The raging shadows faded. Jason was certain that he successfully warped the three away from the area. Although Brandon and Muraco had vanished, Adam remained.
It took the boy with the World Mirror a moment to process what had just occurred.
Likewise, it took the masked being made of darkness a moment to process the fact that Adam remained on the battlefield.
“How did… How did my phantom energy not work on you…?”
Adam gritted his teeth, rage welling up within him. “What the hell did you do to them!?”
Jason could feel a strange pressure beginning to come from his opponent. “Hmm… Like me, it seems your power isn’t exactly ‘normal,’ is it? I figured, based on what I saw in Minuet. But this is...”
Adam moved his arms in front of him, adjusting his footing. “I see faint traces of red in that huge black mass. Chaons—I assume. But… phantom energy? Like Thomas mentioned? How does it work… He said we would be ‘sent away,’ right?”
“This is a problem,” Jason revealed his mask, glaring down at Adam with piercing red eyes. “If I can’t warp you away, then we might be at a disadvantage. Yes… Counting you, there would be four Ability wielders on our front, once they come out.”
“He already knows our numbers?” Adam’s eyes slowly widened. “Wait, ‘our front’? Don’t tell me…”
Jason began laughing—his mask bouncing up and down. “Of course we know where the others are. We actually couldn’t detect the place using our network, yet with me—one who can move around almost anywhere—it wasn’t too hard to find. Now, let’s see how much noise this causes…”
“Noise? What do you mean by that!?”
Jason responded with a mere chuckle.
While this encounter was occuring, Charlotte’s eyes shot wide open. She rose out of bed, while her anxiety simultaneously rose.
“Something… doesn’t feel right.” She looked to the side of her. Lucy had been sleeping next to her the entire night, yet was no longer there.
Charlotte was interrupted by giggling over near the center table. Looking over, she exhaled at the sight of Lucy conversing with Jerry.
“And that’s why Kitty Kid and Puppy Pal is the greatest show of all time!” Lucy stated with a grin on her face. She was moving her legs back and forth while sitting in the seat next to Jerry.
“I-I see...” Jerry chuckled. “That show was on when I was a kid… I think even then it was on for nearly a decade. Interesting…” He began typing away at his laptop. “Let me see if I can figure out the exact time frame you would have watched the show based on the details you gave me about your favorite episodes…”
Charlotte trudged over to them, wondering why she still felt like something was off. “Lucy, you sleep well?”
“Morning Charlotte! I did! You’re comfy!”
“Charlotte, I have some great news!” Jerry’s face lit up upon seeing her.
“Oh? What’s up?”
“The god drive! It has some weird data on it! It’s as if it locked itself up in a ZIP file that doesn’t want to open… I’ve been trying to figure out how to extract it most of the night.
“Are you serious…? Adam’s hunch was actually correct? How did it even get on there?”
“Not sure,” Jerry shrugged. “And for it to act like this… It’s almost as if it was intentionally placed on the god drive, as opposed to the thing catching random values. D-Does this even make sense to you, by the way…?”
“I think I understand enough of it, yeah.” Charlotte nodded.
“Okay, just checking. Anyway, I just want to go through this Kitty Kid and Puppy Pal stuff to learn some more details about Lucy, then—”
“Gah!” Travis jumped up from his chair.
“What’s wrong!?” Thomas asked in a panic, reaching over to look at Travis’ computer next to him. “Wait, this is…?”
“What is it, Dad?” Jerry ran over to the commotion with his laptop still in his hand. Charlotte and Lucy were quick to follow.
“Block’s been disabled! There’s some sort of interference outside that’s messing with it!” Thomas looked up at the ceiling. Cody slowly stood from his seat a few feet away.
“Unity doing something, you think? Or is this…”
“I knew I felt something!” Charlotte quickly shifted into her armored form. “I’m sensing odd phantonic activity…”
“Well, it’s either Unity or that group. Charlotte, can you get us over to the others? We can’t really do much at the moment if Block got disabled that easily. We’d be safer over there.”
“Right! Everyone grab on, I’ll—” Charlotte grew pale. “This…”
“What’s wrong, Charlotte!?” Jerry questioned.
“Grab on everyone! Now—”
The entire doctor's office was flattened in an instant by a gargantuan sized sphere of azure shot from the sky, erupting in the center of Prelude like an atomic blast.
As Prelude shook, Adam looked on in horror as the event could be seen easily through the fog, causing hurricane-force winds to roar through the streets. The windows shattered on the building behind him—glass raining down as the gales calmed as quickly as they began.
“Woo! Nice one, Miles!” Jason laughed hysterically. “Haven’t seen a blast that large in ages! Man, that certainly should have destroyed anyone it hit! Hope the ghost girl is still okay. The values he should have put into that should make it not affect her—”
Adam leaped over Jason, aiming to make a break for it to the impact site. Despite the fog before him, his eyes indicated that his mind was set on going.
