Chapter 2: A Breakout Reading Part 1

"Hmmm, so this is the place, brother?" A fairly mature voice asked. This came from a being dressed in attire like a security guard: blue uniform and hat and black belt and pants. The more distinctive parts of him were his slick black hair, bluish green eyes, and a parted pencil mustache.

"Yep! Vincent, we've gotta get mom and her friends outta here!" His compatriot answered, far younger in comparison, yet somewhat gruff, and he only stood up to his partner's knees. His hair was red and scraggly, and his eyes were brown. "3 years have passed, and nothin' from her! Her request was to help get her out and her friends as well when that time passed." He was similarly garbed in security attire, and made his way to the Arkeyan Defenders in front of the gate. Yellow and red like most of them, their helmets were like those of Corinthian helmets as their eyes glowed a piercing yellow, and they wielded massive spiked maces. Their armor didn't completely cover their bodies, and revealed that their legs and arms were mostly skinny, twig-like rods similar to bone.

"Halt! Explain why you approach the lock-up of the Dark Stygian!" The Guards demanded to know.

"Oh! No need to worry, officers, we're only here because we wanted to look and see the criminals in here! We wanted to get an idea of what we protect the innocent against!" Vincent answered politely with a flourish and a bow.

"Yeah! We hate scum who'd torment the good dreams of Skylands!" The other figure sheepishly added. "They deserve to rot in a damp, dirty cell for the rest of their lives!"

The Arkeyans seemed to be processing the information they'd been given. The two figures were about to wander in when they suddenly found their entrance blocked by their hammers. "Identification required. Scanning faces for confirmation of non-malevolence." The two guards flashed scanning lights that ran across the two beings, much to their surprise. Unfortunately for them "Scan complete. Unregistered on databases. Interrogation required. Do not resist!"

"Well, there goes our cover," the smaller figure sighed. "Was a good run, but what was that mother always taught?"

"Never be a one trick pony, and have a few performances...," Vincent smirked knowingly. Soon, a pair of small black discs attached to the Arkeyans, flying from the sleeves of his uniform. "Up your sleeves!" The discs activated, sending electricity coursing through the Arkeyans, arcs dancing across them before they exploded into scrap metal.

"Good thing Gear Dear prepared Anti-Arkeyan weapons just for these things! Eh, Vincent?" The smaller figure chuckled.

"Indeed, Robert," Vincent concurred. "Now. We shouldn't dilly dally. Mother and her friends need rescuing!"

As Blackout arrived at Skylanders Academy, he finally allowed his wings a moment of rest, letting go of the unconscious Nightshade as he shook himself.

"Well, boomsticks!" A booming voice rang out as Blackout turned to see a squat, elderly Mabu arrive on scene. He had white hair done in a mohawk, his right eye was covered in brown cloth, a single tooth came out of his mouth, and he wore a steel breastplate over his brown shirt. Additional attire included a tattered brown coat and a wooden peg leg replaced his left leg, finished with a crutch held by his right arm. "Another member of the Doom Raiders taken down. What say we, Spyro?"

"Nice going, Blackout!" The accompanying Spyro concurred. Spyro was yet another dragon like Blackout was, but being of the Magic element, he was far less evil looking, as he instead had purple scales and eyes with red pupils. Three claws lay on each foot he had, and he had two horns growing out of his head, both being a vibrant orange. A mohawk-like crest ran from the top of Spyro's head to the back of it, and small spikes covered his back. He had a pair of orange wings, and ending his tail was a drill-like protrusion. "Buzz and I? We're definitely happy to see that you did a good job."

"Thank you, Spyro," Blackout courteously replied. "Was there anyone asking for me, or anything else I should know?"

"Let me think...I think Spotlight wanted to see you, and so did Star Strike," The name of the former had an immediate reaction, as Blackout's facial scales took on a reddish tone.

"I...I-I see," Blackout stammered in surprise from this nugget of knowledge.

"Oh, and speak of the dragon!" Buzz chuckled as he saw a familiar dragon fly by before her eyes landed on Blackout. Like the Dark Dragon, Spotlight was a dragon herself, but in contrast to Blackout's unholy and monstrous appearance, she had an angelic and beautiful countenance. Her scales were covered in reflective white scales that left rainbows in their wake, and had six horns shining behind her face. Her eyes were white like his, but had a gentleness and warmth to them much unlike his moon-like orbs. Her forehead was emblazoned with a circle of the sun's ray, and her wings and fluffy tail had golden hoops within them.

"Hey Blackout!" She kindly greeted her elemental opposite. "Master Eon was telling me about what your last mission! Thought I'd come congratulate you." Indeed, Spotlight was a far cry from the introverted, terse, and nervous Blackout: she was a gregarious, kind-hearted, conversationalist, to whom people were attracted like a magnet. Whereas Blackout was still met with suspicion by the general populace in spite of his heroic nature, Spotlight had proven popular amongst them.

