A ship sails across the space between the worlds, it slowly running out of fuel and its occupants (well, one of them) fully aware of the crisis at hand.
"Hey... HEY!" a voice shouted, "WAKE UP, YOU RAT-BASTARD!"
Another voice lazily grumbled something about needing to get duct tape, presumably because of the shouting.
This ship belonged to Griffin and Grouge, two interspatial explorers prospecting long-lost worlds slowly drifting out of deep interspace and trying to quell the threat of their destruction.
"I SAID WAKE UP!" shouted Grouge, "WE'VE GOT A PROBLEM HERE!"
Griffin got himself out of his sleeping quarters, still a bit groggy from two days worth of sleep.
"I should've thrown that pitch-black mass you have the gall to call a 'body' out of the airlock..." he grumbled under his breath as he got himself up and dressed, "Especially if I had known a Soldier Heartless would be this screechy."
Grouge ran over to Griffin's side, his helmet making that trademark clack-clack sound Soldiers are known for.
"Sorry, I thought you'd be on your computer." he said in a less screechy tone, "Cryosleep's been disabled for two days thanks to low fuel tanks."
Griffin's groggy state quickly dissipated and he ran over to the ship's cockpit with Grouge following in suite.
"Jesus Christ!" he shouted, "Why didn't wake me up sooner!"
"You looked so peaceful..." Grouge said in a coy tone, "It be a crime to wake you up that quickly."
Griffin knew that Grouge loved to exaggerate the severity of small problems but something told him that his tamed Heartless of a companion was being serious.
"That and I'd clobber you with my Keyblade." Griffin replied, "Remember that my mentor gave it to me to deal with things like you."
Griffin and Grouge arrived in the ship's cockpit as quickly as Griffin got himself up. Griffin walked up to the ship's control console and looked at the display, with the display showing only one tank of fuel left.
"Damn it," Griffin said as he pinched the bridge of his nose, "This is a MAJOR problem..."
Grouge folded his arms and squinted at the display.
"I told you we should've upgraded to the Happy Tank system," he commented, "We'd have full tanks if we did."
Griffin put his hands on the console and hung his head in annoyance.
"That system's incompatible with our home world's physics." he said, "You can't create Gummi Ship fuel from happy faces on Earth Prime."
"Fair point," said Grouge, "So what do we do now?"
The duo were at an impasse, the ship was too far from the nearest registered world and a trip back to Earth Prime from this distance was out of the question.
"Looks like we'll have to use the Radar Wave." said Griffin, "It's a crapshoot, but it's the only option we have right now"
The Radar Wave was a device Griffin used to find unregistered worlds, it sent out a radio ping and could detect any waves reflected, in incredibly rare cases, emitted by nearby worlds.
"I can travel to the Dark Realm," Grouge said, "But I'm not sure which is riskier."
"We're in pretty deep, you could get lost." said Griffin, "And don't you hated going into the Dark Realm?"
Grouge plopped into one the three seats and began fidgeting with his hands.
"I don't hate going into the Dark Realm, I just don't like it." he said, "Bloody red-eyed Dark Hides are always trying to eat my goddamned head and..."
Griffin sat into the pilot's seat, flipped a few switches on the console, and proceeded to activate the Radio Wave.
"Well this is safer," he replied, "That and I'm not left here to rot."
Hours past without a sign, it wasn't until after breakfast and lunch that Grouge finally said something the both of them had planned to say.
"Welp, we're boned." he said.
"...Probably." Griffin responded, "It was a good run, but it had to end at some point."
Grouge started to shake, this wasn't the attitude he hoped Griffin would take when dealt with this kind of situation.
"GODDAMN IT!" he shouted, "YOU'RE WORSE THAN MASTER..."
Suddenly a chime went off and a ship started to move, the Radar Wave had found a nearby world and the autopilot kicked in. They were saved from certain death (at least in Griffin's case) thanks to luck of the draw.
"..Son of a bitch." they both said in unison.
Suddenly the ship's display started to fill with information on the new world they would land in. Griffin started to tense up with anticipation and Grouge started to shake and rattle with excitement.
"I wonder what this one's like!", Grouge said with a hint of glee, "I hope it's a depressing one!"
"Oh, shut up!" Griffin laughed, "You're always looking for something dark!"
The world finally came into view the both of them were confused and awed by the sight of it.
"Aww, another beach world!" Grouge whined, "I HATE beach worlds."
"What's up with that statue?" Griffin said, "and why is there a house underneath it?"
"And what's up with it being surrounded by bluish-white crystals?" Grouge said, "And what's with those stars showing up in that gap? I've never seen that before..."
Griffin had a good look at the info on the display, it read...
