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Shooting Star Sonia

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Chapter 1



The unarmored blue FM-ian yawned loudly.  His tiny gray box of an office was empty, as it always was.  The giant, glowing portal to the Astro Wave was clear, as always.  And the stretch of Wave Road leading from the portal out into the distance was, predictably—




The guard snapped to attention.  Floating just outside his office was an FM-ian shaped like a large harp, eyeing him with a bored expression.


“Oh, Miss Lyra!” the guard said, quickly saluting.  “My apologies, I didn’t see you coming!”


Lyra smirked.  “Nodding off, perhaps?”


The guard gulped.


“Oh, don’t worry, dear, I won’t tell anyone.  I hardly blame you: guarding this place must be dreadfully tedious.”


“Y…yes, ma’am.  Thank you very much, ma’am.”


Lyra moved a pace away.  “I’m here on official business.  Could you open the gate for me, please?”


“Oh, of course!  I’ll get it immediately, ma’am.”


As the guard reached for the lever, Lyra casually floated towards the portal.  The blue pillar of light turned green, the bars surrounding it disappearing one by one.  Poking his head out, he said, “It’ll only take a moment, Miss Lyra.  If I may ask, where are you going?  Hardly any off-planet assignments have been handed down these days—do you have some kind of special mission?”


Lyra watched the locks continue to open.  “Something like that.”


A light on the control panel flashed.  The guard turned to a viewscreen, which soon flicked on to display a large yellow FM-ian.


“Gemini, sir!”


Lyra spun around.


“This is an alert for all Astro Wave guards,” Gemini said.  “One of our elite soldiers, Lyra, has betrayed the FM King.”


She turned back to the portal.  Only one more lock to go.


“We believe she is trying to make it off-planet.  Should you see her, you are ordered to turn her in to the authorities.”


The guard looked up.  “I-I see.  Um…sir?”


The last lock disappeared.  Lyra leapt into the portal before the guard could do anything, feeling the world rush past her as she was transported to Planet FM’s upper atmosphere.


“Yes?  What is it?” Gemini asked.


Staring at the portal, the guard said, “Um…I’ll let you know if I hear anything…”




Sonia walked down the dirt path cutting through the park, staring up at the stars.  She had hoped to explore the city a little more, but she was so recognizable lately that she couldn’t go anywhere without attracting a mob.  No one was in the park except her—she had some room to breathe here.


Of course, she might have been able to look around if she had her staff with her, but her manager didn’t even know she was out.  He had insisted she stay in and spend the next few days practicing, regardless of the fact that she knew all these songs backwards and forwards and could play them in her sleep. (She had played in her sleep once—for how unnerved her manager had been she thought he would’ve remembered.)


She stopped in front of a large flowerbed and looked at the open field beyond it.


“So that’s where the stage is going to be?” she mumbled.  “Hm…this looks good.  We should be able to get a lot of people out here.”


So many people.


She shook her head.  Sonia walked to the nearest bench and sank into it, pulling her guitar onto her lap and exhaling loudly.  At the instrument’s head was a small screen that displayed a Transer menu—she touched through the options and skimmed her email to pass time.


This is still boring, but…I guess it’s better to be bored out here.


She picked at the guitar for a bit, and then looked down at the sunglasses clipped onto the neck of her hoodie.  She held them up and examined them: they had wide, pink, oval-shaped lenses that mashed together at the center, with concentric semicircles etched into their surface.


Sonia slipped them on.  “Haha…they’re not very fashionable, but I guess I shouldn’t complain.”


She started playing again.  About half-way through the song, something caught her eye; her fingers stopped and she looked up at the sky, seeing a bright white light streak across it.


She leapt to her feet.  “A shooting star?”


The light kept moving, seemingly growing brighter by the second.


“Weird, they’re not supposed to last this long…well, more time to make a wish, I guess!”


She closed her eyes and thought.  An image of her mother came to mind—she tried to think of something else, but that was all that came.


…I guess, she thought, I wish I had a chance to know more about her.


She didn’t think shooting star wishes really came true (not for several years now), but she still felt silly for not wishing for something a little more realistic.  When she opened her eyes, she saw that the light was still getting brighter…


And it appeared to be angling towards her.




She took a step back and bumped into the bench, falling onto it.  When she looked back up, her sunglasses started flashing, forcing her to shut her eyes.


“What’s going on?!”


She opened her eyes just enough to see the bright light barreling down on her.




Sonia was knocked off the bench by some blunt force and hit the ground.  She was dazed for a few seconds; when she could see straight again, she grabbed her guitar and was relieved to see it was unscathed.


“Whew, that’s good…”


She stood up and dusted herself off.  Stooping to pick up the sunglasses, she wondered, “What the heck was that?”


“Hello there.”


She spun around.  No one was there—even the strange light had disappeared, leaving the park just as dark and empty as it had been a minute ago.


“Weird,” she said, putting the sunglasses back on.


She blinked.


The glowing neon platforms in the sky didn’t go away.


She took the glasses off, and the lights disappeared.  She put them back on—they came back.


“…Huh,” she said.


“Excuse me, dear?”


She turned around without taking the glasses off, and now saw a large, flaming harp with a face floating in front of her.


“…Oh, um, you mean me?” Sonia said after a short delay.


The harp smiled.  “Yes, you.  I know you can see me with those.”


Sonia ran a finger along the glasses.  “Is that it?  Why?  This has definitely never happened before…”


The harp frowned.  “You don’t know what the Visualizer does?”


Sonia shook her head.  Is this a dream, maybe?


“I see…well, put simply, it lets you see EM waves, which humans normally can’t perceive.  I’m an EM lifeform from Planet FM—it’s only because of your Visualizer that you are able to see me.  They were off, so I jumpstarted the battery for you.  Apologies for the rude landing, but I was having some trouble aiming.”


Sonia crossed her arms.  This being was being polite enough, but somehow she couldn’t help but feel…patronized.  “So you’re an alien?”






The alien raised one eyebrow.  “You’re being awfully calm about this.”


Sonia smiled nervously.  “Well, even if this isn’t a dream, panicking won’t really get me anywhere.”


The harp laughed.  “What an interesting human…my name is Lyra, by the way.”


“I’m Sonia.  Sonia Strumm.”


Lyra’s eyes widened.  “Did you say Strumm?”


Sonia cringed—having her name recognized was a bit concerning even when talking to humans, let alone sentient instruments from outer space.  “Um…yes?”


“I see…”


“…So, um, what brings you to Earth?  I mean, if it’s okay for me to ask.”


“Considering how I made my entrance, I believe you’re entitled at least to that,” Lyra replied.  She spoke a bit slowly.  “Some brutes from my home planet are looking for me.  Earth is sort of out of the way, and…”


She trailed off.  Sonia waited expectantly, but all she got was, “It just seemed like a place where I could find a friend.”


“Really?” Sonia said.  “Is there anything I can do to help you?”


“Hm?  You want to help out an alien you just met?”


“It sounds like you’re in trouble.  I might not be able to do much, but if most people can’t see you then I feel like it falls to me to at least try to help.”


Lyra looked at her for a moment, and then grinned.  “…Thank you.  I think I’ll take you up on that.”


The alien disappeared in a burst of pink flame.  Sonia looked around, and then heard laughter coming from the screen on her guitar.


“The EM technology of you humans is still a bit primitive,” Lyra’s voice said, “but this should do for now.”


Sonia looked at the screen—Lyra was floating inside it.  “Huh?  Hey, please be careful!  This was a gift from my mother!”


Lyra’s face shifted.  It bothered Sonia in a way she couldn’t articulate.  “Really…did she give you the Visualizer as well?”


“Huh?  Well, yes, but…”


“Forgive me if this is sudden, but can I meet your mother?”


Sonia blinked.  A pit began to form in her stomach. “…Um…”


“She must have some experience with EM waves if she had access to a Visualizer,” Lyra explained calmly.  “Such a person would definitely be able to—“


“I can’t.”




“I’m sorry, but…I can’t take you to Mama.”


Lyra eyed Sonia warily.  “…And why not?”


Sonia lowered the guitar and looked up.  “She’s in Heaven.”


After a moment, Lyra asked, “And where is Heaven?”




“Is it someplace far away?  Is that why you can’t take me?”


“You…don’t know about Heaven?”


“I have some basic knowledge of this planet, but nothing in-depth.  Is it on another continent, or the other side of the world?”


Sonia shook her head—her chest was starting to sting.  “No.  Heaven is, um…it’s where you go, when you…pass on…”


Lyra had been edging closer.  She now recoiled, wide-eyed.  “…Oh.  Oh, dear, I’m so sorry.”  She sounded far more sincere now.


“That’s alright,” Sonia said, and her unease began to subside gradually.  She started walking back towards town—no use standing around in the park all night.  “But, you really don’t know about Heaven on your planet?”


“…Our beliefs are a bit different,” Lyra quietly returned.  “We FM-ians have a legend that says when we die, our waves drift through space and eventually coalesce with those of our ancestors in the form of a star, or maybe in a larger constellation if you have a prestigious lineage.”


Sonia brightened up a bit.  “That sounds beautiful.”


“In a way, I suppose.”


Sonia hummed.  “I’m not really sure where to take you.  You say it might help to see someone who has experience with EM waves, but I don’t know anyone like that.”


“…I hope I don’t seem rude in asking, but…you don’t know any co-workers or friends your mother might have had?”


“No, sorry.  She did used to be a scientist, but she left that job about three years ago; she never really talked about it much.”


“I see.”


“There was one friend she had who I met a few times after that, but I don’t know how to get ahold of him.  I could try looking him up.”


“That’s alright, dear; thank you anyway.  I’ll figure something out.”


As they reached the park exit, Sonia became aware of a strange buzzing sound.  She looked up at the buildings that loomed above, and her eyes were drawn to their brilliantly-flashing signs, which were pulsing with an odd frequency she had never seen before.


“That’s strange…”


Suddenly, one of the signs burst apart, raining glass shards and live sparks on the road below.  Sonia jumped.


“Ah!  That’s definitely not normal!”


“Rats,” Lyra said.  “Looks like this wasn’t the best place to hide after all.”


“What do you mean?”


Another sign burst.


“This can only be the work of EM viruses.”


“Viruses?  But viruses are easy to keep in check—they’ve never caused problems like this.”


Lyra shook her head.  Well, her whole body, really, but Sonia assumed it was an equivalent gesture.


“These are EM viruses from Planet FM.  The entire planet is made up of strong EM waves, so our viruses are a lot more powerful.  Some of them must have been on my tail; I can’t believe I didn’t notice…”


More signs began to erupt.  Sonia dashed away from the dim street light she was standing next to.


“So we have to stop the viruses, right?  Can you do that?”


“Normally it’d be a breeze.  But, the EM waves on this planet are so much weaker, I don’t have access to my full power.  These viruses picked brawn over brains—they don’t get as bad a penalty as intelligent waves like me.”


Sonia ducked behind a bush as the streetlights in the park started popping.  “Isn’t there anything you can do?!”


Lyra hesitated for a moment.  “…Do you see that?  Over there, on the ground?”


Sonia looked.  A whirlpool of orange light was spinning on the ground a few feet from her, right next to an old tree at the edge of the park.


“What is that?”


“It’s a Wavehole.  Distortions like that link the Real World and the Wave World, and—oh, there’s no time for the specifics.  If you want to stop this, then step into the Wavehole!”


Sonia nodded and ran.  She entered the Wavehole a bit tentatively, but didn’t feel a thing.


“Now,” Lyra said, “no matter what happens, just follow my lead, alright?”


“Alright,” Sonia said.  A bit reluctantly, she added, “I trust you.”


Lyra faltered.  “You…a-alright.  Good.  Raise this device and say ‘EM Wave Change!  Sonia Strumm, On the Air!’”


Sonia raised her guitar, then: “Wait, what?”


Another streetlight exploded.


“Er, I mean…EM Wave Change!  Sonia Strumm, On the Air!”


Light blinded Sonia, and a feeling like a mild static shock ran through her whole body.  The sensation lasted for what felt like a long time, and when it passed, she looked around and discovered she was now standing on the Wave Road above the park.


“How did we get up here?”


She then looked down at herself.  She was wearing a pink dress with a large heart-shaped armor plate over her chest, and black fabric over her legs and shoulders; her lower legs were encased in thick pink armor, and the fabric on her arms was striped pink and white.  She held up one hand and looked at the yellow cuff and pink glove now adorning it.


“…What is…?”


She touched her head—it was now covered by a helmet, and the Visualizer had transformed into a visor.  A long white scarf was hanging from her neck, and she saw that her guitar had changed to look more like a light blue harp with a microphone stand growing from its top, a face carved into the head just above the mic.


“I’ll explain as we go,” Lyra replied, her voice coming from the guitar.  “Just brace yourself.  They’re going to come to us now.”


Sonia nodded.  “…Um…is this…permanent?”


“No, this is a temporary transformation.”


Sonia wore an exasperated grin.  “Well, I guess I always did dream of being a magical girl…”


The lights that were still flickering returned to normal, and a creature appeared on the Wave Road in front of each one.  All of them looked like black dots with nothing but eyes and feet, hiding under oversized hard hats that sprouted antennae.  They advanced down the road like a mob.


I’m so sick of mobs.


“We’re going to have to fight them,” Lyra said.


“I thought you said you didn’t have your full power here?”


“I don’t.  But when you EM Wave Changed, we fused together to create this new form.  It restores my power, but you’re the one who has to use it.”


Sonia looked at her guitar and exclaimed, “I don’t know how to fight!”


“You know how to play this instrument, correct?”


“Well, yes.”


“Then you’re in luck!  No one is better than me at weaponizing sound waves.  Just play something and I’ll handle the rest.”


The viruses kept moving forward.  Sonia faced them, took a breath, and strummed her guitar.  A large musical note appeared before her and flew at the viruses, plowing into a small group of them; they exploded on impact, and the shockwaves knocked over a few of their companions.


“Whoa!” Sonia said, taking a half-step back.


She played a chord, sending out a few more notes that thinned the oncoming group even more.


“Wow.  But, there are so many of them…if only we had—“


Before she could finish, two box-shaped speakers appeared on either side of her, and at the next note she played, they sent forth additional notes that wiped away the majority of the surviving force.


One of the viruses summoned a pickaxe.  It struck the Wave Road, sending out a shockwave that destroyed one of the speakers.  Sonia jumped back, avoiding another shockwave, and sized up the threat: fewer than ten viruses remained, but they had successfully closed the distance and could attack her at any time.


“Now might not be the best time to test your evasion tactics,” Lyra said.  “I can take them out in one go, but since you’re new to this, the strain might be a bit much.”


The viruses raised their pickaxes.  “Fine with me!” Sonia said.


“If you say so.”


Sonia raised her arm high and then brought it down on the strings.  A massive, heart-shaped shockwave pulsed out from her, sweeping away the viruses and the smoke and flames that they burst into one-by-one.




She began to feel lightheaded.  Stumbling to the side, she sat down on the remaining speaker and caught her breath.


“You okay, Sonia?”


“I think so.”


“Sorry to throw you into this headfirst.  For what it’s worth, you handled it quite well…I’m actually impressed.”


Though the FM-ian sounded somewhat condescending, Sonia was too drained to care.  “Haha…thanks…”


She went back to examining her outfit.  This was a lot to take in: aliens, super-viruses, magical transformations, battles…Lyra was already seeming like a lot of trouble.


…But…she needs help.  And she doesn’t seem that bad.


After resting another minute, Sonia stood up.  The speaker vanished.


“So?” she asked.


“I’m sorry?”


“So, what do we do now?  If those viruses were able to follow you here, then the others you’re running from will probably be here soon too.”


“Yes, probably…and they’ll surely want to pick a fight.  I guess I’ll just have to be ready for them.”


Sonia nodded.  “Alright.  How do we do that?”


“Hm?  Wait, do you mean you still want to help me?”


“Well, yes.  I said that I would, didn’t I?”


“Yes, but that was before I said anything about actually fighting.  I’d hardly be offended if this was a deal-breaker.”


Sonia shook her head and smiled.  “It is sort of scary, but…I want to do what I can, I guess.  Besides, Mama always told me that I had to keep my word!”


It was a while before she received a response.  “You truly are an interesting human…”


Lyra laughed.  “Very well, then!  I’ll teach you how to use my power so that you can defend us both.  But, for now, I think we could both use a little sleep.”


Sonia yawned.  “Yeah.  How do I get off the Wave Road?”


“Just step back into the Wavehole, dear—that’ll separate us again.”


Sonia walked back into the swirl of energy.  Another flash, another shock, and she was back in the park, looking like her normal self.  She took off her Visualizer and sighed deeply, and then headed back towards her hotel.


Well…I’m certainly not bored.




Edited by Pahrak #0579
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Chapter 2



Sonia yawned.  The man in the red suit next to her glared in disapproval.  “Get control of that before the concert.”


“It’s no big deal, manager,” she muttered.


“You’ve been like that all week!  What happens if you start yawning in the middle of a song, huh?  People pay to hear you sing, and if they don’t get that, they’ll start demanding their money back.  And then where will that put me?”


Sonia ignored him and looked back at the stage.  It was really just a simple black platform, but it was starting to come together, and the tech team was currently fitting and testing various lighting equipment.


“I don’t recognize any of these people…”


“They’re not our usual team,” her manager answered.  “An outside company offered to do the work for free, so I let them.”


“Oh.  What’s the company?”


The manager turned around and shrugged.  “I don’t remember.  Anchor, or something like that?  Once you’re done here, go back to the hotel and keep practicing; I’ve got publicity matters to attend to.”


Once he was out of earshot, Lyra said, “That man really is infuriating.”


Sonia looked at her guitar.  “You don’t know the half of it.”


“Is it really safe to just let random people set up your equipment?  Offering to do it for free sounds a little suspicious.”


“I’m sure it’s fine.  I’ve never had a problem like that before.”


Lyra hummed.  “Why don’t we take a closer look?  I’d like to make sure these people check out…and we have to kill time somehow.”


Sonia slung the guitar over her shoulder.  “Alright, I guess it can’t hurt.”


She walked towards the stage, but before she reached it, someone called out, “Hey, Sonia!”


Two men were approaching, one tall and thin, the other shorter and a bit large, both of them wearing blue and red jackets with a round logo on one sleeve.


“Huh?  Mr. Boreal?!”


The large man smiled.  “I’m glad you remember me!  It’s been so long since I last saw you, I wouldn’t have been surprised if you’d forgotten.”


Sonia ran forward to meet them.  “No, I’d never forget!  Not after how hard you worked to help Mama.”


Boreal frowned.  “I’m just sorry I couldn’t do more.”


Sonia kept smiling.  “It’s alright.  Mama was just happy to know you cared.  So, what are you doing here?”


Turning to the stage, Boreal said, “Well, these are my employees, so I’m here to lend them a hand.”


“Oh?  Then…”


“When we heard you were doing a concert, I offered to set up your equipment.  I might not have all the resources I had when I worked for NAZA, but everyone at AMAKEN does quality work!”


Lyra mumbled, “That sounds nothing like ‘Anchor’.”


Sonia looked up at the stage, then back at Boreal.  “That’s so nice of you!  You didn’t have to do that.”


“Haha, don’t mention it!  Oh, wait, where are my manners?”


Stepping aside, he gestured to the tall man.  “Sonia, this is Tom Dubius, my assistant.”


The man looked at the ground, his gray hair falling over his face. “H-Hello…”


Sonia waved slowly.  “Um…hi.  Nice to meet you.”


Dubius looked around, like he expected to catch someone watching him, and then turned to Boreal.  “Uh…I think I’m going to go see how they’re doing.”


After he walked off, Boreal said, “He’s kind of shy, but he’s absolutely brilliant.  I’m lucky to have him on my team.”


Sonia nodded, not really sure what to say.  “So, you have your own lab now?  When did you leave NAZA?”


“Well, honestly, I left a little after your mom did.”


“Huh?  You never mentioned that before.”


Boreal averted his gaze.  “When Rosa left, I told her I would stay at NAZA and try to fix some of the problems that she had wanted to address.  I underestimated the level of flaws in the organization, and it wasn’t long before I gave up.  I didn’t want to tell her—I didn’t want her to be disappointed in me.”


“Sonia,” Lyra whispered, “what is he talking about?  Something was going on at NAZA?”


While Boreal seemed distracted, Sonia replied, “Mama said it was a good place run by a few bad people, but she never told me any details.”


“How dreadful,” Lyra said.  “A national science organization sort of misses the point when it stops being dedicated to advancement.”


Sonia turned back to Boreal, but then she paused.  Wait, she knows what NAZA is?


“Even if I failed at NAZA, I’m hoping I can at least make AMAKEN a place she could be proud of,” Boreal said.


“I’m sure she’d love it.”


“Haha, thanks!  It’s nice to know you have such faith in me without even seeing the place.  Oh!  Come to think of it, would you like to visit AMAKEN?  If you have the time, of course.”


That caught Lyra’s attention.  “If you’d like my opinion, I say we go.”


Sonia discreetly rapped one knuckle against the guitar.  “I’d love to!  My manager might take some convincing, but I’ll figure it out.  Maybe I’ll tell him it’s a thank you for the stage work.”


Boreal grinned.  “Great!  Send me an email once you know, and I’ll prepare a tour for you!”


One of the workers called over to Boreal, so he said good-bye and hurried over to the stage.  Sonia started the walk back to the hotel.


“How exciting!” Lyra said.  “An independent lab will be a wonderful opportunity to investigate available EM technology.”


“So, what is it exactly that you’re hoping to find?”


Lyra’s enthusiasm faded slightly.  “There’s something I might like to have analyzed, if possible.  Plus, it couldn’t hurt to explore a few more options for deterring my pursuers.”


“I doubt he has any weapons, if that’s what you mean.”


“Any technology can be made into a weapon.  On just about every planet I’ve seen, weapons and technology are heavily intertwined.”


Sonia grimaced.  “Technology doesn’t have to be used for weapons.  Mama always said the goal of technology was to improve people’s lives, not end them.”


Lyra chuckled a bit.  “Forgive me.  I’m not accustomed to visiting planets where people have such…peaceful views.”


“What?  You mean, all the planets you’ve been to wanted to fight?”


“That’s a good way of putting it.”


For some reason she couldn’t explain, Sonia felt a chill run down her spine.  “Okay?”


“Regardless, as I find myself in a situation where fighting is necessary, it’s something that seems wise to explore.  For my safety as well as yours.”


“I guess…but, isn’t there any way we might be able to avoid fighting?”


Lyra’s response was delivered very clearly.  “FM-ians do not excel at talking things out.  I would not hold my breath.”




AMAKEN was a large, box-shaped building that shifted from white to red to blue as it rose into the sky.  A fence ran along the edge of the sidewalk, through which could be seen a well-kept lawn broken up by more concrete paths and a line of satellites in the distance.

Sonia spotted Boreal standing near the gates, talking to a boy who looked about her age.  He wore a red jacket and had brown hair that stood up in a spike on the back of his head.  She approached slowly, not wanting to interrupt; Boreal waved to her, and the boy turned around.  That was when Sonia noticed the blue Visualizer sitting on top of his head.


“Well well, what have we here?” Lyra wondered.


“Good morning, Sonia!” Boreal greeted.  “This is Geo Stelar—I hope you don’t mind, but he wanted to look around the place as well.”


“Oh, that’s alright,” Sonia said.  She smiled at Geo, thinking, Stelar…why does that sound familiar?


“Hello,” Geo said flatly.  He almost seemed annoyed, Sonia thought.  Or, maybe disinterested, but not in a rude sort of way?


“It’s nice to meet you,” she said.  “What brings you to AMAKEN?”


“Well, my Dad used to work with Mr. Boreal,” Geo answered.  “He came by the other day and offered to show me around.”


Stelar!  Of course, he worked with Mama and Mr. Boreal at NAZA, until…


That memory led to another, and Geo disposition suddenly made much more sense.  Oh.


“Sonia’s mom worked with your dad and me,” Boreal told Geo.  “AMAKEN is doing some work for her next concert, and I took the opportunity to invite her as well.”


“Concert?” Geo eyed her guitar.


“Yeah.  I’m Sonia Strumm.”


Geo shrugged.  “Sorry, I don’t really keep up with current events.”


“Oh, that’s fine.  It’s kind of nice to not be recognized for once!”


A bus pulled up to the gate.  As a few more children filed off, Sonia’s relief swiftly fell away.


“Huh?  Is that…Sonia Strumm?!”


A short, bespectacled boy and a much larger boy excitedly ran towards her, while a girl with massive blonde hair followed with a scowl.  “Zack!  Bud!” she called.  “Calm down already!”


“Wow!  It’s really you!  I can’t believe it!”


“Sonia!  I’m a huge fan!”


Sonia took a half-step back.  “Ah…th-thank you so much!”


Geo practically jumped at the sight of these three.  “You?!  What are you doing here?”


The other girl crossed her arms and closed her eyes, looking incredibly pleased with herself.  “What do you mean?  We are students, and we have the day off.  Isn’t it natural we’d go somewhere we can learn more?”


“Geo,” Boreal said, “are these, maybe...friends of yours?”


The girl rushed forward.  “Yes!  Yes, we are Geo’s friends.”


“Now wait a—“


“Wonderful!  In that case, I can show you all around together!”


Geo grumbled, “Luna…”


Boreal turned to Sonia.  “Do you mind, Sonia?”


Hesitantly, Sonia said, “Well…sure.  That sounds fun.”


The other boys erupted in cheers, and Boreal directed everyone through the gate.




After looking around the grounds of the AMAKEN facility, Boreal had taken the children in to see the museum while he went to clean up his lab a little.  Bud and Zack seemed more interested in Sonia than anything else, but she politely ignored them as much as possible and tried to pay attention.  Luna seemed to mainly take in the information as well, and Geo, though he hung around the back of the group, seemed interested nonetheless.


The five of them stood next to an inactive black hole generator at the center of the museum, Geo closely reading its descriptive panel.  Sonia asked, “So, you have a Visualizer too?”


He turned.  “Huh?  Oh, yeah.  It doesn’t seem to do anything, but…it belonged to my Dad…”


His was turned off as well?


Sonia nodded.  “Mama gave me hers about a year ago.  Now that she’s gone, it feels like I still have a piece of her with me.”




“So, Geo,” interrupted Luna as she came closer.  “This lab is rather impressive, isn’t it?  You’ve seemed awfully invested in Mr. Boreal’s explanations.  Perhaps this little learning experience has made you miss school a bit?”


Geo turned back to the machine.  “Nope.”


“What?  Oh come on, you can’t deny you’re having fun.  That seems to me like irrefutable proof that you must regret staying away from school so long!”


“Staying away?” Sonia said.  “You don’t go to school?”


Geo didn’t say anything.  Luna chimed in, “That’s correct.  He hasn’t gone in three years now.”


Three years?  Wasn’t that when it disappeared?


“It’s simply terrible,” Luna pushed.  “He shouldn’t be wasting this opportunity—he needs to return to school for his own good.  Don’t you agree?”


Sonia leaned against the machine.  “Um…well, I don’t really know the whole situation, so it’s hard to say…”


Geo looked up.  Luna recoiled.  “Excuse me?!  He must go to school!  That is the only sensible course of action!”


“Well, maybe not necessarily.”


“Unbelievable!  Perhaps I should have expected as much.  Being an idol, you probably don’t go to school either.  Of course you would side with him.”


Sonia frowned.  “It’s difficult when I have to travel so much, but I take lessons over my Transer.  I haven’t fallen behind the standard curriculum.”


“I do the same thing,” Geo said.  “You don’t need to go to school to learn.”


Luna clenched her fists.  “Maybe so, but how do you expect to make any friends if you never go to school?  Well, Geo?”


“I already told you, I don’t want any friends.”


Sonia’s eyes widened.


“And I still don’t believe it!  Ooh, will you just stop being so stubborn?”


“You’re one to talk!”


Stepping in, Sonia said, “Hey, maybe you—“


“I didn’t ask you!” Luna snapped.


“Actually, you did.  And either way, I really don’t think bullying him like this is the way to go!”




As the two of them glared, Bud asked, “Uh, Zack, should we do something?”


Zack adjusted his glasses.  “Bud, I believe it would be wisest not to meddle in this debate.”


Boreal walked into the museum before long, saying, “Hey!  If you kids are done here, the lab is ready for visitors!  Well, more or less, haha!”


He went back towards the lobby.  Luna turned and led Bud and Zack after him, while Sonia and Geo followed from a distance.  “How long has she been pestering you?” Sonia asked.


“Not that long, really.  But it gets old awfully fast.”


“It must.”  Sonia thought a moment, then added, “I heard about what happened to your father.  I’m so sorry.”


Geo nodded.  “…You said your last name was Strumm?  I think I remember Dad mentioning a Dr. Strumm.  He always said he wanted to have her over, but they could never find the time.  You said that she…”


“Yeah.  When the space station disappeared, she felt NAZA wasn’t doing as much as it should, and she fought for an expedition to search for the station.  Before she got anywhere with that, she got really sick all of a sudden, so she had to resign and spend most of her time resting.  She went to Heaven about three months ago.”


“I’m sorry.”


The group came back together at the elevator, and after a silent ride up they filed out and crossed the hall to the laboratory.  It was a very spacious room with gray walls and a blue tiled floor, with several screens on one wall hidden behind two partially-assembled pieces of machinery.


“Here we are: my personal lab!” Boreal said.  “Feel free to look around!  There’s some pretty neat stuff in here.  Some of it hasn’t even been announced to the public yet!”


The children spread out.  Zack approached a design schematic hung on the wall, asking, “What’s this?”


“You have a good eye!” Boreal said.  “It’s still in development, but this is one of the big projects I’ve been working on.  It’s an upgraded rocket and booster pack, designed for breaking through the atmosphere using less fuel.”


Sonia turned around, looking towards the back of the lab.  “Hm?”


“Something wrong, dear?” Lyra asked.


“I thought I heard a door…”


Zack took note of another invention, this time what looked like a large pair of wings.  “That’s something my assistant made,” Boreal answered.  “I think he calls it a FlapPack.  It’s a marvelous invention—if you ask me, it looks like it’s nearly complete!”


Sonia walked around one of the disassembled machines—an engine of some kind by the looks of it.  “Excuse me, Sonia.”


“Hm?  What is it, Lyra?”


 “That boy with the Visualizer you were taking to.  What was that you said about a space station?”


“Oh, right.  Three years ago, NAZA launched a space station named ‘Peace’, hoping to contact alien life.  But then, out of nowhere, it disappeared.  The only trace was a piece of the station that crashed into the ocean a month later.”


Lyra nodded slowly.  “I see.  And why were they trying to contact aliens?”


“That’s…kind of hard to explain.  Humans have always been curious to know if there were aliens, and how we might interact with them.  Mama said they had found evidence of alien life on a distant planet and were trying to communicate with them.  Their hope was that our planets could form a BrotherBand.”


Lyra watched her closely.  “A BrotherBand, you say?”


“Yeah.  It’s a way to—“


“Oh, I know what a BrotherBand is, dear.  But…you’re sure that’s what NAZA was trying to accomplish with this space station?”


Sonia blinked.  “Of course.  What else would they be doing?”


Lyra shrugged.  “I’m just asking.  Didn’t you say before that the place was run by some bad people?  Isn’t it possible they had another agenda?”


Dumbfounded, Sonia just stared at the screen.


“Sorry dear.  Suppose I should reign in my curiosity a bit.”


“Being curious is fine, but…it sounds like you don’t trust anyone,” Sonia whispered.


A chime came over the speakers in the room.  Boreal remarked, “Ah, sounds like the SpaceSim tour is ready!  If you kids are done here, we can head back to the museum for something really cool.”


Everyone herded back into the elevator and returned to the museum, heading to the desk in the back where they were each given a space suit and asked to put it on.  Once everyone’s suit was secure, they stepped into a small room.  The door closed behind them, and a few seconds later, a door on the opposite wall opened up.  Sonia stepped through and started to float up.




The room beyond was a black void filled with a million stars.  Gravity was much lighter, allowing her to drift around as she pleased, and models of all the solar system’s planets could be seen forming a wide ring centered on a terminal that supported a large silver orb.


“We’re in space!” Bud shouted, flying past.


“It isn’t really space, you idiot,” Luna berated.


“Still, it’s impressive!” Zack said.  “Who’d have thought this place could produce such a detailed simulation?”


Geo floated slowly towards the model of Venus.  “…Cool.”


A woman nodded to Mr. Boreal and closed the door they had come in through, and then she came forward a bit and cleared her throat.  “Hello everyone!  Thank you all for visiting AMAKEN today!  We are proud to present to you our SpaceSim, the most realistic recreation of outer space that modern technology can produce!”


The visitors all gathered together as she spoke.


“We have a great tour lined up for you.  So, without further ado, let us begin by taking a look at—“


“The Swan’s Dance.”




The group turned towards the silver orb.  A tall man stood on top of it, not wearing a space suit but appearing not to need one somehow.


“Tom?” Boreal called.  “Is that you?  What are you doing in here without a suit?!”


Dubius looked up, his face twisting into an eerie grin.  “I no longer require one.  I have been reborn.”


He raised his arms.  A low hum filled the air, and his image began to distort as bright light radiated from him.


“Oh no,” Lyra said, her eyes wide.  “Sonia, prepare yourself!”


Looking at the guitar, Sonia asked, “What do you mean?  What’s happening?”


The light around Dubius brightened for a moment and then disappeared.  His skin had turned blue, and he wore a bodysuit of the same color with white armguards and clawed black greaves.  His chest and head were covered in white armor, and two large wings grew from his back and began to flap, lifting him from his perch.


“Ah!!  A monster!!” Luna screamed.


Sonia shivered.  “L-Lyra?!  Did he just…”


“EM Wave Change,” Lyra finished.  “An FM-ian is possessing that man!”


Boreal’s expression changed from shock to horror, and then suddenly became grim.  “Tom.  Did you really…”


Dubius sneered.  “You seem awfully calm for someone who just betrayed someone else.”


Boreal edged forward, speaking in a very even tone.  “What do you mean?  Talk to me, Tom.  Please, just tell me what’s bothering you.”


“You know very well!  And now, I have come to punish you.”


Dubius raised his arms again, this time putting his hands together and standing on one foot.  Lyra shouted, “Sonia, look away from him!  Now!”


Sonia turned herself around until all she could see was open space.  Behind her, Dubius began to spin.  And then Boreal began to spin.  One by one, everyone but Sonia began to spin rapidly in place, slowly drifting off in random directions as they did so.  Among the confused and panicked shouting, Sonia heard a voice, most likely Dubius, proclaim, “That’s right!  Dance until you drop!”


Sonia started to turn, but Lyra snapped, “Not yet!”


As he spun, Boreal said, “Tom…Tom!  Just explain why you’re doing this!  Talk to me!”


Dubius grew still.  “It’s too late for that, Aaron—you can’t pretend you don’t know what this is about.  Betrayal is the essence of society, after all.”


“Tom, I really have no idea what you mean!  How did I betray you?”


“Hmph.  You’re so obnoxious…but not for long.  Soon the oxygen in your suits will be depleted.  Until then, enjoy drifting through space, dancing your time away.  Compared to my suffering, this is nothing.”




Dubius vanished.  The monitors on the terminal beneath the orb flashed, and his image was displayed on each.  Sonia asked, “Lyra?”


“As I said, an FM-ian has possessed that man.  This particular FM-ian is one of the elites: Cygnus.”

Sonia looked around at the others.  “But I thought an FM-ian could only Wave Change in a Wavehole?”


“Possession is different.  Humans sometimes emit a loneliness wave that we FM-ians are naturally drawn towards.  When a human enters a state of crisis, the wave intensifies, allowing us to slip into their heart and possess them; when we do this, the powerful loneliness waves are enough to make the fused form visible and tangible even in the Real World.”


“What?!  That’s awful!  Is there any way to help Mr. Dubius?”


“The only way to do that is to defeat Cygnus, but I’m not sure you’re ready to fight him.”


Sonia pulled one arm inside her space suit so that she could put her Visualizer on.  She spotted a Wavehole near the model of Mercury, so she began to float that way.


“Sonia?  Listen to me: Cygnus is a high-ranking soldier with powers that are worlds beyond the viruses you’ve been fighting!”


“But if we don’t fight him, then everyone here will die!”


“Yes, but—“


“No!  I’m not going to let that happen!”


As Sonia came up to the Wavehole, Lyra said, “You aren’t ready for this!  Why risk your life for these people?  What do you have to gain from this?”


Sonia shook her head.  “It isn’t about me gaining something.  I’m here.  I’m the only one with a chance to help them.  I’m taking it.”


Raising her guitar, she said, “EM Wave Change!  Sonia Strumm, On the Air!”


At once she and Lyra fused and were transported to the Wave Road above the exhibit.  She had gotten the hang of maneuvering these trails since her first time merging, and quickly leapt towards the orb to search for its access point.


“You aren’t giving me much of a choice here,” Lyra grumbled.  “…Fine.  I suppose I’d be in even worse trouble if I just let you die.”


“In that case, any advice?”


“Well, the good thing about being in Wave Form is that we won’t end up like them if we see him dance.  He’s an agile fighter, so you’ll need to stay on your toes and be very precise when hitting back.  The downside of possession is that his host doesn’t have any experience, not to mention his emotional state might make him sloppy.  We can win if we stay calm.”


“Thank you.”


“Don’t thank me, dear—I’m still voting we leave.”


When she saw a small Wavehole-like distortion on the orb, Sonia jumped towards it and was sucked in, re-emerging on a new Wave Road inside the device’s Comp Space.  Up ahead was a wide platform that supported a control panel with a gigantic screen, and in front of it floated Dubius with his back to her.


“We’ll sneak up on him,” Lyra ordered.  “I can use my powers to soften the sound of your footsteps, but you’ll still need to be—“


“Mr. Dubius!” Sonia shouted, running up to the platform.




Dubius’s head jerked up.  Rotating in mid-air, he eyed Sonia with confusion, asking, “Who are you?  How did you escape my dance?”


Before Sonia could answer, another voice spoke up.  “Lyra?  Well, what a surprise to see you here!”


“Hmph,” Lyra scoffed.  “I’d say I’m more entitled to be surprised.  I thought for sure that lumbering oaf Taurus would be here first.”


“Oh, he charged off after you pretty quickly, but his aim was off and he shot right past this tiny planet.  So sorry, but you’ll be getting no such warm-up!  Too bad, really—it looks like your host could use one.”


“What’s that?  I’m sorry, I was distracted by that frail, meek-hearted man you’re riding around in.  It’s such a bemusing sight that I just can’t tear myself away.”


Dubius clenched his fists.  “What?!”


“Easy, Tom,” Cygnus cooed.  “She just doesn’t understand the power of Cygnus Wing.  She’ll change her tune once we show her what you can do.”


Dubius nodded and swung one arm out.  A trio of small, duck-shaped creatures appeared in front of him and marched forward; Sonia summoned two speakers and blasted them, but the two with black bodies seemed unaffected.  Leaping out of their way, she shouted, “Mr. Dubius, please stop this!  You’re being controlled!”


“Controlled?” Dubius repeated.  “Not at all.  I know exactly what I’m doing: taking revenge on Aaron for stealing my invention!  The FlapPack is mine!”


His wings jabbed forward.  A feather shot out from each and angled towards Sonia, sticking into the Wave Road like throwing knives when she dodged them.


“I never said otherwise!”


Dubius turned around.  Boreal’s voice had come from the screen, distracting him.


“Sonia,” Lyra said, “now’s our chance.”


Sonia remained still as Dubius said, “Aaron?  You can hear me?  Hah, lying to the very end.”




Sonia shook her head.  Lyra sighed.


Boreal pushed, “Tom, please: I’m not lying.”


Dubius laughed.  “I want to thank you, Aaron.  You were the one who made me see that betrayal is the essence of society!”


“Seems the swan found himself a parrot,” Lyra commented.


Dubius turned and shot more feathers, leaving a scratch on Sonia’s arm.  “Don’t mock me!”


Sonia played a note.  Dubius evaded and spun forward, forcing her to sidestep, and then lashed out with a kick that sent her flying.  As she recovered, she saw him dancing towards her again, and took aim with the head of her guitar; three strings lanced out at her foe, but he jumped up and flew higher to avoid them.


“How can you say that society is built on betrayal?” she asked.  “That’s just not true!”


Cygnus cackled, a low-pitched squawking sound.  “So naïve!  Can you honestly say you’ve never been betrayed?”


“…Maybe not, but—“


“You see?  It is like that everywhere.  I have seen a hundred worlds, and on each and every one of them, betrayal is the one and only constant!”


More ducks approached Sonia.  She leapt over them, twisting in mid-air to avoid more of Dubius’s feathers, and stumbled a bit when she landed.  Dubius swooped down with his arms outstretched, narrowly missing her before rising high again.


“What about everything else?” Sonia asked.  “Society has so much more than betrayal.  It has trust, and kindness, and—“


She was cut off by another of Cygnus’s laughs.  “Oh Lyra, you really didn’t tell her anything, did you?  How did you expect this girl to fight FM-ians when she doesn’t understand the first thing about us?”


“Pay him no mind, dear,” Lyra said.  “He’s just rather bitter.”


As more feathers rained down, Cygnus said, “Only me?  What about you?  What about our entire race?  This is the truth, girl: FM-ians know only selfishness and treachery!  Even that ‘friend’ of yours would abandon you in a heartbeat, just like she betrayed her home planet!”


Sonia avoided as many feathers as she could, but as the storm intensified all she could do was put her arms over her face and brace herself.  The projectiles stung at her until Dubius swooped and kicked again, knocking her flat.


“Drat,” Lyra said.  “I knew this would happen.  Sonia, we really should—“


“Is that true?”




“Is your planet really like that?  Are all FM-ians so used to betrayal that it’s all they know?”


Lyra hesitated.


Sonia sat up.  “That’s…so sad.”


Dubius kicked again.  Sonia flipped back and played a note before he could retreat, hitting him point-blank with a large shockwave.


“I’m sorry, Cygnus, Lyra,” she said.  “It sounds like your lives have been really difficult.  I can’t even imagine a world like that.  But, even still…you must have met some good people.  Somewhere, out of all the planets you’ve been too, you must have seen some good in them, even if you didn’t want to.  Can you tell me that I’m wrong?”


Neither alien responded.  Dubius was back on his feet, and started to spin again.  “Enough of this!  I won’t let you stop me—I won’t be betrayed again!”


Dubius rushed forward.  Sonia stood her ground, watching him closely.  At the last possible second, she jumped to the side.  Dubius kicked as he had before, but this time Sonia was ready: she fired the strings in her guitar again, entangling Dubius and making him trip.


“You really need to open your eyes!”