"I, uh, thank you...S-Spotlight," Blackout stuttered, his face flushed.

Spotlight giggled, hearing his response. "So...I was thinking. I was going to have Eon set up a party for all us dragons. You know Bash and Flashwing just became a couple, Spyro's celebrating his anniversary as leader of the core Skylanders, and now you've taken out Nightshade! Be good for us dragons to have some nice time together, don't you think?"

"I...I suppose," Blackout looked away shyly. "But...I'm not comfortable with parties...or being around others."

"That's don't have to do anything there. Even your presence would be good enough," Spotlight tried to reassure him.

"I...appreciate the offer," Blackout answered politely, but seeing her crestfallen expression quickly added. "Really, I do! But I've got meetings to get to, and I'd rather do them now rather than later! I'm sorry that I can't come, b-but I really have to do this."

"It's...okay," Spotlight sadly said. "I get it. Always business with you Blackout, isn't it?"

"I'm sorry, Spotlight," Blackout apologized, his voice quivering and melancholy. "I really am. But perhaps another time?"

"Yeah...okay," Spotlight conceded as she hugged Blackout, leaving the dark dragon blushing. "See you around."

"Y-yeah," Blackout stuttered, patting the back of her head before flying to the Academy.

"Did I say something wrong?" Spotlight wondered, hurt. "I didn't mean to scare him."

"Nah, it ain't your fault, but it ain't really Blackout's either," Buzz assured the Light dragon, making her tilt her head in confusion. "Poor kid's got some mighty powerful demons for someone as young as him."

"Yeah...treated as an outcast because of your appearance and powers, then betrayed by the group that made you part of their family at your lowest moment? I can't imagine how that feels," Spyro recalled Master Eon introducing a younger Blackout to him, remembering how Blackout hid behind the wizened old sorcerer like a frightened child. "I've talked to the guy before, and I know there's a part of him that wants to be more open, but he's just too scared to crawl out of his shell, even around us." Hearing that, Spotlight lowered her head in sympathy.

"So what do we do?" Spotlight asked. "How do we help him crawl out?"

Buzz answered, "You can't push a guy out of his comfort zone when he doesn't want to. He just needs time and space to open up."

As Vincent and Robert walked through the halls of the penitentiary, they looked upon each member of the Dark Stygian. The first one they saw was an elegant figure, with skin pale and shinny like porcelain, clad in the generic orange prison jumpsuit. Her raven-black hair was done in a combination of a french braid and side plait pushed to her right side, giving a good look at her eyes, which were a vibrant blue like sapphires. However, she was currently stuck in an orange jumpsuit, befitting of her status as a prisoner.

"I suppose you've come to gloat at me for being in this condition," The woman said in a somewhat flat voice. Above the bars was a plaque reading, "Marie Onette–Automatono". She seemed rather listless, not even bothering to look up at her "guards".

"We only wish to see everyone else here," Vincent feigned hurt. "Surely a guard must know what he's guarding, yes? We're just starting out, so if you don't mind, we need to look at the other prisoners." As they passed her, they saw another member offline, literally. He resembled a small animatronic deer about the size of a teddy bear. His eyes, currently offline, were nothing but black lights, his faux fur was brown, and his antlers were a silvery color. His usual attire consisted of a black top hat and a pair of blue shorts, but these were pushed to the side and replaced with an orange jumpsuit. Connected to his head were various wires, all hooked up to a massive computer that read "Gear Dear–Mechano" while having streams of code running up and down it. There were numerous wires that connected to the wall before linking to another cell.

"Don't...bother...talking to...him...uugh ..." A voice groaned, the duo moving to the connected cell, this having a considerably more exhausted Ardni hooked up to wires on various parts of his skin, his daggers nowhere to be seen and his swimming trunks once again replaced with an orange jumpsuit. Up on the top of the barrier of he cell was "Ardni–Ceruano".

"Ceruano? Is that you?" The guards asked in confusion. "What are you doing strung up like this?"

"They...use my body's powerful...electrokinetic a battery for they...use to...trap Gear Dear," Ceruano weakly explained. "He's still...seeing and hearing...normally, but...they've locked...his body in complete...stasis. He can't...move or speak...but his active."

"Oh my Ancients! That sounds quite devious, turning your powers into the very thing that entraps your allies!" Vincent cooly noted.