WORLD NAME: RADIANT SHORES
WORLD AGE: N/A
POPULATED BY: HUMANS, ASSORTED ANIMAL SPECIES, UNKNOWN ENERGY-BASED SAPIENT SPECIES
PHYSICS COMPATIBLE WITH OCCUPANTS: YES, MINOR FORM SHIFTS RECOMMENDED
GUMMI WALL: NONE DETECTED
DARK LEVEL: ABNORMAL
HEARTLESS DETECTED: YES, CONSISTS OF UNACCLIMATED SPECIES
VISITED BY SDG: NO
VISITED BY KM: NO
VISITED BY MM: YES
VISITED BY MX: N/A
VISITED BY GriGro: LANDING NOW
HOSPITALITY: FAVORABLE IF MET BY HUMANS. UNKNOWN IF MET BY CONCENTRATED-ENERGY BASED SAPIENT SPECIES.
"Neat, at least our time won't be wasted!" chimed Grouge as he noticed that The Heartless were active in this world.
But Griffin's interest was elsewhere, some of the notes were of particular interest to him and these unknown energy-based life forms piqued his interests.
"Don't you find it odd that Master Morgan was in this world and that there's no information as to whether or not Xehanort was here?" Griffin asked, "You'd think this unknown species wouldn't be labeled as such if they did..."
Grouge tilted his head in confusion.
"I don't get it," he said, "what do you mean by that?"
Griffin shook his head and noticed that the windows started to fill with lights.
"Master Morgan only visited worlds that Xehanort traveled to, but that jerk never came here." he said with a wave of his hand, "But forget it, we're about to land anyways."
The ship's interior was suddenly filled with a bright white light and the two began to float as they entered the new world.
"Hey guys..." a child-like voice said, "What's this?"
A young boy and his three parental guardians (and mentors) were cleaning out the room of one of said guardians (that looked more like a massive cave) when the boy found a mysterious gel-like block in one of the countless piles of things in the room.
"I'm not sure, Steven..." said the tallest of the three as she took the block out his hand, "Feels like a piece of gummi candy."
The shortest one popped out of the same pile that the young boy crawled out of and started to walk over to the two.
"Woah! What IS that thing?" she said in shocked tone, "I don't remember THAT being in there..."
"Beats me," said the tallest, "Pearl might know what it is."
The shortest one snatched it out of of the tallest one's hand and ate it. Well, until a look of disgust and illness revealed itself on the shortest one and proceeded to spit it out.
"Bleh!" she said as she wiped her tongue and gagged, "Well it isn't something I can eat, that's a first."
The tallest one picked up the block and wiped the spit off of it. She then turned to the young boy and crouched down to put herself at eye level to him.
"I'm not sure." she said, "Let's see if Pearl has an idea."
"Uh, Garnet..." said the shortest, "Are you sure Pearl knows what this thing is? I don't want her freaking out again like she did the last time we found something weird in my piles."
"Maybe not, Amethyst." said Garnet, "But it's worth a shot."
By the time Steven noticed that Garnet and Amethyst were a good distance away (he too busy fiddling around with a keychain to notice), he pocketed his little knick-knack and started to run towards them.
"Guys, wait up!" he shouted.
By the time he caught up with them, they were at an odd door. The door proceeded to fizzle away and the three of them walked through.
"PEARL! WE FOUND SOMETHING YOU SHOULD LOOK AT!" Amethyst yelled.
The room they we're now in looked more like like the previous one, but it was smaller and and a pad-like crystal at its center. The room also opened up to a more cabin-like area with a beachside view of the outside world. As the three walked on, Pearl walked down a flight of stairs leading a bedroom-like section of the cabin area and towards a kitchen area.
"I swear if it's another obscene or outrageous toy, Amethyst..." she said in a scolding tone.
"It's not." said Garnet, "Have a look."
Pearl's demeanor shifted from that of an angry mother to that of a mystified scholar as saw the unusual block in Garnet's hand. She proceeded to take it out of Garnet's hand and took a closer look at it.
"Do you know what it is, Pearl?" asked Steven, "It wasn't in there the last time we checked."
"It's new to me" said Garnet, "Amethyst tried to eat it and she had to spit it out."
"I... I think so..." she said to Garnet, "But if Amethyst can't eat it, then it's something I haven't seen since Rose was here."
"So what is it?" Steven asked in an excited tone, "I wanna know!"
"I think it might be a Star Shard," said Pearl, "it certainly feels like one."
Steven was confused, this was the first time he'd ever heard of something like this.
"A Star Shard?" he asked, "What's that?"
Garnet nudged Amethyst's shoulder, she knew what was coming. Amethyst nodded in response.
