Disclaimer: I own neither the Bakugan or Final Fantasy franchise. I stand to gain no profit or financial benefit from this work. This is a piece of fiction made by a fan for fans. Bakugan is licensed by Madman Entertainment, Dream Theatre Pvt. Ltd., Nelvana Limited and Odex. Final Fantasy is the property of Square Enix. Please support the official releases.

Chapter One

"Face it, Dan. We're lost," Drago grumbles, his small body struggling to keep balance against the constant rocking of the ocean.

Dan runs a hand through his tousled brown hair. "Nah. We're not lost, we're just a little off course is all," Dan insists stubbornly. "I'll double check the map," Dan reaches into the cubby at the prow of their small boat.

"Maybe we should have gotten a GPS," Drago proposes.

"Relax, we're right here," Dan assures smoothing the map down on the floor of the boat and points to a spot just a few miles off a small chain of islands. "Told you so," Dan smirks, his nose upturned and his hands on his hips.

"Dan, the map!" Drago calls.

Dan's smug demeanor dissolves and he scrambles to catch the map when its snatched away by the wind. He makes a desperate grab but a strong gust from the east grabs the map in its clutches and rips it from Dan's fingertips.

"Maybe we should just fly back," Drago sighs. "We can get a new boat and try again."

Dan scowls. "Drago, I'm telling you, buddy, we're almost there. I can feel it."

Dan shrinks under Drago's scrutinizing gaze. "What's this really about, Dan? Is this about what happened with Runo?"

"Dan, wait," Runo calls out, her blue pigtails bobbing in the wind as she jogs to the edge of the pier.

"Give me five," Dan says to the sailor making sure the boat is good to go.

"What's up, Runo?"

"You know, you make it really hard to see goodbye when you go off without telling anyone," she says.

Dan averts his eyes. "You know me. I hate goodbyes, everyone always gets so sad." Dan swipes his thumb across his nose. "Don't worry. I'll make it up to you when I get back. I promise."

Runo looks down sadly and clutches her messenger bag tight. "I thought you might say that. That's why I'm here, Dan. I needed to tell you that I can't wait for you anymore."

Dan's face scrunches up in confusion, not noticing Drago returning to the boat to give them privacy. "What, you mean like you're moving?"

Runo scowls. "Why do you always have to so dense?" She gripes loudly before taking a deep breath and regaining her composure.

"You're always going off to help someone and I admire that about you, I do. But I can't stand always being left behind and worrying about you."

"Oh, I get it now," Dan snaps his fingers like he's figured out a complicated puzzle. "You want to come with us! Why didn't you just say so?"

Runo shakes her head sadly. "No, Dan. My battling days are behind me. It's just…I've finally realized something."

"What's that?"

"I went into this wanting you all to myself and were you anyone else, that would be fine," Runo chokes out through her atomic blush.

Dan feels his own face going red. "What are you trying to say?"

"I realized that the world needs you more than I do. I can't ask you to stay anymore than I can ask the sun not to rise."

Dan's expression goes somber as comprehension starts to dawn on him. "You know, if you asked to come with, I'd say yes in a heartbeat."

Runo gives a forlorn smile. "I know you would. But I'm going to graduate soon and I need to start thinking about college and my future. I want a stable life and I can't have that with you."

Dan's shoulders sag and his heart grows heavy at Runo's words.

A thousand thoughts run through Dan's head. He's tempted to argue, or dissuade her, or even offer to stay. Instead, when he opens his mouth, all he can say is: "Are you sure this is what you want?"

"It is." Dan flinches in surprise when Runo stands up straight with her hands on her hips and a fierce look on her face. "Don't you dare be a stranger, Dan Kuso! We're still friends, got it! If you ghost me, I will track you down myself. Understood?"

Dan chuckles at Runo's outburst. "Same old Runo," he murmurs. "I guess some people never change."

"Have a safe trip, Dan."

"Thanks, Runo. I'll catch you later."

"Is it that obvious?" Dan sighs.

"I was under the impression that you parted amicably. Having second thoughts?" Drago probes.

Dan shakes his head. "No. I agree with everything she said and this really is for the best but…"

"But what?"

"It feels like the end of an era, you know? It's just another thing changing."

