Physical comedy and male bonding abounds as Jose and Anti-Kenneth sneak through Marannon castle. Meanwhile, Rena makes a game-changing confession. On the writing side, Kacie and Luna have learned (by talking and doing) some valuable writing lessons.

      Jose waited a long moment in uncomfortable silence, frantically looking every which way, trying his hardest to see what Anti-Kenneth saw. 

“You’re just joshin’ me, aren’t you? Yankin’ my chain?” 

       “…Souls… don’t have… chaaaaaains…” Anti-Kenneth lost his worried expression for a moment to stare at his empty palms, perplexed, grabbing at the air just to be sure. 

       The plain walls of the cell and the cot they sat on had nothing to move around, so as much as Jose could tell, nothing had changed.  

      “There’s no specters here, right?” Jose asked in a laugh that betrayed his nerves. “My soul’s not about to be slurped up like a slushie, right?”  

        “Need to kill you fiiiiirst… But they’re heeeeere…” Anti-Kenneth frowned, watching the space in front of Jose, and reached a limp hand to shoo something away in a jerky motion. 

        “Then we’re probably fine!” Jose squeaked a little bit, clearing his throat and speaking in a lower register like he had with the guards with uncomfortable names, then seemed to remember something. “Until they come back to interrogate us and lock us in real jail…” Jose got up to pace around the cell with his hands shoved in his pockets, circling the space he could walk in the span of only a few seconds.  

       “Do we still have to wait for the signal to leave? Can’t we just leave early and come back here to meet ghost doctor later?” Jose asked, toying with the card in his pocket.  

        “Maybe safer heeeeere. Ghost doctor said waaaaait,” Anti-Kenneth answered, still watching him. Or the space around him, it was hard to tell when the man didn’t have pupils. Jose didn’t seem to be put at ease by this combination of a response.  

       “…I’m gonna go anyway.” He started for the door, pulling the security key Dr. Saltzman had slipped him from Najiba and clapping it to the metal square on the wall. The barred door clanged as the bolt slid into the wall and Jose pushed it open before Anti-Kenneth could stumble off the cot to stop him.  

        Jose peeked into the hallway. So did Anti-Kenneth –– or at least, he tried to. Instead, he stumbled right into Jose’s back, sending the boy stumbling out of the cell and into plain sight. Annoyed, Jose spun around, socked him lightly in the gut, and shoved him back into the cell hurriedly just in time for someone to round the corner.  

What the security guard found inside the cell was Jose laying halfway on the cot, rubbing his forehead and groaning.  

     “I think we took too many pills of the drugs this time, man…”  

     The guard looked from him to Anti-Kenneth still standing in the corner where Jose had shoved him.  Someone standing stock still and facing the corner in silence was not something he seemed to want to deal with, so he kept walking. When the footsteps had mostly faded, Jose dragged Anti-Kenneth back out of the cell and pulled him along down the hallway in the opposite direction.  

      “Necromancy isn’t the only way to do stealth. If I can sneak away from my dad, castle guards are nothing.” Jose paused. “I know we got caught, don’t say anything.” From the looks of the mostly blank stare from the man behind him, it didn’t look like he was going to anyway. 

      One of them crouch-ran down the halls back towards the elevator he was taken on while the other stumbled along at full height. The sound of several pairs of polished shoes clacked towards them from around the corner and Jose slapped the security key to the wall, dragging it along as he ran the other way, hoping to find some room to hide in.  

     Jose found himself dragged to a stop instead, Anti-Kenneth staring at the wall.  

     “No soooouuuls behind hereeee…”  

Jose stopped to marvel at him for a second. “If you can see where people are, why haven’t you been doing that from the beginning?” he whispered angrily, but Anti-Kenneth only licked his lips and stared into space in response. Jose huffed in annoyance and began to rub the security key all over the wall until it passed over a reader, a door sliding open for the two boys to run through.  

       As the clacking passed the closed door and receded behind it, Jose jumped at the loud clattering of plastic behind him. He swiveled, fully expecting to get clobbered by some scientist finding intruders, but instead finding Anti-Kenneth with his hand buried in someone’s leftover fast food bag on a shelf, having knocked over a tray of broken circuit boards to reach it. It might have been just a tray of totally fine circuit boards before, but it was hard to tell now. Anti-Kenneth rummaged through the bag, frowning in disappointment when all he pulled from it was wrappers.   

