Author's Notes: I can't beileve its been nearly half a year since I've updated this. I dunno, been busy, lacked the drive to write, was lazy. Whatever, just know this chapter was really long before I cut it down and that the title would've made more sense if I'd left it as is, but even I know when to cut something down. So here it is, the tehth chapter, filled with action, plot, and villians galore! Please R&R. Helps motivates me.

Chapter 10: A Series of Strange Happenstances

"Oww! That hurts!" Finn groaned as the disinfectant garbled in his wound.

"Good. It means the medicine is doing its job." The candy maiden gently applied a bandage to his damaged forearm before delicately pecking it with a kiss.

Finn's cheeks lit up like a holiday tree as he turned to the side and hyperventilated. As he did, he took the time to sort through his thoughts. Currently, the S.S. Stormalong was cruising back towards the Candy Kingdom at a leisurely pace, mostly due to IB's upgrading of the primary defense and AI features. Of course, Finn hadn't the slightest idea how either of these things actually worked or how they were even possible but he decided to simply not think about it. Thinking had become a rather frequent habit of his and frankly, it'd become a bit draining.

"Hey, Knuckles?" Finn asked, taking the captain's gaze away from his flask "When are you gonna tell us how you did that fire blast thing?"

"Or Flap using that fire whip." Jake's voice questioned from its ringed prison.

The Captain and lad pondered the events in their heads briefly before answering in unison "I dunno."

Finn gave his comrades a quizzical look, prompting a sigh from the aged man.

"Look, when I used it I just…I dunno, I just did." he shrugged his wooden shoulders "All I could think about was how angry that stupid knight-thing was making me and I got really burned up over it…"

"I did too." All eyes fell on the young blonde haired lad "When I used that fire whip, I thought about every hot thing I could think of. Then I swung and things just…happened."

Silence draped the foursome, save for the distance buzzing of metal-to-metal as IB applied the necessary modifications. It didn't last, as the princess's musing quickly shattered the stillness.

"I see…so it would seem as though your emotional state affected the outcome of your spells…" producing a notepad courtesy of hammer space, the teen ruler quickly set about jotting down notes "If that's the case, then it would correlate with Jenavene's Theory of Emotional-Basis and also explain why certain castings have more of a pronounced effect when used in certain states of mind. Of course, it could also help establish the favored elements that individuals seem to possess and might even affect the appearance and function of a Riter."

"Um, PB? What the heck does all that mean?" Finn asked, curious about the subject

"It means that the spell you cast is determined by the emotional state you're in while casting it. For example, Knuckles was angry when he used his spell and since anger is typically associated with fire, it became a Fire-attributed spell. On the contrary, Flapjack's spell was activated by simply thinking of fire-related things and channeled that into his spell."

"Sooo…if we're angry, we'll use a fire spell?" Finn scratched his head as he attempted to gain some understanding of what was going on.

"Not necessarily. The emotion is needed to help unlock it, but afterwards, the spell can be used without the emotion actually needing to be present. So, such a spell could be used if you're afraid, confident, sad, or happy. Having it while casting would likely increase its power, but wouldn't be crucial to successfully using it." PB explained

At this point, everyone was starching their heads in confusion, shrugging and casting questioning looks as the princess continued. So, such was life on the sky-faring vessel as they approached the Candy Kingdom.

(-x-)

Darkness.

This near constant companion for his duration in the cave blanketed him tightly, sending chills and the ever growing lump of fear that seem to increase with each pounding heartbeat. The cap wearing lad dared not attempt to clutch his racing muscle for fear that doing so would distract him for when he finally fell to the floor.

"If there even is one." The thought had crept up on him for the third time as hours seemed to pass as he continued to fall in a never-ending shroud of ebony. Fear and darkness aside, what scared him the most and made him dread his impending landing was the presence he felt seemed to grow even thicker and more suffocating with each passing minute, his breathe threatening to catch in his throat. So caught up was he in his thoughts, he barely noticed the rapidly approaching granite.

With the aid of preschool gymnastics, Edd tucked and rolled as he landed, displacing enough of the collective force from his fall to emerge unharmed. Gasping and finally clutching his chest, he took in heavy gulps of air before he even dared to scan the area.

He found himself in a large chamber, the ceiling spiraling into the abyss from wince he came. Tall, noble columns were partially or completely destroyed, vines and other creeping plants latching on with grim swirls. But what put him both on edge and nearly made him want to scream bloody murder was the sight of numerous skeletons, all clad in armor that had tarnished with age. But what was still more disturbing was the fact that many had bite marks and claw indents etched into the marrow.

"Ah, I see you came."

The sudden sound and the sheer amount of sickening slickness of the voice caused him to release a much needed gasp of terror. Turning around and assuming what he now had tokened as his stance, his eyes met those of the interloper.

Sitting high atop of wall in a nest of bones and discarded armor sat perhaps the most frighten cat the boy had ever seen. Both his left foreleg and right hind leg were seeming missing their joints yet somehow remained anatomically correct. Then there was his tail, which originated from the sides of his Columbia skinned form as long, slender whips of carnation that split into a tuning fork tip.

Then there were his eyes. Yellow with sharp, silted red irises. Eyes of a predator. Eyes that could send shivers and won purely by intimidation. Looking into them, Double D had to use every bit of his will power to not concede before the fight began.

"S-so…I take it…y-you're the presence I felt?" Double D's teeth were clattering and his grip shaking like a leaf

"Yes," the cat was a devious one that easily scared a good bit of courage out of him "I am. And you're the presence I've been feeling for quite some time. Seems as though you've been in quite the fight."

Indeed, the smart Ed could already feel his low energy taking its toll, breath barely even enough to maintain focus.

"Good. That'll make it all the easier to rip your heart out." he punctuated the last four words with a symphony of unsheathing claws.

With a strangled yelp from the lad, the fight was on.

The cat leapt forward in a streak and brought his claws for his jugular. He quickly counter and was sent staggering back from the force. He gave him no quarter and struck again, this time aiming for his heart. Double D barely had time to activate his shield before the claws slashed against the energy field, sending it a buzz with humming light.

With a roar, the feline unleashed a flurry of swipes, each clanging louder and louder against the azure defense. Sweat drenched his collar and brim of his cap as he fought off the numbing quakes of his Riter. Then, with a particularly powerful stroke, a shattering filled the air.

