“…What the hell was that about?”
Brandon sat motionless on the couch. His head had begun to feel better, yet he now felt somewhat exhausted.
“Why… did I forget about that memory with Emma…? Wait. Why did I even recall it in the first place?” He rubbed his left temple while pondering the situation. “Was someone talking to me before I remembered it…? Wait, did Emma talk to me?”
Brandon glanced around Adam’s living room. Not a soul was around, and the entire house was silent. He could not hear anything occurring inside the mine—at least nearby.
“Emma’s not around… But wait. Okay—” His brain started to scramble, having a hard time processing what had just occurred. “Okay… Okay! I remembered a memory recently, where I was talking to Emma. In said memory, we learned that I seem to forget each instance when we’re alone! Okay! Then… Why did I suddenly recall that one? When we happened to discuss the memory issue? Seems like someone planned it out…”
Brandon shook his head in frustration. “I was for sure talking to someone… I can’t remember who! Based on the info learned in the memory, you would think Emma was the one talking to me!” He took out his phone and glanced at his call history. “Nope… nothing. I wonder if that could do it?”
Standing up—grabbing his now empty carton of apple juice—Brandon walked into the kitchen. He tossed it in the nearby trash bin and began to pace around.
“Nope… Nope… Nope… Nope! I can’t figure it out!”
Brandon jumped as the front door swung wide open. A few seconds later, a giant metal object appeared as it was pushed inside. It seemed to be a treasure chest of some kind, decorated with an array of blue jewels. Jerry leaned on it, panting uncontrollably.
“I-I got it in here…! Finally…! Th-This is the heaviest thing I’ve ever…”
He looked over at Brandon, who was leaning up against the kitchen counter.
“Y-You’re okay…? Are you…? F-For real…!?”
“I’m…” Brandon shook his head. “What is that thing?”
“It has a bunch of good stuff in it! We’re gonna turn this whole situation around with the power of Phantonics!”
“Meaning…?” Brandon walked over and leaned over, analyzing the chest.
“I’ll show you…” Jerry pressed his finger against the lock of the chest, which was a black circular shape.
“PRINT RECOGNIZED. UNLOCKING CONTENTS…”
“It spoke!?” Brandon leaped back in terror at the high-pitched robotic voice that exited the chest.
“You know technology can do that… right? I-It’s 2012, we have the means to make things talk, even outside of Phantonics… You know that, right, Brandon?”
“S-Shut up! It scared me!”
The jewels lit up in a bright light, while the crack that divided the chest also began to glow. A second later, it opened automatically—navy-colored steam exited as it did. Brandon choked, holding his breath as it filled the room.
“Gah! It smells like ass!”
“That’s the smell of science,” Jerry grinned. “And the smell of victory, which will soon be in our grasps!”
“Aren’t science and victory good things? Shouldn’t they smell like nice ass instead!?”
“What… does nice ass smell like…?” Jerry asked, incredibly curious.
“Well, let’s see…” Brandon began pondering. “Okay. Most ass, normally, would not smell nice. The only time it would probably fall under the ‘nice’ category would be after a shower or something. Then once we’re in that territory, we’d—”
“I didn’t think you’d take that question seriously…” Jerry sighed. “On a serious note, are you okay?”
“…Well, not really,” Brandon admitted. “I remembered something, and I can’t figure out the details behind it.”
“Remembered? What do you mean?” Jerry asked while looking inside the chest.
“A memory that happened to tell me about my lack of memories. Uh…” Brandon began to fidget. “I… seem to forget any instance when Emma and I are alone. She seemed to figure it out and talked to me about it—recently. Just now, I recalled that memory. But… I don’t get it. I don’t get how I can figure this shit out.”
“Hmm…” Jerry picked up a remote-like device, pressing a few of the buttons. “That’s intriguing… Sucky, but intriguing.”
“Do you have any ideas?”
“I could easily come up with several hypotheses right now if I wanted to,” Jerry responded. “But, there’s no need to.”
“I… I guess we do have more important things to focus on, don’t we?” Brandon chuckled, yet stopped as Jerry glared at him.
“That’s not what I meant. Although, yes, we need to get down there A.S.A.P., I merely meant that you don’t need to rush thinking about it.”