        “I can’t wait to get you back to your sister. It’s about time for her turn to babysit.” Jose ran a hand through his hair with a sigh. Looking around the room, they seemed to be in some kind of storage space, and judging by the solitary desk covered in wires and broken things and the peg board of tools above it, it was also some lonely repairman’s office too. Anti- Kenneth went straight for the mountain of similar looking fast food bags, knocking to the floor whatever he thought was in the way . Packets of screws, a soldering iron, strips of plastic and circuit, bags of fabric –– a whole mess of things.  

     “Dude, you’re making an even bigger mess than there was. They’re gonna know we were here.” Jose picked up the soldering iron, turning it over in his hand and making a stabbing motion before shaking his head and putting it back down. Anti-Kenneth groaned sadly at his failed search, and Jose rolled his eyes, piling the junk back on the desk. One last spark of hope flashed across Kenneth’s face as he snatched the bag of fabric from Jose’s hands, tearing open the seal. The hope was soon lost and he turned away to mope even more, dropping the shiny yellow fabric back into Jose’s arms. 

    “Uh… thanks?” Jose said, then tried to shove it back into the torn bag and stopped at the sight of a label sewn onto it. “This is the HP…! The HDC…! The! The suit!” Jose squatted and held it out in excitement to Anti-Kenneth, who only looked back confused. Jose clutched the suit to his chest and dashed to the floor for the other sealed bags, tearing them open to find the same shiny yellow fabric.  

    “We got ’em!” Jose yelled, stopping to look at the door and then yelling the same thing again, but quieter. “Now we can go! Dump out that tool bag over there and shove these in! You’re on bag carrying duty again.” 

***

“…M-murdered?” Rena Saltzman sputtered after having just stepped into the Kingdom of Virithiel. Nedjma’s half-presence wasn’t even registered, her gaze fixed on her sister. 

“Get out of here and find the others, they should still be in the holding cells,” Dr. Lulu Saltzman’s voice wavered as she tried to regain her composure. “I’ll keep them all busy. Meet you outside.” 

Nedjma looked dumbstruck, displacing a bit of her anger, but she still didn’t move. “Whether you think it’s my fault or not, we still have a mission! Go!” As she yelled the last command, a bit of the room rumbled once more, sending one or two more bottles crashing to the floor. Nedjma looked to the stuttering spectral form near tears across the room and then to the reddish, vaguely human shapes starting to drift towards her. She gave Lulu one last hard look before phasing through the door. 

    If ghosts could sweat, Lulu might have done that as she took in the sight for herself. As Rena recovered from her initial shock, she might have as well.  

      “I… murdered…? No, I…” Rena stared at her older sister until a red figure stepped into her line of vision. She blinked hard and took a breath, then held out a hand to Lulu. “Wait. Don’t leave, just wait –– the alarm ––”  

     Rena watched the figure creep towards her as she stepped back and fell into her body again. She woke up from her heap on the chair and dashed to the other side of her desk, sending a few papers flying. She reached under it for a button, sending a siren blaring overhead.  

      “CODE COSMO. EVACUATE AND CONTAIN. CODE COSMO. EVACUATE AND CONTAIN.”  

     The robotic voice now calling for help in her stead, Rena looked back where she last saw her sister’s form, though it was empty now. 

     “I know you’re still there, I can feel you now. Please, talk to me. Let me explain!” It was Rena’s turn for her voice to crack in pain. Nothing happened for a moment while she waited for a response, and Rena balled her fists when her hands began to shake. “Please! I’m…” Rena lowered her head and wiped her eyes, raising it once more with an expression that made Lulu reel. 

    “I’m so happy you’re here,” Rena said through tears and a smile. “This means I can fix it! I can finally bring you back and we can ––” 

      “You’ll what?! Bring me back?!” Louis yelled as her form shifted to the visible spectrum, momentary anger turning to hurt again. “You did this to me!” 

      “I –– I know, b-but it wasn’t supposed to ––” 

      “And here you are-” Lulu pressed her fingers to her temple, setting the other hand on her hip as more tears threated to fall on her own face. “I don’t even know what to say.”  

      “I can fix it,” Rena pleaded again, reaching out to touch her with trembling hands, only for them to pass through her ghostly form. “I can, you can come back!” 

      “I’m dead!” Louis yelled, causing even Rena to jump. “And you know as well as I do that spirits can’t possess inanimate objects, so don’t even try to tell me there’s another robot shell failure to–-” 

      “Yes! Yes, you’re right!” Rena cut her off, her smile widening as she feigned holding her sister’s face. “You’re right, I do know. I don’t need a robot body. I have yours.” 

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