CRINGG!

Edd's eyes contracted into pinpricks and a brief gasp escaped his mouth as he watched as the shield which had been so faithful throughout his journey cascaded in brilliant shards of blue around him. His body plummeted to the floor, his staff clattering away from him. As he looked up, a sense of fear and panic the likes of which he'd never known enter his chest.

The cat stood over him, eyes narrowed and maw splayed into a Cheshire grin before he raised his claws. The briefest of moments, Double D felt his heart cease to beat, feeling as though the shimmering scythe had already imbedded themselves, severing veins and arteries. Then, time suddenly started again.

He held up his palms and shouted a spell. Blinding and powerful light erupted from his hands and clashed with the creature, sending it skidding backwards. Wasting nary a second, he ran to his Riter, scooped it into his smoking hands, and bolted.

His seat of logic had completely siege control and told him one, single order: Run because your enemy is a superior fighter, predator, and brutally efficient killer and you are a wimpy, scrawny, fatigued scholar who should stick to what you do best. And he didn't attempt to argued with it. For it was right. He was wimpy. He was scrawny. He was fatigued. The chance at victory was literally non-existence and his only hope of survival was to run for dear life.

Almost immediately afterwards, he had to drop to the ground to avoid losing his head. The cat had somehow caught up with, surpassed and then attacked him all in the blink of an eye. Charging between his legs, he scrambled to his feet and resumed fleeing.

"Hmp-Hmp…I adore it when they try to escape." And with a grin, he seemingly vanished from sight

Double D saw something flicker and he couldn't even recognize it before it had sent him sprawling on the floor. He groaned, touching a hand to his side and noticed that he was bleeding. The clothing that had bounced energy bolts, bullets, and swords away had been shredded by a swipe of the feline's claws. Dragging himself to his feet, he noticed that his legs nearly buckled under his weight.

"Good Lord, what to do? I'm nearly completely out of energy, my shield's no longer effective, and now I'm in need of first-aid." His thoughts flared as he noticed the cat was walking towards him with a rather strained stride "Is he hurt? Did I hurt him?…No, it must be a previous injury. Maybe I can use this to my advantage. But I'll need a distraction."

With but a thought, he called forth Neutron. The black summons thrilled at his master before turning towards the cat. With a cry, it raced forward, gyroscope blazing. So taken by surprised was he that he didn't even have time to block and received the full grinding force to the face. He hurled into a pillar, crumbling the stone and marble atop himself. The summons thrilled in delight when a roar filled the chamber.

"You little pest!" Came the cat's raging voice as he emerged from his tome.

Then, he raised the tip of his tail, a humming ball of blue energy sparking to life. With a primal roar, it slammed the sphere into the floor, sending waves of ground-fissuring force at the creature. It couldn't even move before it collapsed and sent it into a pillar of its own, filling the chamber with bright light. A stream of white jetted from the smoking rubble and back to the stunned boy's Riter.

Even injured, the cat was a formidable opponent. Gripping Inventor's Craft, he positioned himself into his stance.

"Don't even try, Double G." the cat said mockingly

"Actually…its Double D." the boy said, mystified that the cat had almost guessed his name.

"Whatever. I know you're going to attempt to defeat me with your pathetic arsenal of spells or even try and use Newton again, but it won't work. I know almost everything, you know. Including exactly what you might do." The cat boasted, smiling devilishly at him.

"…Approximate Omniscience…Interesting. Tell me, do you know of a girl with red hair, pink shirt and blue jeans, and a temper like a volcanic eruption?" the boy still stayed at the ready, but the thought of such an ability did pique his interest.

"Maybe I do," he paused for dramatic effect "maybe I don't."

"Then if I can make you yield to me, will you promise to tell me everything you know of her?" Double D tightened his grip, a plan hatching even as he spoke.

"…Sure, why not?" The cat laughed humorously. As if the boy could actually drive him to that.

"Good. Then let's proceed, shall we?" Double D narrowed his gaze, hen, all at once, attacked.

Startled by this sudden bout of bravery (or foolhardiness), the cat received the full force of his Riter as it slammed into his torso. Grunting and gritting his fangs, his lashed out with a claw, only to find his quarry was no longer there. A surging pain from his left knee alerted him to the boy's location as he suddenly whipped his tail at him.

"Energy Waver: Flash!"

The Light-attributed spell came from his blind side, pushing his slate grey form into a pillar. Fractures erupted from his collision but the column remained standing, even as he jerked his body free with a grunt. Shaking away the spots in his vision, his gaze narrowed to the boy in front of him.

"I don't know what trick you're using," he growled as he crouched into a predatory stance "but it ends now."

"You're absolutely correct." Double D allowed himself a smile "Or are you?"

The blatant mocking of his abilities had transmutated his low growl into a vicious snarl and his body hunched and bristled with rage. Eyes now glazed over in velvet, the creature threw himself from the stone floor and at the scrawny and well-worn cap wearing lad. He had envisioned his face to be mangled into a model of terror; mouth agape in shock and fear as his life ran on fast forward in front of his eyes. This had been the reaction he had been expecting.

He wasn't expecting the boy to grin and show off his pearly whites and gap. Nor did he anticipate the sudden appearance of a watch that hummed a faint blue-gold before flaring at the boy's command.

"Stasis!"

A moment passed…

Then another…

With the final passing of the third beat, the Ed gripped his chest and heaved a weighted sigh of relief. The feline now stood hovering a mere inch in front of him, his body shrouded in the watch's light. His stream-line form was stretched taut, his claws precariously poised for the boy's windpipe. As the glow hummed lightly, the only thing moving was the creature's eyes as they darted about.

"…How..?" He'd managed to ask even though his jaws felt like they were made of lead

"Simple." With his trademark gap filled smile and scholarly tone, he held up the watch and eagerly explained "This watch was given to me while during my brief stay with the members of Time Squad. This device allows an authorized officer to travel through time at a whim, fixing and repairing it. However, since I am not an authorized member, the watch won't work for me. But…it does allow for various temporal-based spells."