"We're gonna go back into the temple and do some more digging." said Garnet, "Can you explain to Steven what Star Shards are?"
"Yeah," added Amethyst, "we wouldn't want to get in the way of your lecture..."
A look of shock flashed onto Pearl's face. She thought they'd want to hear what she had to say on the subject.
"Are you sure?" she asked, "I'll be taking it slowly since Steven's..."
But when she turned to where Garnet and Amethyst stood, they were gone.
"Well!" Pearl said in an offended tone, "They're just missing out on a world of information!"
Steven walked towards Pearl and looked up at her, he was still interested in learning about these "Star Shards" they were talking about.
"Oh! You're still interested in learning about these things?" Pearl asked to Steven.
"Mmm-hmm!" he said with a nod, "They sound interesting!"
Pearl's gem began to glow and a beam of light started to project from it, she knew this would require some visual aids in the form of a hologram.
"Well it's a very interesting subject!" she said with a lot of enthusiasm in her voice, "You'll be learning a little more about our universe and a little more about what's outside of it!"
The beam began to to widen into a conical shape with a sphere at the base of it. A smaller, darker sphere appeared in the center of the lighter sphere and began to grow until it filled the the edges of the lighter sphere.
"Now..." Peal said as a planet appeared in the sphere, "To humans observing the universe, it appears that it has no edge and that it goes on forever. This is, like our bodies, is an illusion. The universe has an edge and it marks the border of our universe's sphere of influence."
"Sphere of influence?" Steven said in a confused tone, "What's that?"
"The sphere of influence is the area in which our universe's laws apply under normal circumstances." responded Pearl, "That's why the edge of this boundary is often referred to as the edge of the universe!"
Steven rubbed his rubbed his left eye, all of this information was starting to make him tired.
"So what lies outside of that?" he asked.
"When one passes the edge of our universe's edge they reach a region known as interspace." Pearl said as the black sphere started to shrink and other smaller spheres started to appear in the hologram, " and this region is filled with other universes!"
Steven's drowsiness gave way to more excitement, now THIS was information worth hearing.
"OTHER UNIVERSES!" he shouted, "They really exist?"
A wide smile appeared on Pearl's face, Steven's enthusiasm was music to her ears.
"Well of course they exist!" she said, "But even if one were to leave our universe and try to access these other universes, they wouldn't be able to!"
Disappointment was Steven's next emotion, this wasn't the answer he was expecting for news this monumental.
"But why?" he asked.
"Because of these, of course!" Pearl said while showing Steven the Star Shard, "These objects surround a universe and prevent outsiders from accessing them."
"But why?" Steven repeated, "What if someone got out of their universe and tried to get back in?"
Pearl was suddenly at a loss, she wasn't expecting Steven to ask these kinds of questions.
"I..." she said nervously, "I'm not quite sure.."
"Then their home universe would let them back in." Garnet said flatly.
Steven and Pearl turned towards the temple door and noticed that Garnet was standing right in front of them.
"Garnet!" Steven said as he ran over to her.
"How.. How long have you been standing there?" Pearl asked Garnet.
"I never left." she said, " I just told Amethyst to go back into her room and keep looking for more Star Shards."
Steven tugged Garnet's hand, he wanted to hear what she had to say about Pearl's lecture.
"Is it really true?" he asked "What does it all mean?"
Garnet crouched and gave Steven and gently patted him on the head.
"Those walls protect us from threats outside our universe, we'd be let back in if we somehow left our home." she said, "But the fact that a Star Shard is here is very worrying..."
"I was about to tell him the same thing." added Pearl.
Garnet noticed that Steven was starting to fall asleep, a quick glance outside revealed to her that night had long since fallen.
"And it's past your bedtime." Garnet said to Steven, "We'll talk about this as a team tomorrow."
"Aww," cried Steven "I wanted to hear more about these things!"
"That can wait until tomorrow," said Pearl as she lead Steven to his bed, "Remember that you ARE half human!"
Pearl turned to where Garnet stood and noticed that she now outside on the balcony of the cabin. Still wishing to discuss the findings with Garnet, she quickly walked to balcony as well. As Pearl walked towards Garnet, she noticed that Garnet had the Star Shard in her hand and was looking up towards the stars.
"Are you as worried about this as I am?" Garnet asked.
Pearl sighed, this was on her mind the minute she laid eyes on the Star Shard.
Yes, and I can only assume that it's on Amethyst's mind as well." she said, "Rose handled this amazingly the last time it happened..."
"But she's not here." Garnet said as she turned towards Pearl, "That means we need to be ready for whatever happens, no matter how bad."
