ve had to leave your old job behind, I’d like hear about that.” “First of all, I was able to find a new job a mere four months ago,” Trevor responded. “My second job involves pollution control. About my first job, I’ve had my first career as a comic book writer and illustrator.” “You do have copies of your own comics, right? If you are willing to share your work to me, I’d be delighted to see it.” “If I can trust you to keep track of our son’s whereabouts and let us know what he has been doing out there in Seaside Springs, then I’ll be willing to show you my work.” “You and your wife can fully trust me to keep watch over Strezz. As soon as we see each other face to face again, I’ll let him know how much you both miss him.” “Don’t forget to tell him that his brothers and his sister miss him so as well,” Diana added. “Just count on me, I’ll report back to you two with information on your son in a matter of days. Anyways, Trevor, do you know where you keep your comics?” “My office should be at the right from our living room. By the way, do you think you should check on that girl of ours…what’s her name again?” “Nike? I’m sure she’s already spending some quality time with your kids.” Several minutes prior, during Vandyke’s conversation with Diana and Trevor in the kitchen, Nike was shown following around with the two brothers Farley and Leon upstairs. “So, I’m Farley and he’s Leon,” he greeted. “And where are you both taking me to?” Nike asked. “It’s just a cool place to hang out in,” said Leon. “If you want, you can call this place home.” The twin brothers approached one of the doors and turned the knob to reveal a room with a single bed. Also shown inside was a television set atop of a cabinet with a couple of video game consoles, video game controllers, and an arrangement of DVDs, a large shelf containing video game cases, a surfing themed wallpaper with plastic surfboards decorated on some of the walls, a side table drawer with a lamp and an unplugged night light atop of it, and a bed with a surfing themed comforter, sheets, with an assortment of stuffed animals. “Is this…?” Nike asked towards Farley and Leon. “Yep, this room belonged to our big bro,” Leon answered. “It may look like he’s still living in it, but without our big bro being here, his room feels really empty,” Farley remarked. “Since the past year that our big bro had to move, he didn’t take as many things in his room with him.” “Yeah, he’s really changed since,” Leon continued. “Usually, big bro wouldn’t feel comfortable at night without a night light and a group of stuffed animals at his side, but the only one of those things that he took with him was the stuffed polar bear that he would always sleep with.” “Big bro also left a good collection of video games here. He fell out of touch with them since a couple years ago,” Farley adds. “Most of these games are a bunch of basic surfing games. Tell us if you’re interested in those kinds of games and we’ll let you play one of them, but big bro has more games than just those.” Nike was pacing around Strezz’s bedroom, gazing around at some of its details, moving her mouth around while trying to think of how to start a conversation with Farley and Leon. “Is there something that you want to say to us…erm, whatever your name was?” Leon asked. “…How is school for you two?” Nike inquired. Farley and Leon showed some confused looks at first. Farley chuckled and then said, “Who talks about school during summer vacation?” “You should see how our big bro acts when he talks about school,” Leon added. “When we ask him about school, he complains about it a lot. We’ve only gotten past the third grade while he’s graduated middle school, so ” Now thinking of a good question, Nike then asks the twins, “Is there anything that you two like to talk about…besides your brother, I mean?” For a moment, Farley and Leon have now left themselves into their own thoughts. Leon then said, “We do talk about other things, but since we heard that he has been missing for weeks, we can’t stop thinking about Strezz. Plus, we haven’t seen him in months, nor have we heard anything back from him since the past month.” “Playing a video game is one thing that usually brings us together,” said Farley while examining the games on Strezz’s shelf. “How about you give one of these games a try, uh…?” He then stammered as tried to remember Nike’s own name. “Just give me something that I might like,” Nike suggested. “I don’t want to sit here with nothing to do.” “Good idea,” Farley said as he grabbed a case, walked back over to Leon and Nike, and knelt down on the carpet to show them his pick. On the cover was the title “Splero the Hippocamp.” “It’s an old one, but between us and our big bro, it’s a classic.” Nike didn’t hesitate as she already gestured towards the twins that she’ll try playing the game. Farley and Leon then inserted the disc into the respective console compatible with it, before the twins would then plug in a controller and insert the plug connected to the console into an outlet. As Nike examined the controller, she could envision the controls from the inside of a suit of armor. The buttons within the controller aren’t some of the same type, or follow the same scheme of the controls from inside of battle armor, but the idea of having to use a controller to play a video game seemed familiar to Nike. Before Nike could realize it, the game had already started up and the file menu was already on-screen. Nike then focused her eyes on the television screen and on the twins when one of them spoke. “Do you know how to use the controls?” Leon asked. “Um, no,” said Nike. “Actually, I’ve never done what you two call “playing a video game,” so I don’t even know where I’d start.” “I would start with pressing the “start” button,” Farley informed. Nike looked down on the controller in her hands to see the