Drago hops onto Dan's shoulder and catches his eye. "Might I offer you some advice, Dan?"

"Hm?"

"It is better to have loved and lost than never loved at all. Tired and cliche I know but it's true nonetheless." Drago goes quiet and stares distantly at the sun reflecting off the water. "Not every relationship is lucky to end so well."

A look of understanding settles on Dan's features. "You're talking about Wavern."

Drago heaves a tired, world weary sigh. "It's been six years and not a day goes by I don't think of her."

"Drago, listen," Dan forces out, his lips flapping open and closed but words refuse to come out.

"What is it?"

Dan plasters on a sympathetic smile. "I'm sorry, buddy. I had no idea." JUST TELL HIM ALREADY! The voice in Dan's head screams in frustration.

"Alright, Drago concedes. "We'll give it a few more hours and make a decision then."

"Thanks, Drago," Dan yawns, lounging against the side of the boat. "I'm more tired than I thought. My head's all fuzzy."

"I'm feeling tired myself. Maybe we should rest for a bit."

"Sounds good," Dan yawns, laying back and closing his eyes.

"You can't right now," A voice whispers in Dan's ear. The voice is childlike yet weathered beyond its years.

Dan's eyes snap open and he sits upright. "You say something, Drago?"

"No. Why?"

"Hold on a sec," Dan shields his face from the sun and squints at something in the distance. "Is that a kid?" Dan's eyes widen in alarm. "There's a kid stranded in the water!"

"What?"

Dan rushes over to the engine and brings it to life with a loud rumble and immediately sets course for the kid. "Hold on kid, we're coming!"

"I've got the life preserver," Drago pants, the device several times heavier than his miniature form. They tear through the water, leaving ocean spray in their wake.

"Kid, grab on!" Dan yells, turning to grab the life preserver. When he looks back, the child is nowhere to be found. "Kid!" Dan yells. "He must have gone under," Dan breathes, hurriedly shedding his jacket so he can go after him.

"Dan, I think we've got bigger problems to worry about at the moment," Drago urges. Dan grabs tightly to the boat when powerful winds shake the vessel every which way.

The sky grows dark and storm clouds rush in to smother the sun light. "Where is this storm coming from?" Dan yells over the howl of the wind.

"I don't know, but I think we might want to consider abandoning ship!"

Dan and Drago watch entranced as forks of purple lightning strike down from the heavens, landing close to the boat. The bowels of the storm clouds rapidly change colors and a gap starts to open in the clouds.

The lightning comes down harder along with heavy rains as a massive sphere of water the size of a small city descends from the skies above.

"Is there something in there?" Dan shouts, spotting a dark colored mass within the confines of the sphere.

Dan yelps when a ball of energy shoots out of the sphere and into the ocean, sending up a huge spray of water with its detonation.

Dan gulps. "Drago!"

"Ready!"

"Bakugan Brawl! Baku SkyRaider, Jump! Rise, Pyros Fusion Dragonoid!"

Drago grows to his full height with Dan hanging on tight to his partner. "I don't know what that thing is, but we can't allow it to reach civilization. It will wreak chaos!" Drago growls, thrashing his tail angrily.

"I've got your back, buddy! Let's take 'em down!"

Drago takes to the sky, accelerating in no time at all to lightning fast speeds.

"It's even uglier up close," Drago grunts, getting close enough to see its distorted face staring out back at them.

"Ability Activate: Wonder Superior!"

A row of focusing lens spread out in front of Drago. A beam of crimson energy erupts from Drago's maw, growing bigger and more powerful with each lens it passes. The beam crashes into their foe and causes a massive explosion within that punches a hole in the sphere. The beast within is exposed for only a second but Dan feels terror grip at his heart from the sheer size of their enemy.

"We need to do better than that if we're going to make a dent!" Drago determines.

Drago gets in closer and flies circle around their enemy, peppering it with attack after attack to mixed results.

"Triple Ability Activate: Burning Dragonia plus Dragon Over Cannon plus Wonder Superior!" Drago launches a second attack, this time bolstered by a twisting stream of flames and several times the size of the first attack. It punches another hole and the two hear an ungodly wail of pain crashing in their ear drums.

"That's still not good enough," Dan yells.