"…So…that's how…you…evaded me…" speaking was becoming ever more painful as he strained to get the words out of his thoroughly cramping jaws

"The first spell I used was Tempo, which either slows or speeds up the subject of the spell. Naturally, I used it no myself and was able to use my increased speed to attack en mass from multiple directions." He gestured to the watch hands, the black lines frozen in place "The second spell that I am now currently using is Stasis. As its name suggest, it's a spell that enables me to freeze anything in time for a short period. And I'd been saving these spells until after I'd lulled you into a false sense of security."

Despite his current situation, the feline smiled. He was impressed that the boy had come up with such a clever plan, even though he knew he might've been lying and had come up with the last-ditch strategy on a whim. "So…you've caught me…but…I still refuse…to yield."

Double D was now panting heavily from exhaustion as the efforts of supporting the spell on such low energy reserves started to take their toll. Still, he had one trick left up his sleeve and he prayed to every deity he knew that he'd have the strength left to utilize it. With a deep breath, he calmed himself and spoke.

"Energy Waver: Sonic Flash."

Blinding light gathered around his palm, condensing into a sphere that hovered briefly at its center. Then, said sphere split as it traveled to the finger tips, reforming into marble-sized orbs. The resulting howl produced as the cat received a rapid-fire douse of five streaking beams nearly a dozen times over made him lone to clasp his ears shut. The his attacker sailed into the pillar collapsing it before it triggered a chain reaction, as more pillars followed suit and gave way to domino effect. As the final crashed into the cobblestone, Double D stood over the downed feline, a satisfied smirk on his face.

"That, I believe, is checkmate." he drawled before watching as the familiar blinding light filled the chamber.

He unshielded his eyes and his grin widened as he watched the last of the light slip into his Riter. Only after this happened did Double D allow himself to feel the full brunt of Relapse and buckled over as the stinging pain coursed from his singed fingertips to the rest if his body. Finally, from the combined forces of exhaustion and the magical feedback, he fainted.

(-x-)

He wasn't a coward.

Despite every piece of condemning evidence that said otherwise, he was a remarkably brave and courageous fellow; a soldier for others to follow in example. That is, when he chose to be. Currently, he'd give anything to burrow into the nearest rabbit hole, seal himself in, and never come out. Because Endsville Forest was just that darn scary. Given his experience both prior and during his Underground career, one would think he'd be at least somewhat used to the strange occurrences that happened to him. But alas, it was not to be.

Wild grasses grew and clumped together in snarls and knots, clasping stray stones and competing plants in their death grips. Tall, aged oaks towered into the clouded, darkened sky, their autumn bare branches clawing at lunar visage above them. The orchestra of howls and bone-chilling shrieks did little, if anything, to help calm his hair-trigger nerves.

Go to my happy, Go to my happy, Go to my happy, the canine thought over and over as lidded his eyes shut, trying his hardest to envision the peaceful and lulling dreamscape.

"Whoa, did cha see the size of that squirrel? It must've been like, ten-feet tall or sumthin."

The pink dog's eyes burst out of their lids, bulging out as he began a imitating a banshee. Eddy simply chuckled and looked at the expression of pure fright on his comrade's face. Of course, a quick jab from Buttercup reprehended this. Nursing his stinging side, he glanced about the eerie landscape, fighting against a shudder.

This place was creepy.

SNAP!

The trio whirled their heads in the direction of the noise, only to find nothing there. The phenomenon repeated itself once more; Eddy gripping his Riter in his hands and steadying his stance. Buttercup flared her aura threateningly, green sparks dancing on clenched fist and in luminous eyes. Courage, bundle of nerves that he way, shook so violently, he felt as though his Riter would fall from his grasp.

The group waited, calmly backing back into a tight formation, readying themselves for the impending attack. Their eyes swept the area, looking for the tiniest bit of light that might herald the enemy's presence. They waited for little more than three seconds before a dashing vermillion glare struck from the bushes.

The Powerpuff raised her guard, the shot ricocheting into the bark of a tree, felling it. A whirring of motion was seen from behind the bushes, preceding an array of shearing hot ionized-light. The girl expertly blocked the shots, scarcely taking her eyes off the blurring assailants. Eddy's Riter did an excellent job at dissipating the shots as they struck. Courage, frightened out of his mind, did little more than frail about, hoping the beams would miss.

"Come on! Stop running, you cowards!" Eddy barked at the blurs

With a resounding whir, they complied. Eddy watched as the streaks emerged from their hideaways, gleaming in the soft moonlight. Before them were three, white, blue, and purple machines, spikes running down the length of their frame. Their single red optic glaring at them in a manner that might've been anger, if they had the means to do so. Their legs, military grade tire-treds, retracted into bipedal legs as they increased size.

Metal groaned, stretched, and appeared seemingly by magic as they rapidly increased in size and mass. Rotaries grinded and whirred as four long, jointed metal limbs sprouted from their appropriate sockets. Spines erupted down their spinal columns as their heads molded and folded themselves into helmets, their single red optic glaring menacingly at them as they completed their transformation. Slowly, they stalked forwards like predators towards the kill…

A red hot beam of light tore through the armor plating covering the sensitive wires in the machines shoulder, lobbing the limb to the ground with a loud thud. Buttercup blasted forward with a flying kick and sent her foe tumbling back into the woods. Eddy followed suite and unleashed a blindingly fast hit to the robot's torso, sending him across the ground, leaving Courage alone to face the wrath of the last mechanized killing machine.

Buttercup launched a series of five punches and a roundhouse, all backed by a brilliant flash of emerald. The cyber-combatant proved to be more nimble than it appeared as it dodged as six attacks effortlessly and then reveal a long, fiery whip from its forearm. The Powerpuff zipped through the air, each crack of the whip coming closer to hitting it mark. As it came within inches away from her shoulder, she snapped into action; grabbing the appendage and spinning into a whirlwind. The machine was pulled off the ground and spun for several rotations until it was ejected into a tree.

"How'd cha like that?" the black-haired fighter taunted as she came to a stop

WHIROOM!

A pulse of electric blue energy encased her and bound her arms firmly to her arms. In her state of restriction, she was spun round and round, crashing through row after row of timber until she finally was flung into a boulder, shattering it into fine dust. The tractor beam folded back into robot's arm and it tilted its head to the side, a gesture that might've been a smirk if it'd have had a mouth to smile.

A blast of wind whipped through the area, sending fine particles of dust around the area. Buttercup stood fully erect, scratches donning her form. Cracking a smile, she grew broad smile.

"That's more like it."