Pearl looked up at the stars as well, this was all happening so quickly and she couldn't think about what to do.
"Do you think it's threat from here or outside our universe?" she asked.
Garnet looked down at the beach and ocean below, and only had two things thing to say.
"I don't know. My Future Vision's gone cloudy" she said.
A look of shock and horror crept onto Pearl's face as Garnet said this. Garnet's Future Vision NEVER went cloudy, even when this happened the last time.
"And terrified doesn't even begin to describe how I'm feeling right now..." Garnet said flatly as she took off her visor.
"SON OF A LUX!" shouted Grouge, "GET YOU DAMN FOOT OUT OF MY FACE!"
"Hold on," said Griffin, "Let me move it here and just..."
Griffin swiftly kicked the top of a container open and revealed something that he and Grouge haven't seen for a long time, the light of a sun.
"Holy HELL!" Griffin cried, "WHAT IS THAT AWFUL SMELL?"
Much to their shock, the two found themselves found themselves sitting in a dumpster. Griffin and Grouge quickly jumped out of the garbage and the former brushed off the refuse stuck to him.
"Great..." Griffin groaned, "Now I'm gonna have to change and wash these duds."
Grouge was more interested in what this new world had to offer them. From what he could see, they ended up in a small town near a cape by the sea. He pulled out a compass to get a general idea as to where they were.
"Well, it looks like we're on the East Coast." he said, "The sun's almost at the meridian and looks like it's moving west."
Griffin had quickly changed into some new clothes, got the stench of rot and general nastiness off of him and pulled out a tablet from a backpack he brought with him. He proceeded to use it to get a much more detailed idea as to where they are.
"And to be more precise, it looks like we're in Beach City, Delmarva." he said, "Quaint little town."
"Beach City is a dull name if you ask me!" Grouge said, "I liked the name that info screen gave us. Why can't this town be called Radiant Shores?"
Griffin put the tablet back into his backpack and slung it over his right shoulder.
"You know how the naming of worlds goes," he said, "but I'm more interested in..."
Their stomachs growled loudly, it looks like their previous meals didn't satisfy their hunger.
"Scratch that, we gotta find some food." Griffin said, "This town looks like it's still populated and that should mean..."
Griffin looked around, Grouge was nowhere to be seen.
Griffin became worried. The last time Grouge left his side he set fire to a few empty orphanages, tried to extract collagen (for gelatin) from horse bones that he took from still-living horses, and invested $50,000 in HD-DVD technology.
"Grouge!" Griffin shouted, "Where the hell are you?"
"DONUT SHOP!" Grouge shouted.
Griffin dashed over to where Grouge's voice was coming from. Much to his surprise, he was in front of the same building they were behind when they arrived.
"Huh, well that explains the smell of the garbage." Griffin said in a sarcastic tone.
"What are we waiting for?" said Grouge, "Let's go in and order already!"
Griffin pinched the bridge of nose out of frustration and stuck his free hand into his pocket.
"Don't you remember what happened the last time when we just waltzed into a store?" he said.
Grouge looked up at Griffin and tilted his head.
"You were able to order your food without issue and I was chased out by one of the clerks wielding with a broom?" he guessed.
"Exactly." Griffin said as he snapped his finger, "Well, that and I was tried for consorting with demons by the local church..."
Just as soon as Griffin finished saying that, a clerk stuck her head out of the door.
"Are you alright?" she asked, "You two look a bit lost."
Griffin and Grouge looked at each other out of confusion. Griffin proceeded to point at himself and Grouge.
"Yeah, you two!" the clerk said.
Griffin and Grouge huddled together, they needed some time to discuss this strange occurrence. Griffin showed his his watch to the clerk and pointed at it.
"Okay, I'll give you two some time to think." she said.
The clerk walked back to her station. She was working as cashier while her co-worker, a lanky young man working stock, was more annoyed by her act of kindness towards these two strangers.
You should've called the police on 'em." he groaned, "They're loitering!"
"Be quiet, Lars!" she said, "They're obviously confused. They could even be tourists!"
Lars glared in the direction of the two strangers again.
They don't look like any tourists I've ever seen, Sadie..." he said, "And look at the one on the left! He looks like demon!"
"LARS!" Sadie shouted.
"Okay! Okay! I'll lay off on 'em!" he said in an attempt to get Sadie off his case, "But that one still looks weird..."
Sadie leaned a bit to get a closer look at Grouge and realized that Lars had a point, he really couldn't pass for a human.
“I guess so…” Sadie replied, “But that doesn’t mean we should be rude to them and talk about them behind their backs!”
