Under the midnight veil of night and the mass of black marbles now hanging overhead, Jake and Cake hurriedly carry everyone back to the Candy Kingdom. They had never run so fast before, racing against time itself. In the distance, like an ominous background noise, is that sound... of shredding paper.
"What is happening?!" Finn gawks at the dark spots in the sky, darker than night itself, "Where' they comin' from?"
Marshall shivers, huddled on Cake's back behind Fiona. He was the closest to being shredded at that moment. He felt that chill at the tips of his toes down to his fingertips, when he was just that close to whatever it was. It was colder than he'd ever felt death to be.
"... Hey, you ok?" Fiona glances back at him, a slightly sympathetic expression on her face.
"..." The vampire king doesn't answer her, keeping his knees drawn to his chest. It was strange to see him like this, decides Fiona.
"I don't know... where they're coming from..." Bubblegum clenches her teeth, "We were discussing things with Marceline's dad when...!"
"Well, let's hurry up and get back there!"
As they follow the old shortcuts back to the castle, they see the strange sight of torn earth in the distance, like tilled rows. Roving over the hills is another of those black spheres of destruction. Its speed seems to have slowed, but the proximity to the Kingdom's outer wall is alarming. Already a platoon of banana guards has assembled outside in anticipation.
"You guys!" PB exclaims as they skid to a stop before the fruits.
"Princess!" Root Beer Guy lays down his megahorn to greet the monarch, "LSP came running and told us about something, and then, and then we saw that thing and, and-"
"I know. They're going to destroy the world," Bubblegum hurriedly runs for the gates, "Where is Hunson?! And is Ice King still here?!"
The others follow after her. Finn doesn't look back at that thing shredding up the minty glades. He remembered that sound. It had just occurred to him... that shredding was the same as when Fiona was zapped. He shakes it out of his head momentarily.
"Manfried!" The princess yells upon bursting through her castle doors.
The pinata dutifully drops down from the ceiling, "Yes, Princess?"
"Ice King and Hunson, where are they?"
Ice King, after being knocked out from the fiasco aftermath in reviving Fiona, had been leering around the castle, the pinata tells her. Right now, he was down in the dungeon looking at Ice Queen. He refused to leave until he got visiting rights to Fiona. Finn and Jake had run off with Cake and Fiona after her revival, forgetting to get the king out of the castle. So there was no one else could get rid of him. Hunson is being monitored by Peps in the courtyard arcade.
"Ugh, we need a plan. Get those two here, ASAP."
"What? Why the ice kook?" Jake arches an eyebrow, "How's he gonna help?"
"He's got something to do with all this to begin with. He might have not told us everything about the process that started it all," The princess folds her arms a bit, "Es greift nach Strohhalmen ein bisschen… But we need everyone we got at this point."
She also never quite got her hands on that data she needed to counter Hunson's method. They were running out of time.
"I'll get Ice King, princess," Finn nods and volunteers.
"I'll come with," Fiona pipes up, to the boy's glee. The two run off to the dungeons with Jake and Cake following behind.
"I'll go get my dad then," Marceline grumbles, floating off, "Someone watch Marshall in case he tries to run again."
"Bubblegum?" Prince Gumball pops his head in from the dining hall after the others run off, "Whatever's all the hubbub about? I've just made a new batch of muffins!"
True to his word, he reveals a steaming tray with aromatic pastry resting on top. Bubblegum lightly rubs her forehead in exasperation. He did have some experience with her tech. It was worth letting him know.
"Alright, Gumball, here's the deal…"
Down in the dungeons, the four of them find the banana guards standing by as Ice King is lounging on his side like a French girl before the bars to the Ice Queen's cell. The guards look mildly uncomfortable at the old man's exhibitions and innuendos.
"…so yeah, that's why I gotta break the bad news to ya, babe," Ice King rambles obliviously.
"UGGGGHHHH! How many times do I have to tell you I WANT GUMBALL?! Where is MY GUMBALL?!" The queen screeches as though insane. Her arm reach and flail out of the bars to try and strangle the Ice King, but he is too far away.
"Whoa, whoa, calm down, lady!" Ice King chuckles, "I know you got the hots for me but ya gotta be more honest about it or else you'll get constipated down there or something, hehe!"