"You...think that's...horrible?" Ceruano moaned, feeling more exhaustion with each word. "See the others. They're...not much better." Weakly nodding to a neighboring cell, they turned to see another figure stuck in chains, a silver sphere-headed hickory cane held near him. The cane would be about his up to his hip, and it also had a handle extension He wouldn't be going anywhere, however, considering that his body his covered in a straightjacket, his feet were bound by chains to the floor, and there were several cameras made to keep an eye on him. His face, normally covered in bandages, was exposed for all the world to see, revealing his face to be pale white, covered in scars that formed a jigsaw puzzle pattern. His hair was a mishmash of colors: streaks of blonde, brown, black, red, white, blue, green, and purple. His eyes were like looking into a prismatic kaleidoscope: constantly oscillating and changing to every color of the rainbow, and the shades within all of those. The pattern was somewhat hypnotic, something you could get lost in. Above his cell door was the sign for him: "Homo Tenebris - Mnemo".

"How sweet," Homo Tenebris sneered, a scowl on his scarred face. "Fresh meat. Happy to see the uncatchable Homo Tenebris caught like a fly on flypaper?"

"N-no, not particularly..." Vincent answered in surprise. "But you were amongst the best spies and scouts of the group with your shapeshifting and memory manipulation abilities!"

"Right you are, and look where that got me. Trapped like a miserable rat!" Homo Tenebris huffed, refusing to look at the sibling pair. "As long as they keep wrapped up like this, I can't do anything! Still, better than how poor Frozend or even Naturalie's doing!" On that note, the duo went to another pair of cells and gasped.

In one, they saw a four-armed yeti, gasping for breath as he languished on the side of a glass display case, stuck in a prison jumpsuit as a set of red viking armor was stored in the case, consisting of a hornless helmet, torso armor, greaves, and vambraces. His fur was incredibly fluffy, a natural bright white in stark contrast to his bluish skin, and the fur around his legs, pelvis, and face all gave the impression of thick pants and fluffy beard. Sections of his fur, however, were dyed red, and parts of his skin were tattooed in various tribal runes, giving him the appearance of a bloodstained berserker. Around him, numerous vents were releasing hot air into the containment cell, making the cell walls hot to the touch and making them glow red. The sign for him read: "Frozend - Frigo".

"Are you...happy?" The yeti wheezed, barely able to stand, his Russian accent thick. "Like this...I can...barely move or...speak. So do...anything."

"This...this is necessary?" Vincent muttered, his body feeling dry.

"I can create ice from almost nothing, but as a yeti, warm temperatures exhaust me. They call it cold, not cruel, but every movement feels so painful and it's such a struggle to lift a finger," Frozend explained, wheezing every few words.

"Like, better you then me," An air-headed voice rang out before breaking into wet, hacking coughs. Indeed, the cell directly opposite of Ardni was another clear walled one, with a young-looking female elf inside as the inmate. She wore the same orange jumpsuit, but her now-stringy hair was a sickly green, the stems of wilted flowers growing inside it. Her green skin was turning pale, and her usually vibrant emerald eyes were dulled. From within the ceiling were numerous vents that were constantly releasing noxious chemicals and compounds that killed any attempt of using her powers, for as her sign declared, she was "Naturalie - Hylo". Chains kept her legs tied to the ground, leaving her trapped and miserable. "I totally can't breathe this air. It's making so, um, sick." Coughs followed this.

"This can't be right in any sense of the word 'fair'!" Vincent protested.

", they've gotta," Naturalie answered after a slight pause. "My power to, like, grow entire forests and call forth wild beasts means they have to keep pumping in herbicides so I can't do anything about these restraints." Weakly chuckling, she then added, "But at least I can kinda move. Like, Krayken is in so much worse state than me." With that, she pointed a finger to another cell, where they saw that, indeed, Krayken was not in a good state, as his cell was nothing but a glorified icebox, and Krayken had been frozen solid within it. Krayken was a humanoid sea creature, with blue, indigo, and gray scales in place of skin, and while his right hand was...normal, for lack of a better term with its three fingers, his left hand was something more akin to a pufferfish replacing the hand. Gray scales covered his chest and the back and top of his head, while his feet and hand ended in indigo scales. His feet were webbed, having greenish skin between the three toes, and growing out of his back was a tail like that of an eel, with almost transparent scales surrounding the sides of it. His eyes were sea-green, and he had one distinctive snaggletooth growing out of the bottom right part of his mouth. Outside the cell was his sign, which read "Krayken - Thalasso", and right by it was a gold trident with brilliant sapphires encrusting the bottom of the head.

"Oh...oh dear," Vincent gasped softly. "I...suppose it's fitting to keep a man of the sea frozen like that, but surely that can't be comfortable for him."

"What do ya think? Trust me, man, I've seen how he does in the cold. It is, like, not that good," Naturalie concurred.