“Look at that one’s hands!” Lars said as he gesticulated towards Grouge, “They look like claws covered in dried bloo-”
But before Lars could even finish his rant, the two strangers walked into the shop and were perusing their wares. Lars went back into the back room and Sadie remained near the cash register.
The duo looked at the rack of donuts and the scent of freshly brewed coffee gently floated in the air. Grouge quickly realized that the money they have on-hand is probably isn't legal in this world. He quickly grabbed Griffin's shoulder and pulled him down to his knee.
"Boss, see if we any of our charge cards have changed" Grouge said to Griffin in a hushed voice, "Our cash definitely isn't good here and it looks they might not accept munny."
"Good point, I'll see if any of 'em are good." Griffin replied, "We'll have to get cash later, it's never a good idea to not carry cash."
Griffin pulled out and leafed through his wallet and leafed through it. His credit, debit, and rewards cards looked the same despite arriving in a new world.
"Crud, not good." he said, "Not an altered card in the lot."
"What about that one?" Grouge said as he pointed out a white card that took up the last slot in his wallet.
Griffin pulled it out and examined it, the card was a pure white with a magnetic strip on the back and a chip on the front. No company names, logos, or even numbers were visible on the card but he could clearly make out all of the details from simply stroking the front of the card.
"Weird, where did we get this one?" He said as he flipped between the card's front and back sides.
A note fell out the slot that held the card, Grouge picked it up as Griffin was still pondering. He quickly scanned it and pulled at Griffin's right elbow.
"Boss, look at this!" Grouge exclaimed, "It's from Master Morgan!"
Griffin gently grabbed the note out of Grouge hand as he handed it to him. The young man's face shifted from worry to joy as he carefully read the letter.
"TO GRIFFIN AND GROUGE:
"As you may have already noticed by now, some worlds will take neither munny nor any cash you may have on hand when making purchases. To prevent any issues and embarrassment caused by this potential faux pas, I've given you a Blank Card to carry around. All businesses will accept it due to it looking like a normal debit card in their eyes and you can draw cash out of ATMs with it by using the PIN written on this note. As to where the money comes from, don't worry about it. PS: The bus pass that was originally in the slot that your new Blank Card was in is currently in my possession. While you might not need it when you're exploring other worlds, that doesn't mean that the monthly passes on it should go to waste."
- From the desk of Master Morgan
"Well, I suppose we should thank the old man when we get back." Grouge sighed, "That Blank Card will come in handy."
Grouge turned to where Griffin was standing, but to his surprise Griffin had moved towards the display and was perusing the section of donuts. Griffin had already decided on what to get and quickly turned towards Sadie and got her attention.
"Can I get a coffee roll and a medium drip coffee?" he asked her, "They look unusually fresh, I've never had 'em fresh before."
"Oh! Of course, let me get that for you!" Sadie said with a bit of a shock.
Sadie went over to the display and grabbed a coffee roll, but just as she was about to bag it she noticed that Grouge was getting fidgety.
"Hey, what about me?" Grouge whined as he stamped his feet, "I wanted a donut too, you know!"
Griffin quickly noticed and was shaken up by Grouge's slight tantrum, he grabbed Sadie's attention with a wave of his hand and quickly rectified the issue.
"Sorry about this, but make that two coffee rolls and two drip coffees." Griffin said as gathered his composure, "That second coffee should be decaf, though."
"There's no need to apologize," Sadie said, "I'll get another one"
She quickly bagged the two coffee rolls separately and brought them over to the register. She then proceeded to ring up Griffin's order.
"That'll be $6.76!" Sadie replied, "Are you paying with cash or card?"
Griffin handed her the Blank Card that Master Morgan gave him, Said examined it and was shocked by the card.
"Wow, nice choice in banks." she said, "It's difficult to make an account with those guys, but the rewards program is worth it."
As she processed the purchase, Griffin noticed a tip jar near the register. He felt bad that about Sadie having to deal with their earlier indecision and Grouge's whining.
"Oh, and what am I supposed to do about a tip?" he asked Sadie, "I don't have any cash on me and I just feel awful not giving you and the guy in the back one."
"Oh, um..." Sadie murmured. She had never had to ring up a tip for a card-based charge before.
Griffin watched as Sadie tried to figure out how to add a tip to his purchase. After a few minutes of watching, he decided to step in and help her.
"Never had to ring a up a tip for a card-based purchase?" he asked, "Press 'Gratuity' on the register, punch in $6.76, and then proceed with the transaction as usual."
Sadie felt a bit sheepish, she had forgotten that there was a button on the register that could add tips to purchases. But then a look of surprise suddenly appeared on her face. Did this stranger really tell her to double his bill just for a tip?