Eddy found himself once again in the dangerous dance of death as he dueled with the mechanized fighter. Its arm had produced and formed a drill, chainsaw, mallet, and taser in each arm and proceeded to use each of them with deadly efficiency against the shorter lad. However, Eddy proved to be a harder target to hit than expected. The short boy was fast and agile, slipping under and around its strikes while blocking and parrying those that he couldn't. Even Eddy was shocked at just how well he was holding his own the fight and didn't even bother to hide his enthusiasm as he continued to attack.

The robot suddenly slid backwards, out of his range and started to disassemble its arms. Eddy saw the opening and leapt at it, shields blazing neon blue as he rushed in for the kill. His face blanched as the machine's arms rebuilt themselves into four large, complex cannons; a deep crimson energy building within them. Eddy swung his Riter in front of himself and braced for impact.

BOOMZP!

A thundering flash of red collided with blue, sending shockwaves and ruble flying in all directions. The rebuke of the blast had sent Eddy careening through a hollowed oak before crashing head first into a field of pumpkins. Several of the orange globes were splattered apart as they took the force of the Ed's fall. Still clinging to his Riter, he stood, gripping his aching head.

"…Great." he groaned as he wiped specks off the decimated vegetable off his jacket "And I hate pumpkin."

A tell-tale whirr alerted him and he instantly blocked using the shields from his weapon. The blast only sent him back a few yards as opposed to the several meters earlier. Removing the shimmering fields of light, he was greeted to the sight of the robot, now sporting four very dangerous looking blades, rushing towards him.

Courage dodged the saw blade that almost deprived him of more of his tail and then dived to avoid being squashed by a mallet. The robot seemed to have a very avid interest in the dog and was showing his interest by trying to systematically destroy the fuchsia dog. Even the farmer never went to such extremes! He dove, twisted, vaulted, and leapt away from every attack he could yet it seemed as though every strike came just a little closer to relieving him of a piece of himself.

Then, as he prepared to slip away from another attack, he felt a sudden numbness in his side. His face scrunched up in pain and he released a weak yelp as he was hurtled several yards through the forest. He crashed to the ground in a roll, dust kicking up from his impact. As he attempted to get to his feet, his ears perked up as he heard the sound of something coming.

"Gah!" came a yell that fell to the side of him.

He looked and saw that it was Eddy, his arms bound by a strange, glowing beam of energy. A second scream alerted him to Buttercup, who found herself in a similar situation. Courage looked at his comrades in shock before gazing up at the trio of figures stalking towards them.

"So, Whaddaya think?" a voice called

The trio all looked upwards at a jutting peak of earth, a man with strangely blue hair and pink attire looking down at them. He was wearing a very large grin, something that made Buttercup angry just by looking at it.

"I wouldn't try breaking out. Those are Quantum Helix Energy Restraints. They have enough power to hold back Dark Ace and Conquest so I know it'll be more than enough to hold you." the man boasted, swaggering atop the outcrop.

"Who are you?" Buttercup demanded, stretching her binds a bit before they snapped back with renewed force

"Oh, how rude of me," he cried with false sympathy "I'm Wacko, Genius I.Q. and Inventor at your service."

The canine and Powerpuff stiffened at the introduction. "Wacko? As in the Wacko who was exiled from the Confederation of Nations for crimes against the officers and officials? Who reportedly conducted unauthorized research into Essence and cruelly tortured members of the KND as test subjects?" She rambled the list of offenses, a mix of anger and appall seeping into each word

"Well, I wouldn't call it torture. Besides, they really helped me understand the nature of Essence in greater detail. Even now, your still using my research." he pointed a finger at the girls right hand, a small bauble sitting atop it "If I recall correctly, it's that handy-dandy device that let you win some of your more…demanding battles."

Buttercup gritted her teeth, sparks of green forming around her before the energy restrains dismissed them. Eddy looked from Buttercup to Wacko to Courage and scratched his head…or at least would've if he could move his arm "What the heck's going on around?"

"Funny you should ask that," Wacko had now taken a seat on rock, reaching into his pocket "Ya see, my superiors have been getting really antsy about this whole 'War-on-CN' thing. We just don't have the time and resource for a prolonged fight. So they sent me out to get some POW's and hold 'em hostage."

He produced a small canister and with a pop, a fountain of popped, golden deliciousness came pouring out "Well, hostage might not be that accurate," he explained as he munch on a handful of popcorn "You'll actually be used as guinea pigs for my new experiments. And I've got quite a lot of 'em."

Eddy suddenly felt his blood run cold and pool to his feet. This guy was a genuine, honest-to-goodness mad scientist, just like in Ed's stupid comic books. And he had them tied up, cornered, and at his mercy.

"Aw…Crap." Was all he could think as he saw the machines stalk closer to them

Buttercup tried to free herself but once again, the bounds sapped her energy and left her feeling weaker than before. She cursed openly and even more severely mentally. It couldn't end like this. She couldn't let herself, Eddy, and Courage be turned into lab rats. This made her increase her struggles, only to be more painfully reprimanded.

"Oh, almost forgot." Wacko said suddenly and retrieved a button from his coat pocket and pressed it.

A strange gurgling filled the area and the sound pointed to the machines as the source. Eddy fought to hold down his lunch as black ooze similar to that at the Drop slid through the armor of the robotic warriors. Then, the metal groaned and the machine's spasmed as more ooze trickled around them. The echoing cries of pure, un-synthetic anger ripped through the air as the machines fell to their knees.

Their spines bent and flexed as spikes erupted and grew longer more their vertical column. Their metal arms bent and cracked as joints free of machinery formed as a long, lashing tail sprouted from behind. Their second set of appendages retreated until only a the first remained. The single red optic spilt in two and pulsed into a glaring white. The metamorphosis halted, leaving behind a new creature, one that looked beastly with pieces of white, blue, and purple gleaming in the shrouded light.

"Behold, the Wondour!" Wacko said dramatically "These little dickens will be softening you up for transport and experimentation. But play nice! The Boss Lady said we can't rough 'em up too much."

Eddy could've sworn he felt his heart drop. He was about to die. There was no doubt in his mind that these things were about to tear him limb-from-limp and leave him in a pile so wrecked even his mother wouldn't recognize him. He bowed his head, fully excepting to feel claws rending flesh any second now. But what he did feel were footsteps. He looked up and saw that Courage had taken up a position in front of the down kids.