“Oh, no you don’t!” Jason manipulated the shadows around him, swirling around Adam. “I could tell from before… Even if my phantom energy can’t do anything to you, you are also unable to do anything.”
Flailing his arms around, Adam struggled to free himself. “Dammit! It’s hard to move…” He could feel his arms already burning with exhaustion.
“Sadly, I can’t keep holding you. Need to conserve my energy.” Jason flung Adam back toward the station, landing back in front of the door. By this time, Pam, Faith, Emma, and Winona had rushed outside to see what had just occurred. Roy and Roger stood back, fearing for their safety.
“Adam, what’s going on!?” Faith asked, moving next to him with a flame in her hand. “What is that thing!? Wait, isn’t that…?”
“What was the explosion!?” Pam moved forward, forming a sphere of steam in her hands. “It’s you again…!”
“Oh man, Pamela Roswell. Carl, get that thing up and running, please…?” Jason begged seemingly to no one. “I’m not sure how quickly my energy will drain dealing with all of this…”
“I’m ending this right now!” Pam chucked the sphere at Jason with blinding speeds. Simply raising up a small portion of the shadows, he intercepted it, causing it to fade away.
“Uh oh, looks like that move couldn’t work,” Jason cackled. “At least, not on me…”
Pam grimaced. “What does he mean by—”
Shadows formed directly above Adam and Faith. The sphere of steam descended on them without hesitation. By the time Pam turned around, her attack had already exploded, completely blanketing them in white that matched the fog.
“Magnificent!” Carl jumped for joy upon the sight of the explosion. “I knew the kid had it in him!”
Chris stood by Carl on the outskirts of Prelude, watching safely outside the fog’s boundaries. He patted Carl’s cloaked back. “Save the energy for the operation. Jason’s about to pull us in there.”
“Yes yes, of course. I’m just so thrilled this is finally happening!” Carl started to giggle like a child. He reached into his pants pocket, pulling out a tiny device designed to look like a smartphone with a touch screen and sleek silver design. “The fog was enough to shut down their weird network, yet destroying the entire place works even better!”
“I find it funny that even you couldn’t hack through it, with normal methods,” Chris chuckled. “You had to rely on this wack-ass fog that Haley created.”
“Yes… Knowing who designed it, I’m not too surprised. No matter—I’m past feeling inferior to that man…” Carl clenched his fist. “My network known as ‘Outer’ has its own unique features! Ones that could have reshaped the world if those damned board of directors listened to me!”
“That’s the shit Derek and I were using when we were looking for the seal, yeah?” Chris asked.
“Yes. It went beyond the simple detection of phantons. Distortions similar to those that phantons can create, as well as chaons. That is what Outer can locate! I even programmed the values into Smokey… Poor Smokey. He would have been the peak of Outer’s potential. But—no matter.”
“Yeah, I miss the freaky little shit. I named him, after all.”
“It’s all right. My new pet will truly bring out Outer’s potential!” Carl raised his hand to the fog. “Isn’t that right, Medusa!?”
Several feet away from the two, concealed by the fog, was a black humanoid creature, limping forward. It made a noise like the whistle of a tea kettle, except much lower in pitch. Several tendril-like appendages flopped around on the top of its head, acting as a sort of hair for the beast. It did not have a mouth—simply bearing two gloomy, forbidding orange eyes.
“Now, there’s nothing in your way! Time to activate Code 6543! Put these fools to sleep, and feast!”
With Carl’s command, Medusa froze. After no motion for several seconds, the air around it began to seemingly vibrate. This energy expanded, growing weaker the further away it got from Medusa.
“Is it… working?” Chris asked slightly concerned.
“It absolutely has—fear not,” Carl grinned. “What you see and what is actually happening are completely separate.”
Chris nodded, staring off into the fog—Medusa beginning to walk once more.
“Derek, be careful on your side of things, man.”
The barrier made of dirt that had seemingly protected Adam and Faith at the last second crumbled, falling apart around them. This revealed that Adam had covered Faith with his right arm, raising his left to block the attack.
Adam glanced over to Winona, who had used her Ability at that moment to defend the two. She was panting rather heavily.
“That… was… the fastest I’ve ever used my power. Glad I… made it in time…”
Turning his attention to his arm, Adam realized that he has completely enveloped it in the World Mirror’s power, as opposed to the rest of his body which still had Outline surrounding it.
“I moved… rather quick as well. This technique… I was going to call ‘Overlay’. I focus more power on a certain part of my body, making it useable for either offense—or in this case—defense. I never actually used it in this way before… How did my body know…?”