"Understood. We will get back to you soon enough," Vincent replied. With that, the brothers made their way to another cell, and this one was similar to Naturalie's, but with a different twist. Rather than herbicides, a large amount of coolant and fire extinguisher fluid was being pumped into the room, making it not only difficult for fire to form, but also to breathe. Of course, the ones in the cell were Fido and Emberor, and their sign read "Emberor and Fido - Pyro". Outside their cell was Emberor's armor and axe and Fido's armor, and the former was, of course, clad in an orange jumpsuit. "Should we even bother?"

Looking to his brother, and the inmates, and his brother again, Robert gave his answer. "No. We'll free him soon enough. Best not to try and find out if too much carbon dioxide makes him cranky." With that, they left the pyrokinetic duo without another word, heading for the next cell. Not that their next prisoner was in anymore of a talkative state. The sign read "Dr. Luna T. Ick - Iatro", and the doctor in question had been put into a medically induced coma, her mouth free of her trademark surgical mask and revealing some rather fanged teeth. The electrocardiogram showed a rather slow heart rate, and her arm had an IV drip feeding into it. "Well. Seems we've met some lovely conversationalists as of now, haven't we bro?"

"Indeed. Perhaps we'll be lucky to meet someone more willing to talk," Vincent sighed in exasperation. The next cell to follow Dr. Ick's was of another member, the sign of the cell reading "Naqab - Arachno". Despite the title mentioning "arachno", Naqab didn't look particularly spider or scorpion-like. Of all things he looked like an ordinary Mabu: peach-colored fur, a simple black jacket over a white shirt, albeit with a spider emblem, and a pair of glasses. If anything, he looked a lot more like some kind of nerd, which contrasted with his hands held high and the white, sticky silk continuously getting pumped out of spinnerets on his wrists, and the fact that he had been trapped in what looked flypaper on his back. "Well...he's at least not comatose or getting strangled. It's worth a try." With that, he knocked on the glass, causing the Mabu to turn towards the duo. "Hello? Naqab? How are you doing?"

Finally seeing the two of them, Naqab, unexpectedly, burst into rivulets of tears. "Horrible! Just absolutely awful!" Through his sobbing, Vincent and Robert at least had something. "My beloved Utricaria. The sweet nectar of my life, the queen to my drone! These brutes in this awful jail drain me for my silk and they use it to wrap her up in an inescapable straitjacket! And they keep showing me images of my sweet girl tied up like a hapless fish in a fine net! How can I not cry when I can't do anything about it?" The sobbing soon became overwhelming, and following the string, they were led to another cell. This cell, labelled "Utricaria - Entomo", had a prisoner that similarly had not a hint of insectoid features: not a hint of ant, dragonfly, wasp, beetle, butterfly, moth, or fly was on her body. She was considerably more humanoid, and had a tall yet petite figure, with a rather small chest. Her hair, having two strands jut outwards like antennae, was a chocolatey brown. As Naqab had stated, she had been tangled in a veritable mess of silk, trapping her like a roughly-constructed straitjacket.

"Don't blame yourself, honey," Utricaria replied with a mellow voice, tinged with tender love. "It's not your fault that we're stuck like this. We'll be free soon, and we'll have all the time to make up."

"Alright...I think we'll leave it to you to determine your...relationship plans," Vincent cringed at the image that formed in his head. "Let us move on to the next before I have to think about them...interfacing." The shudder he saw ripple across Robert's body was a sure sign he agreed. Regardless, they still had a few more members left, and their next was not too far. A strange creature similar to a gremlin, it had massive, bat-like wings with yellow membrane between the dactyls while the main parts were black. The rest of his shaggy fur was night camo-themed, having various patterns of black, gray, and shades within the two colors. His ears were rather large, and his arms were disproportionately long, as while he lay flat, his hands extended behind his feet, and his hands and fingers had three digits each, ending in long claws. Ending his body was a long, snake-like tail. He, too, wore an orange jumpsuit, but in front of him was an old aviator uniform made to fit his body, complete with an old-timey pilots helmet. Atop his cell read "Yeager - Baso".

"If you're trying to talk to him, don't bother," A voice rang out before they could talk to him. The two looked behind them to see what looked like a feminine, humanoid mouse with chains on her legs and a mousetrap snapping on her pink tail. Her fur was a dirty gray, and she had a mop of blackish-gray hair tied into a ponytail. Like all her other companions, she was wearing an orange prison jumpsuit. Her cell sign read "Michelle - Muso". "They made a specialized cell for him. Multiplies the gravity of the area, preventing him getting even the slightest updraft to fly. The freest bird's been forced to stay grounded. What a shame. Not like me. The tail trap and the leg cuffs are unpleasant, but I'll take that over being flattened like a pancake thanks to gravity."