"Really?" she said, "but that would double your-"
"I know, but the two of you deserve it for helping out and dealing with my friend's tantrum." Griffin replied, "Even if the one in the back was a bit judgemental of us."
Sadie was shocked by Griffin's actions, she was only doing what she usually does for tourists when they were figuring out what to do. She proceeded to finish the transaction, which added the tip and went through without a hitch.
"Here you go!" she said with a delighted tone as she handed the donuts to Griffin, "And the coffee cups are by the coffee pots, you could've just filled two up and payed for them without any problem."
Griffin looked towards the pots and she was right, he simply snickered under his breath and turned to her.
"Well now I'M the one feeling sheepish!" he replied. Griffin handed one of the donuts to Grouge and began to prepare their coffees while Grouge went over to one the tables.
"Finally, I was getting a bit peckish!" Grouge said as he took a bite out of his donut, "These taste good. You'll like 'em, boss."
Griffin sat in the chair directly across from Grouge and passed his his coffee to him. He then took bite out of his donut and savored the flavor.
"You right, it is good!" Griffin said, "These were definitely made today!"
Griffin and Grouge continued to enjoy their food and drink, but by the time Griffin had finished his donut and half of his coffee Grouge had finished already.
"I'm gonna do some recon, I'll be back in a bit." he said.
"You know the rules," Griffin replied, "Get back here ASAP if stuff goes down."
Grouge simply nodded and went outside, Griffin payed close attention to him as he combed the beach and pulled his tablet out when he went out of sight.
Sadie left the register and sat in the seat that Grouge vacated, business was slow today and felt compelled to just drum up some conversation with this newcomer.
"So when did you two come into town?" she asked, "I can tell you not from around here."
Griffin's attention shifted from his tablet to Sadie, he didn't notice that she was now sitting at the same table.
"Oh, we just rolled into town today." Griffin replied, "Our car ran out of gas and we're having engine trouble, so we figured should deal with that before we move on."
Sadie squinted her eyes at glared at Griffin, she could tell he wasn't telling the truth.
"You're lying, aren't you?" she said to Griffin, "You don't have to do that, you can be honest with me."
Griffin shook his head and shrugged, it was worth a shot.
"Well, I can tell you that your friend in the back is right. Grouge isn't human," he responded "I'm just travelling around the country and making sure dangerous and unusual creatures aren't putting people's lives at risk."
Sadie had a hard time believing him. He was started to sound like Ronaldo, but she had a feeling that whatever these things Griffin was going after were dangerous to say the least.
"OH!" she exclaimed, "I completely forgot to introduce myself! My name is Sadie, my co-worker's name is Lars. Let be the first to welcome you to Beach City!"
"My name's Griffin, the little hellion out there making a fool of himself is named Grouge." Griffin said as as he took a sip of coffee.
Griffin thought to himself for a few moments about the current situation. Sadie wasn't freaking out at the mere sight of Grouge, has she seen the Heartless before? He took a few sips of coffee before asking.
"By the way, have you seen things like Grouge running around town?" Griffin asked, "They a top priority for us and a massive danger to anyone."
Sadie turned towards Grouge and got a good look at him. His most distinguishing features were his eyes, overall color, and the strange symbol on his chest.
"I'm not sure," Sadie responded, "But I think I know someone who might've seen things like Grouge."
"And who would that be?" Griffin said as fiddled with his tablet.
"His name's Steven, he lives here in town." Sadie replied, "The last time I saw him was at noon, he stopped by and said he was on his way to meet his dad at the car wash."
This was starting to get interesting to Griffin. Was this Steven character combating the Heartless? If he was then it would certainly explain the lack of them in town but the darkness levels shown by the Gummi Ship's scanners would've been much lower if he was.
"The three friends he lives with have probably seen them too," Sadie added, "and if they have, then they'd probably know about them for longer than Steven would."
Griffin was now painting a picture of what the situation was like in his mind. This "Steven" character was certainly interesting and his three friends also piqued his interests. But before he could ask Sadie any more questions, Grouge was back in the shop with his back to the door.
"Fat kid runnin' down the boardwalk!" Grouge exclaimed, "If he falls and gets splinters in his hand, I'm not picking 'em out!"
And just as Grouge said that a child in a red t shirt adorned with a star, jeans, and pink flip-flops ran by the shop and tripped just as he passed it. The look on his face seemed to hint that he was being chased by something and was clearly afraid it.
"That was Steven!" Sadie said in surprised voice, "But what could make him run like that?"
And, possibly by pure coincidence, three dark spheres appeared and four shadowy figures appeared on the ground near the spheres. The spheres suddenly gave way to creatures that looked exactly like Grouge and the figures rose to form small, humanoid figures with antennae. To Griffin and Grouge, Steven was clearly being pursued by a group of Soldier and Shadow Heartless.