“…You’re gonna have to be more specific.” Brandon scratched his head.
“Well,” Jerry pulled out a tablet and began to boot it up as he continued to speak. “I’ve helped you study for years, and what I’ve learned is… you’re not stupid. At all. You just need time to think things over, and you can figure it out.”
“Uh…” Brandon struggled to respond to Jerry’s sudden honesty.
“That’s part of it. The other part—one I apply to the rest of the world, is… why rush it? The world itself is the definition of confusing. It’s hell not to know all the answers. Yet, it would be rather boring if everything was uncovered right away. Science, in fact, would be useless. There would be no thrill in trying to solve all the mysteries the universe has to offer.”
“But, what does—”
“I’m getting to it, Brandon. You have to let me ramble first.” Jerry cleared his throat. “When we focus on your predicament, your ‘hell’ is the pain and emotion you feel. Not being able to recall memories of a loved one, and how that in itself hurts them as well.”
“Wait, wait, wait!” Brandon began to shout. “There’s a certain word you used that is totally—”
“You always try to finish things as quickly as possible,” Jerry continued, interrupting him. “Which causes you to short circuit and stress out. For this matter, at the current time, you’re way in over your head. Trying to solve this would wear you down. Much like an experiment that takes time to complete, you need to give yourself time.”
“…It’s so frustrating, though.”
“Exactly. Not knowing something can be agonizing. That’s why you keep going so that one day, you’ll figure it out. With what we’re about to do, we quite literally need to survive. For the sake of solving this mystery of yours, we must live to see another day. We’ll help you figure it out. Right now, hold that desire in your heart while we push forward.”
“Yeah…” Brandon clenched his fist. “What are we doing…!? We’ve gotta get down there and help Adam! For sure, this time!”
“Right. Well, as long as you’re okay…” Jerry moved his hands around inside the chest—Brandon could not see what he was grabbing. “I’m sure we can use this to help out!”
Jerry revealed that his fingers now had strange metal clips latched onto them. It seemed as though they were too solid for them to bend, yet they still could. Using his palms, he picked up large rectangular goggles and attached them to his head. They had earpieces that helped them fit perfectly.
“W-What the hell is that going to do?” Brandon stared in confusion.
“This is some equipment my dad has. It’s rather outdated, believe it or not. But, it gives us—ones without Concepts—a chance.”
Tapping the side of the goggles, a low buzzing noise was emitted. The lens flared up with blue light, while Brandon swore he saw azure sparks from Jerry’s fingertips.
“There. Puppetmaster Mark II is good to go!” He waved his hand toward the chest, which began to shake violently.
“Is… Is a puppet gonna come out of there…? They freak me the hell out, dude!” Brandon raised his guard, preparing for the worst.
“That’s an option. But, luckily for you, we’re not exactly using anything like that. The program behind this tech is named ‘Puppetmaster.’ It allows one to sync up with various devices. Many of the earlier Marks were only used for simple tasks, such as reconnaissance. However, we can use it for combat if we activate this…!”
What emerged from the chest was a saucer-shaped object, floating around like an alien was piloting—a shining silver in color with a black center on each side.
Although Brandon questioned how something that looked like a toy could be used to fight, he started to feel a particular feeling well up inside of him. Gazing at the device hovering above him, for a reason completely unknown to him, he felt calm. It was another thing he added to the rapidly growing list of things he could not understand.
“Brandon?” Jerry poked his friend, snapping him back to reality.
“Oh! Uh…” Brandon chuckled, shaking his body to pump himself up. “Nothing! What are you gonna do with this thing? I’m ready to go!”
“Let’s get downstairs, and I’ll show you.” Jerry motioned Brandon to follow him. With the same gesture, the saucer began to do the same.
“This is strange…” Jerry tapped on his goggles. “These things let me see the flow of phantons, chaons—much like the app I was using on my phone. The barrier is… fading?”
Brandon’s eyes lit up—almost dashing forward a second time, but stopped himself before the same incident occurred. “W-Well, why? Are Adam and Charlotte, okay? Did they… destroy it, or something?”
“I have no clue whatsoever, Brandon,” Jerry sighed. “This tech doesn’t make me clairvoyant. I can’t see what’s happening in there. We’ve gotta bust in, first.”
