It happened so fast. . .
One moment, it's just an ordinary afternoon in central No Man's Landing. The next. . .
. . .
I drop my bag of groceries and jump so hard that I stumble off my feet as an ear-splitting KA-BOOM sounds in the direction of the cliff. I lie motionless on the pavement with my eyes clamped shut, yet I'm still conscious. Around me, I hear the screaming and the footsteps of nearby townspeople, and intense clanking of automaton feet. I gulp and whimper, and slowly open my eyes. The first thing I notice is a small mushroom cloud a couple blocks away.
Most townspeople are clearing away from it. I hurriedly haul myself to my feet to join them, when a flash of red catches my eye.
The Scarlet Man!! My heart swells. If he's running towards the explosion, it must be important indeed. I shake off as much fear as I can, and walk shakily after him.
I have to dodge several automatons on my way. Finally I have to give up and just start running instead of creeping. The automatons don't seem to be very concerned about me anyways - they're only after the explosion.
I manage to arrive at the scene before the automatons do. I see no sign of the Scarlet Man, but two other figures lurk in the dust and smoke. I recognize Gloria immediately, and after jogging my mind a little, I identify the other one as Emman, a Resistance bounty hunter.
My jaw drops in flabbergast. I approach them cautiously. "What. . . did. . . you. . . DO?!" I hiss.
"Oh hi, Peri!" Gloria greets, "Nothing much, just stopped an invasion."
"What kind of invasion? They haven't found Lukas, have they??"
With a deep yet somewhat emotional voice, Emman speaks up. "No. A friend of ours. His name is Erik."
"Erik? That's. . . "
~~ Four months beforehand ~~
-ANOTHER Phantom story??- I think to myself in amusement as I catch a bit of urchin conversation. -They seem to really like this guy for some reason. People can get into such weird trends sometimes. . .-
"Wha's the Phantom's name, Jesse?" asks a young girl.
With a dramatic punch in his voice, the narrator of the story answers: "ERIK."
~~ Present time ~~
"That's a nice name," I say to Emman with what sounds like amusement, but is actually puzzlement, in my voice.
"He's wonderful!" comments Gloria, rubbing her head, "He's a very kind and rather musical gentleman. You'd like him!"
"Yeah? Does he play any instruments?"
"Mm-hm! He sings and plays violin and. . ." Her voice trails off and her good-natured smile fades into a concerned frown. I take my eyes off her, and realize that we're surrounded on all sides by automatons! Mainly troubleshooters and pacifiers, as well as a couple bombardiers.
"Doesn't look too bad, what do you think?" I mutter.
"I've seen worse," remarks Gloria.
"Easy-peezy," says Emman raising his hammer. . .
Four minutes and lots of scratching, hammering, shooting and earth-moving later, nothing is left of the autos except scraps. I grin at Gloria and Emman. "That was fun!"
"Sure was!" replied Gloria.
"Should be clear for the Phantom to come back," says Emman casually swinging his hammer onto his shoulder.
My brain hiccups. "'Phantom??'"
"Yeah, you know, Erik!"
"Erik is. . .?"
"Yes, Erik is the Phantom," Gloria finishes my sentence.
I squint unblinking at them. It just wasn't computing. Them? Friends with the Phantom?? "The Phantom?"
"Of the famous Opera, yes." Emman nods.
My brow furrows and my jaw goes slack. My mouth makes a series of soundless, twitchy "But-but-but-but's".
". . . But he's not real. . ."
"He is indeed!" Gloria says with a grin, "Haven't you heard someone singing or playing violin in the streets before? That's him!"
I shake my head, refusing to believe it. Or at least I think I'm refusing to believe it. But deep down I know. . . I know they're right. "And you've met him?"
"We've known each other for quite a while, Erik and me," says Gloria, "Trust me, he's nowhere as bad as the rumors say. And if he was, he isn't anymore. By no means."
"Maybe you oughta meet him," says Emman somewhat smugly.
My heart jumps. "I don't know about that. . ."
I'll let you peeps finish the rest. ^.^ @Emman_Jumpsong1 @Gloria_Oldenpinner