Their foe goes on the attack, retaliating with a swarm of energy blasts that has Drago pulling tight and complex aerial maneuvers to weave between them, often dodging by the skin of his teeth.

Dan gapes when an uninhabited island behind them is reduced to ash under the assault. "We've gotta call in Dragonoid Destroyer!"

Dan and Drago sync up their energies and open a new rift within the clouds, this time producing a massive crimson robot big enough for Drago to pilot himself.

Its power had diminished from its former golden state that possessed infinite power, courtesy of its fellow Bakugan, but its power is still far beyond Drago's own.

Drago soars over and seamlessly takes his place in the pilot seat as the cockpit hatch closes over him and Dan.

"You know what to do! Ability activate: Force Cannon." Dragonoid Destroyer extends both his arms and fires their laser cannons. The force of the blast presses Drago and Dan back into their seats as the rippling beams scream through the air. They punch through the bubble like it isn't even there and explode with a power that they can feel from hundreds of feet away. The blast radius is massive, hiding the monster from view.

"That had to do the job," Dan declares in triumph. He goes pale when the smoke clears and gets a clear view of their enemy. The creature is whale-like with long fins that could crush city blocks with ease. It levitates under its own power, glaring at them through its mass of eyes, several of which had been reduced to molten slag by Dragonoid Destroyer.

"What is that thing?" Dan cringes in horror as crippling fear takes root deep in his mind. "Is that a Bakugan?"

"It's not like any Bakugan I've ever seen. It's positively massive!"

"Affirmative," Dragonoid Destroyer drones. "Subject is unknown species. Proceed with caution."

The beast lets out a slow, angry wail that Dan can feel in his bones. "I think we've only made it mad," Dan gulps, a statement only given more credence by the massive purple sphere of energy swelling to titanic sizes at the creature's open mouth. "Is that thing crazy? If that hits, it will wipe out everything within thirty miles!"

"Calculating: thiry-five miles," Dragonoid Destroyer corrects.

"We'll have to give it everything we've got," Drago declares. "Ready, Dan?"

Dan nods. "Ability Activate: Hyper Cross Cannon!" Dan slaps down the Ability Card on the dash, prompting Dragonoid Destroyer to start charging its main cannon.

The energy accumulates, the power building exponentially until Dan's every nerve ending is tingling with power.

"Just a little more," Dan murmurs clenching his seat until the knuckles in his fingers turn bone white.

The creature doesn't seem content to give them that time, catching them by surprise and launching its attack before they are ready.

"Fire!" Dan shouts, panicked by the move.

"Beam strength at eighty percent," Destroyer warns.

"That will have to be enough, now fire!" Drago snaps.

"Affirmative."

The colossal orb rockets at them with a speed that defies its overwhelming mass. As it gets closer, they notice the sphere suck up everything in its path: consuming clouds, birds, and even the sunlight itself.

The attacks collide in the middle with both sides vying for dominance. The outcome is prepped to go either way with neither force gaining ground on the other.

Dan grits his teeth when the beast's attack starts to inch its way forward, parting Destroyer's attack and diffusing it with its approach.

"Come on Dragonoid Destroyer. This is no time to hold back," Dan says.

"Maximum Power output reached," Destroyer notifies in its monotone voice.

"There's got to be something we can do," Drago growls. "We can't afford to lose this battle."

"Offering suggestion," Dragonoid Destroyer pipes up even as the sphere gains momentum. A secret panel opens in the command console. From the panel emerges a crude instrument: a long pipe ending in four sharp prongs that stops just shy of Drago's chest. "Siphon power of Perfect Core?"

"What?"

"You can do that?" Dan asks incredulously.

Drago vehemently shakes his head in the negative. "Absolutely not! The balance of the Perfect Core is too delicate to risk tampering with it so callously."

"I don't think we have much of a choice, Drago. It could go wrong and we might still lose, but at least this way we can go down having exhausted every option."

Drago stares at their encroaching doom with flickering conviction. "Fine," Drago sighs. "You need to be careful," Drago warns Dragonoid Destroyer. "You have to maintain the balance of the positive and negative energies of the Perfect Core. If the imbalance grows too great, we can say goodbye to Earth."

"Affirmative. Commencing Power Siphon.!"