"Ice King!" Finn shouts as they approach. The king is taken unawares and falls over from his comfortable position out of shock. He turns with initial annoyance to the party, but when he lays his eyes on Fiona, his expression becomes elation. The queen, however, visibly seethes like a cat on defensive.
"FIONA AND CAKE-"
"OHMAHGLOBITSYOUFIONAANDCAAAAAAKE!" Ice King gushes, "Oh, those mean docs wouldn't lemme see ya! And then I missed ya when ya'll ran out without me! Come t' Ice King!"
The manic monarch rushes immediately at Fiona, arms open and face in a wide, toothy grin.
"Fiona!" Finn exclaims and roundhouse kicks the Ice King off trajectory into the wall, "Hya!"
"Huh?!" Finn and Jake blink as Fiona and Cake rush to Ice King's side.
"Are you okay?" The girl lightly rubs the king's beard, "He didn't hurt your handsome face, did he?"
"Oh-ohh, ohhhhh… Oh, kiss me here! He hit me here!" The monarch gleefully gesticulates like a crazed fanboy.
"W-what the-?!" Finn and Jake exclaim. The two bananas nearby stare with big white eyes.
"What are you doing?"
"Why did you hit a cutie like him, Finn?!" Fiona looks to Finn with indignant anger, "He's the Ice King!"
The thought hits Jake first. When they heard Ice King reading the fanfiction to them for the first time, didn't he make Fiona and Cake totally in love with him?
"H-hey, Finn..." Jake pulls his buddy aside quickly, "Let's just get the Ice King to the princess, ok?"
Finn manages to tear his eyes from Cake and Fiona giving Ice King some TLC, "Oh, uh, right..."
"Listen dude," Jake whispers in the boy's ear as gently as he can, "Ya gotta be prepared. We can't have 'em in our world much longer, and they've got Ice King's crazy in 'em too...!"
"But..." Finn scrunches his hands at his sides. He couldn't believe that, even after a great night with Fiona...
"Sorry bro," Jake pats the boy's shoulder and goes to the Ice King comforting session, "Alright, alright, break it up, break it up! Let's get his kissed buns up to PB!"
"Fionaa!" Ice Queen shrieks and howls, grasping the bars of her cell so hard that her blue knuckles turn pale, "WHERE IS GUMBALL?!"
"Let's bail," Fiona nods at Jake's suggestion, "Before she gets any crazier."
"Uh, Jake," One of the banana guards pipes up, "Think you could watch the crazy lady..."
"No can do!" Jake hurriedly scoots the others out of the dungeons with his shovel-shaped hand, "Hero stuff and adventure time calls!"
The guard groans as the queen screeches after them.
In the dining room, the princess assembles with her knights, the vampire queen, lord of the Nightosphere, Ice King, and the parallel fanfiction universe caricatures. Before her is a visual digital pad with images taken of the world atmosphere as well as a 3D model of Ooo and surveillance clips from around the kingdom. The atmosphere and model both have small spots around where space would be. Tracts of the model land are being eaten away and crumbled. Surveillance clips show the dark orbs landing from the air and seemingly obliterating entire swaths of earth, leaving craters in their wake.
Jake swallows, "Uh, so... what do we do about it?"
"It's not moving that fast right now..." PB mutters, seemingly in thought as her eyes remain fixed on the screen, "But it's steady and the mass depletion is unreal..."
"But what are they?" Gumball pipes up, "I'm completely lost here."
"Yeah, dad," Marceline looks to Hunson, "All you said was it was coming to rip us all up. What the flip is it?"
"Well, lemme put it this way," Hunson feigns a thinker's stance, "Golb is the intent of destruction. The chaotic evil kind. The shredder would be Gobl, the fragments of lawful neutral destruction. It has a bit of a mind to follow what its directives are."
"Directives..." Bubblegum murmurs slightly.
"Yes, like 'no copies'," Hunson smiles toothily, "Which is why if the prompt is eliminated, the shredder will stop. But until then, Gobl will devour and destroy everything in its path."
"What?! Well, if some black ball thinks its gonna take away my fantasy fanfiction after all I poured into it, they've got another thing coming!" Ice King roars.
"He's right! We can fight this, can't we?" Fiona looks around the room.
"That thing wasn't stopping at all," Marceline frowns, "It was like a giant inhaling forever to feed his gut."