She played a few more notes.  Each one travelled down the strings directly to Dubius, sapping away his strength with every hit.  When she finally stopped, he lay motionless, groaning and too dazed to stand up.


“Tom?” came Boreal’s voice.  “Whew, we’ve finally stopped dancing…Tom, I think there’s been a misunderstanding.”


Dubius pushed himself onto his hands and knees.  “Aaron…?  No…I heard you tell the kids that the FlapPack was yours!”


Sonia raised an eyebrow.  “What?  No, he didn’t.”


“You must have misheard,” Boreal agreed.  “I would never take credit for someone else’s work.”


“He’s telling the truth,” chimed in another voice.  “He said the FlapPack was his assistant’s invention, and that it was really good too!”


Dubius punched the Wave Road.  “Lies!  I won’t let you trick me again!”


Sonia grabbed Dubius by the armor on his back and dragged him to the screen.  Boreal and the others were on the other side watching, and she pulled Dubius to his feet.


“Tom, please,” Boreal said quietly.  “Is there anything I can do to make you believe me?”


Dubius thought a moment, and then grinned wickedly.  “Oh…I think I know just the thing.  You want to prove to me that one person can trust another?  Then why don’t you take your helmet off?”


The others reacted with shock.  Boreal calmly asked, “What do you mean?  How would that help?”


“I filled this space with air earlier,” Dubius said.  “It’s perfectly safe.  Can you trust me enough to do that?”


Boreal remained silent.  “I thought so,” Dubius continued.  “You see?  You have no proof that I’m not lying.  You can’t trust me, just like I can’t trust—“


Before he could finish, Boreal reached up, grabbed his helmet in both hands, and removed it.




Sonia leaned forward.  “Mr. Boreal?!”


“Hah,” Boreal sighed.  “Yep, there’s definitely air in here.  It’s a little thin, but it’s breathable.”


Dubius stared at him.  “…But…you…wait!  What if I had been lying?  You would’ve died!”


“Yes, I probably would have,” Boreal said.  “But you asked me to trust you, so I did.”


Dubius gaped.  Cygnus said, “Ridiculous!  Tom, it must be a trick—he’s planning to betray you again!”


“How could this be a trick?” Sonia asked.  “Just accept what you’re seeing.”


“No!” Cygnus shouted.  “I can’t believe it!  I won’t!  No one would make such a foolish move based solely on trust!  It’s not…”


Dubius hung his head.  “Why, Aaron?  What reason did I give you to trust me?!”


Boreal smiled.  “Well…you’re my friend.  What more reason did I need?”


Dubius began to shake.  “…You…really didn’t steal my invention?”


“I didn’t.  I’m sorry for the confusion.”




“I know what happened to you before—I understand why you find it hard to trust people.  But please, look around you.  Look hard!  If you do, I know you’ll see things besides betrayal!”


“He’s lying!” Cygnus said.  “I’ve looked!  I’ve looked all over this wretched galaxy, and—“


“There’s a reason why you never saw it,” Lyra said.  “A reason WE never saw it.  Maybe if we had visited those planets on different terms, then we would have seen a different side of them.  Maybe then, we would have seen the good things.”


Cygnus squawked.  “Even if that’s true, what about Planet FM?  There certainly wasn’t any good there!”


“You’re right.  Do you really expect me to defend the planet I left behind?”




“Sorry, Cygnus.  I think perhaps other people—these humans—might actually have a society built on something better.  We FM-ians, however…we’ve never known a world like that.  And maybe we never will.”


Dubius started to shine again.  When the light disappeared, he was back to normal, and fell to the Wave Road unconscious.


“He’ll be fine,” Lyra assured.  “Cygnus has been ejected from his heart.”


Sonia looked around.  “So…where is Cygnus?”






“If a possessed human resolves their crisis, it dissipates the loneliness wave the FM-ian had integrated with.  As a side effect, the FM-ian’s body breaks up as well.”




Boreal’s voice came through the screen again.  “Tom?  Are you alright?!  Tom!”


Sonia took a deep breath.  She faced the screen and said, “Don’t worry, he’s okay.  I’ll get him out of here so you can look after him.”


“Oh?  Thank you, um…”


“Harp Note,” Lyra answered, loud enough that Boreal could hear her.


“Harp Note?  Well, please take care of Tom.  I know he would never do something like this on his own.”


Sonia nodded.  “It’s fine.  I’ll just be a second!”


As she carried Dubius towards the exit, she asked, “Harp Note?”


Lyra chuckled.  “I’ve had far too much free time, dear, and far too little to think about.”




After sending Dubius through the Wavehole, he returned to the Real World where the others recovered him and led him out of the SpaceSim.  Sonia waited a bit before rematerializing so no one would see her; once she caught up, she explained that she had gotten lost out in the SpaceSim and it had taken her a little while to get back.  Dubius eventually regained consciousness, and though he didn’t remember much, there was one thing he recalled clearly: Boreal’s act of faith.


When Boreal escorted the kids back to the gate, he apologized profusely.  “If I’d known we’d be in such danger, I never would have taken you in there.”


“It’s okay, Mr. Boreal,” Sonia said, “we know it isn’t your fault.  Aside from that, the tour was a lot of fun!”


“Yeah, it was,” Geo said.  “It’s been a while since I got to see anything like this up close.”


“Ugh, I’m still a little dizzy,” Bud moaned.  “What was that monster thing anyway?”


Boreal looked up.  “We’re still looking into it.  I have an idea, though.”


Sonia glanced back at him.  Zack asked, “Really?  Can you tell us what it is?”


Boreal shook his head.  “Sorry, I can’t be sure just yet so I don’t want to worry you all for nothing.”


“You make it sound like there could be more,” Geo said.


“Ah, well…”


“He just said not to worry, didn’t he?” Luna said.  She smiled, adding, “Besides, if anything does happen, I’m sure Harp Note will come to save us again!”


Sonia giggled quietly.  Well, I’ll certainly try.


“What makes you say that?” Bud asked.  “You only saw her once.  How can you be so sure?”


“It’s obvious!” Luna retorted.  “She appeared from nowhere to save us—she’s clearly a hero!  And a hero is always found exactly where they are needed.  Simple as that!”


“I don’t know that it really works that way in real life,” Geo said.


Luna glared at him.  The group came up to the bus stop, and Boreal looked down the street to see if it was on its way yet.  “Well, if any of you want to look around again sometime, just let me know.  I’d like to make this up to you if I could.”


“We’ll let you know,” Sonia said.  “For now, I need to be going; my manager said he would send a car, and I don’t want to keep them waiting.  Thank you again, Mr. Boreal!”


She exchanged farewells with the others and started down the sidewalk.  Once they were far enough away, Lyra said, “Sonia, did you hear him?  We may want to be careful around—“






“You didn’t really answer before: was what Cygnus said true?  That FM-ians have seen nothing but betrayal their entire lives?”


“Ah.  ‘Betrayal’ may be a bit narrow, but yes, we’ve never been a very friendly species.  We do thrive on the loneliness of others, after all.”


She waited a moment, and then continued, “Sonia, I wouldn’t be surprised if you—“


“I’m going to show you, then.”




“If you really haven’t been able to see the good things in the world, then I’ll make sure you see them from now on.  You, and any other FM-ian who ends up coming here.”


She put on her Visualizer and looked up at the clouds, watching random waves dance between the roads in the sky.  “There is so much good in the world…so much bad, maybe, but a lot of good as well.  It makes me sad to think that your people weren’t given a chance to see that.  Everyone deserves a chance to be happy, so I’ll do everything I can to show the FM-ians that they can be happy too.”


Sonia spotted the car and ran up to it, while Lyra could only float inside her guitar, stunned into silence.




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Chapter 3



The world around Sonia was pitch-black, and more silent than she had ever thought possible.




She barely heard her own voice.  She repeated herself, louder than last time, but it made no difference at all.




The other voice cut through the silence and rang through her entire body.  She turned towards it and saw someone standing behind her, making her jump away.




The figure became clearer: it was Dubius, in the form he had taken when possessed by Cygnus.  He was hunched over, his breathing was hard, and he came towards her at an unsteady limp of a pace.


“M…Mr. Dubius?”


“Sonia,” the voice said again.  Dubius’s mouth didn’t move.  That was when Sonia recognized that the voice belonged to Cygnus.  “You…betrayed me…”


Sonia stepped back.  “I did what?”


“You said you wouldn’t let anyone die…you said you would show us…that there was good in the world…and then…”


She shook her head.  “No, that’s not…”


“Because of you, I’m dead.”


“I never wanted you to die!”


“Is this the good?” Cygnus asked, weakly raising his tattered wings.  “Is this what you wanted us to see?  Or were you just saying that to mislead me?”


Sonia put a hand over her mouth.


“I shouldn’t be surprised.  I’m not the first one you betrayed.  Now that I’m dead too, she told me.  She told me all about how you betrayed her.”


Cygnus turned his head.  Against her will, Sonia found herself turning as well, seeing a woman lying in a bed not far away.


“No, no,” she whispered, shutting her eyes.


The woman slowly sat up.  A soft, welcoming voice called, “Sonia…”


“No, no, no, no, no!”


“Sonia…why did you betray me?”




Sonia lurched awake, nearly flinging herself out of bed.  She gasped for air and reached towards the wall, fumbling until she finally hit the light switch.  She looked around the hotel room: same red carpet, same sporadically decorated white walls, same desk and table and TV…everything looked exactly the way she had left it when she had fallen asleep.  She was the only person in the room.




She put her head in her hands and leaned forward, trying to focus on her breathing.  It was only a dream.  Dreams don’t mean anything.  It was only a dream.  Dreams don’t mean anything…




Her heart nearly burst from her chest.  She turned to the nightstand next to her bed, where she had left her guitar, and said, “O-Oh, Lyra.  Sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you.”


“Are you alright, dear?  It sounded like you were having an awful nightmare.”


Sonia forced a smile.  She wasn’t sure if Lyra could see her, but she did it anyway.  “It’s nothing.  Probably just something I ate.  Sorry if I worried you.”


She turned the light off and laid back down, facing away from the guitar and staring at a blank space on the wall.  After another hour or so, her thoughts began to calm, and not long after that she found herself drifting back to sleep.




Sonia leaned against the back of the stage as her manager kept talking.  She could hear the cheering fans on the other side, and she couldn’t fight the generally uneasy feeling that was pressing against her brain.


“This is important, you know!” her manager said.  “Concerts are the best opportunities to make money, but more than that, what you do here can have the biggest effect on public opinion of you.  So you’d better be on your best behavior!”


Sonia nodded.  “I know.  Keep them happy, so they give you more of their money.”


That’s all these songs do now, isn’t it?  Make money for him.  Maybe I really have…


“That’s right.  It’s almost time to start, so get ready to sing.”


A security guard approached, saying, “Sir, we caught someone trying to sneak back here.”


“Show me.  I’ll handle it.”


They went around the corner of the stage.  Sonia hung her head.


“You don’t seem very excited,” Lyra said.


“I guess there’s just a lot on my mind.  Hey, Lyra…I’ve been wondering.”


“Something about Cygnus?”


“It’s just…isn’t there any way we can save the human from possession without breaking up the FM-ian’s body?”


“I doubt it.  Some scientists on Planet FM explored hypothetical scenarios, but they weren’t very promising.  If we possess a material being, we fully integrate our bodies into the loneliness wave they emit, and anything that could reasonably free them from possession would dispel that wave in its entirety.”


“What if there was a way to lessen the wave rather than completely dispel it?”


“Do you remember what that man was like when Cygnus possessed him?  He became single-minded, totally fixated on his loneliness and betrayal.  Someone so wrapped up in those feelings can’t be eased out of them—they can only be shocked out all at once.”


Sonia kicked the dirt.  “I don’t know…”


“Sonia, if you’re going to fight, then you need to realize that sacrifices have to be made sometimes.  All too often, saving one person might mean letting someone else die.  You did the right thing.  These FM-ians we’re going against are ruthless monsters and the universe will be better off without them.”


“But you changed, right?  Doesn’t that mean they can too?”


Lyra took a moment.  “Holding back against enemies like this because you hope they might change someday is going to lead to innocent people getting hurt.  As much as this is weighing on your conscience, something like that would hurt you even worse, wouldn’t it?”


Sonia shifted her hands in her pockets.


“In a fight, you can’t think about the future.  You can only think about the present.  Please, don’t forget that, Sonia.”


She nodded.  After a few minutes a member of the tech crew called out to her, so she climbed the stairs and stood behind the stage curtain.  Two tall speakers sat on either side of her, and high above was a line of lights with a large screen at its center.  She readied her guitar and stared at the curtain, feeling like it was looming over her, but she did her best to push that feeling aside.


These people came to hear me sing.  I don’t want to disappoint them.


Slowly the curtain rose.  The cheering amplified, and Sonia needed a moment to adjust as the wave of noise washed over her.  She put on a bright smile and began to wave.


“Hello everyone!  Thank you all so much for coming!  How about we get started?”


She began to play a song.  The audience roared.  After getting a few bars in, however, the speakers suddenly screeched for a moment before dying completely.  Sonia stopped playing and looked towards the tech crew—they were working on a console, but they seemed just as confused as everyone else.  In a strange way, she found herself a little relieved.


As loud as she could, she said, “Uh, sorry everyone!  We’ll try to figure things out as soon as—“


A jet of water hit her in the face, making her stumble back in surprise.  The park sprinklers had activated now, and the audience was scrambling around trying to stay dry.


“Hahaha, how do you like that?  That’ll teach you to mess with me!”


On the screen over her head was an unfamiliar figure: short, covered in red armor, an oddly-shaped helmet, and two large pincers.


“Lyra,” Sonia whispered.


Lyra snickered.  “Oh, it’s him?  Don’t worry dear.  Just pulse in—it won’t take long.”


After taking a moment to process that reaction, Sonia ducked backstage and slipped on her Visualizer.  The Wavehole she had used the night she met Lyra was still there, so while everyone was distracted, she ran over to it and Wave Changed.  It was a quick jump into the stage’s Comp Space, and standing inside next to a screen with a few levers attached to it was the stranger.


“Hey!  What do you think you’re doing?”


The boy flinched.  “Huh?  Who are you?”


“I’m impressed you got here already, Cancer,” Lyra called.  “On the other hand, your host is a bit…uninspiring.”


Another voice said, “Lyra?!  I hadn’t expected to run into you so soo—I mean, uh, yes!  I, Cancer, have come to take back the Andromeda Key that you stole!  Claud, this is the person I told you about!”


The boy looked Sonia up and down.  “She’s the one who stole the thing?  I thought we were going to train some more before fighting her?”


“Well, yes, but she’s here now, so we have to fight!”


Sonia took a step forward.  “Please, I don’t want to fight!  Just stop messing up the concert!”


Claud snapped his pincers.  “Nope!  I got thrown out of this place, just for trying to see my idol, Sonia Strumm.  If I can’t enjoy it, then why should anyone else?”


“You have the most charming fans,” Lyra murmured.


“Shut up,” Sonia replied.  Turning back to Claud, she said, “So that’s why this FM-ian approached you?  Because you got kicked out?”


“Nah, Cancer’s been staying with me for a few days now,” Claud said.  “We’ve been practicing our EM Wave Change, and it looks like you have been too.  Think you can take on Cancer Bubble?”


“Wait…do you mean you aren’t possessed?”


Cancer said, “Hah!  Possession’s drawbacks don’t appeal to me.  I’d rather earn a partner the old-fashioned way!”


“Really?” Lyra asked.  “Or is it just that you can’t possess anyone?”


“Ah!  Uh…no, that’s definitely not it!  How dare you contradict me!”


“As I said, dear, this won’t take long.  Cancer here is barely more capable than a foot soldier.  This sprinkler annoyance is about as much trouble as he can cause.  Consider this fight a breather.”


“And if he’s not possessed, then his body won’t break up when I beat him?” She sighed.  “Thank God...”


Claud stamped his foot.  “Hey, don’t talk like you’ve already won!  Prepare to face my wrath!”


He opened both pincers and thrust them forward, shooting a bubble from each one.  Two speakers appeared beside Sonia; she strummed her guitar and three notes flew out, two to nullify the bubbles, and one to hit Claud square in the chest.  Claud fell on his back and groaned.


“Hey, get up!” Cancer ordered.  “It was just one hit!  You can do better than that!”


“You should give up,” Lyra suggested.  “We’ve already defeated Cygnus and his host—there’s no way someone like you can beat this girl.”


“No way!  You really beat Cygnus?!  Well…Claud, don’t hold back!  These two are serious!”


Claud picked himself back up.  “I know that, sheesh!  Can’t you just pipe down and let me handle this?”


“You call that handling it?  I’ve seen crabcakes with faster reflexes!”


“She took me by surprise, that’s all!  It definitely won’t happen again!”


Sonia scratched her head.  “…Does this sort of thing happen a lot?”


Lyra just laughed.  Claud started shooting bubbles again, so Sonia jumped out of the way and shot strings at him.  Once he was restrained, she said, “That’s no way to treat your partner, you know.  Do you talk to all your friends like that?”


Claud flinched.


“Something tells me the boy doesn’t have friends,” Lyra said.


“Oh?  Is that true?  That’s…really sad.”


Claud struggled, but only succeeded in toppling over.  “Dang it!  You said you’d give me enough power to handle people like this!”


“What, you think it’s my fault?” Cancer said.  “I’ve got plenty of power!  You’re the one who doesn’t know how to use it properly!”


As they continued to argue, Sonia just watched, unable to decide what she should do.  I should probably get this over with.  The fans are waiting…though, the sprinklers aren’t that serious, and it’s not a big deal if one concert goes bad.


She shook her head.  No, what am I saying?  I’m not being fair to those people.


Releasing the strings, she cleared her throat to get Claud’s attention.


“Look.  Like I said, I’m not interested in fighting.  Please return the equipment to normal, and then you can go on your way.”


Claud stood up.  “Hmm…maybe we should take her up on that.”


“Unacceptable!” Cancer snapped.  “I won’t lose this chance to make a name for myself!  Here’s what we’ll do…”


They started whispering something.  Sonia said, “It sounds like he really wants to be recognized, but...maybe he should try a different way…”


“I’d say you’ve pierced right through his soft shell,” Lyra remarked.


“Okay!” Claud declared, taking a wide stance.  “You’ve been pretty cocky up to now, but now I’ll show you my true power and finish you in a flash!  Haaaaaaah!”


Claud raised both arms, and a tremendous tidal wave sprang up in front of Sonia.  She was too surprised to dodge as it crashed down on her.  Some of the water clung to her and twisted in on itself, forming a bubble that held her aloft.


Uh-oh!  I shouldn’t have let my guard down!


“Now the tables have turned!” Claud said.  He made a punching motion.  His pincer detached from his arm and spun through the air, popping the bubble and hitting Sonia before flying back to Claud.


“Sorry dear,” Lyra said, “maybe I shouldn’t have downplayed him as much as I did.  If given the chance, he can still cause a little damage.”


“No, it was my mistake,” Sonia said as she got up.  “I guess he won’t stop until we beat him.”


Claud raised another wave.  This time, Sonia used a sound pulse to punch a hole right through it, and then jumped through and kicked Claud across the Wave Road before he could react.  As he was recovering, she shot a few strings at him, and then played a chord to wear him down a bit more.


“Owowowow!” Claud exclaimed.  “What the heck, Cancer?!  You said that would work!”


“Well I expected you’d know to dodge her counterattack!”


“Enough!” Sonia shouted, shocking them with another note.  “If you two insist on fighting me, you’re not going to win—that’s just the way it is!  I’m restoring this concert no matter how long it takes to get you to back off.  Understand?”


She turned to the screen and, after a moment’s hesitation, flipped some of the switches.  On the monitor, she could see the sprinklers deactivate, and the crowd slowly started to calm down.


“Man,” Claud moaned, “I thought I could finally get what I wanted…”


Sonia looked at him.  “Is that really all you care about?  If you behave that way, then of course people are going to avoid you.”


Claud mumbled to himself.  Sighing, Sonia knelt down.  “Sorry.  That was too harsh.  Claud, was it?  Nobody can get what they want all the time.  Rather than trying to force that, you need to accept what you can and can’t get and find a way to make the most of it.”


She stood up and released the strings holding him.  “I need to get going.  But, if you wait around until the concert is done, I can talk with you some more, okay?”


Without waiting for a reply, she turned and left the Comp Space.  Claud sat for a bit, and then, sluggishly, got up and did the same.




After apologizing to the audience for the trouble, Sonia continued the concert and got everyone to forget about what had happened. (Much to her manager’s delight, no one even asked for a refund.) When everyone left, the tech crew started to shut everything down and prepare the stage to be dismantled the next day, so she walked across the park clearing and looked around.  Hanging by the gate was a boy wearing a pale-yellow, sleeveless jumpsuit with blue lines coming up the side of the legs and then meeting in an angle on the chest, along with a red vest and a red beanie that didn’t do a very good job of covering his spiky brown hair.


She approached him.  “Claud?”


He looked up, and his eyes went wide.  “Sonia Strumm?!  Wow, no way!  How do you know my name?”


“Well, actually, that was me in the Comp Space earlier.”


“For real?  Why didn’t you just say so?  I never would have fought if I knew it was you!  Oh, uh…sorry for trying to ruin your concert.  I just got really mad, and…”


Sonia smiled.  “No harm done.  Just don’t do anything like that again, okay?”


“Oh, definitely!  You can count on me, Sonia!”


“Thanks.  So…have you thought about what I said?”


Claud’s enthusiasm faded a little.  “Oh, yeah.  I mean, you’re probably right.  People always tell me I need to stop being so selfish, and—“


“Now wait just a minute!” Cancer interrupted.  “Lyra!  I’m not giving up on getting the Andromeda Key from you!”


“Settle down already,” Lyra told him.  “You’re clearly outclassed, and it sounds like your host won’t be willing to fight us again any time soon.  Not that there was never any chance of you getting the Key to begin with.”


“But…how can I return to Planet FM, then?”


“If you want my advice, don’t.  It’s a dreadful place and you’re not well-suited for it.  If you can learn to get along with this human boy, then I think Earth might be a better fit for you.”


Cancer grumbled something under his breath.  Claud said, “I don’t really know all the details, but I’ll definitely keep Cancer from getting out of control.”


Sonia nodded.  “That sounds good.  I think you two will really be able to help each other out one day.”


“Definitely!  Well, it was great to meet you, Sonia, but I should probably go.  If I take too much longer my parents might get worried.”


Claud started off.  Sonia called, “Oh, one last thing!  I probably don’t need to say it, but please don’t tell anyone about me and Lyra, alright?”


“Sure thing!  Your secret’s safe with me!”


He left, and Lyra asked, “Do you think you can really trust him?”


“I’m going to.  Maybe if he has someone depending on him, he’ll start to think about other people a little more.”


She paused to stretch.  “Today was exhausting.  Let’s go back and get some rest.”


As she left for the hotel, her manager was still by the stage yelling at the crew.  “You’re the ones to blame for this, I’m sure!  That’s the last time I use your company for anything!”


His Transer began to ring; flipping open the screen, he answered, “Hello?  Who is this?”


The screen was black, displaying the text “VOICE ONLY”.  “Hello.  You are the manager of the singer Sonia Strumm, are you not?”


“Yes, but I don’t really have time to talk right now.”


“My apologies, sir, but I really must insist.  I want to arrange to meet with you and discuss the incident that just occurred.”


“What?  How do you know about that already?”


“Oh, I suppose I didn’t introduce myself.  Please excuse me.  My name is Bob Copper, sir, and I represent the Satella Police.”




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Chapter 4



Sonia stepped into the foyer of AMAKEN and approached the main desk.  “Excuse me, is Mr. Boreal in?”


While the receptionist called Boreal’s lab, Sonia looked at the gray-tiled floor.  It had been only a couple days since the concert; news had gotten out, but there were no major complaints, and her next concert was still set for just a few weeks from now and selling well.




She had already been moved to a new hotel and had been told to get back to practicing.  Still, there wasn’t much her manager could do to keep her in the hotel when she and Lyra could Wave Change, so she had snuck out and come to AMAKEN in the hopes of clearing her head a little.


The receptionist hung up.  “He’s still finishing up some business, but he said you can come up right away.”


Sonia gave her thanks and went up to the lab.  When she stepped in, she saw Boreal standing next to his desk in the far corner, talking to a tall, middle-aged man in a brown trench coat.  He had black hair, and there was a peculiar antenna sitting on top of his head.


Who is that?


She noticed Geo sitting along the wall near her.  She waved, and he nodded in response.


“How have you been?” she asked.


“Alright, I guess.  Did you come to see Mr. Boreal too?”


“Yeah, I thought I’d pay him a visit.  Hopefully nothing weird happens this time, haha!”


The man in the coat turned around.  He strode towards the kids, asking, “You there.  You are Sonia Strumm, correct?”


Her muscles tensed.  “Yes?”


“My name is Bob Copper.  I’m an officer of the Satella Police, investigating the incident that occurred at this lab.”


He looked at his Transer.  “My word, the Z wave levels have gone up exponentially again!”


“Sorry, Sonia,” Boreal said, his eyes fixed on Copper’s back.  “This might take a little longer than I thought.”


“Oh, that’s alright, I just wanted to say hi and see how you were doing,” Sonia said.


“Hold on,” Copper interrupted.  “I’d like to ask you some questions as well, Ms. Strumm.”




“You were here at AMAKEN on the day of the incident, were you not?”


“Yes, I was.”


“And in addition, was there not a strange occurrence at your most recent concert?”


“Well…yes, there was.”


“Correct me if I’m wrong, but it was AMAKEN who set up the equipment for this concert, was it not?”


“Now hold on!” Boreal said.  “Just what are you implying, Mr. Copper?  AMAKEN has done nothing wrong!”


“Oh, no, I didn’t mean to imply otherwise, Mr. Boreal.  But, given these circumstances I think it’s reasonable to say AMAKEN is a target.”


“Target?” Sonia repeated.


Copper nodded.  “You see, at both incidents, high levels of Z waves were detected.  These waves are a very powerful type of radiation that is bad for the human body, and the Satella Police have decided we must locate and destroy the source.  It is for the good of public health.”


“Oh, I see.”


Boreal cleared his throat.  “Maybe you kids should come back another time.  Mr. Copper seemed to have a lot more to discuss with me.”


Sonia and Geo left the lab before Copper could protest.  As they made their way to the elevator, Sonia wondered, “That man seemed a little strange, don’t you think?”


“A little,” Geo agreed.  “I hope Mr. Boreal will be oka—“


Suddenly Geo’s left arm jerked forward, dragging him along with it.  “Hey, hey!”


Sonia stopped walking.  “Um…are you alright?”


“Ah, yeah, this is just, um…”


That was when another voice spoke up.  “Hey.  We should be far enough away now, don’t you think?”


Lyra was the one to respond.  “Goodness, could it be?  You’re one of the last ones I expected to make the trip.”


“Huh?  What’s that supposed to mean?!”


Sonia put on her Visualizer.  Lyra was out of the guitar, floating next to her; floating next to Geo was an animalistic mass of green light, with blue armor over its chest and head.


“You…you have an FM-ian with you?”


Geo put on his Visualizer as well.  Apparently it was now active, for he jumped upon seeing Lyra.  “You too?”


“So, what brings you to Earth, Omega-Xis?” Lyra asked.


“That’s Mega,” the other alien replied.  “And you know exactly why I’m here!  I’m not letting you keep the Andromeda Key!”


“And that’s what surprises me.  You never seemed to care much for the FM King—why are you so eager to get the Key back to him?”


“Who said I was taking it back to the FM King?  I don’t want it in his hands, but I don’t feel good leaving it in yours either.  Once I’ve got it, then I can be sure that no one will use that thing ever again.”


“Oh, is that it?  Why don’t you just put a little faith in me, Mega?  I promise I don’t plan on using it for anything terrible.”


“Yeah, like I’d believe that!”


Sonia put one hand to her head.  “Hold it, hold it.  Just to be sure, you’re another FM-ian, and you’re staying with Geo, but you aren’t possessing him?”


Geo shuddered.  “Possession?”


“Relax, kid,” Mega said.  “Yeah, I came to Earth from Planet FM and Geo here was kind enough to let me stay in his Transer.”


“Oh yeah, that’s how it happened…”


“And that one there, kid, is the person I told you I was looking for.  She stole something that could destroy this entire planet if it’s unleashed, and I’m taking it off her hands to make sure that doesn’t happen.”


Sonia turned to Lyra.  “You have what?!  Is that what that Key everyone’s been talking about does?”


Lyra glared at Mega.  “That’s what it is intended to do, yes, but I don’t plan to destroy any planets, I assure you.  All I need it for is…leverage.”


“I still don’t like the sound of that,” Mega said.  “If you won’t hand it over, then I guess we’ll just have to fight for it, fair and square.”


“What?” Geo exclaimed.  “I’ve only been fighting viruses—there’s no way I can fight a person!”


“If you can convince your partner,” Lyra said, “I’d be happy to oblige.  But, this place is no good if that man can detect Z Waves.”


Mega nodded.  “Come to Echo Ridge, then, and we can settle things there.”


“Echo Ridge?  What a coincidence, we just moved to a hotel near there.  We can defeat you and be back home before dinnertime.”


“Why you…!  Alright, kid, let’s go.”


Geo looked at him.  “But, Mega, I’m still not—“


Mega returned to his Transer, and Geo’s arm dragged him forward again.  “Ow!  Fine, fine, I’m going!”


After Geo got in the elevator and left, Lyra said, “I suppose I’ve never seen what Mega can do when Wave Changed.  Regardless, he’s neither the sharpest nor the strongest, so I don’t expect he’ll give us much trouble.”


She turned to Sonia, who was staring straight ahead.  “…Sonia?”


“You should have told me.”




Sonia looked her in the eye, making her recoil.  “You should have told me that was why they were following you.  I never thought it was because of something like this.”


“…Yes, well—“


“You said you wanted to have something analyzed, and that you wanted to see our weapons technology.  You’re trying to find a way to use that Key, aren’t you?”


Lyra turned away.


“That sure doesn’t sound like a good thing to me.”


“As I said, all I need is leverage.”


“But what do you mean by that?”


“I need to have a talk with our ruler, the FM King.  He’ll be much more open to what I have to say if I show him I have the power to control Andromeda.”


Lyra returned to her guitar.  Sonia started towards the elevator again.  Neither said anything as she pressed the button and waited, but once she was inside and the lift began to descend, she spoke up.


“I told you that I was going to show you the good, Lyra, and I still mean that.  You should have told me about this sooner…but I guess I can understand why you didn’t.  So I guess it falls to me to convince you not to use that Key.”


The elevator doors opened.


“It shouldn’t take us long to get to Echo Ridge, if it’s where I think it is.  If you can come up with a way to make Mega give up on getting the Key from you in the meantime, I’d really appreciate having to go through one less fight.”




Sonia looked down from the Wave Road to survey Echo Ridge.  It was a small town—only around a dozen houses were visible from here—and the only store she could see was a large ocean-themed building with a small open area next to it.  A school could be seen a few blocks down, and she thought she could see a pathway leading past that, but she couldn’t be sure from this distance.


She wasn’t waiting long before Geo approached.  Wave Changed, he wore a dark blue jumpsuit with yellow lines on the sides of his torso and legs, a lighter shade of blue coloring his greaves, arm guard, and chest armor.  His left hand was replaced with Mega’s head, still glowing in a blaze of green light, and he wore a blue and white helmet with an open back and a pink visor.


“Wait…you’re Harp Note?” Geo said.  “You’re the one who saved us at AMAKEN.”


Sonia nodded.  “Yeah, that was me.  Listen, Geo…I really don’t want to fight you.”


“I don’t want to fight you either.  Please, just give us the Andromeda Key.”


“Not a chance, dear,” Lyra replied.  “You had best just turn around and leave.”


“I don’t think so!” Mega said.  “Whatever you’re planning, if it involves that thing it can’t be good.”


“Oh?  Didn’t you ‘plan’ on taking it for yourself?”


“To keep it from being used!”


“As you said.  And as I said, I’m not going to destroy any planets.  Seems there might be a few plans involving the Key that aren’t so bad after all, hm?”


“Well…shut up!”


Geo lifted his arm so he could look at Mega.  “Maybe we should listen.  If she isn’t going to use it, then there isn’t really a reason to fight her.”


“Don’t let her trick you!  She’d destroy the Earth in a second if she thought it served her purpose.”


“So you don’t trust anyone either,” Sonia sighed.  “…Alright.  If we battle, maybe that’ll calm you down.  Are you okay with that, Geo?”


Geo gulped.  “Um…”


With a smile, she added, “Don’t worry, we’ll go easy on you.”


“You’ll what?” Mega growled.


After hesitating for another moment, Geo said, “I guess it would be the easiest way to get Mega to let it go.  Okay.”


They both took up a battle stance.  Geo pointed with his left arm and Mega opened his mouth, spitting out a blast of energy.  Sonia sidestepped and played a few notes, sending Geo on the run, constantly turning to keep him in her sights.  Suddenly Geo stopped.  He faced the next note and shot it, the two attacks cancelling each other out, and then fired a rapid stream of bullets.  Now Sonia was on the run, but she managed to close the gap as she dodged and launched a quick note from Geo’s side.  He pivoted and crossed his arms, summoning a shield of solid green light to protect him, and when it disappeared he pointed again.


“Plasma Gun!”


Mega’s head flashed and became replaced with a glass orb filled with electricity and sporting a barrel on its end.  Sonia was too surprised to dodge the bolt that flew out of it, leaving her paralyzed for a short time.




The orb became replaced by a block-shaped gun that fired a powerful shot, sending Sonia skidding back across the Wave Road.


“Aren’t those Battle Cards?” Sonia asked.  “I didn’t know you could use them like that.”


The Cannon disappeared quickly.  As Mega returned, he taunted, “Scared yet?  You can give up whenever!”


Sonia aimed the neck of her guitar.  “Don’t be ridiculous.”


Strings flew out and grabbed Geo, allowing Sonia to get in a series of hits with her notes.  Before too long, though, Geo was able to transform his hand into a Sword and cut himself free.  He panted and watched Sonia closely.


“It’s impressive you can use Battle Cards that way,” Sonia said, “but it’ll take more than that to scare me off.  Let me show you why!”


She summoned two speakers and prepared to play.  That was when Geo vanished, reappearing a second later right in front of her, and slashed her with another Sword before returning to his previous location.


Lyra remarked, “That was a cheap shot, Mega.”


“You shouldn’t have left yourself wide open,” Mega said.


“Was that some kind of teleportation?” Sonia asked.


“That was our Mega Attack.  Once I acquire a target, I can instantly transmit myself to their location so that there’s no escape!”


“Wow…combined with the versatility of Battle Cards, that’s pretty serious.”


“Hah!  Maybe now you want to give up?”


“Of course not.”


Sonia sent out another note.  Geo was able to dodge, but he ran right into a note from one of the speakers.  While he was stunned from the hit, Sonia snagged him with her guitar strings and pulled him closer to the speaker, so that each note she played not only travelled down the strings but also came from the box for a second hit.


“Augh!  Uh, Ice Meteor!”


Sonia saw three chunks of ice falling from above.  She cut the strings and flipped out of the way; her speakers were destroyed, but she was able to get clear and hit Geo with another note as he was recovering.  He shook his head, looked right at her, and used the Mega Attack to get in front of her, only to be struck once again before he could even form his weapon.  When he returned to his previous location, he fell over and rubbed his head.


“No way!” Mega shouted.  “Did you always have this much power?”


“Heheh, I guess you just weren’t paying attention, dear,” Lyra said.


Geo stood up.  “Like I said, Mega, we’ve only been fighting viruses.  I knew it’d be a lot different fighting a person.  Winning the Key from her when I’m like this isn’t very likely.”


“Hey, the battle’s only just getting started!” Mega stated.  “Pick your best cards, kid—we can still show ‘em!”


“Are you even listening?”


Sonia raised her arm high.  “Maybe this will knock some sense into him.”


Before she could attack, she spotted something out of the corner of her eye.  “Geo, get down!”


She dashed forward and played a note.  It flew past Geo and farther down the Wave Road, colliding with a flying energy ball and making it explode.  Beyond that stood three identical figures: tall humanoids clad in brown and black armor with spikes on their shoulders and arms, black visors that covered nearly their entire faces, and antenna on their heads that each sported a ring of eerie red light.


“You missed!” one of them said.


“Hey, you were the one who said we should attack while they had their backs turned,” said a second.


“W-What do we do now?” asked the third.


“Such dreadful timing,” Lyra said.


Sonia looked at her guitar.  “Who are these creeps?”


“Those would be Jammers.  They’re the result of a virus Wave Changing with a material being, in this case humans.”


“What?  Now viruses can possess people too?”


“Sorry, dear, the FM-ians have a lot of nasty tricks up their sleeves.  Are these some of yours, Mega?”


Mega scoffed.  “Don’t insult me.  I’ve never been one for lackeys.”


One of the Jammers heard him and angrily shook his fist.  “Hey!  Who are you calling lackeys?”


“If you deal enough damage, the virus will be deleted and the human will automatically return to the Real World,” Lyra explained.  “They can certainly be a nuisance, but they’re far easier to deal with than an actual FM-ian.”


Sonia nodded.  Turning to Geo, she offered, “Truce?”


“Truce,” Geo agreed.  He ran to Sonia’s side and aimed Mega.


One of the Jammers declared, “Alright then, we’ll just have to fight them head on!  It’s three against two!  We can take them!”

As they were about to charge, Geo called a Heat Ball to his hand and lobbed it.  A cloud of fire consumed the Jammers, preventing them from seeing the notes Sonia sent after them .  One of the Jammers ran at her; he punched, but she leapt back and retaliated before he knew what hit him.  Geo warped in front of the other two and swung a Wide Sword, slicing them both.  One tried to punch him in return, but he warped back before the blow could connect.  The first Jammer transformed his arm into a gun and shot a series of bullets at Sonia, who jumped up to dodge and then sent down a note, slamming the Jammer against the Wave Road.  He groaned, and Geo turned towards him.


“Ground Wave!”


A white shockwave moved along the ground towards the Jammer, knocking him back towards Sonia.  As she continued to attack him, Geo turned back to the other two and used an Air Spread card, hitting them both with one blast.


“We need to split up!” said one.  “You move in, I’ll give you support from here.”


“Why do I have to move in?”


“Just do it!”


The other Jammer reluctantly moved down the Wave Road, shooting his blaster as he went.  Geo threw up his shield and waited.  When the Jammer paused, he lowered the barrier and attacked with a blast from Mega.  Unfortunately, this gave the other Jammer a chance to shoot him in the side.


“Fire Ring!”


A wheel of fire spun towards the far Jammer.  Geo turned back to the closer one, rolling to avoid his punch.  When he sprang up, he attacked with a Sword, and then looked at the distant foe again.  He used the Mega Attack to jump over and blast the Jammer with a Cannon.  When he returned, however, the other Jammer was prepared for him, and he found a gun being pointed in his face.


“Geo, look out!”


Strings entangled the Jammer and pulled him away, making his shot miss Geo by a mile.  Sonia reeled him in and threw him into the Jammer she had been fighting, stunning them both.  She raised her arm high once again, and when she brought it down on her guitar, it emitted a large shockwave that sent both Jammers flying.  When they struck the Wave Road, they both disappeared in a burst of light.


“Uh…thanks,” Geo said.


The last remaining Jammer staggered back.  “Uh-oh!”


He turned to run, but Geo paralyzed him with a shot from the Plasma Gun.  Sonia played a few notes for him, and then he too blinked off of the Wave Road.


“Are you okay?” Sonia asked.


“Yeah,” Geo said, “I’m fine.”


“Hmm, this is a bit foreboding, don’t you think?” Lyra said.


“I hate to say it, but you’re right,” Mega responded.  “If there are Jammers about, then another FM-ian must already be here, waiting for an opportunity.”


“Say, Mega.  I think it would work to both our advantage if we set aside our differences for the time being, don’t you?”


“Come again?”


“Even if you’d rather keep the Key yourself, it’s at least better that it stay with me than be taken back to the FM King, yes?  So it wouldn’t be in your best interest if I were to lose it.”


Mega blinked.  “…You’re not really suggesting that we team up, are you?”


“Oh, don’t be so sour.”


“Actually, it does make sense,” Sonia said.  “If more FM-ians are on their way, then we’d have a much better chance of stopping them if we worked together.  How about it?”


Geo looked down.  “...I don’t get it.”




“I don’t get how you can be like this.”


“I’m sorry?  Did I do something wrong?”


“Before, didn’t you say that it’s only been a few months since your mother went to Heaven?”


Sonia stared at him.  “…Yes.”


“Then how can you be like this?  How can you still act happy and try to make friends with people?  Isn’t it painful for you?”


She stopped to think of a response.


“What is this ‘Heaven’?” Mega asked.


“Mega, shh!” Lyra scolded.


“What?  I just want to—“


“Mega.  That’s what humans say when one of them ‘passes on’.”




Sonia shifted her weight.


“Months?  And you’re still so cheery?”




“Sorry for underestimating you, girl.  You’re tougher than I thought.”


Sonia looked at him.  “What?”


“It takes a lot of strength to act the way you’ve been so close to a loss like that.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone who could do it before, and I’ve seen a lot of people out there.”


Mega glanced at her guitar for a moment, and then looked back.  “Fine.  I don’t like leaving the Andromeda Key in Lyra’s hands, but someone like you…well, you might actually be more suited to hold it than me.  Hey, Geo.  It’s not what I had planned, but maybe for now we should stay on their side.”


Geo shook his head.  “But…I can’t.  I can’t get close to someone again.”


Sonia felt like she was spinning.  She took a moment to steady herself, and then, after a deep breath, she put a hand on Geo’s shoulder.


“At AMAKEN you said you didn’t want friends.  Is that because you’re afraid of losing someone you care about again?  Like what happened to your dad?”


Geo didn’t answer.


“I know how much it hurts to lose someone.  But even still, nobody can do everything by themselves.  I don’t know if the pain will ever go away, but…I think if you dwell on it, it can only get worse.  If you keep making friends and sharing your life with people, though, it’ll give you something else to focus on.  Something a lot better.”


She stepped back.  “You don’t have to decide now, but please let me at least give you my contact info.  If you ever want to talk to me, about anything, don’t be afraid to get in touch.”


Geo looked up at her, and slowly he nodded.  “…Okay.  Thank you.”




Sonia sank into the bench next to the bus stop, sighing heavily.  “That went pretty well, I guess.”

“I’m impressed, Sonia,” Lyra said.  “Mega never struck me as one to listen to reason.  Getting him as an ally was a real long shot, but you managed to pull it off.”


“I didn’t do anything, really.”


“Nonsense.  He was right: you’re a very strong girl.  I think you’ll really be able to help that boy out.”