"Well, that's probably what he was running from." Griffin said, "Come on, Grouge, we've got work to do!"
Grouge agreed with him and the duo made their way from The Big Donut's interior to where Steven had landed. The Heartless had begun to surround Steven. Griffin quickly summoned his Keyblade and tried to get the attention of the Heartless.
"HEY! OVER HERE!" Griffin shouted as he waved his Keyblade, "LOOK AT WHAT I'VE GOT! YOU GUYS KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS!"
The Heartless looked towards Griffin and their attention turned towards Griffin, this gave Steven enough time to get away from the Heartless and to the safety of The Big Donut. The Heartless suddenly noticed that their prey had escaped and approached Griffin and Grouge.
"You ready?" Griffin said to Grouge, "They shouldn't too difficult to deal with."
"They Shadows and Soldiers!" Grouge exclaimed, "They'll be easier to kill than downing a six-pack of cola!"
One of the Soldiers tried to hit Griffin with a spinning kick, but he quickly responded with a strike to the Soldier's back. A few more hits caused the Soldier to a release a reddish-pink heart and a dark purple-black mist. A Shadow sunk into the ground and clawed at Grouge's side, but the attack missed and allowed Grouge to grab it by the antennae and snap its neck. Like the Soldier Heartless that Griffin a few moments ago the Shadow dissipated into a black mist, but it didn't release a heart.
"These things are so dang predictable!" Grouge said as he tripped a Soldier with his foot and landed on its back, "How many more are left?"
"Just a couple of Shadows," Griffin said as he pulled one Shadow towards him for the finishing move, "I think you may have killed the last of the Soldiers."
After a few minutes of fighting, the Heartless that threatened Steven were no more. The duo quickly went back to The Big Donut to check up on him and make sure none had spawned in the shop itself. As they walked into it, they could see Sadie comforting Steven with a freshly-made glazed donut.
"He was pretty shaken up by those things, but he should be fine now." she said. Steven was silent, but he nodded at Sadie's response.
"Are you okay?" Griffin asked, "Those things can be pretty dangerous if you're not armed."
"I'm okay. thanks for saving me," Steven said as he extended his hand towards Griffin, "My name's Steven. What's yours?"
"My name's Griffin, the guy that looks like one the things that attacked you is named Grouge." he said as he shook Steven's hand, "Don't worry, he won't attack you like the ones that tried to. He even defeated some of 'em!"
Grouge simply responded by waving his hand at Steven, he didn't want to freak him out and cause another scene.
"Yo." Grouge said as he gave Steven the "rock on" gesture with his right hand.
Steven composed himself and got out of the chair, he was well enough to continue after the Heartless ruined his leisurely walk back.
"I should get back home," Steven said as he was about to leave the store, "The Gems are probably wondering where I am right now."
The chime of a bell went off in Griffin's head. Didn't Sadie mention that these "Gems" might know more about the Heartless and why they're here? Griffin quickly formulated plan that would give him and Grouge the best chance of meeting these unknown beings and he needed to act fast.
"Look, Steven, those things almost harmed you. Aren't you worried about them coming back to get you?" he asked, "Wouldn't you be better off with people who know how to deal with 'em taking you home than going alone?"
"Who you callin' 'people', hoss?" Grouge said. Griffin pushed him to the side, he wasn't in the mood for any of Grouge's attempts at comedy right now.
"The Gems usually protect me from monsters..." Steven replied, "...But now that you mention it, I don't think they've ever fought monsters like that before."
Steven thought about Griffin's proposition. He did have a point, and the people that just saved him looked like they could use a rest as well. He stood there pondering for a bit and then made a decision.
"Okay! You guys can take me home!" Steven said, "And you can stay for as long as you need to, you guys look like you're really tired."
Success! Griffin and Grouge followed Steven out of the Big Donut and towards the edge of the cape. Griffin started to feel a bit uneasy, he thought Steven lived in town.
"Um, kid? The town's back that wa-" Grouge said he turned and pointed at the town.
But before he could continue pointing out the obvious, he and Griffin turned when the they reached the cape's end. Staring back at them was a statue as large statue of a multi-armed woman with a sizable house situated in her hands, much in the same way the world appeared in interspace. The duo, despite encountering similar instances with other worlds, were left speechless at the sight of it.
"C'mon guys, I'm up here!" Steven shouted. Griffin and made their way up the stairs to the front door. Steven opened it and lead them into the house. To Griffin and Grouge, the interior of the house reminded them of the expensive beachfront properties near their hometown.