"Indeed. Sounds like quite the tragedy," Vincent mused, continuing onto the final trio of cells. First, strapped to the pendulum of a giant grandfather clock was a familiar Kangarat, clad in orange jumpsuit and having his blades strewn to the side. The 'cell', for lack of another term, was signed with one reading "Nysited - Chrono". "Isn't that the pits, eh?"

"Don't you finish that with a pendulum!" Nysited hissed. "The constant ticking and tocking has a way of driving people crazy! But not me. I've seen what the future holds. I know that the time will come for us to be free!"

"Don't worry about that, sir. We'll get you out soon enough," Vincent bowed before the chronokinetic. Following that was a stone sarcophagus, not unlike what one would find in an Egyptian tomb, but the head of the lid had been removed, allowing them to look into the prisoner's glossy eyes. Tubes connected to a container of embalming fluid were punched into the holes, and the duo had an ugly idea why the zombie-like Eibmoz didn't move. A nearby sign read "Eibmoz - Necro". The next cell they approached seemed like an ordinary pasture one would find on a farm, and the resident of said pasture was a black-wooled sheep with large horns and red eyes. His neck was tied to a single peg, and his hooves were also wrapped in ball and chain restraints. The sign on the pasture read "Aries - Ovina".

"Well, I see new meat's on the block. Make yourselves comfortable, because we'll going to be sticking around like glue in wool." The sheep spoke, his voice surprisingly deep and sinister, though not as deep as Frozend.

"Don't worry, wooly. We'll be comfortable real soon," Robert scoffed as they went to the main prisoner. Wrapped in a straitjacket and placed in a glass coffin was the leader of the Dark Stygian. Morana was still as a statue, her blood red scythe hanging like a trophy atop the wall. On the final sign, in bold black lettering was "Morana - Thanto. Leader of the Dark Stygian. DO NOT ALLOW TO ESCAPE." Now that they'd scoped the place out, the two fake guards turned to a group of patrolling Arkeyans, which were walking to the security office.

"I'm here, Star Strike," Blackout announced as he arrived in Star Strike's personal quarters. "What is it?" Star Strike's room, unsurprisingly, had a lot of stellar motifs and magic elements. Books floated every which way like gravity stopped applying, the ceiling was covered in a map of the constellations. Tarot cards flew everywhere, and as the cards flew around him, Blackout couldn't help but catch some fleeting glimpse of them: the World, the Emperor, the Fool, the Page of Cups, the Hierophant, the Seven of Wands, the Queen of Coins, the Ace of Swords, and Temperance all passed by him.

"Good that you've come," Star Strike greeted as she turned to face Blackout. Blackout had a good look at Star Strike, missing her trademark fans. She was a hooded figure, her face covered by a purple hood that left her face shrouded in shadow, only revealing her glowing blue eyes while also having some of it taper off like a cape. Her ensemble was completed by a pair of blue gloves, while her trademark fans lay on a nearby shelf. "Déjà Vu's been mentioning that you've been appearing in her visions for quite a bit, and considering how time and fate link to each other, I figured I'd do my own little check on it myself."

"Hmm," Blackout mused on what Star Strike was saying. "So how will this work?"

"It's nothing too bad, it'll simply be a tarot card reading," Star Strike. "Just choose three cards, each representing your past, present, and future, and that shall give you a clear look into all of them."

Upon hearing this, Blackout sighed, wondering what hand he'd draw.

"We've got the key for mother, time for us to free her!" Vincent declared as he and Robert stood over the scrapped remains of the key room guards.

"Yeah! Time to blow this popsicle stand!" Robert chuckled before going off a tangent. "How did that phrase come about, though? Why not an ice cream parlor?"

"Let's discuss the intricacies of idioms at a later time," Vincent suggested. "What say we...cast off our act?" At this, Vincent changed into his real form in a puff of smoke. He was clad in a black suit alongside a white tie, giving him a very formal appearance.

"Ha ha! You got it!" At once, Robert took on a more threatening appearance after snapping his fingers, his red hair now covered by a black fedora and his security guard attire replaced by a black jacket and pants. On his back were two swords: one a kukri, and the other a hook sword.

When the two arrived and unlocked her gates and chains, it clicked in Marie's mind who they were, and after gasping, she smiled as tears of joy came down her eyes. "My boys! My boys! Vincent! Robert! It's you, my sons!" At this, she immediately wrapped the two in a tight hug.

"Indeed, mother! Apologies that we couldn't free you earlier, but we needed to make sure everyone was here. You taught us that any good show has to start with a bang," Vincent said as he pat his mother's back. "And this is our great revival, so this had to be a spectacle to remember!"

"Oh, right!" Marie giggled. "No duh! I taught that, and you brought it right to the heart! isn't really my color. Kids? Would you mind giving your mother some privacy?"