“I hope so.”


Lyra waited a moment, and then continued, “But, Sonia, aren’t you worried you might spread yourself a bit thin?”


Sonia sat up.  “What do you mean?”


“Correct me if I’m wrong, but it sounds like you really didn’t have a whole lot of time to grieve for your mother, so you must still be carrying a lot of pain around.”


Sonia leaned forward.


“On top of that, you’re still pursuing your singing career.  That’s enough stress without the atrocious manager, not to mention that it seemed to me like you were getting a bit anxious about that last performance.”


She scratched her head.


“And of course there’s this whole situation with the FM-ians.”


Sonia closed her eyes.  “Which reminds me, about that Key—“


“And now, in addition to all that, you want to take the time to help this boy.  Strong as you are, Sonia, a list like that is going to exact a fierce toll on anyone.”


“If I have a chance to help people, I want to take it.  That’s why I’m helping you, and that’s why I want to help Geo.”


“And the concerts?”


Sonia sat back again.  “I don’t want to let them down.  They want to hear me sing, and they’ve said that my songs mean a lot to them.  I don’t want to take that away from them.”


“Alright.  But, what do those songs mean to you?”


Sonia bit her lip.  “…I…wrote them for my Mama.  When she was sick.  We spent a lot of time together.  She always seemed so upset.  She tried to hide it from me, but I could tell something was on her mind.  Probably her illness.  When I started singing, I could see her forget about it.  She brightened up, she looked happier than I’d seen her in so long.  So I kept singing.  I signed up for an audition because I thought it would make her happy.  She did seem happy, but I got to see her less when I became a singer, and when she…”


Sonia turned in her seat, putting a hand over her face.  “I don’t want to let my fans down.  But…sometimes I worry that I’m betraying Mama.  These were her songs, and now all they do is make money for my manager.  Doesn’t that cheapen them?  Take away their meaning?”


Lyra thought, then asked, “Is that what you think it does?”


“Maybe.  I don’t know.”


“Well, perhaps it would be better for you to take the time to find out.”


Sonia shook her head.


“Just a suggestion.  But while it is admirable to take care of others, you can’t forget to take care of yourself as well, Sonia.  If you become overwhelmed, you won’t be able to help anyone.”


A few quiet seconds passed.


“Lyra,” Sonia said, “really, about the Key—“


“Oh, I think I hear the bus approaching.  Come on, dear, we should head back, don’t you think?”


Sonia sighed and pushed herself off of the bench.




Edited by Pahrak #0579
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Chapter 5



Sonia paced up and down the Wave Road above the classroom, closely observing the students in the desks below.  Above the head of each she could see an EM wave projection shaped like an open book, a sign of the “Study Wave” that had been activated to stimulate brain activity.  They were all totally silent, heads hanging and eyes devoid of light.  At the front of the room stood a dark-skinned man with a large afro, wearing a lab coat and with two beakers hanging from his neck.  He watched them just as quietly, looking angry and tensed the entire time.


So that’s Mr. Shepar?  He doesn’t seem anything like the way Geo described him.


They had been corresponding for a little over two weeks now.  She had done her best to encourage him without pushing too hard (for Luna was already covering that extreme), and somewhere between that, the Class President’s persistence, Mega’s curiosity, and running into another classmate who had seemed interesting, Geo had decided that it he would try going to school again.  The first few emails reporting back had been positive.  Luna and her crew were far more tolerable in this setting, he was becoming fast friends with a boy named Pat, and he had described his teacher as being a very kind man who preferred to take an unorthodox approach and teach the kids what he thought was really important in life rather than just how to study.  When Mr. Shepar’s attitude suddenly shifted, Geo had feared the worst.


“I can’t tell if there’s an FM-ian with him or not,” Lyra said.  “This Study Wave is creating a terrible amount of static.”


“We’ll watch for today, maybe tomorrow as well,” Sonia said.  “If we can’t find any proof of an FM-ian by then, it might be best to leave it be for now.  I was hoping to check in on Mr. Boreal again.”


“Now that I think about it, I’ve been meaning to ask you.  When we last went to the laboratory, that strange man introduced himself as part of some police force?  Could you elaborate?”


“Oh yeah, the Satella Police.  They’re a special law enforcement division that works directly under NAZA.”


“NAZA has their own personal police force?  Oh dear, that doesn’t sound good at all.”


“I don’t think they’ve caused any problems.”


“Well they’re going to be a problem if they can detect Z Waves.  That’s the type of radiation we EM Beings are made of.”


Turning to her guitar, Sonia asked, “Wait, so you’re saying he was detecting you and Mega that time?”


“Precisely.  Not only does it seem NAZA has picked up our trail, but we won’t have an easy way to hide from them.  We’ll have to tread a lot more carefully going forward.”


Sonia looked back to Mr. Shepar.  “I know that NAZA isn’t run by the best of people, but I was never told anything that would make me believe they’re truly dangerous.  Why are you so wary of them?”


Before Lyra could answer, a student below (Bud, if Sonia remembered his name right) mumbled, “This is so boring…”


Shepar’s fist slammed down on the podium he stood behind.  “What was that?!”


The kids all jumped.  Sonia squinted, and Lyra said, “Wait, I think I’m picking up on something…”


“School doesn’t have to be fun!” Shepar yelled.  “Grades are the only thing that’s important—we need to do whatever we can to raise your test scores, whether you like it or not!”


“It’s definitely a loneliness wave!” Lyra said.


Sonia ran forward.  “Oh no!”


Shepar grabbed his head, grumbling, “Higher, higher, higher, higher, higher, higher, higher…!”


A flash of light consumed him.  When it passed, he had been encased in massive cylindrical shell of brass armor that resembled a scale, with two thin arms protruding from opposite sides and supporting dishes with a few cords.  In one dish was a large blaze of fire, and in the other was a spinning funnel of water.  His arms began to move slowly—as one rose, the other fell, giving the impression that the weights of the dishes were constantly shifting, trying but continuously failing to find balance.


“Libra,” Lyra identified.  “Well, this’ll be interesting.”


Sonia gripped her guitar.  Possession.  That means I’ll have to…


The students screamed.  Shepar stared forward, saying, “I no longer have any need for ideals.  Study Wave!”


A high-pitched whine broke out.  The book-shaped projections started to glow brighter, and the students all began to babble out streams of information with pained expressions as Sonia watched on in horror.  Shepar watched as well, his expression remaining completely flat, until he finally wheeled out of the classroom and into the hallway.


“Shall we follow him?” Lyra asked.


Sonia looked at the students, eventually focusing on Geo.  “What about them?”


Suddenly Geo’s left arm jerked, colliding with the side of his own face and knocking him from his desk.  As he hit the floor, he said, “Ow!  Huh?  What’s going on?”


Lyra sighed.  “Mega, if only you had some tact…”


Geo stood up and put on his Visualizer.  Sonia waved to him, but before she could say anything, the boy sitting next to him—short green hair, purple and white clothing—turned to him and asked, “Are you okay?”


Geo was startled.  “Huh?  Oh, uh, yeah.  What about you, Pat?”


That’s the one he was talking about?


“I never turned the Study Wave on, so I’m fine.  But, what do you think happened to Mr. Shepar?  It’s like he’s a completely different person.”


Geo glanced at Sonia.  She nodded and headed towards the door, and he said, “Well, I’m sure he’ll be okay.  We should probably wake up the others.”


Pat shook his head.  “Unless you plan to go around hitting all of them, I don’t think it’ll work.  We’d need to deactivate the Study Wave controls in the studio down the hall to make this stop, and, well, I’m guessing that’s where Mr. Shepar was headed.”


As Sonia was about to exit the room, a shadow was cast over her.  She jumped back just in time as something came crashing down from above.  When she looked up, she saw a Jammer, but this one was easily twice the size of the ones she had fought before.


“Who do you think you are?” she asked.  “I don’t have time to deal with you, so get out of my way!”


The Jammer chuckled.  “Is that so?  Well, I guess I could do that…if you give me the Andromeda Key!”


“Did you really expect that to work?” Lyra asked.  “Seems Libra’s minions are a bit dumber than I was expecting.”


“Who said I was working for Libra?”


Sonia grimaced.  “You mean…there’s another FM-ian already here?”


“What’s it to you?  It’s not like you’ll be getting to meet them!”


The Jammer ran forward.  Sonia dodged his punch and played a note, but though it hit him head-on, he didn’t even flinch.  He spun and threw another punch, sending her flying.


“Haha!  Is that the best the mighty Harp Note can do?”


The Jammer fired a series of shots.  Sonia cartwheeled away and summoned her speakers, bombarding the Jammer with wave upon wave of notes, but he took the hits and was able to destroy the amplifiers too.


“This is crazy,” Sonia mumbled.


“I hate to break it to you dear, but Libra’s defenses are at least this tough,” Lyra said.  “If you can’t even scratch this opponent, well…”


Sonia nodded.  “When you put it like that, I suppose I’ll just have to find a way.”


More shots flew at her.  She ran forward in a serpentine motion, and when she came close enough she sent her guitar strings to wrap around the enemy’s gun.  Sonia yanked, pulling the gun down and the Jammer forward, and used the force to pull herself up as well, delivering a kick directly to the Jammer’s face and then flipping over his head.  The Jammer spun and tried to grab her, but she ran circles around him, tying him up in the strings until he could no longer move.  Digging her feet into the Road, Sonia gave one massive tug, bringing the Jammer toppling down, and then unleashed a point-blank sound pulse to batter him.


“Whew!  That should be enough.”


She moved to leave again.  The Jammer struggled at first, but managed to break free of the strings.  He grabbed Sonia and slammed her into the Wave Road.


“Not quite!” he roared.


He raised one fist.


“Freeze Knuckle!”


Something invisible collided with the Jammer, knocking him back and encasing him in a small pillar of ice.  Geo faded into view a second later.


“Break Sabre!”


Mega’s head transformed into a long, drill-like sword.  Geo took two running steps and then lunged, swinging the blade and cleaving straight through his frozen foe.  The Jammer doubled over and grunted, “N-No…Lord…Gemini…!”


He disappeared in a small yet fiery implosion.  As Sonia climbed back to her feet, Lyra said, “Did he just say what I think he said?”


“No doubt about it,” Mega replied.  “Gemini has already set his schemes in motion.”


Geo ran up to Sonia.  “Are you okay?”


She smiled.  “Yeah, thanks to you.”


“Well, I was only able to do that because you weakened him.  Besides, you saved me before.”


“Yeah.  I guess we do make a pretty good team!”


She turned back to the students.  “Hey, where did Pat go?”


“I told him we should split up and check on the rest of the school.  It was the only way I could think of to get to the Wavehole without him noticing.”


“Hate to interrupt, but we’ve got bigger problems to deal with,” Mega said.


“Right,” Sonia said.  “You both seem to know this Gemini.  Who is that?”


“Very, very bad news,” Lyra answered.  “Gemini is one of the most powerful FM-ians, the closest advisor of the FM King himself.  If he’s already on Earth, then there’s no telling what sort of trouble he’s stirring up.”


“Should we look around?” Geo asked.  “Maybe that Jammer left some sort of trail.”


“Gemini isn’t that sloppy,” Mega said.  “Right now, let’s just focus on dealing with Libra.  Sonia, do you need a minute to heal up?”


Sonia shook her head.  “Judging by the looks of them, I don’t think I can afford to waste any time.”


The two of them made their way out of the classroom.  As they did, however, they heard a small voice.




Sonia stopped mid-step.  She turned and looked back at the students, who continued to vomit forth knowledge at the same rate as before.  Luna, however, was looking upward.  A small amount of light could be seen in her eyes, and she forced out the words, “Harp Note…I know you’ll…save us…please…”


Sonia could only stare.  Geo hesitated, then said, “She’s been going on like that ever since AMAKEN, really.  Every time I’ve seen her, at least.  You left a really strong impression on her.”


“She…really believes in me that much?”


After another moment, Sonia said, “Don’t worry, Luna.  I’ll protect you.”




The Comp Space of the Study Wave was a green void with an endless stream of numbers and letters ripping across it at breakneck speeds.  At the end of the Wave Road was a large platform styled after a notebook, and atop it sat a red console resembling a teacher’s desk, a green screen that looked like a chalkboard, and the possessed form of Shepar.


“What’s this?” he asked as Geo and Sonia approached.  “Who are you?  How are you two able to move about when the Study Wave is on?”


“I’m Harp Note,” Sonia said, “and this is…um…”


Fumbling a moment, Geo said, “I’m, uh…Mega Man?”


A new voice said, “Lyra, I was hoping to find you.  But, Mega, are you really working with her?”


“Not exactly,” Mega replied.  “It’s more like ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ or whatever.”


“Mr. Shepar, please turn off the Study Wave!” Geo pleaded.  “It’s doing terrible things to the students!”


“I can’t,” Shepar said.  “If the kids’ grades don’t improve, I’ll be fired.”


“What?” Sonia said.  “They can’t do that!”


“I’m afraid they can.  I really don’t want to do this, but if I don’t, then I won’t be able to take care of my own kids.”


“Now I see why Libra was drawn to you,” Lyra said.  “Let me guess: sacrifices must be made?”


“Don’t mock me!” Libra snapped.  “You know as well as I do that to protect something, something else must be sacrificed in turn!”


“I’m not fully disagreeing, per se, but you tend to follow that mantra to an extreme.”


“I have my reasons.  More importantly, now it’s time for you to make a choice: are you going to give me the Andromeda Key, or am I going to have to take it from you?”


“None of the above!” Sonia said.  “I can’t let you take something that dangerous, just like I won’t let you keep endangering the students!  Please, just let Mr. Shepar go and turn off the Study Wave!”


Shepar rolled forward.  “If you want to turn off the Study Wave, you’re going to have to get through me!”


A blast of flame flew from one of his dishes.  It hit the space between Sonia and Geo, erupting into a wall of fire that singed them both.  Geo retaliated with a few shots, but they all bounced off of Shepar’s armor.  He rotated, his arms shifting as he moved, and now shot a blast of water.  Geo blocked with his shield while Sonia jumped clear.


“We need a plan,” Sonia said.  “He looks sturdier than that Jammer, so I don’t think I’ll be able to do the same thing.”


Shepar raised both his arms.  A colossal weight appeared in the air just above Sonia, barely giving her enough time to dodge.  Geo attacked with a Cannon, getting Shepar’s attention but not accomplishing much else, and then ran to avoid another weight.  Shepar ignored the notes hitting his back and shot a fire blast at Geo to keep him pinned down.


Well, in that case.


Sonia ran at the control panel.  Spotting her, Shepar threw a water blast.  She had to stop, but now Geo moved forward, forcing Shepar to turn back to him.  Sonia made another move forward, nearly reaching the console.  Frustrated, Shepar raised both arms and began to spin, calling up a whirlwind of fire and water that scattered his opponents, and then moved back towards the console.


“You’re not going to pass this test!” Shepar said.  “Please, just get out of here.  I don’t want to have to hurt you.”


Geo and Sonia regrouped, the former saying, “I guess we can’t get past him.  We’ll have to find some way to beat him.”


Sonia thought for a moment.  “If we lure him into using that attack again, can you block it?”




“Can you block his spinning attack?  And then, do you think there’s a way you could stun him right after, maybe with that sword from earlier?”


“That…could probably work, I guess.”


Nodding, Sonia ran to one side of Shepar and waved Geo in the opposite direction.


“Why won’t you give up?” Shepar asked.


“Because we’re not willing to sacrifice the students,” Sonia said.  “Really, I don’t understand why you are.”


“I told you, I have to take care of my own kids!”


“Isn’t there a way you can take care of them both?  I know it must have been a shock to hear you could be fired; I don’t blame you for feeling like you had to pick one or the other.  But, if you had been thinking clearly, don’t you think you might have been able to come up with a plan that was at least better than this?”


“Stupid girl,” Libra sneered.  “You think all choices can just be avoided?  Sometimes, sacrifices must be made!”


“…Maybe,” Sonia said.  “But not always.”


“Always!  Life is nothing but sacrifices!  The only way to live is to sacrifice and sacrifice until eventually you end up being sacrificed too!”


Sonia lowered her guitar.  “Is that what you’re afraid of?”


Surprisingly, Libra didn’t say anything.  It was Shepar who replied, “You’re just a kid, so I don’t expect you to know what it’s like to face a difficult choice like this.”


“Don’t be so sure!” Geo said.  “You’re right that sometimes, things have to be sacrificed—even if we’re kids, we still know that, and we’ve still had to make tough decisions.  But if you know which decision is right, then no matter how difficult it is…I think you still have to do your best to make it.  And I think you need to make the choice to stop the Study Wave, and find a way to take care of your students as well as your kids!”


Shepar rotated towards him.  “…What will it take to make you two leave?”


Geo opened fire.  After a slight pause, Sonia added to the barrage, trapping Shepar in their crossfire.  He still took no damage.  As he raised both arms high, Sonia stopped attacking, and latched onto one of his arms with her guitar strings.


“Sonia,” Lyra said, “you’re not really going to…?”


Shepar spun around, calling up another whirlwind.  Geo defended himself with his shield, and Sonia was pulled into the air, hanging on tight as she was spun around and trying to keep focused on where she was aiming.  It became easier when Shepar started to slow down, allowing her to find just the right moment to let go so that her momentum would fling her straight towards the console.  Shepar tried to attack her, but Geo leapt and swung the Break Sabre at his chest, leaving a crack in his armor and making him slide back with a dazed look.


“Alright, time to shut this down!” Sonia said, typing away at the keys.  It only took a few seconds to disable the program.


Shepar groaned, “No…I can’t…”


Sonia turned as he regained his balance.  She dodged another weight and looked to Geo, jerking her head towards the crack.  Geo nodded.  He blocked a wave of fire and then summoned a Cannon, aiming directly at Shepar’s chest.  The impact widened the gap in the armor and stunned him once again.


Aiming her guitar, Sonia said, “I’m really sorry about this!”


Strings shot into the opening.  When they were secured, Sonia took a deep breath and brought her hand down on the guitar, sending another sound pulse down the strings and bypassing Shepar’s protection entirely.  He shouted as the waves shook him, and when they finally stopped, his arms fell and the dishes emptied, his stamina completely gone.  Sonia stumbled.  Geo steadied her by the shoulders, and they watched Shepar closely.


“I don’t believe it,” Libra wheezed.  “Is this…really the end…?”


“Can you separate from him?” Sonia asked.  “Is there any way we can free him without hurting you?”


“You should know there isn’t.”


Sonia looked down.  Shepar stirred, raising his arms a little higher.  “I’m not done.  I can’t get fired.  I have to—“


He winced.  As he stopped to catch his breath, voices could be heard coming from outside the computer.


“Mr. Shepar!”


“Mr. Shepar?  Are you here?”


“Mr. Shepar, where are you?”


Up on the screen they could see the rest of the students filing into the studio.  They looked around, one of them saying, “I don’t think he’s here.”


Luna pointed, saying, “Well, keep searching!  Mr. Shepar has obviously fallen ill, so it’s our responsibility to make sure he gets some medical attention ASAP!”


Shepar stared up at the monitor.  “They…still believe in me…?”


“Yeah,” Bud said, “there’s no way he’d say all that stuff about studying unless he ate something bad.  We gotta do what we can to make sure he gets well.”


They moved on, still calling out to their teacher.  Shepar sighed.  “Those kids…even after all this, they still believe in me.  This was a mistake.”


“What are you talking about?” Libra asked.  “I told you, sacrifices—“


“No,” Shepar interrupted.  “These two were right.  This is a situation where I don’t have to make a sacrifice, I just need to think about it a little harder.  I can still find a way to protect these kids and my own kids.  I’m not going to forget that ever again.”


Shepar began to glow.  Libra shouted, “No, wait, don’t!  Please, I don’t want to be the one sacrificed!”


And then he was gone.  Shepar returned to normal and collapsed on the Wave Road, unconscious but otherwise fine.  Geo looked around and asked, “Where’s Libra?”


“…He’s gone,” Sonia whispered.  “Come on.  We need to help Mr. Shepar out of here.”




Sonia watched from the Wave Road as Geo walked back into the classroom.  Pat ran up to him immediately, saying, “Geo!  Oh, I’m so glad you’re okay!  Where did you go?”


“I, um…sort of got locked in a closet,” Geo said.


“Hmph, I don’t know what I expected,” Luna scoffed.  “You’ll be happy to know that we found Mr. Shepar and that he has been taken to the school nurse.  Whatever’s going on with him, he should be fine soon.”


Pat nodded.  “Yeah, but…he said he felt so bad about what happened that he was going to resign.”


Geo jumped.  “What?!”


Luna shook her head.  “I won’t allow that.  Even if they try to push the blame for this on him, I’ll find a way to make them bring him back.”


Zack joined the group now, saying, “We could always put together a petition.  If we get enough signatures, that should show the principal that we’re serious.”


“Excellent idea Zack!  Begin drawing it up now, just in case.”


“Huh?!  Why do I have to do it?”


Geo chuckled.  Luna turned on him.  “And just what is so funny?”


“Nothing, nothing at all.”


“So,” Pat said, “what do you think made Mr. Shepar stop?”


Luna answered, “It was definitely Harp Note.”


“Here we go again,” Zack grumbled.


“I know it was!  I heard her, when the Study Wave was on.  She said that she would protect us, and that’s exactly what she did!”


Sonia scratched her head.  “Geez, you heard that?  That’s sort of embarrassing…”


She turned and walked out of the room.  Out on the hallway Wave Road, she sighed heavily and rubbed her shoulder.


“You must be exhausted after having two tough fights back to back,” Lyra said.


“I’ll be okay.”


She kept walking.






“Libra…he was really afraid.”


“Sonia, I—“


“He was so afraid of being sacrificed, that he was willing to sacrifice everything.  He must have felt so empty, feeling like he had to give up everything.”


She clenched her fist.  “But, at the same time…it also hurts to keep everything when you know you can’t.  I think you might’ve been right, Lyra.  Maybe I have been taking on too much.  Libra couldn’t find balance, and that destroyed him.  I don’t want the same thing to happen to me.”


“I’m glad to hear it.  It wouldn’t do if you overexerted yourself.”


Sonia laughed.  “Right.  Who would help you hang onto that stupid Key?”


She rode the Wave Road out of the school.  “I’ll have to tell my manager that this next concert will be my last.  Maybe not forever, but at least for now.  I need some time to think about what I’m really doing with my songs.”


As she prepared to leave, she heard someone call out to her.  Geo came running up the Road.  He stopped in front of her to catch his breath, and then said, “I don’t think I actually thanked you.”


“You don’t have to thank me.  We’re friends, right?”


“Well…yeah.  I guess we are.”


He looked at her for a moment.  “Um…Sonia…I don’t really know much about being a good friend, but now I think I’m starting to see the good that can come of it.  So, uh…do you think, maybe, we could…form a BrotherBand?”


Sonia blinked.  “R…really?”


“I mean, you don’t have to—“


“Oh, no, no, I’d love to!  I’d love to become Brothers!”




“Of course!  Let’s see, where’s the nearest Wavehole?”


Once they were back in the Real World, Geo and Sonia turned to their Transers and set up the BrotherBand.  As the registration completed, Geo said, “Thank you.  I was unsure at first, but I feel good about it now.”


“Glad to hear it.  Be sure to let me know if there’s any more trouble—Brothers always help each other out, right?”


Geo smiled.  Before he could say anything, though, the pendant around his neck flashed.  “Huh?”


It flashed again, and again.  He looked up in bewilderment, only to see that a similar light was coming from Sonia’s guitar.


“I’m…pretty sure this isn’t supposed to happen with BrotherBands,” Sonia murmured.


Both objects stopped shining as abruptly as they had started.  Geo and Sonia looked at each other, not having a single clue between them what this could mean.




Copper examined the terminal in the studio, mumbling, “Definitely Z Waves.  Doesn’t look like they caused any permanent damage to the system, but we might want to run a more thorough scan…”


He was pulled out of his trance by the ringing of his Transer.  “Hello?  Bob Copper here.”


“Detective Copper.  How is your investigation coming along?”


“Oh, Mr. Walters, sir!  I’m at the scene right now.  The Z Wave readings are absurdly high, particularly around the Study Wave controls.  None of the students have been reported as showing any abnormal symptoms.  It seems the incident was contained, but there’s no denying that one of them was definitely here.”


“I see.  Do you have any reason to believe that Harp Note character was involved?”


“One of the students mentioned her, but I’ve yet to confirm the report.  It may just have been a hallucination induced by the Study Wave.”


“Quite.  Well, Detective, when you have finished there, would you kindly report back to HQ?  I know it’s a bit out of your way, but I believe I’ve come across a new lead that I would like to discuss in person.”


“Of course, Mr. Walters!  I’ll be right over.”


Walters hung up.  Closing his Transer, Copper said, “A new lead, hm?  I wonder what he’s found.”




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Chapter 6



As they walked through the halls of AMAKEN, Geo asked, “So, how are the preparations for your concert coming?”


“They’re going smoothly,” Sonia replied.  “My manager definitely wasn’t happy when I told him this would be the last one, but I managed to convince him.”


She paused.  “Do you think I’m doing the right thing?”


“From what you’ve told me, it definitely sounds like you’ve been overwhelmed and could use some kind of break.  This situation with the FM-ians might go on for a while, too, so it’s not like you’ll get a break there.”


They entered the lab to find Boreal cleaning up some papers on his desk.  “Hey kids!  Sorry about last time—that Copper guy had a lot more questions than I expected.  What can I do for you?”


“It feels like we keep intruding on you, but we didn’t know who else to ask,” Sonia said.  “Something strange has been going on with my guitar and Geo’s pendant.  Could you take a look at them, maybe?”


“Sure, I can do that,” Boreal said as he came forward.  “What exactly has been happening?”


Sonia held out the guitar, but it began to flash again, as did the pendant.  Boreal’s eyes widened.


“That.  They’ve been like this on and off since we formed a BrotherBand.”


Boreal rubbed his chin.  “I see.  That makes sense.”


He turned and walked away a few steps.  Geo and Sonia watched him curiously, not sure what to say.  Boreal scratched his head, sighing, “I guess I should have put some more thought into how to start this…”


He took something out of his pocket.  It was a yellow-green Visualizer.


“Huh?” Mega grunted.  “Why does he have one of those?!”


Boreal put the glasses on.  “May I introduce myself?  My name is Aaron Boreal, and I’m curious to know why you’ve taken up residence with these children.”


Lyra left the guitar, appearing next to Sonia.  Boreal recoiled a bit in shock.  “I had a feeling you knew something,” she said.  “You have a lot of explaining to do, Mr. Boreal.”


Boreal gulped, then nodded.  “…Back when I was at NAZA…Rosa, Kelvin, and I were approached by three very powerful EM Beings.  Right now, they’re the Admins of the three satellites governing the Transer network.  Before that, though, they said they were the rulers of Planet AM.”


“Mama knew about the EM Beings?” Sonia asked.


“My dad, too?” Geo said.


Mega emerged from Geo’s Transer, shouting, “Wait, the Sages of AM?!  Are you sure?!”


Boreal jumped again.  “Th-That’s what they said.  We had some trouble at first, but Kelvin invented the Visualizers so that we could communicate with them more easily.  They told us that their home world had been destroyed by Planet FM, which was in possession of a very powerful weapon known as Andromeda.”


Sonia put on her Visualizer to look at Lyra.  “That part we’re aware of.”


“The Sages took refuge on Earth, but they felt it was only a matter of time before the FM-ians attacked this planet too.  They have a power they can bestow on someone that they think can stop even Andromeda, however, there are some strict requirements on it, one of which being that it’s only compatible with AM-ians.”


“Then it’s useless,” Lyra said.  “This is the first I’ve heard of anyone escaping Planet AM.”


Mega grumbled something.


“Rosa thought the same thing,” Boreal said.  “So, she decided to do something about it.  Kelvin and I did what we could to help her, and after a lot of work, we were able to perfect it: the EM Compatibility Tuner.  If a strong enough EM Being absorbs this program, they can use the Admins’ power regardless of their wavelength, and…hopefully…use it to stop Andromeda.”


Sonia stared at him.  “Mama did that?”


He nodded.


“Do you have the program?”


“It’s a little more complicated than that.  For safety, we split the program into three parts.  Each of us humans took a piece and hid it, along with a transmitter that would react when it became linked to another piece of the Tuner and detected a powerful EM Being.”

The pendant and guitar lit up again.


“It seems Kelvin hid his piece in your pendant, and Rosa must have put hers in that guitar.  Now that you two are joined by a BrotherBand, the transmitters are reacting to each other, and to the EM Beings with you.  I have the third piece, but…”


Lyra smiled.  “You don’t trust us.”


“…You’re FM-ians, aren’t you?” Boreal asked.  “I’m positive one of them attacked Tom.  If one’s here, then it’s only reasonable to assume others have come too.”


“Yeah, we’re FM-ians alright,” Mega said.  “I guess you wouldn’t have too good an opinion of us after what you heard from the Sages.”


“There’s more than that,” Boreal said, fixing his gaze on Mega.  “There’s also Peace.”


Geo looked up.  Putting on his Visualizer, he asked, “Wait, what do you mean?”


“We launched Peace to contact alien life—to try to forge a BrotherBand with a distant planet.  That planet was Planet FM.”


The room fell silent.  Sonia looked from Lyra to Mega and back, and then slowly asked, “What happened?”


“The FM King told us that the station was sending a declaration of war,” Lyra said.  “Several elite soldiers were sent to disable it.  I was not among them, so I’m not sure exactly what happened.”


She glanced at Mega.  He glared back at her, then said, “I don’t know any details either.  The King gave the order, the squad was deployed, and that was all that was said about it.”


Sonia ground her teeth.  “So that’s how you heard about Earth.  That’s why you came here…that’s how you knew about NAZA, and why you were wary of their intentions.”


“Please, don’t either of you know what happened to my father?” Geo asked.  “Didn’t you hear anything about the station’s crew?”

Neither FM-ian said anything.  Geo hung his head and clenched his fists.


“I see,” Boreal muttered.  He slid one hand over his face.  Under his breath, he added, “Haha…out of all us…for any of us to be the last one left, why would it be me…”


He swallowed hard.  “Well.  Before I give you the last piece of the Tuner, I need to know why you two came to Earth.  If you’re going to put these children in danger, I need to know I can trust you.”


“I followed her,” Mega said, pointing to Lyra.  “She stole the Key that awakens Andromeda, and I want to make sure that thing never gets used again.”


“And why is that?”


“It might be hard for you to believe, but I’ve seen enough of the senseless killing that thing has caused.  The power to slaughter an entire planet…no one deserves to have that kind of power.  I was about to steal it myself, but she beat me to it; originally I intended to take it from her, but…”


Turning to Sonia, he finished, “From what I’ve seen, she’s someone who definitely won’t let that thing be used.  So, for now, that’s good enough for me.”


Sonia gave a short smile in thanks.  It fell away as she turned to Lyra.  “Then that just leaves why you took it.  You said you wanted to ‘have a talk’ with the FM King, didn’t you?  You said you didn’t want to use Andromeda, just show that you could use it, so that you could make your demands.”


Lyra grunted.  “You have a remarkable memory, dear.”


Boreal crossed his arms.  “So what is it that you want?  Right now, I’m not so sure you deserve Rosa’s program.”


Lyra shrugged.  “Well, I’m not quite sure I need it.  I have a very specific plan.  There’s no need for the power of the AM-ians.”


Sonia took a step forward.  Mega said, “Weren’t you listening, Lyra?  This is a power they say is stronger than Andromeda.  We’re not even sure there’s a way to use that monster without the FM King’s controller, so your efforts with the Key might all be for nothing anyway.  I’d say this sounds like a safer bet.”


Lyra closed her eyes.  “…What madness is this, Mega actually making sense…”


She looked at Boreal and smirked.  “Well, it’s nothing much.  Just some changes in policy, that’s all—the details are a bit complex, and I know you’re not familiar with our political system so it’d be rather difficult to explain.”


“Then explain it to me,” Mega said.


Lyra twitched.  “Now now, Mega, we don’t want to bore the humans.  So, about the program—“


“You really think he’s going to fall for that?  You’re getting sloppy on your evasion tactics.  Is it really that hard to just tell us what you want?”


Sonia took another step.  “Lyra.”


Lyra turned to face her.


“Please.  This program was made by my mother.  She entrusted me with a part of it.  She must have wanted me to use it, so please: let me fulfill her wishes.  All I have left are pieces, and this is a piece I’ve never known anything about.  I can’t really explain how much this would mean to me.”


Lyra looked at her for a few seconds, and then her eyes drifted to the floor.  “I’m afraid you might be out of luck either way, dear.  Even if I tell him my intentions, he might not agree with them.”


“Please try.”


Reluctantly, Lyra turned back to Boreal.  “…Planet FM…truly is a terrible place.  Even as an elite soldier, I’ve been underappreciated and disrespected for as long as I can remember.  The sexism of a mostly-male race certainly doesn’t help matters either.  But, that is our history.  From FM King to FM King, on and on since our planet began.  But…”


She smiled.  “What if there was an FM Queen?”


“I see,” Boreal said.  “Your plan is to use Andromeda to frighten the FM King into giving up his throne.  And then what?”


“And then…whatever comes next,” Lyra said.  “I’m still a few steps away from the ‘controlling Andromeda’ part; one thing at a time, dear.”


Mega snarled.  “You’re using Andromeda over something petty like that?”


“It’s not petty,” Sonia said.  “It’s extreme, but all she wants is to be respected.  There’s nothing petty about that.”


Lyra turned back to Sonia.  “…What?  You don’t…hate me?”


Sonia raised an eyebrow.  “Hate you?  Of course not.  Why would I hate you?”


“I lied to you.  I came to this planet and took advantage of you to further my plans of launching a coup against my home planet.  Most people would be somewhat offended by that.”


“Well when you put it like that, I’m getting a little irritated.  And this whole plan is ridiculous—I don’t approve of it at all, if that’s what you’re asking.  But from what you’ve just said and what I’ve learned about FM-ians, I think I have an idea of what drove you to it.  I’m not about to let you carry out that plan…but I don’t think any less of you, Lyra.”


The FM-ian was stunned.


Sonia looked now to Boreal, saying, “Mr. Boreal, I know it may be difficult, but please trust Lyra.  I’ve trusted her with my life several times now, and she’s never let me down—even when she would have rather gone the other way.  If this is Mama’s program, then I want it to be safe too, and…I’m willing to give it to Lyra.”


Boreal was quiet for a moment.  Then he sighed, murmuring, “I’ve never known how to win an argument with a Strumm…”


He removed his hat.  Running a finger along the inside edge, he pulled out a small card and held it out.  “Here.  If you run this through your guitar’s card scanner, it’ll download the last piece of the Tuner and send a signal to the Admins.  The transmitters have dulled a bit over the years, so you’ll have to go somewhere high up to get decent reception.  The roof of this building should work.”


Sonia took the card and grinned.  “Thank you so much, Mr. Boreal.”


“Please be careful.  Both of you.  I had really hoped that, if it ever did come to this, you two wouldn’t get involved.  But, Rosa and Kelvin decided that they want to entrust Earth to you—it’s not my place to disagree.  Just promise me that you won’t get hurt.”


Sonia nodded.  “We’ll be fine.  Right, Geo?”


“Uh, right,” Geo said.  “We’ll be okay, Mr. Boreal.  Thank you for your help.”


Sonia started towards the door in the back of the room, but then she stopped.  “Wait…you said the transmitter would send a signal to the Admins, but what exactly does that mean?”


“It’ll call them down from the Satellites to meet you,” Boreal answered.


“So, if that happens, won’t that cover AMAKEN in more Z Waves?  The Satella Police are already suspicious of you; maybe we should go somewhere else.”


Boreal shook his head.  “Don’t worry about it.  I know how to handle the Satella officers.  You might want to be quick, though.”


“Okay, thanks.”


Sonia, Geo, and the FM-ians went through the door at the lab’s rear and into a stairwell that took them up to AMAKEN’s roof.  The area was large and open, lined in railing and filled only with the door to the stairs and one satellite dish that was sectioned off in the corner.


Holding up the card, Sonia turned to Geo and asked, “Are you ready?”


“I don’t know exactly what to expect, but…I guess so,” he said.


Sonia steadied her guitar and took a deep breath, and then swiped the card through the scanner at the instrument’s head.  It began to flash again, and so did the pendant.  The light grew brighter.  As if in response, the building started to shake.


“Is this supposed to happen?” Geo asked.


“I can feel them,” Mega said.  “There’s an incredibly powerful wave headed right for us!”


Sonia looked up to see a ball of light falling towards AMAKEN.  “This seems familiar…”

She braced herself.  An impact shook them and the world went white, and then everything was still and silent.  When she opened her eyes, she saw that Geo had fallen.


“Are you okay?” she asked, helping him up.


“Yeah,” Geo said, “but what…”


He trailed off, staring at the space behind Sonia.  She turned around to see three new beings, all at least four times her size, all with ethereal black armor over the flames of energy that made up their bodies.  On the far left was a being of orange energy, its armor forming the shape of a lion.  In the middle was a purple being, its armor fashioned after a pegasus.  And on the right was a serpentine dragon made of green energy.


“Incredible…” Lyra remarked.  “So these were the rulers of Planet AM?”


“Greetings, Daughter of Rosa, Son of Kelvin,” said the pegasus.  “We are the Admins of the three Satellites that orbit your world.  My name is Pegasus Magic.  This one is called Leo Kingdom, and this one is called Dragon Sky.”


Sonia stared for a moment, and then bowed.  “H…hello.  It is an honor to meet you.”


“Regrettably, we are unable to leave our Satellites at the moment,” said Leo.  “We have sent these bodies to communicate with you.  We hope that will be acceptable.”


“Of course,” Sonia said.


“We have waited a long time for this,” Dragon said.  “You two, children of our greatest allies, have at last formed a bond that must be protected.  Living beings can only grow truly strong when they have something they must fight to protect…you are now ready to receive the legacy of Planet AM.”


“The time is fast approaching when a great danger will descend upon this planet,” Pegasus said.  “You two…and you as well, Omega-Xis, Lyra…you are the ones who can decide the fate of this world.”


Lyra hummed.  “The fate of this world, you say?  Tell me something: why us?  Why can’t you three do something about this?”


“As we have said, we are not currently able to leave our Satellites,” Leo said.  “Preparations are being made, yet even if we are able to emerge in time, our power will not be sufficient.  The power that faces you—the power of loneliness—can only be defeated by the power of bonds.  Your powers, the powers of Harp Note and Mega Man, these are powers born of bonds.  All we can do is strengthen you by providing another bond.”


“You must understand our words if you are to receive our power,” Dragon said.  “This power—the Star Force—can only be used by someone who understands the strength of bonds, someone with a strong heart willing to protect everything dear to them.”


“I understand,” Sonia said.  “I’m ready to defend my planet, and my friends.”


“And you, Lyra?” asked Pegasus.


Lyra hesitated.  “Why do you even ask?  I’m an FM-ian.  You should know that we don’t understand the power of bonds.”


“That is untrue,” Leo said.  “Your people have grown vicious and lonely, yes, but do you truly believe that that is your nature?”


“We seek out the loneliness in the hearts of others,” Lyra said.  “We invade them, taking away control of their own bodies.”


“You seek out those whose pain resonates with yours,” Dragon said.  “You seek to escape from your loneliness, and do so by forging a new bond.  A corrupted bond, a flawed one, but a bond nonetheless.”


“The FM-ians have hated themselves for so long that they do not know the true potential they possess,” Pegasus said.  “We reached out to you in the past because we wished to help you see this…we failed.  But have your eyes not been opened since then?  Have you learned nothing from your time with Sonia?  She continues to believe in you.  She did so before you gave her any reason to, and even after you gave her reason not to.  Even you cannot deny the strength of such a bond.”


Lyra looked at Sonia.


“It’s your choice,” Sonia said, smiling.


Lyra sighed.  “…Oh, alright.  I’m not entirely convinced, but I guess there’s no harm in trying.”


Sonia’s grin grew wider.  “Thank you.”


“…Very well,” Leo said.  “We have seen enough of your accomplishments that we believe you are ready to receive the Star Force.  Meet us on the Wave Road, and we shall bestow the power of the stars upon you.”


Sonia nodded.  To Geo, she said, “I’ll be right back.”


She spotted a Wavehole nearby and ran to it.  After Wave Changing, she made her way down the Road over AMAKEN towards the platform where the Admins were waiting.


“When you absorb the Star Force, you will also absorb the EM Compatibility Tuner,” Dragon said.  “The experience may be a bit jarring.  Are you prepared?”


“I am,” Sonia said.


“I suppose,” Lyra said.


All three Admins looked up.  They glimmered briefly, and then a burst of light came forth from each and merged together into one orb high above.  The orb floated over Sonia, hovered for a moment, and then fell upon her, making her entire body glow.  She felt a strange sensation fill her; it was hard to describe, but it felt warm, almost like an embrace.  In a few moments it was over, and she felt the same as she did before.


“Is that it?” Lyra asked.  “I’m not feeling any stronger.”


“The Star Force and the EM Compatibility Tuner are within you,” Pegasus said.  “It is up to you whether or not you will be able to call upon that power.”


“That is all we can offer you for now,” Leo said.  “Lyra, Sonia.  We believe you can make our power your own.”


“We shall continue to watch over you,” Dragon said.  “We wish you well, until we meet again.”


There was another flash of light, and the Admins vanished.


“Fantastic,” Lyra said, “we go through all that to get this power and we can’t even use it.”


“We’ll figure it out,” Sonia said.  “We have Mama’s program now, so I’m sure we’ll be able to use it.”




Boreal surveyed his lab one more time, making sure he had everything he needed.  He headed for the door, but before he could hit the light switch, there was a knock.


“Sorry,” Boreal said as he opened the door, “I’m just on my way out.”


Copper stepped in.  “I’m afraid I really must insist.”


Behind him came four other Satella Police officers, dressed in similar attire.  They spread out over the room, looked around, and then nodded to Copper, who turned back to the door.


“Hey, what’s the meaning of this?” Boreal asked.


“My word, Mr. Boreal,” called a voice from the hall, “there’s no need to be so alarmed.”


Boreal staggered back as someone else walked in.  The man was tall and somewhat elderly, with his black hair steadily turning gray and many soft lines forming across his face.  He wore a clean white suit and, after pausing to brush some dust from his sleeve, gave Boreal a smile, though a very, very obviously fake one.


Clenching his teeth, Boreal asked, “What are you doing here, Walters?”


The man scoffed.  “Your manners have suffered so dearly, Mr. Boreal.  Is that any way to speak to your superior?”


“Former!  So yes, I’d say so.  Now tell me what you’re doing at my facility!”


