Exposed to Madness
-The author does not own any part of the Mother/Earthbound series, including but not limited to the characters of the story.
-This story is entirely fictional, based from purely fictional premise, none of the characters, actions characters partake in, many contraptions found here-in did not happen/do not actually exist.
-No money was made from the creation or distribution of this fic.
-No animals, people, or extra terrestrials were hurt in the making of this fic.
-The author does not encourage nor endorse others to partake in actions as described within the story.
This story is rated M for the following reasons:
-Depictions of violence and gore.
-Depictions of sexual acts including sexual involvement of minors
If any of these themes offend you, please do not continue to read this story.
Misc Notes from the Author:
I'm probably more of a classic RPG nut than most, but some of my fondest memories growing up were playing games on the SNES such as Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy VI (or III as it said on the box), Super Mario RPG, and of course Earthbound. Earthbound was one of those quirky little games that you had to allow your geeky mind to wonder if you ever wanted to have a hope of understanding it. The graphic designs were overly simplified, there really wasn't a whole lot of animation going on, all in all the gameplay felt as though it had been rushed and thrown together over night. Despite those shortcomings there is something about Earthbound/Mother 2 which felt if not satisfying at least gratifying if that makes any sense. It had a charisma and atmosphere about it which I have yet to see replicated well. It was a requirement to use your imagination to fill in the gaps and to see what couldn't be seen. Maybe that's what's missing in modern games is player interpretation. So yes, this game holds a special place in my heart.
As with any source material that requires imagination, there are many different ways the story and events can be interpreted, and such the game ages quite well with its audience. I recently read a story called "The Universe Will Die Without You" by The-EverLasting-Ash, and I was floored by the themes she interpreted into her story while paralleling the game just so exquisitely well. So I decided to go ahead and try my hand for my first time at writing an Earthbound fic.
This story does take place within a year or two after the end of the game. This is one of my stories so I will be taking some creative liberties at my own interpretation of the game. I hope that doesn't throw anyone off too bad as we go through the story, and I'll be doing my best of course for the story to explain itself.
For anyone poking their heads in because they've read my other stories, I'm sorry to say my ZAT fans will probably not like this story too much. If you're following me because of Rapture however this should be right up your alley. I'm actually hoping that writing this story will get me back in the mood to finish off Rapture.
Feel free to email me at: revu at revstuff dot com
Thanks! And on to the story!
Horns blared impatiently as traffic was brought to a halt by a red light. People bustled about their daily rituals; hurriedly they crossed wide and unforgiving streets, some going to work, some running errands, others finally going home.
Different sounds ricocheted off the walls in every direction. From the monstrous roar of expensive engines to heavy footsteps on overly crowded walkways to cell phones ringing in indecipherable jingles to the mass of varyingly pitched voices of everyone speaking at once, it was loud. Every day in Fourside brought with it a menagerie of fast paced life.
Despite the pale hues of red and yellow embracing the blue sky, the surface of Fourside always emitted an atmosphere of sullen grey. No minds were paid to the glorious blues of the bay nor the majestic greens of the surrounding woods. The thickened atmosphere within the city forbade gazing away from its grand magnitude and splendorous layers of smoky haze.
The dankness of the town had become the norm to her residuals who would cling to her for the sake of normalcy and complacency. The sutured mask of happiness and gratitude was interrupted as grounded shadows lengthened and darkened on a cloudless day.
Slowly her noise faded. Much talking and walking ceased. Cars slowed their motion. Even the winds ceased their howl through the buildings. The tone of the city lit anew as the light from the sky hued red, illuminating the people and buildings in shades of crimson and blood. The red sun up above did descend, but it was not the sun. Children grabbed onto their parents, eyes wide with striking fear as fire fell from the sky. The first torch to fall set a great tower asunder in flames. The roar of the inferno woke the people from their reverie as noise returned and all began to run and scream.
Civility was lost as those of the larger and stronger persuasion shoved aside those too old or too young. Like an angry storm from heaven the fire rained down, burning, incinerating, cauterizing, cleansing. The entire city was set ablaze, and the painful screams were loud. Far from earth, the sun itself did beam down upon the city in woe for but a moment before it too burst; consumed by its own flames.