"Are you nuts?" Eddy cried "Run! Go get help! Save yourself!"

"Will you shut up!" Buttercup shouted and kicked him in the shin "Just sit back and watch."

"Watch what? The guy get torn apart?" Eddy questioned his comrades sanity until he took a good look at Courage.

He noticed that the cowardly tremble he always used was gone, replaced with a solid, erect posture and a dire air around him. His jaw was set and his paw was gripped tightly around his Riter. Courage the Cowardly Dog was gone and in his stead was a stranger who looked every sense of his name. Shifting his footing, he lifted his hands into a pose that seemed oddly reminiscent of one of Ed's kung-fu movies. Then, the beasts struck.

With a cry, Courage thrusted his paw into the creature's chest, sending him flying before ducking a swipe from the second's claws, catching them with a kick to the temple. The third leapt over its fallen comrade with intent to kill, only to land on empty space. High above, Courage hung in air, seeming to defy gravity before coming crashing down with a knee to the back of its unguarded neck. It crumpled beneath the canine, who was already leaping to and fro to avoid the lashing and claws from another Wondour.

The first Wondour roared as the dog leapt out of range and summoned a barrage of tendrils to his aid. Courage, undaunted by the display, tossed up his hand and allowing the attack to harmlessly deflect off his called upon shield. He then willed the elements to his outstretched palm and without so much as a word, sent a large river crashing through the previous spell. The river swooped into the air and rose like twin ribbons until they rejoined and manifested into the shape of a sea monster's head. The attack then came crashing down towards the ground, sweeping the entire area in a flood of water.

Wacko gave a low whistle and dug more popcorn into his mouth. He watched as his Wondours shook the excess water from their forms and then launched themselves once more at the dog. To their surprise, he leaned backwards and allowed them to fly overhead before grabbing the first's tail and whipping them around and into the second. The remaining tried to clamp onto the dog's body but received only a burst of scolding light for his efforts.

Courage then somersaulted into a flying kick to right between the eyes of the third Wondour before leaping off and allowing the first to crash into it after a failed charge. He landed lightly on his feet and brandished his Riter before swinging it blindly backwards and hitting the second with enough force to send it into a boulder. Using the momentum, he continued to swing until the ball hit full force into the face of the first and third, knocking them to the side. He grinded his feet into the ground before leaping once more into the air, sending himself into a spin.

As he did, he glowed a faint olive and soon, spears of sharpened wood jetted towards the ground. The Wondours all howled, helplessly flailing about as they were peppered by the magic-infused timber. When the dog came to a stop, Defiant Guard was radiating a fierce yellow. With a shout, he sent the mace hurtling towards earth, a visage of a dog's growling head and open maw forming around it. The powerful spell took the second Wondour full force, destroying them before it even could release a howl.

As Courage fell and continued his assault, the third snuck up from beneath and slashed at the dog's back…only to swipe air. Courage was already behind him, his hand humming with a Bless.

SCRECH!

The canine was sent flying as a burst of black tendril and energy erupted into him. He felt the presence of his life's blood seep and dampen his fur before he right himself and landed. The first Wondour was already upon him, arm morphed into blades that clipped at his ears. The dog fluttered backwards and, without a word or gesture, casted the soothing power of his healing magic around and on his wounds, sealing them.

As he continued to fight, Eddy watched on with wide eyes behind the shimmering blue energy field that Courage had erected. He couldn't even recognize this stranger in front of him, fighting off the enemy like a one-man army. There was no fear in his eyes, no cowardice in his features. Only determination and courage. At that moment, as he watched the canine prove his superiority and dominance over the Kin hybrids, only one word managed to form on his tongue.

"Whoa."

The first Wondour was sent flying by way of a straight mace to the face and a peppering of Bless for good measure. Its smoking form fell over, the third rushing in for its fallen comrade with a lashing of clawed tendrils. Courage regarded the attack for a moment and stood rigid with both hands behind his back, as if inviting the striking whips. A flailing tip spearheaded towards him and before it even got even a breath away, the dog unleashed the devastating power of a ultra-sonic sound waves.

The noise rattled the tip, then tendril and finally Wondour until it burst into an ebony shower, flicks of Essence falling all around. The warrior then turned his attention to the last remaining creature, staggering hazily to its feet. The dog gave it a steely eyed stare and it immediately burst into a brilliant light and shot to his wrist, forming a new charm.

"Ooohh," he said around a mouth of popcorn "go' 'im ta yhild, huh?"

He swallowed his mouthful and reached into his pocket, pulling out a small device and pressed an indention. Dark pools oozed from the ground and shot into the air, wrapping, knotting, and twisting together until they finally formed a small army of Kin.

"Well, I've got plenty more where those came from!" the mad scientist announced with a chuckle

Courage backed back towards his friends and quickly splayed his hands. The ground beneath the trio wrinkled and then yawned, an incandescent pool engulfing them into the ground. Wacko watched the summoned portal blink out of existence and cupped his chin, pondering what to do next. Shrugging his shoulders, he fished a phoned from his pocket and flipped it open as it automatically speed-dialed his desired contact.

"Yello, Cyclonis?…Yeah, they're gone…Oh, passed the test with flying colors, really wowed me…Yeah, I know…No, they didn't find out anything important…Yeah, I'll be over there in a minute." The phone clicked shut and with a push of a button, he flipped backwards and fell into an open portal,

(-x-)

Terra Nocturne was notorious for two things: its phoenixes that defied death and its perpetually dark environment. Because of such blackness, it required a massive amount of skill and fitness to maneuver through the terrain to avoid the jagged spires protruding near the edge, the towering trees that grew spines as tough as steel and unforgiving boulders that sat near the center. Ed did not possess such skill.

To his credit, he did manage to get his team onto the Terra with only mild concussions, fractures, and irreversible brain damage. And he also landed them at the heart of the research facility. Of course, such a crash created a mother of all swarms as soldiers flocked to the scene. But when they arrived, they were nowhere to be found.

Meanwhile, nearly fifty feet away, a tall oval of ebony shot up into existence and released five figures, one of which was shivering uncontrollably. Odd briskly rubbed his paws together, hoping the friction would bring him warmth.

"M-m-man, t-t-that place's c-c-c-cold." Odd shuddered, faint whisps of fog clouding around his lips.