"Quite. Gobl is nil. It can take anything thrown at it like nothing," Hunson eyes the fanfiction copies, "But if you don't want to be the reason this world vanishes, then let's get underway with the bloodbath hm?"
Fiona shivers at his cold gaze of glee. The Nightosphere tendrils seem to spread around the room with the aura, like a black gas materializing. Gumball squeamishly flees to Fiona's side
All eyes in the room turn to Bubblegum.
"I... might have a way to make the shredder go away without killing anyone."
"Huh?" Finn and the others balk a bit at the notion, "What? How even? They're from a book..."
"Hey, hey, hey! I made 'em and I say we keep 'em!" Ice King hops on the dining table with his hands on his hips in a huff. He points at Gumball, "I mean, he can go. I'll even give up all the princes! But not Fiona!"
"What's going on in that egghead of yours, Princess?" Hunson looks curiously to the candy monarch, "A long-winded way to go about this, don't you think? Why not just deal with them?"
"Dad, she's not you!" Marceline pushes her father away.
"It occurred to me when you said Gobl has directives and alarms to home in on. What if I looked at these people written to life as program code? There would be a triggering field in the makeup that pings the alarm... If I can remove it without destroying the code completely, then the shredder should be unable to detect anything wrong!"
Marceline blinks at the weird jargon, as does just about everyone else in the room.
"Of course, to get access to the master list of code... I'll have to see data on Ice King. It's most likely in him since it's his creation."
"Princess, do you plan to slowly do this for each and every clone?" Peps pipes up, "Tis would be too time consuming! Who knows how many of them we never even found, scattered all across Ooo!"
"Well, I did reconstruct the energy signatures from their unique molecular and atomic makeup. I could use that to track them down. Then bring them all here, and I'll do a mass rewrite of the code," PB says with some more confidence, "That's our best shot."
"We'll help you round up all the goobers," Marceline says with a nod. She wasn't quite onboard with mass murder here, especially since it likely meant Ice King would blow up and throw a hissy fit.
"Does that mean Fiona can stay?" Ice King asks hopefully.
"Forget that," PB sighs, "If it doesn't work, we'll at least have gathered them all to be vaporized."
"Ah, there's that cunning and cold leader," Hunson sneers, "I'm betting on the backup plan, hehe."
"NO WAY IN THE NAME OF GLOB!" Ice King flies up in arms, "YOU ARE NOT TAKING FIONA AWAY FROM MEEE!"
Hunson rolls his eyes at the squabbling monarch. His ocular orbs literally roll around to the back of his head and his skull seemingly inverts so his face caves in and the back of his head cracks open to reveal a grotesque eldritch visage of darkness, gory flesh, and tentacles nesting his eyes, facing the ice king. Like before, Ice King gives a shrill cry of fright.
"OH GLOB!" He then looks embarrassed, "I've soiled my tunic again!"
"Oh GROSS, man!" Jake makes an 'eww' face.
PB takes a deep breath in and out of her nostrils as the others seem to quibble like children over potty jokes at the King's expense.
"Rest assured, Princess," Peps pipes up from next to her, "We shall do our utmost to capture all the copies remaining, assuming most have not been devoured by the void. But in the event that we cannot, whatever do we do? The world is vanishing as we speak. We cannot even destroy the ones we do not find."
"One thing at a time. I'll come up with something else while you guys look. In the meantime," The princess points at Ice King, "Someone get him diapers and knock him out."
"Huh?" Marceline looks to Bubblegum.
"I need some quiet if I'm going to get anything done," PB puts a pensive finger to her head, "And maybe, just maybe, the formula to undoing everything lies in what made these copies in the first place... Ice King's Brain! Which is why I need him quiet or getting that program code will just be bonkers harder."
"You sound like you're going to crack his head open," Marceline says apprehensively, "I'll get him to quiet so you don't have to zap him or nothin'."
"And I guess we'll, uh, go get the diapers!" Jake says, dragging Finn with him out of the room.
Ice King now just softly sobs and rocks himself as Fiona and Cake calm him down.
After tranquilizing the Ice King, PB set to work. Gumball stands by, looking rather confused and slightly squeamish as she sticks tracers on the old wizard's body. He also had a scientist side to him... but more domestic. But he was also there for his own reasons, of course. He could never let Bubblegum wipe them out, even if they were alien here. He was a prince of his people after all.