Deep indigo eyes shot open in start as Ness sat up quickly. Taking in a deep breath, Ness wiped the sweat from his hot brow, "Just another dream…" Ness fell back to the ground and put a hand in front of his face to block the sun from entering his eyes. "I should probably stop falling asleep in the desert like this…"
Chapter 1: Just Another Bad Dream
With a shake of the head to clear his grogginess, Ness finally pushed himself to his feet and stretched.
Garbed in uncharacteristic clothing, yet far more suited for the desert, Ness adjusted a light brown poncho on his shoulders and blew sand out from behind a tinted sand visor, which he then replaced atop his head.
Ness's gaze reached across the Tenda Oasis. The blue water was a sparkling beauty in the midst of the blustery Dynamite Dunes Desert. He remembered falling asleep in the shade; though it appeared his cover had vanished with the moving sun.
Approaching the water, Ness kneeled down and took a drink before wiping his face and straightening his posture, "Time to get back to work then." Throwing his backpack over his shoulder, Ness ran up one of the dunes that surrounded the oasis valley. At the top of the dune was a sharp steep ledge which Ness jumped over without the slightest hesitation. The fall was easily twenty meters or more as Ness plummeted to the sand below. Loose clothing fluttered as the air moved around his body quickly, yet Ness waited until the ground approached. A sparkle of energy twisted around Ness's body as he turned himself in the air and his powers slowed his fall until he touched down gently on the sand with the slightest patter.
Ness travelled alone across the sprawling sands of the desert. Isolated far from other life, Ness had chosen this place specifically not endanger anyone as he pushed himself. "P…K… FLASH!" His voice echoed across the bare sands as his energy blew the small mountains of dust into the air. The brown grains caught the wind and were blown back in his direction. Ness concentrated on the dense floating dust cloud and felt out its form with his mind before using his powers to try and target the individual granules and alter their path around him rather than use a shield.
The threat of apocalypse had been averted almost two years prior, however Ness's restless mind had yet to allow him to stop.
The temperature around Ness's hands rose as he stood centered between many dried dead thorny desert bushes, "PK FIRE!" The dry brush before him immediately disintegrated into a smoky blaze.
In rapid succession Ness pointed from one bush to another, and back around in a manner that mimicked fighting off multiple enemies. The devilish plants combusted into flames due to residual heat forced at them by the wave of the boy's hand.
A round seed pod remained intact on the ground which Ness examined for a moment before pulling out his lucky baseball bat. He tossed the pod up in the air and smash hit the cone as it descended. The dried seed flew up into the sky, further and further away.
"I feel g...o...o...d..."
The pod was almost impossible to make out when Ness pointed his finger at pod and shouted, "PK THUNDER!" The light fast bolt struck the seed with deathly accuracy, banishing its remains to the wind.
"...I'm so sad..."
Letting out a deep breath, Ness examined his hands and contemplated the progress he'd made. It had taken him a long time to master abilities which hadn't come natural to him. Why had he done it though? Ever since the defeat of Giygas the world had been at peace.
"...Ness, Ness, Ness, Ness, Ness"
With a hand to his forehead Ness tried to shake off a sick feeling. It always started the same; a prickling of self doubt in his mind which inevitably manifested in the pit of his stomach as something not right with the world. He sighed feeling the need to keep pushing and extended his hands to his side "PK ROCKIN!" Dirt and Stone were kicked up all around him and spread through the dunes like a shockwave.
The sun set for the day and Ness sat beside a camp fire with a strip of beef roasting above it. In his struggles to push himself as hard as he could, he found himself both mentally and physically drained. Ness absently stared into the flames while waiting for his supper to heat.
"You don't have to always be so stubborn you know?" Paula half heartedly scolded Ness for hurting himself while training.
"Well… It's not like I have much else to do around here…" Ness quipped in his own defense.
"That's not true, there is a lot to do, a lot to see! You don't have to take your responsibilities so seriously all the time," Paula leaned over and stared directly into Ness's eyes, "You need to also have fun every once in a while otherwise what's the use of saving the world?"
Ness tried to remain serious, but the quirky expression on Paula's face cracked his defenses and he laughed, "Maybe you're right."
"Why don't we take a break from all this and have a little fun? Just for a little while?" Paula urged him with a hopeful tone.
"That… that sounds nice…" Ness scratched his head and looked off to the distance; everything seemed to be getting darker, "…But… I'm sorry I just don't think it would be a good idea right now."