said button with the exact text below it and pressed it. Eventually, Farley and Leon had to tell Nike about the rest of the controllers. In under six minutes, Nike created a save file on an empty space. It wasn’t until she inputted her name on the file that the twins would completely know what her name was. “So your name is…Ny-key?” Leon questioned. “Since we haven’t said this to you before, it’s nice to meet you, Ny-key,” said Farley. “You didn’t know?” Nike asked back. Wasn’t I supposed to tell them my name once I met them? She then thought. My master never told me about that. ”By the way, it’s Nee-kay.” “We didn’t know. We also want to get to know you better too, Nike,” Farley continued. “Like, is there anything that you usually like to do for fun?” “I like testing out my battle armor,” Nike responded. “It’s always fun whenever I control it and face those who stand in my way.” Those words from Nike left Farley and Leon even more confused. For a moment, they didn’t realize that the game had already started with the first level and the idle character on-screen. Eventually, Leon then asked Nike, “I beg your pardon, but do you think we’re bothering you?” “I don’t know,” Nike answered. “I never wanted to be here, but you two are being so nice to me and giving me a share of your own comfort so I can’t be all mad.” “So, are we giving you a little too much comfort?” Farley questioned. “We’re so welcoming towards you because we learned from our big bro to treat anyone like we want them to treat us.” “Yeah, big bro gets all antsy if he sees us not getting along,” Leon added. “We don’t know about this life you live, but whatever it is you think is fun, I think you’ll find it more fun playing this game,” said Farley. With the conversation being focused back on the video game itself, Nike’s eyes motioned back on the television screen. She moved one of the two analog sticks on the controller and felt a bit of surprise to see that she could move the player character. “Playing video games can be fun because you’ll begin to feel like that you’re the character that you’re controlling,” Leon remarked. That statement from one of the twins brought Nike back into her thoughts of using her battle armor as it drew parallels to the described feeling of playing a video game. “Since this is your first time, we’ll have to explain to you some of the controls within the game while you play,” Leon informed. “What do you do in this game anyways?” Nike asked “You just find and collect things, as well as beating out the bad guys!” Farley responded. “It should sound pretty simple. Besides, ‘simple’ is just how we really like our big bro.” During the time that Nike was growing invested in the game that the twins let her play, the couple began to show Vandyke around Trevor’s old office. As expected, there was a pile of comic books in its standard issue size, sitting on some shelves of a cupboard. Examining the comics, Vandyke’s eyes widened for a moment when saw the title “Z-Storm” in big, bold lettering. “Oh yes, these are the ones I’ve been talking about,” Trevor said as he edged over to the cupboard. Still glancing at the covers of each of the issues, Vandyke then inquired towards Trevor, “Was there any sort of inspiration behind these comics?” “Of course there was,” Trevor replied. “What came to me that I should write a series that centered on a sci-fi theme was when I started to do some research on the history of a set of jackets that have all contained artillery and special abilities. So, the machinery depicted in these comics was derived from the armored suits within those jackets.” “And how did you know stuff like that?” Vandyke asked. “The jackets in question are valuable artifacts that dated back to ancient times in the Mediterranean Sea. I’m curious to know why you chose to take inspiration from a culture that I assume you weren’t part of.” “Well, it’s true that I don’t have ancestry from the Mediterranean, but my wife actually comes from those parts.” “Since I work for CORE-al, I’ve shown my husband around the technology that the company had preserved,” Diana added. “You can very much say that I’ve helped him with the research that he needed to write his work.” “That’s not the only thing that influenced me to write those comics,” Trevor continued. “I started writing them at the time that Diana and I were raising our first child and while our second one was going to arrive. I desired to impress our son by how we interpreted him to be as heroic and virtuous once he grew up. Although, we haven’t taken the courage to tell Strezz the full story behind these comics, mainly because he grew up much different than we’ve imagined. Still, I do hold on to my past work very dearly.” While Trevor and Diana’s eyes weren’t focused on Vandyke, he took a peek at one of the issues of the Z-Storm comics for a small moment before quickly lifting down the plastic covering from the front and turning his head back towards the couple. “You know, I actually have one more question about your son that I can’t shake off,” said Vandyke. “Was Strezz really born with such a name?” “No, he wasn’t actually born with the name,” Diana responded. “In fact, we certainly can’t tell you his original name because it will seriously bring him down if someone referred to him by that name and we fear that you will tell him or ask him about it.” “Is there a story behind his current name?” “It came from a word that he made up on his own,” Trevor explained. “In fact, he began to adopt “Strezz” as his own name from before we diagnosed him during the point where it was one of the only few words he would say and when he would only get our attention if we said that word. Of course, that would lead us to legally change his name.” “So that’s why he has that name,” Vandyke remarked. “Knowing your son a lot better now, I bet it must feel awful