"Sorry, but it was the only way to get away before those guards found us." Jenavene reminded, fixing her gloves.

"So, where is this Virtra crystal suppose ta be?" Hoagie asked, peering around

Jenavene closed her eye and focused, the material world vanishing from her focus. Her mind expanded and felt out for traces of energy around her. After a brief moment, her eye opened, humming a piercing blinding white. Her hand pointed east.

"It's that way." she announced before peeking out of their hide away before signaling the rest.

"How'd you do that?" Ed asked, mystified

"An Anodite showed me a while back. Now come on." Jenavene said hurriedly

Ed played with the foreign word as it fumbled in his mouth as he chased after the girl. They turned down a hall and found that it was surprisingly empty. Odd scratched his head, a strange fore boarding taking hold. He held his tongue, however, and followed their impromptu captain. As they raced their way through the maze of corridors and stairs, the feeling only seemed to be amplified. After what felt hours, the teen halted them in front of a large door before kicking it open with her heeled boot.

"Ah-Hahahah! Well, look what the cat dragged in." Came a booming and very sarcastic voice

The half cat groaned as he face palmed himself and looked lazily up at the source of the voice. Stationed high above the room was a large, muscular man donned in bronze armor. His midnight blue hair was slicked back into spikes and he looked at the group of Underground soldiers with superiority. Below him, the room was filled wall-to-wall with Cyclonians armed with daggers, spears, swords and all other types of weaponry. The man chuckled darkly, peering down upon the group.

"You should feel honored, knowing that you'll be annihilated by me, Commander Snipe, of the Cyclonian Army. You may go ahead and beg for your pathetic lives, although I'd only consider it if agree to cast aside your loyalty to those barbaric idiots and pledge undying allegiance to the glory of the Cyclonian Empire, which will one day rule Atmos and beyond-"

"Yeah, yeah, whatever, Snips." Odd flapped his hand in mimicking of a mouth as he quipped the man.

"It's…Snipe…" the Commander growled, hands digging trenches into the metal

"Snips, Snipe. Who cares? You're still about ta get your butts handed to you on a silver platter." the teen half-cat replied with a crack of his knuckles.

He shifted his footing as his body tensed in anticipation of the fight to come. But before he could go any further, a lithe gloved hand impeded his intended path. Jenavene turned her visible eye towards the lad, the lighting shading her face in a disconcerting light.

"I've got this."

Odd had no idea why those words made the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. And he wasn't the only one, either, because Hoagie was backing behind Ed; he and Clam were apparently more fascinated than scared or so scared that it dared them to look away. Whatever the case, the girl was casting her presence towards the rest of the room. The guards under Snipe's command broke into tremors, weapons threatening to slip from their grip. A lone guard, carrying a spear tipped with a Firebolt crystal, let a bead of sweat drip to the floor. The girl smirked and swung her arm.

With a single movement, she cleared the entire front-line of Cyclonians with a whip of ebony. She leapt forward, bringing up her other hand, another whip cracking through the ranks. Landing in the center of the mass group of soldiers, she stood en point and rotated into a blur. A dozen beams shot out and careened into the chests of stunned troops. One of the soldiers who had avoided the blasts tried to strike her with his spear.

The tip dug into the blur just as she stopped on a dime and sent a roundhouse into the man's temple. He collided with his fellow warriors as the girl ducked a dagger and caught the attacker's forearm and pivoted him over her shoulder in a perfect judo flip. She side stepped and elbowed another troop before sweeping another legs and hitting a third with backhand. Her hands suddenly blazed in a dangerous midnight blue aura and she thrust her palm, sending a hailstorm of dark crystals into more of the Cyclonians.

Odd watched on, speechless, as he watched the researcher unleash a devastating maelstrom around herself, knocking back and out those who strayed too close. Her hands rose with her two inner digits bent to the palm, shrouded in a dark emerald glow. She then glided over the floor as she weaved together a sprouting forest of crawling ivy. Even with all this, she still managed to blend a series well-timed punches and kicks that dropped even more guards. The teen couldn't take his eyes off the girl; her dark cinnamon locks shimmering in the light and form flickering in and out as spells and bodies whizzed by. She looked, for lack of a better word, breathtaking. And at the same time, she looked perilous. As if there was something about her that made him want to shy away. But one look at her face and found himself gravitating towards her one more.

Snipe looked on from above, his face masking his true feelings about what he was seeing. He had been a bit un-eased when the teenage researcher had announced herself, but he thought it of little consequence. It was, after all, one little girl against his army of highly-trained guards. Then she took out the entire front-line with a single attack. That had made him worry. When she proved she was capable without magic, he'd been nervous. Now, she stood alone on the floor, a snap of her fingers producing a pillar of blackness that sent the last guard into the ceiling.

"Now, General Snipe…" her voice sent chills down his spine and not the good kind "that's just bad manners. Letting your guards entertain us while you haven't even tried to join in the party."

A smile splayed across her face and he flinched "Guess I'll have to bring the party to you."

Her form was engulfed in black and she was suddenly propelled within an inch of the man's face. He shrunk back and she brought her shrouded fist towards the general's face…

…only to have the shroud dissipate into thin air. They both stared in disbelief before Snipe grinned and grabbed her wrist, hoisting her over the railing. So Caught up in the situation was he that he failed to remember that his armor was completely resistant to all mystic arts.

"Ha! Not so tough now, are ya girl-EEE!" As Snipe gloated, Jenavene took advantage of the weak point in his armor which was conveniently located where the sun don't shine.

He dropped her and she gripped the railing and jolted into a handstand, kicking the large man into the wall. Before the man could drag himself up, his eyes bugged out their sockets as a large, Ed-shaped shadow loomed over him. The lovable lug collided with his target and the two were sent hurtling through to the opposing room.

"Geez, Ed doesn't do anything half-way, does he?" Odd commented as he studied the hole left by his comrade.

"Um, guys?" Number 2 called out, shivering "We've got bigger problems."

"Like?" Jenavene asked as nonchalantly as usual

"Big Flaming Bird." Clam answered and pointed his finger

Everyone's jaws dropped at the sight before them. Hovering high above the metal, barren antechamber was a bird. A magnificent example of a fowl with warm color plumage and a flowing tail, sharp beak, and piercing gold eyes. All, of which, were on fire. Bright, beautiful, scorching fire. Flames capable of burning away life in its entirety were dancing around the bird that stared fiercely at the two sprawled out figures. Snipe's pupils shrunk and he uttered a curse as Ed's grew large as they took in the bring before them.