With a sigh Paula turned to leave, "I understand."
Ness held a hand out to the girl, "Paula, I don't mean to…"
Paula made a quarter turn and looked over her shoulder to wink at Ness, "Don't worry, you know I…"
Gulping down his nervousness, Ness pressed, "You…?"
Closing her eyes Paula grinned widely, "You know!" She turned back around and ran off in the other direction.
Ness sighed and scratched his head. He turned to leave as well, however the moment he blinked after twisting his body everything around him had changed. His hands and clothes were covered in blood. The atmosphere around him screamed of war. In the distance the painful cries of children echoed over the torn land, silenced only momentarily by the overwhelming sounds of booming explosions.
Stumbling forward, Ness tried to make sense of it all. Following the trail of blood that soiled him led to a body lying nearby. Ness's eyes widened, his pupils narrowed as closely licking flames dimly lit a torn martial arts gi and a pulled back ponytail along with the crimson pool of blood they resided in.
"AHH!" Ness shook his head and found himself breathing heavily. He was still sitting on the ground staring at his campfire, though his food was now burnt on one side. He continued to stare blankly as the flames charred the skin of his meal black on the underside.
Once in check and composed, Ness pulled his dinner from the make shift spit and swung his hand violently across the fire hitting it with PK Freeze, dousing it immediately.
Dawn peeked across the horizon the next morning finding Ness still walking down a long empty road. Forcing his way swiftly past anything which stood in his way Ness made it to Pity City by early afternoon.
The people of the town gave the boy with droopy eyes sympathetic glances as he dragged his bag across the street. It was unusual that he dreamt of his friends so vividly, especially something that wasn't a memory. He was almost positive he was just being paranoid, but he had to make sure. Ness found a drug store and hauled everything inside. He slid over to the payphone and leaned against the wall to support himself. It took a moment to sift through his sandy pockets and fish out a dollar. Another moment was used simply staring at the contraption in front of him in attempt to decide what exactly he was trying to prove and what would be the best way to put himself at ease.
Without clear direction in Ness's mind his fingers autonomously began to insert money and instinctively found themselves dialing Paula's number. The phone rang. It rang again. The phone rang two more times before the clicking sound of the receiver being picked up was heard and a young girl's voice spoke, "Polestar Preschool, how can I help you?"
The first thing Ness noticed was the lack of any joy in Paula's voice, "Paula, it's me…"
Silence came over the line for several moments, "…Ness?"
Though it seemed pointless to confirm, he did anyway, "Yeah…"
Again there was silence for a moment, "You sound exhausted."
Ness's lips almost curled into a grin, Paula had always picked up on people's subtleties so easily, "I guess I am, but don't worry about that."
Ness could practically feel Paula shaking her head, "Where are you calling from? I've never seen this area code before."
"I'm a little far from you guys, I'm in some country called New Morel," Ness shook his head remembering this wasn't just a social call, "Listen Paula… is everything alright?"
Ness could have sworn he heard Paula's voice trembling on the other side, "I don't believe you Ness…"
Starting to feel anxious and worried, Ness was quick to push, "Paula? What's wrong?"
"No one has heard from you in almost a year… and you choose today to call…" Paula's voice was cracking even more over the phone.
Sighing, Ness tried to apologize, "Paula, I'm sorry, I know you worry about me, but I," Ness paused to collect his thoughts for a moment, "There have been things going through my head that I had to figure out on my own which is why I had to call you. So now I need to know, what do you mean by today? What's going on?"
Over the phone line it sounded as if Paula may have actually been crying, "Ness, I just found out yesterday…"
"What is it? What did you find out?" Ness was urging her to speak while trying to remain as patient as he could.
"It's Poo… Ness… He's dead…" the receiver fell from Ness's hand as he slumped against the wall. The plastic phone receiver clanked loudly against the tile floor and caused the other store patrons to startle and look at the boy who seemed frozen and pale with a cold stare of shock affixed at nothing.
"Ness… Are you there…?" The dangling receiver was barely audible from the ground.
Ness grabbed onto the cord and pulled the phone back to his ear, "Sorry… Yeah I'm here." The images of his recent dream which had forbade him sleep flashed through his mind again, "What," Ness practically interrupted himself while swallowing nervously, "What happened to him?"