"Oh...of course!" Vincent's face turned scarlet in embarrassment as Robert snickered at his brother's appearance. As they turned around, they heard fingers snap repeatedly, and the sounds of scissors snipping and needles piercing fabric rang out.

"Okay, you can look now!" Marie announced. As the brothers turned to face their mother, they were greeted by the visage of their mother in her favorite outfit. It was a gothic lolita inspired dress, and also one fitting for a beauty like her. Her dress was black, poofy, and littered in white ribbons arranged in ways that formed designs reminiscent of puppet strings, especially sense they came from four-starred structures like a horizontal control bar. Her sleeves went down to her elbows, letting her smooth skin show, and her hands were covered in red, fingerless gloves that stretched to half of her forearms. The bottom-front of her dress was also shaped like theater curtains partially pulled to the side, showing that her legs were clad in white stockings and her feet covered in black high heels. Completing the ensemble was a small black top hat with a white feather attached to the side. "So, how do I look?" She turned around, letting her "sons" view her from other angles.

"Ravishing as always, dear mother," Vincent answered politely. "But let's focus on the task at hand. Getting out of here?"

"Ah, of course! What say we free our little thunder monkey, then?" Holding her hands forward, almost invisible strings emerged from her fingers and quickly burrowed into a nearby wall, and with a grunt and a pull, she ripped stone fragments and used them as makeshift flails. Using them, she smashed the glass wall that separated Ardni from the world. "And now, time to free this puppet from his strings!" Disconnecting the wires attached to the stone, she formed new strings that wrapped around the cables holding up Ardni and severed the connection. Ardni fell down limply, panting.

"Oh...yeah," Ardni huffed, a bit more vigorously this time. "Oh yeah, baby! Justice wins!" Roaring victoriously, arcs of lightning went every which way, taking care to avoid their source's comrades. "Good to have you back, Marie! And I'm guessin' these two are the ones we owe our freedom to?"

"Uh-huh!" Marie smiled proudly. "Meet my two newest sons! Vincent and Robert!"

"A pleasure to meet you, Uncle Ardni," Vincent bowed politely.

"Yo, uncle! Nice to meet ya!" Robert introduced himself.

"Aww, shucks, you're making me blush!" Ardni shook his flushed face as he got his daggers and changed into his attire, summoning a thundercloud to sit on afterwards. The sounds of machinery powering down also rang out, and the computer hooked up to Gear Deer deactivated, its monitor going from covered in code to a blank black screen.

"Holy cungadero!" The animatronic deer answered in a somewhat scratchy voice, garbled with static and his eyes glowing blue. "Do I...feel...good!" With each word, however, his voice became more and more natural-sounding, its electronic impediments vanishing. "Here I am boys and girl! Did I make parole?" With his voice fully back and changed into his true clothing, it was clear that he had a high-pitched, almost child-like voice. "Gear Deer's back, and now that I'm free, time to give these guards everything I've got! It's clobbering time!"

With that declaration, he jumped ahead, wires shooting from his back and tipped with all variety of mechanical implements: tesla coils, drills, circular saws, hammers, and four-fingered claws all shot towards other approaching guards, slicing, shocking, and obliterating them like used appliances in a scrapyard. As one guard tried to escape, Gear Dear roared, turning into a much more skeletal and much larger endoskeleton as he shredded his faux fur, his eyes glowing bright red as his skull split into four parts, widening and snapping on the hapless guard like a bear trap as he rose like a T-Rex. A horrific crunch was heard; the sounds of sparks sputtered as the guard shut down, and when Gear Dear's jaws let go of it, the pieces of scrap that had once been that guard clattered to the ground like nails from a box.

"Escape in Dark Stygian wing! All guards are to move there immediately and prevent potential break outs!" The Prison Announcement System rang out. Gear Deer had since returned to normal, regenerating the shredded faux fur and taken on his more adorable appearance.

"Oh geez, cramp! OW!" Gear Dear complained as he collapsed onto his shiny metal butt, grabbing his leg in pain. "Maybe shouldn't have gone mega-sized when I just got up."

"Don't worry buddy! I got this!" Ardni assured his companion as he pulled out his daggers. In a flash, several more Arkeyans were electrocuted and sliced to pieces, and when he saw more approaching, he proceeded to throw his daggers into the air before shooting bolts of lightning from his hands, causing electricity to rain down on the Arkeyan armada. Many were zapped to oblivion as a result of his assault. Seeing that the early waves had failed, tougher Arkeyans were sent to fight the escaping prisoners. This time, squat Arkeyan Knuckledusters began to run towards them, aiming the shotguns that replaced their right hands at the group, sending waves of energy bullets at them. Seeing this, Gear Deer quickly morphed his arms into a pair of shields, protecting his allies from the attack as he covertly sent a wire from his back to slither towards one of them like a snake in the grass. When it found its target, it quickly impaled its front into its back, its yellow eyes changing to a reddish hue, turning its gun on its ilk before annihilating them and shooting itself into scrap metal.