Walters shook his head.  “Tsk tsk, don’t feign ignorance, Mr. Boreal.  You know exactly why we’re here.”


He began to pace the floor.  “We detected a highly abnormal level of Z Waves coming from this building earlier today.  Combining this with a few previous incidents, it’s rather apparent that you’re hiding something from us.  Tell me, and please do be honest: are you in contact with the FM-ians?”


“Of course not!”


“But FM-ians were here, on multiple occasions, and also at an event which your facility provided equipment for.”


“…Yes.  It seems they found their way to Earth after all, so I’d say your ‘preventative measures’ turned out to be totally useless.”


Walters’s smile faded.  “If I had not cut off that signal, they would have followed it right back here and sieged the planet immediately.  While it was very unfortunate that we did not have time to locate Mr. Stelar, cutting off that signal has given us an extra three years to prepare for this encounter.”


He gestured.  One of the officers approached Boreal and suddenly struck him, knocking him to the floor.  Copper’s jaw dropped.


“As I said then, it is not your place to question my orders.”


Walters examined the schematics on the wall.  “Now, where was I…oh, yes, of course.  NAZA has pledged to defend the Earth from the FM-ians no matter the cost.  Since it would appear your…”


“AMAKEN,” one of the officers whispered.


“Since it appears your AMAKEN has caught their attention, NAZA will be stationing guards to monitor this facility.  To protect it, that is.”


Boreal picked himself up.  “I don’t want you scum on my grounds.”


Walters sighed.  “So rude, so very, very rude…”


He gestured.  The officer struck Boreal again.


“Do you have any idea how busy I am?  Running NAZA is a very demanding job.”


The officer hit Boreal again.


“And yet, here I am, personally extending my generous protection to you, a former employee who deserted us on very bad terms.”


Again, Boreal was hit.


“It hurts me deeply to see my good will refused like this.  I expected better of you, Mr. Boreal.”


The officer kicked Boreal, and then stepped away.  Walters walked over to the fallen scientist and stared down his nose at him.


“Regardless, the decision has been made.  You may own this place, but NAZA is a national organization.  Put plainly, even if you are no longer a part of NAZA, you are still subordinate to my rules.  Do you understand, Mr. Boreal?”


Boreal coughed.  Walters grimaced and turned away.


“You seem a bit tongue-tied, so I’ll take that as a yes.  The guards will be here first thing in the morning.  I expect you to brush up on your manners by then.”


Walters strode out of the room and the officers filed behind him.  Copper hung back, watching Boreal as he groaned and slowly started to push himself off the floor.


“Heh…you seem surprised,” Boreal said.  “I guess this is the first time you’ve seen that side of him?”


Copper turned away.


“You don’t seem like a bad person, Mr. Copper.  But as long as Walters is in charge, NAZA is not the place you think it is—I know that all too well.”


“I joined the Satella Police to preserve order, to keep people safe,” Copper said.  “All of Earth is in danger from a threat we know too little about.  I cannot abandon my oath now.”




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  • 2 months later...

Chapter 7



Sonia jumped into the sky to avoid the cannon ball shooting towards her, and then shot a single note at the cannon virus, destroying it on impact.  A group of Mettenas approached, but she blew them away with a sound pulse before she even landed.  She spun around, ready to fight more viruses, but then realized she’d already deleted them all.


“We’ve been doing this for days, and we still haven’t figured out this Star Force nonsense,” Lyra complained.  “It doesn’t seem like we’re getting anywhere.”


“You’re right.  I had thought we might unlock it through training, but maybe it responds to something else?  I wish we could ask Mr. Boreal about it.”


She and Geo had received mail from the scientist warning them to stay away from AMAKEN.  He didn’t go into the details, but they all had a sinking suspicion that the Satella Police were involved.  Sonia had spent most of her time since then honing her fighting skills and preparing for her final concert, which was now only a few days away, while Geo had been focusing on getting used to his new environment at school.  Luna’s petition had brought Mr. Shepar back before people even realized he was gone, so the experience had returned to being quite a pleasant one.


Sonia went through a Wavehole and emerged onto a grassy hill.  Geo had shown her this place—Vista Point, it was called.  It was a quiet area on the edge of Echo Ridge that not many people visited, and he said he would frequently come here when he needed to be alone.  He had suggested it as a good place to meet up with Sonia since few people would be there to pester her.


As she walked up the stairs of the metal deck built onto the hill, she said, “If we’re not getting anywhere with the Star Force, we might as well take a break for now.  After the concert I’ll be able to focus all of my attention on it.”


“Assuming we have that long,” Lyra said.  “We still need to watch for signs of Gemini, not to mention there are a few other elite FM-ians who the FM King might have sent here.”


“Right.  I’ll keep my guard up.”


She spotted Geo making his way up the hill.  She was about to wave to him, but then she noticed his frown and the troubled look in his eye.


“Hi, Sonia.”


“Are you okay?  Did something happen?”


“Yeah, sort of.  I’m not entirely sure, really.”


He leaned against the railing and looked towards the horizon.  Mega said, “That Pat kid has some surprises in him.”


“Pat?” Sonia said.  “I remember him.  What happened?”


“We were talking outside the school,” Geo said.  “Bud came up and started to bug us—he was saying that he had lost his homework and needed to see what it was again.  Luna was coming to get him, but then, out of nowhere, Pat just…hit him.”


“Knocked him flat in one hit,” Mega said.  “I was impressed!”


Geo clenched his teeth.  “That’s not like Pat at all.  I mean, I know I haven’t known him very long, but I feel like we already know each other so well.  Pat wouldn’t hit Bud for no reason.”


“Well, what did he do after that?” Sonia asked.


“He was looking at Bud, and he seemed surprised, kind of.  Then he apologized and ran off.  He looked…so sad…”


“Then the Prez girl chewed Bud out for not putting that big frame to good use,” Mega said.  “She’s been even more vicious than usual lately.  Poor kid was so dazed he didn’t have a single thing to say.”


“Mega,” Lyra said, “do you think you could, for a moment at least, stop taking pleasure in this incident that has clearly troubled your partner?”


“When did this happen?” Sonia asked.


“Yesterday, after school,” Geo said.  “I was going to go after Pat, but by the time I looked around he was gone.  He wasn’t there today, and neither was Bud.  I’m worried about him.  What if it’s an FM-ian problem?”


“Don’t worry about that,” Mega said.  “Pat was giving off some weird waves, but I didn’t sense an FM-ian in the area.”


Geo looked at his Transer.  “Wait, what do you mean ‘weird waves’?”


“I can’t really describe it—I’ve never encountered this kind of wave before.  There was definitely something going on in his head, though.”


Geo bit his lip.  Sonia waited a moment, and then said, “From what you’ve told me about Pat, that really does sound unlike him.  It’s good that it’s not an FM-ian, but there could still be something that happened, something else that had him on edge, and Bud just pushed the wrong button.  Everybody has outbursts, right?  I’m sure he’ll be okay.”


“You’re probably right,” Geo said.  “I just…I really like Pat.  He’s been so nice to me, and I always enjoy talking with him.  He’s someone…well…someone I don’t want to lose…”


Sonia put a hand on Geo’s shoulder.  “It’s okay.  You aren’t going to lose Pat, he might just need a little time to himself right now.”


Geo chuckled.  “I more than anyone should understand that.”


“Next time you see him, ask how he’s doing and if there’s anything you can do to help.  It might put him at ease just to know he has a friend who’s concerned for him.”


“Yeah, okay.  Thank you.”


“Don’t mention it.”




The sky was dark by the time Geo and Sonia decided to leave.  The streets of Echo Ridge were quiet and empty, so they took their time as they walked towards Geo’s house.


“Hey!  Wait up!”


Geo groaned as he heard Luna’s voice.  She came up the sidewalk with a scowl, saying, “I didn’t expect to see you out this late, Geo.”


Turning to Sonia, she said, “And I certainly didn’t expect to see you.  What are you doing here?”


“Nice to see you again, Luna,” Sonia replied flatly.  “I’m holding a concert in this town in a few days.  Geo was just showing me around.”


“Oh, that’s right.  Bud and Zack won’t shut up about it.  I think they said it was your farewell concert, isn’t it?  Didn’t you just start singing not that long ago?  It seems awfully soon to give up.”


“I want to pursue some other things right now.”


“Such as?”


“That’s personal.”


“Of course.  Why give an actual reason?  Saying it’s your last concert will get people all the more interested, and that’s reason enough.”


“Excuse me?”


“I guess you weren’t getting enough attention already.  But now, everyone’s so excited to attend, and you’re getting showered with more praises than ever.  I bet you have some scene planned, saying you’re so moved by everyone’s support that you’ve changed your mind and you’ll keep doing concerts after all.”


“You really think this is all some publicity stunt?”


“Well, isn’t it?”


Sonia jabbed her finger towards Luna’s face.  “Listen, you.  My business is my business.  I don’t see why I have to explain myself to you, and you don’t have the right to come up with some crazy theory like that.”


Luna turned her head.  “Hmph!  Idols.  You give them a spotlight and they’ll do anything.”


Clenching her fist, Sonia said, “What, is that your problem with me?”


Light flashed at the end of the street.  A pair of headlights could be seen drawing closer.  Noticing them, Geo said, “Um, we should probably—“


“You’re way off base, Luna,” Sonia said.  “Don’t act like you understand why I’m doing what I do.”


“Like there’s any other explanation,” Luna said.  “You can drop the act—I know your type.”


“My…?  You really think you can size up people so easily?”


Geo stepped forward, saying, “Luna, Sonia, we really need to move!”


The headlights were still growing closer at an alarming rate.  Luna crossed her arms, saying, “Of course!  People are easy to understand, and it’s easy to tell what they want.”


“And I’m telling you: you’re wrong about what you think I want!”


Luna started to say something.  Then she froze, mouth open and eyes wide.  After a few seconds, she looked down, putting a hand over her mouth, and mumbled something.


Sonia felt uneasy at this sudden shift, but still asked, “What?  Speak up.”


Geo tapped Sonia’s shoulder.  “Sonia!”


She looked at him, and he pointed at the headlights that were nearly on top of them.  Feeling fear rush through her body, Sonia grabbed Geo and Luna by the arm and dragged them off the street; the truck barreled straight through the space they had been standing in, seemingly oblivious to the fact that anyone had even been there.


“I tried to warn you,” Geo said.


“S…sorry,” Sonia said.  “I guess I got carried away.  Is everyone alright?”


Geo nodded.  Luna was still stunned, it seemed, until a loud noise drew their attention.  They looked to the end of the street, seeing that the truck had kept going and ultimately crashed into a brick wall.  The three of them ran over to inspect the wreck.


“I’ll send a Help signal,” Geo said, flipping open his Transer.


“Hello?” Sonia called.  “Are you hurt?”


Luna walked towards one of the doors.  Her expression had gone back to normal, more or less.  “What’s the meaning of this?  First you nearly run us over, and then you just charge into a wall?  You’ve got some nerve!”


A sparking sound could be heard from inside the cab.  Mega said, “Hey, something’s going on!”


“You need to get away from it!” Lyra said.  “It might—“


The truck started to flash with orange light.  Geo and Sonia stumbled back, but Luna fell when she tried to take a step.  The light started to mold itself into a sphere, enveloping the truck, and the next time it flashed, Luna was gone.


“Huh?  What happened?!” Geo exclaimed.


“I’m detecting a loneliness wave,” Lyra said.  “A very powerful one, too.  An FM-ian must have taken control of this vehicle, and now that it’s malfunctioning, it’s letting out all sorts of EM distortions.”


“It’s starting to form a new Wavehole,” Mega said.  “Luna was too close, and now…”


Geo’s eyes widened.  “She’s…inside the truck’s Comp Space?  With an FM-ian?”


Sonia lowered her Visualizer.  “This is bad…Lyra!  If it’s a Wavehole, then we can enter it, right?”


“It’s still a bit unstable, dear.  The distortions are still in flux, and it’s only further complicated by trying to form a link from the Real World directly to a Comp Space…if we run into it and fuse at just the right time, then maybe we could make it through.  But I can’t guarantee anything.”


Sonia readied her guitar.  “Just tell me when.”


“How did I know you were going to say that?”


Geo drew a card, saying, “I’m coming too.”


“Alright.  We’ll go in first, okay?”


He nodded and stepped back.  Sonia kept her eyes focused on the truck, watching the light around it flash, bracing herself to be ready at a moment’s notice.




She started forward, thrusting her guitar out.  “EM Wave Change!  Sonia Strumm, On the Air!”


The transformation felt a bit different as she plunged into the sphere of light, but she ignored the discomfort and kept pushing.  Eventually, she set foot on a Wave Road in full armor, and released the breath she had been holding.  The road was made of brown rock.  At its end was a silver console with a giant steering wheel, and in front of this stood a behemoth in red armor, with rounded chest armor, vents in his shoulders, and large silver horns.  Luna stood a few paces away.


“Well well, he finally made it,” Lyra said.


Sonia strode forward, declaring, “Hey!  I need to have a word with you!”


Luna turned at her voice.  Her eyes went wide when she saw Sonia, and she clasped her hands and said, “H…Harp Note?!  Oh, thank God!  I knew you’d come to save me!”


Sonia smiled at her awkwardly, and then faced forward.  The other person regarded her with surprise, blurting out, “Huh?  What are you doing here?!”


The voice sounded familiar, but she couldn’t place it.  “You know me?”


“Yeah.  You were there that one time at AMAKEN, and then the other day at school…”


Squinting, Luna said, “Wait a minute…it couldn’t be…Bud?”


“That’s right!  I’m here to show you, Prez: I’ve gotten a lot stronger now, so I can still be of use to you!”


“Well, I think we know how this started,” Lyra said.  “Taurus!  Better late than never, I suppose?”


“Mrrrrrrgh!” grunted a voice.  “Sorry to keep you waiting, Lyra!  I made a small mistake, but now, Taurus Fire is here to pry the Andromeda Key from your broken waves!  I’ll still clean this situation up before any of the others even get here.”


“Oh, dear…I hate to break it to you, but you’re not the first one we’ve fought.”


“…Oh.  Well, as long as I beat that arrogant Cygnus.”


“Nope.  He was the first, actually.”


“Really?!  Mrrgh…well, I at least beat Libra, right?”


“Try again, dear.”


“…I at least beat Cancer, didn’t I?”


Lyra laughed.


“Mrrrrgh!!  Alright, fine, so I’m more than a little late!  It’s not like it matters—I’ll still be the victor!  Look at how small and scrawny your host is!  Big, powerful people are the only way to go!”


“Oh, yes, of course.  Whatever you say, little piglet.”


“What?!  I’m a cow!  COW!!”


“Lyra, behave,” Sonia whispered.  “Taurus, why have you taken over this vehicle and kidnapped Luna?”


“This was my idea,” Bud said.  “Prez was in trouble.  It’s my job to smash whoever gets in her way, and if I keep her in here, then anyone who wants to cause her trouble is going to have to come to me!”


“I wasn’t in trouble until that car showed up!” Luna said.  “Bud, what are you doing?  You should know better than to get yourself turned into this pig monster!”


“I’M A COW!!” Taurus shouted.


“Well…you’re safe now, Prez!” Bud said, clenching his fist.  “Now that you’re here, I’ll be able to stop anything that wants to hurt you!”


“Bud, I don’t want this!” Luna said.  “Let me go!”


Looking down, Bud said, “I know you don’t believe in me…but I’m going to prove it to you!”


He pointed to Sonia.  “I’ll show you just how strong I’ve become.  I’ll show you that I’m even stronger than Harp Note now!”


Sonia readied her guitar.  “What can you tell me about Taurus?”


“He has a lot of brute strength, I’ll admit, but that’s all,” Lyra answered.  “You’ve nothing to worry about, dear.”


“Mrrgh!  You talk big, Lyra, but I’ll show you how strong I really am!”


Bud grabbed the wheel with both hands, grunting as he pulled on it.  The world lurched, knocking Sonia and Luna off their feet.


“This thing is still drivable?” Lyra said.  “It might be difficult for Mega Man to join us now…”


Bud spun around and charged forward suddenly.  Sonia rolled out of the way and onto her feet, sending a few notes at his back.  Barely flinching, Bud faced her again and bounded forward, attempting to bring both fists down on top of Sonia.  She dodged, and the attack left a crater in the road.  Sonia began to run in a circle as soon as she was clear, peppering Bud with notes as she went; he roared in frustration, and then reared back before unleashing a torrent of flames from his mouth.  Sonia jumped high and scanned the blaze for any sign of her enemy.


Luna shouted.  She stood at the edge of the fire, recoiling in fear.


“So much for protecting her!” Sonia said.


Suddenly Bud emerged from the flames, shooting through the air directly towards her.  She tried crossing her arms to block his punch, but she could still feel the impact, and it launched her even higher while Bud fell back down and waited.


“You see Prez?  I can be useful to you now!  We can still be Brothers, right?”


Luna backed away.  “B-Bud, stop this!  You’re really scaring me!”


“…Huh?  Am I still not strong enough?”


“No way!” Taurus said.  “You and I are way strong!  She’s just in awe of our power!”


“Well…I don’t want to scare her…”


“…Mrrgh?  I thought you wanted power?”


“Yeah, but that was so I could be useful to Prez.  I just wanted to make up for failing at the one thing I was good for.”


Taurus grunted.  “Mrrgh…you want strength…so that you can use it for other people?  Don’t be absurd.  If you’re strong, you don’t need anyone else!  You become strong to survive loneliness, not to escape it!”


“What?  I…I don’t want that…”


As Luna watched Bud argue with himself, a sinking feeling replaced her fear.  “Bud…do you mean this is all because of what I said…?”


“You don’t get a choice, kid!” Taurus said.  “You’re big and powerful—that means you were born to be strong, and that means no one’s gonna want to get close to you.”


Bud shook his head.  “No, that can’t be right!  I can make friends if I become strong!”


“You’re both wrong!”


He looked up to see Sonia on her way back down, driving her boot directly into his snout.  As Bud skidded towards the steering wheel, Sonia flipped back and landed on her feet, then checked to see Luna was okay before turning back to Bud.


“Strength doesn’t make you lonely, and you don’t become strong to make friends!  You become strong by making friends!  That’s what the BrotherBand is: strength shared between people that lets them achieve something they never could have done on their own!”


Bud sat up.  “But, if I’m not strong on my own, then no one will want to have me for a Brother!”


Sonia glanced at Luna.  She was still wasn’t able to say anything.


“Mrrgh!  You picked a real nut, Lyra!  Haven’t you told her anything about FM-ians?”


“I have, Taurus,” Lyra replied.  “She won’t hear it, though.  And, in light of recent events…I must confess, I’m beginning to think she may be right.”


“Mrrgh?!  Y…you’re kidding!  We’re creatures of loneliness!  How can you believe this friendship stuff?”


“In my time here I’ve seen what the power of bonds can accomplish.  I’ve seen the formation of new bonds, the protection of old ones…I’ve seen others place their trust in me when they really shouldn’t have.  And each and every time, that power was able to overcome the strength of the loneliness we were up against.”


Bud stood up and took a battle stance, flames spewing from his shoulder plates.  “That’s why I need to be strong!  So that I can protect Prez!”


“You’ve put her in more danger by bringing her here!” Sonia shouted.  “Your heart’s in the right place, Bud, but you’re going about it all wrong!”


Bud ignored her and lowered his horns.


“Fine,” Taurus said.  “If you believe in bonds so much, then show me!  I won’t believe it until you show me how strong bonds are!”


Bud charged.  Sonia prepared to dodge, but then the world shook.


“Something must be going on with the car,” Lyra said.  “Watch out!”


Sonia was able to avoid the horns, but Bud caught her with one massive arm as he passed.  She got back on her feet and tried to get steady.  Bud turned and unleashed another wave of fire; Sonia used a sound pulse, forcing the flames to either side of her and doing some damage to Bud, but he recovered quickly and charged again.  Sonia tried shooting strings at his legs, but the shaking made it impossible to aim, and she was knocked back again.


“This isn’t working,” Sonia said.  “If only we didn’t have to worry about this shaking!”


“I’m gonna prove I’m stronger!” Bud said.  “Then I can be useful to Prez!”


Sonia scowled.  “Are you really doing this for her?”




“You keep talking about how strong you are, and while I don’t doubt you want to impress Luna, it’s sounding more and more like you’re trying to prove something to yourself, too.”


Sonia’s guitar shimmered faintly.


“You say you want to protect her?  You’re not protecting anyone!  You’ve put Luna in danger!  You’ve put plenty more people in danger by setting this car out of control!  You two—you’re a danger to each other as well!  I know that one of you is probably beyond our ability to save…but we won’t let that stop us from protecting as many people as we can!  Watch and see how it’s really done!”


Bud used his fire breath again, yet Sonia stood perfectly still as the flames rushed towards her.


“Harp Note!” Luna cried.


She disappeared behind the fire.  Bud laughed triumphantly, but suddenly light erupted from the blaze.  A pillar of pale blue rose from the middle of the flames and shot into the sky, and then the fire dissipated in seconds to be replaced with a fine layer of frost.  Luna and Bud shielded their eyes.


“What’s going on?” Bud shouted.


Eventually the light died down.  Bud glared at Sonia, but upon seeing her, his eyes went wide.


Somehow, she had been transformed.  Her helmet and greaves had changed to a pale blue, and her body was covered in a longcoat of the same color with snow white lining and buttons.  Her scarf tucked into her collar, giving it the appearance of an ascot, and two blue and white wings had grown from her back.  Her guitar had transformed into a white violin, which she now held under her chin as she pointed the bow at Bud.


“Taurus!  Do you see this?  This power was created by so many bonds: Lyra, who has fused with me; Mega Man, who formed a BrotherBand with me; Mama, who developed the Tuner program; Mr. Boreal, who gave it to me; the Satellite Admins, who gave me the Star Force; and all the people you’ve put in danger, who I am going to protect!  This is Ice Pegasus Harp Note, and it is a power you cannot hope to stand against!”


Beating her wings once, Sonia lifted off the ground.  She drew her bow across the strings of her violin, and shards of ice rained from high above, plowing into the very confused Bud and freezing him from the neck down.  Lighting his shoulders, he broke free.


“Whoa, she does seem a lot stronger…” he muttered.


“I’ve never felt waves like this,” Taurus said.


“Do you give up yet?” Sonia asked.


“What?  Of course not!” Taurus said.  “Bud!  You can still beat her!  Melt that ice!”


Nodding, Bud used his flame breath.  Sonia played a few notes and a burst of cold air came forth from her, washing over the flames and snuffing them out.  She played a few more, flicking her bow at the end, and sent out a ball of white energy that encased Bud in ice on impact.


“This is your final warning!” she called.


Bud freed himself and thought for a moment.  “…I can’t give up.  I have to prove I’m strong!”


He ran forward and jumped at Sonia.  She flew just out of his reach, and then used another ball of light to send him crashing into the ground.  Taking a deep breath, she began to play more rapidly, the temperature growing colder and colder as she went, until she finally played one loud note that caused a mountain of ice to erupt beneath Bud.  Alighting on its peak, she lowered her instrument and sighed.


“So this is the Star Force,” Lyra remarked.  “It really is incredible…why did we awaken it now?”


“I think I understand,” Sonia said.  “The Admins said they were giving us this power because we had formed a bond that needed protecting.  I think that, when I resolved to fight in order to protect people, the Star Force reacted and gave me the power I needed to keep them safe.”


“I see.  This form looks a lot like Pegasus Magic…does that mean there are also transformations that use the power of the other two?”


“We’ll figure that out later.  Right now, I think we should wrap this up.”


Sonia flew down to the base of the mountain and tapped her bow against it.  The ice shattered into fine dust and blew away, letting her get a good look at Bud.


He pulled himself into a crouching position, groaning, “Ugh…I guess…I still wasn’t strong enough…I’m sorry, Prez.”


Sonia looked at Luna.  She had a blank look in her eyes, and it was impossible to tell what she was thinking.  Then she walked forward and stopped in front of Bud.


“You’d better be sorry.”


Sonia put a hand over her face.


“You dolt—do you really think I’d cut our BrotherBand over something like that?”


“…Wha?  But you said—“


“I know what I said!  But you shouldn’t have taken me so seriously!  Of course you’re useful to me, idiot!”


She tapped her foot a few times, and then added, “I’m sorry.  I made you feel like you only mattered if you were strong, and I shouldn’t have.  Brothers are worth more than that.”




“She has an interesting way of going about it, but it seems to be effective,” Lyra whispered.


Luna turned around.  “Harp Note, thank you for coming to my rescue again, but it’s all settled now.  Bud won’t cause any more trouble.”


Sonia smiled and nodded.  “Okay.  I’m glad to hear it.”


The two of them helped Bud onto his feet.  “Prez…thank you…”


Taurus grunted, “Mrrgh…this power…are bonds really capable of this…?”


Bud’s armor started to fade away.


“I never knew…I was wrong this entire time…mrrrgh…”


The last of the armor disappeared, and Bud slumped.  Sonia closed her eyes, thinking, Taurus…I’m so sorry…


“Bud?  Are you okay?” Luna asked.


“H…he’ll be fine,” Sonia said.  “He just…j-just…”


She started to shake.  Watching her, Luna asked, “Harp Note…?  What’s wrong?”


“I’m sorry,” Sonia sobbed.  “Bud’s fine, but…Taurus…”


“The monster that was possessing him?”


“They’re not monsters.  They didn’t have to be, at least…but they believed that they were, and put themselves in harm’s way because of it.  Taurus was actually starting to see, but…I couldn’t save him…he deserved a second chance, but I couldn’t give it to him…”


Luna stared at her, unsure what to say.


“…Sorry,” Sonia said, forcing a smile.  “Let’s get you two out of here!”




The link to the Real World had stabilized, so Luna and Bud were able to get out without issue.  Sonia waited behind a while, but once she was sure they were gone, she made her exit and found that the car had come to rest at the entrance to Vista Point.  Geo was waiting nearby.


“I helped Luna get Bud home,” he said.  “How are you?  Luna said you were really shaken.”


“Right before the FM-ian dissipated, he sounded like he actually understood what I was trying to tell him,” Sonia said.  “It’s never easy to see them go, but...”


“Who was it?” Mega quietly asked.


“Surprisingly, it was Taurus,” Lyra answered.


“Really?  That guy?”


“It was definitely unexpected.  But, I suppose there’s a way to convince everyone.”


“I’m sorry,” Geo said.  “Maybe if I had been there…”


Sonia shook her head.  “Taurus had already possessed Bud.  There was no way to save him.  We have to find a way to end this, or more and more FM-ians will keep coming here and possessing people.”


She sighed.  “But, for now, I think I need to rest for a bit.  I should focus on the concert, and when that’s over, I can figure out what to do next.”




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  • 3 weeks later...

Chapter 8



Times Square was busy as it always was, all sorts of people walking in and out of the seemingly-infinite lines of stores along its edges.  The central area was elevated and paved with gold-colored bricks, creating a stage for the giant, ever-spinning stone Mowai statue.  Sonia stood off to the side, next to the famous Rover statue, scrolling through information on her guitar’s screen until she saw Geo approaching.


“Sorry if I kept you waiting,” he said.


“No, I haven’t been here long.  Thanks for coming to meet me!”


“How have you been?  Does it feel like things have calmed down now that the concert is over?”


“A little.  A lot of people are upset about my retirement, though, not to mention the perpetual fit my manager’s throwing…but, I’ve had some more time to rest, so it doesn’t seem as difficult to deal with now.”


“I’m glad!”


“How about you?  Has anything happened at school?”


“Bud’s been doing fine, but Luna’s still acting a little weird.  It’s hard to say…it’s like she’s preoccupied, I guess?”


Sonia nodded.  I wonder if part of that is my fault…


“Pat came back, though.”


“Oh, he did?”


“Yeah.  He apologized to Bud and said he hadn’t been feeling well—Bud forgave him, and I asked Pat if there was anything I could do for him.  He said he was feeling a lot better and that I shouldn’t worry.”


“Sounds like good news.”


Geo smiled.  “I’m really happy he’s okay.  It just wouldn’t be the same without him!”


“It’s all he talks about,” Mega yawned.  “Pat this, Pat that, he never quits.”


“Really?” Sonia said.  “Hmm…so, you really are interested in Pat, then?”


Geo blushed.  “H-Huh?  What do you mean by that?”


Sonia grinned.  “I’d say not to be shy, but that probably wouldn’t change anything.  You probably haven’t actually said anything to Pat yet, have you?”


“I…I really don’t know what you mean,” Geo quietly insisted, turning and examining the skyline.


“Looks like Lyra’s starting to wear off on you, girl,” Mega said.


“Why thank you, dear,” Lyra replied.


“So, uh, you said you wanted to do some shopping, right?” Geo asked.  “Did you have any particular place in mind?”


Letting him change the subject, Sonia answered, “I thought we’d start with Nacy’s.  Maybe if we don’t spend too much time there we can look at some other stores, too.  Unless there was any place you wanted to see?”


“No, that sounds fine.  Let’s go.”


Rising above the other stores was a blue-walled hexagonal building.  The crowds seemed to flock to this one in particular, surrounding it in a sea of people.  Geo and Sonia were able to merge with the crowd and made their way there, but as they were about to enter, they passed by a man sitting on a bench muttering to himself.  He seemed tall and wore blue pants, a white shirt, and a yellow apron, with his black, shaggy hair pulled back at the top of his head but quickly spreading out until it hung over his shoulders anyway.


“Ugh, what am I going to do?  What rotten timing…”


Sonia turned to look at him.  “Um…are you alright, sir?”


He looked up in surprise.  “Huh?  Oh, uh, thanks for your concern, but don’t mind me.  I’m just…well…”


“Sonia,” Lyra whispered.  “This man is giving off something similar to a loneliness wave.  I’m not sure what it is exactly, but…”


“Is there any way we can help you?” Sonia offered.


The man sighed.  “Not likely.”


“Wait a minute…” Mega said.  Pulling Geo forward, he said, “It’s faint, but I’d know that frequency anywhere!  What are you doing here?”


Suddenly, an unseen voice laughed.  “Well, if it isn’t Omega-Xis!  This is hardly the place I expected to meet you!”


The man’s expression tightened, and he quickly pulled a Transer from his apron pocket.  “H-Hey, what are you doing?!”


“Don’t worry, Wolfe—this one won’t give you much trouble.”


“Wolfe, huh?” Mega growled.  “Somehow that’s just creative enough to fit.”


Sonia put on her Visualizer.  Floating next to the man was an FM-ian, a canine-shaped mass of blue energy with armor over his chest, forelegs, and long snout.  Shifting her weight, she said, “I try to have one day…”


“Nice to meet you too, girlie,” the FM-ian said.  “The name’s Wolf.”


“I thought his name was Wolf?”


“No, he’s Wolfe, with an ‘e’.”


“Oh, Wolfe, and you’re Wolf.  That…must get confusing.”


“Sonia, be careful!” Lyra warned.  “Wolf is a wanted criminal on Planet FM!”


Geo shuddered.  “A criminal by FM-ian standards?  Scary…”


His Transer arm began to flail as Mega said, “Hey, lighten up!  You’re making an awful lot of assumptions!”


“If that’s the case, then why are you here on Earth?” Sonia asked.


Wolf shrugged.  “Planet FM was getting boring.  The lanes to Earth were open and easy to infiltrate thanks to the ruckus Lyra’s caused, so I figured I’d check out the scenery.  Don’t worry, I don’t have any nefarious plans in motion…right now.”


“Uh-huh.”  Sonia turned to Wolfe.  “You’re staying with a human, though.  How did that happen?”


Wolfe shrunk away.  “Er…it was really a chance meeting the first time.  I told him to go away, but the next morning he was back in my Transer.”


“Not my fault,” Wolf said.  “You can sense this guy’s waves too, right?  They’ve been getting stronger with each passing night, and since they’re in-tune with mine, I’ve been getting dragged back to him against my will.  Can’t wait to see what’s gonna happen tonight…”


“What’s tonight?” Sonia asked.


“…The full moon,” Wolfe said.  “For as long as I can remember, whenever I see a full moon, I go into some kind of frenzy—I go on a rampage, not aware of where I am or what I’m doing.”


“A were-Wolfe?” Mega asked.  “Not liking where this is going.”


“Since these waves are close to loneliness waves, I’m probably going to be forced to fuse with him when they reach their peak intensity tonight,” Wolf said.  “Heck, our fusion might even materialize.  I don’t have any particular love for this planet, but I don’t really like the idea of what might come next either.”


Sonia put a hand over her mouth.  Geo said, “Oh no…isn’t there any way to stop it?”


Wolfe closed his eyes and shook his head.  After a moment, Wolf said, “Hang on…maybe we do have an option after all.  Mega, Lyra, you two can Wave Change with these humans, right?”


“Please don’t,” Lyra said.


“What?  If you two Wave Change, you could probably hold Wolfe off until he wears himself out.  Then nobody has to get hurt.”


Wolfe looked up suddenly, his eyes wide.


“Sounds like a good chance we’d get hurt!” Mega said.


“C’mon, Mega, you can take it!”


“No way.  Absolutely not!”


“Come on, Mega, you owe me!  If it weren’t for me you wouldn’t even be here right now.”


Leaning forward and baring his teeth, Wolf added, “You know I am right.”


Mega winced.  “Ngh…well…”


Wolfe said, “Can you two…really help me?”


Sonia watched him thoughtfully.  Lyra said, “Sonia, before you say what I know you’re about to say, please take into consideration that this is a very powerful FM-ian who will be fused with a berserk human.  You will not be able to reason with either part of this foe.”


“…That’s a good point,” Sonia said.  “But, he still needs our help.  If we do nothing, other people might get hurt, too.”


Lyra sighed.  “So, in essence, sign us up.”


“Well…whaddaya say, Geo?” Mega asked.  “It’s been a while since we’ve really put ourselves to the test.”


Geo scratched his head.  “It does sound dangerous…but, if Sonia’s up for it, then so am I.  I can’t let my Brother do this alone.”


Sonia smiled at him.  Wolf said, “Good.  Looks like your luck has changed, Wolfe!  We might be rid of each other soon after all.”


Wolfe stood up.  “You two…you don’t have to do this.”


“We already agreed to,” Sonia said.  “It’s fine, really!”


“I don’t think you understand exactly what you’re getting into!  This frenzy…I completely lose control.  If what Wolf’s told me is true, then I might even be capable of killing you!”


Sonia set her face.  “Mr. Wolfe, it’s alright.  I know you must be scared, but there’s no need to be: Geo, Mega, Lyra, and I will be able to keep you from hurting anybody, and we’ll keep you and Wolf safe, too.  I promise.”


Wolfe stared at her, at a total loss for words.


“Right, so,” Wolf interrupted.  “Let’s meet on this area’s Wave Road around dusk.  I’m counting on you, Mega.  Do this right and I might even stop holding that favor over your head.”


“That’s what you said the last three times,” Mega grumbled.


“Well, do it right this time.”




Sonia and Geo followed the Wave Road as it wrapped around Nacy’s, spotting Wolfe standing in front of a sign.  His Wave Changed form looked just like a werewolf, with dark teal armor, a large tail, and massive, gleaming claws curling out of his armor-encased hands.  The sky was already dark, the moon hidden only by a thick blanket of clouds that was starting to thin.


“Finally,” Wolf said.  “So these are your Wave Change forms?  Well, I guess I’ve seen worse.”


Wolfe grunted.  “Grrr…there’s…not much time…please, don’t hold anything back!”


“We don’t want to hurt you,” Geo said.


“No!  If you think like that, you won’t be able to stop me!  Please…don’t worry about me.  Just don’t let me hurt anyone!  Rrrrgh!”


Wolfe hunched over.  He and Wolf both started to shout—Sonia looked up, seeing that the full moon was starting to be uncovered.


“What do you think?” Geo asked.


She gripped her guitar.  “I guess we’ll figure it out as we go!”


Light flashed as she activated Ice Pegasus.  Wolfe looked up at her, snarling and drawing his claws wide.  His eyes had changed drastically—gone was the worried, desperate gaze, now replaced with a feral, hungry glare.  Rearing back, he howled into the sky, and then he lunged.


Geo took the lead and raised his shield.  Wolfe’s claws scraped along its surface, showering sparks on the Wave Road.  Sonia strafed and sent an ice ball at their opponent, stopping him for an instant, though she soon had to take to the skies to avoid a fierce-looking shockwave.  Geo used a Blazing Edge sword card to slash Wolfe’s side while he was distracted, and a second later he was knocked flat by a single claw strike.  Wolfe advanced, but the sound of a violin froze the Wave Road before him, making him lose his footing and careen off-course.


Flying down to Geo, Sonia asked, “Are you okay?”


“Ugh…he wasn’t kidding.  That’s some serious power.”


Wolfe was back on his feet.  He howled again, and a trio of smaller wolf-like creatures appeared before him.  As they ran at Geo, Sonia played her violin, willing chunks of ice to fall from the sky and delete each one on impact.  Ending with a high note, she made the ice on the road rise and rush at Wolfe.  He swung both claws, smashing it apart.  Geo was able to hit him with a Heat Ball, but that only made him angrier, it seemed.


“We should be able to get in a good hit with the Mega Attack,” Mega suggested.  “If he can just hold still long enough—“


Wolfe rushed forward before he could finish, sending out shockwaves as he approached.  Geo and Sonia took evasive action, and Wolfe leapt through the air at Sonia, shredding through one of her wings; Geo caught her when she plummeted, but Wolfe was turning around a second later.  Sonia stepped forward as he ran closer.  When she played, walls of ice rose up around Wolfe, looming for a moment before crashing down, burying him in the rubble...or so she had hoped.  He emerged without even looking dazed.  Geo tried a Fire Bazooka, but Wolf dodged the attack and threw another shockwave.  Sonia raised a wall of ice to shield them, but it could not withstand the attack, and the flying shards only provided cover for Wolfe to slip in and send them both reeling.


Sonia rolled to avoid a follow-up, Wolfe’s claws sinking into the Wave Road.  “Geo, try now!”


She forced Wolfe back with an ice ball.  Geo teleported up to his back with a Stun Knuckle ready, landing a direct hit and paralyzing him for a moment.  Sonia played fast, layering him in as much ice as possible, but despite her efforts, it soon shattered apart, and Wolfe hit each of them with a shockwave.


“I hate to say it, but this form just isn’t a good match,” Lyra said.  “With our wings we might have been able to match his speed, but even still, we’re going to need something that packs more of a punch to knock him out of this.”


“There’s not much we can do,” Sonia said as she stood up.  “It’s not like we’d be in any better shape by changing back to normal.  How can we make this work…”


Wolfe lunged at her.  Instinctively, she swung her bow to parry his strike—it shone with light, somehow finding enough strength to hold him at bay.  She kicked him in the snout and retreated, seeing Geo taking aim with a Tail Burner.  The flamethrower surprised Wolfe, but he retaliated instantly, slamming Geo into the road and then summoning a group of wolves to chase down Sonia.  She made an ice barrier to protect herself and checked on Geo.  Wolfe was continuing to attack, battering him without giving a single opening.  Eventually, Geo just went limp, and then Wolfe seemed to lose interest.




The wolves scratched at her barrier while Wolfe looked around.  His eyes lingered on Sonia for a moment, but then they kept going and ultimately settled on a Wavehole down the road.  Snarling, he moved towards it.


“Uh-oh,” Lyra said.  “With the waves he’s putting out, they might just stay solid.”


“We can’t let him get into the Real World like that!” Sonia said.


She played a few short notes.  Spikes erupted from her barrier, deleting the wolves; she lowered it and dashed towards the Wavehole, standing directly in front of it and staring down Wolfe as he advanced.


“Mr. Wolfe!  I’m not going to let you through here!”


Wolfe growled and lowered his body.


“You said yourself that you didn’t want to hurt anybody.  I know that you’re a good person, and that if there was any way to stop yourself, you would.”


Wolfe picked up speed.  Sonia’s violin started to glow.


“So if you don’t have that power, then I’ll just have to be the one to stop you!”


In a few strides Wolfe was right in front of her, thrusting one claw at her neck.  Before it could make contact, orange light exploded out from her, pushing him back and making the air temperature skyrocket.  He cautiously waited for it to die down.  Sonia stood there unscathed, but she looked very different.


Her dress was now red with a yellow design across the front that resembled a shooting star.  She had red arm guards and shoulder pads, and her boots were the same color with a few yellow lines down their sides.  Her scarf had vanished, her helmet had turned red, and her hair had grown much, much longer, and was now alternating streaks of red and blonde.  Her instrument was a guitar once again, but it was now a golden guitar with a star-shaped head, and its body was shaped like the face of Leo Kingdom, who anchored its strings in his lower jaw.


She played briefly, causing geysers of flame to shoot up from the road behind her.  Pointing at Wolfe, she declared, “Get ready!  Fire Leo Harp Note is live and on-stage!”


Wolfe howled defiantly, running at her as if nothing had changed.  Sonia strummed her guitar, sending forth a fireball that rammed into Wolfe head-on, flinging him backwards and into the air.  When he landed, she played again, and flames rushed down the road and converged on him, making him shout in pain this time.


Geo had come to by now.  Turning to see Sonia, he said, “Whoa…is that a different Star Force form?  When did you figure this one out?”


Sonia winked.  “Just now.  But I think I’m picking it up pretty quickly.”


Wolfe had recovered and was now calling up more wolves.  Sonia gestured for Geo to step aside—she sent a flurry of fireballs into the pack as it ran towards her, hitting each dead-on and scanning for signs of Wolfe.  He emerged from behind some smoke and fired a shockwave, but Sonia was able to dodge it and shoot her strings at him before he could get far.  At every note she played, a wheel of fire rolled down the strings and directly into Wolfe, before bouncing back towards her, then back towards him.  The strings burnt away after a while of this, and Sonia waited for Wolfe to catch his breath.


“We have to stop him,” Lyra reminded her.


Nodding, Sonia said, “I know.  Let’s end it now.”


She started playing.  Aside from more geysers appearing behind her, there were no apparent effects, and Wolfe seemed emboldened by this.  Howling, he made one final dash at his foe, claws wide and poised to close in around her.  Sonia kept playing, even as flames sprang from her own armor.


“Sonia, what are you doing?!” Geo called.


Wolfe was in the final stretch now.  He yelled in anticipation.  Sonia aimed the head of her guitar at him, raised her arm high, and played one final note.  A massive beam of intense fire erupted from the star’s point, totally engulfing Wolfe and continuing on down the length of the Wave Road, lancing forward without fear while smaller flames wrapped themselves in a spiral around its surface.  When the beam eventually ceased, Sonia fell to one knee and leaned on her guitar for support.  She looked up at Wolfe: his armor was charred black, and he lay on his side some distance from her.  She smiled.


“That should do it, don’t you think?”


