From Tails' aerial view, high above the tallest building in the town, it looked like the Christmas lights had been put up early. Thousands of coloured lights of varying size and brightness arranged in clusters where the townspeople slept. Like all large towns, it didn't really sleep at night but Tails had managed to encourage everyone he needed to go to sleep at roughly the same time. The fox could now see the world as NiGHTs saw it – the Ideya, the hopes and dreams and inspirations of the people were clearly visible.
The jester flew over to one of the larger clusters and hovered there, his arms folded and his eyes closed.
"I can hear you in there!" he yelled suddenly, "I can hear you thinking! Ideya don't think! You do a really bad impression!"
Some of the lights began to ripple and twist as though they were reflections on a pond. Patches of light began to split off from their main bodies and the new shapes began to rise into the air. Slowly, their shapes changed to that of the Wisps. They hovered around NiGHTs. On the edge of his audible range, Tails could just hear some kind of hissing static with a sing-song rhythm.
"You can't just hide in people's Ideya and drain them! Ideya isn't the same as your energy source! You're interfering with other people's personalities and you'll damage your own as well!" explained NiGHTs. There was a flurry of high-speed responses as all of the Wisps tried to talk over each other.
"What are they saying?" asked Tails.
"I think they're having trouble freeing themselves. A lot of them were absorbed deep into the Ideya by accident." said NiGHTs, "Some of them are stuck fast or tangled up, or even in more than one Ideya. Then there are the ones who are very low on energy. Its not safe to move them."
"Can you do anything for them?"
"I can try. I've untangled Ideya that got into a mess before. It shouldn't be too difficult, compared to dealing with someone with sixteen personalities. Hopefully these things can be boosted in the same way you boost Ideya." said NiGHTs, rubbing his hands together, "I need to concentrate fully on what I'm doing, though, so you'll have to protect me if anything goes wrong. Remember what I told you?"
"In my own dream, I can be as strong as I want." said Tails. SIXTEEN personalities?
NiGHTs closed his eyes again and started muttering under his breath. Occasionally he waved his arms around like a conductor – or like the Commander with his stylus screen thing – and the Ideya moved, changing in shape or texture, growing brighter or dimmer, some merging or splitting off. The Wisps seemed to react to this. More Wisps rose from the Ideya clusters, some of them disappeared, others looked more energised and generally healthier.
Suddenly there was a deep static growl, like a particularly masculine version of Giygas. Something flared up in the middle of one of the Ideya clusters. The Wisps darted away from it like billiard balls. It was a sickly shade of dark purple and had tendrils like the roots of a zombie tree. It opened a jagged maw and lunged at NiGHTs.
"LOOK OUT!" screamed Tails. I'm not fast enough to reach this thing in time, he realised. It looks like it'd swallow me whole anyway. He remembered NiGHTs' words. He was a small vulnerable young fox but he needn't be. Not in a dream. If he had the choice, what would he become?
Tails closed his eyes and thought of the biggest, most heavily armed battle walker he had ever drawn up even the vaguest prototypes for. If he had been inspired to invent it – if he had dreamt it up – it must exist here. He added some more bombs and missiles and an extra layer of armour plating to his mental image. When he opened his eyes again, he was sitting in the pilot's seat of his creation. For some reason that he was sure must relate to some dark part of his subconscious he never wanted to open a window to, there were furry dice hanging from the dashboard. The engines roared as he launched the battle walker into the sky.
The monster didn't spot him at first. He pulled down the big red lever and a cluster of homing missiles flew towards it, hitting it squarely in its back. It screamed and its tentacles writhed. Tails darted out of the way before one of the thrashing tentacles could hit him, then fired his lasers, burning straight through two of the tentacles.
"What IS this monster?" yelled Tails. While it looked scorched and angry, he was doing very little damage to it.
"I think this is what happens when they run out of energy!" yelled NiGHTs.
"How do I stop it? Can't you put more energy into it?"
"Not once its completely depleted! I can only boost what's there!" said NiGHTs. The monster lashed out at him. Tails fired a cluster of missiles to attract its attention again, retreating while firing at it constantly to draw it away from the jester. NiGHTs was still busy helping the other wisps. Tails didn't want him making another mistake and adding more Nega-Wisps to the battle. Now it realised that he was the more dangerous target, it became more interested in him. It flung itself at him, swinging its tentacles around in a frenzy. Tails barely rolled away fast enough to avoid being caught up in the furious attack. He was still hit a glancing blow that knocked him spinning away. He managed to regain control of his machine but he felt a little nauseous.
If only Sonic was here, he thought. Then he stopped himself. You can't rely on Sonic for everything, he rebuked himself mentally, you've grown out of that long ago!
Then another part of him said, But throwing Sonic at this thing would be the best strategy at this point. He would be faster and do more damage than any machine you can make. What's more, it would mean that you would be out of the battle entirely, rather than being in the middle of it, depending on machine that's breakable. Its not cowardice to step out of a battle you can't survive if you have the ability to direct it remotely. He thought about the Commander and his stylus-screen-thing again. A stylus appeared in his hand and suddenly he was a thousand miles away, looking down at the battle. He poked the Nega-Wisp with the stylus and Sonic flew out of nowhere.
Then he realised that it wasn't Sonic. Sonic wasn't actually spherical with a star shape in the middle, just curled-up-hedgehog-shaped, and he didn't glow bright blue. It was a blue Ideya.
NiGHTs was flying towards him, showing off his acrobatic moves like a bored student pretending to be a rock star in front of a shop security camera. He pressed his face against the screen and stuck his tongue out. Tails laughed.
Suddenly, he was woken from sleep by Sonic shaking him violently.
"Tails, what the HELL? Why are you waving the map pointer at me and laughing at me?" demanded the hedgehog, "If you're going to sleepwalk, why can't you do it like a normal person instead of a lunatic?"
"What the... at least I don't chase my tail in my sleep!" yelled Tails.
"I DO NOT CHASE MY TAIL!" yelled Sonic, "Who told you that? And don't make up some story about a flying purple jester again!"
"Good morning to you too, Sonic." said Tails, yawning.
"Its not morning, you slept for most of the day." said Sonic, "The chilli dog stall was about to close so I went to buy my own. Sorry, I didn't save any for you."
"Is he okay? He seemed a little run down the last time I saw him."
"What, the vendor? He gets ill?" Sonic shook his head, "Guess who I saw at the café across the road!"
"The one with the scary old lady?" asked Tails.
"Yeah... the Commander was there, just sitting and drinking tea! What do you think he was up to?"
"I don't know. Maybe he just likes tea? I hear they do a nice cup of tea there." Tails shrugged, "Although this IS the scary old lady we're talking about. We should probably check she's not making the tea out of cats."
"I should probably check up on it myself. If I don't, Shadow will get there first and wreck the place."
"I could do with a nice cup of tea." agreed Tails. Sleeping for too long was just as exhausting as not sleeping for long enough, especially when you had such intense dreams. If the Commander is up and about, NiGHTs must have been successful. He was the worst affected and it sounds like everything else has settled down. Tails only hoped that the Nega-Wisp was defeated, or at least that NiGHTs made it out alive. He had woken up before he saw the end result. The only real way to know was to wait until it was time to go to sleep again and pray that he could actually get back to Nightopia. Now wasn't the time for sleep, though. Now was time for tea.