The prongs extend and pierce the flesh around the gem in Drago's chest, eliciting grunts of discomfort. Grunts turn into howls of agony as power surges into Dragonoid Destroyer, bolstering the Hyper Cross Cannon. Electricity flickers around Drago's form and his muscles convulse and seize rapidly.

"Drago!" Dan cries out with worry. He tries getting closer to support his friend but the power scalds him and blasts him back like he'd just placed his hand on a live wire.

"It hurts!" Drago screams, blood leaking out of his mouth and nose.

"Power at One hundred fifty percent. Reaching critical mass," Destroyer warns. Dan takes a brief glance and sees the the opposing force slowly shrink, as it expends energy trying to overcome the new resistance. The air around their point of impact crackles with stray energy lashing out like electrified whips.

The two attacks start to equalize with neither attack budging an inch.

"Just a little more," Drago urges through clenched teeth.

"Brace for impact. Critical Mass reached."

Dan's eyes widen in horror when the two powers, caught in a stalemate, grow unstable and explode with the force of a nuclear bomb.

Even through his pain, Drago has the clarity of mind to hug Dan protectively to his chest when the world explodes around them.

The powers create a massive boom that can no doubt be heard for miles with Dragonoid Destroyer being blasted back like an ant caught in a hurricane. They break the sound barrier and Dragonoid Destroyer is rocked with explosions and warning sirens as Dan and Drago's most powerful ally is reduced to scrap. The seemingly unbreakable mech falls to pieces until nothing is left but a few bits of scrap metal.

Drago clutches Dan close, plummeting to the sea, his energy drained from having the Perfect Core siphoned.

Dan braces himself for the coming fall. Even with Drago's protection, the impact is bone-jarring and has his teeth vibrating in his skull when Drago hits the water. Dan's cocoon disappears in a flash of red light, leaving Dan to the mercy of the ocean.

It's Dan's turn to hold Drago close, kicking futilely against the waves to stay afloat. The power of nature proves too great and Dan finds himself unable to keep his head above water and is dunked roughly under the water. A particularly strong impact knocks the impact from Dan's lungs, opening the way for sea water to come surging in.

"Dan! I'll be fine. Let me go!" Dan uses what little strength he has to shake his head, stubbornly holding Drago close.

Dan grows light-headed and has trouble forming thoughts as his lungs are deprived of sweet oxygen.

An eerie light floods Dan's vision. Mistaking it for the light of death, Dan is helplessly plucked away by the light. After a few moments of breathing fresh air, Dan's eyes flutter open to see a grotesque sight. He is being pulled into the air by an invisible force drawing him into a fleshy, pulsating orifice generating a murky orange light.

"You okay, Drago?" Dan gasps, pushing the approaching light to the back burner for a moment.

"I've been better, Dan," Drago groans.

"I don't know," Dan admits. "But whatever it is, we'll face it together!"

"Just like always."

In no time at all, Dan and Drago are pulled into the light. The light draws screams from them both as Dan feel like every cell in his body is being torched and torn apart at the same time.

"Gah! It feels like I'm being ripped apart!" Drago wails. "Make it stop!"

"I've got you Drago!" Dan screams, pinching his eyes tight when the light grows to an unbearable intensity before going dark, taking Dan's consciousness with it.

The first thing Dan notices upon waking is that it's cold and damp. His teeth chatter and he futilely hugs himself for warmth.

"You okay?"

Dan's eyes crack open and he rolls over on his side to see a blond young man struggling to keep a camp fire going.

"Wh-Who are you," Dan shivers, wishing he hadn't so carelessly discarded his jacket earlier. "Where are we?"

"I'm Tidus." Tidus looks around with almost and puzzled expression on his face. "As for where we are? I've got no clue. I found you and your friend passed out."

Dan's eyes widen at the mention of his friend. "Drago? Where are you? You okay?" Dan's eyes cast about in search of his friend and almost passes him over. Dan glances over what he'd thought was a piece of charcoal until it starts moving and grumbling as it pops open.

"Dan?" He mumbles groggily.

"Drago? Is that you buddy? It's a bit dark." Dan scoops up Drago and takes him closer to the fire.

"In a manner of speaking," Drago sighs, cringing at Dan's look of wide-eyed shock.