Geo rushed to her side.  “Are you okay, Sonia?”


She took his hand.  “I’m fine, just a little drained is all.  I might need to practice that one.”


“How exactly do you ‘practice’ something like that?” Mega asked.


Wolfe stirred.  Geo and Sonia slowly moved towards him, being sure to keep their guards raised and staying alert to his every move.  He twitched a few times, and then he coughed, moaned, and asked, “What…happened…?”


Sonia let out a sigh of relief.  “It sounds like you’re back to normal.”


Wolfe sat up.  He looked up at the moon, then down at himself.  “I…am…?”


“Dang, Mega!” Wolf groaned.  “What the heck did you do?  Feels like I got run over by Taurus…”


“Well, most of that was Sonia,” Mega replied.  “We definitely helped, though!  This better make us even.”


“I’ll let you know once I stop feeling like I’m dead.  Oooh…”


Sonia and Geo helped Wolfe onto his feet.  “Sorry,” Sonia said.  “I was hoping we wouldn’t have to go too far, but you were more…relentless…than I was expecting.”


“I’m so sorry,” Wolfe said.


“No, you don’t have to apologize.  You weren’t in control of yourself.”


“But still.  I couldn’t stop myself…even after all this time…”


“Well, at least you know that, and you acted on that knowledge.  You let us help you.  You did all you could to prevent this from getting out of hand, and then left the rest to us.”


She smiled.  Wolfe looked at her for a moment, and then hung his head.


“I don’t get it.  You’ve seen what I’m like, so why aren’t you afraid of me?  Why are you trying to make me feel better about this?”


Sonia thought about it.  “I guess it’s just a feeling.  That if I leave you alone, you’ll only make yourself feel worse about it.  Like you’ve already done that—a lot of that—and that maybe you really need someone to make you feel just a little better for once. “


They helped Wolfe towards the Wavehole.  “I-I’m not sure I should go through there,” he protested.


“Nothing to worry about, dear,” Lyra assured him.  “The waves that would have made your fusion tangible have vanished.  Once we go through, you’ll separate again, nothing more.”


Wolfe mumbled.  “If it helps,” Geo offered, “we can stay for a while longer.  Keep an eye on you in case it comes back.”


“I don’t want to impose on you, not any more than I already have.”


“Too bad,” Sonia said.  “We’re staying”


Wolfe couldn’t think of anything else to say.  Silently, he let them help him through the portal, and as they did, Sonia thought she saw him smile just a little.




Sonia yawned and looked back at the bus schedule.  She had originally planned on going home on the Wave Road, but she was so exhausted that she wasn’t sure she was up for the trip now.  Geo had already gone home, but her bus would be a little longer, so she was desperately trying to find a way to stay awake.


“Leaving Wolf with him may backfire,” Lyra said.  “Mega might have faith in him, but as far as I know he’s still a criminal.”


“It’ll probably be a while before Wolf heals, and even then, the effect of Mr. Wolfe’s waves might keep him there anyway.  I think they’ll make good friends.”


“Are you sure?”


“Definitely.  They both know what it’s like to be feared for what they are, and they both need someone who they can look out for and who can look out for them.  They’ll learn to trust each other.  I’m sure of it.”


Lyra was preparing a retort when she heard footsteps.  “Sonia.”




Sonia turned around.  Coming up the sidewalk was Detective Copper, a half-step behind an older-looking man in a white suit.  She panicked, but tried to hide it, and looked at the bus schedule one more time.


“Ah, here you are, Ms. Strumm,” said the older man.  “Hmhm, it’s been some time since I could say that.”


“O-Oh, um hello!  Can I help you?”


“Please allow me to introduce myself.  My name is Jenaro Walters, and I am Head of NAZA.  I believe you are already familiar with Detective Copper, yes?”


Sonia waved at Copper awkwardly.


“You must be dreadfully tired, being out so late at your age,” Walters continued.  “I wish we could postpone our business, but I’m afraid we just don’t know when we’ll be able to get in touch with you again.  Please forgive us if we proceed—we shall attempt to be as brief as possible.”


A chill crept up Sonia’s spine.  “Um, alright.  What business?”  Something is very wrong here…


“Well, it may be a bit blunt, but, again, we are hoping for brevity.  So, to that end…I know that you are Harp Note.”


Sonia’s eyes widened.  What?!


“You’ve been doing a terrific job of deleting FM-ians thus far.  For that, NAZA wishes to extend its gratitude and official congratulations.  We never would have expected someone like you would step up in such a way during this war.”




Walters sighed.  “I wish that was all I had to say, but alas, you should be properly forewarned.  You see, as the FM-ian problem is really very grave, NAZA is working on alternative solutions, one of which has quite recently become extremely promising.  The catch, I’m afraid, is this: there will come a time, very soon now, when your services will no longer be required.  Rather, your actions will cease to be helpful, and indeed become a hindrance to an operation with a far greater chance of succeeding against our enemy.  For all your apparent skill, we have been preparing and analyzing for some time, and, well…the data projections on one or two rogue FM-ians defeating the rest of their kind are frankly quite dismal.  No offense is intended.”


Sonia stared at him blankly.


He grimaced, breathing a frustrated breath.  “…Perhaps I’m being indirect.  What I am attempting to convey, Sonia, is that we will soon ask you to cease your activities as Harp Note.  If you do not comply, you may end up ruining our one chance for any humans to survive this war with the FM-ians.  As such, we expect your full co-operation…do you understand?”


Still struggling to process what was happening, all Sonia could say was, “But…that doesn’t make any sense.”


Walters narrowed his eyes.  “We cannot go into great detail at this point in time.  But, surely you must have some idea of the true power the FM-ians have hidden away, so I am confident that, in time, you will begin to see the ultimate futility of your actions.  For now, I believe your current comprehension should be sufficient, and so I think I will be taking my leave.  Good night, Sonia.”


With that, he turned sharply and walked away, Copper staying right behind him.


“This is bad,” Lyra said.  “Whatever they’re planning, if it’s something our efforts to stop FM-ians get in the way of, then it’s probably not good news.”


Sonia stared at the pavement, her thoughts racing.  She remembered now.  When her mother was still alive, she had mentioned Walters several times—he had been Head of NAZA for some time, apparently.  She had always seemed furious when bringing him up, like everything the man was and represented was something Rosa hated with all her might.  And, when she had talked about the corruption that stifled NAZA, of the few awful people who made the place as terrible as it was, she had made it clear that Walters was the worst of them all.


Even Mama…couldn’t figure out a way to stop him…




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Chapter 9





She looked up.  “What?”


“Are you okay?” Geo asked.  “You seem like something’s on your mind.”


“Oh, it’s nothing in particular.”


“Are you sure you’re okay with this?  I might still be able to—“


“Don’t worry, Geo, everything’s fine.  I’ve been looking forward to this!”


They stood on the roof of Nacy’s just outside the green-walled event stage that had been set up.  The store was hosting an exhibit of exotic snakes (which made Sonia wonder why the stage’s exterior had images of a frog and a fish), and the two of them were waiting for Pat to arrive before they went in.  Geo had wanted to do something different with him, but he was very nervous about it for some reason.  Sonia was there to make it a group affair and, hopefully, less stressful.


Sonia quickly searched the roof.  She was still a bit shaken from last week’s encounter with Walters.  She had decided not to tell Geo about it—there was no need to make him worry, she thought.  Lyra didn’t agree with her reasoning, but she had not said anything either.


It wasn’t much longer before Pat arrived.  He had a wide smile as he approached, and after exchanging hellos with Geo, he looked at Sonia with something akin to awe.  “It’s still hard to believe you know Sonia Strumm!  It’s an honor to meet you—I’m Pat.”


Sonia nodded to him.  “Geo’s told me a lot about you!  I’m glad we can finally meet in person.”


As they headed into the exhibit, Sonia spotted Wolfe hanging around the side of the stage.  He grinned at her and went back to his work.


He looks a lot better.


The interior of the stage was filled with trees and bushes, creating the feel of a thick jungle.  Wooden platforms wound through the brush, widening in front of each snake so more people could gather to observe it, and stretched on to a replica of a gigantic snake at the rear that could be seen from the entrance, peeking over the trees with flashing eyes.


As the three of them began to look around, Pat said, “I wasn’t able to go to your retirement concert, but I hear it went pretty well.”


“The crowd seemed really excited,” Sonia said.  “They kept shouting that they didn’t want me to go, but I’d already made my decision.”


“I’m sure they understand that.”


“Mmm…I hope they will.  I’m still getting a lot of mail saying I should come out of retirement.”


“It sounds like they really enjoy your music.”


Sonia’s gaze drifted to one of the snakes on exhibit.  “I’m grateful for that.  It’s just…also a little frustrating.  I already said I want some time away, but it feels like a lot of people don’t want to let me have that.  Like they’re not really respecting my—“


She looked over her shoulder.  Turning the same way, Geo asked, “Was there something there?”


“I thought so,” Sonia mumbled.  “Maybe it was just my imagination.”


“Well, I’m sorry to hear that so many people are bothering you,” Pat offered.  “I’m sure it’ll pass, though.  You deserve a break as much as anyone.”


Sonia smiled.  “Thanks, Pat.”




Pat and Geo looked up at the gigantic replica snake, meanwhile Sonia read its information off the display screen. “A Spotted Anaconda.  Known for its world class size and fiery temperament, this snake will make an easy meal out of a person.  The longest one on record was 65 feet.  This is a scale replica.”


“Scary,” Geo remarked, inching towards Pat.


“Good thing it’s not real,” Pat said.  “I can’t imagine what I’d do if I met a snake like this.”


Sonia turned back towards them.  In the crowds behind them, she saw someone move suddenly.


Wait, is that…


“I’ll be back in just one second,” she told the boys.  As she passed Geo, she tapped him on the shoulder and gave a thumbs-up.  He blushed in response and smiled at Pat.


“Do you still think someone’s following us?” Lyra asked as Sonia moved through the crowd.


“I’m positive now.  She was just here, so she couldn’t have gotten far…”


She emerged from the sea of people at a place where the wooden paths intersected.  It was mostly empty, save for Luna standing at its center, looking around with a frantic expression.


Sonia glared.  “Luna!  I thought I saw you.  Are you really following us?”


“Shh!” Luna said.  Her eyes almost looked fearful.  “Not so loud, or they—“




She went stiff.  A man and a woman approached, both wearing suits and having faces set in condescending glares.  Luna faced them very slowly, her face now one of veiled terror.


“What are you doing here?” the man asked.


“Father…Mother…” Luna said.  “I-I was…just…”


“Speak clearly!” said the woman.


“I saw some classmates come in here, and—“


Her father looked over to the replica, spotting Geo and Pat.  They laughed, and, after a second, Pat slowly too Geo’s hand.


“Hmph, children your age on a date?  Such inappropriate behavior.  I see we were right about the sort of riff-raff at that school.”


“Hey!” Sonia broke in.  “You think just being an adult gives you the right to be rude as you want?”


Ignoring her, Luna’s mother said, “We really must hurry our search for another school.  I’ve been telling you to transfer her; if we wait much longer, she might be too far behind the new curriculum.”


They want to transfer her?


Sonia watched Luna, who clenched her fists and closed her eyes.  “I’ve already said I don’t want to transfer!”


Her father scowled.  “That’s enough, Luna!  You will be a good girl and do as we say!”


“No!” Luna shouted.  “I’m not yours or mother’s doll!”


She ran off before her parents could say anything else.  Geo and Pat had heard her, and now came over to Sonia’s side.


“Was that the Prez?” Pat asked.  “What’s she doing here?”


Snorting at the three of them, Luna’s father said, “You children had best be out of here.”


He and his wife moved on without acknowledging them further.  Geo said, “Those were Luna’s parents?  I guess that explains a few things.”


Pat watched them go, his face confused and surprised at first.  Then, his eyes narrowed into a deadly glare, and his lip curled back to show his gritted teeth.


Not noticing this, Sonia said, “They said something about wanting to transfer Luna to a different school.  It sounded like they’ve been trying for a while, too.”


“A transfer?!” Geo repeated.  “She never said anything about that!  Although, maybe that explains why she’s been acting weird the past few weeks…”


“Sonia,” Lyra whispered.  “You should go after her.”


Sonia hesitated.  “Well…I don’t really know her that well, and…”


“That’s not what I mean!”


Geo’s left arm flailed a bit to show Mega’s agreement.  Realizing what they meant, Sonia ran down the pathway and fought her way through the crowds.  She didn’t find Luna until she was outside: the other girl stood a few feet across the roof, facing another direction with a frightened look and tears streaming from her eyes.  Hoping she was wrong, Sonia put on her Visualizer.  Floating in front of Luna was a purple FM-ian with a few sparse plates of purple and pink armor, carrying a flute in one hand as she reached towards Luna with the other.


Luna pulled away.  “No way!  You’re like those others, aren’t you?  I’ve seen what you do to people!”


The FM-ian retracted her hand.  “Oh?” she said curiously.  “You have seen other FM-ians?”


“Oh no,” Lyra said.  “Bad luck is one thing, but this is a bit much…”


The other FM-ian said, “In that case, I shall be straight-forward with you.  Allow me use your body, and I shall help you to avoid transferring schools.”


Luna looked up.  “What?”


“I can give you all the strength you need to make that simple dream a reality.  With my power at your command, it will be all too easy to show them how you truly feel.  You shall overwhelm them with your awesome will, and prove, definitively, that you are so much more than their perfect little doll.  Is that not what you want?”


Luna took a step back, but she did not turn away.


“Don’t listen to her, Luna!” Sonia called.  She jumped down from the entrance to the event stage and rushed towards Luna.  “It’s a trap!”


Glaring, Luna said, “What do you care?  And what’s with those weird glasses?”


The FM-ian turned her head.  “Lyra?  Is that truly you?  Well, then this will be interesting, hmhmhm…”


“She’s trying to manipulate you,” Sonia said.  “Please, don’t let her!  If you do, then—“


“Instead of that, please consider what will happen if you do not listen to me,” the FM-ian interrupted.  “You shall remain powerless.  You shall be left with no way to confront your parents, no way to demonstrate your will to them.  Without me, there is nothing to stop you from being transferred.  The choice is yours, of course, but this is your only opportunity.”


Sonia whirled on the FM-ian.  “Whoever you are, please, leave Luna out of this!  I know what you came here for—we can talk about the Andromeda Key, just don’t possess Luna!  I don’t want to fight you!”


Before she could get a response, she heard Luna mumble, “I…”


They turned to her expectantly.  She hesitated a moment more, and then yelled, “I don’t want to transfer to another school!”

Without any further delay, the FM-ian reached out again.  Sonia tried to push Luna out of the way, but she was repelled, and by the time she looked up the other girl had been transformed.  She had a purple helmet with two massive, spike-shaped pieces of armor that resembled her former hairstyle, with a snake coiling around the bottom of each one.  Her shoulders and hands were also covered in purple armor.  From the waist down, she had the body of a snake, a segmented purple and pale green tail that constantly writhed along the ground.  Black cloth covered her torso and a pink veil shrouded her face, and her skin was the same shade of green as her tail.


Pulling herself to her feet, Sonia said, “No…you didn’t have to do this!”


“Don’t try to stop me,” Luna snarled.


“I would be happy to discuss the matter of the Key now,” the FM-ian said.  “If you will be so kind as to come into my office, we may discuss my terms.”


She laughed as Luna vanished in a burst of light.  Lyra said, “Ophiuca.  Why did it have to be Ophiuca?”


Sonia looked at her guitar screen.  “Is she really that powerful?”


“It’s not so much a matter of power as how heavily slanted in her favor this location is.  Ophiuca’s main ability is to control snakes.”


Sonia blinked.  “…What?”


“I know.”


“The FM-ian who controls snakes shows up right when we’re near a poisonous snake exhibit?  What kind of freak coincidence is that?!”


As she ran back towards the exhibit, she continued, “And why is that an FM-ian power anyway?  Snakes are Earth creatures!”


“Serpentine creatures exist on many planets, dear, I’m just simplifying the explanation to save time.”


By the time she made it back inside the exhibit, it was already in chaos.  The snakes had slithered out onto the walkway, grouping together so that they could herd the terrified humans along the edges and onto dead-end platforms, collectively providing a pervasive, ongoing hissing noise that could be heard even despite the many loud screams.  Sonia rushed past them, trying her best to be quick yet careful.  When she reached the giant replica snake, she found Geo and Pat still standing in front of it, now looking up at Luna as she coiled around its head.  On either side of the snake were her parents, each having the life squeezed out of them by two large serpents.


“That’s Luna, isn’t it?” Geo asked.


“And Ophiuca,” Mega muttered.  “Well isn’t this terrific!”


Pat clung to Geo, asking, “What’s going on?!  Who is that?”


Geo grabbed his shoulder.  “It’ll be alright, Pat!  Just stay back!”


Sonia took a step forward, removing her Visualizer as she stared up at Luna.  “Luna!  You have to stop this!”


“Don’t call me that!” she hissed.  “I have been reborn.  You shall address me as Queen Ophiuca, and you shall not interfere in my affairs!  I must prove to these people that I have a mind of my own…I will never feel like a soulless doll again!”


Squirming in the snake’s grip, her father said, “What?  Y-You’re…Luna…?”


“Luna,” her mother said, “why would you do this?”


Luna refused to look at them as she replied, “You two treat me like an accessory—something you can arrange as you please, however you think makes you look best!  You tell me it’s for my own good, thinking your decisions are without reproach.”


She struck the head of the snake with her fist.  Bright red light flared from its eyes, and the snakes constricting her parents began to squeeze harder.


“Well I’m sick of it!  I am as much a person as you are!  I have my own mind, my own desires, my own needs that you know nothing about!  For using me as you please all these years, I think it’s more than fair I get to return the favor for a short while.  So now, I will ignore your needs, your pleas, and let you suffer from my negligence!”


Closing her eyes, she quietly added, “Compared to my pain, this is nothing.”


Sonia put a hand over her mouth.  “Luna…”


Opening her eyes, Luna said, “This is your final warning.  Interfere, and you too shall get a taste of true pain!”


The hissing that filled the room suddenly grew louder.  Dozens of snakes came onto the platform, rising up menacingly as they slinked forward.  Glancing to Geo, Sonia said, “M…Maybe we should pull out for now…”


Geo nodded.  He turned to Pat, who was still staring up.  “What is this?” he whispered.  “She’s acting totally different…it’s like it’s not even her…”


“Pat, we have to go,” Geo said.  Pat turned to him and nodded shortly.


The three of them began to back away from Luna, slowly moving closer to the main walkway.  They were almost there when Pat tripped over a loose board.  He fell along the edge, right where a snake was slithering up, and accidentally struck it with his hand.  The creature was stunned briefly, but then pulled back and angrily lunged.


“No!” Luna shouted.  “I didn’t order you to attack!”


Sonia grabbed Pat and tried to pull him out of the way.  It didn’t look like he would be clear in time, but then Geo appeared, diving in front of Pat so that the snake bit into his arm instead of Pat’s.


“Geo!” Pat shouted.


The snake leapt off and retreated as Geo fell backwards.  Sonia and Pat caught him and dragged him away, finding the task difficult as his body had gone limp.  His eyes flickered.  Sonia looked back at Luna—she seemed surprised.


“Geo, why?” Pat asked.  Tears were forming in his eyes.


Geo opened his mouth, but his body spasmed suddenly, and he could only grunt in pain.


“We have to get him out of here,” Sonia said.  “Pat!  We can still save him, but we need to be quick!  Do you understand?”




Sonia slung one of Geo’s arms around her shoulder while Pat took the other.  Lifting him as much as they could, they walked quickly down the path and hoped none of the other snakes would make their job harder.  Luckily, they were able to get out without further incident; after setting Geo down on a bench, Sonia told Pat to call an ambulance and headed back towards the exhibit.


“Where are you going?” Pat asked.


“There’s nothing else to be done for Geo right now,” she said.  “If we don’t stop Luna, a lot of other people might end up in the same state—or worse.  I’m going to find a way to put an end to this.”


“But how?  She’s become some sort of monster, and she’s surrounded by all those snakes!  There’s no way you can stop her!”


Sonia locked eyes with him. “Just because she’s a monster doesn’t mean I won’t try to save her!  She may have given into her pain, but that’s not all she is.  She still deserves help.  And no matter how bad this situation might look, if there’s a chance I can help even one person, I’m going to find a way!  So don’t worry about me.  Right now, what you can do is look after Geo.”


She smiled in an effort to inspire some confidence.  “I’m going to go find out what I can do.”


She raced back to the stage and stood in front of its door, looking around for…well, in reality she had no idea what to look for.


I might talk big, but I have no idea where to start.




Wolfe came towards her.  “What’s going on in there?  All I can hear are screams.”


“Oh, Mr. Wolfe!  Another FM-ian has shown up, and she’s using the snakes to hold the people hostage!”


“Eugh, Ophiuca?” she heard Wolf say.  “She sure picked a great time to show up.”


“Care to lend a hand?” Lyra asked.


“Who, us?  I’m still recovering from that full moon incident.  I’m not gonna be of much use to you.”


“We need to find some way to stop the snakes so that I can get to her,” Sonia said.  “I don’t suppose you have any ideas?”


Wolfe thought, and then he pulled out his Transer and equipped it to his arm.  As he typed something into its surface, he said, “Whoever this Ophiuca is, she doesn’t have all the facts.  The staff was briefed on safety measures before this exhibit came here and…”


He cleared his throat.  “While I…may not have gotten all of it, I do remember what they said about snakes being cold-blooded.  I may just be a maintenance worker, but I think I have just the thing to give you an opening.”


Reaching into his pocket again, Wolfe drew a card; he swiped it through his Transer, made a few more keystrokes, and then grinned.


“There,” he said.  “I’ve used my Thermo Card to lower the temperature inside the exhibit.  Those reptiles’ bodies will cool down in response, and before long, they won’t even be able to move!”


“Really?  That’s great!” Sonia cheered.  “Thanks, Mr. Wolfe!  You’re a lifesaver!”


She burst through the doors of the exhibit.  It was just as Wolfe had said: with the temperature so low, the snakes were all coiling up and growing still, causing the noise that once filled the space to die down.  The people started to escape, meanwhile Sonia made for the replica as fast as she could.  Luna was shouting as the snakes around her curled up one by one, including the two holding her parents.  They both struck the platform and lost consciousness.


“It’s over, Luna!” Sonia said.


“Very resourceful, Lyra,” she could her Ophiuca grudgingly admit.  “You’ve certainly put us in a difficult position.”


“I was really quite nervous when you showed up, but now it seems that was all for naught,” Lyra said.  “You’re rather helpless now.  Might be best to simply surrender, don’t you think?”


“Ah, but we do still need to discuss the Key.  In addition to that, this snake replica here houses controls for all of this exhibit’s systems, include the climate settings.  Luna, we may be able to restore a more bearable temperature and pick up where we left off.”


“Drat,” Lyra cursed.  “Sonia, it doesn’t look like we can avoid a fight here.”


“Luna, please!” Sonia said.


“I shall not listen to the likes of you!” Luna said.  “If you know what’s good for you, you’ll be gone before I restore the climate, because if not, you’ll be the first one I send my snakes after!”


She vanished in an instant.  Sonia yelled in frustration, and then put on her Visualizer and looked for a Wavehole.


“Fine,” she said, approaching the swirling orange light nearby.  “She might not listen to Sonia Strumm, but maybe she’ll listen to Harp Note!”


“Dear, she may be your biggest fan, but you have to remember that she’s in Ophiuca’s thrall now,” Lyra said.  “I really, truly hope that I’m wrong…but please, prepare for the worst.”


Sonia stopped just before the Wavehole.  “…You’re right.  I will.”


Once they Wave Changed, Sonia jumped into the replica and gathered her bearings.  The Comp Space had a floor that looked like a layer of leaves, and at the far end behind Luna was an orange console built into what appeared to be a tall hedge.  Sonia took a deep breath, and then she walked forward.




Jumping a bit, Luna turned around.  As soon as she saw her, her eyes went wide; she backed up against the console and placed one hand over her heart, quietly asking, “Harp Note?  Is it really you?!”


“That’s right.  I need you to stop what you’re doing, Luna.  You’re putting a lot of people in danger.”


Luna hung her head.  “Harp Note, I…I can’t.  If I don’t do something, I’ll be sent to a different school—I won’t be able to see any of my friends again.  This is the only way to make my parents see the real me!”


“But this isn’t you!  You’ve only gone from being controlled by your parents to being controlled by Ophiuca!”


“You can’t believe she’ll fall for that,” Ophiuca said.  “As if I could ever control someone with a will so strong!  All I’ve done is lend her some extra power.”


“She’s manipulating you,” Sonia said.  “You’ve seen this exact thing happen to others before.”


Luna shook her head.  “I just…I can’t be transferred…I’ll be all alone, under their control the whole time.  I couldn’t survive that.”


“Luna, scaring and attacking people is going to leave you just as alone.  I know you’re afraid, but you’ve surrendered yourself to that fear!  What you’re doing here is wrong!”


“I see you will not be ceasing this absurd line of reasoning,” Ophiuca said.  “Perhaps a change of topic is in order.  I wish to make a proposal regarding the Andromeda Key.”


Lyra laughed.  “If you think you’ll be able to take it from us, dear, you’ve got another thing coming.”


“Oh no, quite the contrary.  I propose we work together to overthrow the FM King.”




“I sympathize with your motivation, Lyra.  Planet FM is in dire need of some radical shift.  I’ve seen it limp on for so long, slowly but surely destroying itself, and it may not be long before our entire race wipes itself out in suicidal war.  I would very much like to avoid that.”


“Is that so?  Forgive me dear, but you were never really one to object.”


“Object to the FM King’s rule in his presence?  I would certainly never do that.  I’ve seen so many rash fools, Lyra—be it charging into battle unprepared, or revealing a bit too much at an inopportune moment, they always trip and fall on their sword because they did not think things through.  One must observe, hold their tongue, and wait for the exact right conditions to present themselves if one is to succeed.”


“And you think those conditions are present now.”


“You have the Key.  I could easily procure the FM King’s controller.  Working together, it is well within our ability to take control of Andromeda and bring about whatever change we want.”


Lyra didn’t reply.  Stepping forward, Sonia asked, “Do you really mean all that?”


“Well, I would be lying if I said self-preservation did not appeal to me,” Ophiuca said.  “But I am being at least partially sincere.  You’ve seen what the FM-ians are like, haven’t you?  Do you think we can continue on like this?”


“No, I don’t.  But using Andromeda to force them to change isn’t going to achieve anything better.”


“Really?  Do you have an alternative?”


“Yes.  I’m not going to coerce, just convince.  The FM-ians don’t have to fight.  Your ideas about people and relationships are wrong, and I’m going to show you all what the truth is.”


“Oh.  You are an idealist.”


“I wouldn’t want to be anything else.”


“Hm…an interesting approach.  What results have you achieved thus far?”


“Well…a lot of the FM-ians haven’t really listened.”


Ophiuca chuckled.  “I see.”


“You shouldn’t sell yourself short, dear,” Lyra said.  “Cancer and Wolf may be on the path to listening, and I’d say Mega’s a nice little example.”


“Is that so?” Ophiuca said.  “A rather odd list.”


“Perhaps.  But, what if I said this girl even made Taurus see the power of relationships?”


Ophiuca paused.  “Truly?  That’s actually quite impressive.”


“And, of course, don’t forget about me.  I came here thinking Andromeda was the only way I could change Planet FM, but after spending so much time here, she’s managed to change my mind.  I’m sorry dear, but I’ll have to decline your offer.  If the FM-ians are ever going to truly change for the better, it’s not a new ruler we need.  It’s a new outlook.”


“…I must admit, I’m very surprised to hear you refuse.  It would seem I should have gathered more information about your time on Earth.  Well, you’ve left me with little choice: I’ll have to defeat you and take the Key for myself.”


“Ophiuca, someone as smart as you—“


“Forgive me, Lyra, but I don’t have as much faith as you that our species can have a mass change of heart.  Luna!  Are you prepared to fight?”


Luna’s brow furrowed.  “Fight Harp Note?  No, I couldn’t!  She’s a hero.  If I’m fighting against her, then…”


She grabbed her head.  “Does…does that mean I really am doing the wrong thing?  But, what choice do I have?”


“Precisely,” Ophiuca said, “you have no other choice.  This may not be easy, but despite the consequences, this is the only way for you to stay with your friends.  How could such a thing be wrong?”


“I know, but…Harp Note?”


“Luna,” Sonia said calmly.  “Please don’t do this.  You’ve taken it too far.  You’re allowed to hurt, but inflicting that pain on other people is the wrong way to deal with it.”


“How could she understand?” Ophiuca asked.  “People simply cannot understand each other’s pain.  The only way to give even a glimpse is through retaliation.”


“Even if I can’t totally understand your feelings, I know what it feels like to be lonely.  I know the pain and fear of not wanting to lose someone…the pain of losing the person you care about most in the world.”


“But she could never fathom your helplessness.  Your own parents refuse to see you, only wanting you to do what they want, parading you around for their own gain.”


“Not my parents, no.  But there are times I feel like a lot of people care more about what I do than who I am.  There’s one person in particular who I’m sure thinks I’m nothing but a product, and has had far too much control over me.”


She looked down.  “…Actually…maybe you and I are a lot alike.”


When she looked back up, she saw Luna watching her closely.  After staring for a time, Luna asked, “What should I do, Harp Note?”


Sonia started to say something, but then stopped herself.  She chose her words a bit more carefully, and then replied, “The truth is that I haven’t always gone about it in the best way.  Maybe I need to re-evaluate how I’ve been coping, too.  But either way, what I do isn’t necessarily what you should do, Luna.  You’re your own person, right?  Only you can find the way that’s best for you.”


Holding out her hand, she smiled and added, “But that doesn’t mean I won’t do what I can to help.”


Luna slowly slithered forward.  “Harp Note…!”


“Luna, it would be unwise to trust her,” Ophiuca warned.  “She came here to stop you.  I told you, this is the only way.”


Luna hesitated.  “It’s your decision, Luna,” Sonia said.  “It’s up to you to find the best way.”


“There is no other way!” Ophiuca insisted.  “Luna, all you need do is put your trust in me.  You know that I have your best interests in mind.”


Luna flinched.  “What did you just say?”


“I…well, what I meant to say—“


“You are controlling me.  You’re using me the same way they do!”


“Luna, think rationally about this.”


“No!  I was right from the start: you’re a monster who just wants to turn me into a monster!  You took advantage of me!  I was so stupid to trust you!”


Luna spun around to face the console.  Her eyes flashed, and two beams of pink energy shot forth from them, blasting a hole in the controls and rendering them inoperable.  Sonia’s jaw dropped.




“Ha!  Seems there are times where it’s wonderful to be wrong!”


“You’re a fool!” Ophiuca said.  “Now how will you stand up to your parents?”


“I don’t know,” Luna said, “but I’ll do it as me.  Not as you!  Now get away from me!”


Luna’s armor started to fade.  Sonia allowed herself to hope.


Then her armor solidified once more, and Luna doubled over.


“You think I can be evicted so easily?” Ophiuca said.  “You have years of loneliness festering in your heart!  If I must, I can surely use it to keep myself whole!”


Luna hit the ground.  “Urgh…no!  I won’t let you!”


Sonia felt her heart sink.  “Lyra, what do we do?”


“I-I don’t know!  I can’t recall ever seeing something like this.”


Coming forward, Sonia said, “Luna!  Hold on!”


Luna flailed about.  “No, stay back!”


A few snakes appeared on the ground.  Sonia stopped and played a few notes, blasting them away before they could reach her.


“Harp Note...you can weaken her, can’t you?”


Reluctantly, Sonia said, “My attacks should make it difficult for her to maintain her hold.  But, Luna—“


“Don’t worry!  I trust you, Harp Note.  You said you would do what you can to help me, right?  I believe that!”




Through clenched teeth, Luna said, “Please!  I don’t know how much longer I can…agh!”


Sonia took a few steps back.  She steeled herself, and then she was enveloped in orange light, emerging in her Fire Leo form.


“Brace yourself, Luna!  I’ll knock her loose in one shot!”


She began to play, charging up as much energy as she dared.  Then she raised one hand high, took a deep breath, and unleashed one large blast of fire that consumed Luna.  Ophiuca screamed as the flames raged.  When they finally died down, Luna lay there as herself, all traces of the FM-ian gone.


Sonia knelt and shook Luna’s shoulder.  “Luna?  Luna, are you okay?”


Luna’s eyes slowly opened.  She smiled.  “Thank you, Harp Note.  I’m sorry for causing you so much trouble.”


Smiling back, Sonia said, “Apology accepted.”


Sonia helped Luna to her feet.  Luna dusted herself off and admired Sonia, saying, “Is that a new form?  It looks so cool!”


Blushing, Sonia scratched her head.  “You think?  I was worried it might be a bit over the top.”


“Maybe a little, but in a fun way!  It gives you a really tough atmosphere.”


An unfamiliar laugh interrupted.  “Now this is quite a shock.  Ophiuca failing at her own mindgames?  I never thought we’d see the day.”


Luna clung to Sonia.  “W-Who’s there?”


“Oh dear,” Lyra said.  “I wish today would hurry up and decide if it’s going to be good or bad.”


“Show yourself!” Sonia shouted.


“Not yet, Harp Note.  But I assure you, our meeting is very close now.”


“Can I at least know who I’m speaking to?”


“Shouldn’t you know?  One of my Jammers blurted it out quite a while ago.”


Sonia tried to remember.  “The Jammers…”


She gasped.  “Gemini?!”


“Indeed.  I’ve been watching you for some time, and I’ll confess you’ve exceeded expectations. I daresay you’ve made quite a name for yourself as the defender of Earth.”


“Be careful, dear,” Lyra said.  “If we can hear him, then we’re within his range.”


“While I am most excited to battle you, I have a few details that need my attention first.  I bid you farewell, Harp Note.  Please do not let me down.”


Sonia and Luna stood still long enough to be sure Gemini was gone.  When they finally relaxed, Luna asked, “What was that?  Another one of those things?”


“Yes.  One who I’m told will be difficult to deal with.  Oh, but you don’t have to worry about that, Luna!  Come on, let’s get you back to the Real World.”


Luna didn’t say a word as she followed Sonia out of the Comp Space and over to the Wavehole.  When Sonia told her to go through, however, she stopped.


“What about you?” she asked.


“Um…well, I sort of have a secret identity…”


“You can trust me with it!  I won’t tell anyone who you really are!”


Sonia averted her gaze.  “Mmm…I might not be what you expect.”


Luna took her hand.  “Please?  You’re my hero, Harp Note!  I have to know who you really are!”


After hesitating a little more, Sonia realized Luna was not going to give up.  She nodded.  Luna smiled brightly, and then the two of them stepped into the Wavehole together.


“Well…” Sonia said.


Luna looked at her.  Then she jumped back.  “Wh…Sonia Strumm?!  You’re Harp Note?!”


“This is what I meant,” Sonia sighed.


“No way…but, I guess you were at AMAKEN the first time I saw Harp Note.  And then there was the time with Bud…you’re really…”


After staring a bit, she turned to the side, closed her eyes, crossed her arms, and nodded.  “Hm.  Okay, so you’re Harp Note.  I thank you for all your help, but…”




Luna blushed.  “B-But don’t get any weird ideas!  I’ll always like Harp Note, but that doesn’t mean I have any feelings for you!”


“Huh?!  We’re the same person!  How does that even work?”


“I’ve already explained it.  So, don’t get any funny ideas!”


“Sheesh, so that’s what you’re like.”


“What do you mean ‘that’?”


Sonia turned and shrugged.  “Oh, don’t mind me, if it’s important you’ll hear Harp Note say it some time soon.”


“Why you!”


Sonia started to leave.  She heard footsteps, and then Luna grabbed her wrist.


“Hey!  I…I meant it when I thanked you.  And when I said I was sorry, too.  I…I-I know I’m not the easiest person to be around, sometimes, so…”


With a sigh, Sonia said, “It isn’t really your fault.  I’ll try not to hold it against you.”


“Good.  So, um…”


Sonia looked over her shoulder.  “So?”


Luna looked aside.  “It’s…I feel like I should try to make up for what I’ve done.  I mean, my weakness ended up causing trouble for you, s-so…it seems fair, right?”


“What seems fair?”


“Idiot!  Obviously the only fitting response is to see if my strength can help you!”


Sonia cocked her head.  “Huh?  I guess I see your reasoning, but…hold on, do you mean what I think you mean?”


“Do I have to spell it out for you?!  I’m offering to form a BrotherBand with you!  W-Well, it’s more like forming a BrotherBand with Harp Note, really, so that’s why I’m asking.”


Sonia smirked.  “Wow, you really are a tsun—“


Luna cut her off with a glare.  “What’s your answer?”


Sonia thought.  After a moment, she said, “Well…you already have helped me, Luna.  You’ve always believed in Harp Note, and that encouragement has meant a lot to me.  So, I probably would benefit from having even more of your strength.”


She nodded.  “Sure.  Let’s be Brothers!”


Luna smiled.  Then she caught herself and frowned.  “A-Alright then, I guess we’ll do that.”


Sonia giggled.  “Well, at least she’s consistent.”


“If I can interrupt,” Lyra said, “we may want to go check on Geo first?”


Sonia’s face went white.  “Oh my gosh…Geo!  You’re right, I need to make sure he’s okay!”


“Oh, right, I should apologize to them too,” Luna said.  “Wait…my parents!”


She turned around, but saw her parents were not where they had fallen.


“Uh, the paramedics must have retrieved them,” Sonia said.  “Come on, let’s hurry!”




Copper quietly stepped into the office and crossed the gray-tiled floor.  The white walls were bare save for a few screens flashing streams of data, and at the far end was a large silver desk and a chair behind it that currently held Walters.


Walters looked up.  “What news do you bring me, Detective Copper?”


“We’ve received word that Harp Note has deleted another FM-ian,” he stated.  “Our contact has advised us that the plan will soon be set into motion, and that we should prepare our resources accordingly.”


With a frown, Walters nodded.


“…Sir, may I have permission to speak freely?”


Walters raised an eyebrow.  He leaned back in his chair, folding his hands in his lap.  “Very well.”


“Sir…are we really doing the right thing?  I can’t help but feel this goes against everything I swore to uphold.  You say this will save the Earth, but no matter how I look at it, it seems like we’re just betraying it.”


Walters watched him for a moment.  Then he smiled.  He chuckled a bit, leaning forward and putting his hands on the desk.  “I suspected you had some doubts, Detective.  I’m glad we’ll be able to address them.”


He stood.  “I will be the first to admit that it is not a perfect solution.  Even if we succeed, many lives will be lost, and Earth will most likely either be destroyed or altered beyond recognition.”


“And how can we condone something like that?”


“Would you rather condone our total annihilation?”


“No, of course not.”


“Because that is the only other answer, Detective.  The FM-ians have more power than we could ever hope to stand against.  They’ve destroyed numerous other worlds with that Andromeda of theirs, and not a thing in the galaxy has been able to so much as scratch it in return.”


He sneered.  “We simply stand no chance.  I loathe to admit it, but they already have us beaten.  I had hoped cutting off the space station’s signal would be enough to make them forget, but now it seems their arrival is imminent.  Earth cannot be saved.”


Copper clenched his fists.  “But sir!”


“No!” Walters said.  “I know what you must think: our duty is to protect the Earth, and we should aim to do so even now.  Well, you are wrong.  When protecting the Earth is impossible, we must then find a way to save as many people as we can.  It may not be all people, it may not even be as many as we would hope, but it is something.  In the face of a situation so overwhelming, we cannot afford to be finicky.”


He walked right up to Copper.  “I know you don’t like it, Detective.  I don’t care for it much either.  But billions will die no matter what we do, so I will most certainly pursue the option that enables at least a few thousand to survive our extinction.”


Walters sat back down.  “If you disagree, then you will have no other choice but to leave NAZA.  Am I understood?”


Copper stared at the floor.  “Perfectly, sir.”


“Good.  Now I want you to assemble the Satella Officers we selected for this mission.  I want them to be ready for deployment the moment we receive word from Gemini.”




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Chapter 10



Luna looked up from her Transer as Sonia approached.  Jumping down from the steps of Vista Point’s observation deck, she stepped forward and said, “You’re late!”


Sonia shrugged and walked past her.  “You’re early.”


“I decide what’s late, and I say you’re late!”


Sonia laughed and turned back to look at Luna.  “Whatever you say, Prez.”


Luna crossed her arms and turned away.


“How have you been?  Are your parents doing better?”


Luna drooped a bit.  “They’re back to their daily lives.  The doctors say there’s no indication of any permanent damage, just a little soreness that might linger a few more days.”


“I’m glad.”


Sonia leaned forward against the railing, and Luna leaned back against the portion of the deck right beneath her.  The latter looked up, saying, “They think it was just a dream.  I mean, they know that the snakes got out, but they think me transforming and attacking them was some hallucination brought on by the poison.  Still…they actually listened.  They don’t want to transfer me anymore, and they’re actually asking me what I want now.  It’s like they finally see me as a person.”


“That’s great!”


Luna looked at the ground.  “Yeah…”


Sonia leaned further forward.  “…But?”


“…Shouldn’t I tell them?  It wasn’t a dream.  I feel like I’m lying to them…like I’m still going about this the wrong way.”




After thinking for another moment, Sonia said, “From what I know, it sounds like both you and your parents did bad things to each other, and there’s been a lot of pain on both sides.  But, if your parents want to put that behind them, then it might be okay for you to do the same.”


Luna shook her head.


“Look at it this way: even if they think it was a dream, they still remember the things you did, and they reacted by trying to change.  They forgave you, Luna, and decided to make up for what they’ve done.  It would be difficult to explain what really happened, but even if you could, I don’t think it would change their decision.”


“…So then…I shouldn’t stop them from trying to make up for it if that’s what they want to do.  But, I should try to make up for what I’ve done too.”  Luna smiled.  “Maybe I was overthinking it a bit.”


Sonia flicked Luna’s head lightly.  “Yeah, maybe a bit.”


Luna waved her hand away.  “Cut that out!  Geez, are all my Brothers going to be trouble?”


Sonia snickered and retreated a bit.


“How are things with you?”


“Well, my manager seems to have moved on, and the letters have slowed down.  The pressure’s really letting up.”


“Good.  What about that other FM-ian?”


Sonia frowned.  “Still no sign of him.  I’m starting to get a little paranoid.”


“A little?” Lyra repeated.


Sonia rolled her eyes.  “Okay, really paranoid.  But you’re the one who keeps building him up, Lyra.”


“I’m sorry, dear, I only want you to be prepared.  Truthfully, with how much work you’ve put into mastering the Star Force, I think we’ll actually do quite well.”