"Thanks buddy!" Ardni smiled to the animatronic deer.

"Don't mention it!" Gear Deer winked before turning to see Frigo still stuck in pain from the heat, but taking an interest in the battle before him. "And I think these guys should really learn to chill out! Can you guys cover me?"

"We're on it!" Marie noted as she and Ardni charged ahead. "Vincent? Robert?"

"Yes, mother?" The two asked.

"Go nuts!" Marie instructed.

"He he! Alright!" With that, Robert quickly dashed forward, hook sword and kukri in hand as he began to leap around like a monkey given too much coffee with extra sugar. His swords whirling like a tornado of sharpened steel, the Arkeyan guards were reduced to metallic mince meat.

Vincent, by contrast, noted that Arkeyan Blasters had begun to emerge from the floors and ceilings. With that, they began to send electric balls that worked to form electric cages around his brother. Growling, Vincent's body changed, his composition becoming goopy and his clothes and skin becoming one and the same. At once, he turned into a blob of multicolored melted wax, moving like an amoeba and forming pseudopods that lashed at each Blaster, the destruction of each making the electric balls dissipate, slowly freeing them from their bonds. Others were less lucky, and were absorbed into the wax blob before being surrounded and engulfed in vacuoles, like a germ against white blood cells.

Marie herself was involving herself in the battle, moving with all the grace of a ballet maestro: she danced and weaved with elegance and poise, her finger movements leaving Arkeyans sliced by nearly invisible puppet strings more similar to piano wire. Accompanying her was Ardni, releasing lightning bolts and creating thunderclaps when he slammed his daggers together. However, it was obvious that the Arkeyans were gaining strength in numbers, as more and more Knuckldusters continued approaching them. "How long before he's free, GD?" Ardni asked.

"Almost got it," The animatronic answered. "Just a bit of code there and alter a few lines there and...hey presto! Computer, successfully frozen!" Indeed, the walls of the cell began to stop glowing yellowish-red and instead began to return to a natural metallic gray. Ice crystals began to grow where Frozend's body was making contact, and his breath began to form cool vapor. "And Frozend? Successfully unfrozen!"

When he finally began to stand, he let out a mighty battle cry that echoed through the halls, and he began to break into laughter. "I...FEEL...ALIVE! Gear Dear? You are true credit to Dark Stygian!" With that, he wrapped the animatronic deer in a mighty bear hug.

"GACK! Good ... to see ... ya, too ... big guy!" Gear Deer replied as he tried to speak in the vice-like grip of the yeti. "But, why not ... change into your ... armor and help us? We need General Winter right now!"

"Ah, yes," Clearing his throat, he quickly formed a wall of thick ice in front of his allies while also forming a dome to surround him and his armor. A few seconds passed, and in time, the dome of ice shattered, sending chunks of ice every which way, some crushing some unlucky guards while others were impaled by frozen shrapnel. Letting out another bellow, Frozend had successfully re-equipped his armor and formed icy horns out of his helmet. "Now, to crush guards like soda cans!" With that, cold air began billowing around him, and ice began to shape in each of his palms: in his upper right arm, he formed a spiked kanabo while his upper left arm wielded a mighty claymore, and his lower left arm held a giant two-headed axe while his lower right arm held a giant ice war hammer. With another war cry, he charged ahead, his weapons drawn and flailing with a combination of brutality and finesse: some guards were crushed by his kanabo and hammer, while others got diced by his sword and axe. Raising all of them high, he then sent out a massive wave of ice that impaled more guards in the head, shutting them down after they let out a few sparks and sputters.

"Umm, Frozend?" Ardni quickly interjected within the combat. "Much as I'd like to take these guys down, maybe we should get our comrades out before they get too overwhelming?"

"Hmmm. Yes, I like that plan," Frozend answered with a nod. "I hold line for you alongside Gear Dear, you and Marie and puppet babies free comrades!"

"We're on it!" Marie said in response, nodding to Gear Dear. The animatronic mimicked her gesture before quickly forming tire treads in place of his legs and charged to fight alongside Frozend, a gatling gun beginning to replace his right forearm while a chainsaw formed from his forehead as a drill formed over his left hand. All the while, Marie, her sons, and Ardni rushed to the rest of the cells, ready to try and free their friends.

"Alright, your first card, representing the past, is an upright Ten of Swords."

Indeed, the first card that Blackout pulled out was a tall and thin Mabu laying on the seaside, his face looking away from Blackout. 10 swords all lay impaled in his prone back, but in contrast to the violent imagery, the sea was calm as the sun rose over the horizon, beginning to light up the dark sky.