Paula was quiet, as if debating whether or not to divulge anymore to Ness in his current state, "He was murdered."
Ness's eyes squeezed shut and he slowly slid down the wall. He kept the phone pressed against his head, "How… how could someone have killed Poo? I don't get it, there isn't any reason for it and he was so strong."
"…I don't know…" Paula sniffed. Ness shook off the shock and tiredness from his system. The thought crossed his mind that Paula might be in the same position on the other end of the line needing Ness to be strong for her. "I was called last night and told that the Dalaam Royal Guard are investigating it… but right now they don't have any leads…"
Finally having regained his composer, Ness brushed his face and pushed himself from the floor, "Paula, I'm coming."
"What?" Paula sounded shocked.
"I'm coming to see you, I'm going to pick you up and then we're going to Dalaam. We might be able to see what the normal guards can't." Ness spoke as confidently as he could muster, "We'll make sure whoever did this is caught!"
Paula's voice came out in a muffled tone of agreement, "When will you be here?"
"In just a few minutes, I just need to charge up a teleport," Ness concentrated on Twoson and tried opening a teleportation gate across space. The air in the drugstore began to expand as invisible astral energies circled around Ness's body. With the energy required to create a planar rift almost at hand, Ness felt a sudden snap. A splitting headache struck his frontal lobe with a sharp jab that almost brought the boy to his knees.
"Ness?! Are you alright?" Ness realized he must have made some painful noise into the phone.
Rubbing his temples Ness responded, "I'm fine Paula… just low on energy I guess…" On the other side of the line it sounded as if Paula was scoffing at him.
"You've been overdoing it again haven't you? You need to stop and actually get some rest," Paula spoke to him with a mother's authority, "You go check yourself into a hotel and get some sleep. We'll go to Dalaam tomorrow."
Ness couldn't help but half way smile at Paula's tone, "Alright, but be expecting me early in the morning."
"Okay Ness… We'll talk more when you get here." Paula's tone had a sense of finality about it.
In a way Ness really wanted to keep talking to her, but he knew the sooner he rested and got going the better, "Yeah, okay. Then we'll talk more soon. Bye."
"Bye Ness." They both hung up the phone from their respective ends.
Ness caught the sideways glances that were being thrown at him and sighed. He hauled his bag over his shoulder and made his way to the store counter. The attendant looked him up and down appraisingly. When it became apparent the man wasn't going to be the first to speak Ness asked, "Do you carry any headache pain killers?"
"Just a moment," the man almost nervously sifted through the shelves of drugs behind the counter.
As Ness waited he became more and more aware of stares affixed on his back. Looking over his shoulder he noticed several elderly people rather transfixed on him. Trying his best to mask any overt agitation from his voice, he addressed them, "Is there something I can help you with?"
An older woman who looked not at all amused took a step closer, "Are you one of them sciernetic kids?"
The tired look on Ness's face contorted to a new look of confusion, "A what?"
"Ahem," a man cleared his throat to pull Ness's attention and then pointed a television hanging from the ceiling.
Weary indigo eyes turned to look at the screen and saw the headline "Psikinetic Violence Escalates in Stereotoli" and an anchor could be heard over the low volume saying, "...fied themselves inside the department store. Law enforcement has been unable to approach due to the strange ice beam like powers at these individuals' disposal..."
Ness turned back to the crowd eyeing him expectantly and tried to gauge their expressions before simply shrugging with a response of, "I don't know?"
The people seemed unimpressed, "You better watch yourself." They went back about their business as the attendant brought a small bottle of pills to the register.
"That'll be Seven thirty five." Ness paid the man and pocketed the pills.
"Thanks," With a listless push, Ness left the store and walked down a few blocks of the town until he came upon the hotel.
Within ten minutes Ness was in a hotel room. He casually dumped his desert gear on the floor and stripped his clothes. The drapes were nice and thick and would serve to keep the evening sun out of the room quite well. Too tired for a shower after walking for nearly two days straight he popped the bottle cap off his new painkillers and swallowed four pills.
Within a few moments afterward Ness fell into a drug induced dreamless sleep. The type of rest that isn't truly restful. The type of sleep that despite being asleep for longer than normal one still awakens from exceptionally fatigued.