For several moments, Dan's mouth pops open and closed but no words come out. "Drago, you mutated!" Dan stares with wide eyes at his partner. The reds and yellows of Pyrus had unmistakably changed to the black, purple, and greens of Darkus. "You're just like Helios!" Dan marvels, remembering Spectra and Helios, their former enemies turned friends. They had been a Pyrus battling time until Helios evolved and mutated into a Darkus Bakugan.

"Never mind that! The Perfect Core, I don't feel it anymore."

"What? Are you serious?"

"It's gone, Dan. Who knows where it's gone and who might get their hands on it," Drago frets, anxiously flying back and forth.

Dan looks over his shoulder and see Tidus tending to the fire. Still, Dan lowers his voice to barely above a whisper. "Are you sure? Maybe it's just drained from Dragonoid Destroyer sapping it," Dan suggests, his heart growing heavy at the memory of their fallen friend.

"I would still feel it," Drago insists. "This is bad, Dan. Absolute chaos is just around the corner if we don't hurry."

"First, we need to find a way out of here. Hey, Tidus?" Dan calls. "Do you know the way out?"

Tidus looks up from poking at the sputtering fire. "Just back the way I came and you don't want to go there."

"Why not?"

"There's a giant fish monster that almost made me its dinner prowling around out there."

"So we're stuck here?" Dan frowns.

Tidus shrugs his shoulders. "For the moment. In either case, I don't want to take my chances in the dark. Right now our main concern is freezing to death in our sleep. I haven't been able to find any tinder."

Dan shudders and digs his hands under his arm pits, desperate to feel even the slightest bit of warmth. This is bad. We have no idea where we are so that means the others won't know where to look. This trip's been a disaster from the start, Dan curses in his mind. Now what?

"So, I take it you're a Bakugan Brawler?" Tidus' question breaks Dan from his stupor.

"Uh, yeah. What about you? Do you brawl?"

Tidus shakes his head. "Nah, I've never had the talent for it. I've got a real knack for blitz ball, though. I'm the star player of the Zanarkand Abes."

"What's Zanarkand? And I don't think I've ever heard of blitz ball."

Tidus looks at Dan like he's not quite right in the head. "You can't be serious. I know Brawling is big, but everyone's heard of blitz ball."

"Can't say I have. Sorry," Dan awkwardly scratches his head, glancing at Drago out of the corner of his eye, worried by his partner's silence.

"You've really never heard of Zanarkand?" Tidus asks. Dan feels a twinge of guilt when he sees how dejected Tidus has become.

"Sorry, man," Dan winces as Tidus grows crestfallen. "So what's your story? How did you end up here?" Dan blurts, rushing to change the subject.

Tidus' face grows dark at the question. "You wouldn't believe me if I told you."

Dan snorts. "Try me."

Tidus tells his story, captivating Dan with shock and intrigue. His eyes grow as big as dinner plates when Tidus mentions the creature called "Sin."

"No way," Dan blurts out, surprising Tidus. "We saw that thing too. We were in our boat and it just showed up out of nowhere! Me and Drago fought it but we got creamed." Dan's expression turns sorrowful. "We lost a good friend," Dan murmurs.

"So it's called 'Sin'" Drago muses aloud. "A fitting name, I suppose. Everything about that creature felt wrong, like an abomination against nature."

Tidus rubs his chin in thought. "I don't know. Something about it felt familiar," Tidus shudders with revulsion. "Are you sure it wasn't some kind of giant Bakugan or something?"

"I don't know what that monster is, but it is not a Bakugan," Drago growls. "Of that much, I'm certain."

"So we all ran into this thing and it had us dead to rights. But instead of killing us, it transports us to the middle of nowhere?" Dan's brow furrows in confusion. "It doesn't make any sense."

"Auron sure seemed to know a lot about it," Tidus grumbles, clenching his fists. "He talked to it as if it could talk back. But if it did, I didn't hear anything."

Dan tugs on his hair and flops on his back. "All I've got is more questions. This is giving me a headache. Nothing adds up."

"We can take solace in one thing," Drago pipes up, drawing the attention of the two young men. "Fate saw fit to bring us together for whatever reason. We may be lost, but at least we're lost together."