"" Blackout asked, tilting his head in confusion.

"Painful endings, betrayal, loss," Star Strike explained. "We know well enough how your time in the Dark Stygian ended."

"Hmph," Blackout huffed, looking away. "They took me in when I had nothing, then they spat on the very ideals they taught me and later abandoned!"

"True," Star Strike nodded. "I've seen the records. It's...terrible how they fell." Her voice was tinged in sympathy. "Such a powerful force they were, and they squander it on being no different than the ones they once punished."

"Why are we talking about this?" Blackout asked, bile building in his throat as the memories kept bubbling forth. "I know my past so very well. I was there!"

"Yes, I know," Star Strike acknowledged. "But your past does heavily define you. You're scared to interact with others because you've been mistreated by others and seen as a servant of The Darkness, right?" Blackout was stunned, before memories of his time before the Dark Stygian flooded in.


"Stay away from me!"

"Don't hurt me! Please!"


"Just lie in a ditch and stay away from us!

"You're not wanted here!"

"You're just another minion of The Darkness!"

"We don't want your kind around here!"

Seeing how Star Strike had been on the money, he could only slowly nod his head. "It's...never left my head. I still...hear them ring out at times." Blackout felt himself curl inwards, as more painful thoughts continued. "Sometimes, I feel that I'm back there, mocked and alone."

Star Strike began to reach towards him before Blackout instinctively hissed. "Sorry. I didn't mean to..."

"No. I'm sorry," Blackout quickly reassured her. "I just remember ... having stones thrown at me, and being left hungry and alone in the cold. I can't help but seize when I think someone wants to get me."

"But that's then and this is now, Blackout," Star Strike gently assured him. "Why don't we see how the present goes?"


Voice Cast:

Vincent - Maurice LaMarche

Robert - Mick Wingert

Arkeyan Guards - Steve Blum

Buzz - Travis Willingham

Spyro - Josh Keaton

Blackout - Brian Bloom

Spotlight - Misty Lee

Marie Onette/Automatono - Grey DeLisle

Ardni/Ceruano - Justin Briner

Homo Tenebris/Mnemo - Daran Norris

Frozend/Frigo - Patrick Seitz

Naturalie/Hylo - Hynden Walch

Naqab/Arachno - Tom Kenny

Utricaria/Entomo - Stephanie Sheh

Michelle/Muso - Faye Mata

Nysited/Chrono - Robin Atkin Downes

Aries/Ovina - Matthew Lillard

Star Strike - Misty Lee

Gear Deer/Mechano - Brian Beacock

Prison Announcement System - Peter Stormare

Author's Note:

Honestly, this chapter was starting to feel pretty bloated with the major events going on in it, so I felt it would be better to split it in two. The other half will be out soon, but that does mean it'll take a bit longer for the Skylanders and Persona worlds to intersect. Sorry about that.

I hope you liked those glimpses of what some members of the Dark Stygian can do. Just so everyone's clear on codenames and what phobia they focus on, I'll list them down here. I'll give design inspirations when they actually encounter Blackout and the Phantom Thieves, so wait until then for a detailed explanation.

Morana - Thanato (Thanatophobia - the fear of death)

Eibmoz - Necro (Necrophobia - the fear of the dead)

Yeager - Baso (Basophobia - the fear of falling, but with some added aspects of acrophobia, fear of heights, and aerophobia, fear of flying)

Marie Onette - Automatono (Automatonophobia - the fear of human-like figures [think wax sculptures, marionettes, porcelain dolls, etc.])

Michelle - Muso (Musophobia - the fear of mice and rats)

Emberor and Fido - Pyro (Pyrophobia - the fear of fire)

Nysited - Chrono (Chronophobia - the fear of time)

Krayken - Thalasso (Thalassophobia - the fear of deep bodies of water [oceans and lakes])

Gear Dear - Mechano (Mechanophobia - the fear of machinery)

Naturalie - Hylo (Hylophobia - the fear of forests)

Naqab - Arachno (Arachnophobia - the fear of arachnids)

Utricaria - Entomo (Entomopobia - the fear of insects)

Homo Tenebris - Mnemo (Mnemophobia - the fear of memory)

Ardni - Ceruano (Ceruanophobia - the fear of thunderstorms)

Dr. Luna T. Ick - Iatro (Iatrophobia - the fear of doctors)

Frozend - Frigo (Frigophobia - the fear of cold)

Aries - Ovina (Ovinaphobia - the fear of sheep)

Next Time: A Breakout Reading Part 2

Star Strike's tarot reading continues, as does the breakout of the Dark Stygian. What other cards are in Blackout's future, and how will the escape attempt of the other members of the Dark Stygian pan out?