“That’s right,” Luna said, “there’s no way you’ll lose to this Gemini creep!”


“Thanks.”  Sonia sighed, sitting down on one of the steps.  “I’d still like to avoid a fight if I could.  No matter how bad Gemini might be, I can’t believe he’s beyond all hope.”


Luna’s eyes lit up.  “Ah, you’re so cool, Harp Note!  You could knock him flat but you’d rather show him compassion!”


Sonia scratched her head.  “I-It’s not really that cool, I just...”


She gave up trying to finish the thought when she saw Geo coming up the hill.  She waved to him, noticing he seemed to be in an extremely good mood.


“You’re late!” Luna barked.


“Sorry,” Geo said, “I wasn’t able to catch the first bus.  I had to ask Pat about something, and I wanted to do it before I lost my nerve.”


“Hm?  Ask him something?”




“The kid wants to become Brothers with him,” Mega interrupted.


Sonia got to her feet.  “You asked him to be Brothers?  Really?”


Geo nodded sheepishly.


“Well, what did he say?”


“He said he wanted some time to think about it,” Geo answered.  “I should find out tomorrow.”


Luna raised an eyebrow.  “Huh?  Why does he need to think about it?  You two are practically joined at the hip already.”


“It has something to do with his secret,” Geo said, his grin fading.  “He thinks I’ll hate him when I find out what it is.  I told him there’s no way I could hate him, but he’s still kind of hesitant.”


“He thinks you’ll hate him?” Sonia said.  “That’s weird.  What kind of secret could that be?”


Geo’s face set with determination.  “Whatever it is, it won’t bother me.  I really care about Pat, and I’m glad he’s even considering being Brothers with me.  He can take all the time he wants.”


Luna said, “You say that, but you seem awfully eager.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen you this happy.”


“You should have seen him on the bus ride over here,” Mega said.  “The kid’s ready to burst!”


Geo’s face melted into a grin again.  “Well, of course I’m excited!”


“I’m happy for you, Geo!” Sonia said.  “I hope Pat accepts.”


As the conversation continued, Sonia drifted back a bit, until Lyra whispered, “What an odd thing to say.  ‘If you know my secret, you’ll hate me.’  Correct me if I’m wrong, but Pat was the one who punched that Bud child right before Taurus arrived, was he not?”


“That’s the way I remember it too.  Given that, I’m a little worried.”


“You think he might attack Geo?”


“I don’t really have a reason to think that he will…”


She looked over to Geo.  His face was covered in a huge grin, and he was laughing powerfully at something Luna had said.


“…And I just can’t bring myself to say anything.”


“But you can’t let it go either, can you?”


“No.  So, if he does go to see Pat tomorrow, then…maybe we should follow him, just in case.”


“I completely agree.  If anything should happen, poor Geo will probably be too stunned to respond, and we can't exactly trust that bumbling Omega-Xis to look after the boy on his own.”


Sonia adjusted her guitar strap.  “Yeah.  I really, really hope I’m wrong…”




Sonia cautiously peeked out from behind a building, staying totally silent and being sure not to go so far that Geo saw her.  Pat had called him this morning and asked him to come to a place called Dream Island, a city built on top of an ocean landfill, and Sonia had followed using the Wave Road so she could keep an eye on him.  Luna had wanted to come too, but Sonia had convinced her it would be better for her to stay behind.


Geo was waiting on a bench not far from the bus stop—Sonia watched from behind a nearby electronics shop.


“Here he comes,” Lyra said.


Sonia pulled back as Pat made his way up the street, fidgeting nervously.  Geo sprang up when he saw him, stumbling forward a few steps before finding his balance, and then he took a deep breath, smiled, and waved.


“Were you waiting long?” Pat said as he came to a stop.


“No, I just got here!”


Pat chuckled.  “You seem a little anxious.”


“Ah, yeah, a little…”


“It’s okay—I’m nervous too.  This is my first time becoming Brothers with someone, so…um…”  Pat gulped.


“Hey, no sweat!  There’s nothing to it!”


“Right.  So…the first thing we do is tell each other our biggest secret, right?”


Sonia took another step back.


“Don’t stray too far, dear,” Lyra said.


“Well, I don’t want to eavesdrop,” Sonia whispered.  “Hearing Pat’s secret without him knowing would be wrong.  I only need to keep them in my sight, I don’t have to listen.”


Lyra sighed.  “It might not be necessary either way.  Pat seems on-edge, but if I had to guess I would say it’s just a simple case of jitters.”




Geo cleared his throat.  “You know, Pat, you don’t have to tell me your secret if you don’t want to.  I don’t want to force you into anything.”


Pat shook his head.  “I know.  But it’s okay: I’ve decided I want to tell you everything, because…I trust you, Geo.”


Geo grinned.


Pat clenched his fists.  “Okay.  Here’s my secret…I have—“


Suddenly he lurched.  Pulling his arms around himself, he grunted, “Oh no…no, no, why now?!”


Sonia’s eyes widened.  No…Geo!


Geo, unsure how to react, asked, “Pat?  What’s wrong?”


Pat grunted a few more times before finally falling still.  He straightened his spine, lowered his arms, and smiled.  There was a new look in his eye, and for some reason Geo felt incredibly uneasy.


“Heheh…nothing’s wrong,” Pat said.  “Come on, Geo.  Let’s be Brothers.”


“Sonia,” Lyra said, “he’s putting off a loneliness wave now.”


Sonia closed her eyes.  “It wasn’t there before?”


“No.  It’s strange, almost as if he’s become a completely different person.  But the person there now has definitely been taken over by an FM-ian.  I’m so sorry.”


Geo tentatively reached out.  Then he was pulled back by his left arm, scrambling to stay on his feet.  “Huh?!  Mega, what are you doing?”


Clutching her guitar tightly, Sonia stepped out onto the street.  “Stay away from him, Geo!”


Geo looked up, confused.  “What?  Sonia?”


“That’s not Pat, kid,” Mega said.  “And whoever he is, he’s not alone!”


Pat looked over his shoulder at Sonia.  Then he turned back to Geo and laughed.  “Well, you’re right: I’m definitely not alone.  You may as well come out now!”


Sonia put on her Visualizer.  Hesitantly, Geo did the same.  Floating beside Pat was a large mass of yellow energy with two masks floating atop it, one black, one white.


“It’s about time,” the FM-ian said.  “I was beginning to get bored.”


“Gemini!” Lyra shouted.  “I’m over here!  If you want the Andromeda Key, you’ll have to--“


“I’ll deal with you in time,” Gemini said.  “First, my partner here has some unfinished business that must be attended to.”


Geo stepped back.  “Pat, what’s going on?  Why are you with Gemini?”


“I told you, kid: that’s not Pat!” Mega insisted.


“You’re both right,” Gemini said.  “You see, this child suffers from a form of dissociative identity disorder.  Within his mind are both the docile personality you call Pat, and the one you see before you now…Rey.”


“What do you think, Geo?” Rey said.  “Bet you never thought the guy you wanted to Brother with could be like this!”


Geo furrowed his brow.  “I…don’t understand…”


“How clear do I hafta make it?  We already told you how our parents abandoned us.  Being tossed out like that, like we were nothing more than garbage…one person can only take so much trauma.  Pat couldn’t handle all that pain and hate, so his brain created me as a way of dealing with it.”


“I…I thought you said you didn’t hate your parents?”


“That was Pat, idiot!  Me, Rey, I’m nothing but hate!  I’m the one who carries the burdens my pushover brother can’t cope with.”


After pausing to grin, Rey continued, “And boy am I feelin’ good today!  You know how much anguish he’s been in because of you, Geo ol’ pal?  He was finally takin’ my advice and stayin’ away from folks, but then you showed up and he let his guard down!  Liked you so much he was able to keep me down for a long time, and he even wanted to be Brothers with you!  But, there was one big secret he had, something he knew you’d hate him over, and the thought of losing you sent boatloads of strength my way!  Which is pretty fitting, I’d say…because that secret?  It’s me.”


Geo was still reeling, but he tried his best to follow.  “S-So…you’re the reason Pat was scared to be my Brother?  He thought I’d hate him when I found out about you?”


“You’re startin’ to catch on!  Come on, don’t act so surprised—just look at ya!  Quaking in fear of this side of your ‘friend’ you knew nothing about.  We were right all along!  This is the only way you coulda reacted, learnin’ that we’re an incomplete human.”


Rey grunted.  His face twisted and he leaned forward, and a moment later he said, “G…Geo…”


“Pat?  Is that you?”


“Geo…I’m so sorry…I didn’t want…this…”


He grunted, throwing his head back.  “Pipe down!  I keep tellin’ you, this is what’s best!  You gotta trust me!  You know I’m only doing this for you!”


Rey gasped.  His body seemed to calm down.


 “You know I’m right,” Rey said.  “Revenge is the only thing that can heal us now.  Heh…at least one good thing came from you gettin’ so close to this guy.”


Turning, he said, “Gemini told me what we can do with the Key his friend has.  You did good, bro.  You brought everyone into just the right spot, and now, we can finally fulfill our dream!”


Nobody moved.  Eventually, Rey winced, and his face softened as Pat took over.


“I’m sorry, Geo…it just hurts too much…”


Geo stared in disbelief as Pat’s resigned gaze gave way to Rey’s vicious snarl.


“That’s more like it!  Okay Gemini, time to kick this off for real!”


Gemini laughed.  “As you wish.”


As Gemini moved to envelop Rey, he held his Transer up.  “EM Wave Change!  Rey Sprigs and Pat Sprigs, On The Air!”


Sonia blinked as they radiated a yellow flash.  When she opened her eyes, two figures were standing up on the Wave Road, each wearing armor similar in style to Mega Man’s but sleeker, and with smaller helmets over their shaggy orange hair.  One wore white, and the other black; each had a shell of golden armor over one arm, the left arm of the one wearing white and the right arm of the one wearing black.  The one in black looked down with a cruel smirk, while the one in white refused to look at her.


“Two of ‘em?!” Mega remarked.


“I don’t believe it,” Lyra said.  “Gemini…somehow, he managed to transform both of them.”


“Hey, you!” Rey called.  “I know you’ve got the Andromeda Key, so you may as well hand it over!”


Mustering her composure, Sonia said, “I’m not going to do that!”


Rey shrugged.  “Well okay then.  Guess you won’t mind if we do something like this!”


Holding out his armored hand, Rey produced a group of black orbs emblazoned with a ‘-‘ symbol, and they each flew off in pairs and scattered over the area.  Two settled on a couple nearby, and they immediately moved away from each other and began to argue.


“Gyahaha!  See how quick people are to tear into each other?  They were Brothers, even!  Looks like those precious relationships aren’t worth a whole lot in the end!”


Geo looked up at Pat.  He met his gaze for a moment, but then he turned towards Rey.


“Rey, what are we going to do?”


Rey looked over his shoulder.  “Eh?  Oh, right.  Not enough time to brief you on the plan, so just stay close to me, alright bro?”


He shrugged at Sonia again, and then turned and ran down the Wave Road, Pat staying right beside him.


“They’re heading into that junkyard,” Lyra said.  “Dear, we mustn’t fall too far behind!”


Sonia glanced at the couple.  “What about them?”


“This is one of Gemini’s powers.  Sometimes I can deal with them, but now that he’s Wave Changed, I’m afraid the only way we’ll be able to get rid of them is by separating him from his host.”


Sonia nodded.  “I guess we don’t have much of a choice.  Geo!”


Geo was still staring blankly in the direction they had gone.  “…Pat…”


Sonia walked over, placing a hand on Geo’s shoulder.  “Geo…I’m sorry, but I’m going to need your help.  I know this is a shock, but—“


Geo pulled away.  “You want me to fight Pat?”


“If it helps, I’ll fight Pat while you fight Rey.”


“What does it matter?  It’s still Pat.”


“No, it isn’t.  Well…not exactly…”


Geo covered his face.  “I can’t believe this…why did I get close to him in the first place?  Why did I go through all this, just for him to betray me?”


Sonia stepped in front of him.  “Betray you?  Geo, that’s not it at all!  I know it’s hard to understand, but Pat is sick.  He’s being eaten up by his own pain, just like everyone else we’ve had to face—just like we were not too long ago!  Were you trying to betray people when you were hurting?  Or were you just trying to find a way to stop the pain?”


Geo slowly slid his hands away.  His face was wet.


“He’s desperate, and letting himself be controlled by that feeling.  And if we don’t stop him, he’s going to try to inflict that pain on other people, and that’ll only make him hurt even more.  You know how Luna still regrets what she did—we have a chance to stop Pat from feeling that!”


“I don’t know if I can,” Geo said.  “I’ve fought other people, but Pat is…”


He shook his head.  Sonia grabbed his arms and looked him in the eye.


“Geo.  I know it’s difficult, and if there was anyone else who I thought could handle it, I’d ask them.  But you’re the only one strong enough to help me.”


“I’m not that strong!”


“Yes, you are!  And right now, you’re the only one who can share their strength with Pat!  That’s what he needs: he needs you to help him!  He needs you to face your hurt, so you can show him how to face his!  That’s what we do, Geo.  We fight these people so that we can save them when no one else can.”


Geo looked down.


“…I know it’s easier to avoid the pain.  I know, and I’ve spent so much time doing nothing but distracting myself, and there are times when you just need to ignore everything else and let yourself hurt for a while.  But the reason you do that is to build up your strength so that you can face the pain, because that’s the only way you’ll ever really heal.  I wish I could give you time to hurt, Geo, my gosh, I really wish that I could.”


Above them, more black orbs were flying out from the junkyard, spreading out over the island and shooting across the sea.


“But we don’t have time.  I’ll give you all the strength I can, and I believe you’ll be able to find your own strength faster than you realize.  It’s terrible that we have to do this, Geo…but the good thing is, we can do it.”


Geo looked up at the orbs.  He removed his Visualizer and wiped his eyes with his sleeve, and then he took a breath and nodded.


“I’ll try.”


Sonia readied her guitar.  “Thank you.  Let’s Wave Change and go after them!”


“Actually, dear, I’d recommend waiting a moment,” Lyra suggested.  “Take a look around.”


Sonia carefully scanned the area’s Wave Road.  Now that she was looking, she could pick out at least a dozen Jammers hiding along it, each one eyeing her and Geo while trying (and failing) to seem inconspicuous.


“Rats,” she muttered.


“Come on, we can take ‘em!” Mega said.


“Mega, dear, this is Gemini we’re talking about,” Lyra said.  “We need to save our strength.”


“I’m sure there’s another Wavehole around here somewhere,” Sonia said.  “If the Jammers still follow us, we’ll deal with them then.”


After checking to make sure Geo was coming, she walked into the junkyard and surveyed the area.  Mounds of garbage lined the path on all sides, nearly obscuring the giant incinerator hiding behind it all, and the Wave Road hovered just out of reach of the numerous backhoes littered about.  Pat and Rey could be seen farther in, Rey still scattering more orbs into the sky.


“That’s odd,” Lyra said.


“What do you mean?” Sonia said as she pushed on.


“Why didn’t they keep going?  I know they want to fight us over the Andromeda Key, but this location is so near the last that it doesn’t make sense to move between them, unless…”


The sound of trash shifting caught her attention.


“Oh no.  Sonia, it’s a trap!”




Sonia turned around.  Several people emerged from behind the garbage and moved to block the path to the entrance, each of them wearing a suit and trench coat.  Pivoting, she saw the same sight all around, her feet slowing to a halt as she realized that they were now surrounded.


“Are these people being controlled by those orbs?”


Rey stopped what he was doing and walked closer.  “Nope, we can’t get that much control.  Heheh…I want to see the look on your face when you realize what’s really going on.”


Geo stepped forward, calling, “Pat!”


Pat ignored him, staying right where he was.


Sonia took another look at the ones who had ambushed them.  Something about the way they were dressed seemed familiar, but the answer wasn’t quite coming to her.  She squinted, trying to make out the insignia one of them had on their coat sleeve—a Satella Police badge, if she was not mistaken.  And that was when everything made sense.


“Yep, that’s a priceless look,” Rey commented.


“These people are all Satella Officers!” Sonia said.


“But, why would NAZA send them here?” Geo asked.


Sonia clenched her fists.  “Walters…”


Two officers parted to make way for another.  Detective Copper advanced towards the children, his expression one of the grimmest they had ever seen.  He stood in front of them, closed his eyes for a moment, and then glared at Sonia.


“We thank you for all you’ve done, Harp Note,” he said.  “However, by the authority of NAZA, I hereby order you to cease and desist.  You are to hand over the Andromeda Key…to Gemini.”


Sonia glared back at him.  She could feel her skin burning.  “What?”


“We gave you ample warning.”


“You said you were going to try to make me stop.  I never expected you’d tell me to hand the Key over to the FM-ians!”


“Harp Note, I—“


“What was all this for, then?  Why do you think I kept fighting them all this time?  And now you want that all to go to waste?  To give them exactly what they came here for?”


“We gave you a chance to end as many FM-ian menaces as you could!  There is nothing more to be done now; you must allow the Satella Police to do their job.”


Sonia filled her lungs.  In an instant, she grabbed Copper by the collar and pulled him in, shouting, “Your job is to help the people of Earth!  Explain to me how you think you’ll be doing that by letting an invading force reclaim their most powerful weapon!”


Something collided with her shoulder.  Pain surged through her entire body suddenly, making her shake and fall to the ground.  She could hear the crackle of electricity, and maybe Geo calling out to her, but aside from that all her senses went dull for a few long moments.  Soon it passed, and she looked up at one of the officers as he returned something to the holster at his waist.


Copper’s eyes were wide now.  When he didn’t respond, the voice of Gemini stepped in for him.  “Foolish girl.  Do you really think anyone on this miserable little planet has the means of protecting it from the FM-ians for long?  It was only a matter of time before you failed, and that is why NAZA sent a message our way.  ‘We surrender.  Please allow us to negotiate for the continued existence of our species.’”


Sonia pushed herself up with her elbows.  “You mean…Walters gave up before even trying?”


“He’s quite an intelligent human, that Walters.  That’s why, when I received the message, I persuaded the FM King to consider his request.  With the research NAZA had gathered on us, he knew that we needed hosts when functioning on planets without strong EM waves, so he proposed that the human race be kept alive…so that the FM-ians would have a reliable source of material hosts.”


Gemini laughed.  “I’ve seen many things in this galaxy, but a man willingly offering his entire planet into servitude was new to me!  It was such an interesting request that I immediately transmitted it to the FM King.  Alas, even with my sway, I could not convince him to spare the entire human race.”


As Sonia was shakily getting to her feet, Lyra asked, “Why do I find it so hard to believe you actually tried?”


“Oh, believe what you will, Lyra, it really makes no difference.  You see, the FM King has decided that Earth has simply done us such wrong that to let it go would be a blemish upon our reputation.  However, he does honor the wisdom of NAZA’s surrender, and as a reward, he will allow a small number of you to live.  We shall take as many as we can to the safe haven of Planet FM…before unleashing Andromeda upon the rest of you.”


Sonia looked up at Rey.  “…There’s something I still don’t understand.  Obviously you told NAZA to come stop me at some point.  Why didn’t you have them do this sooner?  Why wait until after I had already defeated so many FM-ians?”


Gemini chuckled.  “It was something of a back-up plan, really.  I had no way of knowing that you’d do so phenomenally well, child, and if one of the others killed you and took the Key then there’d be no need to get so many humans involved.”


Her gaze started to harden into a glare.  “You had a way you were sure would stop me…you could have stopped me before your allies risked their lives to accomplish that same goal…and you let them do it anyway?  Even after some of them had already died?”


“I see.  You’re asking why I didn’t save them, is that it?”


“You had a chance to keep them out of danger, and you didn’t take it!  Doesn’t that bother you?”


“Why should it?  I admit, I may have seen an opportunity to remove some…troublesome rivals.  Is it really so bad that I took advantage of that?”


“It’s despicable!” Sonia yelled.


Another officer drew their weapon, and she was stunned once more.


“Hmph,” Gemini scoffed.  “Despicable, you say?”


“You didn’t need to wait for a chance,” Sonia hissed through her teeth, doing her best to ignore the pain.  “You had your plan, you had your host…but you actually wanted the others to die…!”


Gemini sighed.  “You know, I’m really growing quite tired of this.  Human!  Please wrap things up now, won’t you?”


Copper looked up for a moment, and then turned back to Sonia.  Slowly, he held out his hand, saying, “In the name of NAZA…I order you to turn over the Andromeda Key.”


Sonia kept her eyes on the pavement.


“…We will have the Key.”  Copper gestured to one of the officers.  They drew their weapon and pointed it at Geo.


Pat started forward.  “Geo!”


Rey stopped him.  “Relax, Pat!  It’ll all pay off soon enough.”


“Wait, no!” Sonia said.  She tried to stand, but her limbs gave out.  “No, don’t hurt him!”


Rey laughed.  Gemini said, “This is why you should never rely on others for power.  If you hadn’t brought him here, he wouldn’t be facing this danger now.  And you think that I’m the one who doesn’t value others’ safety!”


The officer fired.  Geo’s left arm was yanked back, narrowly saving him from the discharge.


“Look at this,” Gemini said.  “Even Omega-Xis has gone soft.”


“Hey,” Rey called down, “much fun as this is, I believe Gemini told you to wrap up!”


Copper flinched.  He raised one hand high, and every officer present readied their weapons.


“I’m…never giving you the Key!” Sonia said.  “There’s no way I—“




She turned to her guitar.


“Sonia…you’ve helped me so much, dear, but…I can’t ask you to do this.”


Lyra left the guitar, appearing on the Wave Road directly above Sonia and Geo.


Now able to stand again, Sonia shouted, “Lyra!  Don’t!”


Lyra held out both hands.  There was a burst of pink flame between them, and then it faded to reveal a massive key with an orange handle flanked by two angular green protrusions.


With a long sigh, she held it forward.  “You win, Gemini.  The Andromeda Key is yours.”




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Chapter 11



Lyra clutched the Andromeda Key in her hands.  The last time she had held it was the day she had stolen it from the FM King’s palace, when she had paused for a split-second to congratulate herself before converting it to compact data and making her escape.  She had been so sure of her intentions that day—she swore she would stop at nothing to analyze the secrets of the Key, learn how to harness the limitless power of Andromeda, and use it to frighten Cepheus from the throne, ushering in a new age where Planet FM would prosper as never before.


She chuckled to herself.  And all it took to shake that resolve was one girl’s ideals.


The reason she had decided to instead safeguard the Key was the same reason she now had to relinquish it.  She scanned over the assembled Satella Officers ready to fire on Sonia and Geo, and for all her experience and tactical knowledge, she couldn’t find them a single chance.  Still, Sonia was stubborn.  She would endure a great deal of pain before she gave up, and Lyra could not bear to see her suffer like that.  The only way to save her was to allow Andromeda’s awakening.


“Dang it Lyra,” Mega shouted, “don’t just hand it over!  That thing can’t be allowed to wake up!”


Rey laughed at her.  “Y’know, I’m disappointed!  That was a little too easy!  Still, when you’re trying to keep someone safe, you gotta do what you gotta do.  I can relate.”


He started walking forward.  Sonia turned to Geo, asking, “You have your Battle Cards, right?  If we scan one then maybe—“


“Don’t move,” one of the officers called.


More quietly, Sonia added, “How quickly could you scan one?”


Geo shook his head.  “Not fast enough.”


Sonia looked around desperately.  There had to be some way she could help Lyra, she thought, but the situation looked incredibly bleak.




The mechanical voice drew everyone’s attention towards the incinerator.  From behind the building came a stream of floating cylindrical robots—the Sorter Bots that maintained the junkyard.  They spread out, each of them facing one of the Satella Officers.


Sonia regarded them curiously.  What are they doing?




Fire hazard?


Suddenly, a stream of water burst from each Sorter Bot’s torso, dousing the officers in seconds.  They jumped back, several of them falling into the trash piles.  She wasn’t entirely sure what was going on, but seeing the opportunity, Sonia knelt beside Geo, grabbed a Battle Card from his pocket, and swiped it through her guitar.


Up on the Wave Road, Rey had nearly reached Lyra.  He prepared to take the Key when a Cannon appeared, firing a blast that caught him off-guard.  Surprised, Lyra looked down, seeing the chaos that had formed, and a smile crossed her face.


The Key vanished in another burst of pink flame.  “On second thought, Gemini…I think these humans might still have a chance after all.”


She returned to Sonia’s guitar.  Rey crushed the Cannon with a single punch, shouting, “What was that?!  Are the Sorter Bots short-circuiting or something?”


“Glad to have you back, Lyra!” Sonia said.


“Wonderful to be back, dear!”


“Heh, don’t be so quick to give up next time!” Mega said.


Sonia helped Geo to his feet.  “Come on: we’ll find a Wavehole further in!”


One of the officers noticed them and tried firing their weapon.  It crackled with electricity, but drenched as it was, the current travelled back and only shocked the officer, reducing him to a heap on the pavement.


Copper pushed a Sorter Bot away, saying, “Regroup!  We have to stop them!”


A loud rumble caught his attention.  One of the backhoes was on the move, advancing on the officers with its arm raised high.  They scattered, the Sorter Bots chasing them, leaving a clear path ahead that Sonia and Geo were quick to take.


“You’re kidding!” Rey groaned.  “Ugh.  C’mon, Pat, let’s figure out what’s wrong!”


“There may not be time for that,” Gemini said.  “I recommend we proceed to the secondary location and prepare for a fight.  Seems we’ll be taking the Key the messy way.”


“…Well, I guess that’s more fun anyway.”


Rey and Pat ran further into the junkyard.  Sonia and Geo followed beneath them, but the twins were faster and quickly overtook them, disappearing behind the mountains of trash.


Once they were far enough away, Sonia made sure the officers weren’t following and stopped to catch her breath.  “What happened?” Geo asked.  “Did someone hack the junkyard’s systems?”


“Maybe,” Sonia said, “but who could’ve done that?”


“Hmph!  Use your heads, morons!”


Turning back, they saw Luna heading up the path.  Putting her hands on her hips, she said, “If anyone were to be there when you need help, Sonia, it’d obviously be your Brother!”


“Luna?!  I thought I told you—“


“Oh come on!  Did you really think I’d stay behind?  I only stopped arguing so you would get a move on!  Geez, it shouldn’t be this much of a surprise.”


Sonia stared at her for a moment, then ran up and hugged her.  “Thank you, Luna!  You’re a lifesaver!”


“H-Hey!  Wait a minute!”


“But how did you do all this?” Geo asked.


Pushing Sonia off, Luna said, “One of my parents’ projects involves some construction, so I grabbed one of their Shovel Cards before coming here.  I knew this place was a landfill, and I thought you might need some help clearing a path…w-well, I thought Harp Note might need some help.  That’s the only reason I came!”


“Impressive,” Mega said, “but what about the Sorter Bots?”


“That wasn’t me,” Luna said.


A laugh prompted them to look up.  Cancer Bubble stood on the Wave Road, proclaiming, “That was my handiwork!  Their control system is beyond easy to hack when you’ve got an EM body!”


“Claud?!” Sonia exclaimed.  “What are you doing here?”


Claud waved at her.  “Sonia!  Well, I had heard that Harp Note was sighted around Echo Ridge a lot, so I went there to show you how much stronger I’ve become!”


“He bumped into me as I was on my way here,” Luna said.  “When he said he was looking for you, I brought him along.  I figured he could probably be helpful since he can Wave Change like you and Geo.”


“I really owe you, Claud!” Sonia said.  “Be careful though: there were some Jammers hanging around, and Gemini might want them to look into what’s going on in the system!”


“G-G-G-Gemini?!” Cancer squeaked.  “You didn’t tell me we were going up against Gemini!  Oh, if he catches me here I’m going to be in HUGE trouble!”


“Feh,” Mega scoffed, “our hero.”


“We can handle some Jammers!” Claud insisted.  “Leave things here to me, Sonia!  We’ll watch your back!”


Claud headed back towards the officers while Sonia and Geo started in the other direction.  Luna grabbed Sonia’s arm, saying, “Wait!  Where’s Pat?”


Sonia hesitated.  “He…he’s with Gemini.”


Luna gasped.  Turning to Geo, she said, “Are you okay?  Will you really be able to fight him?”


Geo didn’t answer.


“You know,” Luna suggested, “Claud could help Sonia instead.  You and I could take over the—“


“No,” Geo interrupted.  “Cancer Bubble won’t be able to fight Gemini—he’ll be a lot more useful handling the officers and Jammers.  Besides…even after this, I’m still the one who knows Pat the best.  If we’re going to help him, then it really does have to be me.”


Sonia gave him a small smile in thanks.  “We’ll be okay, Luna.  If you’re going to keep helping Claud, just be careful, okay?  If the Satella Police catch you, you’ll be in some pretty serious trouble!”


Luna crossed her arms.  “Hmph!  Do you really think I’d be so careless as to fail helping a Brother?”


“Haha…I guess I forgot who I was talking to.  Thanks again!”


With that, Sonia ran ahead, Geo following a step behind.  They encountered no more officers as they ran deeper into the junkyard, eventually coming to a small area at the island’s edge.  There was plenty of open space, with only a few patches of trash, and just ahead was a very tall transmitter that looked like it had seen better days.  Pat and Rey waited on the Wave Road right in front of the transmitter dish.


Rey sneered at them.  “You shoulda taken the easy way out when you could.”


“Gemini!” Sonia shouted.  “There’s got to be some way we can resolve this without fighting!”


“Oh?” Gemini said.  “Earlier it sounded like you had quite a clear opinion of me.”


“I don’t believe anyone’s beyond all hope.  If you’re the FM King’s advisor, then surely you can help convince him to end this attack!  Nobody else needs to get hurt!”


“You poor, naïve child.  You truly know nothing of how reality works, do you?  The strong crush the weak.  And this pathetic planet—it has not a drop of strength on it!  Even you two, the only ones who have had any measure of success in this war, can only fight thanks to the FM-ians with you!  Earth is nothing but a speck of filth, weak stock that exists only to serve as prey for the strong.  You say that no one has to get hurt?  That is only a cry of protest from prey hoping to disarm its predator.”


Sonia shook her head.  “The FM-ians have all been warped and twisted…but you…you’re a person who truly thrives in a place like that.  You haven’t been wounded by your world.  You just enjoy it.”


Gemini laughed.  “Well, that settles that I suppose.”


“No!” Sonia said, pointing.  “You may be terrible, Gemini, but it’s like I said: no one is beyond all hope!  Some people just need to learn the hard way!”


She held her guitar forward.  “EM Wave Change!  Sonia Strumm, On The Air!”


As she materialized on the Wave Road, Pat and Rey leapt inside the transmitter.  Sonia waited for Geo to join her, and then they pursued, finding a Comp Space filled with so much junk data it was indistinguishable from the scrapyard outside.  Rey was at the console, and Pat was standing between him and Sonia.


“Oh, I see,” Lyra said.  “From this transmitter they can spread those orbs over a much wider area.”


Sonia fired the strings from her guitar.  They shot right past the twins and struck the console, and she followed by quickly sending a powerful note down along it.  The console exploded in Rey’s face, throwing him backwards into Pat, and Sonia entered her Fire Leo form and walked forward.


“I’d like to see them try.”


Rey gently pushed Pat.  “So much for that.  Bro, you can fight her.  I’ll handle Geo so you don’t have to.”


Geo raised his buster.  “Get out of my way, Rey.  I need to talk to Pat.”


Rey grinned.  “What are you sayin’?  You can’t be any more thrilled to fight him than he is to fight you.  ‘Sides, you’re in no position to make demands!”


Making a fist, Rey made a motion similar to Geo’s; his arm detached and flew forward, rocketing towards his surprised target until Sonia dashed into its path, swung her guitar, and knocked it off-course, sending it spiraling off into the junk field.


“Geo,” she asked, “are you sure about this?”


Geo nodded.  “It’s like you said: I’m the only one who can share my strength with him.”


Stepping forward, he said, “Pat!  I’m here to help you!”


Pat clenched his teeth.  “Don’t you get it, Geo?  You can’t save me from this!  Do you have any idea what it’s like to have something inside your head every day, something you can’t control, something you can’t escape?  How are you going to save me from that?”


“I…I don’t know!  It’s not something I can do myself, I’m sure, but I want to help you as much as I can!”


Rey’s arm regenerated, and he moved forward to attack again.  Sonia sent waves of flame his way, watching him jump over each one as he continued to advance.  She played another note, but this time the flames charged her guitar, enhancing its strength when she swung it at Rey.  He nimbly leapt over her and countered with an electrified sword.  With her paralyzed, he turned to Geo, but he was met by a Mop Lance that sent him rolling backwards.  Sonia swung her guitar down.  Pat grabbed Rey, pulling him to safety, and blasted her with a bolt of electricity.


“What are you doing?” Sonia asked.


“I still need him!” Pat said.  “I just can’t handle all that pain!”


“You won’t have to,” Rey said.  “Now come on, let’s get ‘em!”


The twins pressed their metal arms together and both pointed forward.  A huge amount of electricity emanated from them, giving Sonia and Geo just enough warning to dodge before a beam of lightning shot out in their direction.


“Can you cover me?” Sonia asked.


Geo answered by using a Vulcan Seed Card, shooting a shower of pellets that stunned Pat and Rey while Sonia played a chord.  When Geo’s attack ended, pillars of flame erupted in its place, and the twins leapt back to recover.


“You have to stop, Pat!” Geo said.  “Taking revenge isn’t going to help you, it’ll only make you feel worse!”


“If he feels bad, then I’ll take over!” Rey said.  “As long as I’m around, Pat won’t have to feel any pain!”


The two of them rushed forward, deploying their swords.  Sonia was able to block Pat’s sword, though he was too fast for her to counter, and Geo was slashed along the arm by Rey.  A swing of Sonia’s guitar nearly caught Rey, but he was too quick.  Pat saw an opening and hit her with a rocket punch.


“This is a bit of a predicament,” Lyra said.  “Fire Leo may be powerful, but it can’t keep up with these two.”


Carrying Geo away from another beam of thunder, Sonia said, “I could probably catch up with Ice Pegasus, but I’d be at a disadvantage.  One hit and it would all be over.  We’ll just need to use whatever opportunities we find.”


Both of her opponents fired rocket punches.  Geo moved up and blocked them with his shield, but that only gave them a chance to move in, and when he lowered it he was slashed by Rey once again.  Sonia was able to bash Pat with her guitar, to which Rey responded by slashing her in the back.


“You okay Pat?” Rey asked.


Geo appeared between them with a Jumbo Hammer, slamming the weapon down before teleporting back.  Rey was able to throw Pat free of the shockwave.  While he was recovering, Sonia entangled him in strings, and then she conjured a few fire wheels that ran up and down the lines.  Pat took aim at Sonia, but Geo stepped in front of him.


“Get out of the way, Geo,” Pat warned.


“There has to be another way, Pat!” Geo said.  “I’m sure somebody can help you with this problem!”


“No!  I’ve had it for as long as I can remember—there’s no way it’ll ever go away!”


“Have you asked anyone for help?”


“Of course not!  If anyone found out I was like this, then of course they’d hate me!  I don’t want people to know I’m…some kind of freak!”


Geo took one step.  “You’re not a freak, Pat.”


“Shut up!  You’re scared of me now that you know, aren’t you?  All you’ve done is prove me right!”


“I’m confused!  Maybe just a little scared, but that’s only because of how I found out.  Pat…I’ll be honest: I don’t completely understand what’s going on.  But I don’t think any less of you just because you have this problem!”


Pat glared at him.  He seemed to prepare for a rocket punch, but Geo didn’t move.


“Pat!” Rey shouted.  With a grunt of pain, he electrified his entire body, shredding the lines and granting him freedom.  He dashed at Geo and tackled him to the ground, channeling the electricity directly through him now.


“Shut your mouth, liar!” Rey yelled.  “We all saw you gaping and crying!  You can’t expect us to believe you didn’t feel hurt when we told you our big secret!”


Geo twisted, his arm transforming into an Arbo Edge sword and flinging Rey off.  “Sure I was!  But now I know…the one who hurt me was you, Rey!  Not Pat!”


Sonia hit Rey with a flame blast before he could recover.  Geo turned back to Pat.


“It definitely hurt…but I know it’s not your fault, Pat.  And you must be going through even more pain.”


Pat shook his head.  “I…I don’t believe you!”


“Before Rey and Gemini showed up, you said that you trusted me.  If you’ve changed your mind, then don’t you think it might be because of them?”


Rey ran at him again, shrugging off Sonia’s flame blasts to punch Geo as hard as he could.  “Get away from him!  Even if we hadn’t showed up, it would’ve turned out like this anyway!”


“He’s right,” Pat said.  “I don’t know how to be close to people.  I’m…too ashamed of this…of what people think of me.  Rey’s the only one who I know wants to help me!”


Rey leapt away from more of Sonia’s blasts.  “Rey’s the one telling you to be ashamed!” Sonia said.  “He’s the reason you haven’t tried getting help to solve this problem, isn’t he?  It doesn’t sound like he’s someone you should be listening to!”


“Why you…!”  Rey fired a rocket punch and ran in behind it, landing a sword attack on Sonia just as the punch hit.  He kicked her back and dodged one of Geo’s Mop Lances, and then slashed him across the chest and thrust his elbow into his face.  “I only tell him that to keep him safe!  Do you know what people say about people like us?  No one believes us!  Not even the ‘professionals’!  They think people like us are just making it up!  There’s no one we could turn to for help—they’d all just look down on us and hurt Pat even more!”


Rey grabbed Geo and detonated a rocket punch at close range.  Glaring back at Sonia, he added, “The only reason I exist is to spare Pat pain.  Don’t you for one second think I don’t have his best interests at heart!”


He threw Geo at Sonia.  She moved to catch him as Rey went over to Pat, enabling them to attack with a lightning beam that bowled Sonia over just as she grabbed Geo.


Rey took Pat by the shoulders.  “Don’t listen to them, Pat.  I’ve always kept you safe, right?  It’s a cruel world!  If you go looking for help—if you get your hopes up, then you’re only gonna get hurt even worse when they refuse to listen!”


Pat was shaking.  “I-I know…we’re…an incomplete human…”


Geo pulled himself up.  “Cut it out!  I don’t hate you, Pat, and I believe you!  If you’ll just trust me, I’ll do whatever I can to find someone else who believes you, somebody who can really help!”


Pat shook his head violently.  “No!  We’re incomplete!  I’m just a freak, a sick freak!”


“That’s not true!” Sonia shouted, flames springing from her armor.  “You’re acting like this disease is all that defines you!  You’re more than a disease, Pat: you’re a person!  A real, good person who deserves help just as much as anyone else!  Just because you’re sick doesn’t mean we won’t try to help you!”


She brought her hand down on her guitar, unleashing a huge burst of fire that washed over the twins.  Sonia panted, leaning on her guitar for support, and Geo placed a hand on her shoulder.


“Don’t push yourself too hard,” Geo said.  “We just need to make him listen.”


She stood up straight.  “He won’t listen unless I give it my all, and we still have to teach Gemini a lesson too.  I’ll be okay, Geo—just focus on Pat.”


Rey moaned, damaged but still standing.  Helping Pat up, he said, “It’s too dangerous.  You’ll only get hurt if you try to get help, Pat…and I won’t let anyone hurt you ever again!”


He charged his metal arm with electricity.  “You two can’t beat us!  You may be able to get some strength outta your bond, but where do you think our strength comes from?  And unlike you, I’m completely devoted to my brother—I live only for him!  We’re closer than you could ever be, and that means we’re stronger than you can even dream of!”


Rey nodded to Pat.  Reluctantly, he nodded back.


They flew out too fast for Sonia and Geo to react.  Cuts and punches rained down upon them, each strike charged with electric energy that only added to their sting.  Sonia managed to hang out a little longer thanks to the Star Force’s abilities, but being unable to find any openings in their onslaught, there was nothing she could do to stop the attack, and eventually she and Geo were both brought to their knees.  Pat and Rey finally paused for a moment.  Then, Rey grabbed Geo by the throat, hoisted him up, and began to electrocute him.


“I know it’d be too painful for you to finish him, so take Sonia instead,” Rey ordered.  “Be quick, Pat—with that weird transformation she could be back up before you realize it.”


Gemini laughed.  “This turned into quite the diversion, but nevertheless, I’ll be taking the Andromeda Key now.”


Pat readied his sword and stepped towards Sonia.  “…I’m sorry,” he whispered.


Writhing in pain, Sonia looked up at him.  “You…ungh…think you’ll be able to do this?”


“I don’t have a choice.”


“Neither…do I.  I’ve come too far, Pat…there’s no way I can let it end now.  It’s not a choice any more.  I have to survive.  I have to save Geo.  I have to save you.  I have to defeat Gemini…stop the FM King…and save the Earth.  You can take your best shot, Pat…but I’ll still find a way to save everyone!”


Her guitar began to glow.  Pat raised his sword in surprise, but before he could swing it, a pillar of green light erupted around Sonia, producing a gust of wind that blew him and Rey back towards the shattered console.  Rey dropped Geo in the process—he hit the ground not far from Sonia and curled up, waiting for the pain to stop.


When the light faded away, Sonia’s outfit had changed once again.  She wore a flowing green ball gown with green-black fabric over her shoulders and arms, and a green scarf coiled loosely around her neck.  Her helmet had been swapped for a green flower in her hair, and the top half of her face was covered by a masquerade mask that resembled the face of Dragon Sky.  Slowly, she raised one hand and waved it before her.  At this motion, a series of small rectangular light projections appeared, falling together perfectly so that they resembled a large two-tiered keyboard before her.  Sonia walked over to Geo—the projections staying the exact same distance from her—and stood between him and the twins.


“This is the final Star Force,” she said.  “This is Green Dragon Harp Note…and I will defend the Earth from any threat!”


She tapped several of the keys.  Organ music filled the air, and the ground began to transmute into grass, starting from where she stood and spreading out at a steady pace.


Lifting his arm, Rey said, “It’ll take more than a costume change to scare us!”


He fired another rocket punch.  Sonia angled her hand, causing the incline of the projections to shift so that they were nearly vertical.  The punch collided with them and exploded harmlessly, unable to pierce the barrier.  Sonia began to play the keys with both hands, and as the song played, strong winds whipped around her, rushing out and forcing the twins to fight for their footing.  They soon felt something else collide with them: pellets, not unlike those from Geo’s Vulcan Seed attack, rained down from the sky, striking them each a dozen times in a second until they finally lost their balance.  Sonia played one loud, deep note, and the wind formed into a shockwave that flung the twins across the junk field.


Geo was getting up now.  Mega said, “Another one?”


“Are you complaining, dear? Lyra asked.


“Well, so long as it works!”


The twins got back on their feet.  Sonia gestured, saying, “Geo, you might want to stay behind me for a second.”