As Ness's eyes opened the bedside clock indicated the entirety of the night had come and gone. To Ness it almost felt as if he had simply blinked and opened his eyes to a different time then when he had closed them.
Still exceptionally groggy, the fifteen year old pushed himself up from the bed and decided to finally take that shower. As he turned the shower knobs he realized he wasn't sure how he was able to sleep at all with several days of desert grunge clinging to his body. He set the temperature cold and stood directly in the spray to help him wake up.
Ness hadn't been able to think much of it the day before after speaking with Paula, but as his mind became slightly more cognitive with each moment of water running over his face and the true depth of the news was able to sink in.
A hand went to Ness's face as he shivered. His mind finally began to play through the many memories he shared with Poo, his comrade, his friend. The older boy had been surprisingly powerful and loyal from the very moment they met. Not only had Poo trained himself rigorously in the usage of his PSI abilities, but he conditioned his body in some of the most difficult martial arts of the world on a daily basis. Poo was always on guard, always ready, always able.
If someone had murdered Poo then there could be no doubt that this foe was incredibly formidable. Anger swelled up inside Ness as he looked up from his hands and rushed through the rest of his shower.
A renewed focus drove Ness as he reequipped; he shoved his desert clothes into his backpack and pulled out a white baseball shirt with a red collar and sleeves, as well as a red baseball cap with a white bill. He clasped a cloth belt over his blue jeans and marched back to the hotel lobby. He tossed the key onto the counter without breaking his pace as he exited the hotel.
It was still rather early in the morning after all, not even six. The streets were still empty. There would be no problem gaining the momentum necessary for a traditional teleport out here today. The few clouds in the sky were clearing from the morning overcast further emphasizing Ness's sense of focus.
With a last breath Ness made sure his backpack and equipment were all properly strapped to his body. Without any further hesitation he began to run. After only a few great strides he was moving far faster than normal human muscles could hope to replicate. Energy began building in front him, sparking brightly, as he concentrated on Twoson. The air before him tore open as he ran straight through and skid to a halt instantaneously finding himself standing on the main road of the familiar Eagleland town.
The streets here were empty as well, though again not that he expected people to be out at this hour. Up the street from where his teleport had left him was the familiar preschool. Only the outline could be seen from here stood; as he approached that familiar feeling returned to the pit of his stomach.
He had thought that after not seeing Paula in nearly a year that his biggest challenge would be the apology.
"It's not right…"
As the school began to come into focus certain details on it quickly became apparent.
The sign over the front of the house was barely hanging on from one side. Ness began to run.
Once closer Ness could see the windows were also mostly shattered.
"PAULA!" Ness yelled as he burst in through the door. The inside was a mess. All around there were signs of a fight. Some of the furniture was burnt, other pieces were frozen. Ness reached down and touched the singed carpeting, "It's still hot…"
It was obvious whatever happened hadn't been that long ago. "Mister and Missus Polestar, are you here, can you hear me?" Not once did a voice respond to his calls.
After scouring through the house and finding nothing, Ness reached the second floor and the door to Paula's bedroom. Ness's hand trembled slightly as he reached for the door knob. Ness had to steady himself as terrible thoughts filled his head of unspeakable nightmares and horrors possibly being just on the other side of that door. Needing to know, he pushed the door open.
The room seemed normal. Things weren't out of place and destroyed as they were in the rest of the house. Ness sighed to himself, feeling frustrated as though he wasn't getting anywhere. The more time he wasted the more difficult it would be to find Paula now.
About to give up on the room, Ness flipped on the light switch and was startled by a hissing sound. It was faint but he had definitely heard something. Still nothing seemed out of place between these walls, but Ness took a more thorough look around.
After a quick search across both sides of the bed and around the few other bits of furniture, Ness still couldn't find anything out of the ordinary. Still he felt strange in the room. With a shrug Ness turned off the light and closed the door behind him as he left.
Several seconds of silence passed in the room but the façade was shattered when the door was slammed open and Ness flipped the light switch on again. With the lights on there were several shadows remaining on the wall which hadn't been there before, "PK FLASH!"
Potentially the last intact window in the building was blown out in the same moment as a brilliant light from the inside shone through its panes.
Ness grit his teeth as several creatures extruded and fell from the shadows on the wall. They were shorter than Ness, black smooth bodied with squiggly looking limbs, "What the heck are you guys?"