Outside the lab, Fiona and Cake seem rather worried after Ice King was taken inside by the candy monarch. Finn, Jake, Marceline, and Hunson receive holo-maps with locations marked in Ooo where the trace energies of fanfiction clones were being emitted. As they got closer to anything with a similar signature, PB made sure that their scanners would update if new signals were detected. She wasn't going to let anything slip by with this much on the line.
"I can't believe you're actually helping, dad," Marceline mutters slightly as she slings on her axe bass, "You better not be cruising and eating souls the whole time."
"Oh, believe me, Marcy," Hunson chuckles and musses his daughter's hair playfully, much to her ire, "I don't want this place to disappear… that much. Finding another planet to soul suck would be so tiring. And I know how much it means to you, my little monster."
"Hey, you guys coming?" Jake waves to the girl and cat a bit reluctantly.
"Oh, yeah, wait up!" Cake runs over. Fiona follows, a slight hand on her head.
"What's up with her?" The dog asks inquisitively. If she was brain-dumb like Marshall, then that's another one down.
"Oh, just the usual jitters you know, meeting such a hottie-matottie like Ice King," Cake chuckles as if she were sharing salacious gossip.
"Wait, you think he's hot too?" Jake raises an eyebrow, keeping his voice low, "You saw the guy. He blasted Fiona!"
"Yeah, yeah, but Fiona's back now!"
Cake hadn't reacted to Ice King the same way before Fiona was revived. But when she first saw him, she did say even Monochromicorn was below his league… This definitely unnerved the dog.
The dog pushes these questions aside. Behind him, Finn stares a bit forlornly at Fiona. Seeing her gushing over Ice King was an image that wasn't going to leave his mind. It bought back that unsavory truth to him. Fiona and all these guys… they weren't real. They were just made by Ice King's sick old mind. And it was playing with him so bad…
He spent this much time for nothing, trying to chase after her! He-
It was a gross and festering feeling in his chest that spread to make a lump in his throat. He never felt this way before. Then again, he'd never met anyone like Fiona before. Ugh, why couldn't he ever just like a girl-
"Finn!" Jake calls, standing with the others from the castle antechamber, "You comin' bro?"
"O-oh, yeah…" He drags his feet slightly as he goes.
Peps watches them with the slightest of anxiety in his blank eyes. As the party leaves the kingdom borders, his eyes trail upwards. Much of the night had passed in a haze of planning and haphazard action to put this all into play. The dark spheres of nil had luckily not resumed their rampage, yet. The fabric of night begins to lighten just a bit, hinting at the dawn soon to come.
Panic runs insane through the streets of the Fire Kingdom. Flame citizens run around as if their heads were cut off. A large series of perfect holes have been punched through the kingdom palace's towers and body. Flambo stares in horror at the dark sphere which seems to pursue the Flame Princess and her male counterpart through the air.
"Princess!" He scampers past the broken lamp that had held the former flame monarch and his conspirator in the throne room. The sphere had crashed here straight from the main street and utterly destroyed the glass and its prisoners, leaving only scattered and shredded pieces of paper as remains. In the temperature of the Flame Kingdom, these shreds combusted immediately.
"Oh Glob, oh Glob…!" Flambo climbs up the crumbling back wall of the room and out of a gaping hole to get a better view of the chase outside, "Hang on, your majesty! Lord Cinnabun should be returning shortly!"
Flame Prince and Flame Princess fly about the air with agility, their flaming tails weaving about. The two of them blast at the sphere trailing. The sphere, which is about the size of a small room, takes blast after blast of fiery nimbuses. But it is all for naught, as it does not slow even a little, nor do the flames show any effect. The sphere is not going so fast as to overtake the two, but it progresses steadily, ever following.
"Guh!" FP snarls, her eyes and hair flaring, "It's not stopping!"
"Let's split blast it!" Flame Prince says, "Got my drift?"
Reaching the inner annals of the palace, the two fire elementals split abruptly. The sphere comes to a halt, seemingly confused for a second. It is enough for Flame Prince and Princess to turn and fire a searing stream right at the sphere from both sides as a pincer attack.
At first, the flames seem too consume the black sphere. Then suddenly the black shape seems to absorb the flaming assault with no problem.
"It's not working… But it's not moving either!"