Geo nodded and stepped back.  Pat and Rey rushed out and swung their blades at Sonia’s keyboard shield, their attacks not so much as denting it.  Sonia responded by playing a few notes, commanding vines to arise from the grass and ensnare her enemies, followed by a few more that each produced a shockwave down the vines just as easily as her strings would normally.  Seeing a chance, Geo summoned another Jumbo Hammer and added to the attack.


Rey headbutted the shield, saying, “You think this fancy barrier’s enough?  Every defense has a weakness!”


He managed to cut the vines holding Pat; Pat returned the favor and they both retreated, though they didn’t go far before putting their arms together and preparing another blast.  Geo moved behind Sonia again.  Sonia braced herself, holding both hands forward, and when the lightning was fired, she focused on the shield and watched the sparks bounce off it harmlessly.


“N…No way…” Pat murmured.


Geo stepped out again, this time with a green weapon looking something like a box fan.  When the fan started spinning, a whirlwind enveloped the twins and the grass at their feet started to recede.  The attack continued until the grass was gone, leaving the twins heavily damaged, but they still remained on their feet.


“Can you two really not handle them?” Gemini asked.  “With my power it should be a simple task!  I had hoped you wouldn’t be as weak as the rest, but it seems I was wrong.”


“Gemini!” Sonia said.  The keys formed into a single ring around Sonia, tight enough that when she held her hands out to her sides, each could touch a key.  “This power may be borrowed, but that doesn’t change anything.  I’m still going to use it to protect the people of Earth, and I know that with it, along with the power I’ve borrowed from all my friends, there’s nothing Planet FM can do to stop me!  If you need help believing that, then pay attention!”


Sonia began to spin, keeping her fingers outstretched so that they depressed one key after another and produced a constantly fluctuating sound.  The pitch grew higher as she spun.  Winds swirled around her, compressing into a tornado that turned green from the leaves filling it, and it grew until it was four times her arm span and reached higher than any of them could see.  Then it began to move.  The cyclone surged forward, picking up the twins and tossing them about like helpless debris amongst the random bits of junk data it also sucked into itself.  Sonia stopped spinning once it had reached them—dizzy, she stumbled back, the keys parting and reassembling the keyboard, and she fell a bit before Geo managed to catch her.


“Don’t let your guard down just yet,” Lyra said.


The cyclone dissipated, leaving several pieces of junk data to drop out of the air all over the space and dropping the twins right into a large pile of it.  Sonia and Geo advanced, ready to defend themselves if necessary, and watched as they struggled to their feet.  Pat leaned against Rey for support.  Rey looked to be in worse shape, but he kept them both upright somehow.


“You’ll pay,” Rey growled.  “Putting my brother through all this pain…I swear, I’ll make you pay!”


Sonia started to say something, but she stopped as Geo walked forward.  He looked from Pat, to Rey, back to Pat, and finally back to Rey.  Then he leaned forward and wrapped his arms around the both of them.


“I’m sorry,” he said.  “I’m sorry for the way I reacted earlier.  Please believe me: I don’t think any less of you, and I honestly want nothing more than to help you…than for you to be happy.  Both of you.”


Pat and Rey both stared ahead, wide-eyed.  Pat shifted his gaze towards Sonia, who smiled at him and nodded.  Tears welling in his eyes, Pat raised his arm somewhat jerkily, and, with only a hint of reluctance, wrapped it around Geo.


“M…Maybe…we can find someone who can help,” Pat mumbled.  “I want to try...because…I trust you, Geo.”


Rey clenched his teeth, mustered his strength, and pulled back, staggering a few steps away from Pat and Geo.


“What are you talkin’ about, Pat?!  There’s no way this is gonna work!”


He prepared his arm for a rocket punch.  Geo positioned himself to shield Pat.


“Nobody’s gonna believe us!  Even if this guy means well, there’s nothing he can do!  Our only chance is if we can get that Key!”


Suddenly Rey lurched.  There was a flash of light, and in an instant, both he and the armor covering Pat vanished, leaving only the boy in Geo’s arms.  Gemini appeared high above the area.


“It is clear to me now that such a feat is beyond you,” the FM-ian said.


Pat’s face twisted.  Rey took over, pushing away from Geo and glaring up at Gemini.  “Where are you going?!  You promised you’d give us the power to take that Key!  That we’d finally be able to get our revenge!”


“Yes, I did…heheh, it’s ironic, really.  Here you are, constantly telling your brother that not a single person will give you any help.  Why are you so surprised that I’m retracting mine?”


Rey stared up at him in silence.


Turning to Sonia, Gemini said, “I commend you, Lyra, and you too, Mega.  I concede that I cannot retrieve the Andromeda Key this day…you have vastly exceeded my expectations.  However…do not think that I shall take this turn of events lightly.”


He disappeared without another word.  Rey continued to stare for a moment before falling to his knees, junk data collapsing beneath his weight and shifting away from him.  Geo walked over and knelt beside him.  When he looked at the boy’s face, he saw that Pat was back, and so he hugged him once again.


“I’m sorry, Geo,” Pat said.


Geo shook his head.  “You don’t have to apologize.  Come on, let’s get you out of here.”


The three of them made their way back towards the exit, Sonia de-activating her transformation as she walked.  When they left the Comp Space, they saw that the Satella Officers were gathered below, frantically searching about for some sign of them, presumably.


Sonia sighed.  “Boys, wait here for a minute.”


Geo looked at her.  “Sonia?  Wait, what are you going to do?”


Sonia left the Wave Road alone, materializing right behind the gathered officers.  They were startled by her sudden appearance, but they quickly composed themselves, and several of them raised their (now-dried) weapons.


Copper came to the head of the group.  “…Well?”


Sonia crossed her arms.  Trying to hide how exhausted she was, she smiled wide and loudly proclaimed, “We’ve defeated Gemini!”


The officers exchanged looks.


“Your mission was to force me to turn the Andromeda Key over to him, right?  If he’s not here, then I can’t very well do that.  So I’d say your mission is over.”


Copper looked up at the transmitter.  After a few seconds, he looked back down at Sonia before turning to his fellow officers.  “It would seem it is no longer possible for us to fulfill the conditions of our assignment.  Your orders are to withdraw.  We will regroup at HQ and await further instruction.”


The officers slowly filed out of the junkyard.  Copper remained behind, looking like he was trying to think of something to say.


“…You were only following orders,” Sonia offered.


After a moment, Copper laughed dryly.  “Yes…and that’s what’s most wrong about all of this…”


When he too departed, Sonia stepped away from the Wavehole.  Geo and Pat appeared seconds later.  They traced their steps back towards the incinerator, where Sonia parted ways with them, saying, “You go on ahead.  I’ll call you later.”


Walking up to the backhoe that was out of place, she called, “Luna?  Claud?”


Luna climbed out of the vehicle’s seat.  “There you are!  I was beginning to get worried.”


“Ah, sorry.”


“Well…not worried, exactly.  It’s not like I was concerned about you or anything!  It’s just…”


Turning away, Sonia said, “I’m so exhausted I’m not sure I can wade into all that tsundere.”


Luna scowled at her.


Claud came running out from behind some trash, calling, “Sonia!  Sonia, over here!”


“Oh, there you are, Claud!  Thanks again for all your help!”


He ran up to her.  “Not a problem!  I’ve become super-strong since we fought, so I was able to send those Jammers flying without breaking a sweat and still have time to set the Sorter Bots back to normal!”


“So, um…did you really defeat Gemini?” Cancer asked.


“For now, yes,” Lyra said.  “He wasn’t possessing his host, so he managed to get away after cancelling the Wave Change.  I imagine he’ll still be trouble, but…for now, we’ve won the day.”


“Seriously?!  Wow…to think, Gemini beaten!  I guess I can feel better about losing to you now that I know you’re that strong.”


Sonia patted Claud on the head.  “It’s been forever since I last saw you.  How’ve you been?”


“Well, I’ve started making a few friends, but, um…”  He looked down and added, “I still don’t have any Brothers yet…”


“Oh, is that so?  Hm…tell you what.  For all the help you’ve given me, how about I become your very first Brother?”


Claud lit up.  “Huh?  Really?  That’d be incredible!  I’d love to be Brothers with Sonia Strumm!”


Glancing sideways at Luna, Sonia smirked and said, “Now that’s a welcome change of pace.”


Luna stuck out her tongue.




Walters gulped, watching Gemini closely as the FM-ian floated around his office.


“You have my sincerest apologies for today’s failure, Gemini, sir.  You have my word that the officers involved will be punished severely.  NAZA places the utmost importance on our relations with Planet FM, and we will double our efforts to insure that our next attempt proceeds flawlessly.”


Gemini turned to look at him.  So Walters thought, at least—he was not sure which mask was Gemini’s face.  It unsettled him.


“While I still doubt the competence of your officers, even I must admit the failure was not a direct result of their actions.  What we need is a more controlled environment.  Harp Note must be cut off from all help if I am to take the Andromeda Key from her.”


Walters nodded.  “I understand perfectly.  We shall immediately begin crafting a new plan with that goal in mind.”


“Very good.”


Gemini drifted away a bit.  Hesitantly, Walters asked, “If I may, sir, you will be needing another host, correct?  Shall I assemble some of our officers for you to select from?”


“Your offer is noted, but it will not be necessary.  Once the FM King arrives, I will no longer have any need for a host.”


Walters sat down.  His palms were sweaty—he quickly wiped them on his handkerchief.


Gemini said, “Lyra’s host…this Sonia girl…she’s something of an anomaly.  Even Wave Changed and using this AM-ian power, I find it hard to believe that she could stand up even to me.  Perhaps it would be prudent to consider taking her out of the picture sooner rather than later.”


Walters smiled.  “In that case, please leave it to me, sir.  This will not be the first time I’ve had to dispose of a Strumm.”




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Chapter 12



Sonia made her way down the Wave Road over AMAKEN, keeping an eye on the Satella Officers stationed about the premises.  Lyra had informed her that, with Gemini on the run, she had defeated all of the FM King’s elite warriors.  It seemed like a good thing at first.  However, Lyra then elaborated that it likely meant the FM King himself would be on his way soon, and he would most definitely bring Andromeda with him.


I need to see if there’s some way I can intercept the FM King.  I don’t want the people of Earth to be put in any more danger.


She followed the waves into the facility and made her way to the second floor, exiting a Wavehole right outside Boreal’s lab.  She knocked on the door.


“Mr. Boreal?  It’s Sonia.”


Boreal stepped out, looking at her with wide eyes.  “Sonia?  What are you doing here?  It isn’t safe with NAZA all around!”


“I need to talk to you.  Please, Mr. Boreal, you’re the only one who can help me with this!”

Boreal reluctantly allowed her in.  Staying near the door, he asked, “Where’s Geo?”


“He’s helping a friend.  I didn’t want to distract him, so I came without telling anyone.”


Boreal put on his Visualizer.  “Hello, Lyra.  You’ve been keeping her safe?”


“But of course,” Lyra said.  “Well, more like giving her the means to keep herself safe.  She’s a talented girl—she even defeated the FM King’s right hand.”


“Really?  That’s incredible!”


“Thank you,” Sonia said, “but we don’t have time to celebrate.  Lyra says the FM King will be coming here next.”


Boreal shuddered.  “…You should hear this.”


Walking to his desk, Boreal said, “We’ve recently begun receiving a transmission originating in deep space.”


He hit a few keys.  A short bit of static came from his computer, and then a voice could be heard.


“Greetings, Earthlings.”


Lyra felt a chill.  “That’s…!”


“I am the King of Planet FM.”


Sonia started forward, slamming her hands on the desk.


“With all the trouble you’ve given me, I think I’ve been more than fair.  However, I now see that your insolence reaches incredible depths, and I see nothing more to gain from showing leniency.  I am coming to personally destroy Earth.  You can consider your planet as good as gone.”


The recording ended.  Sonia’s fingers dug into the surface beneath them.  “Where are they sending this from?”


“Actually, the signal that brought us this message came from a system originating on Earth,” Boreal answered.  “I don’t need NAZA’s records to verify this signal…it’s definitely coming from Peace.  And it’s getting closer.”


“I should’ve known,” Lyra said.  “That station could easily be converted into a transport suitable for FM-ian forces.  It was already somewhere between there and here, and surely has the Earth’s exact co-ordinates already programmed in.  Quite an ideal launching point for the final invasion.”


Sonia paced across the room, trying to think.  Her efforts were further complicated when there was a sudden knock at the door.


Boreal ran over, placing a hand on the doorknob.  “Who is it?”


The person on the other side hesitated.  “…Detective Bob Copper.”


Boreal’s grip tightened.  “Get out of here!”


“Please, I mean you no harm!  Just hear me out!”


“What do you want?”


“You must be picking up the same transmission that we are.  Surely, you know that they’re using Peace to get here.”


“Is that all you came here to tell me?”


“No.  You…you know Harp Note, don’t you?”


Boreal glanced at Sonia.  “I definitely don’t!”


“I’m not asking as a Satella Officer!  I promise you, I won’t say a word to NAZA, I just want you to pass some information along to her.”


Sonia considered it for a moment, but then nodded.


“…What kind of information?” Boreal quietly asked.


“Mr. Walters has said that the FM King will not be alone when he arrives.  Apparently, he is towing their ultimate weapon, Andromeda, in its dormant state.”


“Aren’t your orders to help awaken that thing?”


“They are.  But, I can’t follow those orders in good conscious.  Mr. Walters…he truly believes he’s doing the right thing.  But I disagree.  His plan is no better than total failure!  The only real way to win is if Harp Note and her allies can stop the war, and that’s why I’ve come to you.”


Boreal sighed.  “What part of this did you want me to pass along?”


“The location of the fragment of Peace.”


The scientist recoiled.  Sonia edged closer to the door.


“You were still a member of NAZA when a chunk of the station fell to Earth, right?”


“…I was,” Boreal said.  “It was still interfacing with the station, but Walters terminated the connection and had it hidden away.”


“Right now it’s under the ocean,” Copper said, “along the coast of Dream Island.  Tell Harp Note that if she goes back to the junkyard where she fought Gemini, she’ll find a secret entrance buried beneath the garbage, leading down to the place the fragment has been stored.  If it can connect to the station, she should be able to transmit herself directly aboard.”


The corner of Sonia’s mouth started to rise.


“Wait, why should I believe you?” Boreal asked.  “How do I know you aren’t planning a trap for her?”


“…I’m not sure I really have a way to prove my honesty,” Copper said.  “But please believe me, Mr. Boreal: I’ve finally realized that NAZA is wrong in this, and that Harp Note is our only hope.  She’s done things that Mr. Walters and the FM-ians can’t even believe—they’re terrified of her, searching desperately for some way to stop her.  But, I know that they won’t be able to find one.  I took an awful risk coming here, Mr. Boreal…but I’ve decided to bet on Harp Note this time.”


Sonia grabbed Mr. Boreal’s shoulder, nodding again.


“…I’ll tell her if I see her,” Boreal mumbled.


“Thank you,” Copper said.  “And, if it’s not too much trouble…please also tell her that I’m sorry.”


They heard footsteps, followed by the sound of the elevator.  Backing away from the door, Sonia said, “I’d better get going to Dream Island!”


“Sonia, wait!” Boreal said.  “Walters is a cunning man.  He may have just sent Copper here to lure you in so he could take the Key from you!”


“It’s the only lead we have, and we don’t have time to find another.  Mr. Copper doesn’t seem like a bad man.  He was there when I encountered Gemini, along with some other officers, but he was horrified by the lengths they were going to for the Key.  I’m going to take a chance and trust him.”


Boreal sighed.  “…Just be careful, Sonia.”


“We will.  Right, Lyra?”


“Don’t worry about a thing, Mr. Boreal,” Lyra said.  “They won’t take us by surprise again.”




Luna looked up at the junkyard sign.  “So did he say where in this place, or are you going to search the whole thing?”


“It might take a while,” Sonia said.  “That’s why I told you to just give me the Shovel Card so I can do it myself.  Besides, there’s still a good chance this is a trap!”


“All the more reason I have to be here, then!  Claud’s too far away and Geo’s busy with Pat—I’m the only Brother you can count on right now!”


“I know I can count on you, I just want to keep you out of danger is all.”


“Idiot!  If it’s dangerous, then I as your Brother can’t let you face it alone, now can I?”


“Ugh, I don’t have time to argue…just wait here while I make sure there aren’t any Satella Officers around this time, okay?  I’ll come get you once I’m sure it’s clear.”


Luna nodded, sitting down on a bench.  “Try to make it fast.”


Sonia muttered something and went to the nearest Wavehole.  After transforming, she made her way onto the junkyard Wave Road, slowly combing over the area and checking every place where someone could be hiding.  She saw no one, not even any employees.  A few Sorter Bots were floating around, but they shouldn’t prove any trouble, she hoped.


So far so good.


When she went further in, however, she spotted a man sitting at the edge of the trash—he was bald and rather round, with a large beard and mustache that he was stroking absent-mindedly.  He carried what looked like a crown in one hand, and there appeared to be something sticking out of his back.


Sonia blinked.  “Uh, Lyra…is something wrong with my visor?”


“Why do you ask?”


“That guy looks sort of…blue.”


“Oh…so he does.  How peculiar…”


The man looked up, adjusting his small round glasses.  “Hmph?” he said.  “What’s this?  Be thou a challenger?”


“Huh?!  Wait, are those glasses a Visualizer?”


Standing, the man pointed emphatically.  “Hold, warrior!  To bring honor to my family, I, Jean Couronne XIV, do hereby challenge thee to a noble duel!”


Sonia cocked her head.  “What?”


Something flashed, materializing in the air next to Couronne.  An EM Being, taking the shape of a crown with a yellow, mustached face beneath it, bounced up and down, saying, “What’s this, what’s this?  Another FM-ian, eh?  Well, have at thee!”


“And…who are you?” Lyra asked.


As Couronne headed for a Wavehole, the FM-ian replied, “I am none other than the mighty Crown!  Hah!  Surely, you must now be quaking in fear!”


Sonia looked at her guitar.  Lyra replied, “Sorry, dear, I haven’t the faintest idea who he is.”


Confused, Sonia looked back down to ask what was going on.  That was when she identified that the item sticking out of Couronne’s back was an arrow.


“Oh my…wait a minute!  You’re injured!”


Couronne looked over his shoulder.  “Hm?  Oh, I am not simply injured: I am dead!”




“Indeed!” Crown said.  “My dear partner is a ghost!  Upon meeting his demise, he became a sort of EM phantom, not quite human yet still capable of performing an EM Wave Change with help from myself!  Haha!  An immortal king who defies even death—quite the fitting host for one such as myself!”


Sonia gaped.  “…A…ghost…?  A ghost that can Wave Change?  Lyra?”


“D…don’t ask me, dear, I’m just as confused as you are…”


Couronne and Crown paused at the Wavehole, the former shouting, “Now then!  Jean Couronne XIV, On The Air!”


When he reappeared on the Wave Road, his body was encased in bluish black armor, save for his limbs which were plated in gold, though most of this was obscured by the immense, green coat made of armor he wore, its white edges lined with flashing lights of numerous colors.  He had a skull for a head and wore a bulbous red and gold crown that was also lined with lights, and atop it was a small bird-shaped ornament.


Couronne crossed his arms.  “Prepare thyself, warrior-bard!  Thou shalt fall before the might of Crown Thunder!”


Three skulls appeared in the air around Couronne, each surrounded in a flame of either blue, red, or green, and each one carrying a different weapon.


Sonia stepped back.  “W-Well…I guess we have to fight?”


“Indeed, indeed!” Crown laughed.  “Are you ready to begin?”


She sighed.  “This still makes no sense.  But, I’ll play along.”


Activating her Green Dragon form, she played the notes to begin turning the Wave Road into grass.  Couronne jumped.


“Egad!  Thou can transform in such a manner?  Thou will truly be an interesting opponent!  In the name of the Couronne family, en garde!”


The blue skull raised its crossbow and fired a volley of bolts.  Each clattered against Sonia’s shield, utterly useless.


“So, you just want to fight because of your family?” Sonia asked.


“Indeed!” Couronne affirmed.  “’Tis the only way to bring honor to our name!”


The green skull attacked next, swinging its hammer with all its might.  It too failed before Sonia’s shield.


“Alright…what about you, Crown?  I assume you’re here looking for the Andromeda Key?”


“What?!” Crown yelled.  “You know where the Andromeda Key is?”


“…I thought that was why you were fighting me?”


“You mean…you have it?!  Well then, I shall have no choice but to take it from you!”


The red skull finally advanced.  Its lance made it through the shield, but was not long enough to actually reach Sonia, so she was able to repel it by summoning a small gust.  It flew back, knocking the other skulls aside and smacking Couronne in the face.


“Buh-hah?!  Do mine eyes deceive me?!  How dare thou repel my minions so swiftly?”


“Look, I’d really much rather talk things through.  I don’t see a reason why we have to fight!”


Couronne straightened his coat.  “Balderdash!  As I have said, ‘tis a matter of honor!”


“And,” Crown said, “I simply cannot allow you to abscond with the Andromeda Key!  That terrible weapon must not fall into the wrong hands!”


Lyra said, “Hm?  What was that, dear?”


Couronne pointed into the sky and shouted.  Seconds later, a thunderbolt came down from the clouds, bypassing Sonia’s forward shield and zapping her.  She dropped to one knee, caught off-guard by the surprise attack.


“Haha!” Couronne laughed.  “That was a taste of my true power!  Art thou fearful, young bard?”


Standing back up, Sonia began playing her keys.  A storm of pellets rained down, obliterating the skulls and sending Couronne toppling over.


“My word!” Couronne said, covering his head.  “What manner of sorcery is this?”


“Just shut up for a minute!” she said.  “Crown, what did you just say about the Andromeda Key?”


“Hm?” Crown grunted.  “That…it is a terrible weapon, and that it must not fall into the wrong hands.  It was stolen, presumably by whoever you are, yes?  I have come to this distant planet in search of it!  Of course, when I met this charming fellow, I became somewhat distracted.”


“My deepest apologies, Lord Crown,” Couronne said.  “After drifting at sea for so long, having any company is such a blessing, especially company from one so pleasant as yourself!”


“Oh no, dearest Jean, I meant no such offense!  I too greatly enjoy our escapades!”


Sonia rubbed her temple.  “These two could win a fight through exasperation alone…”


“Crown!” Lyra called.  “I won’t be giving the Andromeda Key back to Planet FM.  We’ve repelled all of the FM King’s elites who tried to take it—do you really think you stand a chance?”


“Return it to Planet FM?” Crown repeated.  “Bah!  Planet FM is, in fact, a set of wrong hands that the Key must not fall into!  I daresay any hands would the wrong ones, truly, for that weapon is…wait, did you say all of them?  Might that also include Gemini?”


“Um…yes,” Sonia said.  “We defeated Gemini just recently.”


“T…truly?!  If you are lying, my fury shall know no equal!”


“It’s no lie,” Lyra said.  “With some help, we were able to stop Gemini.  He’s still out there, of course, but—“


“Ha-HAH!” Crown laughed.  “This is wonderful!  At long last, someone has put that manipulative cur in his place!  Simply astounding!”


Couronne stood up as Crown continued, “Be that as it may, leaving the Andromeda Key with you would still be most unwise, given I know nothing of your intentions!  Therefore, have at thee!”


Thunderbolts started to fall again.  This time Sonia was prepared, and she carefully dodged each strike, waiting until the attack stopped before playing a few notes to summon vines that grabbed her foe.


“My word!” Couronne cried.


“Now listen here!” Sonia said.  “Crown, if your goal really is to keep the Andromeda Key away from Planet FM, then there’s no reason for us to fight!  Lyra’s decided to help me keep this planet safe.  We’re not planning to do anything with the Key—we just want to keep it from being used.”


“…Is this…true?” Crown asked.  “Now you must be completely honest!  Should this be a trick, I shall unleash upon you a rage unlike any you could ever fathom!”


“Just relax!” Sonia said.


“It is true that I originally had something else in mind,” Lyra admitted.  “However, this girl has managed to convince me that the Earth should be protected, and that the Andromeda Key must not be used.  If that is in line with your stance, then we are most certainly not enemies.”


After a short time, Crown said, “This…this is better than I could have ever dreamed of!  Dearest Jean, please forgive me, but…please!  We must not fight them!”


“Hmmm…” Jean hummed.  “I have gathered enough from this conversation.  If they can help you achieve your goals, my friend, then I have no wish to do them harm!”


“Huzzah!  Many thanks, dear boy!”


The vines disappeared, and Sonia cautiously walked forward.  “Okay.  So, who are you, and what exactly is going on?”


“I offer you my deepest apologies, warrior-bard,” Crown said.  “You see, I am distantly related to the FM King.  His mother’s father’s cousin’s daughter-in-law’s second aunt twice removed’s cousin’s…no, wait, that’s not it…”


“I find that hard to believe,” Lyra said.  “Members of the royal family have never lived very long.”


“I speak the truth!  Many saw me as no threat, and while there were some who tried to eliminate me, I was able to defend myself.”


“Alright, but what does that have to do with anything?” Sonia asked.  “And if you are related to the FM King, then why don’t you want him to have the Key back?”


Crown sighed.  “The FM King…that poor boy Cepheus…he’s become paranoid and aggressive, an empty shell of a person after the weight and trials that have been forced upon him.  A traitorous place like Planet FM is no place to grow up, especially not when you have a position that everyone wants to take from you!  He has become a true representation of our planet: unwilling to trust, too quick to fight, and so very, very lonely.”


He paused to sniff, doing his best not to cry.  “I tried to help him.  But that wretched Gemini told him I was plotting to steal the throne from him, and so he banished me!  He’s become so fearful that he can’t even trust his Uncle Crown…”


Couronne put an arm over his eyes.  “Curses!  This story is such a tragic tale, even hearing it the second time!”


“When I heard that the Key had been stolen, I knew that this was my only chance!” Crown said.  “If I can get rid of the Key, then Planet FM will have to stop being so aggressive!  I am sure Gemini will continue as he has, but with their most powerful weapon gone, his warmongering nature will finally be transparent, and Cepheus will turn him away at last!  And then…perhaps then, he will finally accept me back!”


Crown and Couronne both began to bawl.  Lyra sighed.  “Well, let’s set aside the more dramatic elements.  It sounds like they could be useful allies, Sonia.”


Sonia sniffed.


“…You’re not going to cry too, are you?”


“N-No, definitely not!  Um…Crown!  Like we said, we’re not going to let the Andromeda Key be used again, and I’ll do everything I can to make the FM-ians change.  Your species deserves to be happy just as much as mine.  When I meet with Cepheus, I’ll make him see, and hopefully we can make Planet FM start to change!”


Crown sobbed.  “Y-You…to have such compassion for an invading force…”


“You are a saint, my dear girl, a saint!” Couronne insisted.  “I would be honored to fight alongside you!”


“But, wait!” Crown said.  “How will you reach Cepheus?  Even when he launches his final assault, he will not set foot on this planet!”


“We’re looking into that right now, actually,” Lyra said.  “We’ve been told there’s something here we can use to make a signal we can ride to the space station where Cepheus is gathering his forces.  I don’t suppose you’ve seen any secret entrances around here?”


Couronne stroked his chin.  “A secret entrance?  Hmm…I’m afraid I don’t recall seeing such a thing.”


“Wait a moment!” Crown said.  “I did sense an unusual amount of electricity deeper in.  It could be some power lines, possibly to provide power to a secret facility that may be what you are looking for!”


“Really?” Sonia said.  “That’s great!  I need to get my friend so she can help us, but then could you show us where it is?”


“Why of course, child!  Go, retrieve your friend!  We shall guide you, and if what you seek is not there, then we shall not rest until it is found!  For Cepheus’s sake, we must persevere!”




Boreal made his way through the junkyard, heading towards the beaten-up transmitter Sonia told him to look for.  Sitting near it was a backhoe pointed at an open trap door beneath the trash.  Cautiously, he proceeded down the stairwell, going on for what felt like several minutes before emerging into a large storage facility, with a massive hunk of metal displayed at the center of the floor.


That’s really it!


It was a corner of the station, judging by the shape of it.  The edges were crumpled and torn, like it had been ripped off by some powerful force, and inside lay a few terminals and miscellaneous pieces of equipment.  Standing in front of it were Sonia, Luna, and Couronne.  Boreal found he had trouble drawing his eyes away from the third.


“Over here!” Sonia called, waving.  “You’re sure NAZA didn’t see which way you came?”


“Uh, no,” Boreal said as he crossed the floor, “I headed for home first, and then took a bus to get here.  They only stationed guards at AMAKEN, so…”


He stared at Couronne.  The phantom stroked his beard, saying, “Ah, seems your friend is mesmerized by my imposing regality.”


“I doubt that’s the issue,” Luna said.


“This is from Peace, right?” Sonia asked.


“Huh?” Boreal said.  “Oh, yes, it is!  This is definitely the piece of the station we need!”


“Great!  So, do you think you can get it working?”


Boreal set down his tools and walked up to the largest console.  He tapped it a few times, getting no response, and then gently pried off the face of the terminal and examined its wiring.


“Hm…well, it’s not in fantastic shape.  Still, there’s power down here, so that won’t be an issue…yeah, maybe if that…no…ah, looks like I’ll need to replace those…”


He stood up, clapping his hands together.  “It doesn’t look like it’s going to be easy, but I’ll figure it out.  This is our only chance—it has to work.”


“Mr. Boreal, I’d understand if you can’t do it,” Sonia said.  “I’m sure we can figure something else out of this isn’t possible.”


Boreal clenched his fist and smiled.  “No.  I’ll definitely get this working—I promise!  Kelvin and Rosa never gave up, so it’s time I decided to stop giving up too!”


Sonia grinned.  “Thank you, Mr. Boreal.”


“But, you have to promise me something too, Sonia.”




“Come back alive!  Rosa would never forgive me if I sent you up there and something terrible happened.”


Sonia stepped forward and shook Boreal’s hand.  “It’s a deal!  If you get this working, then I promise to come back alive.”


“Good.  Okay, time to get to work!”


As Boreal began to lay out his tools, the others left to give him space to work.  Back on the surface, Couronne said, “Fear not: I shall watch over this place, to make certain that none shall be able to harm the mechanic!  Thou need only save thine strength in preparation for the final confrontation!”


Sonia nodded.  “Thank you, Mr. Couronne.  Please take good care of Mr. Boreal.”


“Sonia!” Crown said.  “I merely wish to thank you once again for all that you have done!  With you on our side, we may actually stand a chance of making Cepheus see reason...this is a day I never dared to dream could be possible!  Best of luck, young warrior!”


Couronne floated off into the distance.  Luna and Sonia made for the junkyard’s exit, the former saying, “What weirdos.”


“If it weren’t for them, we’d probably still be sifting through garbage.”


“I guess so…um, Sonia?”




“When you promised Mr. Boreal that you’d come back alive…you meant that, right?”


Sonia looked at her.  “Huh?  Of course I did.”


“Good!  Because I know you’d know better than to even think about breaking a promise!  S-So…”


Luna blushed and looked away.  With a grin, Sonia said, “Well, I know you’re not worried about me, but—“


“Shut up!  I…I am worried about you.”


Sonia slowed down a bit.


“I mean, what kind of Brother wouldn’t worry in a situation like this?  You’re going off into space to fight the leader of an alien world known for destroying planets!  I’d be a terrible Brother if I wasn’t worried!”


Sonia stared at her for a minute.  Then she waved her hand dismissively, saying, “You’re overthinking things again.”


Luna frowned.  “Wh-what?!”


Sonia shrugged.  “Like you said: I won’t break my promises.  So, that means there’s no need for you to worry, even if you are my Brother.”


Looking down, Luna said, “Well…”


“I’ll be fine, Luna,” Sonia said, setting a hand on her arm.  “What I need now isn’t for you to worry about me, it’s for you to believe in me, like you always have.  If you do that, then I know I’ll be able to handle whatever I find up there!”


Luna fidgeted.  “…If you say so.”


“Great.  Now come on!  I want to go see how Geo and Pat are doing.”




A strange sensation filled his body.  He twisted, feeling as if some pressure were pushing down upon him, until it finally ceased and he collapsed.  Lying sprawled out on the floor, he gasped a few times, and then, blinking, clarity slowly returned to him.


Cygnus stood.  “What…?  I’m alive?”


He looked around.  The room was dark, and he couldn’t see well enough to make out its features.  But he could see several others scattered about the floor like he was: Taurus, Ophiuca, Libra.


What’s going on?


“Hear me, my warriors.”


Cygnus’s body shook all at once.  Slowly looking over his shoulder, he saw that a large section of the wall was missing, revealing the open void of space just beyond.  On the floor’s edge sat a throne fashioned from scrap metal, and upon this throne sat a small, green figure wearing a red cloak and a golden, three-pointed crown.


“I have restored you to complete a very important mission.  Lyra still holds the Andromeda Key!  I am sending you four back to Earth, where you will meet up with Gemini and our human informant.  You are to recover the Andromeda Key using any means necessary!  And be forewarned…I will not revive you again.”


Cygnus bowed.  “O-Of course, Your Majesty—we understand!  We shall not fail you again, King Cepheus!”




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Chapter 13



Sonia stood on the deck at Vista Point, staring up into the sky.


“Anxious, dear?” Lyra asked.


“A little.  I’ve never been in space before.”


“There’s no reason to fret.  I’m sure we’ll be in wave form the entire time, so there’s no reason to worry about air and such.”


“It’s a little strange.  Mama always wanted to see space—she dedicated herself to learning as much as she could about it, and she hoped that one day she’d be able to go out there in person.  But…she never got the chance.”


“I think she’d be happy that you’re fulfilling her dream.  And certainly, she’d be exceptionally proud that you’ve become someone capable of defending the planet.”


“Well, I never could have done it by myself.”


“But you found relationships that gave you the power you needed.  And, I think that would make her even prouder.”


Sonia smiled.  “Thank you, Lyra.”


She took a deep breath.  “Let’s go check on Mr. Boreal.  He said he was nearly done with the repairs, so we might—“


She was cut off by a tremor that nearly knocked her off her feet.  She grabbed hold of the railing to regain her balance, and then turned to her guitar.


“What was that?”


“Oh dear…” Lyra said.  “Sonia, look up.”


A dark orb could be seen in the distance, growing steadily larger and larger until it suddenly split, sending orbs off in four directions.  One of them continued to fall towards Vista Point.


“What is that?” Sonia asked.


“It’s a Wave Ball,” Lyra said.  “The FM King has started his attack.”


The nearest Wave Ball veered towards Echo Ridge and disappeared beneath the trees.  Another tremor followed, but Sonia recovered faster this time and ran towards the town.  She noticed something flickering in the air above her: slowly, the Wave Roads were becoming visible, fading in and out a few times but progressively becoming more solid.


“I can see the roads without my Visualizer…”


“These Wave Balls are made of intense Z Waves, the type of radiation that FM-ian bodies are made of.  When projected at this level, it enhances EM waves over a limited area, making them so strong that even humans can see them…and feel them.”


“Feel them…then, any virus sent into this area can attack people directly!”


Sonia ran into Echo Ridge to find it in a panic.  Viruses and Jammers filled the streets, destroying everything in sight and trying to do the same to the people running around.


“Oh no!” Sonia said.  “Lyra, if the waves have been intensified, then I shouldn’t need a Wavehole to transform, right?”


“You’re a clever girl, Sonia.”


Quickly transforming, she leapt to the top of a nearby building, surveying the area and picking out all the enemies she could see.  She played several notes in succession, sending each after a different target—some of the Jammers took a few hits, but she was able to clear the town with little difficulty, giving the people a chance to get indoors while the coast was clear.  She turned around to see the Wave Ball hovering over the roof of the school.


“We’ll have to destroy it,” Lyra said.  “I’d recommend getting closer, but keep an eye out for more—“


“Mrrrgh!  Hold it right there!”


Sonia felt her heart miss a beat.  Floating up from the street below was an FM-ian, positioning himself between her and the school.  He was made of orange energy, and he had virtually no armor apart from his red mask, from which the energy poured out in the shape of two long horns.


“…T…Taurus?” she asked.  “Is that you?”


Taurus nodded.  Crossing his arms, he said, “You must be surprised to see me!  Since we still haven’t been able to recover the Andromeda Key, the FM King has revived me and the others who fell against you, hoping we can finish the job and let Andromeda loose.”


Sonia stared at him, still not convinced by what she was seeing.


“I had heard the rumors,” Lyra said.  “There were stories that the FM King had the power to reconstruct FM-ians from the fragmented remains of their waves, but I’d never seen it actually happen.”


“I never believed those stories much either,” Taurus said.  “But boy am I glad they turned out to be true!”


“Then…they’re all back?” Sonia asked.  “You, and Cygnus, and Libra, and Ophiuca…all the ones I thought I’d killed—they’re all back?”


“I’m sorry, Sonia,” Lyra said.  “Maybe if I had told you this was possible, you wouldn’t have been so upset.  But I wasn’t entirely sure it could be done, and I had no way of knowing it would happen now.  I didn’t want to get your hopes up.”


“…No, it’s okay.  I understand why you didn’t say anything.”


“You aren’t angry with me, then?”


“Not at all.  Besides…”


A wide grin covered her face.  “This means I have a second chance to save them.  I won’t let this one go to waste!”


Taurus grunted.  “Mrrrgh!  You really are a strange one…but…you were able to defeat me before.  I was so sure of my strength, but you bested me, using the power of relationships no less!”


“That’s right!  You are strong, Taurus, but if you’re alone, then you can’t beat someone who has friends to help them.”


“I’ve never believed people who say things like that…”






Taurus lowered his arms, clenching his hands into fists.  “You showed me that you might actually be right.  It takes a lot to change my mind, child, but I can’t argue with strength like that.”


“Then do you understand now?  We’re going to stop the FM King, and we’ll find a way to make him understand too.  Then, Planet FM can start to change—maybe not all at once, but your people can begin forming relationships one at a time.  And then you’ll know a strength unlike any you’ve ever felt before!”


Taurus thought a moment.  Then, he raised his fists.


“Show me.  Last time, I was possessing that boy, so I wasn’t at my best.  With that Wave Ball there, I can use all of my power by myself, and I’m sure you’ve only gotten stronger too.”


Sonia sighed.  “Taurus—“


“I want to believe you!”


She looked up at him.


“You’ve shown me something I can’t explain otherwise, so I feel like you’re probably right about bonds.  But I need to be absolutely sure if I’m going to turn my back on the FM King!  So I need you, um…”


Slowly, her smile returned.  “Sonia.”


“Sonia.  I need you to show me one more time.  Give me undeniable proof that the power of your bonds can overcome the strength of our loneliness!”


With a flash of light, Sonia engaged her Ice Pegasus form.  She readied her violin and locked her eyes on Taurus, saying, “In that case, I won’t hold anything back.”


“Mrrgh!  That’s what I was hoping to hear!  Now, let’s go!”


Taurus threw a punch.  Sonia raised a wall of ice, blocking the strike just in time.  She played, causing spikes to shoot out from the wall and forcing Taurus to back off and evade.  When the wall lowered, he paused atop another building close by and lowered his horns; Sonia summoned another barrier, but when Taurus charged, he smashed right through it, tackling into her and flinging her back against a nearby house.  Taurus advanced and exhaled a wave of flames.  Sonia flew out of the way, but then turned back and created some ice to protect the house before it could catch fire.


“I almost forgot that we can affect the Real World now!” Sonia said.  “We’d better stay high!”


Taurus launched himself into the air, punching again.  Sonia ducked and rolled, sweeping right past her opponent, and then swung her bow as she ascended again—a blade of ice formed around it, making it just long enough to cut Taurus’s back before his momentum carried him too far.  Turning around, Taurus gave chase, putting his all into each swing of his fist but not being able to make contact as Sonia furiously beat her wings, nimbly avoiding any damage.  He reared back to prepare another flame blast, but Sonia retaliated with an ice ball that froze his muzzle shut.  Her next chord brought down a trio of ice meteors, and Taurus was too busy clearing the ice from his snout to avoid them.


“Mrrrgh!” Taurus grunted.  “Incredible…”


“Have I proved it to you yet?” Sonia asked.  “Ordinarily I’d be happy to take as long as you need, but I really need to take out that Wave Ball!”


Taurus cracked his knuckles.  “Not yet!”


He charged.  When Sonia dodged, he collided with a piece of the Wave Road, shattering it.


“If I can still move, I can still fight!”


As they continued fighting, a door opened below.  Neither of them noticed as Bud stepped out and looked around.


“W-Woah!” he shouted, jumping in shock.  “What’s with all the things in the skies?  And…Harp Note?!  Oh man, am I dreaming?”


Sonia threw another ice ball.  Taurus shattered it with his fist and advanced again; Sonia dodged his next punch, but he used his fire breath before she got too far, landing a direct hit that stunned her.  Taurus finally connected with a punch, the force throwing Sonia back until she landed on the Wave Road and skidded to a halt.  Spreading her wings, she started playing.  A storm of icicles flew forward—Taurus charged on anyway, plowing through them and closing in.  With every hit, however, more and more ice clung to his armor, slowing him down enough that Sonia was able to dodge his tackle and land another hit with her bow.


Taurus bounced a few times, fragments of ice breaking off each time he landed.  Sonia continued playing.  The air was growing colder, and Taurus remembered what came next.  Shaking off the rest of the ice, he ran out horns-first, constantly breathing fire so that he became a flame-wreathed comet as he barreled towards his foe.  Sonia stared him down, not moving from where she stood and continuing to play like nothing was wrong.  Taurus was nearly upon her, sure that he could make it.  Sonia played her final note, and a mountain of ice sprang up beneath Taurus, dousing his flames and freezing him solid inches away from his target.


Sonia raised her bow.  Before she could do anything, though, the ice around Taurus shattered, accompanied by enough fire to send her reeling.  Lunging forward, Taurus swung his fist downward, knocking her from the Wave Road to plummet straight to the ground.  The FM-ian slumped, giving himself a moment to catch his breath.  He shakily looked to his opponent.  She was back on her feet, ready to fight.


“You look exhausted,” she said.  “I should tell you, I don’t feel tired at all.  You have to be sure how this fight will end now, right?”


Taurus came to the edge of the Wave Road.  “…Your power…this strength born of bonds…it’s bested me after all.  You were right, Sonia.”


Sonia lowered her violin.


“But even if bonds are a great source of power…they’re still a power I can’t know.  People like me—big, powerful people—we scare others away.  The only ones who want to get close to us only do so to test their strength against ours.”


Readying himself, Taurus added, “You may be right, but being one of the FM King’s warriors is still the only place I can belong!”


Sonia shook her head, preparing for another round.


“Hang on!”