All of them only had one eye which was offset a little to the left on their heads. All eyes fixed on Ness then the one in front spoke, "Shadjin."
The moment the creature spoke its name, the lot of them lunged at Ness, surrounding him from all sides. The air around Ness began to glow as he was surrounded by energy and before the shadjins landed a hit Ness threw his arms to his sides causing the energy field to expand violently and crashed his enemies into the walls of the room.
"Where's Paula, I want answers NOW!" Ness growled impatiently. The shadjins regained their footing and stared silently back at Ness. Ness reached behind his back and slowly pulled out his baseball bat, "Last chance to just tell me."
No one made a sound. One of the shadjins to Ness's left crouched into an attacking position. Ness caught the movement and focused. The shadjins were all taken by surprise as the boy slipped into an attack almost too quickly to tell he'd even moved. With a graceful slide Ness held his bat over his shoulder. A sparkling glow came over the weapon as he swung it into the poised shadjin's head.
"SMAAAAASH!" Only a loud high pitched clash was heard as the strike landed with enough power to force the creature through the wall of Paula's bedroom.
The little monster wearily opened its eye before hitting the ground in the next room only to see Ness giving chase through the hole its body had left in the wall. It had no chance to regain its footing before a telekinetic hold latched onto it and with a wave of his hand Ness smashed it into the ceiling and then allowed gravity to bring it back to the ground with a listless splat.
Through the new hole in the wall and the open bedroom door other shadjins began pouring out from the room and dashed into action. The first Shadjin to enter Ness's striking range was unable to dodge the swinging bat to its midsection. As it crumpled forward Ness swung all the way around and brought the bat down on the creature's back sending it to the floor in a heap. Lifting a hand only slightly from the handle of the bat, Ness pointed an open palm to the next closest shadjin, "PK Fire!" and instantly the monster was engulfed in flames, it dropped from its attack and began rolling in an attempt to put itself out.
The remaining four became airborne in a tactic to tackle Ness together. Indigo eyes narrowed as Ness quickly calculated their trajectory, "PK THUNDER!" With deathly accuracy the lightning bolt rapidly bounced from one shadjin to another knocking all four of them back with a single move. With a multitude of plops, the shadjins fell to the ground.
"Let's try this again," the shadjins propped themselves up weakly on their squiggly elbows, "Where is Paula?"
A few of the shadjins looked back and forth to each other before the one who spoke before replied, "The girl was taken."
"By who?!" Ness demanded immediately.
The little creature was slow to respond and Ness was about to take another intimidating step forward, "A being too powerful, shadjin could not watch."
"So you're not associated with whoever did this? Then why are you here?" Ness relaxed his posture, the shadjins appeared to have tamed a bit.
"We shadjin followed the chaos, the aura of chaos was strong in this house," A shadow fell over Ness's eyes.
"...I feel g...o...o...d..."
Ness leaned directly over the speaking shadjin, "What did this being look like?"
The shadjin blinked a few times, "tall, barely able to stand in this room, smooth and featureless, but silver."
"It's happening again," After taking a few steps back, Ness covered his mouth as the waves of nausea became overwhelming.
"Why?" The shadjins began backing away as Ness felt the room spinning.
"Ness, Ness, Ness, Ness"
"How did I fail?" Ness's squeezed tears from his eyes as he tipped and he fell to the ground. His conscious thought process ceased.
Well, in this chapter I was basically attempting to set the mood for the story. Most people are already aware the stories I write can get a little... dark. And as was pointed out to me, the Earthbound section tends to be rather cheerful. So I'm not sure exactly how this story is going to be received. I'm hoping for some feedback to give me an idea how I should forge through this one. When I come up with the tone for my stories I usually set up a playlist of songs that I play on repeat. For this chapter I put together a playlist that includes selective songs from the Smash Bros Brawl collection, Final Fantasy VII Advent Children, and various Murray Gold / Ben Foster tracks from the scores of Doctor Who and Torchwood. So I can assure you that my plans for this story do not take place in a hunky dory golden age world. Not to say there won't be happy moments in this story, but they'll most likely be spread and mostly later than sooner.
So my question is for those who read through this chapter, did I spark any interest, or should I scrap and go work on something else? I feel excited about this project, so I hope to hear back from some of you!
'Till next time!