The Phoenix had been captured and caged for far too long and was raring to unleash some long fostered fury onto something. The two forms sprawled on the floor would do for now. With a flap of its incredible wings, it rose and then plummeted to the ground. It bee-lined for its target, an inferno wrapping around its form as it continued to drive at the floor. Soon, it was within striking distance, ready to vent some irritation.

"CHICKEN!"

To the shock of all those presence, Ed wrapped his sleeved arms securely around the enflamed phoenix. It obviously came as a shock to the bird as well, as it flared its fiery aura to force the boy away. But he only increased the force of his hug, squeezing the air out of the fowl. There was suddenly a loud crack and a bright flash of white light; when it died, only a stream of fading light circling around his wrist was seen.

"No-freakin'-way." Odd stated in outright disbelief at what had transpired in front of him.

Anyone with even a passing knowledge in the magic arts knew that in order to receive a summons, one had to first get another magical being to acknowledge their superiority and then have said being to yield to them.

And Ed had just hugged a phoenix, one of the most powerful forces in the known realities, into submission.

Jenavene, despite her own sense of disbelief, was able to shake herself back to reality. Walking past the males who still sat in a drunken stupor, she casually walked up to a terminal that had caught her eye in the middle of the room. Sitting atop the structure was a mauve crystal, humming gently within a glass case and held still by four metal clamps. Her hand nimbly flew over the keyboard, digits pounding in a series of numbers that caused the case to open and release the metallic limbs holding it steady. The girl proceeded to pluck it up and with a thought; it vanished from this dimension by a puff of dark smoke. I guess that's why the phoenix was here Jenavene thought, I mean, what kind of idiot tries to steal anything from a phoenix?

"Lookit, guys! I have own pet fire chicken!"

Guess that answers that question she sighed, smiling thinly. She rose her hand and snapped, gaining the attention of every male present

"Well, we've got what we came for." A wave of her hand produced a tall oval of dark energy, beckoning her comrades forward "Time to leave."

The boys wasted no time in complying and filed single-file into the void, Ed excitedly talking away about the coolness of his new summons. The renowned researcher stopped short and turned on her heel, gazing at the man on the floor. She then flashed him a smile before sending a wave of dark energy towards him as she vanished. Snipe raised his arms to intercept the strike and closed his eyes in expectation of the pain that was sure to follow. When none came, he dared to open his eyes just as he heard reinforcements finally arriving.

"Commander Snipe, we came as soon as we heard-" the leader of the company stopped short and his mouth twitched into a smile.

"What?" he demanded and then noticed that he felt a bit breezier than normal. When he looked down, he saw to his utter horror, that he naked save for his boxer shorts. He quickly covered the exposed area and blushed deeply as his subordinates erupted in laughter. It seemed that Wacko's armor was only magic resistant and not magic proof. He'd be sure to give the so called mad scientist a piece of his mind, but first…

"JENAVENE!"

(-x-)

Juniper Lee was a patient girl.

She had once stood in line for eighteen hours for tickets to premier of her now favorite movie. She waited the five years that Ah-Ma told her it would take before she was ready to tackle being the Te XuanZe by herself. She even withstood a three hour lecture on the importance of dental hygiene.

So yes, she was patient.

"Aggh! No Juniper, you need to use more focus and less force on the moment of release and then adjust for feedback and recoil"

But when it came to magic practice, she was using every bit of will power not to send an energy laced fist flying into her guardian/teacher's mug. Despite a family linage richer in magic than in those of Merlin's own flesh and blood, she always had a hard time using any of it. Monroe had once told her that it was due to a lack of belief, which was said to be the foundation of magic. June's reply had been somewhere on the lines of "I fight Giant Twin-headed Trolls in the park that can somehow breathe lava! How can I not believe in magic!"

It had been only two days since Jenavene's departure and Monroe spared her not so much as a moment's rest. He always felt that the brown haired mage's training was more than a bit lazed and was now doing everything in his power to reverse the months of underdevelopment. This translated into a four hour refresher course on the basics of magic as well as a grueling schedule of practical use and combat training. Book work never had been her thing to begin with and it didn't help that the canine required her to study when she wasn't practicing.

"Now then, once more from the top." Her mentor ordered, sitting atop a desk and looking far too comfortable for her liking.

Fearing that anything she said would come off harsher than she meant from her aggravated state, she simply nodded and positioned herself. Taking a few calming breaths, she began. She focused her energies and called upon the Elder's magic; that which made up her very Core. She then let the energy flow to her shoulder then her arm and finally collecting in her hand, forming the bright, humming blue sphere that was Energy Waver. She exhaled the breath she was unaware she was holding and sighed in relief. At least she had that spell down. Slowly, she focused once more and proceeded with the hard part.

Juniper had learned from Jenavene that everyone had a natural affinity for a certain element, it was both necessary and prohibiting when it came to discovering what a mage could and couldn't do. Hers was, ironically, a Plant attributed. So, naturally, she had recommended a Plant spell for her to try. Said spell was currently taking shape, the blue sphere transforming into a white bud, six glowing white petals blooming as light slipped through the crevices. The spell was supposed to produce a blast powerful enough to destroy most low-class enemies as well as damage high class foes. What made it difficult and unique was that it stemmed from Energy Waver and morphed into another attribute. Such a transition caused a release of excess energy that needed to be displaced or else the caster ran the risk of the spell back firing.

June relieved the exact experience for a sixth time when the bud died and sent a Relapse coursing through her that sent her back into a book case. The Lotus Blossom spell remained unconquered. Monroe shook his head and sighed, jumping over towards the pile of literature. "Maybe we should take a break."

"Take a break?" June challenged as she rose from the tomb, hardbacks and notes cascading down her shoulders "That's all I've done since Jen left! I'm the Te Xuan-freakin-Ze and I can't even master a lousy spell that's my own affinity, for Pete's Sake. My control's a mess, my casting sucks, and if I have to Weave one more time, I'm gonna throw a conniption!"