"I guess you're right," Dan sighs, extending his hand to Tidus. "I'm Dan and this is my partner, Drago."

Tidus gratefully takes the hand. "I'm Tidus. It's a pleasure to meet you, all things considered," Tidus jokes weakly. "Now we just need to make it to morning."

Dan's eyelids start to grow heavy. "I could really go for some shuteye. I'm beat," Dan yawns.

Tidus casts Dan a look of sympathy. "You get some rest. I'll take first watch."

With a tired nod, Dan curls up next to the fire and drifts off to sleep.

"Dan, wake up," Tidus whispers urgently, shaking Dan awake.

Dan stirs, blinking the sleep out of his eyes. He must have been out for quite some time as the fire is snuffed out without so much as an ember remaining. "What is it?" Dan yawns.

Tidus' lips are drawn in a thin, sober line. "There's something watching us. Listen," he murmurs.

Dan strains his ears and hears the clacking sound of something large skittering just beyond their field of vision.

"My guess would be it's not a friend," Drago whispers.

"We might have to fight," Tidus utters, carefully retrieving his sword so the hook shaped blade doesn't scrape against the stone.

Dan clenches his teeth and peers up at the ceiling. There's no way I can summon Drago without bringing down the rest of the ruins on us.

Tidus holds out his hand, the wooden haft of a bronze trident clutched in his fist. "Here."

"Where'd this come from?" Dan questions, grasping the smooth wood of the trident in his hands.

"Beats me. I found it next to you so I figured it must be yours."

The head of the trident is made of dark black and purple metals that closely resemble Drago's new appearance. Dan narrows his eyes, feeling an eerie sense of deja vu at the sight of the weapon.

"This bites. I can't see anything," Dan gripes, umping at every small movement. "Just come out already!" Dan barks.

Dan gets his wish as something large and monstrous leaps down from the upper levels of the temple. The creature bears its cracked yellow teeth and a tufts of hair hang from a long, mangy skull. The source of the earlier clicking becomes apparent when it skitters on its long, blade-like limbs.

Dan cries out when the beast leaps onto him, pinning him to the floor with its sharp limbs. It bites ferociously at Dan's face but is held off by the shaft of the trident taking blows.

"Hey!" Tidus snaps, darting forward and raking his sword down the beast's flank. The beast screeches and whirls on Tidus, knocking him away with a strong blow to his midsection.

Dan takes the chance to roll out from under his foe and scrabbles away to get some distance.

Dan panics when he sees the monster going for a dazed Tidus who is unsteadily rising to his feet. He pelts it with a rock to draw attention to himself. Once it hits Dan that the creatures is focused on him, he raises his trident in front of himself with unsure hands. He tries for a couple of jabs with his weapon but the blows are clumsy and miss by a wide margin.

"Hey, ugly!" Tidus jeers, rejoining the fray with a swipe of his sword. He scores another hit and thus begins Tidus' and Dan's tightly coordinated assault, taking turns attacking while the creature is focused on the other.

It catches on quickly, dashing away from both boys and putting some distance between them. The creature lashes its tail with an angry hiss, blood dripping from the gashes in its side.

Dan's arms tremble from a lack of food and sleep with Tidus not faring much better.

"Dan! You have to send me in," Drago urges, hovering next to his partner's ear.

Dan shakes his head. "We'll bring the whole place down on us."

"And you'll most likely die if you don't send me in," Drago snaps.

Before a consensus can be made, the doors to the chamber burst open and the group is blinded by flashlights shining in their faces. Boots thud on the ground and the chamber is filled with the sound of gunfire and shouting in an unfamiliar language.

The gunfire ceases when the monster fades away into a swarm of a rainbow-colored lights.

"Geez, you guys were cutting it pretty close," Dan jokes weakly and goes in for a handshake with the man who seems to be the leader of the bunch. Like the others, he is tall and dressed in layers with a gas mask on his face.

Dan doesn't make it within five feet of him when one of the other gunman rushes forward and buries the butt of his gun in Dan's stomach.

Gasping for breath, Dan falls to his knees cradling his empty stomach. "Hey, man. What's your deal?" Dan croaks. "I was just trying to-" Dan is interrupted again, this time with a punch to the jaw that leaves him reeling.