“I’m… glad.” Pam sighed a breath of relief. “I was careless… But, you two were able to react to something that fast…?”
Adam and Winona looked at each other. They could do nothing but shrug at the strange occurrence.
“I feel like that would have been something Carl would have liked to see…” Jason commented. “Yes, your bodies being able to react before your mind even fully processes what’s happening. I think he mentioned something like that before… But happening from two people at once? What are the odds?”
“Whatever,” Adam reverted Overlay around his arm back to Outline and stepped forward. “Pam, this guy can warp things his shadows come into contact with! He sent Brandon and Muraco away somewhere… It doesn’t seem to affect me, so let me deal with this!”
“Well, even if that’s the case, we can’t let you do this by yourself!” Faith declared. “Let’s back you up!”
“Got any ideas?” Adam asked her. “Whatever you try to do, he’ll just warp it—either at me or someone else.”
“This guy’s certainly a problem…” Pam sighed, pulling out a Core from her pocket. She activated it, revealing her blade still in its sheath. “We’ll just have to figure out how to deal with him!”
“If we can get past him, we can head to where that explosion occurred…” Winona paused for a moment. “...They’ve attacked the others, haven’t they…?”
“I’m pretty sure—yeah. He moves way too fast though! And if any of you get caught up in those shadows, he’ll just—”
“Yeah—I don’t think you guys understand,” Jason sighed. “I don’t have enough power to actually attempt to engage you right now. Well—I do—I just can’t waste it here. I’ve got plenty of others to move around.”
“I won’t let you do that!” Adam roared, preparing to charge at the shadow once again. He halted, feeling a strange energy come into contact with him. “Huh…? What’s this…?”
Adam turned upon hearing Faith’s scream. Emma had suddenly collapsed onto the ground with no warning. Along with her, Roy and Roger inside near the entrance seemed to fall instantly as well.
“What the…? Sweetie!” Pam rushed over to Emma’s side, helping Faith hold her. “What’s happening!?”
“Just a little thing to help us keep the trash out of the way.” Jason chuckled. “And to help fuel our little pet that should be walking around right about now…”
“Dammit… We need to get to where the others are…” Adam looked at Winona. “Win, I have an idea.”
“You do? I’m all ears.”
“You can use your Ability to sense vibrations in the earth, right? That means the fog shouldn’t be that much of an issue for you. I’ll hold this guy off while you go and aid Charlotte and your dad. Based on what I’m seeing here… whatever’s happening, it’s knocking people out who don’t have Abilities. That means they’ll have their hands full protecting the ones who are unconscious.”
“That… Yeah, that sounds good. You guys can handle this thing here and catch up when you’re done.” Winona nodded, slightly surprised at Adam’s quick wit.
“Easier said than done. I feel like the phantons in this fog are going to cause all sorts of problems. Don’t rely on your normal sense—use your Ability to guide you. I think I know a way to break through—we just need this guy out of the picture first.”
Jason sighed. “I need a few more seconds… Carl, hurry up…”
“A few more seconds?” Adam smirked. “Then we’re making a move now!”
“Right! Let’s go!” Winona stomped her foot on the ground, forcing a wave of dirt to gush up from the earth, spiraling around the two.
“What are you two doing!?” Faith shouted, guarding her face against the sudden burst in front of her.
Winona’s Ability split in two, causing fierce twisters of sand to spread across the station’s parking lot, surrounding Jason.
“That’s some decent power. Damn—guess I’m gonna have to warp these away, huh—”
Jason was interrupted by Adam, who leaped out of the dust that still covered their location. With his right arm once again wrapped in Overlay, he flew directly toward Jason’s mask hiding in the shadows.
“Ever since I fought Derek, I’ve been using the World Mirror much like his own Ability, moving it through the inside of my limbs and out of my body. If I want to stop losing arms, I have to work it differently… So, by focusing most of my power through Overlay, I can unleash an attack called…”
Jason intercepted the strike at the last second, positioning his shadows in front of him. The intense clash of black and white began.
“Shit! Gotta keep my mask safe… But, those twisters—”
“Yeah, I figured your mask was your weak point.” Adam smiled in a cocky manner. “I just have to force you to keep it safe, right? And Winona can make an escape.”
“Huh? An escape?” Jason moved his mask to look behind him. Both of the sand twisters diminished, with Winona hiding in the one to the left of him. Kicking off the ground, Winona launched herself into the fog with a slab of stone.
“Dammit… I’m reaching my limit…” Jason began to growl. “Curse these… limits…”
“If that’s the case, then I’m not letting up!” Adam roared, putting his back into his fist. Energy gathered that started to push the shadows back.
“Such amazing power…” Faith stared in awe. “He might breakthrough!”