Bud ran towards Sonia.  Taurus said, “Wait…you?”


 “Bud?  Get back—it’s dangerous out here!” Sonia warned.


She looked up at Taurus in case he was planning to attack.  However, he made no aggressive action—if anything, he seemed to stand down.


“Hey, Mr. Cow guy!” Bud called.  “That stuff you’re saying about strong people not being able to make friends isn’t true!”


“Mrrgh!  I wish it wasn’t, child, but that’s the reality I’ve learned to live with.”


“Really?  Oh man…I’m sorry, Mr. Cow.  But, I’ve had the same sort of problem, and I’ve been able to make friends!”


Taurus shook his head.  “Maybe, but for how long?  People like us can’t form permanent bonds.”


“Sure we can!  Like Prez—she and I are still Brothers!  I really scared her with what I did when I met you last time, but she was willing to forgive me and keep being my friend.”


Sonia looked from him to Taurus.


“…Really?” the FM-ian muttered.  “You were so strong it scared her…but she still wants to keep your bond?”


Bud nodded.  “Uh-huh!  Our bond was strong enough to survive my mistake!  And if I can form a bond like that, then I’m sure you can too!”


Taurus stared hard at him.  “...I wonder…”


The FM-ian was still for a time.  Then he sighed, and slowly floated down towards the humans.


“You win, Harp Note.  If you want to stop the FM King, I won’t do anything more to get in your way.”


“Really?” Sonia said.  An immense sense of relief flooded into her heart.  “I’m so glad to hear that!”


“Yeah.  Just keep your eyes open!  Libra was supposed to be somewhere around here too.”


Sonia nodded and started towards the school.


“Hold on,” Lyra said.  “Taurus, can I ask what you will be doing now?”


“Who knows?” Taurus said, shrugging.  “I’ve never given any thought to doing anything besides fighting for the FM King.  For now, I guess I’ll just need to find a place to watch what goes on between you and the King.”


Taurus turned to leave.


“Hey, wait up!” Bud said.  “You just decided to stop working with the bad guys, right?  I think that’s what just happened…”


Turning to him, Taurus said, “Bad guys?  Well, I’ve given up on trying to destroy Earth, at least.  But yeah, I guess the FM King would probably smash me apart if I went back.”


Bud nodded.  “Hmm.  Well, if you don’t have anywhere to go, you could stay with me for a while.”




“I know you had your own reasons, but you still ended up sorta helping me before.  Besides, if you wanna learn about making friends and using your strength for them, that’s something I could probably help you with if you wanted!”


Taurus floated towards him.  “Really?  But why would you trust me?”


“It’s just a feeling I’m getting.  I’m not sure how to put it, but it’s like…you and I have similar problems, or something, and that means we might find a good solution if we work together!  Er, I’m not sure if that makes sense.”


Taurus paused a moment.  Then he laughed.  “No, I think I understand.  You may have a point, Bud…okay.  I think I’ll take you up on that offer!”


Bud held his door open.  “Great!  Come on, I was just about to make some ginger beef!”


“Mrrgh?  Ginger beef?”


Taurus followed Bud inside, stopping for a moment to look at Sonia.


“Looks like you’ve already made a friend!” she said.


Taurus nodded.  “…Thank you.”


He went inside.  Sonia returned to her normal form and faced the school once again, saying, “Alright.  Now, it’s time to help Libra!”




Geo ducked into the classroom, pulling Pat behind him.  “Pat, you stay here!  I’ll take care of him!”


Pat nodded.  “Just be careful, Geo!”


Geo returned to the hallway, saying, “You sure we can transform without a Wavehole?”


“Positive,” Mega said.  “I’ve seen plenty of these Wave Balls before.”


Geo nodded, initiating the EM Wave Change.  When he started back down the hallway, Libra appeared from around the corner—they both stopped, not wanting to give the other an opening.


“You surprise me, Omega-Xis,” Libra said.  “Why not fight me yourself?  That child isn’t much of a warrior.”


“Hah!  You’ve seen what he can do!” Mega replied.  “Even now, I’m stronger with Geo’s help, and I’m not gonna take chances this late in the game!”


“You’ve grown weak.  You used to be sure you could defeat me, yet now you won’t even try without hiding behind your human pet?”


“Save it!  Geo’s my partner, and I trust him with my life!”


Libra chuckled.  “I take it he trusts you as well?”


Geo nodded.  “Of course!”


“Really?  I’m curious, Omega-Xis: if you trust him so much, then have you told him what became of those human prisoners you lost track of back on the station?”


“Prisoners…?  What is he talking about?”


Mega gritted his teeth.  “It’s nothing!”


“What’s this?” Libra said.  “You haven’t told him?  My, you truly do believe in the bonds of trust.”


“Geo, let’s get him while he’s busy yammering!”


Hesitantly, Geo locked on to Libra and used the Mega Attack, teleporting in front of his foe and swinging a Long Sword.  Libra endured the attack like it was nothing.  Charging one of his scales with water, Libra beat Geo back, leaving him stunned when he returned to his previous position.  Libra advanced a step and looked around.


“Where is that other child you had with you?”


Geo opened fire with a Gatling Gun.  Libra raised one scale to block the shots, giving him time to send a blast of fire into the nearby classroom.  Pat emerged from the other door, saw Libra, and scrambled behind Geo.


“Don’t you dare hurt Pat!” Geo said.  “There’s no reason to involve him in this!”


“Why not?” Libra asked.  “Why do you humans care so much about each other?  What do you gain from these precious relationships you all keep babbling on about?  Linking yourself to another person only leads to being hurt when they are eventually sacrificed!  That’s no way to keep yourself in balance!”


Geo readied to deploy his shield, trying to be subtle about it.  “I used to think the same thing.  But, that’s something you say when you’ve lost someone…who did you lose, Libra?”


The FM-ian averted his gaze.  “That doesn’t matter.”


“No, it does!  If you tell me what caused your pain, then maybe I can find a way to help you!”


Libra glared at him.  “Does it matter so much to you?  Fine.  I had a friend once.  Even FM-ians can be friends, sometimes.”


“What was his name?”


Libra looked away again.  “…Pisces.  He was soft—never had much taste for battle, and he certainly had no talent for it.  But he was reliable.  And for an FM-ian, that is a rare trait indeed.  No matter how he was wounded, he would persevere, doing his best to accomplish whatever was required of him.  Of course, that was what killed him in the end.  He continued fighting when he knew he wouldn’t win.  I pleaded with my superiors to back him up, but they would not…I pleaded with the FM King himself to revive him while there was still time, before his waves dissipated to the point where he could no longer be reconstructed, but he would not.  I was told that sacrifices must be made.”


He closed his eyes.  “But now, the new FM King has chosen to revive me…”


“You must be confused,” Geo said.


Libra shook his head.  “The FM King had a purpose for us.”


“But he chose not to sacrifice you!  Even he could see that not all sacrifices need to be made.  You’re just blindly following what someone told you instead of actually looking at the reality around you!”


“Libra, please listen to him!” Pat said.  “I’ve taken what other people say to heart before, and I know how terrible it is to feel like you have no control.  But Geo showed me that I could take control of my own life!  It’s still difficult, and it still hurts…but I can feel myself moving forward, no matter how slowly.  I can’t tell you how much of a relief that is!”


Libra turned to him.  “Andromeda’s awakening is inevitable.  With our new bodies, Lyra won’t be able to stop us this time.  If I turned against the FM King now, I’d only be thrown to that thing once it attacks.  That girl sacrificed me once already—I won’t let her do it again!”


He summoned a weight in the air above Geo and Pat.  They moved just before it dropped, weaving through blasts of fire and water as they ran.  Stopping at a bend in the hall, Geo urged Pat to keep going, and then turned back to see Libra spinning towards him and was sent crashing into the wall.


“Libra,” Geo grunted, trying to get to his feet.  “Sonia didn’t want to—“


“Enough!” Libra said, holding one arm out in front of Pat.  “I won’t let this fight continue.”


“Leave Pat alone!”


“Oh, I will…but something will have to be given up in return.  Omega-Xis!  I suspect there’s a very good reason why you haven’t told this boy the whole truth about what happened on Peace, and I’d like to know more about it myself.  So here is your choice: sacrifice the trust he has placed in you, or sacrifice his friend!”


“Curse you,” Mega grumbled.


Geo frantically looked to Pat.  The other boy was perfectly still, save for his heavy breathing and repeated glancing at Libra.




“Alright.  I’ll tell you what happened.”


He sighed.  “The truth is, Geo…I was one of the soldiers sent to attack Peace.”


Geo held up his left hand, forcing Mega to face him.  “You were?  But why didn’t you tell me?!”


Mega ground his teeth.  “…The humans were rounded up, and the FM King held a trial.  Obviously, he found them all guilty, and I was assigned to be their jailer until we carried out their sentence…execution.  That was when I met Kelvin.  He kept poking into my business, and after a while he started to grow on me.”


“Mega…you didn’t…?”


“When Lyra stole the Andromeda Key, I knew that I had to follow her before it was too late.  Before I left, your dad asked me to take him and the others with me, but I told them there was no way I could smuggle them all off the station without the FM-ians noticing.”


Libra scowled.  “Yet somehow you did!”


“I’m getting to that.  Kelvin knew that we were made up of Z Waves, and that if a human is exposed to enough of those, they’ll turn into EM bodies too.  So, that’s what he asked me to do.  I told him that even if I did, they could easily get lost, and heading the same way as the FM-ian forces meant there was a decent chance they’d get caught again.  But, he said that if they stayed they were goners for sure.  He thought there was at least a little hope if they became EM bodies and left, and that was enough to keep him from giving up.”


Geo stared ahead.  “So…”


Mega nodded.  “After that, I turned all the humans into EM bodies.  The problem is, we had to part ways right after we left the station so that I could distract the FM-ians while they made their escape.”


Libra snorted.  “You really have gone soft, Omega-Xis.”


“Then, they might still be alive?” Geo asked.


“Maybe,” Mega said, “but the chances are kinda slim.”


After pausing a moment to take it in, Geo smiled.  Getting up, he said, “Well…if there’s even a sliver of a chance, I’ll keep that hope alive.  Thanks for finally telling me, Mega.”


Libra raised an eyebrow.  “What’s this?  Omega-Xis has been withholding this information about your father this entire time, yet you don’t seem particularly upset with him.”


“I’m annoyed, but now’s not the time for that,” Geo said.  “Mega’s my friend!  And right now, I need his help to save Pat from you!”


Libra stared at them, his utter confusion evident.  Geo checked on Pat, wanting to be sure he was okay, but that was when he saw a strange grin on the other boy’s face.


Wait, now?!


Rey suddenly grabbed Libra’s wrist and yanked, spinning the already dazed FM-ian directly into the wall.  As he crossed the hall, Geo said, “Rey?  Thanks, you really—“


He was cut off by a punch.  Rey sneered, “You’re doin’ a pretty pathetic job of keeping Pat safe.”


“Nngh…I’d say I’m doing pretty well, considering the world is ending.”


Pat soon regained control.  Shaking his head, he said, “Geo?  What happened?”


Geo put himself between Pat and Libra.  “The important thing is that you’re safe!”


Libra was up now.  He faced Geo with a look of inquisitive fury.  “I don’t understand!  You still trust him?!”


“That’s right!  It’s like we keep telling you Libra: sacrifices don’t always need to be made!  I was able to keep Pat safe and keep trusting Mega.  You failed your own test!”


Libra summoned another weight.  Pat was clear already; Geo timed a Mega Attack to avoid damage, using the opportunity to attack with a Brave Sword.  Libra attempted to block, but the blade sliced right through his guard.


“I understand why you’re hesitant to trust us,” Geo said.  “But nobody wanted you to die before, Libra!  Do you remember what Sonia said?  When Mr. Shepar was starting to regain control, she asked you if there was any way for you to separate from him.  She wanted to save both of you!  She’s still haunted by the fact that she couldn’t, and I’m sure that if she were here now, she’d still be trying to help you!”


Enraged now, Libra charged his scales with elemental energy.  “No!  This line of thought—I can’t understand it!  All I know is that I have to watch out for myself, and I won’t let you trick me into putting myself in jeopardy!”


He rushed forward, spinning rapidly.  At the last possible second, Geo used an Invisible Battle Card, allowing Libra’s arms to pass through him without causing any damage, and he used the chance to pull out a Heavy Cannon and blast Libra down the hall.  The FM-ian needed time to recover, so Geo prolonged his paralysis with a Plasma Gun and followed with a Flicker Kick.  Now blind, Libra swung but was unable to hit Geo, his sight returning only as a Big Axe smashed into him.


Pat watched from a safe distance, nervously wringing his hands together.  A sound from behind made him jump—the elevator at the end of the hall opened, and out stepped Mr. Shepar.  Upon seeing the battle, he rushed forward and stopped next to Pat.


“Pat, are you okay?!” he asked.


“Teach!  Y-Yeah, I’m fine!”


Seeing him, Geo lost his focus.  Libra was able to knock him back, but he too froze when he saw Shepar, his gaze lingering on the teacher for some reason.


Gulping, Shepar demanded, “What’s going on?”


Libra started to regain his composure, so he raised his arms.  “So, you’re still here.”


“I sure am!  The students’ dedication kept me here even after what you convinced me to do, so I’m still doing what I can for them when I’m not with my own kids.”


“Really?  Then, you didn’t have to sacrifice anything at all?”


Shepar stepped forward.  “Nope!  It was definitely a close call, but things worked out in the end!”


Libra growled.  “This…entire planet!  None of this makes any sense!  How are you humans able to accomplish things without sacrificing?  If you can do it, then why…why couldn’t I do it?!”


The FM-ian slumped, moaning as his shoulder shook.  “Why…why…”


For a while, the humans didn’t know what to do.  Eventually, though, Shepar walked closer to Libra and gave him a look that was stern but not without compassion.


“Listen up.  I can’t let you hurt these kids, but even after everything, I don’t want to hurt you if I don’t have to.  Please, is there any way we can convince you to leave here peacefully?”


Libra met his gaze.  After a few seconds, he looked over at Geo.  It was around then that the elevator opened again, bringing Sonia with it this time; she came forward a bit but stopped abruptly, not wanting to interrupt whatever was going on.


“…Well…it seems unwise for me to continue my efforts here,” he mumbled.  “I still don’t see how you’ll be able to stop Andromeda.  But, if I’m dead either way…I think I’d like to live at least a little longer, just the same.”


Approaching him, Geo said, “We will stop Andromeda.  And once we do, then maybe without that threat hanging over your head, you’ll find a way to make things work out without making undue sacrifices.  I really hope you will, Libra.”


Libra nodded to him.  Then, he disappeared in a wisp of energy, and everyone breathed a collective sigh of relief.


“I came to help out, but it looks like you have this under control!” Sonia said.  “Great work, Mega Man!  I’ll go on ahead and destroy the Wave Ball.”


“Hang on a second!” Shepar said.  “You two are the ones who helped me when I went out of control before, right?  I want to thank you!  If it weren’t for you, I don’t even want to think about what would have happened.  I really owe you both!”


Geo grinned.  “You don’t owe me anything, Mr. Shepar.  It’s because of how much you care about your students that I was here to help you in the first place.  So, thank you!”


Shepar scratched his head.  “Oh, really?  Huh…”


He squinted at Geo.  “You know, now that I take a closer look, I feel like I’ve seen you somewhere else too…”


Geo stepped back.  “Oh, um…I get that a lot…”


Pat intervened, saying, “Sorry, Mr. Shepar, but Mega Man here has to get going!”


He took Geo’s hand, and before Shepar could ask anything else they ran off down the hallway.  Sonia turned to the now-confused teacher and said, “I’d better get a move on too!  See you, Mr. Shepar!”


She doubled back to the elevator and hit the button for the roof.  As soon as she stepped out, she noticed the air felt a little different, and the distortion grew stronger as she approached the Wave Ball sitting at the center of the roof.  Using one massive sound pulse, she blew the orb apart.  The Wave Roads instantly faded out of view, and she looked down at herself—her armor was gone, and she was back to her normal self.


“At least that part was easy,” Sonia said.  “There were three others, I think, but how are we going to find them?”


Before she received an answer, her guitar started to ring.  She checked the screen, seeing that she was getting a call from Luna, and hit the button to pick up.




“Sonia!  Help!”


She felt her body tense.  “What?  What’s happening, Luna?”


“I’m not sure!  This thing fell from the sky, and now there are viruses everywhere—in the Real World!”


“Well, we’ve found the second,” Lyra said.


“Stay calm, Luna,” Sonia said, though she could barely keep her own voice steady.  “Where are you right now?”


“I’m at Nacy’s with my parents!”


“Okay, I’ll be right there!”


“Sonia, wait, that’s not all!  I…I’m not sure how, but…”


Sonia started to get a sinking feeling.  Though she already had an idea, she asked, “What is it?”


“She’s here…Ophiuca!  Somehow she’s back!”


Sonia rushed back into the elevator.  “The snake exhibit isn’t still there, is it?”


“No, they’ve all been shipped out already!”


“That’s good.  I’ll be there as soon as I can, Luna—just stay safe until I get there!”


“I’ll try, but—“


“No buts!  We’re Brothers, right?  I promise I’ll be there, so you keep your end of the promise too!”


“…Okay.  You’re right: I’ll definitely be okay when you get here!”


“That’s the spirit!  See you soon, Luna!”




Edited by Pahrak #0579
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Chapter 14



Luna looked around for anything she could use as a weapon.  The closest thing she could find was an abandoned Mowai toy, so she picked it up, turned to the Mettenna approaching her, and threw it with all her might.  The toy hit the virus square in the face, sending it toppling over backwards.


Grabbing her parents’ hands, she said, “Come on, over here!”


As they ran, her father said, “Luna, do you know where you’re going?”


“I think there were fewer viruses over this way!”


Before they could make it across the roof, however, a pair of Jammers stopped them.  Luna was trying to think of a way out when something tackled their enemies from the side.


Her mother pulled her back, shouting, “What is that thing?!”


The wolf-like creature looked back at Luna, who remembered, Sonia said something about one of the gardeners here…


Wolfe leapt behind them, clawing through a line of viruses as he landed.  “I’ve cleared out that corner!” he said, pointing.  “Get over there, quickly!”


When he looked back up, Ophiuca had appeared before him.  Resting her face against one hand, she said, “Now this is quite unexpected.  Just how long have you been here, Wolf?”


“Ophiuca, I take it?” Wolf replied.  “I see no reason to explain myself to you.”


Ophiuca pointed up at the Wave Ball that hovered above the building.  “Really?  Surely you know what that means.  The FM King has launched his final assault on this planet, and will unleash Andromeda the moment he retrieves the Key from Lyra.  In light of that, I can’t understand why you’re siding with these humans—if you helped me, I’m sure I could convince His Majesty to pardon your crimes.”


Luna and her parents huddled in the corner of the roof alongside the others who hadn’t been able to escape.  When they turned back to the confrontation, Luna’s mother said, “Something seems familiar about that purple one.  Have we seen it somewhere before?”


Luna fidgeted.


“Heh,” Wolf chuckled.  “You think I’m still carrying around some love for my home planet or something?”


“You certainly don’t have to love it, Wolf,” Ophiuca told him.  “To be quite honest, I rather despise it myself, but I don’t really have much choice but to work with it…for now.  I thought that perhaps you would like to consider that option as well.”


Wolf scoffed.  “Get lost, Ophiuca.”


“…Well then.”


“Hey, FM-ian!” Wolfe said.  “If you don’t agree with your king, then why are you still helping him?  He can’t awaken that machine without the Key, and the person who has it now isn’t going to give it up easily!”


“Ah, you mean the idealist.”  She paused.  “I admit she’s quite interesting.  The only reason I was revived is because she was able to defeat Gemini, and I can see that she’s managed to convert Wolf.  Taurus even had some lingering doubts as we departed—that’s what surprises me the most.”


Ophiuca crossed her arms, hung her head, and sighed.  “She’s made it extremely difficult to formulate a plan for this occasion.  If she’s able to hold onto the Key through this attack and defeat us all again, then I suppose there’s nothing stopping her from confronting the FM King.  However, I’m not so sure His Majesty will listen to her, and I find it even less likely that her actions will change Planet FM on a great scale.  Her goals align with my own, but I just can’t bring myself to believe in her methods.”


“I’m sure she’d say the same about you,” Wolf said.


Wolfe extended his claws.  “Leave now and you’ll still be around to find out if she can make it happen.  But, if you try to hurt these people, you’ll have to go through me!”


Now curious, Ophiuca waved her hand.  Snakes appeared on the roof and slithered towards Wolfe.  He spread his arms and snarled, summoning a group of wolves who ran out to meet the serpents, the two groups destroying each other in a matter of seconds.


“Interesting,” Ophiuca murmured.  “I suppose I have time to indulge you.”


When she saw the snakes, Luna’s mother gasped.  “Of course!  She reminds me of that dream!  I don’t think she was there, but the way she looks…”


“Yes,” her father said, “she does look a lot like how Luna looked in that dream!”


Luna closed her eyes.  …I have to tell them.


Wolfe leapt at Ophiuca and slashed.  She dodged, circling around Wolfe and unleashing two beams of energy from her eyes that rammed into his back.  The attack paralyzed him, so Ophiuca rushed forward and tackled him, sending him sprawling.


“Hm,” she said, “perhaps you need a bit more practice.”


Wolfe sprang back up and rushed Ophiuca, careful to dodge her eye beams this time.  She danced around his every strike, putting herself just out of range each time but going no farther.  Eventually, she waved her hand, and a snake appeared to trip Wolfe as he swung; she tackled him before he could fall too far forward, sending him rolling backwards to ultimately crash into a display.


Inhaling sharply, Luna said, “Mother, Father…I have to tell you something.  What happened that day wasn’t a dream.”


“What?” her mother asked.  “How could it be anything else?”


Luna pointed to Ophiuca.  “She was there.  I was so desperate to change things that when she offered to help me, I agreed, and with her power, I became the thing that attacked you.”


Her parents stared at Ophiuca, totally silent.


“I’m so sorry,” Luna sobbed.  “I made a terrible mistake…”


Her father shook his head.  “We made you feel so desperate…that you would turn to a thing like this…”


Setting a hand on her shoulder, her mother said, “We’re sorry, too, Luna.  It’s our fault you were in that position in the first place.”


Luna covered her face with her hands.  She began to cry.  Her parents hugged her; she felt an enormous surge of relief, and she also felt very, very loved.


Meanwhile, Ophiuca drifted around Wolfe, waiting patiently for him to stand.  Wolf said, “Dang.  Looks like Ophiuca might be a bit outta your league.”


Wolfe picked himself up.  “Yeah?  So what?  Sonia didn’t give up when she was fighting me, so it wouldn’t do if I gave up now.”


“Heheh…whatever you say, Wolfe.”


Another group of wolves charged at Ophiuca, but this time Wolfe went with them.  She used a sweeping blast of her eye beams to obliterate the animals, trying to do the same to Wolfe, though he was able to leap around the blast, bounce up, and slash her before she had time to move.  He followed with another slash—this time, Ophiuca held up both arms to cushion the blow, and then twisted so that her tail kicked Wolfe in the snout.  The next blast hit him in the chest.


“An excellent maneuver,” Ophiuca said.  “However, I am not someone who will be defeated by a single good move.”


“Then here’s another one!”


Ophiuca looked up just as a flaming guitar was smashed into her face.  Harp Note, in her Fire Leo form, dropped onto the roof as Ophiuca went flying, and she put a hand on Wolfe to steady him.


“Thanks for holding her off, Mr. Wolfe!” she said.  “We’ll take it from here.”


Wolfe smiled.  “What, you think I’m gonna quit just because you finally showed up?  I’ve still got some fight left in me!”


Ophiuca stood up, rubbing her face with an annoyed look.  “Well, look who it is.  We were just talking about you.”


Sonia lowered her guitar and walked forward.  Extending one hand, she said, “Ophiuca, there’s no need for us to fight.”


The FM-ian smirked.  “Oh, that’s right: the others said you kept trying to save them.”


“That’s right.  And now you’re all back, with no possession to mess things up this time.  You’ve all been given a second chance, and Taurus and Libra have already taken theirs—I’m going to see to it that you do the same.”


“Taurus and Libra?  You managed to make those two change sides?”


“I don’t know if I’d say that.  They’ve both called off their attacks, at least.”


Ophiuca examined her.  “…You are simply…incomprehensible.  Your enemies return to life, and you see it as a chance to help them.  And it’s no trick, there’s nothing for you to gain—you could easily destroy us with your power, yet you take the terrible risk of…trusting us instead.  Is it that you’re merely averse to death?”


“Merely?” Sonia repeated.  “What more reason could I need?”


After pausing to let Ophiuca laugh, she added, “I don’t believe you’re fond of it either.”


“Well,” Ophiuca sighed, “it’s certainly not something I’d like to face, much less a second time.”


“And that’s why you don’t trust anyone.  That’s why you watch and wait, manipulating from the background rather than participating.  You keep the entire world at a distance because you’re afraid it’ll kill you.”


Ophiuca’s eyes widened and she completely froze.  Sonia did nothing—she just kept looking back, keeping her hand out and doing her best not to look intimidating.  After a while, Ophiuca squirmed a bit, looking around the roof and rubbing her neck.


“…My word,” she breathed, “you really are a chore to outwit.”


“Please, Ophiuca.  I don’t want to fight.  You said that you wanted the same thing Lyra did: to change Planet FM so that it doesn’t destroy itself.  It might not be a very complex plan, but why don’t you just ally with somebody else trying to do that?”


Ophiuca hesitated.  Glancing at Luna, she thought, I suppose I have some hostages.




She turned back to Sonia.  There was still kindness in her gaze, but now she could see a fury ready to seep in.


With a shrug, Ophiuca said, “Well...it wouldn’t really be worth it.  All it would really accomplish is making you hate me, and while I am curious to see how that would look on you, I have no doubt you’d still be able to defeat me.  Lyra?”


“Hm?  What can I do for you, dear?” asked the other FM-ian.


“Since you have a bit of experience, I’d like your opinion.  Do you believe this girl can change our planet?”


“I think she has a better chance than anyone else—definitely better than you or I would have had.”


Ophiuca turned around.  “Hm.  Even still, I can’t quite bring myself to place my faith in you, child.”


Sonia lowered her hand.


“But,” she continued, looking over her shoulder, “as you know, I have no intention of fighting a losing battle.”


With a wave, she summoned snakes to delete the remaining viruses on the roof, dismissing them as soon as the task was complete.


“I still think you’re a fool, ‘Harp Note’.  But, on rare occasions, I have seen fools succeed.  Best of luck.”


Sonia nodded.  “Thank you.”


Ophiuca vanished.  The people started to evacuate the roof, but Luna stopped to talk to Sonia.  “You did it, Harp Note!  I knew you’d save us!”


“No problem,” Sonia said.  “But, I still need to destroy that—“  She pointed to the Wave Ball.  “—so you should all clear out just to be safe!”


When the last of the people had gone, Sonia aimed her guitar and blew the Wave Ball apart with a blast of flame.  She and Wolfe returned to normal, and she took a moment to breathe before turning to her ally.


“Thank you again, Mr. Wolfe,” she said.  “And you too, Wolf!”


“Yeah, well, I finally stopped aching and figured it might be good to stretch my legs,” Wolf said.  “Plus, I might be stuck with this guy a while longer—can’t have him getting himself killed.”


Lyra chuckled.  “It sounds as though you’re developing a soft spot, Wolf.”


“What?  No way!  I’m just trying to keep my host usable is all!”


“Yes, yes, whatever you say.”


Wolfe said, “We wouldn’t have been able to do much if it weren’t for you showing up.  Guess I should put some training in or something.”


Smiling, Sonia said, “That’s not something I expected to hear the first time I met you.  You really are doing a lot better—I’m so happy for you, Mr. Wolfe!”


“…Yeah, I guess so.”


“Won’t mean much if the world ends,” Wolf interjected.


Sonia shook her head.  “That’s not going to happen.  We just need to find those other two Wave Balls, and then we’ll go see the FM King and convince him to call off this attack!”


“I can sense the Z waves, but it’s a very vague impression,” Lyra said.  “We need a better way to track them if we’re going to stop them in a respectable amount of time.”


Sonia lifted her guitar, looking at the screen.  “I think I know just the place.”




AMAKEN was under attack.  Viruses and Jammers were on the loose, wrecking every piece of equipment they came across, and the Satella Officers present didn’t do a single thing to stop them.  The only opposition was Cancer Bubble, shaking as he raised his claws in defiance before a somewhat disinterested Cygnus.


“You were always disappointing, Cancer, but somehow you’ve managed to outdo yourself,” the avian FM-ian said.  “To think you would join the enemy in spite of such overwhelming odds!  Congratulations.  You’ve actually made me pity you.”


“Ahahahaha, well, Cygnus, sir, um, I haven’t exactly joined them,” Cancer nervously babbled.  “This boy is the only one who can really resonate with my frequency, that’s really all it is!  I’m working on possessing him, it’s just, uh, well…”


“Listen up, alien!” Claud said.  “You sure picked the wrong place to attack!  I’m Cancer Bubble, Brother of the great Harp Note!  If you’re a threat to this planet, then I’m gonna do everything in my power to stop you!”


Cygnus spat out a short laugh.  “Your power?  A human runt and one of Planet FM’s weakest?  Not a single element of you has the ability to intimidate anyone!”


Claud gritted his teeth.  “Oh yeah?  How about this!”


He raised a tidal wave.  The water surged forward; Cygnus flew back to avoid it, sending feathers forward with each flap of his wings that shot through the oncoming wall and battered his off-guard foe.  When the wave finally disappeared, Cygnus flew forward and dove.  One kick sent Claud flying across the lobby to crash into the museum’s ticket dispenser.


“C-Claud!” Cancer shouted.  “Are you okay?  I told you we shouldn’t fight Cygnus!”


When he dug himself out of the wall, Claud beat his claws together.  “I know, but Sonia’s my Brother!  And that means I have to be someone she can depend on.  She’s not here, but if she was, she wouldn’t just let Cygnus hurt these people.  Her Brothers have to be willing to do the same!”


“That girl has been busy, hasn’t she?” Cygnus said.  “Perhaps her ignorance has given her strength.  It seems to have worked for her, but I prefer to be more realistic.”


A row of duck-like creatures appeared in front of Cygnus and marched towards Claud.  Leaning forward, he swung both arms, and his claws detached and punched their way past the attackers.  Cygnus was too surprised to avoid being hit, ending up stunned when the projectiles boomeranged back.  Claud pressed his advantage with a blast, encasing Cygnus in a bubble, and then summoned another wave, this one successfully washing Cygnus away.


“Wow…” Cancer mumbled.


Puffing out his chest, Claud said, “Not bad, right?”


Cygnus shook himself dry.  He glared at the boy and said, “You’re so quick to celebrate.”


More feathers hit Claud, making him stumble.  Cygnus flew forward.  Claud threw his claws, but Cygnus circled around behind his foe, knocking him flat with a kick.  Before he could get up, Cygnus jabbed his foot directly into Claud’s torso.  He shouted, and then rolled, trying to get to his feet.


“I am an elite solider,” Cygnus said.  “You insult me by thinking you can win!”


Claud was almost standing now.  Cygnus kicked him again.


“Cancer.  Since I’ve been shown mercy, I feel a bit like showing some myself.  If you cease this foolishness—leave this boy behind and come back to Peace with me—I shall not tell the FM King about your brief betrayal.”


“Huh?” Cancer remarked.  “You’d…really take me back?”


Claud sat up.  “Cancer, what’re you doing?  I need your help!”


“If you continue to side with this worthless child, all that awaits you is Andromeda’s maw,” Cygnus said.  “Why commit yourself to death?  Coming back with me is the only way you can survive.”


“Uh…well…I mean…” Cancer said.


Cygnus smiled, squawking another laugh.  “Let’s be off, Cancer.  The Satella Officers still have a job to do.”


He turned and began to walk away.  Claud struggled to his feet, waiting for Cancer to say something.


When his partner finally answered, it was with a hushed, “Claud…now!”


A happy strength filled Claud.  He blasted Cygnus, catching him in another bubble.  One tidal wave later, he moved forward to continue his attack, though Cygnus’s lackeys appeared to knock him back.


Cygnus fluttered his wings in a rage.  “What is the meaning of this, Cancer?!”


“I-I know that the power I have is pretty weak,” Cancer said.  “B-B-But, even so…Claud never doubted that he could use it become stronger.  It was obvious—he knew I was a pathetic FM-ian, but instead of trying to attract another, he decided to strengthen our bond.  And now…we do have a bond!  S-So, um…”


Cygnus cocked his head.  “Are you joking?  It’s so much wiser to betray him.  You’re an FM-ian: it’s your nature!”


“M…Maybe not.  Sonia keeps saying that they only reason we’re like that is because we believe that we are, so…I guess, I’ll try believing something else!”


Glaring, Cygnus strode forward.  Before he reached Claud, however, the doors of the facility were flung open, prompting him to stop and look.


“Sorry to interrupt, but it’s time to end the opening act!” Sonia called.  “Harp Note is live and on-stage!”


Jumping and waving, Claud said, “Sonia!  You’re here just in time!”


Facing her now, Cygnus said, “We were planning to bring you here at some point, but I didn’t expect you to show up so soon.  How did you know?”


“Know what?” Sonia asked.  “I came here hoping to use AMAKEN’s equipment.  What luck to find one of the Wave Balls here too!”


“Oh?  You’ve defeated some of the others already?”


Nodding, Sonia counted on her fingers.  “Taurus was in Echo Ridge—I had to fight him before he finally accepted that I was right, and I left him with his new friend.  Libra was there too, but Mega Man convinced him to give up attacking before I even got there.  And then, Wolf Woods had to fight Ophiuca for a bit, but once I came to help we talked her into keeping out of the rest of this attack.”


Cygnus blinked.  “…So then…aside from me, you’ve stopped everyone but Gemini…”


Sonia narrowed her eyes.  “Ah, so Gemini’s giving it another go too.”


“I knew he would,” Lyra chimed in.


Cygnus shook his head.  “And, you didn’t even defeat them, you…got them to stop?  Taurus made a friend?”


Sonia grinned proudly.  “That’s right.  Now I’m going to stop you.”


He squawked and laughed, turning on his heel.  “You must think you’re a miracle-worker!  I may be impressed by your successes, but you won’t be frightening me into retreat.  Especially with our secret weapon.”


Sonia followed him into the lobby.  “What, Andromeda?  I’ve still got the Key, and I’m obviously not going to let go of it!”


Cygnus walked around the edge of the room, a strange look on his face.  “Hmph…I’m not talking about Andromeda.”


Claud came closer to Sonia.  “Whatever it is, Sonia can handle it!”


“Oh no, I don’t think she’ll be able to stop this one.”


Sonia clutched her guitar, watching Cygnus closely.  A noise from above made her switch to watching the second floor balcony, where two Satella Officers were hefting some sort of cannon, aiming it directly at her and Claud.


No, not Claud!


She faced her ally and played one note—a small one, fast but not very powerful, just enough to fling Claud out of the lobby.


“Oh yes,” Cygnus said, “I was told that a Mr. Walters sends his regards.”


She didn’t have enough time to do anything else.  The officers pulled their trigger before she had even finished playing the note.  She braced herself…


Cygnus glanced at the officers.  “Well?  Are you going to fire or not?”


They pulled the trigger again.  They pulled it a third time.  Sonia cautiously released the breath she had been holding.


“Are you pulling it?” one officer asked.


“Of course I am!” said the other.  “You have it in position, don’t you?”


“Well, yeah!  What did you do?  I knew we should have tested this!”


“Detective Copper said he tested it right before he gave it to us!”


Sonia looked at the officer.


Two more people appeared on the balcony now: Detective Copper was one of them, and the other was Mr. Dubius.  They each pointed a weapon at one of the officers, and the former said, “Sorry, but your orders have changed.  Just set it down and walk away.”


Slowly, the officers complied.  Stepping forward, Cygnus said, “What is this?  I was told you would take care of the girl!”


Copper glared at him.  “Walters may have made that bargain, but I’m not going to uphold it.”


He turned to Sonia.  “Harp Note, I promise I’ll explain later!  Right now, please—“


Sonia held up one hand.  Adding a smile, she said, “You don’t have to ask, you know.”


She faced Cygnus and raised her guitar.  Taking up his own stance, Cygnus said, “This…only proves my point, you know.  Look at how your world’s protectors betray each other!”


He shot some of his feathers and dashed out behind them.  Sonia dodged the feathers, blocked the kick that came next, and repelled Cygnus with a sound pulse.


“Cygnus, quit deluding yourself!” she yelled.  “Detective Copper did what he thought was right, even when his orders were to betray those feelings!”


Claud had made his way back now, so he added, “And then there was Cancer just now—he didn’t betray me even when you asked him to!”


Sonia nodded to him, and then looked up.  “And Mr. Dubius?  Why don’t you tell Cygnus what happened after the last time he met you?”


Dubius gulped.  Coming up to the railing, he said, “Well…I decided to stop worrying that everyone would betray me.  I feel like I’ve been a lot happier since then!  And, Aaron and I formed a Brother Band.  I was hesitant, afraid he was going to steal my work, but now I know that he won’t.  I trust him not to betray me.”


“Even you, Tom?” Cygnus responded.


“Now do you see?” Sonia said.  “You kept saying that betrayal was the essence of society, but that’s not true at all!  There’s so much trust in the world—every world—and now you’ve seen that even FM-ians are capable of it!”


“Cygnus,” Lyra said.  “I’ve seen a lot of the same things you have.  All those planets we visited…the ones we invaded and conquered and destroyed…we saw plenty of people betraying each other, trying to escape their own destruction or win their own glory no matter the cost to others.  But now, I think maybe that’s not because it’s the way of the world.  I think that’s only the way of war.  We can’t judge all of society solely by what a few members of it do in its darkest moments—there’s so much more to consider!  Planet FM needs to come out of the dark.  When it does, I think you’ll be surprised at what we’re actually capable of.”


Scanning over all of them, Cygnus backed away, raising his wings defensively.  “No…this is a trick!  I won’t be fooled by the likes of you!”


Sonia carefully dodged a burst of feathers.  A row of ducks advanced, so she blew them away with a sound pulse, and when Cygnus danced forward she endured the attack, grabbed him, and wrapped him in strings.


“Cygnus, you have to see reason!”


She played a few notes.  Cygnus managed to wriggle free and danced again, but Sonia avoided it and continued peppering him with her own attacks.


“No one is trying to trick you.  Why would we?”


Feathers clattered against her guitar.


“What would we gain from tricking you?  I don’t want to brag, but I could defeat you if I wanted to!  I did it before, and I’ve gotten much stronger since then!”


Cygnus leapt to the other side of the lobby, flapping his wings a few times to get himself there.


“Cygnus, please stop this!  I know you’re reluctant to trust us, but we’re trying to show you that trust can pay off!”


“She’s right!” Dubius said.  “I used to think the same way, and I’ve been able to change.  You can do it—all you have to do is listen!”


Cygnus grunted.  “…As I recall, you demanded a show of faith.”


Sonia sighed.  “Did you have something in mind?”


Dropping his stance, Cygnus said, “Well…why don’t you and Lyra separate?  If you do, I promise I won’t attack you.”


Sonia felt hesitant.  She berated herself for that, nodded, and deactivated her Wave Change.  Smiling at Cygnus, she said, “There.  If it’ll help you see, Cygnus, then I’ll trust you.”


Cygnus stared at her, dumbfounded.  Claud kept a close eye on him, ready to step in if he saw a hint of danger; luckily, his caution was unwarranted, and Cygnus simply looked at the floor and groaned.


“I give up,” he said.  “You’re so desperate to make me understand this ‘trust’ nonsense, and I can’t understand why.  Whatever the reason, this operation can’t be salvaged.  And since the FM King won’t accept failure…”


He chuckled.  “Well, I guess it’s in my best interest to betray him.”


Cygnus walked towards the door.  Sonia said, “Cygnus!  Pay attention to what happens next.  If you watch, you’ll see what trust can do, and why I want you to see how important it is.  I did something for you, so will you do this for me?”


He looked away at first.  Eventually, he said, “I suppose I could do that.”


“Thank you.”




With Cygnus gone and the Wave Ball destroyed, Sonia, Claud, Dubius, and Copper gathered in Boreal’s lab.  The cannon sat on the floor before them—it was a wide cylinder made of silver metal, with handles on both sides and a trigger on one.  The barrel narrowed rapidly while the opposite end was lined with a green tube.


“What is it?” Sonia asked.


Copper put his hands in his pockets.  “It’s designed to release a focused burst of some kind of poison.  Mr. Walters told us to shoot you with this…and that it would kill you in seconds, enabling us to extract the Key from your FM-ian friend.  I had just enough time to disable it before I had to pass it on.”


Sonia looked over the weapon, muttering, “I can’t believe he’d go this far…”


“He’s insane.  Walters is so convinced that we can’t stop Andromeda that he’s practically ready to unleash it himself!”


She turned to the detective.  “Where is he now?  He didn’t want to shoot me himself?”


“I’m not sure where he is exactly.  No one has heard from him since shortly before this attack began.”


“We can’t identify what the poison is either,” Dubius said, typing away at the computer.  “But what’s strange is that Aaron’s system recognizes it.  Whatever it is…Aaron’s definitely seen it before.”


Reluctantly, Claud suggested, “This Boreal guy used to work for NAZA, right?  Do you think maybe he helped make this poison?”


Sonia looked to Dubius.  He shrugged.


“…I hope that’s not it,” Sonia said.  “I guess the only way is to ask him.  But, this isn’t our top priority right now: there’s still one last Wave Ball somewhere!”


Dubius got back to work.  “Using the data we gathered from observing the Wave Ball so close to us, I’ve been able to construct a program for tracking high levels of Z waves.  It’s not very sophisticated, but it should get the job done, if we just give it a few more…”


A map came up on the screen, one small section of it highlighted in red.  Dubius pointed and exclaimed, “There!  It looks like the last Wave Ball is on Dream Island.”


Sonia took another look at the screen.  “Dream Island?  That’s where Mr. Boreal is now!”


“Looks like you’ll have a chance to ask him about this after all,” Copper said.


“More than that,” Lyra said, “if anything happens to the fragment of Peace, we might not be able to get to where the FM King is.”


“I have to go now!” Sonia said.  “Thank you all so much!”


She ran out the door and made for the nearest Wavehole.  As she transformed and started down the Wave Road, Lyra said, “Keep your guard up, Sonia.  Gemini is the only one left.”


“I’ll be careful, Lyra.  I’ll make sure Mr. Boreal is safe and we can still get to Peace.  After all of this, I’m so completely sick of fighting…I’m going to stop this pointless war today!”




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