that he’s out there alone. Since I’ve confirmed that he has his two friends at his side, and that he’s enjoying himself while at Seaside Springs, I don’t think you two should worry so much about him right now.” “It’s scary to think that anyone like him at his age and with autism spectrum disorder wouldn’t survive living out on their own,” Diana replied. “And all this time, we thought that Strezz and his two friends just went missing.” “It was crucial that I would reach out to you two, in person, to let you know that he’s alright. So, of course I understand that you both are feeling so concerned about your son’s wellness.” “So, is there anything else that you want from us?” Trevor asked. “No, that will be all. Until the next time that I encounter Strezz, we will meet again.” Vandyke and the couple then leave the old office as Vandyke goes upstairs to see Nike before he can tell her that it’s time to leave. Nike was still hanging out with the twin brothers and playing the Splero game, as she merely got past three levels of the first stage prior. “Looks like you were able to have some fun with the Stormond kids,” Vandyke remarked towards Nike. “Please hurry up because we’re going to leave in a few minutes.” “Aw, can I stay here for just a half hour more?” Nike pleaded. “Sorry, but we need to leave very shortly,” Vandyke replied. “I have some more errands that I need to run.” Nike consequently put the controller down and went downstairs to regroup with Vandyke. The twins then followed after Nike and stood at the lower level of the staircase so that they can wave goodbye to her. “Bye, Nike!” Leon said. “Just so you’d know, you can come back here and hang with us any time you’d like!” “Vandyke, I didn’t know you so well at my work, but I appreciated your visit and it was a nice time talking with you.” Diana complimented. “You have our support now that we know that you’re keeping watch of Strezz.” “Thanks, you all take good care of yourselves,” Vandyke finished as he retrieved Nike’s coat from the rack, before he and Nike stepped outside and closed the door. “What do you know about Strezz that I don’t?” Those past words from Shazza echoed in Vandyke’s mind before he could return a smirk, thinking to himself, Sooner than later, the new successor to Z-Storm will be very surprised to know how much information about him I managed to obtain. Vandyke then hid himself and Nike in an empty space where there were no video cameras in sight either. At the spot, he removed the ordinary-looking coat to reveal Nike’s shiny red and light blue jacket that he hid underneath. Afterwards, Nike pulled her arms through her jacket and activated its armor. Vandyke then held onto the back of the armor. “It’s a chore to follow my directions as Lightning Speed and to keep those powers incognito, but after a few more stops, you can rest,” Vandyke says to Nike. “Then I can practice with these powers more, right?” Nike asked. “Absolutely,” Vandyke responded. “This week is going to be a busy one for us since there’s a big day ahead.” “When can I visit that place again?” Nike asked once more. “I’d like to hang out with those two kids another time.” “After I give the Stormonds another report on Strezz…I doubt we’ll ever visit them again,” Vandyke replied sternly. “You cannot make allies with those who have ties to our enemy, especially when you behold such great powers.” He hangs a piece of paper in front of Lightning Speed’s eyes and then says, “Now, take me to this address.” “Yes, sir,” Nike said sullenly. Given the name of her armor, she uses one her abilities to zoom away. In a matter of a few seconds, she and Vandyke had vanished. Hours have passed from when Vandyke and Nike were now shown emerging from a transportation pod inside of the Thunder Troopers submarine. In that same room included a monitor screen with windows showing information on some of the islanders. Seymour and another individual were both watching as Vandyke and Nike returned. “How was your information exchange plan?” Seymour asked Vandyke. “Hopefully I didn’t raise any suspicions from the islanders’ respective guardians,” Vandyke responded. “On the bright side of things, I managed to get quite a lot of details about those islanders that we’ve trapped, especially on Strezz, our main target.” “And you’ve managed to do all that without giving away too much about us?” Seymour asked again. “It was difficult just to pass off as a curator at Seaside Springs,” Vandyke explained, “but I’ve had to reassure to those folks that their kids are alive and doing well so that no one will quickly rush over to this island and find out about our plan. Even if we are found out, we won’t ever let anyone else enter our domain with all the power we have in hand.” “So we’re all good enough to launch our attack?” The female individual inquired. “The kid with Z-Storm’s powers has survived long enough to know some things about your organization and he’s got quite a lot of friends at his side, including the one with Brave Bolt’s powers.” “My scheme isn’t done at this point, Kinuyo,” Vandyke continued. “As our agent, our organization has a job for you to do at this time being. After learning so much about Strezz, he seems to be more vulnerable than we thought. If possible, I want you to exchange some more information about him and his friends while remaining hidden from them. I also want you to focus on the girl they call Zowe, as she is the one person that Strezz cares most about.” “Fine by me,” Kinuyo replied. “Leave it to me to carry out your request before the big day comes.” “Thanks. Meanwhile, I still have a job to do before that day comes. I’ll have to go back and deliver a message to the guardians of those islanders. Seymour, if you’ll come with me, I’ll tell you all that you should know about our enemy…”
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