"Dan!" Drago calls with concern, drawing attention to himself. The gunmen huddle together and speak rapidly in their language while gesturing at them both.

Dan struggles to his feet and braces himself in front of Drago, uneasy at their interest in his partner. If they were planning on taking Drago, they would have to go through him first.

To the group's surprise, the gunmen part to allow a young woman to stride forward. She wears a red and flesh colored wet suit with a mask that surrounds the outside of her face. Her eyes are hidden behind a thick pair of goggles.

"Are you okay?" she asks hesitantly? Dan and Tidus breathe a sigh of relief at having someone who can communicate with them.

"Yeah, but no thanks to your friends who cold-clocked me," Dan grumbles, rubbing his aching jaw.

"Sorry, we thought you might be hostile," she offers by way of apology. "My…friends can be a bit overzealous. You never can take too many chances when you're in the salvaging business. You meet all types."

"Salvaging?" Tidus echoes.

The girl nods her head eagerly. "Yep. We make it our business to scrounge up and salvage abandoned machina."

Both boys' faces scrunch up in confusion at the unfamiliar word. "Machina? You mean machines, right?" Tidus asks.

"Yep. Maybe it would be better to talk back on the boat. No offense, but you guys look awful."

"We feel worse than we look," Drago grunts, drawing the girl's eye to the Bakugan. She pulls up her goggles to reveal a young face, even younger than Dan himself. Her eyes go wide at the sight of Drago like she'd discovered a fantastic treasure.

"If you like, we have food and dry clothes you can have."

Dan and Tidus don't need any more convincing after that, though Drago stays close and keeps a watchful, distrusting eye on their "rescuers."

Getting to the boat is a surprisingly short trip, though it does require some swimming through flooded passages to get there. Dan is hesitant after hearing of the giant monster from Tidus, who looks even more on edge than Dan, having actually seen the monster.

They can breathe easier and it feels like a weight has been lifted off their shoulders when they return to the ship: a large barge with a metal deck and a bulbous structure leading to the innards of the ship.

"Sorry about earlier," the girl says. "I'm Rikku by the way." The boys introduce themselves though their response is a bit muffled by the food stuffed in their mouths.

"Don't sweat it," Dan says. "Though I wouldn't turn my back on your friends."

"I think this is the first time I've had someone help me and look like they want to shoot me at the same time," Tidus adds.

"They're more of the act first, talk later kind of guys. They never would have attacked if they'd realized you were a Summoner and his Guardian," Rikku gestures at Dan and Tidus in turn.

"Summoner?" Dan echoes. 'That must be what she calls Brawlers,' Dan thinks to himself.

"What do you mean by Guardian?" Tidus questions.

"Y'know, like a bodyguard to protect your friend on his journeys."

"We're friends, sure," Tidus says. "But we just met."

"Then what were the both of you doing in those ruins then?"

In what seems set to become a habit, the conversation is derailed, this time by a couple of Rikku's friends stomping above deck and barking harsh commands at them. Rikku snarls and snaps back, sticking her tongue out childishly when they turn their backs to leave.

"What was that about?" Drago asks.

"They said that you need to pay us back by helping us with our next job."

"They certainly don't waste any time," Drago sighs, staring at his reflection in a shard of broken glass.

Dan frowns. Things have been hectic and there's been little time for them to discuss his mutation.

"I guess that's fair," Dan agrees, speaking slow and hesitantly with a glance to Tidus.

Tidus shrugs and heaves a tired sigh. "Well, it's not like we can just say no. You guys did save and feed us."

"I know it seems harsh, but times are tough and we're barely scraping by as it is."

Dan waves off the apology. "Nah, it's cool. We owe you guys, anyway."

Rikku claps her hands. "Great! I hope you know how to swim."

Wowzers! I'm cutting the chapter right here as it's already surpassed five thousand words. I've had this chapter done for a while. Really it was just a matter of editing. For fans of my other stories, my next update should be for Jedi Rebirth and after that will finally be an update for A Brawler's Spirit. I know six months is a long time to wait but what can I say, I've been busy. Anywho, I'm rambling.

If you like the story, drop a review and some constructive criticism so I can continue to improve. Bye!