The girl continued to pace the room, hands gripping her mussed locks that fell in stray snarls on her forehead. The guardian felt the anguish and frustration fuming from his young charge and decided to attempt to help in some way.

"Listen to me, June. You've got a lot of things to worry about at moment and you're only feeding your anxiety by worrying over something you don't have any control over. Your casting's fine and better than most of the dingbats here. Your control's come a long way from blowing the roof off every time you even tried to use Energy Waver. And as for your Weaving…well, let's come back ta that one."

She gave her dog a pointed look and then turned around. "I'm going for a walk." Was all she said before punctuating this by slamming the door hard enough to rattle the entire contents.

The halls of D' Raziw were bare, the pitter-pattering clothed feet all quietly sitting in the numerous classrooms behind the oak doors. The lone girl in this quarter of the academy shuffled about them in a daze, eyes looking but not looking. She racked her brain for something to take her mind off of her countless failed attempts at magic. As she did, her heighten senses picked up a noise that sounded vaguely comparable… to fireworks.

Following the sound, she came upon a low-hanging door that led to one of the many refuges outside the school. As she peeked outside, she took in the sight of a boy, possibly in his teens, with pink skin and black hair that encompassed his head in its entirety. His attire was composed of a white shirt with a green oval and blue jeans with a blue knap sack wrapped around his waist like a belt as well as the purple signature cloak of the students here. From his fingers did fly flamboyant streaks that ruptured at their apex into brilliant showers. June smiled and, like one of the many predators she'd seen on Monroe's favorite channel, she stalked noiselessly towards her prey until she was behind him. Then she pounced.

"Hey, Abracadaniel."

A strangled gasp escaped him mouth and his hands flailed, sending a dozen bolts careening in all directions. The boy landed on his rear, gripping his chest and heaving in oxygen. June, covered her mouth, trying very hard not to laugh.

"Don't do that, June." The young mage-in-training heaved.

"Hey, you're the one making it light up like the Fourth of July." The girl replied with a smirk

The crossed his arms and pouted before switching to the completely opposite and expectantly asking her "Do you wanna see a spell I've been working on? It's for Professor Queeks Exam on Ghostly Displays."

Abracadaniel was a very strange case at the Academy. He had earned a place after he came in second at the previous Wizard Battle and had since become a model student…behaviorally. Practically, he was one of the worst students to ever grace its corridors. His spells were flashy and consisted of rainbows and polymorphic butterflies but all the good that did against enemies that could rip one in half without even touching them. The only spell he had managed to master outside of his own was Fireworks and even that was more for enjoyment and had little use in combat. Overall, most Professors had little hope for him and most had given up as soon as he walked in.

Juniper, as his only friend and likewise her own outside Jenavene, had an obligation to humor him and nodded. He smiled broadly and turned around, taking a few breaths to clear his mind. June's eyes widened when she saw him produced two sphere of mystical might above his palms. Then he thrust them into the air. The beams raced skywards, blinking with every color of the rainbow. At their peak, they combined and spiraled in on themselves until them blended into golden and black hues. From this sprouted a visage of the Cosmic Owl, its beak held a gap and wings spread magnanimously wide. The lad turned back around and saw his friend look at him in pure awe.

"Daniel." She was completely blown away by what she had just witness. "Daniel…How'd…" Was this the same guy who the Dean had teased about withdrawing because of his poor performance "How'd you do that?"

The boy blushed crimson and rubbed the back of his head "It's nothing, really. I just kinda meshed together Energy and Light attributes and sorta put it in the same structure as the Fireworks spell."

"That was way more that meshing together attributes. Creating something like takes control and skill that-that I've only seen Jenavene and Susie use! Where'd you learn to do that? You sure weren't this good a week ago." Now it was her turn to pout "And I've only gotten worse."

"So not true, June. You've got more skill and potential than pretty much everyone here. Even the most powerful mages at Wizard Battle have to train for years to get the power you have and you were born with it. I know that someday soon, you'll be better than any wizard this school's ever seen." He reached behind his back and produced a book "Here. This how I got to where I am now. I'm sure it'll be able to help you too."

BRING! BRING!

"Oh Glob! I'm late, again!" he raced towards the door, waving good-bye to his friend "See ya later, June!"

The girl sighed, now alone on the Terence. She looked down at the book and glanced over the cover that read Magic 101 for Complete and Total Morons that are a General waste of Time, Energy, and Space. June chuckled drily at how at how it described how she at the moment. Cracking it open, she scanned the pages until she came upon one that had 'CONRTOL' written in big bold print.

Control is defined as the ability to bend the energies in oneself and those of other living and non-living things to their will. If your control royally sucks, than you have no one to blame but yourself, as it is completely your fault.

"Great advice." The girl said sarcastically

The reason for this is most likely that your reserves are so large that when you cast, you barely feel the drain. To fix this, there are a number of exercises listed below to help you better sense and feel the effects your spells have on you. Remember, control is also subjective. Because it's easy to blast a group with a high-class Fire spell but hard to transfer specific knowledge to another person via a low-class Learning spell.

The girl quickly looked over the list before shrugging and closing the book. Well, it would be better than going back to Drill Sargent Monroe. She marched towards the door and back inside, intent on making use of one of the many training rooms. As she did, she glanced a hooded figure and gave a brief "Sorry!" before rushing off. The figure pulled the cowl higher over their head and disappeared round a corner. Checking both directions twice, they removed the hood to reveal a dark complexed boy with a black flat-top. He reached into a pocket and pulled out a communicator, flicking it open.

"Yo, Mandy." He spoke, voice low and hushed "I think we might got a problem."

"I'm well aware, Irwin, which is why I want you to take care of it when and if it should become a problem." The voice answered on the other end

"Whatever you say, Yo." The boy shrugged "You're the boss."

He then slipped the cowl back over his head and rushed off to class. He couldn't keep his grandfather waiting, after all.

Author's Notes: Yeah, lot's going on. Trust me, Sarah'll be in the next chapter but let me tell you to be prepared for lots of dailouge and explaination. Finn and friends are returning to the Candy Kingdom and will be in for a surprise when they get there. Double D'll be conscious when we see him next and talking to his new summons, who I can't wait to write more dailouge for. Jenavene shows her stuff, finally and Courage shows that he can be badass. As for that scene, remember that he had trained in China for a while and trained under a Master later. Well, that's it for now. TTFN!