“It’s still up, huh?” Brandon looked in front of him. The barrier could no longer be seen—much as it was before the entire event beginning. Yet, occasionally, tiny crimson sparks were visible to the naked eye.
“We’re still going to need a decent amount of power to bust through,” Jerry stated. “I can’t duplicate Charlotte’s power and slash the thing apart. However…” His hand ascended—the saucer following his movements. Brandon stood back, knowing that his friend was about to perform a ridiculously dangerous act.
“Type:Roswell, adjust ninety degrees!”
The device changed the angle it was facing—one of the sides with the black center now facing directly toward the barrier.
“Roswell, huh…?” Brandon sighed. “I had a feeling it was based on alien shit. But, you know, we know people named Roswell, too! Did you ask them if you could use their name! Roswell—the alien stuff—is from America, yeah? Requiem has the Roswells—the family. I’d like to think that—”
“Brandon…” Jerry smirked. “There’s a lot I could tell you about this topic, actually. But, not right now. We’ve got a job to do.”
“A job… huh?”
Brandon went silent as Jerry continued to prepare the device.
“Phantonic output charge set—one hundred percent! Preparing charge…!”
Azure-colored energy began gathering near the black circle on the side facing the barrier—a sound akin to a cricket chirping could be heard echoing from it.
“H-Hey…” Brandon’s voice cracked. “What… is my job, in this situation? What should I do here? What can I do here?”
Jerry turned toward him and spoke with a gentle smile.
“Whatever you want to do. Anything I say is merely advice. You get to decide how to live your life. The Brandon Shepherd I know has the potential not to get weighed down by anything. You just have to combat your indecisiveness, follow the path you choose with absolute determination, and you’ll be unstoppable.”
Jerry’s words shot deep into Brandon’s mind. As he glanced down, he began to contemplate everything.
“Everything… makes no goddamn sense. That’s how it’s always been. I try and try and try to think of answers, but I get nowhere. If I weren’t friends with Jerry, I wouldn’t have graduated freaking high school… I’m an idiot. Indecisiveness—yeah, that’s part of it. I… can’t…”
He grimaced at the thoughts running through his head.
“Mom and Dad… always watched my games when I was younger. They’d both go ‘I’m so proud of you!’ and buy me whatever video game I’d want. Mom would even play them with me. It was fun… After she left, did… did I just keep playing something I grew tired of because of those memories…? Is that why Dad urged me to keep playing, as well? We were all so happy back then. What… happened, Mom? Why did you turn out the way you did…? Have I been doing something I dislike just to somehow claw at the satisfaction of mere memories…? Ones I know wouldn’t even reward me, cause—you know—they’re memories?”
He sighed, taking a few steps back and leaning against the basement’s ruined wall.
“Memories… Why have I forgotten the ones with Emma? What is that all about? What the honest hell is that all about…!? I don’t get it… I don’t get it, I don’t get it, I don’t get it…!”
He didn’t realize that the back of his head was repeatedly bashing against the stone behind him. If not for Type:Roswell’s sound—growing much louder—Jerry would have noticed.
“And the situation at hand… Adam. How did we get into this predicament!? I… I’m tired. I’m tired of this—I…”
Brandon chuckled as his body began to shake.
“Whenever I asked Adam if he was okay… that’s exactly what he would respond with. ‘I’m tired.’ I would take that as a legit excuse for why he looked so down all the time. If only I pressed him more about it… he wouldn’t have—”
His hands clenched—fists smacking against the wall.
“I… I need to…!”
A sound akin to glass shattering rang through Brandon’s head. Unknown to him, electric sparks began to shoot out of him, dancing along the wall—searing the ruined stone.
Jerry raised his hand in front of him, waving it to the side with a powerful motion. “Type:Roswall—FIRE!”
A gigantic blue beam of concentrated phantonic energy erupted from the disk, making contact with the barrier in an instant—the fading crimson breaking apart with ease. The impact had formed a safe path for the two to enter the mine.
“That should do it!” Jerry cheered while panting heavily. “Man! Glad this thing’s pre-charged, or else that would have drained my entire soul! All right, Brandon, let’s—”
Before he could turn back to his friend, a swift flash of lighting soared past Jerry, entering into the shadows of the mine.