“Unfortunately, you and I can’t do anything against this guy. So we’ll have to hope he can do it…” Pam said as she moved Emma and the other two a safe distance inside. “He can’t break those shadows, but he can certainly move them with force.”
“Right… Winona went on ahead. We have to be ready to go as well. But, who will watch these guys?” Faith asked, looking over to where her sister was in concern.
“I…” Pam hesitated. “I’m… not sure. Am I even someone who should be considered a Town Admin at this point…? Adam formulated a strategy a lot quicker than I could have. Heh, he’s Becca’s son after all…” She looked ahead, basking in the light of the World Mirror.
“So go, Adam. Finish him.”
Adam began groaning in pain. Although his new way of attacking was working, he could still not keep up the pressure without the bones in his arm beginning to crack.
Unbeknown to Adam, black petals had already blended in with Jason’s phantom energy. As Carl casually approached the station with Chris by his side, he waved his hand. This simple motion caused the petals to erupt out of the shadows, forming into a massive wave.
As Adam finally noticed, he was slammed into the ground with tremendous force.
“Adam!” Faith attempted to run to his side, yet was halted by her mother.
“Don’t! Faith… look. It’s him again…”
Jason descended—his phantom energy quickly diminishing. Carl playfully tapped the floating mask.
“You did well, Jason. I’m surprised we actually had to come here ourselves. You were having that much trouble? Was really hoping you’d warp us… but oh well. It matters not.”
As the petal disintegrated, Adam struggled to sit up. He felt pain equivalent to wasps stinging his entire body at once. Barely able to open one eye, he saw the newcomers join the fray.
“Adam Grayson! What’s up, man!?” Chris asked in an almost genuine tone of happiness.
Carl chuckled at the sight of Adam in the dirt. “This is who you are, huh? Interesting…” He turned his attention to the mother and daughter behind the boy. “Long time no see, you two.”
Pam positioned herself, ready to draw her blade.
“With how things currently are, Unity isn’t going to send for help, are they? Rizzo… Are you really going to allow that? Your reputation will be tarnished—simply so that Nexus thing can test Adam…?”
Carl formed black petals on each side of him, raising his arms in a conceited manner. “Pamela! It’s time I pay you back for slicing me in half. How about… I slice your daughter in half in exchange?”
Faith put her fist in front of her, coating it in her flames. “I’m not going to allow you to do that, you asshole!”
“Hey, I like this girl,” Chris commented—a wicked grin forming on his face. “Man, I’d definitely ask her out if we weren’t on opposing sides. Damn! Lost opportunity!”
Adam stood—the aura of the World Mirror fixing his wounds as he was leaning over in front of the Roswells. He glared at Carl and Chris with glowing white eyes that, along with the blood covering his face, sent a chill down Chris’ spine. Carl, on the other hand, grew excited.
“Nice nice nice… This is going to be fun, indeed!”
“Jerry! What happened!?” Charlotte attempted to wake the boy up who had suddenly fallen unconscious.
“Thomas… Travis… What’s going on!?” Cody poked his fellow colleagues with his cane, before taking a look around. Charlotte had managed to move the group into the currently closed Ann’s. Despite the powerful blast, it seemed to had only affected their hideout, as buildings nearby suffered only minor damage.
Lucy ran back and forth, slapping the three who were leaning up against a shelf of canned vegetables in one of the store’s aisles. “Wake up, wake up, wake up!”
“I don’t think that’s going to work, Lucy.” Charlotte grabbed Lucy’s hand, calming the young ghost girl down. A moment later, she went back into her hysterical panic.
“But what are we gonna do!? Aren’t the bad guys coming after us!?”
“The bad guys…” Charlotte focused her senses around the area, trying to detect the presence of anyone. “It’s hard to tell… This fog is an issue…”
Cody pulled out a Core, transforming it into a silver rifle with gold inlay. “Well, you’re gonna go out there and stop them, right?”
“I can’t move around much these days, as you know. I have to keep my distance and use this gun to fight others. But, don’t worry. I’ll keep everyone here safe.”
“All right…” Charlotte nodded. “I’ll make sure I take down the enemy.”
“It’s a deal, then,” Cody smirked.
“Charlotte!” Lucy ran up to her, grabbing her arm. “Be… Be careful. Don’t get hurt…”
Charlotte smiled, lightly touching the girl’s face. “Don’t worry. I’m royalty, after all.”
“Wait—you are!? Are you a princess!?” Lucy was beaming.
“I.. I don’t know,” Charlotte laughed awkwardly. “Right now, though… I’m a warrior.”
With those words, Charlotte took off through the wall, out into the foggy battlefield.
Little did Charlotte know, she was heading right into the toughest battle of her afterlife.