Suddenly the two feel a strong pull. The sphere, drinking in their flames, seems to be pulling them in towards it through their fire streams.
"C-can't… Let go!"
As soon as the two try to discontinue their barrage, the sphere balloons and expels a sonic explosion, blasting them and everything within 60 feet. The nearby remaining towers and structures have their faces eroded into sheets of paper. The two flame elementals are sent flying into opposite sides of the infernal courtyard.
"UGH!" Phoebe crashes into the red-hot earth. Her flame flickers a bit as she picks herself up.
The black sphere looms overhead before her. It seems she was closer. She can feel the cold darkness under that seemingly sleek surface. Firelight did not even reflect off of it. It devours the photons entirely.
"Tsk…!" Phoebe lets loose a torrent of flames to deter the thing. With her stream alone, it has no problem encroaching closer.
She hears her cinnamon bun in shining armor come, riding atop a flaming steed. With a yoink, he pulls her out of the way from the path of the dark orb, and onto the horse.
"Cinnabun!" She exclaims, "That things following…!"
"Hang tight princess!"
"No, it's not gonna work! Even flying I couldn't get away from it…!" She stares back at the sphere following.
"I figured as much…" Cinnamon Bun starts solemnly.
The sphere suddenly stops its chase. Behind it, Phoebe can see the building of an enormous flame elemental emerge. It has a fiery mohawk and a flaming jewel…
"PHILLIP!" She cries out, "NO!"
But she is kept from flying out by Cinnamon's close grip on her. The sphere now dramatically changes trajectory and flies at the flaming colossus instead.
The Flame Prince Phillip concentrates a ball of flame and fires it at the sphere. From the burning flames formed of the kingdom wreckage and the heated air, he seemed like a large flaming shadow. His empowered shot grapples with the incoming dark orb, actually slowing it down.
"He's… He's doing it…!" Phoebe exclaims, unable to take her eyes off. But Cinnamon keeps riding, and they stray from the battle scene slowly.
"Rrgh…" Phillip strains against the force of nil pushing back at his flames. It was like an endless hunger was feeding on his power nonstop. There was no way. But … at the very least he could serve as a distraction...
Phoebe could see the flames wavering as the sphere pushed relentlessly. Phillip was tiring. Fear rises in the princess.
"C-Cinnamon, wait! We have to go back-"
"That's not possible, princess…" Cinnamon Bun grips his reins tight and keeps a hand on the princess' arm on him.
"What…" Phoebe's eyes widen.
"We need to get you away as far as possible...!" The pastry has a look of grim resolve as he looks on, away from the fire's light behind.
"Phillip...!" Phoebe fearfully shouts back, "NO! Come on! Don't be a dumdum! RUN!"
But it was too late. The Flame Prince's blazing shot is broken through as the black orb speeds like a bullet towards the flaming colossus' head. Phillip felt the cold blast pierce his head, obliterating his monarch's power gem. And suddenly, he could only see that he was falling into darkness. His fiery limbs disperse into millions of pages of words that burn into ash. In the distance, he glimpsed a small flame moving away … and a voice calling out once for him.
He was never aware of his name until he came here and met Phoebe. Who was he before even? Never given lines or anything important to say... never able to confess.
But he came and learned a lot of new things. These last few days were an adventure he never could have even dreamed of having back on Aaa, where he couldn't even borrow a book from the library. It was all because he met a person who he wanted to be...
"I'm glad... I dropped here... and met you..."
FP watches in sorrowful fear as the flaming elemental is slowly reduced to nothing. The dark sphere seems to have shot far away after pulverizing the flame body. Before the last bit of the face burns away, she thought she heard it say her name.
"Ph... No... PHILLIP!"
Cinnamon Bun's resolution keeps him from looking back. He didn't want to see the princess crying. He had a duty to her as her knight. But... that copy...
"What's happened?! Where's the princess?!" He had arrived to the kingdom's inner wall, partially demolished by the Shredder's shockwave. Phillip was picking himself out of the debris before looking to Cinnamon Bun desperately.
"Go find Phoebe and get her out of here!" The Prince stands resolutely, his body beginning to shimmer and bloat like a flaming star, his tone leaving no room for argument, "I'll distract it."
At that moment, Cinnamon could not recall why he was ever distrustful of Flame Prince.
"Thank you... Prince Phillip..." Cinnamon Bun whispers.