"Nice open floor plan," Griffin said, "I like it a lot."
"I don't, there's no sense of privacy here." Grouge said, "Where would I read those maga-"
Griffin stepped on Grouge's foot, Steven looked (and, to Griffin, probably was) a bit young to know about such things. Grouge recoiled and rubbed his foot to ease the pain. A simple nudge or a smack to the back of his head would've sufficed if Griffin wanted him to nix the subject.
"Feel free to make yourselves at home, guys!" Steven said with a hint of excitement.
Griffin said down on the couch located near a set of stairs leading to a sleeping area while Grouge explored the back area,it looked vastly different to the both of them and was worth investigating. The wooden floor gave way to a stony surface, almost as if it was bored into the face of the cape itself. Crystals grew from the walls and ceiling with only noticeable objects in this part of the house were a large flat crystal on the floor and a strange door with a star emblazoned on it.
"What's this?" Grouge asked, "Looks like a solid piece of crystal quartz."
"Oh, that's just the Warp Pad." Steven replied, "The Gems and I use it to travel to different places on the planet."
And there were those "Gems" again, and this time Griffin noticed a portrait above the front door of the house featuring a woman with a gemstone on her stomach. Were these "Gems" simply women with gemstones on their bodies? If they were, then Griffin had a few questions for the ones that would return.
"And what with this weird door?" Grouge said, "It's got no doorknob or hinges on it?"
"That door leads to different parts of the Temple, and we use our gems to open it!" Steven responded, "We each have our own rooms in the Temple, but my room technically belongs to my mom..."
We? Steven was a Gem too? This threw a monkey wrench into Griffin's assumptions. He assumed that these Gems were all women, how did Steven fit into all of this?
"I hope you don't mind if I ask you this, Steven," Griffin said, "But where are these Gems you keep mentioning? Surely they wouldn't leave you alone without someone keeping an eye on you?"
"They're off on a mission, They said this one was probably too dangerous for me to go on." Steven replied, "But that's why I went over to see my dad..."
The happy look on Steven's face gave way to a look of worry and anxiety, something was on his mind.
"...But they should've been back by now." Steven said, "I wonder what's taking them so long?"
The response Steven gave to Griffin's query only caused him to form more questions, but before he could have Steven answer them a pillar of light erupted from the Warp Pad. Grouge ran back towards Griffin, fearing that the light would harm him, and stopped when he was just behind Griffin. As the light dissipated, the duo could make out three figures who were now standing on the Warp Pad. Judging by their battered looks, Griffin and Grouge could only surmise that they lost a few battles. Griffin also noticed that they, as he guessed earlier, had gemstones on their bodies. He could make out an opalescent one on the thin one's forehead, a crystalline one on the short one's chest, and two purplish ones on the tall one's palms.
"Garnet, Amethyst, Pearl! You're back!" Steven shouted as he ran towards the Gems, "What took you guys so long?"
The Gems cleaned themselves up before embracing Steven with a hug from each of them. Amethyst pulls a few twigs from her hair before she broke the news to Steven.
"Ugh! Some new monsters botched the mission, Steven!" she groaned, "We would've actually completed it if they didn't POP OUT OF NOWHERE EVERY TIME WE SMASHED ONE!"
Garnet's attention was elsewhere, she was the only one to notice the two strangers on the couch. Pearl made sure to get the rest of the filth off of herself before adding to Amethyst's rant.
"These creatures weren't corrupted Gems or Cluster Gems, Steven, they were something we've never fought before." Pearl added, "They released their physical forms when defeated like Gems do, but they didn't leave anything behind and more of them would appear as we defeated one!"
Steven was engrossed by Pearl's recap, the monsters she was describing in it matched the behavior of the monsters that attacked him and and were defeated by Griffin and Grouge earlier today.
"What did they look like?" Steven asked, "I wanna know!"
"Like that." Garnet said flatly as she pointed at Grouge, "There were other varieties as well, but that one sticks out."
Griffin and Grouge's hearts sank (a stolen heart in Grouge's case) and fear began to set in. This was Bahia all over again, only this time Griffin could sense that neither of them could buy their way out if the situation with gold or alcohol.
Amethyst and Pearl suddenly noticed noticed Griffin and Grouge sitting on the couch, Pearl tried her hardest to not make a scene until she couldn't bare it anymore.
"WHAT ON EARTH IS ONE OF THOSE CREATURES DOING HERE?" Pearl shouted as she summoned a spear from her gem, "AND WHAT IS A HUMAN DOING NEAR ONE?"
"Beats me, all I know is that we can make up for that beatdown we got in The Great North!" Amethyst said as she summoned a whip from her gemstone.